Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Normality" is restored

The Covid restrictions in Victoria have returned to the levels they were at around Christmas. From my perspective that means very few restrictions at all. We would be unlikely to want to have more than 30 visitors in our house and garden. Most of the things I want to do are available to me. It is true that I can't hop on a plane and head to Japan or the UK but I'm sure that will come eventually.  We *could* head interstate but are a bit reluctant to do that while state border restrictions come into place in a seemingly random and haphazard manner. I have organised a week away for us both on the Gippsland coast in July.  I quite like small coastal villages in the winter and Gippsland is in Victoria so, unless there is another Victorian outbreak, that should be unproblematic.

I wouldn't have worn a face mask pre-Covid but am more than happy to wear one now, and will probably continue to wear one under some circumstances even after Covid has become less virulent. It seems to be an easy way of reducing the incidence of most airborne illnesses. As of this weekend, mask wearing in Victoria is only compulsory in high density settings such as supermarkets, shopping complexes and department stores, on public transport and in ride sharing vehicles. No great hardship.

Lindsey was busy yesterday and so was unavailable for our usual Saturday morning activities. So I headed out on my own. First stop, the market at Zoo Drive by the lake.  The lake was insanely busy. Busier than it has been for almost a year.  There was a rowing regatta, and something was happening at the yacht club. The market was on. There were preparations for an event that is happening today. Plus there were people out jogging, cycling, walking their dogs. There were coaches parked on the roadside plus an astonishing number of cars. People were in the cafes and restaurants. It was good to see people out and about and engaging in lots of activities - even if I was beginning to think I was going to have to park on the other side of the lake and walk to the market! Fortunately I found a spot not too far away.

There were loads of stalls selling food, flowers, plants, craft things, fruit, veg, small goods, wine, beer - all sorts of things. And there were loads of people wandering around and looking and buying and eating and drinking. It had a good buzz.

There were loads of people at the mushroom farm too. They have expanded their range to include fruit and vegetables, cakes and sweet treats, plus tasty bread offerings. They already had sourdough from a local baker but they now also have cheese twists and savoury and sweet scrolls and bread rolls and other yummy things. Plus, of course, they still have the things they already stocked as well as their mushrooms. It was good to see them busy as well.

I didn't go out to Elaine. The farmgate shop is open every day so Lindsey and I will probably go today. The mushroom farm is closed on Sundays so no point heading there today.

And so we come to the end of February and thus the end of summer as calculated by the government and the meteorologists. I think this summer in our corner of the world is best described as "very English". A number of warm days, a small number of hot days, no very hot days, lots of fairly cool days, quite a bit of rain (although February has been on the dry side) and lots of cloud. This morning is looking promising. It's only early but the sun is shining and the trees around us have a gentle, golden tinge. It is definitely not hot though. Our garden thermometer says that it is 9d. I think it's supposed to get warmer than that as the day progresses.

A beautiful morning
but I think I should sweep the patio!

Monday, February 22, 2021


 I went and picked Stella up on Friday. I have to say that I hadn't expected her to be quite as battered and thoroughly bruised as she was. She looked as though she had been in a most terrible accident. 

We got back to Hill House and managed to get her into the house without incident.  Rupert and Hugo were pleased to see her, although rather puzzled by all the bandages and dressings and bruises.  Lots of gentle sniffing, especially of her head.

Lindsey, Stella and I went out and about on Saturday, although Stella didn't get out of the car. She is supposed to be taking things quietly and not to be dashing about in the shops but didn't want to spend all day sitting on the couch. At least this way she could go out and still remain fairly quiet.  We got more dressings for her at the big, new pharmacy that opened up in Sebastopol last year. We went out to the mushroom farm. We headed to Bunnings and had sausages from the sausage sizzle. (This wasn't why we went but, while Lindsey was looking for what she wanted in Bunnings, I might have been drawn by the siren song of barbecuing sausages to the sizzle tent. A late morning snack to keep us going until lunchtime!)

