Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Summer Days

I was watching Location, location, location during the week. They were in Sheffield. They went to lots of lovely places that I know well, like Woodseats, Meersbrook, Millhouses, amongst others. I saw lots of landmarks that I know. "Oh look! There's the Crosspool tower, the Ranmoor church spire, the Heeley mosque." We wandered through Graves Park, along the main road in Woodseats, past Bishops' House. It was all very nostalgic. I almost felt homesick 😊

Then I went outside into a glorious summer's afternoon and decided that perhaps I might just stay here for now. 

I am rather pleased with my small vegetable beds. They're doing quite well this year.

I need more pea plants next year

The tomatoes did not flourish on the front porch last year.
They're doing much better this year

Runner bean flowers

The sweet corn is flourishing

I've fenced back the raspberries, which had started to lounge about along the back path. While I was at it, I cut back this year's fruiting canes. I also pruned the rhubarb, which garnered me four sticks to use. I wouldn't usually pick rhubarb in its first year but it was beginning to get a bit unruly. And I figured I might as well eat the prunings.

I was about to pull the broad bean plants, which were pretty much finished. Then I noticed that they were flowering again from the bottom. So I cut them back and will wait and see if I get another, summer crop. I don't need the space just for now, although Lindsey and Ian gave me a propagating set for Christmas which came with a selection of vegetable seeds, plus I have loads of seed from previous seasons. It's almost time to start sowing the autumn and winter plants. I must sort thought all the seed packets and see what needs using soon.

We have been having some lovely weather lately. Not too hot, not too windy.

A summer afternoon,
Hill House

Saturday morning market, at the lake

Early Sunday morning,
Mount Martha

The (temporary, I hope) loss of the bakery in Mount Clear has meant that I have finally opened the 5 kg bag of bread mix I bought a while ago. I must say, it makes lovely bread

I had to hide it so I didn't eat all of it at once!

It was very tempting, though

And Brandy and Whiskey seem to be enjoying life

Sunday, January 16, 2022

(Mostly) Thursday

We were up at Rupert and Hugo's place on Wednesday night.

For most of the night, Hugo slept across the bottom of our bed and Rupert slept on Lindsey's bed.

For most of the night it was very windy. Things went bang in the night. Lots of times!

For a good part of the night there was a baby elephant wearing tap shoes, dancing in the roof space. Or that's what it sounded like. In all probability it was really a possum.

All of this meant that every now and then one or other of the dogs would start barking, which started the other dog barking and both dogs would leap off their beds and rush about, looking for the originator of the noises.

It was not a restful night - although at least Rupert wasn't trying to squish onto our bed and I had a space.

Jim, of course, slept peacefully through it all.

Thursday morning saw Jim and me heading down to our place nice and early, to await the arrival of the district nurse for Jim's shower. The nurses can come any time between 8:00 and 13:00 although they usually come mid-ish morning. Generally they ring around 30 minutes before they come but sometimes they only give a few minutes notice. It seemed wise to pack Jim in his pyjamas and dressing gown into the car and have breakfast at our place.

The nurse came, Jim was showered and dressed and he and I headed back to Hill House to play with Rupert and Hugo, make lunch - and wait.

Until Lindsey, and Freyja and Simon arrived and we could all have lunch together.

On Wednesday, I had been out to Delacombe and bought lots of potatoes and vegetables. I had chicken and cheese sausages and some vegan sausages. I had zucchini from my garden and tomatoes from the Yendon tomato farm. It made a mighty feast. Well, mighty for a lunchtime. Then Freyja and Simon went home. We went home. And Lindsey was left with all the dishes πŸ˜„

Thursday was a good day, despite the wind and the elephant in the roof keeping Rupert, Hugo and me awake overnight.

Jim's Wednesday carer is now being funded by the Commonwealth Home Support Service and so he will have a new carer. She wasn't available on Wednesday so someone else came as a substitute. This is one of the two substantial improvements on the private arrangement I had with another provider. Under the new program, if the regular carer can't come, they will send someone else. And it is considerably cheaper to have a commonwealth funded carer.

It is possibly just as well that Covid shut down the aged care facility that Jim was going to this weekend. A large volcanic eruption off the Tongan coast has created tsunamis around the Pacific Ocean, causing havoc among the Pacific Islands and alerts right around the ocean. Including, late yesterday, a marine tsunami alert from Lakes Entrance and east along the Gippsland Coast. There wasn't an actual land tsunami there but it would have been a bit disconcerting to have been staying in the Marlo Hotel and to be waiting to hear if we needed to evacuate. Much less fraught in Mount Helen which is quite some distance from the coast, and in any case is nearly 500m above sea level

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Weekend in January

Lindsey and I made our first market visit for 2022 on Saturday, at Zoo Drive by the lake. There weren't as many stalls as usual, although that is not unusual in January. People on holidays, weather, covid all keep stall holders away. Nevertheless, I got eggs, peas, tomatoes, other useful things.  Lindsey bought cherries, raspberries and blueberries which she generously shared with us and with Stella. The mushroom farm is closed for a summer holiday, so we called at Wilson's on the way home. I thought I was well stocked up for the week with vegetables, although I notice that although I have lots of tomatoes and mushrooms, the vegetable bowl only has two onions and a handful of green beans left - and it's only Tuesday!

