Saturday, February 26, 2011

I am a Hippie Horse Owner!!!!

I had previously posted that I had listed another of my saddles on eBay to declutter my life. Well, I had to cancel the listing. Something in me screamed, ¨Don´t let go of this saddle!!!!¨ So I cancelled the listing and kept the saddle.

Today I saddled up the riding horse in his/my very expensive Austrian leather saddle and he wouldn´t go anywhere near the saddle. The stinky eye was in full force. Granted horsey has only just come back into work and his shape has changed horrendously, but to throw the saddle a nasty look....well, I never! I tried saddling him up in said saddle. The ears were pinned back, he was being very evasive on the ground, stepping away from me, so I didn´t go any further with that saddle.

I instead threw a leg over him and rode him bareback. The big swinging walk was back. I had forgotten just HOW big his walk is. My pelvis was being dislocated with every stride. I got off and retrieved his treeless saddle, which I had planned to sell. He stood quietly while I put it on his back, he even leaned into me as I did the girth up. I got back on and rode in this confounded saddle that he loves so much and I hate. Soft, responsive and huge swinging movements. DAMN IT!!! So while he is having a great time in his saddle, my lower back, hamstrings and inguinal ligaments are screaming blue murder.

It looks like my lovely saddle that no longer fits him will be sold....*SOB* and his lovely saddle that tortures me will be kept....*MORE SOB* Gotta keep the talent happy. I am just hoping that with being back in work and re-establishing his musculature that I can get my saddle refitted to fit him again, but knowing how things work, we will be keeping his saddle and I will require traction to realign my musculo-skeletal anatomy after EVERY SINGLE RIDE. Short of taking up yoga, of course! Will someone pass me some lentils?

...and this all means that I am a full blown hippie horse rider, again. Bitless, barefoot and treeless saddle. I had better break out the tie-dyed joddies to complete the look.

Still, all of this goes with the straw bale house, the raising our own happy meat and growing our own fruit and vegetables.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Zealand in My Heart

New Zealand means alot to me.

I lived there for a year. I got married there. Parnell Rose Gardens are GORGEOUS!!!!!. I lived in an apartment over looking the old Albion Hotel, the, at the time future casino and St Pauls/Peters Cathederal. You could walk 200m in any direction and fall over a bottle shop. Everywhere was uphill to our apartment. We had a different hire car EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Imagine going shopping and totally forgetting which car you drove into the carpark in EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Auckland was only place in the world where my husband left for work and the sun was shining. He got down to street level in our apartment block and it was bucketing down with rain, he walked to work in that rain...literally one block and by the time he got to work, the sun was shining again.

The BEST falafels and salad could be had at a cute little cafe in Devonport, just a ferry ride away. We were invited to spend Christmas with a family who had the most amazing decking set-up that overlooked the harbour with views of Auckland. This instilled a love of decking that has yet to be cured in me. Much to my husband´s dismay.

New Zealand is the home to the most amazing white wines in the world. Prior to living in EnZed, I was a red wine snob. No more. I can no longer say no to a lovingly crafted N.Z white wine. HH cannot understand it. I drink shiraz and New Zealand whites. Nothing else, there is no middle ground. New Zealand has corrupted me.

I have crawled all over Rangitoto Island, and cycled all around Waiheke that is one place that I SHOULD have purchased real estate. I have survived driving around the Coromandel Peninsula and partaken of a variety of fruit wines. I have slid down Moirs Hill Walk on my ask-your-mother-for sixpence. I met so many people during our cycle tour of Auckland on electric bikes. People were more interested in our bikes than us. Funny that.

I fell in love with Christchurch and stayed at the same hotel as the New Zealand cricket team during the West Indies tour of New Zealand. They were very school-boyish in their Black with White stripe blazers. I spent hours walking through the Botanical gardens. Akaroa was a little piece of France with a lovely slice of New Zealand. Check it out if you are ever in the region. A friend with his pilots licence took us on a amazing aerial tour of the Canterbury region. Breathtaking!!!!

I have skiied Mount Ruapehu in November when the skiing season closed only due to a lack of patronage, not snow. I was way ahead of Zoolander, I had NO left turn, only a right. Maybe I should be discussing royalties....

Piha provided me with my first experience of a black sand beach ever, and for a girl coming from the white sand beaches of Perth, this was an eye-opener. I even took a photo of my foot against the black sand. It almost shone silver. The sand, not my foot...