We all went out to the Swiss Mountain Hotel in Blampied for lunch yesterday. It takes around half an hour to get there and is a lovely drive through beautiful countryside. Plus, the hotel does really lovely food. The dining area is also large enough to make social distancing easily possible. All in all it seemed like an ideal place to take Stella for lunch. And she seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Jim and I certainly enjoyed it.


Stella and me

Ian, Lindsey and Stella

Stella is heading back home today. Lindsey will take her back and her carers should be back on deck from this evening.  Let's hope for no further dramas!

Friday, February 19, 2021

End of Lockdown

And so Victoria's short, sharp lockdown has come to an end.

I had managed to avoid the temptation to panic buy toilet paper and all the other things that people seem to think they are at high risk of running out of during a lockdown. This is partly because thus far the shops have remained open during all our lockdowns. It is also because I seldom get to a stage where I run out of vital things. In any case, I hardly ever buy toilet paper in the shops.  I buy it, tissues and kitchen paper in bulk, online, from Who Gives a Crap - and quite fortuitously had put in an order a couple of days before the lockdown was announced. Each order keeps us ticking along for 7 or 8 months so I am not expecting to buy any more in the near future.

If I had thought about it, I might have gone out to the Mushroom Farm on the Thursday of last week. But I didn't think about it. We eat a lot of mushrooms and most certainly didn't have enough to last through the lockdown. We would have managed without, but our local IGA stocks their mushrooms.  They have long had sliced mushies from the farm, but I noticed on my one trip to the IGA over the past week that they had boxes of unsliced mushrooms as well.  I picked some up to tide us over.

We were just starting to run out of fresh vegetables when the lockdown finished. Both the Mushroom Farm and the Elaine Farmgate Shop had been out of range during the lockdown. Both of them now stock produce from the Spring Creek Vegetable Farm. So Lindsey and I celebrated the end of lockdown by visiting both of them yesterday. We don't usually go on Thursdays but there was no reason why not. So we did. I am now stocked up again on mushrooms, vegetables, eggs, sauces. Plus I have spinach, silver beet, and zucchini available in my garden and Lindsey has all of those plus lettuce, ripening tomatoes and kale in hers.

In other news, Stella is now home from the hospital. Wendy picked her up yesterday afternoon. I will head down to Mount Martha this morning and bring her up here for the weekend.  Lindsey will take her back on Monday. I have to say that the photo Wendy sent of Stella makes her look very much as though she has been on the losing side of a boxing bout with the Heavyweight Champion. Her head is swathed in bandages and she has a couple of very shiny black eyes. I think she should probably retire from her sparring career!

I have a new rain gauge. I had a small one which sat in a garden bed, until it got run over yesterday and broken. My father had been reading a rain gauge for many, many years in Mount Martha. I had intended to replace my little rain gauge with his, but the plastic was quite weathered and I didn't think would stand up to being attached to a metal fence. (I have to be quite firm when attaching things to our fences so the things need to be quite robust.) So now i have a new one, ready and waiting for rain. Which I am not expecting today!

No longer able to read the rain levels

This one is an exact replica of
the one my father had.
He had records going back many years

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lockdown #5

 Day #5 of our short, sharp lockdown was a very pleasant day indeed.

The sun shone. It was pleasantly warm. The wind was still.

Lindsey and Ian were both at work so Jim and I wandered up to feed, water and entertain Rupert and Hugo (animal care is permitted during lockdown and we couldn't leave them on their own for all those hours). While we were there I made a start on pruning the broad bean plants which, you may remember, have started to sprout again from the bottom. I thought it might be easier to see what was going on if I pruned away the old growth. And so it was.  I only did half or so because pruning broad beans in the middle of the day is hot work when it is around 30d and you have failed to bring a hat with you.  It's OK.  I'll do the rest the next time I am up there.

The biggest excitement of the day was when I was outside throwing balls for Rupert and Hugo to chase. We were interrupted by the sound of a vehicle. Not many unexpected vehicles come to Lindsey and Ian's place and I knew it couldn't be either of them. We stopped playing ball games and went to investigate. And up the driveway came a Great Big White Van, bearing boxes and boxes of wine for Lindsey. Alas, the wine is non-alcoholic so not all that exciting for me, but the appearance of an unexpected Great Big White Van was very exciting for Rupert and Hugo.

