Mount Helen. Sunset, February 2024

Monday, February 26, 2024

Wind, Fire and a little bit of Rain

This was the view of the sunset from Hugo's place, when I called in on Wednesday evening to feed him, ahead of Lindsey coming home later in the evening:

And this was the view on Thursday afternoon:

The fire was 40 or 50 km away, on the other side of Beaufort. To get to us, it would have had to make its way through Ballarat, so I wasn't particularly worried. But it was (and remains) a big fire which has generated a great deal of smoke. Fortunately, though, no embers, at least not around us. 

It's still smoky, but it is drizzling lightly in Mount Helen, which is clearing the air. It will, though, take more than drizzle to put the Beaufort fire out, despite the best efforts of the firefighters.

Hugo was supremely uninterested in fires, embers or danger:

I was bringing something in from the patio in the evening. As I came back inside, something hit me and fell to the floor. I looked down - and found a small frog. I do not require small frogs in the house. The cats would find it a lot of fun, the frog would not, and it would almost certainly not end well.  I managed to catch it and put it outside:

Then I saw a small Huntsman spider on the kitchen floor. I caught it and went to put it outside, tripped over a cat and dropped it. Not surprisingly, it was reluctant to be caught again and ran under the couch. Its current whereabouts are unknown but either it will make its own way outside or it will turn up again and I will try to re-capture it.

I am hugely pleased that it was a Huntsman spider and not a grumpy frog that I managed to drop on the lounge room floor. Trying to deal with a leaping frog in the house is not my idea of an ideal evening's entertainment.

Let us consider the question of home-grown potatoes. I emptied the small potato grow bins yesterday and the contents were very disappointing. Not that the potatoes were small because they weren't particularly. I had pulled them a little early but not that much and they were a reasonable size. But there were hardly any potatoes in either bin. I have decided not to bother with the grow bins again. I have had precisely no success with them over many years of trying. I am considering whether I have enough space to try growing some in one of the garden beds, or whether not to bother. We did well for potatoes in the ground in Tupton and at Hill House, so it might be worth a go, but I don't have a lot of space here and I do well for beans,  broad beans, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, silverbeet. Seed potatoes aren't cheap, and buying potatoes from local farmers isn't all that expensive. I shall ponder over the autumn and winter. 

Stella added an extra element of entertainment last night by somehow setting off her emergency alert on her phone or watch at around 11:30 or so. I have no idea how she managed to do that because as far as we can tell she was asleep at the time. Lindsey managed to get through to the care home and someone went to investigate. All was well, Stella was very confused by all the unexpected activity, and those of us who had already gone to bed were now awake and alert! There are far too many people on her emergency alert list. When I go in to see her I shall reduce the list to Lindsey and me. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Random Things

I stayed in Melbourne on Wednesday night. I was opening up on Thursday and, without a car, there was no possible way I could get from Mount Helen to Reservoir by 7:30.

It was a good evening. I had pizza from the shop below, enjoyed the sunset and dusk, had a mellow evening and was up nice and early on Thursday morning to enjoy a leisurely tram trip into work

This photo is rather blurry, sorry
But it does catch some of the vast crowd of fruit bats
heading out for their dinner

It was Hugo's 7th birthday yesterday. He is enjoying some of the unexpected advantages of being an Only Dog. New toys, that he doesn't have to share. The treats are all for him. The birthday bone was all for him. And best of all - he gets to go for walks! It's been a very long time since Rupert was able to go for a walk, and quite a long time since he could get in and out of the car. We couldn't take Hugo out and leave Rupert behind, so their social life had been confined to home and the gardens. Hugo misses his companion - but he is definitely enjoying the walks and the toys and treats

Evening stroll in the forest with Lindsey and Ian
Photo by Ian

At some point in January, Lindsey asked if the Talbot Market was still operating. As far as I was aware, it was. I checked and yes. The next one was on Sunday 18th February. We marked it on the calendar and yesterday we headed out for a visit. Lindsey asked if we had been since the covid lockdowns. I thought we had, maybe, perhaps once, with Jim? I checked with the blog. And yes - we had been in June 2021, but not since.

My memory vaguely suggests that the market didn't operate reliably in 2021 because of various metropolitan lockdowns and other restrictions, but I am not really sure. I do know that we got out of the habit of going. I have put it back on my calendar, and added the Clunes monthly market that we haven't ever been to but feel we should check out.

