Escape

A very hot weekend so we have escaped to the seaside. An early morning walk and one seagull to keep us company.

We are mindful that some areas on the other side of Melbourne are impacted by bushfires.

Tomorrow will be another hot one.

I thought I saw a puddy tat – or was it a mouse?

We are experiencing a heat wave, not unusual for this part of the world in January. However, during this time some strange things are happening. Apart from our broody Plymouth Rock chook who has nestled down to nurture her potential chicks – it always amazes me that hens can exist almost trance-like for twenty- one days.

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We placed a small bowl of water near her just in case she got thirsty. She’s in a cool house.
The other chickens and Long John Silver, the feisty rooster, are searching for a cool place too.

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However, the strangest occurrence today happened this morning. Our oldest companion cat, Sarge, yes, he is quite a bossy cat, had to go to the Vet. After the consultation, I began to rummage through my handbag for a pen to write some instructions, I wondered what the furry thing was in my bag. Then it hit me, it was a little brown mouse. Shocked, I quickly closed the opening and declared to the vet and Colin, “There’s a mouse in my bag”! They both looked at me suspiciously.

Convinced, I wasn’t deranged, the vet took my handbag and after a few minutes returned with this
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He’s a carnivorous native mouse – Dasyurid Antechinus, a relative of the Tasmanian Devil – as the vet excitedly told us, as he pulled out a text book photo. We packed him in a little box and returned this little marsupial to the bushland on the Mount. I wondered why our little white cat, this morning was digging in my handbag. Poor mouse, just wanted to stay out of the heat. A tip, keep your handbags off the floor in summer!

Keep cool everyone,

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I guess ratty has the last laugh! LOL

A Classic Christmas

This time last year I was busy baking in my kitchen. I tried my hand at ginger bread cookies. Having purchased some delightful cookie cutters from an American on-line store called House on the Hill and they included a lovely recipe. Apart from the usual star shapes, I bought a cabin in the woods mould and an acorn. I guess I have a romantic notion of a cold Christmas surrounded by warm hearths and warm glows. I guess a cold climate is more conducive to trying your hand at specialty baking and crafts.

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This year we are in Brisbane with family here. I have to say, give me a cold Christmas any time. The temperatures during the day have been a constant 32 degrees C with humidity and blazing sunshine. All great, when you’re by the sea, but not so great in a city, or in a weatherboard cottage. Too hot to bake, too hot to eat really. So I guess we head for the air conditioned shopping – but away from the “madding crowd”. Instead our usual vintage haunts never fail to lure us.

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One advantage of being here is that we don’t have to drive very far and often we can walk to these vintage and craft sellers. Wonders can be found.

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I love these vintage buttons from my favourite little shop – Travels with my Aunt named after a film of the same name. Check out my blog entitled Travelling North, 9 July, 2013

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So whether you are enjoying a hot traditional Christmas dinner or a cold seafood lunch, whether you are with family or friends or on your own, in a cold climate or a hot one – what classic or traditional elements will you include in your day?
(Ours will be Spumante, Panettone and plum pudding!)

So Envious!

You all know my passion for gardens – any gardens, any where. So when a friend and in-law Margaret invited me to see her Community Garden project I was intrigued. The first time I saw the garden was last November in the pouring rain. More recently, it was brilliant sunshine and a respectable 30 degrees C.

A Community Garden is indeed a suitable launching place for many great ideas. Each resident gardener pays a nominal fee to tend their plot. The restrictions are simple: no large trees, no weeds, and no pilfering! Otherwise, the horticultural creativity is set free to produce wondrous vegetables, fruits and herbs. In addition, community interaction is guaranteed.

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Why am I envious? It is envy of the admirable kind – for plants that we cannot grow here in the Mount. Giant golden vegetables, black, shiny grapes, fragrant basil and sun trapped red tomatoes.

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Check out this man’s giant climbing zucchini!

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Tall sunflowers and harvested corn.

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Therefore, last weekend when we visited again, it was for the launch of Margaret’s historical book which tracks the history of the garden suburb where she lives. The estate was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, Canberra’s famous town planner. The book also chronicles the history of the indigenous people of the area; the discovery of gold in the 1850’s; the first families who purchased land in the estate complete with general specifications of a typical 1950’s home; through to the time when “the frontier spirit [had] dissipated as we moved into the seventies” (p85).

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The Community Garden stands on “an internal reserve … designed in the late 1920’s” (which for a long stretch of time was a forgotten and derelict triangle of land). It now provides a sustainable and renewable facility. It is though, much more than a commodity, it is a safe, productive haven for the Tuppal Reserve gardeners and their families. Indeed it is a most enviable achievement – full of delight, determination and distinction.

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20130308-213810.jpg Do you belong to a community garden?

Sydney’s Inner West

A 7:30am flight and in less than 100 minutes, I am in Sydney with Daughter Number Two for the weekend. Luckily, I packed my pink umbrella as the heavens unleashed a torrent as the plane taxied in. A short drive and we find ourselves in Sydney’s Inner West, only five kilometres from the busy city heart. Today’s humid, wet and slippery conditions did not dampen this precincts eclectic mix of fashion, novelty craft stores, tree lined streets, turn of the century cottages and alternative cafes and restaurants.

