Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Late summer

Waiting patiently to harvest the pumpkins

Waiting even more patiently to harvest the watermelons

The sweet corn won't be very long

The corns are filling out nicely

Things are nice and quiet on the allotment

Taking my Sunday bath

The Under Gardener has knocked down one of the sheds
And then he burnt it, bit by bit, in the barbecue. The barbecue will never cook again ;-(

Lovely apples reddening on the tree

This was the harvest for our Sunday lunch

The vines are looking very happy this summer

The Under Gardener is quite happy too


Up along the back of the high school in Tupton there is a path. I knew that the path was there. I even knew that there was a fishing pond somewhere along it because Tammy from next door had told me so.  Next to the path there is another path, which I knew led towards Clay Cross because I had looked it up on the map to find out where it went.

We had never walked along either of these paths.

I'm not sure what made me decide that Monday was the day to see if we could find the fishing pond, but I did.  So off we pottered, in exploring mode.  The path does indeed go along behind the school, and there is indeed a fishing pond.  There was also a rather nice little walk through some woodland and along a field full of sweet corn, then through some more woodland and which eventually ran onto Station New Road.  Where we ran into Marilyn, an allotment friend of The Builder's who has just got back from her son's wedding in Sydney.  So that was all very exciting. We had no idea that the woodland was there.

Marilyn told us that she quite often does walk into Clay Cross along the other path, and then takes the bus back.  We decided on Tuesday (SHU was closed on Tuesday, so I was quite happy to be out and about still in exploring mode) that we would follow the path and see what was what.  And it's a lovely walk, quite close to the main road but you can hardly see the road and really you don't hear it much. You could be miles from anywhere. It's not actually all that far to Clay Cross, so we walked back again, along the main road this time.  And then we went to The Nettle for lunch as a reward for all that exercise

Out exploring around Tupton and Clay Cross

Looking back towards Tupton

Pretty little country path

It's only taken us seven years to walk those two paths!!  I think we might walk out to Old Tupton this coming weekend (Weather Dogs permitting) and go for a walk in the woods that we do know are there, but which we've never been into.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Personal Best Alert

So.  Back in 2010, for some reason that I now don't remember, I decided that we would have a largely alcohol-free year and began counting alcohol-free days.  I haven't kept that counting sheet, but I was looking on the blog for something else yesterday and noticed that I mentioned that we had done Very Badly Indeed and had amassed the grand total of 44 days of alcoholic abstinence.

In 2011 I put together a proper spreadsheet and began counting in earnest.  We did better.  Not well, but better.  Last year we didn't do so very well. And it's funny because I would have said (without checking) that last year wasn't too bad on the alcohol front (because we were saving for the GWT and being Fairly Frugal) and that this year we weren't really being particularly focused on wagonning. 

And yet - we have now bettered in 2013 by two days the total number of alcohol free days that we mustered in 2011. And the year isn't even close to over yet. It is true that the total has been inflated by our spending the whole of Lent on the wagon, but even so it's not a bad effort.  Well, not in my opinion at any rate. 

We'll have to continue being on the Weekday Wagon for 2013.  I am still trying to save for the GWT2, scheduled to commence in January.

There is something of an irony that Freyja, who is by nature very much more abstemious than The Builder and I are ever likely to be, appears to be embarking on a Booze Cruise in December.  A friend of hers suggested that she put together a spreadsheet of places she plans to go, places she plans to stay, things she plans to do, stuff she plans to drink and so on, and to invite people to sponsor one of these events.

There hasn't been a bad response to this.  So far she is being sponsored for a Beer in Bali, a Sunrise in Sydney, a Manhattan in Melbourne, an Avocaat in Auckland, a Mojito in Mexico, a Sambucca in - no wait! That's wrong.  She isn't going to Mexico.  The mojito must be somewhere else.

Anyway, if you want to sponsor yet more booze, possibly buy a cup of tea or even just have a sticky at what she's planning, you'll find the speadsheet here

Penelope's Nightclub and I have baggsied the treehouse!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday barbecue

It's summer. It was a Sunday. It was Freyja's birthday weekend. So we called a barbecue :-)

Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came. Freyja and Simon came.  Nate and Duncan came. Ginger Rich and Marryk came. And, to top everything off - the SUN came :) The Builder put up the gazebo. We lit the barbecue. We were ready to party.

