Surviving the heatwave

As I write this there are currently 11 uncontrolled blazes in Victoria. For those of you who live in bush fire areas, I hope you are safe. As I live in the middle of Melbourne, our house was in no danger, the heat though, was incredible.  I thought I’d show you a few snaps of the garden after the recent heat wave. I really think I’m just not meant to grow tomatoes. Last year, I had a grand harvest of one tomato, the rest being eaten by various creatures. This year, I carefully netted them up and had a promising crop growing, only to have them cooked on the bush.

It’s been too hot to use my usual acrylic paints, so I played around with nice cool watercolours. My feather paintings went into the recycling bin as I just couldn’t get them to go the way I saw them in my mind. The bird though, I was quite happy with, so it survived. Thankfully, it is much cooler today so we can all get a good nights sleep…

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Beautiful lush St Mary is no longer lush

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Burnt tomatoes look very unappealing…

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Cool blue watercolour

Winter is settling in…

After a beautiful warm autumn, winter is settling in and the garden has an unloved look. Soggy dead leaves carpet the ground and the herb garden looks tired, weeds springing up from all the rain we have had lately. Two lovely things are happening though, ripe lemons are just starting to appear after a long absence and the Tamarillos are ready to eat. I planted a Tamarillo shrub as my grandfather had one in his garden and they are not always to be found in fruit shops. I love their tart taste which is a bit like a cross between a passion fruit and a tomato. There are recipes that involve turning Tamarillos into chutney or even cheesecake, but I like them cut in half, scooped out and eaten.

Originally, the plant was covered in unripe fruit and I thought I would be Lady Bountiful, sharing an excess of fruit. One day however, I looked closely at the plant and saw lots and lots of empty stems, which the unripe fruit had been plucked from. I suspect rats and possums had been carrying them away. Luckily, whilst there wasn’t a huge crop, there are plenty for me as my husband and boys don’t like them. This is one occasion when I don’t mind them not liking something!

Tamarillo 2 Tamarillo 1 tamarillo 3

A bird of many colours

I have always wanted to grow my fruit and vegetables but I have to say it is a little challenging at times. Why, I hear you ask? Because we have to share with the wildlife in Melbourne. The beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets pictured below can be seen eating my neighbour’s apples. You might wonder why they aren’t eating my apples. Well, that is because they have already been eaten by the possums and fruit bats and not one single apple for us humans! I don’t mind sharing but it would be nice to have some fruit. I do still love these cheeky birds though and their chattering calls to each other. They are entertaining to watch too, practising various acrobatics in the trees.

Thank goodness possums, bats, and various birds appear to not like my lemons and grape fruits. My biggest disaster has been my tomatoes this year. They have been eaten by rats (which I find very creepy, I think it’s the tail)…. We seem to have a large number of rats climbing over the fence to visit, I think they are attracted to the next door neighbours chicken feed. Ruby my dog is very diligent about chasing them away but they visit when she is sleeping. Eeek, eeek, eeek!

rainbow 1

A bird of many colours

who's looking at who

Who is observing who?

eating apples

So much delicious food for us!

apple eaters

Not very well camouflaged apple thieves.

rainbow pair

Just hanging around……….

Tipping the scales

Look what I found in a charity shop on Monday. These beautiful vintage blue kitchen scales. They were a little grubby, but hot soapy water soon remedied that. I like the nice big bowl on the top and the fact that they can weigh up to 5 Kilograms. In them you can see my stepmother and father’s lovely organic apricots they grew. They don’t have a large garden but manage to cram in an amazing amount of edible crops. In the front garden is an apricot tree, crab apple, strawberries, rhubarb and herbs. In a little courtyard are tomatoes and lemons. You walk under an arch of passion fruit, past a natal plum, snow peas and beans, to the narrow backyard where there is green tea, another lemon, a kaffir lime as well as assorted vegetables of the season. No nasty chemicals are used. Luckily they sometimes produce too much and we get to reap the benefits! I was going to make my grandmother’s delicious fresh apricot cake to share with you but it is too hot to bake today as it is still 39.5 C at 8.15 pm. Hopefully tomorrow will be cooler.

blue scales

Vintage scales

scales and apricots

Home grown organic apricots

Christmas lemons

My Dad says he has everything he needs so he likes to receive edible gifts. For his birthday I made him some lemon butter. My elder son watched longingly as the mixture filled the jar perfectly. So sad, nothing left for him to eat. I promised I would make more soon, so today I fulfilled my promise.

