Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Garden in the mid-spring

I have managed to get a bit of work done in the garden over the past couple of days.

I have weeded and sorted out half of the bed along the back fence, ready for veg seedlings when they are big enough and the weather is consistently warm enough for them to be planted out. I will need to do something about the snails which seem to have taken up residence on the fence!

How it was on Sunday morning

And how it is now

This half has yet to be done and will be more difficult
I will do it section by section

Yesterday I turned my attention to the side bed, which the fruit trees were waiting to move into:

I've fenced it off so the cats can't get in and dig it all up, and I threw some random vegetable seeds on as well, just to see what happens.

It's nearly three years since I planted the first set of asparagus crowns. They were very small when I got them so I haven't cut any spears until now. This year I have taken two, small cuttings and left the rest for the crowns to use The plants are looking healthy and robust. I think next year I might be able to harvest more:

A cold front came through just after lunch yesterday. The temperature plummeted, the wind picked up. Later in the afternoon we had hail and thunder, followed by heavy rain. The bloke who provides my sawdust briquettes for the fire had seen the weather forecast and rang me during the morning to say he would be in the Ballarat area during the day and did I want more fire supplies. I had also seen the forecast and accepted a delivery with alacrity. It came around lunchtime, just before the cold front arrived.

When we made the final visit to Mount Martha a year ago to finish clearing out Stella and Tony's villa, Wendy took some cuttings from Tony's rose bushes. I was a bit doubtful about this, but she got a friend who Knows About Roses to graft them and nurture them. One of them is now in my front garden. To my surprise, it has a flower bud. I have recorded the flower bud just in case one of the possums, which occasionally visit the garden, sees it as a tasty treat and eats it!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Confusion, a Mystery Box and a Market

I have been so confused this week about what day it is that I have moved Jim's dementia clock into my bedroom! Stella has a similar clock in her room but hers is designed for the sight impaired rather than the mind impaired.

Jim's clock, now on my chest of drawers

Stella's tells her the day, date, temperature and time in a size large enough that she can see it, even from her bed. Jim's dementia clock doesn't give the temperature but does tell you the time of day. Before 06:00 it says that it is "before dawn" so if you wake up at 03:00 and think it's just after lunch, the clock tells you that it's the middle of the night and you should be in bed asleep. In fact, Jim slept quite well and, as far as I am aware, didn't get confused about the time of day, although many people with dementia do.  I like this clock because it has the day in very large letters at the top. My clock is much smaller and tells me the time (as a 24 hour clock) and also the temperature. I like that clock too. There may be two clocks in my bedroom at the moment.

Freyja and Simon were here on Thursday night. They brought with them their rather large TV, which doesn't fit in their new place. It is now on an extended holiday in my lounge room. My not so large TV is resting in the wardrobe in the study. We had to rearrange some of the furniture. The side table that my TV was on is too high for the visiting TV. We put the visiting TV on a coffee table and the side table is presently in the dining room. Whiskey thinks it's wonderful

He can now sit right behind me when
I am sat at the dining table
and supervise

Simon was working from (my) home on Friday. Freyja had the day off. So we went and visited Stella, diverting her on her way to her morning exercise class when we arrived bearing flowers and hot chocolate. Then Freyja and I went into town where we bought a replacement dishwasher for my place and then a mystery fruit and veg box from Wilson's. We had dumplings and spring rolls for lunch and then mid-afternoon they went home.

Yesterday, Lindsey and I went to the Lakeside/Zoo Drive market, where I seem to have spent next week's food money on top of this week's. I came home with the usual market stuff, plus a large shoulder of lamb, two more $4 bags of lemons, cheeses and a large Turkish bread. Out at the Mushroom Farm they asked if I had forgotten to buy dog treats for Rupert and Hugo, which I often do get. Lindsey had already picked those up, so I hadn't bothered. But it amused Lindsey and me that they noticed that I hadn't picked up any dog treats. but have not noticed (or at least not commented) that I no longer buy cakes, donuts or biscuits for Jim!

The upshot of all of this food buying is that I have a LOT of food at my place. Possibly too much:

My fridge is very full and I seem to 
have run out of bowls

The mystery box from Wilson's had a pineapple in it, which I gave to Simon because, although rational people know that pineapple is not food, apparently he thinks it is. (Lindsey, it seems, also thinks that pineapple is food. She can have the next one, should such a thing reappear in my kitchen.) It also had half a rock melon, two passionfruits and an apple. There were two bunches of parsley, a bunch of Dutch carrots and half a dozen fat carrots, four Roma tomatoes, two onions, some ginger and a large bunch of silverbeet/chard. And one lonely, small-ish potato. I'm not sure why just one potato. Seems a bit miserly.