We ate regularly at the Caravanserai (?) in Queen Street and held our wedding reception there. LOVED IT!!! Our local movie cinema was the St. James Theatre...has it really been closed to the public regarding public safety? NOOOOOO! We ate regularly at Tony´s Steak House and dare I say it, the basement dining area at the Albion Hotel. We survived!!!! Smith and Caughey´s was our department store, and when they had a sale....BOY, did they have a sale and that was before factoring in the exchange rates.

When we first arrived in NZ in 1994, red capsicums were $40 a kilo and fresh green lipped mussels were $1.99 a kilo....and I LOVE red capsicums. Apparently I caused a scene at the supermarket at St Lukes. There was much foul language and very large accompanying arm gestures. I caved at $16 a kilo for the cappies. Weak, I know.

I managed to board a plane home to Perth with 27kgs of hand luggage including a wok and a saucepan set. Try doing that these days!!!!

I lived in New Zealand for a year and came home with an English accent. Auckland was very anti-oz while we were there, so I affected a pommy accent that was so authentic that a freshly landed Pom asked me when ¨I had come out¨.... LOL!!!!! My sister spent one month with us and it took 18 months to rid herself of her ¨Kiwi¨ accent.

I love New Zealand. It is a very special place for me, and it saddens me that it has been beset by natural disaster again.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake...

Again this year we are reminded of the devastation that nature can deal out. This time around it is Christchurch, again, a beautiful city that I hold very dear in my heart. Gorgeous architecture, lovely people, unbelievably beautiful botanical gardens and great cuisine. I may have only spent 2 weeks of my life in Christchurch, but I still adore the city and the surrounding countryside. You struck a chord deep inside of me. A chord that still sees me perusing real estate in and around one of my favourite cities in the world, and no doubt will continue to do so.

My heart goes out to New Zealanders and Christchurchians at this time. For lives lost, for those still not knowing at this point in time whether they have lost loved ones. For architecture damaged and for buildings gone. In my little part of the world we are thinking of you. I know words and thoughts are of little consolation in this dark and scary time. You will persevere, you will rebuild, you will recover. Your Kiwi resolve and strength of character will see you through this.

Stay strong.


A Little Patch of Orchard

Our orchard is not huge, and it is not an ancient one with gnarled branches and heavily laden with fruit. It is still young and still evolving every year with a couple of new additions. Most of those come from the Woodbridge Fruit Tree Nursery in Woodbridge, Tasmania, but occasionally there is a locally sourced addition. Our little hardware store was the scene of perhaps my most surprising purchase, a lovely potted Orange Cox Pippin apple for all of $12.95. Bargain.

There are many apple trees of various species, mostly heirloom varieties, but a couple of commercial favourites have snuck in. There is also a very young quince tree who tries her heart out every year to produce fruit. This year it looks like at least seven, which will be harvested to make quince brandy.

Our apricot season is over. It all happened in the blink of an eye. One day fruit, the next windfall and your pigs are pigging out on sweet, sweet fruit. We did not even get enough to jam up...and I love apricot jam!!! The peach has been a non-performer. We need to plant another couple to encourage it along for next year. The pears are STILL getting their act together, and lets not mention the nectarines. We are still waiting for the Greengage plums and our cherries were exquisite this year, and we are waiting with anticipation for next.

...and that is the part that we love. Simply watching our fruit trees fruit, then ripen and then drooling with the anticipation of harvesting the bounty. Even the horses get in on the act. They get the occasional apple that has been birded or dogged, as our boxers dogs periodically pull apples off of the lower branches. We need bird netting AND dog netting!

Also planted in the orchard are fejoias, blueberries, comfrey, gooseberries, pumpkins for the pigs, zucchini and cucumber for the chickens. We also have a variety of tomatoes planted for the chickens interspersed throughout the fruit trees. Next on the planting agenda is some lavenders and daisies to encourage the bees for the next flowering/fruiting season.

An Open Letter to Coriander

Dear Coriander,

The time has come for us to go our separate ways. This is the last year that you will seduce me with your citrus-y asian undertones. You will no longer transport me back to Thai delights or Vietnamese sojourns with your pungency. I am putting my foot down. No sooner than I have bought you home from the nursery and lovingly planted you, salivating with the anticipation of Thai Salads, Long soups and stir fries, that you bolt out the door leaving me with an insipid downer, disappointing my palate YET again and leaving me longing for you in your younger, fresher and exciting days as when you first arrived in the vegetable garden. Sometimes as soon as three days earlier.