It was a beautiful day for a potter out to Talbot and a wander around the market. I couldn't buy much because there is almost no mobile signal so most of the market stalls couldn't take card payments. I, of course, had no cash. Next time I'll make sure I have cash as well as my card.

We should go more than once every two and a half years. Pre-covid we would go two or three times a year.

On another note: my runner bean plants are thriving out the front, as are the silverbeet plants, the zucchinis and the cucumbers. I have had lots of runner bean flowers, although I think that something sneaky is eating them overnight. I'll have to keep an eye on that

And - the patio fly screen door fell off its tracks the other day. I couldn't work out how to get it back on, though I could see that the bottom needed lifting, after I had inserted the top into its space. I tried to lift it, using a screwdriver, which sort of worked but not properly. So I looked at a few videos on YouTube and now it is properly on its track and running more smoothly than it has, almost for ever.

Go me!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024


It never rains... as they say.

The good news is that Stella is on her way home.

The bad news is that we had to have Rupert put down this morning.

Lindsey rang me from work while I was eating breakfast, and contemplating having a shower and getting dressed, to say that Rupert had fallen and couldn't get up. Josh has been looking after Rupert and Hugo overnight when Lindsey and Ian are away. He had tried to get Rupert up and couldn't, and his back feet were weak and floppy. I hastily put some clothes on and Josh came down to pick me up.

Rupert was on the floor in the hallway. He didn't seem to be in distress but clearly couldn't use his back legs. His hips have been dodgy almost for ever. They have been very unreliable for around six months or so. Some of his siblings have had wobblers and/or hip dysplasia. Some of them have already had to be put down. We knew this day was coming. 

Our vet couldn't help with a home visit today but referred us to The Kindest Goodbye, who run an At Home service.

A vet came about an hour later. Rupert was quite happy on a rug, eating scoobie snacks. Hugo was also happily eating scoobie snacks, although his need wasn't as great. Josh was keeping Hugo occupied. I was sat on a stool stroking Rupert's ears. I do love Great Dane ears. They're lovely and soft. They are also very expressive. Great Danes can say a lot with their ears!

The vet was very gentle and calm. Rupert and Hugo liked her. I liked her. And Rupert's ending was equally gentle and calm, although we had to keep Hugo out the way, lest he come to an untimely end by pushing his nose in where Rupert's injection was supposed to go. I don't think anyone, including Rupert, but apart from the vet, noticed his last breath. Just sleeping peacefully.

The vet's husband came up to see if he could help us carry Rupert out to the vet's car, which he kindly did. It turns out that he has been up to Lindsey and Ian's place before to do some plumbing work, and had come up on a couple of weekends with their children to go ferreting for rabbits.  It's a very small world, if you live in Ballarat. (One of the people who works at the Mushroom Farm has also been to Lindsey and Ian's place, to fix the fridges)

Some of the first photos I took of Rupert when he first moved to Hill House:

The day he arrived
His first walk in De Soza Park, Buninyong

Slowly growing into his ears

Some of the last photos I took of him:

Some of my favourite photos of Rupert and Jim:

And my most favourite:

Well done, Rupert. You were a goofy, loving and gentle Very Good Boy

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Off to the Hospital

Phone calls at 4:30 in the morning are disconcerting enough. When they are from your 90 year old mother's aged care facility they are Very Disconcerting Indeed!

They had called an ambulance and were sending her to hospital. Her blood pressure was very low. She had been extremely fatigued and was getting increasingly confused. Her leg was very swollen and painful. Off to hospital for her.

And in hospital Stella remains. Her blood count was rock bottom, her blood pressure was almost non-existent. Her readings were so low that they prompted her GP to call me just after 8:30 to see what on earth had happened. Stella herself had just assumed she had overdone it at her 90th birthday celebrations and that she should slow down a bit. If that had been the cause, though, she should have been much better. It wasn't that raucous a weekend! It turns out that she had had a very slow internal bleed - which almost certainly accounts for all the odd symptoms she's had since Christmas. 

She spent pretty much all of Friday in the Ballarat Base ED, before being moved into a ward.She's had four units of blood and they're trying to stabilise all her odd readings. She won't come out until tomorrow or Tuesday. However, once Stella goes into a hospital they always seem very reluctant to let her out again, so who knows when she will finally escape.