Apart from that it was a quiet, peaceful, calm lockdown day. The last of this current iteration. From midnight last night most restrictions have reverted to where they were last Friday. We can only have five visitors a day but that won't inconvenience me. I am not expecting vast numbers of visitors in the next couple of weeks.

Stella remains in hospital. She had to have a small procedure on her head to stop it bleeding. But she should be coming home today and then will come to  Hill House for the weekend for convalescence.

It is shaping up to be a lovely morning, although it is a bit windy. And I expect the beeping machines will be back today. Construction activities can recommence this morning.


and Hugo

Enjoying the peace of Lockdown Life

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lockdown #4

Stella enlivened the fourth day of our five day lockdown by getting up for a loo stop at around 4:00 in the morning. Her loo chair tipped over and upended her, head first into the wall.

This was not entirely desirable!

Fortunately, she was wearing her emergency pendant and managed to press it. Unfortunately, the communication device for when the emergency pendant people respond is in the kitchen and Stella was in the bathroom so couldn't talk to them. They rang Lindsey. At 4:30 am!

They also called an ambulance.

Lindsey managed to raise Stella on her phone and talked to her until the ambulance arrived, about 30 minutes later. Off to the Frankston hospital with Stella. And there she remains with a huge lump on her head, two black eyes and a headache. She has had to have an operation to stop some bleeding. I think they have also sorted out her warfarin levels.

Ian added to the excitement of the lockdown evening by heading outside onto the lawn at Hill House, with Rupert and Hugo, to admire the lovely evening and the sunset. All was well, until Hugo went to sit on his knee (which he does by putting his bum on your knee and effectively sitting down, but with his paws on the ground). Alas, the weight of a Great Dane sitting on Ian's knee proved too much for the legs of the garden seat which gradually folded under. Fortunately Hugo was not damaged.  Equally fortunately, neither was Ian, although Ian would perhaps have been easier to sort out than Hugo would have been.  There still isn't an emergency, out of hours vet in Ballarat and there is an emergency department at the (human) hospital.


Hugo inspecting the damage to the chair.
Photo by Ian

Jim and I had a much less exciting lockdown day. We had the left over soup and bread for lunch. We had steak and chips for dinner. Jim watched lifestyle programs on the telly. I pottered around, in the garden and in the house. All was peaceful and calm.  All the more so because most construction work has been declared to be non-essential for the duration of the lockdown, so the builders and their noisy, beeping* machines are not messing about on the former reserve.

(* Not a euphemism. Those machines beep incessantly during the day.)

It can sometimes be difficult to tell where one of my ginger and cream cats finishes and the other starts. At least they are comfortable

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Lockdown #3

It may have been something of a mistake to bake a loaf of potato bread (300 g mashed potato, 300 g plain flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water, though I used milk that was starting to turn in the interests of reducing food waste) and to make a pot of left overs soup early yesterday morning.

The left overs soup had left over beef casserole, left over cooked vegetables, a few other vegetables that were starting to look a bit sorry for themselves, some feta that needed using, some vegetable stock and a tin of tomato soup that didn't particularly need using but which I chucked in because I felt like it.

Obviously, when the soup and bread were ready, I had to check them to make sure they tasted ok. And then I checked again, just in case I had been mistaken. Then I had to have a bit more, and perhaps a bit more. By the time lunchtime actually arrived, I was very, very, very full of soup and bread.

Next time I will have to do things much closer to lunchtime so there is much less temptation to eat everything in advance.  Not that I literally ate everything. Jim had some at actual lunchtime and there is enough left for lunch today.

It was a lovely day, weather-wise, yesterday. I sorted out God's tomato plants (the ones that God sent, rather than the ones that I grew). They have actual tomatoes on them, though they are not yet ripe. I tied up some raspberry canes. I sorted out my zucchini plants. I sat out on the patio for a while in the afternoon. Did a spot of watering. Did a bit of tidying in the house, though I could really do to put a bit more effort into that. We had chicken kievs for dinner with more veg and baked potatoes. (The spell check wanted to make that "naked potatoes"; I can assure you they were far from naked after they were covered with kievs and vegetables and a tomato based sauce!)