I made: lamb kebabs and lemon chicken and beef and tomato burgers. I also made kidney bean burgers, lemon quorn and veggie kebabs.  Taffa brought a salad. I made tabouleh and a potato salad. Duncan and Nate brought a pavlova.  I made Frannie-friendly lamingtons (I can't eat coconut so I put silver glitter on the lamingtons instead) and I made chocolate mousse cups.  There was lots of wine and a bit of merriment.  It was a good day :-)

I don't think Cally had had a kebab before. She seemed a bit puzzled by it :-D

It's OK, Gamma. Kebabs are cool.   I shall eat it

Taffa and Simon are being naughty!

Freyja, Nate, Duncan and Marryk enjoying Sunday lunch

Marryk, Ginger Rich, Gaz and The Builder also enjoying Sunday lunch

Everybody is chomping

Nate and Duncan's pav - still in its naked state

It's getting dressed in its party clothes
Hooray - it's ready to party

Chocolate mousse cups

It's a dessert table :-)

Birthday Freyja

Freyja is blowing out her candle. (And Frannie is in the background!)

Taffa and Cally in conversation


So we are now down to four chickens and two ducks. We had isolated Ramen in the guinea pig hutch when it became clear that she couldn't move around properly in the chook house and the other chooks were sitting on her.  I have to say that we only expected her to be in there for a couple of days. We assumed she would die quite quickly.  But she didn't. She only finally died on Friday, which was three or four weeks after we first noticed that she didn't seem very well. We have absolutely no idea how she survived that long.  Although we naturally provided her with clean water and food each day, she didn't seem to be drinking or eating anything at all so we assumed she would die of dehydration or starvation much faster than she did. We still have no idea what was wrong with her. But everyone else seems healthy enough. For now!

We have harvested all the peas and broad beans up on the allotment now, and the Under Gardener has dug the beds over and edged them along the path. They all look very good now.  We are eating beetroot from the allotment, and the sweet corn plants have finally got ears growing on them.  We have loads of pumpkins coming along and we even have some tiny watermelons growing.  I am hoping we will have a sufficiently lengthy burst of late summer so they have a chance to ripen (a lengthy burst of fine autumn weather would be pleasant too!)

Back in the garden, there is a fine crop of apples on the way and the blackberries are slowly starting to ripen.  There are four or five pears on the pear trees. And - GREAT EXCITEMENT - there are two peaches on the peach tree!!!!!!!  We bought the peach tree with no real expectation that we would ever get any peaches. Although the tree has blossom each spring, it all gets blown off in the spring gales.  And we so rarely get a summer that would be warm enough to ripen peaches that we assumed that any peaches that survived the blossom blowing off would fall off in despair at the wind and the rain and the low temperatures.  But so far so good!!! (Fingers crossed for a lengthy burst of late summer and a lengthy burst of fine autumn weather :-D )

We are getting lots and lots of runner beans and patty pan zucchini. I made a zucchini parmigiana last week which was remarkably nice.  I am thinking of making another this week

The allotment beds have been beautifully weeded and edged
They're waiting now for us to decide what to plant in them next year

There are cauliflowers and sprouting broccoli plants under the cages

Lots of yummy beetroot (and a few potatoes)

The leeks are coming along nicely

and the capsicum plants are very healthy. Not sure if we'll get any capsicums though

The sweet corn is finally getting ears

The pumpkins are coming along well

But the cucumber plant is beginning to run out of puff

Tiny watermelons :)

Won't be long before the tomatoes are ripe

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Austerity at home

We had no actual plans for the weekend and in honour of the Enforced Austerity that the car repairs have wrought upon us, we decided to stay at home and do Useful Things.

The idea had been that we would spend the bulk of the weekend doing Useful Things in the garden, but a couple of very heavy rain showers on Saturday, mid-morning, made us re-think.  The Builder did get up and do a few handy things on the allotment before the showers, but I turned my attention to the lounge room.

You may remember that a few weeks ago we took everything off the book shelves in the alcoves in the lounge room.  They had been up since we moved in seven years ago, and there they had sat, undisturbed, untended and, above all, unvarnished!  Not only were they very dusty when we looked at them recently, but they also proved impossible to clean.  So The Builder took them all down, took them outside, sanded them down and varnished them.  Then he put them back.

And that was pretty much as far as it went.  Everything that had been peacefully sitting on them was now peacefully sitting on the floor and on the couch.

