Sunday, April 29, 2012


I was excited a couple of weeks ago when I received my garlic order. I purchased it from an organic supplier in QLD. Her name is Kym and she's from Food with a Future. I received five different varieties to try out. Two are hard neck types, and three are soft necks. The hard necks I have just planted and the soft necks will go into the ground in June. What I'm really excitited about is that we no longer need to buy chemically treated garlic. (that bleached white stuff in little net bags all the way from China!). This past Christmas I harvested a lot of garlic, planted by the previous owners. There was enough for us and a few friends and family to keep us going to the next harvest. But I'm hoping to grow a bit more and perhaps sell some at the local markets over the coming Summer.

 Here we've separated the cloves and counted them. We're keeping a record to see what grows best and what our return will be. You know, that Quality Assurance, list making and flow chart stuff still comes in handy!

This is the garden bed that I prepared for the garlic. I spread a good load of chook poo over it and dug it over. Then I left it for a couple of weeks. I've now cleaned it up. No more tomatoes. Only a little bit of corn remains at the end of the bed. I have planted turnips, parsnips, beetroot, broad beans and a few brassicas, which are experimental. I don't think the pH in the soil is high enough for them so we'll see. The garlic will be down the front end of the bed. I'm preparing another area for the June garlic.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fire fire burning bright...

This tall stand of trees rises up behind our chook house and old wood shed. The trees are very old. More than 50 years. The trouble with them is that in strong winds the long straight branches known as 'sailors' come crashing down. We've had a few fall on the chook shed roof already. Another problem is that the pine needles collect around the base of the trees creating a fire danger. A grass fire if it came from the neighbour's side, would find fuel under the trees and send flames up into the branches. That would NOT be good. So Frans has been cleaning up under the trees. It's been a huge task. Long days of chopping, sawing, carrying and stacking. We don't want to chop down the trees as they create a very effective wind break. Our rain and cold weather comes mostly from the South East. In other words, the cold Southern Ocean! We need all the protection we can get.
The chook shed and wood shelter.

This is the line under the trees that had to be cleaned up. You can see the raw cuts on the tree trunks where Frans has cut the stray branches. The area to the left of the fence is our neighbour Graham's land. Ours to the right. Some of the tall branches fell down in the last storm and landed in his paddock. Frans and Graham pulled them out of the trees with the tractor. (previous blog).
Frans used Graham's tractor to shift the big branches onto a big wood pile in Graham's paddock. Farmer Frans indeed.

Learing to use the old tractor was tricky.... But he did the job.

Some branches were too cumbersome and had to shifted by hand.

Then came the fun bit. Lighting the stack! Frans and Graham striking the match. With a bit of help from a can of diesel!

And it's burning. At this point the the cows are not too fussed at the activity going on around them. Yet...

It does not take long for the flames to crackle...
And finally the cows have got the message!

That was Fire Lesson 1. Take Two was last night in our own paddock. Besides Frans clearing the debris under the cyprus pines, he also has been clearing the fallen down trees along the road side. He's created a number of wood piles that will be burned over the next week or so. Last night was the first one. This fire burning event was celebrated. Wine, music and conversation. Our friend John came around with a bottle of red. Frans set the chairs out in the paddock and turned the car stereo on. We enjoyed the late afternoon whilst watching the flames and listening to some vigouous classical music. The 1812 in particular! Nothing like a few canons to accentuate the bon fire explosions!

The wind was blowing in the right direction.

Life is pretty good!

This is to give perspective. Fire, chairs, music, cows.

Nala enjoyed the spectacle too.

John and I watching from the side lines...enjoying the cool autumn evening. Oh, what's that smell?! Cows.. methane...


This pile burned all night. There were still flames this morning!

Friday, April 27, 2012

A decorating urge!

