Friday, 7 December 2018

Growing and pickling ...

I like to grow vegetables.

Truth be told, I'm not very good at it, but I like to have a go. Some soft fruit, some tomatoes and zucchinis, a chilli bush or two, some Asian greens over winter when fresh green things can be hard to find, some designer potatoes, and perhaps some beans.

All fairly simple things and easy to grow.

This year, despite a successful crop of Asian greens over winter some things are struggling this year with the dry spring and the early arrival of the hot weather,  strangely enough the tomatoes in particular, and the broad beans only managed about four pods between them.

A complete contrast to last year where we had a glut of tomatoes, so many by the end of the season I ended up making a vast quantity of tomato chutney (we're still eating it), and so many chillies we're only just getting to the end of last year's dried chillies.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. The designer potatoes are growing well, so hopefully we'll have some nice waxy ones for making Indian and Bengali style lentil and potato curries, and suddenly I realised I had a ridiculous quantity of beetroot.

The beetroot seedlings had been struggling, and I was kind of assuming that it was going to be like my attempt at turnips - quite a bit of leaf and not a lot of root.

I hadn't meant to grow beetroot, after all it's cheap enough to buy in season, but back at the end of August, I had to go to the mega Bunnings in Albury to get something in connection with our renovations.

I forget what I had to get exactly, but what I do remember is that they also had some nice looking cabbage and beetroot seedlings and well, I can never resist a good looking seedling.

The cabbages are still growing, and even look as if they might heart up real soon now, but the beetroot - well it just sat there and did nothing for a few months.

Another failure I thought, and then suddenly it took off and I had around three kilos of beetroot. More than we could eat.

So the obvious answer was to pickle them. Fortunately we'd saved some big pickled vegetable jars - I have a mild addiction to sauerkraut and gherkins - the idea being that we might bottle some fruit later on in the summer.

So after sterilising them in the dishwasher, I harvested the beetroot, topped and tailed them, boiled them and then peeled, sliced and packed them in jars before adding the pickling liquid - a fairly standard recipe off the internet, sugar, coriander seed, fennel, bayleaves and parsley tops -  but with muscavado sugar to give it a richer flavour, and a two to one mixture of white and apple vinegar rather than just straight white vinegar.

A couple of hour work and we had three big jars of pickled beetroot to use over the coming year. We havn't tasted it yet, but I had a little of the boiled beetroot left over - not enough to bottle, so I left it sitting in a little of the pickling liquid while I cleaned up.

Certainly it made a nice addition to our lunch of zucchini and bean balls, so I think we'll most definitely enjoy the rest ...

Monday, 9 April 2018

Bourke's parrots and chestnuts

It's been unseasonably hot and dry.

We normally get a dry autumn, and it's not been that bad - 60 or so millimetres of rain since January, but on the other hand it's 9 days into April and it's still thirty degrees outside this afternoon.

Despite the hot weather, I've started remodelling the front garden area after the mess the builders left, not to mention the chaos caused by the guys who laid the new driveway, and I've even found and planted some Siberian dogwood (Westonbirt dogwood) tube stock.

When they grow, we should get nice red canes in winter once the leaves are off them. which should make a pretty show. We last had some of these in England, and I've been looking for some ever since we moved to Fadden. They should hopefully do well.

I've planted them in the shade of a chestnut tree growing next to J's studio, which means that they'll get sun in the morning but a bit of shade in the afternoon when things are at their hottest, and in fact when I was preparing the bed for them I worked in the afternoon, in the shade of the tree, rather than out in the sun in the morning.

And because it's chestnut time I've had a constant accompaniment of white cockatoos and king parrots feasting on the nuts (and squabbling as to who was there first).

This afternoon, however, the tree was occupied by a pair of parrots I didn't recognise

it turned out to be a pair of Bourke's parrots, a common enough arid zone parrot, but one that only moves south and east when things are hard out west on the edge of the desert, which I guess they must be just now.

Glad that the chestnut tree is providing a bit of relief for them ....

Friday, 8 December 2017

We have a node

Well, we still don't have the NBN, but we've had guys replacing cable ducts and a new node has sprouted a hundred metres or so down the street ...

so, no date yet, but soon ...

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Ah the junk in the yard ...

I've been working in the garden recently digging out a new garden bed where the old washing line was.

And it's quite interesting - there's a layer of thick claggy brown clayey soil about 30cm thick overlaying the original orange clay and sandstone that you get around here. Soil takes sometime to build up and having 30cm suggests that it had some help along the way - either some active composting to build up the soil, or else at sometime someone brought in a load of soil from somewhere.

Our house is supposed to be around a 120 years old, and before then the land was reputed to be an orchard, and that does seem to fit - when we were building our extension we found an old cast iron federation sewer pipe, and I've found a horseshoe and some old rusty bits of agricultural tools.

The interesting thing is that there's a lot of glass in the fill including an old (broken) medicine bottle
which from my work for the National trust I would guess to be late nineteenth/early twentieth century.

However I havn't found anything datable as yet. I had a moment of excitement when I turned up a coin yesterday, but cleaning it off it turned out to be a 1984 dollar rather than anything predecimal or even earlier.

I guess basically I need to keep looking in case I turn up anything datable, plus perhaps a land registry search to find out when there was first a house on our block ....

Monday, 29 May 2017

My UK election postal vote arrived today ...

... so I ripped it up and put it in the recycling.

I did read it first and it struck me as completely irrelevant. I no longer live there or feel any connection other than a vague nostalgia and a love of BBC crime dramas, not to mention that the lack of a proportional representation system makes it highly likely that any vote I might have cast would have been the equivalent of farting during a hurricane - satisfying but totally futile.

Currently, if you're a UK citizen and no longer a resident you can vote for 15 years after you leave the UK. You're supposed to register, but they don't enforce it, and it used to be the case that the overseas elector registration process was so byzantine as to discourage registration.

More recently they've got a snappier and easier registration system - last UK address and passport number and date you left the UK and if you were on the electoral roll when you left you're back - which in my case means an electorate where if the Tories put up a chimpanzee in chintz underpants for election it would probably get in.

Now as I don't live there anymore and almost certainly will never do so again it's not my job to tell the UK election people how to run their elections, but there's recently been talk of extending the overseas elector cut off from 15 years to life.

Lifetime registration doesn't seem appropriate - once you've been away for fifteen years it is extremely unlikely that you have any direct connection or involvement, and if you come back you can always reregister ...

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The NBN is (almost) here ...

Today was a grey cold drizzly day reminiscent of York in late November.

Definitely a day to stay in and bugger about on the internet, but I decided to walk up to the post offices to collect a couple of packages that were waiting for me.

Outside there were a couple of guys fiddling about with the Telstra duct that runs down the street and a GMR truck, and I made the obvious assumption that they were doing some subcontracted work for Telstra.

But then I noticed that they had NBN logo's on their protective little temporary fences they put round the open access pits, so on the way back I asked one of the guys, who had a good Dublin accent, what was happening.

And what was happening is that they were checking the ducts and putting in draw wires for the fibre optic installation crew to come on behind them and install the cables.

It may only the beginning, but it does mean that it's finally happening ...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Well, we are back to being a cat keeping household. Minty, our rescue cat arrived yesterday, and as you can see he's already settling in ...