In the meantime, I had been pondering getting rid of the drinks cabinet that the previous owner had left behind, and generally having a sort out of the furniture.  Saturday seemed as good a day as any to get around to it. (It is possible that my mind might also have been focused by the arrival next Sunday of some lunch guests, not to mention the arrival in October of some house guests!)

So. We've sorted out all the books. We've got rid of the drinks cabinet. We took the couch upstairs into the spare room and brought down the big, squishy leather chair that Mrs Hallam also left when she moved out. We've shifted around the bookcases. We've cleaned and sorted.  I haven't quite sorted out where to put the library books and a few other things - and we have found a plastic bag with books in belonging to The Builder which are about a million years old which I have yet to sort out.  But it's not looking too bad:

Sunday we actually got out into the garden, although our grand plans were thwarted not by the weather but by the fact that the garden waste bin is once again absolutely full. And we can't compost the weeds because they're pernicious ones that would simply take over our compost heap, and thence the whole known universe!  So we had some Sunday wine and sat outside in the sunshine for a bit. And then repaired inside and ate baked trout (provided by our neighbour Steve who quite often passes a brown or rainbow trout over the fence when he's been out fishing). It was a very frugal Sunday Repast indeed.  Free trout, accompanied by potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and zucchini from the garden and allotment, and followed by stewed fruit from the garden.

I have now started turning out the dresser in the dining room.  Anyone have any need for about a million drinking glasses?

I didn't go out to look for meteors last night. It wasn't really dark enough for meteor spotting until quarter to eleven or so, and I was well and truly in bed by then.  The sunset was lovely, though:

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Early August

The weather has taken a strangely autumnal turn in the last couple of days.  It's been chilly overnight and misty in the early mornings. It feels like early autumn rather than late summer. But it is, of course, only early August so there may yet be a return to summer rather than autumn conditions.  In the meantime we haven't yet had the temperatures drop so much overnight that we've had a frost, and the daytime temperatures are holding up. So we continue to do well for runner beans and for button zucchini.

The Under Gardener has now dug all the onions on the allotment and we are slowly processing them and putting them into the (nearly full :-S ) freezer. We've had enough zucchini this year for me to start putting together ratatouille or stew packs in the freezer, so far with onions, zucchini and runner beans.  If we get enough ripe tomatoes I'll add those too. I'll try and remember to add some herbs as well; we've got quite a few different herbs flourishing this year so I might add different herbs to different packs (and then not label them so which flavour it is comes as a surprise :-D). We haven't yet dug the potatoes. None of the rest of them came down with blight so we're leaving them in the ground for now. The plants either have died or are dying back, but while we are frost free they're as safe in the ground as they are in the freezer or potato drawers.  It hasn't been a good year for slugs or (apparently) wireworm and so far the potatoes are coming up hale and hearty.  If that changes, we'll re-think our approach.

The Under Gardener has also harvested all the peas and broad beans on the allotment, so the bottom half is now bare. He's started digging those, ready to put them to bed for the winter, or to plant garlic in the autumn. He's also harvested all the fruit on the allotment. The pumpkin and tomato plants in the greenhouse are positively thriving. I'm not sure how the capsicum plants are bearing up. The plants look quite healthy but they aren't flowering. The watermelon plants are extremely happy but I don't think we'll get enough time for watermelons to grow properly   I don't really ever expect to get watermelons - but we do get the very occasional year when the spring AND the summer are warm and sunny. That will be the year we get watermelons and I am ever optimistic!

The blackbirds have eaten the last of the morello cherries in the orchard. This was slightly irritating because we were hoping to get them ripe enough to make a foray into baking cherry pies! We had netted the cherries, but that didn't thwart the blackbirds.  We have plums, apples and a few more blueberries to come.

Ramen, the poorly chook still isn't dead.  We've put her into the small guinea pig hutch that we bought when we first got the ducks.  I am not expecting her to survive for very long but she seems reasonably happy, except that she can't walk. All the other birds seem hale and hearty for now. Udon has resumed laying eggs so we are getting a fairly regular two a day at the moment. Dim Sim and Gyoza haven't started laying yet. They're about 16 or 17 weeks old now so may start laying shortly.  Hoi Sin and Terriyaki are also not laying yet, but I still don't know at what age Indian Runner ducks usually start.  I'll let you know when they do.

Here's the planting plan as it stands at the moment: