Monday, November 29, 2010

Gardening in the rain

I had a day off work today and spent some time in the garden between rain showers.  One of our tomato plants grew at least 15cms while we were away on the weekend.  I had to retie all of the tomato plants and have now run out of things to tie them up with.  We are trying to keep them off the ground this year so we can underplant with other things.  The basil that survived the repeated onslaught from the earwigs is now starting to shoot new leaves and I'm sure will appreciate some sun. 

I also planted out some of our seedlings - scarlet runner beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, corn, rocket, silverbeet (great for the chooks) and watermelons.  And I heaped some mulch and soil over the potatoes - this is our first year growing potatoes in the ground, so we'll see how they go.  We put in a bag of Dutch Cream seed potatoes and a couple of sprouting potatoes from the cupboard (probably also Dutch Creams as they are my favourite).  We have planted four lots of corn over different plantings, so we should have a continuous harvest over several weeks. 

Oh, and in addition to the 16 tomato plants we already have, I planted some more seeds a couple of weeks ago.  Growing from seed can be tricky - sometimes all the seeds sprout and other times only one or two will.  I think all the tomato seeds sprouted.  So now we have another 10 tomato plants to do something with.  We are seriously running out of space.  The sweetpeas are starting to go to seed (I just couldn't keep up with all the flowers!) and the foliage is turning yellow at the base, so I think we will have some space in a few weeks.  But not sure what to do with the new tomato plants in the meantime..! 

We have 5 vegetable garden beds, but keep wanting to plant more things than we have space for.  When we established the raised garden beds last year we bought in compost and soil, but the rest of the garden is the original clay dirt.  So we are slowly working in organic matter and today I even saw a few worms, which was quite exciting.  The problem with the rest of the garden is Tansy - she is pretty good about not going into the raised garden beds, but she romps through the rest of the garden with no heed to what is growing there.  We put up a little fence around some of the corn, but the sunflowers were left to their own devices (and some were crushed almost immediately!). 

Our first cherries (Lapins) are almost ready and we've foiled the birds by covering both the cherry tree and the raspberry canes with netting.  Our blueberries aren't liking their new home in the ground, so we are going to pull 2 of them out and put them back into pots.  Hopefully next year we will have a good harvest again.

A few weeks ago we put our 3 rhubarb plants into pots after they spent a terrible year in the ground (poor soil and constant slug attacks).  They love the pots!  We might be able to have a small harvest this year, but since their first year was such a struggle we might let them keep growing for another year before harvesting.

4 of the 5 asparagus crowns we planted have come up, and we are thinking of planting more for next year - if home grown asparagus is as good as home grown corn, we won't be able to get enough of it!   

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Joining the polo set

When I lived in England a few years ago I was drawn into the world of Jilly Cooper.  Her books are hilarious.  The characters are so vibrant, often because they are so vile, they get up to the most outlandish things and their lives are so far removed from anything I have known.  Jetsetting, high stakes betting, far too much alcohol and lots of other hijinks.  Pure escapism.  She has recently released a new book, so of course I had to buy it! 

And they introduced me to the delights of Pimms, which I have since introduced to my husband (though he remains completely resistant to Jilly's books!).

Sun, sand and salty water

We just came home from a long weekend for Tansy's first trip to the beach.  All week we have been telling her that we were going on a trip and detailing all the fun things she could do at the beach. 

A long drive to the coast was made longer by having to stop four different times to take Tansy for a walk.  She doesn't mind the car and we usually take her somewhere at least twice a week in the car, but she gets very excited and whines a lot whenever the car slows down (red lights are the worst, she thinks we have stopped and should therefore be getting out of the car and going for a walk).  In addition to the whining she also quivers constantly with excitement.  Thankfully after the first stop she thought we were heading home, which is a much calmer drive! 

 I forgot to take an 'excited Tansy' photo, this is her after the first stop and she thought we were going home.  She has her car harness on.

After a long drive we finally arrived at our lovely, pet friendly accommodation - a little house with an "escape proof back yard".  Then we headed down to the beach...

So much to sniff!

She didn't like the water once she realised it was salty and not nice to drink.

Tansy was here.

 Sand is great for digging and getting all over everything! 

Exploring the rocks.

We all had a great time and she was exhausted by all the beach exploring and walking so she slept well.  But she was also happy to come home - within 10 minutes of arriving home she had uncovered a buried bone from Thursday and was gnawing wholeheartedly on it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hmm, should we be concerned?

Last night during the weather report ABC weatherman Mark Carmody said that once the minimum temperatures get to 13oC and above, tomato plants will start to thrive.  Our tomato plants are already very bushy, 1 metre tall and all have flowers and some have tomatoes growing. 

So my question is - have ours already thrived, or are they going to become tomato godzillas over the next couple of months???

Berry Season Is Here!

Our raspberries are just starting to ripen.  And a friend of mine in Tasmania has her first strawberry.  So that makes it official - the summer berry season is here!  Let the tasty eating commence...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Phili Update

Hooray, operation 'Stop Phili being broody' was a triumph!  Since Saturday afternoon she has been back into normal chook behaviour.