A good day, even including eating far too much soup and bread.

Home made.

Potato Bread and Left Overs Soup.
And very tasty it was too

Monday, February 15, 2021

Lockdown #2

I did leave the house and garden yesterday. We needed milk, which in my life is a necessity.

I tried to get it, and some lunch, from the local cafe which I can walk to inside 5 minutes, but it had closed because of lack of customers.

So I drove to Mount Clear. While I was there I got some fish and chips for Sunday lunch at home in lieu of Sunday lunch in a pub, and a few groceries from the grocery shop.

Apart from that, a quiet, sunny day. I cleaned the bathroom and laundry, made a lasagne, watered both gardens, watched a bit of telly, threw ping pong balls for the cats to chase and pottered about.

I think I wore the cats out!

It was a struggle to get dressed today
not least because Brandy is sleeping
on my clothes, laid out on the bed for me
to put on after my shower

Whiskey has helped himself to both the cat beds

If he can't sleep on my clothes, 
he will sleep by the window in 
the sunshine

The nights are getting noticeably longer. It's still properly dark at 6am now. It's still light in the evenings though. For now

Sunday, February 14, 2021


So here we are in Victoria, back in lockdown. This time, it's the whole state in proper lockdown. But this time it's only supposed to be for five days so that's not too bad. I can do five days at home.

It's the first time that regional Victoria has had a proper, full on lockdown. The last, long Melbourne lockdown didn't extend to the regions, or not as tightly. Regional people are complaining that we are in hard lockdown when there have been no regional Covid cases in months. But we did not want Manky Melbournites wantonly heading to the regions on Friday to avoid a hard lockdown starting on Saturday and there wasn't time to re-instate the checkpoints around the city for just five days. So it wasn't really practical to isolate just metropolitan Melbourne.

People, of course, were out in force on Friday afternoon buying up for the next five days, even though supermarkets and food shops will remain open. I went to the fruit and veg shop next to the surgery and panic bought 2 kilos of onions and some other vegetables to supplement the ones from the garden. I only bought what I would probably have got on Saturday morning for the week coming. The only other thing I will need to get is some fresh milk. We are allowed to go shopping for necessities but I am happy to stay away from the shops for a few days. Our local cafe is open for takeaway food and usually stocks milk.  I'll try them today before heading into Mount Clear.

We were supposed to be in Melbourne this weekend. The postponed work Christmas do was supposed to be last night in a Japanese restaurant in Greensborough. Lindsey, Ian, Jim and I were going to stay in East Melbourne and then do shops and stuff today, with the strong possibility of Sunday lunch in a local pub.  Jim and I have not been to the city for very, very nearly a year. We have driven near it, and passed through on the freeways on our way to and from Mount Martha, but we haven't actually been in it. I was last in the flat in February 2020.

We were looking forward to our weekend in town but I must admit that, when it became clear that it wasn't going happen this weekend, my first thought was that I wouldn't be unhappy to have a quiet weekend at home. A weekend in Melbourne can always happen later. 

You might think that I would have taken the opportunity of a Saturday At Home (no markets, farm shops, Bunnings for me) to do useful things in the house or garden. And I suppose I did do a small number of useful things. But mostly I settled into lockdown life by watching wall to wall housing programs on the TV in the afternoon and eating snacks. It was a very pleasant afternoon but I can't spend all of this coming week watching lifestyle programs and eating snacks.  I must try and be more focused. Plus, of course, there are work things to do. Working from Home does not involve 24 hours a day watching television!!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Good morning


Looking North East from our front door

Looking East from the front garden towards
the hill that Rupert and Hugo live half way up

It's in the mid-20s as I write and is supposed to get to the low 30s later today, with rain forecast for the afternoon. It's a bit windy, but otherwise a beautiful morning. And all I can hear outside is birdsong.

I expect the workers will be back on the housing site soon. They've cleared up the terrible mess on the other side of the former reserve and put in part of a road and a lamp post. I must wander over and have a closer look sometime over the weekend.