I stayed at home on Friday, just in case.  Ian and I went to see her on Friday late afternoon and took her phone and some pyjamas in for her. Wendy came up yesterday morning and she, Lindsey and I went to visit. Wendy is heading home again this morning but Lindsey and I will call in this afternoon. We'll see how she goes.

A much better colour.
She had been an alabaster white on Thursday

It would be very useful if I could have my car back. Life is nice and quiet travelling on the buses but it is very inconvenient not having a vehicle if I need to get to the hospital or to Rupert and Hugo's place. Not to mention getting to work!

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Ziggy has broken down

I was coming back from Stella's place on Monday afternoon, intending to drop home for a bit and then to go up to Rupert and Hugo's place for an hour or so.

As I was passing the Damascus School, my car made a strange noise and a warning symbol came up on the dashboard. A picture of an engine and "Check System", plus a little picture of a skidding car. Ziggy has never done anything like that before. I drove home very carefully, contacted the overnight dog sitter to say I couldn't feed the dogs, checked the oil and water and left the car to it. I did notice that there was a slight smell of petrol inside the car, but not outside, and that the car had made a few odd noises after the warning sign had come on.

After my Japanese class at 8:00 on Tuesday morning I rang My Car in Delacombe and told them what had happened. Bring it in, they said. We'll run some diagnostic tests and see what's going on. I asked if it was both safe and wise to drive the 9km to Delacombe. They didn't know. It could be nothing, it might be something, there was a slight chance it was something catastrophic.

I decided to give it a go. It's only 9km.

This was a bad plan. I was going up the hill where Stella lives, had in fact just gone past her place, when the car started making lots of strange noises, the petrol smell became stronger, the car announced that it was Not At All Happy.

I pulled into a side street and called the Roadside Assistance people. I have a choice of Roadside Assistance. I am properly insured with AAMI, but I have 12 months assistance with My Car when I have a full service done with them. I had only had the car fully serviced three or so weeks ago. I might still have gone with AAMI, but I was going to My Car anyway so I called them, and they turned up about an hour later. (I think it would have been the same people no matter which Assistance Service I called!)

In fact, I was quite happy where I was. It was a lovely morning. I had a book, my iPad and full signal. I had a forest to my right to look at. I did some Japanese practice. All was well (apart from the car).

The tow truck turned up and took Ziggy and me to Delcombe. The My Car people said they would run the diagnostic tests and it would take about an hour. So I went and had bacon and eggs on toast while I waited.

It turns out that the car needs a new exhaust manifold gasket (which was the source of the weird noises, the petrol fumes and the alarm symbols). It also needs new spark plugs and an ignition coil. And very sorry and all that, but we are unusually busy so we won't be able to fix it until the 20th, unless we have a cancellation.

I couldn't see any point in taking it anywhere else, so left it where it was and took a bus back into the city and then a bus back out to my place.

Let us be grateful that the car decided to misbehave when I was less than 2km from home and that it decided not to go any further when I had the option to pull into a side street. It would have been much worse if I had been going at 110 on the freeway. As it was, I had quite a peaceful day. Just lots of waiting around for tow trucks, mechanics and buses.

I did rather miss the car this morning, though. It is VERY time consuming getting to work by public transport, and then back again. If Lindsey had been coming to Ballarat this evening I would probably have gone, because then I could have cadged a lift back with her this evening. But she's heading in the opposite direction tonight and I really didn't want to do a total of 7 or 8  hours on buses, trains and trams, plus all the waiting around.

I quite enjoyed taking the bus into Mount Clear to visit Stella this afternoon. It's quite nice having someone else conveying you there and back, plus you get little walks in the mixture.

Monday, February 05, 2024


The Family gathered on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Stella's Birthday Achievement.

Lindsey and I had ordered various platters from the Mushroom Farm a couple of weeks ago. Wendy and I went out to collect them on Saturday morning. We called at the bakery for party pies and rainbow* bread (for the fairy bread). We collected Stella and took her to Hill House.

Pretty much everyone in the family who is in Australia came for a celebratory afternoon tea.