So yesterday afternoon I slid quietly in Sunday mode, and processed most of the vegetables. I made a pot of vegetable stew with the tomatoes, some of the silverbeet, one of the onions, some carrot, and some cauliflower and green beans that I already had. I put the lamb shoulder in the slow cooker with some preserved lemons, some more of the veg and some water and white wine. I chopped up all of the parsley and made a not-tabouli with some of it, along with some cherry tomatoes and cucumber I got from the market and some mint from the garden. I chopped up the melon and a mango that I had hanging about and mixed it with the passionfruit to make a fruit salad. 

I trashed the kitchen!

The new dishwasher isn't coming for another week, alas.

The freezer is now almost full. Again! I have yet to peel and slice the fat carrots,  and to shred the lamb shoulder, which is cooling in the fridge after simmering in the slow cooker overnight. I have strained the stock, which is also cooling in the fridge. All of these things will end up in the freezer, which had already filled up quite a bit. Some of the Turkish bread is in there, plus some dumplings and spring rolls from Friday. Plus all the stuff that was already in there. I had better embark on another "shop from the fridge and freezer" campaign.

You can perhaps see why I am as confused about the days this week just as much as last. Freyja and I mostly did Saturday things on Friday, I did some Saturday  and some Sunday things yesterday. I was at work on the wrong days during the week. I expect to do mostly Sunday things today, but perhaps also some Monday things. And I am working Thursday and Friday this coming week. It's all very discombobulating!

My view this morning from the breakfast table

Monday, October 23, 2023

What day did you say it was?

It was quite confusing this weekend. I found it very hard to work out what day it was.

I was at work on Friday, which is not in itself unusual. But then, Lindsey and I left a little early and went to the airport to collect Emily who is visiting Melbourne for a few days. Her plane was delayed. Then there were delays on the roads back home from the airport - not helped by there being a booze bus at a roundabout near the airport. I can see why there might be a booze bus near an airport on a Friday afternoon/evening but it did significantly hold the traffic up.

Saturday was where the confusion originated. Emily has a very tight schedule and if she was to have lunch with Stella it had to be on Saturday. We decided that, if we were going to have a celebratory lunch, it should be at a good location, so we went out to the Wallace Hotel. We only ever go there on Sundays and we more or less had a Sunday lunch (without the roasts, alas). In my head we were doing Sunday things, so it had to be Sunday.

Which made yesterday Monday, obviously. And I pretty much did Monday things. Washing, ironing, supermarket, prepping veg (which is, it is true, done on Sundays and/or Mondays depending). I emptied and sorted out the pantry, visited Stella, and did most of the things I do at the start of the week.

Which has made today almost impossible to identify. It doesn't help that this week is likely to be atypical in many ways. I am expecting to be at the surgery on Tuesday and Thursday instead of Wednesday and perhaps Friday. Freyja and Simon are planning to be here on Thursday night.  So I shot out of bed unnecessarily early this morning because I could not work out where I was supposed to be and at what time (I did not stay up when I realised the time and what day it was!)

To confuse matters even more, I have Japanese lessons at all sorts of odd times this week. I must remember that I have one at 13:00 today, and absolutely must remember that there is also one at 07:00 on Friday, neither of which is in my usual schedule.

I have also changed the linen on the spare bed, "helped", or not, by Brandy and a bit by Whiskey.

Eventually, I won!

I'm sure I will eventually work out what's happening when. Maybe on Monday of next week 😁

It was a lovely late afternoon last Thursday, so Brandy, Whiskey and I went and sat on the front  porch to enjoy it, before winter burst back on Saturday and we had to shake out the jumpers again and light the fire in the evenings.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Apples and Lemons, say the bells of ...

Wendy came up for the weekend on Saturday morning. Lindsey and I picked her up from the station and then went to the Zoo Drive market- which is now back in its  proper place in the paddock.

We had a cheese toastie each from Tim's Toasties. I bought some tomatoes and cucumbers from the Yendon Tomato Man. I got some Lemon&Lime oil from the Olive Oil Man. I got two bags of 6 lemons each for $8. And a few other bits and pieces that I've now forgotten.

We went to the Mushroom Farm Shop. I got milk and a few bits - and a 4kg bag of apples for $4.