I had been tipping Phili out of her nesting box each morning and afternoon, but on Saturday I waited until Butter had laid her egg and then removed both nesting boxes.  On Sunday morning I put one nesting box back into their house for Butter and then removed it when she had laid her egg. 

Thankfully Phili didn't try settling down in the dirt, or I wasn't sure what my next option would be!

The only sad note is that her time away from normal chook life has made her forget how fabulous bugs and grubs are to eat.  I don't think Butter minds though as she now gets to eat them all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sweet Pea Update

At last!

I bought an Australian native orchid for my husband 4 years ago.  It was in flower when I bought it, but we haven't seen it flower since.  It tried to 2 years ago but the snails ate the buds before they could flower.  Now we keep it on an outside window sill where no snail or slug could ever find it.  The flowers are tiny and delicate, very white with deep pink speckles.

The only orchid we haven't managed to kill. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Darlek Tank Cake

A friend recently had their birthday, so yesterday I made a cake to help celebrate.  I was asked to make a 'futuristic tank'.  From what I could see of 'futuristic tanks' the world of modern warfare is more advanced than my cake making ability, so the design had to be simplified.

Yesterday morning my husband and I sketched some cake ideas (thanks to my friends who helped with ideas - no idea was ignored in our quest for a suitable cake).  We finally settled on a 'Darlek Tank Cake' and M&Ms were duly bought.

Here is the cake...

 I used my standard 'Rich Dark Chocolate Cake' recipe, but made it in a tray rather than a round cake tin.  I then made a paper template before cutting the cake to measure.  (The little 'L' shape was not needed for the design).

I coated each layer in ganache before adding the next layer.  Then lots of chocolate biscuits, M&Ms and a blue sherbet filled lolly created a darlek masterpiece.  If I had thought of it I sooner, I would have added something inside the cake as 'Davros' for an extra surprise.

The cake was "Exterminated" last night.

By the way, I bought some glow in the dark candles at the supermarket, they are quite effective.  I wish I knew they existed last year when I made the zombie castle cake, they would have added a nice eerie effect.

Cherry season is here!

If you love cherries as much as we do, you'll be thrilled that cherry season has started.  Our own cherries are still growing, but there were a couple of cherry sellers at the farmers markets on Saturday.  Hooray that Canberra is so close to Young, 'The Cherry Capital of Australia', we get good quality cherries for a couple of months each year.

Cherries are so beloved in Young that for the past 60+ years they have had a Cherry Festival 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Big trouble with little cherries

A few years ago we bought a cherry tree and kept it in a pot until we were able to transplant it into the ground last year.  We've had increasingly good harvests from it, but this year something has gone wrong.  Many of the cherries have dropped off the tree.  I'm wondering if maybe the tree just produced more cherries than it could manage and so dropped off the excess?  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
 Fallen cherries on the ground.

There are still lots on the tree - and this year we have covered the tree in bird netting to keep out the currawongs, so hopefully we will get more than the greedy birds!

What's in the garden shed?

When we moved into our house last year there was a small garden shed in the back corner of the yard.  By adding a fully enclosed run to it (thanks Dad!) we had a chook home.  Earlier this year we bought two lovely young chickens (they weren't fully grown).  Butter the Rhode Island Red and Philadelphia the Australorp.

Phili was the first to start laying eggs a couple of months after we got her, and right from the start she laid perfect 50g eggs.  Butter started a bit after and she also laid lovely 50g eggs.  Sadly for our poached egg weekend lunches Phili has been broody for about 7 weeks.  We thought she would have snapped out of it by now, but no such luck.  So we are down to only one egg producer.  I've been tipping Phili out of the nesting box she has settled into every morning and evening, but so far it hasn't stopped her.  So this weekend I will be in full 'Stop Phili Brooding' mode - trying some of the tactics I read on the internet.  But if anyone can offer their own techniques, please let me know.

Butter is hard working though and she is converting greens, grain and grubs into about 6 eggs a week.  And they have the most vibrant orange yolks I've ever seen.  Her yolks even change the colour of cake batter.

We have to be very careful to always refer to Butter and Phili as 'chooks'.  We can't call them 'chickens' because we don't want Tansy getting ideas that her feathery friends are related to the tasty chicken neck treats we give her!

And after that long introduction, here are the chooks:

And their home:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tomboy Puppy

Our gorgeous, excitable Australian Silky Terrier went to the groomer on Friday for her summer haircut.  Sadly, she HATES the camera so it is tricky getting a good photo of her.  The only time she sits still for very long is when she is waiting for her dinner, so here she is...



Sweet Pea Madness

The days of a bunch of sweet peas every two days are over - now I could pick two bunches every day, but we have so many bunches of them already in the house that now I am leaving many of them on the plants!

 I picked these two days after picking the ones below:

I've loved sweet peas for years and when we got married sweet peas were mixed in my bouquet and were the flowers on the tables at the reception.


Finally I knit something for myself (aside from a scarf) that I am happy to wear in public.  Hopefully this means I am leaving the days of 'The Yeti Cardigan' and 'The Teddy Bear Jumper' behind.