Christmas Day will consist of a large lunch with family, so it will be nice to start the day with a light breakfast of crunchy toast spread with lemon butter and a cup of tea. My lemons have been unusually large this year, I don’t know why, it’s a mystery. A friend described them as radioactive lemons. I hope not!

One of these lemons provided 100 ml of juice, just enough to make a large jar of lemon butter. If you would like to make some you will need:

1 large or 2 small sterilised jars ( I used a recycled jam jar with a pretty lid)

100 ml of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup castor sugar

60 gm butter

Combine the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk and pour into a non-reactive saucepan. Add the lemon zest, juice and butter. Over a medium heat, bring the mixture just to a simmer whilst stirring constantly and then remove from heat. Let cool and spoon into one large or two small sterilised jars. Keep in the fridge for up to one month.

Tip: make sure you don’t  add any of the egg white to the mixture or your lemon butter will have white streaks like mine did the first time I made it (a bit like scrambled eggs)!

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When life gives you lemons

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Radioactive lemons?

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Keep stirring!

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Use a jar with a pretty lid

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Mmmmm

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Or make a pretty cover ( I cheated, I found a pretty vintage piece of linen)

Lemon tea

Tea with lemon

Gran's cup

Gran’s cup

The chicken chicken sitter

Before my stepmother and my father moved to their new home, they kept chickens in the backyard. The chooks as we call them in Australia, had a pretty wooden house but also ranged free in the garden, eating pesky bugs and providing lovely organic eggs. One day, one of the chooks flew over the fence and into the next door neighbours garden. I stood in our garden ready to be passed the escapee over the fence. Sitting happily in my stepmother’s arms, the chook was passed over, it began flapping in my face, I squeaked, it squawked, and jumped out of my arms safely to the ground, no thanks to me. I learnt that chickens scare me(just a little).

Our neighbours have gone on holiday, so I have been chicken sitting. I’ve been feeding and watering the chickens and collecting their eggs. One of the chooks is broody so I was instructed to just slide my hand under her and remove the egg. Sounded easy. My younger son came with me to watch. I suggested he might like to get the egg, but no, he thought not. Instead he rolled around laughing whilst poor Miss Broody Hen pecked repeatedly at my hand every time  I tried to remove her egg. It felt mean, taking away her precious egg. How tempting it was to leave her sitting happily on her egg, but then the neighbours would  have come back to a large pile of stale eggs I suppose.

We have really been enjoying eating the fresh organic eggs, the yolks are amazingly orange. I love eating things that I know haven’t been covered in horrible sprays. I’ve grown up with my parents and grandparents growing lots of lovely things in their gardens. My mother’s father in particular grew edible plants. Papa’s little garden was full of pots of tomatoes, lemon and orange trees, rhubarb, parsley, tamarillos and silverbeet just to name a few. He was a fitter and turner and made most of the things in the garden himself. He came from an age where you didn’t go and buy new pots to plant in, you made your own by repurposing old containers. You didn’t throw broken items away, you fixed them, or turned them into new things.

Recently, I found an empty olive oil container left out on the nature strip. I remembered my Papa and his tomato pots and thought that it would make a wonderful container to plant in. Once at home though, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to get the sealed top off with out making the top lip very sharp. Luckily for me, my stepfather is very handy with an angle grinder and took the top off for me, leaving the rim intact. The container already had a drainage hole built-in to let the oil out, so I didn’t need to drill holes in the base. I have to admit that I really love the look of this container too, with its pale blue colour and red map of  Australia.

It’s all planted up with a tomato, now I just have to hope the possums don’t eat the tomatoes. Can see my garden owl behind the pot? It has solar-powered eyes that light up at to scare away the night-time raiders. Will it work? I hope so, last summer I ended up with a single tomato………….

Guarding her nest

Broody chicken

Lucky roadside find

Convenient drainage

Can you see the owl?