We went to Warrenheip so Lindsey and I could vote in the referendum. Wendy got the Democracy Sausage sizzle sandwiches while Lindsey and I were voting. Wendy had voted earlier and they don't encourage you to vote twice in the same election/referendum 😂

Wendy and I went to visit Stella and then had a quiet afternoon at home. I juiced one bag of lemons, which I froze in an ice cube tray and dehydrated the zest in my dehydrating machine. Which was very much underused last year. 

On Sunday I took the dehydrated lemon peel and pulverised it in my mini bullet blender. Lemon peel powder adds a vibrant and strong lemon taste to things, I find. When I remember to use it 😛

Wendy and I went, with Stella, to the Golden Point pub for lunch. You may remember that it's very much like The Dava in Mount Martha. We haven't been there for while; we've been busy trying out other pubs around Ballarat. The food isn't particularly exciting. It's reasonably typical "chain" pub food. Reliable but not adventurous. I have to say, though, that my deconstructed lamb souvlaki was absolutely delicious. Beautifully cooked. Very tasty. Enormous! (I did eat most of it, just not absolutely all of the salad)

Then we went, at Stella's determined request, into town. She wanted lingerie. I can't imagine why. I never want lingerie. I do, it's true, wear knickers and bras and even socks in season. But never lacy ones. My socks are mostly inherited from Tony and Jim. My undies are Kmart's finest and purely functional. But Stella wanted lacy thingies so we went and bought lacy thingies. Labelling them was a tad challenging, but it has now been done.

On Monday, I peeled. sliced and stewed all the apples, portioned them up and put them in the freezer. All of this preserving is usually an autumn thing but I guess it is just as appropriate in spring. Wendy went home. I had lunch with Rupert and Hugo, visited Stella, fed Rupert and Hugo their dinner. pottered in the garden, got ready for the week ahead.

Simon (SiL) mentioned that their dishwasher in the new place was misbehaving. He had done various things to address this and it is now working again. So I pulled my dishwasher out of its space, checked the hoses, checked the filters, checked what I could - and then ran it on a short cycle with some bicarb to see what happened. I put a towel in front of it as a precaution. While it was running, just a small amount of water leaked out. I thought it might perhaps be the sealing rubber that was at fault. When the short cycle finished I went to do something else. When I came back the kitchen was awash with water, well after then cycle was done and the power had been switched off. Not the sealing rubber then.  I can feel a new dishwasher coming on 😞

Little tubs of apple sauce,
ready for the freezer

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Lunch in Warragul

You found me, on Thursday morning, in Mount Helen. I was, you may remember, supposed to be in East Melbourne. And unlike on Wednesday, when the dogs almost certainly spent the morning outside in the spring sunshine, the weather was dire. Gloomy, misty, foggy, wet, cold, horrible.

I was supposed to be going to Warragul to have lunch with Barb and her cousin Fifi.

Barb is over from the south of England for a couple of weeks, and is staying with her family who live outside of Morwell. Morwell is a bit of a hike for a day trip from my place but Warragul is doable - even more so if it is a nice day and if you start the day in East Melbourne!

I haven't seen Barb for a very long time and she has come all the way from England. I figured I could cope with a bit of rain and with leaving from Mount Helen in the interests of catching up over lunch.

Matthew and Belinda, who live just outside of Warragul, had recommended Frankie's as a good place for lunch so we met there. And they were right. The food was lovely and the venue buzzing, even on a wet and cold Thursday. In fact, Warragul itself was busier than I had expected. I was lucky to get a parking space close to the cafe.

It was good to catch up with Barb and to meet her cousin. As I said, I haven't actually seen Barb for several years, although we keep in touch by other means. And I hadn't met any of her Gippsland family before. Good food and good company make for an excellent lunch date.

I came home via Northcote, where I got to inspect Freyja and Simon's new flat in person. I had been on a walk-through by video but a walk-through in person is even better. It's a lovely little flat. lovely and light and bright, even on a gloomy day. It looks nice and warm and cosy. Their balcony is a good size and they have put plants in pots out there, as well as a table and a wooden couch. So a good little outside space. Plus they have access to  a shared roof terrace. The Ghostly Cat is not quite as delighted by the move as her humans are. She was sleeping under the doona on their bed while I was there and wasn't much inclined to come out. I have some sympathy with this. 