 My finished short sleeved jumper, I wore it to work yesterday.  Knit in the round it was fabulously easy and the only seams were on the sleeves.

And an update on my checkerboard scarf - more success!  I sat down on Sunday night and sorted out all the dropped stitches, so it is zooming along again.

And now we return to the usual scheduled programs

Hello again blog world.  Well I've been offline for a little while, but it has been completely unintentional.  About 3 minutes after posting my last blog I handed the laptop to my husband and the battery adaptor decided that working was no longer in its job description.  We still don't know exactly what happened, but we were excited to receive the replacement adaptor in the post today!  So stay tuned for the latest updates from my world of knitting, gardening and a puppy (now with a crew cut).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Memories of Cakes Past

I've loved baking for years, and have recently started making 'theme' cakes.  Here they are...

 My husbands birthday cake last year, the 'Zombie Massacre Cake'!  This is just a progress photo, I finished assembling this at a friends house and forgot to take the camera.  But I finished off the cake with a chopped up red jelly moat filled with snakes and alligators.

A close up of some of the 'zombies'.  It was my (mild mannered) Dad's idea to rip off the heads and dip them in red icing for blood.

 The 'Werewolf Cake' for a friends birthday earlier this year.  I think I deserve a degree in musk stick engineering for creating this one.

And before you think I make nothing but gory cakes -  the 'Rock Band Guitar Cake' for another friends birthday.  It took half a bottle of red food colouring to get that colour.  The icing on this one was a cream cheese flavoured with Cointreau.  So it looked like a children's cake, but it was very grown up!  (Well, as grown up as 30+ year olds playing Rock Band can be!).

Tea and herbs

Alas, I spoke to soon about the progress of my checkerboard scarf.  On Wednesday night I slipped and dropped stitches.  With all the ssk and k2t in the pattern I'm not sure how to pick up the stitches (I dropped down 4 rows).  So I've put that project aside for an evening when I feel up to redoing the lost stitches.  But that gives me more time to focus on the short sleeved pink jumper.

Hooray that it is Friday.  I'm writing this while my husband has gone to pick up takeaway for dinner.  Friday is usually takeaway night for us.  Tonight we have decided to have Turkish.  Kabak - Yum!

Here are some more photos from our garden:

 I love mint tea made with real mint.   I don't think the flavour is as good if you use fresh mint leaves.  So today I picked standard mint and chocolate mint (the darker bunch) and have hung it up to dry.  Once dried put 4-6 leaves into a mug and pour boiling water over.  Let it steep for a few minutes and then enjoy a refreshing cup of tea.  The past couple of days have been unseasonably cold in Canberra - definitely tea weather!

This is our pot of turkey thyme and golden marjoram.  We only planted out the small seedlings a few months ago and they have grown so much we can't use it fast enough!

Some of the seeds we have planted ready for the summer season.  Beans, watermelon, sunflowers, silverbeet, parsnips, pumpkin, tomatoes, zucchinis and corn.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happenings in our garden

Last night I worked on the checkerboard scarf.  I'm not very fast with lacework knitting, but thankfully I don't make errors very often so at least my progress is fairly steady.

Here are some photos from our garden.  We bought our house last year and one of the things we love about the house we bought is the big yard.  Last year we (well, actually my Dad did most of the hard work!) converted our lawn area into raised garden beds and we had a great vegetable harvest over the summer and autumn.  I initially started weighing a lot of our produce just out of interest - but once we hit 40kgs of zucchini I stopped!  Here are my garden picks for the week...

Our first asparagus!  When we saw this in the garden on Sunday afternoon we were thrilled.  So far it is the only spear to come up, but we are watching the patch with anticipation.

 We've had strawberries for a couple of years in pots, but this is our first pink flowering strawberry.

Sweetpeas are one of my favourite flowers, and this is the first year I have been able to plant them in the ground.  They are loving it and I am picking a bunch every two days.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

(Some of) My Current Projects

I'm a knitter who likes starting new projects, but don't always quite get around to finishing them.  Or I finish them, but it takes a while.  That is the main reason I have started this blog - I'm hoping that having an audience (no matter how small) will encourage me to finish each project in a reasonable time.  I'm not a big blog reader myself.  I only regularly read three blogs, and one of those lives and works in Canberra like me, but she somehow finds the time to knit so many wonderful items.  She has inspired me to want to be a knitter who finishes projects (and lots of them!)

So here are my current projects (well most of them...!)

Part of a jumper I am knitting for my husband (using 4mm needles for a jumper for a very tall man takes patience and definitely lots of love for the man in question!).  I encountered problems with the sleeves, so have put this to the side for a while...

A short sleeved jumper I am knitting for myself.  I've started using this yarn a couple of times, so it is getting a bit worn, this jumper is definitely going to get finished.  This is from a Stephanie Japel design, but I've made a couple of slight changes.

A lovely checkerboard scarf, I'm knitting this one as a present, so it has to get finished!

Monday, November 1, 2010

First post

Here is my space to talk about my knitting, our garden, our beautiful puppy and my love of baking.  I will add photos as I go.  Happy visiting!