I woke up on Sunday morning to the news that there had been a fire at the Midvale Shopping complex in Mount Clear. It had apparently started in and gutted the tobacco shop, which only opened a matter of weeks ago. It then spread to the gym on one side and to the bakery on the other. The bakery is a family owned business which I use all the time. They make excellent bread, fabulous pies and lots of other interesting bakery goods. They posted a notice on Facebook to say that they would be closed indefinitely, while the damage was assessed and then repaired.  The chicken takeaway shop, an empty shop and the post office were all affected by smoke damage and will also be closed for a time. That is a whole row of shops taken out of action. Fortunately, the butcher is on the row that sits at right angles to the damaged row, along with a smoothie shop, a defunct Subway and the fish and chip shop. They had their turn around ten years ago when the fish and chip shop went up in flames and were undamaged this time. The IGA is completely separate and was also unaffected, thank goodness.

On another matter, I have made many attempts to get to Marlo, at the mouth of the Snowy River in Gippsland over the past couple of years.  I had planned a road trip to Sydney in 2020 after our abridged trip to England, going inland via Albury and Canberra and returning via Bateman's Bay and Marlo (a small, out of the way place, but you know - Marlo!). Various lockdowns meant I had to postpone and finally cancel the road trip. I decided that we could still go to Marlo for a long weekend, it being within Victoria and so not subject to interstate border closures. Again, that plan also had to be postponed and then cancelled because of various lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was supposed to go to Hobart for my birthday weekend in December. Nup! No casual travel to Tasmania.

So Freyja and I decided that we would make a long weekend trip to Marlo this coming weekend.  Some weeks ago we booked for her, Simon and me. I booked Jim into a local aged care home for respite care for the weekend. I mentioned it to him every time we drove past the place, which is in Mount Clear and opened perhaps 12 months ago, so that he wouldn't be surprised when I dropped him off on Friday.  Lindsey organised a VERY complicated roster for looking after Great Danes and ginger and cream cats based on everyone either being away or working that weekend. We were all set - and there are no lockdowns or travel restrictions expected, despite the amount of contagion rampaging around in the country. I borrowed a couple of books from the library for Weekend Away Reading.

Yesterday, as I was filling in the paperwork for Jim's weekend, I got a phone call from the aged care home to say that they had been visited by covid and were locked down, so no respite care available. They couldn't find an alternative in Ballarat but could offer Jim a place in Torquay. Torquay is about an hour and a half south of here and not on the way to Marlo which is about 6 hours east of here - so not really convenient. Also, I want him to go to Mount Clear so we can see if they like each other. It's only 2km from here and I'm looking for somewhere he can go for respite and eventually into permanent care if that should become necessary.

So no weekend in Marlo. Sigh! Freyja, Simon and I have decided to try again in the autumn - although I wonder if we might get past the eagle eyes of the covid dogs by heading west rather than east. They're obviously watching my attempts to get to Marlo. Maybe they won't notice if I go to Port Fairy instead πŸ˜‚

In happier news, you may remember that I bought an oak bookcase which arrived just before Christmas. It needed assembling and I found the Handy Girls in Delacombe and booked someone to come and put it together for me. She came yesterday. I'm glad she did it, it would have definitely stretched my flat pack skills! I am very pleased with it. They are out of stock in the place that I bought it, but when they come back in stock I might buy another one for the other side of the window.

Saturday, January 08, 2022


As I was driving home from work on Wednesday evening, I noticed big black clouds up ahead of me, which were lit up from time to time with bolts of lightning.

My phone was sounding multiple alerts for flooding in and around Ballarat.

As I drove up the hill near Gordon, I overtook a truck. It flashed its lights when I pulled back into the inside lane. I pondered this - I knew I hadn't impeded it and I couldn't think of anything else I might have done to upset the driver. Then I noticed that the driver was flashing the truck's lights at all the vehicles that were overtaking it.

I figured the storm I could see up ahead might be a big one. Truck drivers know about these things.

And then I drove into it!

There was lots of rain, lots of lightning and lots of thunder. It didn't last long, though. By the time I got to Warrenheip I had gone past it and there was just light rain.

It caught up with me, though. I hadn't been home for half an hour when the storm arrived at our place. The thunder reverberated around the soon to be housing estate across the lane.  The lightning was very bright. The rain was very heavy. Brandy and Whiskey don't usually worry about storms but Whiskey retreated under my couch when a particularly loud clap of thunder sounded.

The storm rumbled along for most of the night and there was still distant thunder when I got up at about 5:30.

Thursday was dry and mostly sunny for most of the day, until mid-afternoon when I was considering going out along Yankee Flat Road to see if the egg farm had any eggs at their gate. I changed my mind when I looked across the housing plot and saw big black clouds heading our way. I brought the washing in instead and got inside just as the first drops of rain reached us. Then we were engulfed by another storm. Not quite as intense as Wednesday's but there was plenty of lightning and thunder to keep us amused.