Barb and me, outside Frankie's in Warragul.
Photo by Fifi

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Not The Day I was Expecting

This is what I was expecting yesterday to look like:

Drive to work, around 6:30, 7:00 ish. Stay at work until around 4 or so. Go to Northcote to inspect Freyja and Simon's new flat. Stay in East Melbourne overnight. Maybe have pizza for dinner.

This is what actually happened:

I left for work just before 7. As I was heading down the driveway, Lindsey rang asking me to drop by her place on the way past. The back door had been left open so Rupert and Hugo could get out during the day. Unfortunately, the fly door had blown half shut. The dogs would be able to get out but wouldn't be able to get in again - and they probably didn't want to stay out in the backyard until mid-evening.

I fixed the fly door and stayed to talk  to the dogs for a few minutes and then continued my drive to Reservoir. I got to work and was just getting settled when Lindsey came and said that both dogs had gone outside shortly after I left - and hadn't come back in again. Now it was true that it was a lovely day in Ballarat and it is equally true that Rupert and Hugo like lying on their mat in the backyard when the sun is shining and it isn't too hot. But it was a little more than two hours since I had left and it is unusual for them to be outside for that long.

We weren't worried that they had got out of the yard, but they are both long legged dogs and one of them might have broken a leg. They might have been bitten by a snake. They might have had a fight. Anything might have happened - although in all probability, nothing had happened.

I did a few of the more urgent things that were on my list, then headed back to Ballarat to see where they were. I made it clear that I wasn't heading back down to Melbourne again that day.

I arrived, to find both dogs at the front door (inside!), waiting to see who had come to visit. They were very pleased to see me. I gave them a treat or two - and they went back outside to lie on their mat in the sunshine. I strongly suspect that that was where they had been all morning.

I have to say it was a lovely day for driving around the countryside. But it does mean that I am more or less in the wrong place this morning. I am going to have to get organised and leave shortly. On the other hand, not only were Rupert and Hugo pleased to see me when I got to their place at lunchtime, but Brandy and Whiskey were also pleased to see me when I came home later yesterday afternoon. They weren't expecting me. I had taken my overnight suitcase with me in the morning and had put down an extra bowl of biscuits to tide them over until this evening


All is well at Hill House

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

A busy week

 In the last week I have:

  • Completed a slew of paperwork, including *finally* filing my application for Australian citizenship. I was delighted to discover that once you pass 65 the cost drops by half. I have also completed other, less onerous domestic admin tasks
  • Received in the post an application form for my British pension. It won't be worth much but, as they say, every little helps. The form was accompanied by a letter thanking me for my recent query about my pension and telling me that I need to include a copy of my marriage certificate and Jim's death certificate when I return the form. This mystified me a bit. It was on my list of things to do but I had no recollection of actually contacting them about it - and I hadn't crossed it off the list. Then I remembered that I had called them when Jim died to tell them about him. I have no recollection of it but we must have discussed me as well. I do remember them telling me that I didn't need to repay them anything for Jim. On the contrary, they owed me a week's worth of money.  I have started filling it out.

  • Planted two tubs with potatoes (Dutch Cream and King Edwards). I need another tub for the Nicola potatoes
  • Been to work twice
  • Visited Stella and Rupert&Hugo several times
  • Done three online Japanese classes
  • Tidied up the study (a mammoth task!)
  • Cleared out a couple of kitchen cupboards
  • Visited the Saturday market, the supermarket, Officeworks and the mushroom farm.

Lindsey, Stella and I went to the Crown in Buninyong for lunch on Sunday.

I took Ian to the garage to collect Lindsey's blue car, which was finally ready after being thoroughly overhauled.

Freyja and Simon came yesterday with stuff from their garden. I now have a new tree in a tub out the front, more garden equipment, a new rhubarb plant, a small "greenhouse", a new raised bed and various other bits and pieces. I am hoping to organise a weekend when they can come to stay and we can get a small skip and sort out the garage and perhaps the garden.

All in all, it's been quite a busy week. I think I have achieved quite a lot.

Office Assistant

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Long Weekend

Last weekend was a long weekend in Victoria . It was an extra, extra long weekend for me. It was also quite busy.

I don't usually work on Thursdays and wasn't working last Thursday. I had a (much delayed) haircut and visited Stella and pottered in the garden and mostly had quite a gentle day. The weather was glorious.

I was up at Rupert and Hugo's place overnight. It's been a while since I have slept up there and I had almost forgotten about being joined on the bed by two Great Danes and being more or less shoved out of bed. I am usually joined overnight by two cats, usually getting on towards morning. Two cats, however, don't take up quite as much room as two large dogs - although they do sometimes seem to think they are entitled to more bed space than I think they are!