Every now and then I get a bee in my bonnet and decide I want to paint something. Now! For a long time I've been looking for a metal plant stand. You know the type. Rusted. Old. 70's. Yep, that's what I wanted. I trawelled through ebay and found plenty that I liked. But there was always the hassle of the 'pick up'. So a couple of months ago Frans and I went to a clearance auction down the road from us. It was my lucky day. There was a lot there with a plant stand and a few extra bits and pieces. I didn't really want everything. Just the stand. We waited for the lot to come up and I put up my hand. It was mine. For a grand total of $5. FIVE DOLLARS! We went home with two plant stands, two metal candelabras, and a magazine rack. Off to the hardware store I went and purchased three cans of brightly coloured spray paints. The paints cost more than the stands! I have to tell you though, that these sought after items sat in Frans' shed for a while before I finally got to them! I picked a day where the wind wasn't blowing. Found some packing boxes and flattened them and set up my items on the boxes. I was ready to go. I started with the bright orange candle stick. Next the purple one (not shown). I sprayed the plant stand a bright turquoise. I couldn't wait for all the items to dry! Once they were good to go, I placed them along the east facing windows. There is an ugly facia running along the bottom of the house and the plant stand and pot plants now disguise it somewhat. I have been saving and gathering old olive oil cans. Frans drilled holes in the bottom of them and I planted them up with geraniums. I think it looks ok. Better than a bland wall.
A recycled, upcycled plant stand. Groovy baby!
Don't you love the little watering duck? Found it at the Reject shop for $1.

I bought citronella candles from Safeway. They're not cheap! But they do help with keeping the mozzies at bay in the evenings.

This purple plant stand is still a work in progress. It needs three tiles to sit on the metal bars. I'm thinking that some mismatched brightly coloured ones will look good. Back to ebay....

The plant stands along the front wall of the house. Don't mind the messy path.... I really should put the hose away when I've used it....

I still have the magazine rack to spray. That will look good next to the couch on the verandah. Somewhere to put all the stray magazines that find their way into the house!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Smoke gets in your eyes!

Well, the end of the Fire Season has officially ended. And with it has started the big 'burn offs' that happen every year. Over the summer months, farmers and landowners gather up their farm debris such as fallen down trees, wood and ground litter. They make huge big stacks in their paddocks. This is all done in preparation for the burning that starts now. Accross the valley huge fire stacks are blazing away and the thick smoke is drifting over towards us. We monitor the weather sites and watch for any anticipated wind changes. Blow blow blow.... away!! A small consolation is that this big burn off will only last a few weeks. Soon the rains will start and nothing will burn. Frans has a stack of wood and broken trees ready to go. We'll possibly light it this weekend. I'll get out the packet of marshmellows and find some really long sticks!
A wood stack burning about 6kms away. This shot was taken by Frans using his zoom lens.

Yesterday afternoon at about 4.30pm. This is our paddock. You can just make out the cows grazing. You can see our stack towards the front right of the photo.

The fires do make for sensational sun sets!

And this is a photo I took when going for an early morning drive yesterday, before the fires. I love poplar trees. Some people hate them and consider them a weed! But I don't. The leaves are changing colour to bright yellow. I'm hoping to plant a few this winter along our fence line.

Getting Creative!

Over summer I've been doing a little of 'this and that' when it comes to relaxing with a pair of knitting needles in front of the telly in the evenings or sewing up a storm in my sewing room.

The stripey baby rug on the chair started off as a lesson with Sonja on how to increase stitches. She came down for a weekend with Alan and Amelie and when she went home she was armed with books, needles and yarn! I decided to keep going with the project and it took on a life of it's own. I love the candy colours! Now I'm waiting for the next baby to give it to.....

The red baby jumper with matching flower hat is for Little Valeenah, our 'other' daughter Emma's little one. She has just turned 1! Sara and Stephen are going up to Woollongong this weekend for her big 1st birthday and dedication.