View from (inside!) the front window

The view of Thursday's storm from the front door. Most unusually, the cats showed no interest in going out through the door. Usually, when I have it open they view it as an invitation to go through it.

And then it went away, as suddenly as it had come.

Yesterday we were spared the thunder and lightning and just had the rain, almost tropical on occasion. And it's too early to tell what today will bring - although it is misty and damp as we speak.

Fortunately, the rain, thunder and lightning were not accompanied by lots of wind so the power didn't go out. The roof didn't leak. We were nice and watertight. Although I think the gutters could do with some attention. The gutter over the front porch was cascading with enthusiasm during the heavier bouts of rain.

An hour before this, the courtyard
was drenched with rain

In between rain downpours, I managed to harvest some veg for dinner. The zucchini are still quite small but are, in my view, rather delicious when you pick them as babies. The carrots could be a bit bigger but they needed thinning.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Sidling cautiously into 2022

I notice that for the past few years I have started the January blogs with "feasting/eating/partying as we mean to go on". In 2020, I had no real idea that this was likely to be problematic. There were rumblings of a weird virus somewhere in China but I wasn't paying close attention. There are often rumours and alarms about passing weird viruses and other doomsday scenarios which turn out not to be particularly worrisome. In January 2021 it was obvious that covid was going to be an ongoing issue and that feasting/eating/partying were definitely going to be problematic. I was hopeful, nonetheless. In vain, as it turned out. Feasting and partying were problematic throughout the year, even if eating was an ongoing activity πŸ˜†

In January 2022 it is clearly unclear what is likely to happen in the next 12 months. Some say that the pandemic will wear itself out during this year. Others are less optimistic and foretell it continuing for 12, perhaps 24 months, maybe even longer. I have decided that "seize the day", "embrace the moment", "live in the now" is the way to go. If I can feast today, then feast I will. If not, then I will wait until I can.

So we farewelled 2021 with the seafood feast at Hill House. We welcomed 2022 with a quiet day on January 1st. Our friend Pat came to lunch on Sunday the 2nd. Lindsey and Ian came to a Leftovers Party on Monday 3rd. We have definitely started the year as we would like to go on, but covid is running rampant throughout Australia and the head medicos are talking of "sensible restrictions possibly looming" and really - who knows.  Certainly not the federal government, which appears to have completely lost its grip on anything "sensible".  Feasting and partying may not be as frequent as I might wish this year.

In the meantime, Mother Nature is trundling along, largely ignoring the human agitation with pandemics, viruses and restrictions. The vegetable gardens at Tani may be small but they are verdant and productive. We are harvesting broad beans, zucchinis, raspberries and herbs. The lemon trees have flowers, portending lemons next year. The peas are coming along. The pumpkin plant has tiny pumpkins. Brandy has been leaping onto the carrot box and squashing the carrots but I think I have managed to stop that and the carrots are beginning to stand up again. The sweet corn plants are reaching to the skies. The potato plants are thriving. Likewise the tomato plants. So far so good.

I've moved the tiny bird bath to the back fence, where it is settling in well with the hollyhocks.

All seems well in the gardens

Starting the year as we mean to go on:
New Year's Day lunch
stir fried vegetables, noodles, lemon myrtle and ginger
with left over crayfish on top

Saturday, January 01, 2022

New Year's Day, 2022

It's hard to know whether we were farewelling 2021 in a style which perhaps it didn't deserve, or welcoming 2022 in a manner which we hope, if a bit forlornly, to carry on.

Whichever, when Ian let Lindsey know that he had sourced crayfish, prawns, scallops and rockling and did F&J fancy joining them for dinner, F accepted with alacrity.

Lindsey and I were together at the time. We were making our final visit to the mushroom farm for the year. They are closed now for a short summer break. We went to Avalon and bought another bird bath to accompany my Christmas one. You can't have too many bird baths if the summer is going to be hot - and so far at two days it has had more 30+ΒΊ days than the whole of last summer. We went and bought new blankets and doona covers for Lindsey's place. We went to Uncle Dan's but they didn't have what I was after. So we went back to our respective homes for the afternoon.

Ian did a mighty job with the seafood. He wrapped the scallops in prosciutto and cooked them on the barbecue. He battered the rockling and fried it with chips. He barbecued the prawns. The crayfish we had au naturel. I'm not sure anyone had much of the salads! It was all very delicious and a proper celebratory meal.

Then we went home. Jim went straight to bed. I definitely didn't see the old year out and the new year in. I think I lasted until around 10 or 10:30 then I too went to bed - and slept remarkably well. Perhaps that is a harbinger of good sleeping to come in 2022, although that seems improbable.

I couldn't find the Brandy Cat on Thursday afternoon. I hunted high and low, in the house and in the backyard. I checked all his favourite sleeping spots. And then he moved slightly and I found him, squished    in behind the plant box with the sweet peas, next to the fence.  I guess it was the coolest spot in the backyard, although the veg area, under all the trees always seems to me to have a green coolth about it.

Jim is starting the new year as I assume he intends to go on:

Happy New Year,
says Jim.
Beer with breakfast, please.