There was also a Surprise Guest. By a complete coincidence, one of Stella's regular carers, from when she lived in Mount Martha, rang Wendy mid-morning on Saturday. She was in Ballarat with a friend for the weekend. Did Wendy think it appropriate for them to go and visit Stella? Wendy and I managed to persuade her that not only was it appropriate but that Stella would be absolutely delighted - only she would need to come to Hill House, which is where Stella would be. She took a bit of convincing that it would be acceptable to "gatecrash" the party with her friend, but we finally managed to persuade her. And Stella was indeed delighted. And surprised (we hadn't said anything). And very pleased.

It was a good afternoon. And better than a full on family Christmas, in many ways. We had mostly finger food and people spread themselves all over the (rather large) house and into the garden, unlike at Christmas when everyone is  noisily gathered around a couple of dining tables in the one room. It was much easier to talk to people, not to mention being able to get at the tasty tidbits that you fancied!

Tony was there, with his glass of wine

A platter of donuts, cakes, pastries
- and lots and lots of lollies

Birthday girl with her cake

I'm sure I can get at that abandoned piece of cheese
if I just try hard enough

Fruit platters, party pies, sandwiches, cheese 
and charcuterie

A bundle of boys

and a gathering of girls

The plan had been that Stella would stay overnight at Hill House and join whoever was there for brunch/lunch on Sunday. However, she decided that she was absolutely exhausted and would prefer to go home to her own bed. So Lindsey took her back, where she repaired straight to bed. I also pretty much went straight to bed when I got back to my place.

Those of us who were still standing on Sunday went out to the Wallace Hotel for lunch. Stella was going to come with us but decided that she was too tired and stayed back at her place. I suppose, once you get to your 90s, three days of partying might be pushing it a bit. Mind you, Lindsey reports that Rupert and Hugo had barely moved from the bed and the couches after everyone had gone home on Saturday evening. They were still on the couches when everyone headed out to lunch on Sunday.

It was an excellent birthday weekend. The weather was glorious. It was pleasantly hot. Everyone had a good time. 

The weather has changed today. After a weekend of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-30s, today is cloudy, damp and misty with a forecast high of 20. I might even have to put a cardigan on!

*Our bakery makes rainbow bread which has red and blue colouring stirred through a white bread dough. It's perfect for fairy bread, which is thinly sliced bread, crusts removed, buttered and spread with hundreds and thousands

Saturday, February 03, 2024

She Made It!

Stella tells us that she woke up yesterday morning and thought - I made it!

I wasn't convinced she would do. She was so breathless on Wednesday morning that she couldn't speak when I rang her. I hung up, called the nurses, and they sorted her out.

In truth, there has been doubt that she would make it to yesterday pretty much since she was born. She was a very premature baby and her parents were told to take her home and enjoy her for the few days they would have her. She has had heart attacks, respiratory issues, circulation problems, dud kidneys - you name it and she has suffered from it. Reports of her imminent demise have been rife throughout her life.

But make it she did, to her 90th birthday.

Wendy came up from Melbourne and Lindsey, Wendy and I accompanied Stella to the Boatshed for a celebratory lunch. Both my brothers have asked why they weren't invited but actually no one was invited. Wendy had assumed Lindsey and I would be working as usual and arranged to come up and go for lunch. Lindsey had, separately, taken the day off and decided to go out for lunch. I had also rearranged my week so I would be free for the birthday. And lunch just evolved.

It was a glorious day yesterday, as perfect a summer day as you could ask for. Mid to high 20s, blue sky, light breeze. And I had booked a table on the (inside) deck, out over the lake. We had a window table with lovely views over the water.

We shared a seafood platter (with extra chips). Stella and I had an affogato each for dessert. Wendy had a coffee pudding (although we think that might have been a typo because it was most definitely a toffee pudding). Lindsey decided not to indulge in dessert. It was all very delicious, washed down with mocktails for Lindsey and me, a light beer for the usually teetotal Wendy and a glass of proper champagne for the birthday girl.

Stella had phone calls from all sorts of people, social media messages from even more people, lots of presents.

An excellent celebration

90 years old
Not a bad effort

Wendy, decorated with rainbows

Seafood platter

Table with a view


Opening presents

Pink Flower mocktail for me

This was on the door of Stella's room

Then we took Stella home - and she repaired to her bed for a restorative nap

Monday, January 29, 2024

Long Weekend Activities

It is really quite confusing when you start doing regular things on the wrong day!