And then the hot pink number with the flower at the front is for Annabella. She's not quite 1 yet. Her granny Janelle will be here next week from Qld and will take it home for her. Miss Annabella is such a glamour girl! She's been spotted playing with her Barbie dolls already! And her Mum Nina makes sure she's dressed for the occasion whenever they go out. Her hats are always decorated with big cabbage roses! Wonderful! I'm hoping this little hat will keep her warm in the cold Toowoomba winter! It has a touch of 'Sunset Boulevard' to it. I think it's kinda cool, but my friend Lisa Walton thinks it's gross! Ha! She's obviously not a fan of girlie pink!

My lovely friend Eugenia had a big 'O' birthday last month. So I made her the Chinese inspired quilt. Eugenia lived in China for a few years. I was even lucky enough to have a coffee with her once at the Hangzhou airport when I was over there on a buying trip. I had saved lots of Asian fabrics to make a quilt for our red guest room in Ashwood. But I never did.  Her home is beautifully decorated in reds and Chinese antiques. So Eugenia has the quilt instead.


And so to some of the items that Sara and I have been working on to sell from our Etsy store. I have finally taken the plunge and am cutting into the fabrics from Oz Dye Art Fabrics that I have been saving for what, I don't know! So here goes. When the last bit is cut then that will it.

My friend Michelle Steel and I used to have a small business where we hand dyed and screen printed Aussie designs onto fabric for quilters. We had a lot of fun doing it and managed to travel to lots of interesting places selling our wares. We had to give it all away when Frans and I moved to Melbourne in 2000. It was just too difficult to run a business from two locations and it wasn't fun with us not being creative together anymore. I've been hanging onto the few bits of fabric from the business for too long. So if you're interested in grabbing a bit of 'history', then hop onto our Etsy store to see what's there.

Check out our goodies. Click the link below or on the side bar. We'll be uploading more products over the next couple of weeks. Lots of exciting stuff to come...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter etc..

The weekend before Easter, our good friend Mark Eckert came to visit us from Brisbane. We love having Mark come to stay. He's the perfect house guest. He cooks (wonderful German specialities like Rouladen & Red Cabbage, Herring Salad, Potato Salad the German way... etc), vacuumes (all the crumbs from the kitchen floor after a cup cake morning tea with a few little ones) and fixes our technology issues. Our computers always get a once over and a good clean up when Mark comes to stay. We've sorted out our pathetic satelite internet connection and will shortly be cruising at a mean speed on the internet highway. Thanks Mark! 
Frans and Mark spent quite some time playing with their cameras. This particular evening they were photographing the rising moon. It takes many practise shots to get a good one!

Mark wins! 
 I'm not sure about Frans' fashionable sandles and socks statement!

Frans is always updating his 'to do' list. Many chores never get to the top of the list as there are always unexpected 'happenings'. One such event was a fierce rain and wind storm on Good Friday. The night was pitch dark and the wind lashed the trees. We heard many cracks and thumps. The worst of which sounded as if the entire lid on top of one of our cement water tanks had blown away. It took a lot of sweet talk to get Frans to stay inside and not go out to check the damage! The daylight allowed him to see what had happened. Fortunately the roof had only shifted off the top of the tank. However, in doing so, it left the water exposed and leaves and debris from the night's wild weather had blown into our prestine drinking water. Frans says it's ok. We won't die from contamination! In the mean time, the men (Frans, Mark and Stephen) had to manoeuvre the lid back into position and secure it once again.

Over Easter I also cleared up the long garden bed that had given us a bumper crop of zucchini and potatoes. I dug the bed over twice, making sure I didn't miss any tubers. Then I spread 5 bags of chook poo over the area. I still have a bit of corn at the far end and a small tomato bush in the foreground. This bed will be planted up in a few days with the following: Parnisps, Turnips, Broad Beans, Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts. The grassy looking stalks at the bottom of the picture are garlic stalks. I left some garlic in the ground after harvesting the bulbs at Christmas time. These have self seeded and have started growing again. 
I have ordered some new garlic varieties to plant this year and they should be arriving shortly. I'll be planting those up too.

