Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vegie Futures

I was so pleased when Christmas was over, not because I didn't like Christmas - it was lovely and Christmassy and jolly and there was all the 'Ho ho ho' and tinsel and trappings that are supposed to accompany the holiday, but as soon as it was over I was thrilled to stop faffing about with the wrapping and jollity, and get stuck into digging and arranging my new vegie garden.

I have never actually had a proper vegie garden, just strips of space clawed back from the lawn here and there, and lots of pots, but inspiration hit a couple of months ago. Up above you can see the children's old cubby house. One day it will be a chicken house, and all the space next to it will be the chicken yard, and I will have beautiful permanent raised beds in the sunniest part of the lawn. Until that fair day dawns, however, I have dug up what was once the children's old sandpit, and a fair whack of lawn as well, and claimed it as my own to grow wonderful lush vegies.

I started before Christmas, when Benson-the-Naughty-Puppy started mysteriously disappearing through a locked gate, and past a fence which is taller than me, and without a chink in it larger than a kitten could get through. Until one day I saw him chasing the cat. The cat leaped up on the four-foot high compost bin and flew over the top of the fence, and, ears flapping madly, Benson-the-Flying-Wonder-Dog followed suit.

Heart sinking, I knew the day had finally come to empty the giant, full-to-the brim compost bins, a task I had been putting off for at least a month, as I kept trying to cram more in the top. It took all day, and a million trips in the wheelbarrow, but I moved the entire, smelly collection over to the other side of the house, back into the bins far, far away from any fence. Benson is not pleased to be trapped in the backyard, but I had a huge load of freshly cured compost (two years old, an excellent vintage) which I dumped where the old sand pit had been, and then planned to expand my vegie empire another few feet or so, past the edge of the old sandpit, and into the lawn.

But was stymied by a very blunt spade which wouldn't cut through the grass. I sharpened the spade with a file from The Man's shed, and it was surprisingly effective. So effective that on Boxing Day, when I had a whole day on my own while The Man took the children out for a picnic, I managed to slice straight through a (quite small) water pipe, and started a (quite small) flood. By an extraordinary coincidence, I for once managed to have an emergency when The Man was actually in the state, and by another extraordinary coincidence, the exact joiners we needed were there in the shed, and it took about five minutes to fix. Now I know how to fix water pipes:)

For the last two days there have been absolutely no dramas, just a lot of hauling around bricks (left over from when we pulled down two chimneys several years ago. I knew those bricks would come in handy..), and digging bricks in to make four beds for crop rotation purposes. This would have been excellent for working off all the Christmas baking, except that I keep eating more of it..

Then tonight I had the bright idea of digging in the contents of the bokashi bin under the laundry sink. Bokashi is a compost system quite useful for townhouses and apartments, all sealed in a bucket, no smells etc, which uses a fermented grain to 'pickle' the compost contents. When the bucket is full, you leave it to continue 'pickling' somewhere (under the laundry sink for instance), while you fill up bucket number two. Then you empty bucket number one by digging it into... the vegie garden? Under some fruit trees? At your mum's place, or in your allotment presumably, if you live in an apartment? Anyway, my bokashi sat under the laundry sink for about a year. I had bought the bins several years ago in a phase when I thought I had to buy everything in all the 'green' catalogues to save the planet. I know better now but I have the buckets, so use them in a desultory way. Anyway, yes, a year under the sink.

 'Aha!' I thought, 'I will use that pesky bokashi in the vegie garden, and my pumpkins will be the size of beach balls.' I can tell you now, that even after a year, bokashi is on the fragrant side. I buried it diligently, and then remembered The Dog! Aaargh! Benson-the-Keen-Nosed-Hound sniffed out the wonderful aroma of well-rotted food stuffs from the other end of the house, and hasn't been able to leave the vegie patch alone ever since. I tremble for a) the baby butternuts I just planted, kindly donated by a friend who had an excellent germination rate, and b) for the carpets if Benson manages to dig up the bokashi.

Sigh. I didn't imagine that digging a vegie garden would involve quite this much drama. Vegies in pots are starting to look so EASY.

But I have an actual, real vegie garden. I am so excited:) I will now hop into bed with my garden manuals and plan the ultimate crop rotation..

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Week Before Christmas..

Well, it is truly summer holidays. The last child has now finished school and is in the back garden with a handful of friends. I am not sure what they are playing, but Posy is yelling, 'Minions! Follow me!' so everything is normal.

It has just occurred to me that it is nearly Christmas, and as usual we have our good friends coming over for lunch, and some serious post-Christmas lunch lolling while the children bounce around in the pool. And in honour of the occasion I have decided to undertake several jobs to make the house and garden sparkle (well, maybe emit an intermittent twinkle, at the very least). I'm not quite sure why I feel I need to embark upon this project, as the friends in question see my house and garden several times a week in all its everyday chaos and grime, but you know, Christmas, season of unrealistic expectations and all that, so here's The Plan - A Week Before Christmas:

Day 7: Faff about, play with the children, eat licorice allsorts and jersey caramels, read books - DONE

Day 6: Vacuum and mop everywhere. NB I already vacuum several times a week, but mopping? Hmm, when was the last time I mopped? You will recall that I recommend mopping once a week in my housekeeping routine? Well, that was more optimistic than prescriptive, shall we say.. in fact, today I had some trouble finding the cloth thing that goes on my Swiffer-type mop. It has been a while. When we renovated I carefully chose floors that didn't show the dirt. Anyway - DONE
Pull all the dead lettuce and pea plants out of the pots in the courtyard. We will eat Christmas lunch outside if the weather is clement (not always a given in Tasmania - one year it hailed..), so dead plants not such a Christmas decorator statement - DONE

Day 5: Clean out fridge to make room for enormous amounts of food friends will bring on Christmas Day. We are all sticklers for over-catering which means no-one has to cook for the next three days, an excellent Christmas tradition. Next few days will see us eating all left overs and using up all those jars of condiments with a half-inch of chutney etc lurking forlornly at the back of the fridge - DONE, although everytime I use left-overs to make a meal, I end up with more left-overs.

