Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, March 27, 2022


I love autumn. It has to be my most favourite season. 

I love the golden light of the sunrise. I love the smell of ripening tomatoes on my front porch and the faint smell of wood smoke in the air. 

(I do not love the smell of the smoke from controlled burns, or the sight of massive plumes of smoke which accompanies it. It can be quite worrisome until you realise that it's a controlled burn and not a bushfire in Mount Clear!)

I love the misty mornings and the sunny, warm afternoons and the chilly evenings.

At this time of year the sun is lower in the sky and shines directly in through the windows at the front of the house. It comes in all year round, of course, but in summer and winter it is more diffuse.

Because the sun is lower in the sky, in the autumnal afternoon it sits behind the trees at the back of the garden and bathes the courtyard and vegetable garden in a beautiful dappled, golden light.

The markets and farm shops are full of nectarines and peaches, pumpkins and squashes, the last of summer's raspberries and blueberries, autumn's apples and blackberries, cabbages and cauliflowers, peas and green beans.

It is just possible that I might have been over-excited by all this bounty at the market and mushroom farm yesterday and bought too much in the way of fruit and vegetables, or at least too much for us to eat this coming week. I may have to get cooking and processing. And reorganise the freezers so I can squidge a bit more in

Morning light, looking east, towards Hill House:

That is cloud, not smoke.
It faded away as the sun rose up

Zucchini plants, still flourishing despite the much cooler nights:

Pretty Kitty Kats:



I've just paid their annual registration fees. I know I've said it before but I still think that Lindsey gets more for her money with two Great Danes for her $86 than I get for two cats, one a teeny, tiny cat at that, for my $86

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Weekly roundup

It was our weekend to go to visit Stella in Mount Martha, so we set off after I had been out to the mushroom farm and after a spot of lunch.

We had a good run down, which was enlivened when the satnav took me off the Monash Freeway at the Chadstone Exit and took us through Oakleigh and along Warrigal Road. I was expecting to turn left at the Princes Highway and to go through Dandenong. But no. On we went. So I thought maybe we were heading to the bay and would be going along the coast road. But instead we turned left onto the Dingley Bypass.

This was quite exciting. The Dingley Bypass (which I had not heard about) is the way we used to go in the old, old days, when it was just a road, long before it grew up into a multi-lane bypass. We wouldn't have come the way we went on Saturday. The Monash Freeway wasn't even a twinkle in the Planners' eyes. We would have come through the Eastern suburbs along what are now through roads. The freeway network is much, much more extensive now.

We had a good weekend at Stella's place. Stella and I did a bit of tidying of the dining table and sideboard. The weather was pleasant. And Freyja and Simon came to lunch on Sunday. It was good to see them. We don't seem to have seen them for ages, though I think it probably isn't as long as it seems.

We've spent a bit of time up at Rupert and Hugo's place over the past week. Otherwise, things have trundled along much as usual. I had an online Japanese lesson on Thursday morning. The District nurse came nice and early so I could join Lindsey on her Thursday morning shopping expedition. In fact, her timing was impeccable. She called me to say she was on her way literally as I was closing down the laptop as the Japanese lesson finished. The nurse was later on Monday, so I had a morning doing Useful Things while waiting for her, before heading up to Rupert and Hugo's place after she had been.

Covid has returned to Tabitha's household. Both Tabitha and Cally have tested positive again. Tabitha thinks they had Delta the last time and now have Omicron. She says the symptoms feel slightly different. So they are once again a Plague House and all plans for the coming week have been put on hold.

My plans for today have not been put on hold. I must get moving. It's Wednesday and I am off to work in about an hour. I really must change into work clothes before I go. And sort out lunches and things.

A Man with his dog

This is not a pampered Great Dane,
oh no, no, no

And nor is this!

And these are definitely not pampered cats

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Labour Day Weekend

It was the Labour Day long weekend in Victoria, which meant it was the Moomba Festival in Melbourne and the start of the Begonia Festival in Ballarat.

Lindsey and I went to the Zoo Drive market on Saturday morning, which had been augmented by extra stalls, food trucks and food stalls for the Begonia Festival. Lots more things to look at and to buy! There were also events, activities and food trucks in the Botanical Gardens. It was a lovely morning and the people had come out to play. The Festival did run last year but we were still under covid restrictions so it was slightly muted. Almost no restrictions this year and the lake and botanical gardens were buzzing.

It was good to see.

We didn't go to any other of the events on offer. Instead we enjoyed the peace and quiet of Mount Helen, which was almost deserted. I assume people had gone away for the long weekend, or were out enjoying the Begonia Festival. Wherever they were, they weren't here!

Continuing the "Using up the mysterious things hidden in our freezers" adventure that Lindsey and I have embarked on, I once again went fossicking in the laundry freezer at Hill House and the garage freezer at Tani, and made two dishes, one for Rupert and Hugo for the week, and one for Lindsey, Ian, Jim and me for our Friday evening meal.

They both look extremely tasty. We could have eaten either of them. But we had the seafood pasta bake and Rupert and Hugo had the lamb pasta.

We were up at Hill House on Monday night, while Lindsey and Ian were in Melbourne. After I sorted the beds out so Jim and I actually had a bed to sleep in (No, Hugo, you can't lie diagonally across our bed and push Jim out!), every one was sleeping peacefully. Until I became aware that Hugo had appeared silently next to me and was looking at me intently. This was a bit disconcerting. He wandered off. And then returned, looking at the bedside table. Then he looked at me again. Then I realised that one of the presenters on the radio, which I had on, was called Hugo. "Hello", he was saying. "Welcome to the program. This is Hugo Thingummy." And then, of course, people were saying things like "Hello, Hugo, thank you for having me". My radio was speaking Hugo's name, and quite frequently at that. You can understand why our Hugo was a bit perplexed!