On Thursday, Lindsey and I did a whole load of Saturday things. Not the markets, because there weren't any, but shopping and pottering. Then we confused things even more and went and visited Stella in the morning instead of the afternoon. I did have a hair appointment on Thursday afternoon,  which is when I usually have them, but mostly I was doing Saturday things, or Thursday things at strange times.

Friday was a national public holiday. Just to confuse me even more, the Sunday Lunchers met at Gillie's house in Daylesford and had a Sunday Lunch on a Friday. It was a lovely afternoon. In addition to Chris, John and Irene, Gillie's sister was over from South Africa. I have heard lots about her but hadn't previously met her. So lots of good food, a good catch up and a new friend - even if that friend is heading back to South Africa tomorrow.

I had dropped by to visit Stella on my way to Gillie's place. I had some shopping for her. She was wearing the jumper I gave her for Christmas

I was working on Saturday morning, which only served to make the days even more confusing. If I had done Saturday things on Thursday and Sunday things on Friday, and then I was working - well, surely it had to be Monday????

Then, in the afternoon, the days all gave themselves a good shake, fell back into place, and I found myself in Saturday afternoon. Which I spent on the rooftop terrace at Freyja and Simon's place with cups of tea and cake. Afternoon tea with a view!

And when I got home, I found that the Tomato Fairy had been:

Lindsey had picked up a 10kg box of tomatoes
at Wilsons and abandoned them at my place

I haven't processed them all yet, but I have done two lots in the slow cooker, put them through the blender and then a sieve and then reduced them down by about half. I've also done two trays in the oven, then blended them and passed them through a sieve. They didn't need reducing. All of those are in tubs in the freezer. I chopped some up with some zucchini from the garden and onions and made a tomato stew, almost Pizzaiola style, which I have been eating with dinner. The rest are awaiting attention.

Lindsey and Ian went to Melbourne yesterday, for afternoon tea at the Melbourne Museum. I bought it for them for Christmas. So I spent the night up at Rupert and Hugo's place, there being no point in Lindsey and Ian coming back to Mount Helen early evening only to turn around very early this morning and head back to Melbourne. 

I put the dogs out for a wee before bedtime, closed and locked all the doors, turned out the lights, turned off the TV, went to my room - and found two Great Danes on the bed! No hesitation on their part :D. We all slept well. Hugo didn't try to push me out of bed until nearly 6am, when we all got up and they had their breakfast. Eventually, I thought that perhaps I should have a shower, get dressed and declare the day properly underway. I went into the bathroom, looked in the sink - and there was a skink (very small lizard) sitting on the metal bar in the plug hole. It was VERY lucky I noticed it before I turned the hot tap on. I fished it out with a Christmas card and a small wine glass and put it outside.

Showered and dressed, I went into the lounge room with a breakfast sandwich. Rupert and Hugo came in from outside to watch me eat it and to cadge any leftovers there happened to be. Then I noticed that Rupert's jowl was bleeding. I sorted that out. Finally ate my sandwich. Rupert and Hugo got the crusts.

Time to head back home. As I drove down the driveway, a young rabbit appeared out of the grass and zigzagged its way down to the bottom. Fortunately I drive down the driveway very slowly. Equally fortunately, I was driving along the road very slowly because two kangaroos came bounding over the paddock fence, onto the road and across into the University grounds. THEN one of the ducks that patrols the road decided to try and fly into the car, heading over the top only just in time.

I got home, pleased to encounter no further animal life, only to find that a spider had decided to spin a mighty web across from the side of the house up to the roof of the porch, effectively blocking my access to the porch.I have now moved the spider and swept the web away.

And I am sitting in my dining room, currently animal free (the cats are outside), pondering whether it might be safest if I just stay here for the rest of the day and avoid all further potential animal encounters.

Except, there are things to do. I would quite like a cup of tea. And I should go and visit Stella later. Plus I need to go back to Rupert and Hugo's place after that to give them their dinner and to make the dog stew for this week.

I might have to cloak myself with an animal shield to avoid any further animal excitements!

Hugo on the couch

Rupert on my bed (at Hill House)

You know you are a proper grown up when you get quite excited (and move out of the safety of the dining room) when your new garden hose and accessories are delivered. Except that I may now have no excuse for not washing the windows. One of the accessories is a window washing brush!