Bribe child to work way around house with spray bottle, cleaning fingerprints and associated grime from walls and light switches.

Day 4: Make red currant sauce and lemon cordial. Huge downside of Christmas in summer - peak gardening season at Christmas time. So inconvenient - DONE

Make last minute Christmas gifts with girls. Because it just isn't Christmas without some last minute gift panics - DONE

Day 3: Last-last minute gift buying. Just because - DONE, good lord, please remind me to organise Christmas by November next year.

Spread compost over new garden bed I dug out of the lawn last week. Try to make it look less like a freshly dug grave, because that's just not very festive.

Weed under orange trees next to pool - DONE

Mow and whippersnip lawn. Think about getting goat for Christmas - Update: My brother 'bought' me a goat for Christmas, so that is sorted. Apparently I will have to fly to Africa if I want to borrow it to do the lawn though. Tiny bit inconvenient bro.

Day 2: Clean bathrooms - DONE, sweep front verandah, do something with flowers.

Day 1: Encourage children to express their creativity through the medium of Christmas baking - DONE

Swing gently in hammock with book to test for safety of Christmas Day guests.

Later: Listen for tap-tapping of tiny hoofs on roof.

Christmas Eve morning up-date: Well, a number of things on the list are done, a number of things not on the list are done, a number of things on the list aren't done. I think that covers it, and I am totally fine with that outcome.

I will leave you with a Christmas tableau: The dog chasing the cat round and round the Christmas tree with enormous glee (the dog, that is, the cat, not so much) until the dog becomes inextricably tangled in Christmas baubles and fairy lights, and the cat makes good his escape, while the dog barks frantically, and twinkles.

Happy Christmas, all:)

Please tell me about your last-week-before-Christmas lists. I did so appreciate your harrowing tales of Christmas mayhem in the last post:)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dog Wrecks House

We left the house for half an hour. We left Benson-the-sad-eyed-puppy inside because it was raining. We came back to find the roof eaten off Rosy's gingerbread house and Benson-the-house-wrecker on a sugar high.

Benson-the-naughty-dog is now snuggled up in bed with Rosy, helping her read her book. He is clearly forgiven.

My lap-top is dead. I am communicating with you courtesy of the kindness of my children. Luckily they are quite, quite kind.

Time to walk the bad dog and make some more gingerbread. Hope you manage to enjoy your various festive enterprises without untoward domestic incidents.

PS One of our lovely blog friends, Libi of Farewell Hackney Hipsters recently produced the most gorgeous and delicious baby, the adorable Arlo, and has written a fab post on breastfeeding this week. Could one of you lovely wordpress bloggers please pop over to visit Libi and ask her to retrieve my comments from her spam folder because I would hate for her to think that I have been ignoring her and her sweet babe:) Also, scroll down a few posts to see her freecycled and upcycled tiny vintage London kitchen. Gorgeous:)

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Menagerie

Oh, my goodness, what a week. First there was the budgie, who looks quite adorable in florals. She is a baby, six weeks old, and was extremely friendly, hopping onto our hands and perching on our shoulders like a tiny pirate budgie. Her cage was a bower of delicious bottle brush branches and excess kale leaves, she had bird baths in the bathroom sink every day and she appeared to have made friends with the cat. As of yesterday though, she has decided that she doesn't like us, won't hop onto our hands, and if we take her out of her cage, scrabbles desperately to climb back into it again. I suspect a) the cats, or b) the hordes of ten year old girls who have possibly loved her not wisely but too well. Her cage is now permanently hung out of cat range, and we are patiently (well, some of us are) holding our hands in the cage with some seed, waiting for her to love us again (the great lesson of parenthood - bribery, bribery, bribery...).

And then, last night our fence finally became dog proof, and today, we have a lovely, lovely puppy. Now I am not a dog person. BUT Benson is a lovely boy, with eyebrows and a white tip to his tail and velvety ears. I am still not a dog person, but I am now a Benson person. We have been walking him every day that he has been staying at the RSPCA, and he has grown on me. He also lies on his cushion curled up like a saucer, which is rather fetching, and rather a relief, because until we got him home today, we had never seen any evidence that he could actually sit down. We are going to get very fit, apparently.

So far we are taking the advice from the RSPCA and keeping the cats away from the dog for now, but it is like a military operation. They will no doubt meet quite soon, not from any deliberate intent, or under supervision, but due to sheer carelessness on our behalf. That will be exciting.

In other news, my parents are also visiting, but so far they have been very well behaved, and only require the occasional treat and a few walks to keep them happy.