Free plum jam

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that its impossible to count them accurately.”             Oscar Wilde

As a kid I had two goldfish which I kept in a tank in my room.  One day I noticed hundreds of little eggs all through the tank.  My usually sensible {and fairly boring} goldfish had mated!  And there were literally hundreds of eggs.  You have to imagine my excitement and then multiply this by 10, because that is approximately how ecstatic I was.  It quickly occurred to me that my little tank on my desk in my bedroom could only realistically support two goldfish.  So, I did what any rational, level-headed kid would do: I started to ‘give’ the baby fishies away to my friends before they had hatched.

It wasn’t long before mummy fish and daddy fish started consuming the eggs in the tank, and in a panic, I started moving hundreds of eggs to my mum’s fruit salad bowl.  I had moved almost all the eggs by the time I realised it would have been quicker to transfer the two adult goldfish instead of moving all those eggs.  Slowly, over the next week or so, the little baby fish started to come out of the eggs, and swam around the fruit salad bowl.  By now everyone had been coerced into adopting a fish, it was just a matter of time before they would be getting their new pet.

You guessed it… one by one all those little fishies died, every single one of them, and I was left to explain to my friends that there would be no pet goldfish.  Years on, and I haven’t learned my lesson.  I still count {goldfish} before they’re hatched.

Recently I’ve been planning how I am going to transform our unproductive backyard into a kitchen garden; with fruit trees, veggies, herbs and chooks as well as an extensive composting system.  Typically, I’ve already got plans for all the future produce:  jams, pickles, salads, omlettes…

This was our yard (20m x 15m) before we built the chook pen.  I used an online Garden Planner software to draw it to scale.

On the left is the back of the house with the patio, in the middle is the Hills Hoist, and on the right is the shed.  We’ve finally finished building the chook pen, so the yard currently looks like this:

So… here’s what I’m planning for the rest of the yard…

A little over-ambitious perhaps?

Lemon, fig, orange and olive trees on the north-east fence (left of the chooks).  Grape vines growing over the chook pen fence and the shed.  Plum tree on the right, between the shed and composting system.  And a MASSIVE veggie/herb patch on the south-west fence.  I was planning on raising the veggie patch beds to help with drainage, so it will end up being bricked up about 12m x 2m x 0.5m (LxWxH).

Considering my track record with plants, comments and advice are appreciated!

And if we have an oversupply of plums one day, I’ll be giving away lots of free plum jam…


Chorizo winter soup

This started out as a can’t-be-bothered-but-we-need-to-eat-veggies sort of soup.  Fortunately Big T produced chorizo following a dash to the shops for nappies.  The original {vegan} version tasted pretty good anyway, but the chorizo seriously takes it over the top and makes it amazing.

  • a soup pack or the following veggies…
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 red potato
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 swede
  • ~3L stock (veggie or chicken)
  • 1 C soup mix (I buy McKenzies, it has loads of nice barley in it)
  • 2 chorizo
  • chives (a good handful)
  • twig of rosemary (pinched from the neighbours)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • {secret ingredient} a tablespoon of vegemite

Chop it all up into bite-size bits and bung it all in a slow cooker (or in a covered pot on the stove if you’re that way inclined).  Bubble away until it is cooked through and tastes lovely (mine was *ready* after about 4 hrs in the slow cooker).  Served with some fresh crusty sourdough.

Bon appetit!

Day of the Chicken

Apparently the month of May is International Respect for Chickens month and the 4th is International Respect for Chickens day.  It is also Star Wars day, ‘May the fourth be with you’, but we will leave that topic for another time.  Anyway …  happy Chook Day?!

Little T was promised pet chooks instead of chocolate eggs for Easter (toddlers should come with instructions that say ‘do not feed chocolate, especially after midnight’).  So, in preparation for the four new additions to our family, we started to build a chook pen.  I approximated it would only take a couple of weekends of not-too-strenuous-labour, so we set about sourcing the fence and the hen-house.  I decided on an old wardrobe from the scrap yard with the back taken off for their house (the idea being that Little T could just open up the doors on the outside, and take the eggs out without needing to stomp about in chook-poo inside the pen.  HA!  more on that later…)

ANYWAY.  Amped and enthusiastic I grabbed the shovel and rammed it into the ground to start digging the first post in.  It barely went in 0.5cm.  I know maybe sometimes I exaggerate, just a teensy bit, but I am seriously not kidding this time.  Basically our yard is clay soil, so over the long hot (HOT) summer this year, the earth was kilned by the sun and became harder than concrete.  So we used a jackhammer.  I am serious, we actually ‘dug’ each and every post and trench using a jackhammer.  It makes a dggdggdggdggdggdggdgg noise/motion that reverberates through your arms and body and continues well beyond using the thing.

After much huffing and puffing and dggdggdggdggdggdggdgg we FINALLY finished building the chook pen just in time for Easter.  It only took us about five weekends.  So on Easter Saturday we bundled Little T into the car, grabbed a couple of cardboard boxes and headed off to the chicken farm.  This next bit is not funny, so without going on a rant, and in a nutshell, I have never been so appalled in my life as when I saw the miserable conditions that these poor animals must live in.  None of our chooks had feathers, one was literally raw and bleeding, and not one of them could walk properly when we first rescued them.  Maybe an International Respect for Chickens day is not such a ridiculous idea?