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Now here’s a question for you. Do you like buttons? If you are like us we are intrigued by their shapes, colours and applications. You would love this establishment!

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Dusty, Little Dog Number Three sat quietly out of the rain. Well actually here he is at his owners’ photographic, dark room and studio. This is their second studio and was once the Department of Civil Engineering building. It’s a great space for their photographic workshops and studio.

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Returning to Newtown in the evening, we ate dinner at a nifty Japanese restaurant where we ordered our meals on an I-pad!

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Hopefully the rain will ease tomorrow – good night – see you in the morning.

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The Rains Came

After ten weeks of no rain, suddenly the heavens opened up and we received a welcome downpour. Summer here on the mountain can be a mixed blessing. Most of the the time we indulge in sheltered, lush greenery, going about our business of watering, potting, raking or contemplating! However, when the north winds blow, dry our soil and scatter bark and branches about and the risk of grass or bush fires permeate our waking, and sometimes, sleeping thoughts, that’s when we become obsessed by the CFA (Country Fire Authority) website. Their current APP tells us how far the nearest fire is to our property. As a matter of course, we then have the cat boxes and chicken cages at the ready should we need to leave on a total fire ban day. Such is life on the Mount – a balancing act of mind over nature!

Therefore, you can easily gauge our relief when the rains eventually come. No, not like the monsoonal rains in the 1939 film with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power – The Rains Came nor the other flooding and earth quaking 1955 The Rains of Ranchipur with Lana Turner and Richard Burton, but the soaking, refreshing and cooling rains which hopefully snuff out any lingering or smouldering embers. Both these films, you might know, are versions of Louis Bromfield’s novel set in India. As we live up here surrounded by trees we are the envy of Melburnian’s who often have to swelter while we enjoy a cooler five degrees. Further up the mountain, grand residences such as Darjeeling and Tieve Tara conjure up a romantic past as we experience what is known as a late summer or Indian Summer.

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Summer here is the least colourful of the seasons. There are few flowering plants in our garden right now. The obligatory blue agapanthus, the well-watered hydrangeas, many pots, some begonias, a few geraniums and silent hellebores are amongst the limited colours.

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Then, when least expected, a great spiny arch entangled in the camellias or rhododendrons looks you in the face. You recoil only to be greeted with tiny deep purple orbs. Your hand reaches toward the irresistible cluster.

20130217-220849.jpg The scratches and the curses of the previous encounters with this enemy are forgotten – one of the little joys of summer – blackberries! They live for another day – but only just!

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Meanwhile, we wait and pray for a little more rain, please. I might have to watch these films again! What’s it like in your part of the world right now?

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The House of Rock

Out little blue chook house has finally opened for business. It has take us a little longer than anticipated to lodge the girls (and a couple of boys!) in the new structure. Constantly looking for improvements, Colin decided to put in a ramp to connect the old enclosure to the new blue house.

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Then there was the matter of enticing the chickens up the ramp! A little bit of hands on coaxing was needed. The Plymouth Rock youngsters were the first to find their way in and establish their places. The old Isa browns had to be helped up into the loft but once there were as happy as “chickens in a loft”.
On the other hand, the older Plymouth Rock girls are the most reticent and sceptical of the lot. Colin needed to show them where to perch after finding a nice two metre branch to wedge in place in the house. For the last three nights he had to bring them into the blue house and position them on the perch. On a positive note they are placid and do not peck the little chooks.

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Meanwhile, there was still the problem of how to protect the old wooden floor of the house. We eventually decided to lay a rubberised matting to offer some barrier between the wood and the inevitable droppings. Sarge, our old cat always needs to inspect for quality assurance!

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After some research, I decided to make my own special blend of litter. I mixed equal parts of straw, dried leaf litter and sterilised wood shavings and spread it evenly on the floor. The images speak for themselves.

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Now, after enclosing their run in heavy duty rabbit fencing – we have had a number of fox attacks recently – we can finally breath a sigh of relief that they are all safe, warm and happy. The little blue chicken house has been dubbed the House of Rock – Plymouth Rock, that is.

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Enjoy your chickens, they are wonderfully independent and entertaining pets.

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Australia Day

26th January commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 in Sydney Cove. Therefore, it is a public holiday for Aussie citizens. We also must take into account indigenous cultures who often do not see this as a day to celebrate,

As we are part of the Buick car club, we take part in the RACV display bringing our 1982 Riviera to the gardens. With milder weather setting in, there were countless classic cars to peruse. Some of my favourites were

20130126-130931.jpg 1929 Pierce Arrow which always reminds me of the Robert Lowell poem, Grandparents.

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No Australia Day is complete without the local wildlife: possums, dingoes and snakes

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20130126-132511.jpg Government House is open today for those who wish to view its splendour and for me that was the magnificent magnolia!

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No doubt we live in a vast land of many contrasts and today’s outing was no different. What did you do for Australia Day or how do you commemorate your national day?

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