Our neighbour's lovely horses. We don't have to have our own. We can enjoy the view over the fence!
It's calving time next door. Here are two baby calves that are a couple of days old. They've just been tagged. The Mums are very protective over them and didn't like being separated while the babies had their ID's clipped to their ears.

Our chooks are happy chooks. Frans mows a patch of grass for them most days and gives it to them in their coop. They also dine on rainbow chard and silverbeet from the veggie garden. After lunch we usually let them out of the coop enclosure into the garden so they can scratch away for a few hours. We are always mindful of foxes. This past week we went to put the girls away around 6.30pm and counted one short. It was getting dark and we had to use torches to search the house paddock. We looked under trees and behind bushes but couldn't find the chook. We came to the grim conclusion that she had probably been taken by a fox. The next morning however, when Frans went to sort out the chooks and ducks, he found the stray girl sitting in front of the gate. She survived her night out! And so we still have 18 chickens.

Another record breaker! Our friend Peter Walton says the chook that laid this egg is a real show off! The egg weighs 93g. The average egg weighs around 60g. It's so big the box lid won't close. It's a genuine 'bum buster'! 

Rabbit pie. Paddock to plate! An alternative to Easter eggs!


A fuzzy pic, but it tells a wonderful story.....

Frans and I are very happy to announce the engagement of Sara to her long time boyfriend Stephen Gianguilio. He romantically proposed to her on bended knee in the paddock on Easter Sunday. Of course she said 'yes'!
Now the fun starts with wedding preparations. Watch this space....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The week that was....

I would like to say that this will be my last post about apples... but it's probably a lie. There are still plenty of green globes on the trees. This morning we had a couple of young visitors and young Willow aged 5, helped pick some apples for her Mum. She learned very quickly to twist the fruit off the branches rather than pull the apples from the fragile branches. She was most proud of her little harvest.
While Frans' Mum Riet was here a week or so ago, we made a batch of Dutch Appelmoes. After the apples are cooked down, they're strained through an old fashioned hand mill. I bought this Mouli at an op shop a couple of years ago for $2.50. It's French. Made in France. Try and pick one up for less than $50 and you're doing well. Sometimes you get very lucky at an op shop!

A few of the bottles of delicious apple sauce

A family favourite. Rummiking. Oma is a wizz at this game. Sara, Pauline and Frans attempting to beat the Master! Stephen is more interested in his car mag!

And what is a game without some home baked goodness. These hot cross buns are my first attempt at making these Easter treats. They tasted really good. A good practise run for this coming weekend!

And here are our ducks. The gander in the cage is one of our original three ducklings. The three Moscovi ducks dancing about outside are ones we exchanged with our neigbour for one of the three ducklings. The gander in the cage is going to become dinner soon..

A vegie bed full of pumkins and butternut squashes. They should be ready for picking in a few weeks, just in time for winter soups! You can just see the corn in the bed to the left.

Spring onions and eggplants side by side.

And then we have to work out what is doing this to our vegies...

Got them! Frans has caught close to 20 mice in the past week. Aparently it's an 'Autumn thing'.

Farm jobs never end. A few weeks ago we had a big wind storm and a number of large cyprus pine branches fell down from our trees onto our neighbour Graham's paddock. The branches spanned the electric fence rendering it pretty useless. So this week, Frans and Graham tackled the tricky task of pulling the fallen branches down from the high tree tops. They tied sturdy straps to the fallen branches and pulled them away from the stand of trees with Graham's old tractor. The branches are now piled up in Graham's paddock waiting for the fire season to end where we'll then burn the debris. But before that happens, Frans is wielding his chain saw and salvaging any good fire wood that he can.
This is our fence line. Graham is pulling the branches down from the trees from his side of the fence.
Frans running to untie the rope from the tractor and lash it to another branch.

And then there's the early evening sundowner...
Sitting in the top paddock overlooking the Otways. A fitting end to a hard day's work on the farm.