I am over your beguiling ways, your sweet whispers and promises of exciting flavour and palate enlightenement. NO MORE!!!! I will not tolerate your bolting presence in my garden for another season, however short. We have been through so, so much together, but my heart and palate have been broken too many times to forgive. So it is with great sadness and difficulty that I must say goodbye. I can take no more heartbreak. No more disappointment. No more false and empty promises. I must turn my back on you and find another plant that will take your place. A plant that I can count on to be there for me and my cooking when I need it, that I can rely on not to bolt to seed, a plant that can last the distance with flavour, still be pretty enough for garnish that packs a punch and delights both the eye and the palate.

I am of a vintage where I am looking for committment, for reliance, for understanding, for dedication and for loyalty. My days of one night stands and cheap thrills are in my past.

It is over. No, there is nothing left to say. Please go and leave me in my grief. I have loved and forgiven too often, this time will be the last.


A Little Start

Our tomato harvest has FINALLY begun. From humble plantings we have two tomatoes that are ready for the plate. They are not the prettiest, but they smell divine. If our little cherry tomatoes are anything to go by, these ugly tomatoes will taste fantastic.

We almost forgot to photograph their debut in our house. They will be featuring in a salad with falafels and hummus. Tomorrow morning one lucky tomato will also star on a plate with a couple of poached eggs for my breakfast. Considering the lack of tomato talent in the garden, these precious little babies will be greatly enjoyed!

So while there are many of you who are almost snowed under with the weight of summer tomato bounty, we will relish our little harvest and hopefully the other green tomatoes in the garden will follow suit and we will be tomatoed out.

Everyone else out there in blogland might say ¨tomato¨, but we say ¨its about time!¨

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Boxers and Blackberries

Our two boxer dogs have a fetish.

They love blackberries.

If you call them and they cannot be found, just saunter on over to the nearest blackberry infestation and the pair of them can be seen greedily plucking juicy ripe fruit off of the canes. Sometimes even the not so juicy ripe fruit! They come running back with blackberry stains on their faces and the look of juicy contentment.

The dogs are not the only ones who are blackberry crazy. Walk within 50m of the canes and you have three horses come charging up to the fence with that look of expectation that comes with eating little bursts of blackberry summer. If the horses are in the same paddock as the canes, they can often be found eye deep in the brambles seeking out the berries, manes entangled and soft noses lightly scratched and bleeding both blood and berry juice.

Passersby can often be viewed wading into the thorniness to secure their share of summer. Just last week we had someone tie their pony up to our front gate so they could go berry picking unhindered by their equine. They were duly joined in their pilfering by our youngest boxer, more than happy to share in the berry plunder.

Most people look at blackberries as a weed, we view ours as a source of yumminess. Their wandering and invasive nature is nothing that cannot be controlled with a good dose of tractor and slasher to ensure a bumper crop the following year.

EEEEK! Its Been a Week!

..and I haven´t posted a thing!

..but I have been keeping myself out of trouble.

Poor horse and I have lacked a level and safe riding space ever since we began on the re-training journey together. We can often be found riding on the roads doing our dressage training...which is great for the straight stuff, but our circle work suffers somewhat. Fuelled by the frustration of not having anywhere to work, I got the HH on the smart end of the tape measure and pegged out an arena on the flattest part of our block, which also happens to be the best draining ground as well.

That was all well and good until you realise that the grass is almost waist high. So I had to crank up the tractor to take said grass down a peg or two. Then the lawnmower was run over the area to take it down to little toe height. It is not pretty, but it does work. Poor horsey has almost had enough of circle work. I can´t say I don´t blame him. It is far more interesting trail-riding while dressage training!

I realise that an arena is totally self indulgent and no doubt out of place within a blog that does state ¨Trying to reduce my carbon footprint¨ however, I feel that life is a balancing act between doing the right thing by the planet without withdrawing from society altogether. My horses provide me that sense of balance. I love working with them, being with them and sometimes just watching them.

Besides they are all cast offs from other people. So in effect my horses are recycled, reused and being repurposed along the way. My riding horse, as I have written about previously, was a harness racing horse that was simply too slow to win races. Most of these standardbred horses are sent to the sales where they are sold for meat that feeds your dogs. Some of the lucky ones escape a life of essentially being bred for meat and they end up as pleasure horses. Thats what my boy is, a pleasure riding horse...who just happens to belong to someone who enjoys the equestrian pursuit of dressage. And that someone spent an entire day mowing out an arena so she could work said horse.