A highly magnified photo of
the far side of the former
reserve, taken from
our front porch

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

This and That

There are alien invaders in my asparagus bed! The asparagus is only new. Positively babies. We won't be eating asparagus from them for at least a year and more probably two. I didn't plant anything else in the bed. I intend to plant two more asparagus plants next season but nothing else.

And then these turned up:

I suppose, strictly speaking, they count as weeds.  But I won't pull them up just yet.  Tasty weeds and cheerful weeds are usually welcome in my garden.  

There are a few tomato plants that are growing, self invited, in my backyard vegetable beds. And without exception they are doing much better than the ones I carefully cultivated from seeds, in pots out the front.  I had expected the ones out the front to do quite well. They get the bulk of the sunshine throughout the day. But I think it's been a bit cold for them. You could not say that this has been a hot summer. Distinctly on the cool side, so far at least. And the tomato plants are not thriving.  Still, at least they are not dying.  I will nurture them along and see what happens. If we have a mild autumn there is yet time for a tomato harvest.

We are getting zucchini, spinach, carrots and celery, although we have finished the carrots until the next crop is ready. We have also finished the broad beans at Hill House, though I notice that the plants are shooting from the bottom again and there are new flowers. We may get a second crop! Lindsey has bought a positive mountain of vegetable seeds.  I think we may have enough for the next decade or so! I must sort them out and check my seeds to see if there are any gaps.  It is hard to imagine there will be but you never know. We will definitely need more broad bean seeds for next season.  The packet that came with her seed mountain only has ten seeds and that won't do at all.

We had a lovely weekend at Mount Martha. We didn't do anything particularly exciting but we ate well and pottered around and Stella seemed to enjoy it. I went to the Mushroom Farm on Saturday before we headed down and got loads of tasty treats and yummy things, so Stella is well supplied for this week.

I said that it has so far been a cool summer.  It has also been quite chilly at night this week.  I am considering getting the extra blankets out.  And yesterday morning I went into our bedroom at around 6:30 or perhaps 7 and found this:

Brandy doesn't usually snuggle up with
Jim first thing in the morning.
I think he was cold

Monday, February 01, 2021

Topping and Tailing January

We began the month with a New Year lunch at our place.  Lindsey, Ian and Stella came.

We finished the month with another lunch at our place.  Lindsey and Ian came again.  And so did Freyja and Simon.  And our friend Pat. And our friends Julia and Travis with Baby Henry and Travis's daughter.

I had been wandering around my copies of Vegan with bite and Vegan (ish ) in search of inspiration and devised a menu loosely based on some of their recipes. Jack Monroe's very pretty cauliflower and lentil salad with spinach and pomegranates. I upped the pretty-ness level by adding some edible flowers. We had Shannon Martinez's "deconstructed lasagne" with lots of lovely green veg. We had Jack Monroe's spinach dumplings in tomato sauce. And we had roasties, dips, munchies not from books.  Plus we had a mango and raspberry trifle, much like the one I made for Christmas. And a "grazing plate" of donuts, which I bought from a pop up donut van that appeared in the car park of the Elaine Farmgate shop, cut into bite-sized pieces and presented on my cake stand. The donuts were not vegan friendly but, although I remembered to ask if they were, I forgot to ask why they were not. I must ask, the next time the Gypsy Donut van pops back into my life.

Freyja's dessert photos:

Grazing donuts

Trifle, much like the Christmas one
but topped with chocolate rather
than cherries

We ate all this outside on the patio, under the gazebo - for the weather was pleasant and clement and properly conducive to eating outside.

We were lucky with the weather.  It rained and it rained and it rained and it rained and it rained on Friday. It was also windy and cold.  It didn't rain much on Saturday but it was on the cool-side and it wasn't very pleasant.  It is on the cool-side again today, and it is cloudy and grey. Yesterday the weather was perfect!

I do need to find an alternative to vegan cheeses though. The ones I have found are not really very pleasant. I use nutritional yeast a lot but it would be nice to find something else as well.

And now here we are.  February already. It will be Christmas before we know it 😝