So a month on, and the chooks have very much made themselves at home.  They boldly go {and explore our yard}, where no chook has gone before.  And Little T just LOVES chasing them and ‘talking’ to them, and stomping about inside the pen in his wellies.  There’s no keeping him out of the chook pen, he is King of the Chickens.  He goes and collects the ‘ugg’ when they occasionally lay one, and he feeds them the stale bread (right after he’s stuffed as much of it into his mouth as will fit).

The first 8 eggs they layed in the first week…

I’ll finish this {rather long} post with pictures of our motley bunch.  Meet ‘Tikka Masala’ (she rules the roost), ‘Drumsticks’ (she’s headstrong and does her own thing), ‘Schnitzel’ (she has a dodgy wing, but manages ok), and ‘Nuggets’ (she’s a couple short of a six-pack, definitely not our smartest chook… but loveable!)

The trees are blushing

Perhaps it is in anticipation of the nudie winter?

Actually, here in west Oz, the arrival of autumn is less than impressive.  We have so few deciduous trees that it is largely indistinguishable from any other season.

Officially, our seasons are:  Hot, Hottish, Hotter and Not-so-Hot.

In the early 80’s, my European parents decided they needed some fresh air and a bit of sunshine, so they immigrated to the driest continent on Earth.  They had approximately five words of English between them, and Mum was terrified of flying.  Still, they made it here in one piece, and Dad’s grasp of the language has since improved somewhat.

One of my earliest memories of growing up in Australia is the day we fried an egg on the pavement.  Dad thought it would be hilarious to film us cracking an egg on the pavement in our yard, then stop the video, fry the egg in a pan on the stovetop, and turn the camera back on to film how it had ‘fried’ on the bricks.  This would be a demonstration for the rellies back at home as to how hot it actually was here.  They all fell for it, and no-one noticed the four little bare feet next to the fried egg on the ground.

Your missing bits

And I just can’t overlook it, I’m itching to give you a good hard apostrophe around the middle, and an ‘e’ on the rear end.  You’re welcome.

I will forgive you for using your in place of you’re if you were brought up in a cave by bears somewhere in the remote Hengshan Mountains in the northern Shanxi province of China.  What are you doing reading this anyway, shouldn’t you be out hunting down some nuts or berries or something for your dinner?

There is no excuse.  Your is yours and you’re a duffer if you don’t know that.

I am the Queen

of lists.  And, unfortunately, I am also rather delusional regarding what can feasibly be achieved in a realistic timeframe.  Last week I decided that I would

  1. learn to yodel (yes, there are youtube tutorials…)
  2. read all of Dickens’ novels
  3. cook proper meals (pronounced ‘proppa‘), like Jamie Oliver, in 30 minutes
  4. clean the house INCLUDING the dusting
  5. learn the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah‘ (rather than just joining in rather loudly at the chorus)

I got a little bit side-tracked and made a ballerina fairy dolly instead.

I’m sure I’ll get around to yodelling soon.

Typically I have a little panic attack because there is a whole truckload of things I need TO DO, and that I’m not going to get it all done.

So, I make a list.

Feeling much more calm and composed, I then start some monumental undertaking that is completely unrelated to the very-important-thing-that-needs-to be-done-by-tomorrow-8am-SHARP.  Usually something completely ridiculous like this

or this

Often my little manic craze can last for days, and I end up going WAY over the top and driving everyone around me loopy with the never-ending chitter-chatter on the subject of current interest.

But usually the fad dies as quickly as it arises.  I remember on one occasion getting the idea into my head (who knows how it got there) that we would go camping.  On foot.  In possibly the rainiest part of north Wales in the UK.  So I talked about it for weeks, planned everything to the finest detail, and bought a 5 quid tent from Tescos.  You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Finally the long weekend arrived and I packed our backpacks and the kitchen sink and we set off.  On foot.  For 9 hours.  My enthusiasm was admittedly starting to wane by the time we had hiked along the last pebbled beach (Big T’s enthusiasm had lasted approximately 5 minutes), but luckily we made it to the campsite before major injury or attack by a crazy Welshman with a name like Gwyn or Bryn, or something that requires the use of the back of your throat to pronounce.

Fortunately it had not rained all day.  Which is fairly unheard of in this part of the world.  Unfortunately the whole day’s rain came down at once that night, on the 1 square meter that sported our Tesco’s tent.  When water started running down the seams inside the tent, and both our towels were soaked through, we huddled together for warmth in our drenched sleeping bags and hoped that the Made-in-China pole would hold the whole contraption up for just a few more hours.  Unbelievably we made it through the night, bleary-eyed and clinging onto the shreds of our Tesco’s tent.  After a 22 minute journey home on the bus I was cured of my camping phase and moved on to a more rational hobby.  Beer sampling.


A prehistoric computer that was dumped on our verge has slowly been dismantled over the last few weeks.  It is not even rubbish collection week here, so I think the previous owners of this relic hoped that it would be useful to someone, or would simply just disappear one day.

I think it must be similar to the mentality regarding leftovers in our house.  There will be one manky boiled potato and half a sausage remaining after dinner, and this will be put on a plate in the back of the fridge and named ‘Leftovers’.   Leftovers is then forgotten about until it has grown legs and is ready to move out and start a family of its own.