Check out the square halt on the dog! If only my horse could replicate that more consistently!

My carbon footprint swelled a little in size this week, but I can live with it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Little Bit of Decluttering

Hanging out at duchess_declutters blog and feeling the heavy weight of hoarding on my shoulders, I made the decision to start decrapping my life a little. I like to think of myself as a non-hoarder, but if the truth is known I am far from it.

I have three horses, only one of which is a riding horse. Yet I have 4 saddles....AND I only have one bottom! One saddle has already been sold on eBay. A BEAUTIFUL vintage German hand made saddle that did not come close to fitting any of my horses. I held onto that saddle for that for three years simply because it was a masterpiece of saddle making. Almost 30 years old and in exceptional condition, but I couldn´t use it. It is now gone, and while I am missing it´s craftsmanship it now belongs to a horse owner who will USE it and not just admire it.

Another saddle has just been listed on eBay. (YAY ME!) This saddle fits all of my horses, but really does not fit me. I need to crack the pelvis and dislocate both hips to ride in it comfortably. I had not ridden in it for almost 6 4 days it too, will be gone and my life/house/tack/room will be less cluttered for it. It is nowhere near as lovely has my other saddle, so why was I holding onto it? I have no idea.

It is a small decluttering start, but it is a start, nonetheless.

A Cheap Bathroom in a Strawbale house

As I previously posted, our kitchen came off of eBay. It was large enough to fit out the kitchen, bu also had enough cabinetry to install a vanity in our bathroom. I just painted it removed the handles and purchased some new ones, off of eBay...OF COURSE! The lovely tap? Another eBay purchase ($45 with postage), as is the mirror ($100) and the two wrought iron chairs ($80) acting as towel racks.

The basin came from a builders end of range outlet in Footscray ($50) as did the shower rose ($75) and the light was sourced from a company having a closing down sale ($45). The gorgeous art deco door was not a bargain ($395...OUCH!) sourced from a demolition yard in Hughesdale, Victoria, but we fell in love with it.

The tiles were an end of range sell out price ($50 per sqm) and we cut and laid them ourselves. We bought a new tile saw from our tile place ($499) and just sold that same used saw on eBay for $515. Go figure.

Again, as with everything about our house, it is not modern or up-to-the-minute super stylish 2011 so I am not feeling the immediate or in future need to rip everything out and update our interior design to look like a Freedom Cattle-dog house. That is just not me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dr Drake Ramoray and Charlize Theron

...are our two ducks. Both were adopted out of a high school experiment involving bonding and imprinting (?) I am unsure as to the details of the project, just that these two were adopted from the program.

Dr Drake Ramoray is a very funny duck. Despite living on a property with a dam, he rarely wades in it. However, God forbid, should ANY other living creature utilise it. He has been seen storming down to the dam to chase off other water fowl, only to storm straight back up to his garden area after duly dispatching of the offending creatures.

Christmas day, he was a torn duck. Every man, child and dog hit the dam for a swim. Poor Drake waddled half way down to the dam, stopped and surveyed the intruders, weighed up his options, retreated a quarter of the way back. He then found his gumption, sallied forth some more, reassessed the situation and finally just beat a hasty retreat back to his waiting lady friend with his duckly dignity mostly intact. Crazy duck.

He teases our youngest Boxer dog mercilessly. We mistakenly incarcerated the young boxer for fear of her harming our duck, but the little ducky devil would attack her through the fence! He had the whole property, yet sought her out to play with. Suffice to say, we love the Drakester.

Charlize Theron, is entering damehood. She is not a duck to be found mixing it with the other rabble. She does not indulge in interspecies frippery. She keeps her own counsel in a very dignified manner.

We love our ducks. They are next to useless, but provide much laughter around our little farm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Day in the Garden, Flowers, Fangs and Freeloaders

I keep thinking that nothing is happening in my garden as I am busy wondering when my tomatoes will ripen. All consumed by their lack of cooperation, am I. I know that I am not alone in this waiting game.

In actual fact, alot is happening. One of my apple trees is confused. Some blossoms showed up over the last few days with the crazy weather that we have been having. Only on the one tree, however. Go figure.

We have a fanged tomato that is refusing to ripen up with the others. I cannot complain about the lack of consistency across the board. Regardless of imperfections or otherwise, ripening is not high on the tomato agenda this year.