So a relatively early start for me on Friday, which was a public holiday for the AFL Grand Final parade. The Grand Final itself was on Saturday. Mind you, it wasn't as early a start as it has been over recent weeks on the days I have needed to be at work by 7:30. I don't think there are any more shifts coming up which start at 7:30. I have turned off the 4:30 am Get Up and Go To Work alarm!!

I pottered around at Hill House and at Tani. I visited Stella. I did a bit of food shopping. A bit of tidying up. A bit more pottering. A peaceful public holiday for me.

Saturday saw me making my way to Mount Martha. Freyja and Simon have hired a van, ready for their moving day on Thursday. I had prevailed upon them to meet me at Jenny's place to collect the cabinet which had been left in her garage nearly a year ago when we finished clearing out Stella's house.

I left a little early so I could call into Tully's on my way there. I had expected Tully's to be quite quiet, assuming people would be preparing for their Footy Final Parties. It was absolutely packed. Ridiculously so. I asked the woman at the till if she had expected it to be this busy because I had not. Oh yes, she said. Remember the strawberries and chocolates!. Strawberries and chocolates? These are not typical footy final foods. People usually have hotdogs and meat pies.

I thought nothing more of it and drove along the coast road to Jenny's house. I mentioned the strawberries and chocolates and the crowds at Tully's. It seems that someone has mounted a Tik Tok campaign to encourage children all around Melbourne to persuade their parents to drive them to Tully's and to buy extortionately expensive cups of strawberries in a Belgian chocolate sauce. The campaign has been successful. Very successful. Never mind that you can buy strawberries and chocolate sauce at your local supermarket at a fraction of the price, without having to drive all the way to Mornington as a side expense.


Mind you, I had driven all the way to Mount Martha just to watch Freyja and Simon lift the cabinet into their hired van and then to have a cup of tea with Jenny, before heading back home. But I didn't buy a cup of strawberries and Belgian chocolate sauce for $12.50 while I was doing it. I had considered staying in Melbourne at the flat overnight but had decided that there was nothing to be gained by that and went straight home.

Where I was reminded that most of my dislike of sporting events is caused by the unnecessary levels of noise they generate. The people in House #6 were hosting a Grand Final party. In their garden. With the radio on very loudly. And with the accompanying screams of delight when their team scored and the boos and howls of despair when the other team scored. I knew when the game had finished and who had won when the radio and guests went inside and peace returned to Mount Helen, broken only by people singing the club song of the winning team. The only thing I didn't know, listening to all this, was exactly how close the score was - although I had gathered it was quite close by the number of happy and despairing yells.

On Sunday, Freyja and Simon came up in the van with some kitchen furniture that they think probably won't fit in their new flat and the cabinet they rescued from Jenny's garage. I need to get a skip so I can clear all the rubbish out of the garage and then we're going to set it up properly as an adjunct kitchen. They are intending to bring their garden stuff up as well. I don't need extra garden stuff but it's better here than being got rid of, just to be replaced when they upgrade from a third floor flat to a place with a yard. I can find a use for most of it.

While they were here we had a vegan pie with roast potatoes and veggies. I was very pleased with the pastry. I made it with flour, an olive based vegan spread and oat milk. It was lovely and soft and fluffy. I will definitely make pastry like that again!

Yesterday I went for a 9:15 appointment on the other side of Ballarat for a breast screen. I got there, as requested, 15 minutes early so I could fill in forms and get ready. They handed me a pre-filled form, got me to check and sign it, took me through - and by 9:15 I was in the cafe with a cup of coffee and a toastie. So I went to the local Bunnings and got some bags of potting mix and came home. I went to Rupert and Hugo's place for lunch, visited Stella, went back to Rupert and Hugo's place to give them dinner and then went to Melbourne Airport to collect Lindsey from her return flight from Perth where she had been all week. She did say she would take the train to Ballarat, arriving at around 7.  I was reluctant to turn out to meet an evening train. If I had gone home and sat in front to the TV I would have been deeply resentful about having to get back up and go out again. I would much rather trot down to the airport without coming home in the interim.

So that was my extra, extra long weekend. And now my week begins again (my weeks usually start on Tuesday) and it is raining. We haven't had any proper rain for ages.  And I am about to head off to take Lindsey to collect a hire car to keep her mobile until her car gets out of hospital.

Rupert and Hugo enjoying the spring sunshine
and a small marrow bone each