And I have reached this milestone on my Drops app. Drops is a vocabulary app which I have been using to bolster my Japanese learning. Occasionally I also use it to dip into French. Five minutes a day.

I am aiming now for 1095 days, which is (more or less) three years.  If only my Japanese vocabulary reflected 5000 minutes worth of practice :-D

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Food and Vegetable Beds

Last Thursday, Lindsey baked some bread rolls and kindly left some for us for when we went up on Friday to play with Rupert and Hugo.

On Friday I decided to have one, liberally buttered, as a snack with my mid morning cup of tea.

Rupert decided that really, he rather wanted it. He bounced up and down and wagged his tail and looked longingly at my buttered roll.  I offered him a dog treat. He took it - and spat it out.  Hugo swept in to claim the dog treat. Rupert continued to ask for my bread roll. I offered him a piece of chicken jerky. He took it - and spat it out. Hugo swept in to claim it. Rupert continued to bounce up and down, staring longingly at my bread roll.  I gave it to him (there was only half left by this time) and he trotted off happily and settled down on his bed with it.  He's an odd dog!

Fortunately, there were more bread rolls so I could have one with my accidental tomato soup that I had taken up with me for lunch. Accidental soup, I hear you ask? I had found a stray piece of puff pastry when sorting through my kitchen freezer and decided to use it to make a tomato and cheese tart. I had a load of tomatoes kicking around and put a variety of them into the tart. When I took it out of the oven I found I had a pastry bowl and a tomato soup with bits of delicious cherry tomatoes and melted cheese floating in it. Let me caution you, should you ever be minded to make a tomato and cheese tart, not to make the base of your filling a load of saucing tomatoes which, as you might expect, turned to liquid when heated. I tipped everything apart from the pastry into the new blender. Voila! Soup for lunch. And very nice it was too, although not quite what I was expecting.

As part of the "Clearing out our over-filled freezers and using up the contents" challenge that Lindsey and I have embarked on, I had had a fossick around the top layer of Lindsey and Ian's laundry freezer and in my garage freezer. In them I found some chicken thighs and several packets of frozen peas. I decided to have a go at Nigella Lawson's chicken and frozen pea tray bake for Friday dinner at both houses. The only thing I had to buy for it was leeks. Everything else was available in my kitchen and freezers or the Hill House kitchen and freezers.  It was, as you might expect from Nigella, very delicious:

My version.
You will find the recipe in Nigella Lawson's 
At my table

I have decided to have a complete reorganisation of the vegetable garden. As the winter comes in I am going to replace the metal hexagonal beds with wooden rectangular beds. I think I will get more space that way. I am intending to move the blackcurrant, gooseberry and blueberry bushes along the fence, between the two lemon trees, then move the asparagus into a bed in front of that and then have vegetable beds in front of that. I can't do anything significant until the runner beans have finished and that won't be for another few weeks - they are only just starting. I am also going to make the wooden beds out the front into a U-shape. I was going to put miniature apple trees in the hexagonal beds out the front but I have decided to put them in tubs on the back patio instead. I am going to put a hedge of raspberries in the raised wooded boxes along the back path. I already have two boxes with raspberries, and six more plants arrived from Diggers yesterday. There are three varieties which I hope will extend the raspberry season from summer to autumn.

The metal raised beds, both hexagonal and square, will move up to Hill House so Lindsey and I can also grow veggies up there. Nobody grew any vegetables up there this year. Jim the Gardener has retired from active service and maintaining the vegetable garden that he established is beyond Lindsey and me. We don't have the time or the strength to dig it over and to maintain it. Raised beds are the way to go.

We have now finished the potatoes and sweet corn. The tomatoes are ripening, which is fortunate because the plants are beginning to die back. The zucchini plants are still producing but more slowly now. And we have eaten the one pumpkin that formed. Autumn is incoming.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Welcome Rain. And Spiders

The Weather Dogs obliged after I asked for a reasonable amount of rain for the garden. They didn't, unfortunately, divert it from NSW or Queensland. They just sent us our own bit of rain and kept on frolicking in the flooded chaos they have wreaked on large stretches of land to the north of us.

According to my (unofficial!) rain gauge we had 4.5 ml for the whole of February. We had 8.5 ml on March 1st, and it was on March 1st and not February 28th - I read the gauge later in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning. So far this month we've had 28 ml. The vegetables are very happy. Except that the rain has brought the snails out and they are feasting on the runner bean plants. I wouldn't mind (well, I probably would!) but the bean plants have only just started producing beans and I want Jim and me to eat them, not the snails.

We have a rather beautiful spider in one of the bean beds.  I hadn't seen a spider like it before. I believe it is a St Andrew's Cross spider, which I hadn't heard of until I went looking to see what kind of spider it was. It keeps a nice and tidy web, captures lots of flies and doesn't move around much or get in my way. 

I thought the rain might have induced it to move on
but it's still there this morning

This is unlike the other delinquent spidery residents of the garden. I am forever walking into or through spiders' webs that appear untidily all over the place.  There was one across the outside of the laundry door the other morning which I didn't notice until I walked through it. If only they weren't so sticky! My eye still hasn't forgiven me for being brushed with sticky spider's silk.

After 3 days of very welcome rain, today is a lovely, sunny, warm day. It is tempting to abandon everything and to go out to play in the garden. Alas, the sunshine has shown that the delinquent spiders aren't only confined to the garden. They appear to be spreading their webby love all around the house as well!