We have a new ¨raised¨ garden bed that we planted up with some donated rhubarb. It was looking a little sickly, but has taken off with the abundant rain and gentle sunshine. I would have taken the time to paint it, but HH got busy with the drill and had it planted up before I could even say ¨Hang on a minute! I want to go all shabby chic on that barrow!¨ So it really ties in with the whole building theme we have going on here. Apparently we have no time for ¨pretty¨ here!

Our Italian Willow was brutally pruned by the horses, but with with the rain and sun has staged a Lazarus. It may just make it! We just have to make sure that we keep them away from it.

We have found an asparagus plant that castawayed from our nursery along with a Greek Oregano plant. Again the sun and rain have nurtured it on its way to establishing itself in one of garden beds. Am I complaining? NO WAY!

Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil, those for whom butter will not melt in the mouth otherwise know as ¨The Pruners¨ drool over the apples in the orchard, the carrots in the garden bed and the long grass that needs to be mowed... AGAIN!!! For this photo they were living in the hope that something would magically materialize from the garden for their eating pleasure. AS IF!

So the days go on, the garden enter another phase of life and the tomatoes hold onto their green.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Breakfast for Pigs - Holy Guacamole!

Our wessex saddleback cross pigs are spoilt rotten. We collect the turfings from our local fruit and vege shops to supplement their diet and give them variety other than their piggie mix. It gives our fruiterer an outlet to reduce their waste and the turfings not only get used up feeding pigs, but processed into manure for our garden. It is a win-win-win situation.

Today's piggie breakfast consisted of blood plums, clingstone peaches, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries, nectarines and one kiwi fruit. Don and Hamelot go crazy over fruit, and today was no exception. Don, the little ´un was particularly taken with the tomatoes. Odd choice, I would have said in the face of the rest of the fruit platter, but there you go. Hamelot, on the other hand has a particular penchant for avocado. Between their likes they could rustle up a pretty decent guacamole. Who can second guess a piggy palate?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I May Not be Harvesting Tomatoes, but I Do Have Damson Plums....

Our fourth year Damson Plum is playing by the rules. Give her water, giver her sun, mulch her occasionally and she will yield. (The same cannot be said of my tomatoes)

When I ordered my fruit trees from Woodbridge Fruit Tree Nursery a couple of years ago, I ordered, on a whim, a Damson Plum. Don´t ask me why. It is not a particularly attractive shrub, and there are only a few uses for the fruit...namely, for me Damson Gin.

I do adore a gin and tonic, so maybe I was thinking that I could use the fruit to flavour up some gin as something a little bit different.

Well, lo and behold, she is fruiting, and it looks like I will be Damson Gin making in a little while. The only issue I have with it is the amount of sugar involved. HH and I are not big on sugar consumption. We are more of the savoury kind of kids. Us hyped on Damson Gin should be quite amusing for all and from what I have heard, Damson Gin is quite delicious, can one possibly stop at just one?

An eBay Kitchen in a Strawbale House

I love eBay.

There I have said it. I am an eBay tragic. A friend actually suggested that we have the eBay logo spray painted on the roof of our house so that flyers by could tell that a large proportion of this self built house has been sourced through eBay.

Our kitchen was found on the much loved site already dismantled and ready to be picked up from WAAAAAAY down south. So HH and I kitted up with a trailer AND a horse float went down in convoy and picked up this kitchen and ferried it back to our property.

It is a solid Tasmanian Blackwood kitchen whose only crime was one of not being trendy enough and was due to be replaced by something sexier and younger and more 2010. It had enough cabinetry to also install a cabinet for the bathroom (post to follow). With what we saved on this kitchen we splashed out and had granite benchtops and splashbacks installed. All up this solid timber and granite benchtops is still one third of what we have been quoted from several kitchen manufacturers. How can I possibly complain?

The range hood also came off of eBay, as did the oven and sink. The gorgeous tap I found when on holiday in Penang. Who goes on holiday and buys a kitchen tap? Apparently me. It was less than 1/3 of what I would have paid for it here. Can you tell I love a bargain?

The induction cooktop was purchased off of a friend at less than half RRP.

I love my kitchen. It may not be the trendiest thing out there. It may not be up to the minute January 2011, but I am not a trendsetter, or a trend follower. I am not sucked in by fashion. I will not be replacing this kitchen in 2 years time for something younger and funkier. I saved this kitchen from being cast off as landfill. I like that.