All posts by Marita

Birds

I’m reminded of one of my favourite childhood books….’I sat by the lake and looked at the sky and as I looked a fly went by…’
Except in my case I’m sitting by a dam on my verandah, and I’m watching a bird….

It amazes me the number of birds I have visiting around my home. In just a half hour I watched blue wrens, willy wagtails, honey eaters, goldfinches, parrots, sparrows, starlings, crows, and magpies. That’s not counting the kookaburras that start laughing about 5.30am, and the hawk that I watched get chased away by two very attentive wagtail parents! Others birds come and go seasonally, but often, galahs, cockatoos, leatherheads, bush pigeons, thrushes, and more, and often I see wedge tail eagles catching the thermals above our paddocks.

I think part of the attraction to the birdlife in my yard is the abundance of small bushes for them to nest in and also the ‘natural’ lawn area. Some might say my lawn is just full of weeds, and technically it is because I don’t spray anything and don’t often get around to digging much out. The birds, however, seem to love the variety of seeds the weeds bring, so I’m happy to grow some for them – in balance of course, I do like a nice soft green lawn to walk over. This is a challenge at this time of year where a large part of my evening is spent watering the vegie garden and lawn to provide a green band for the birds, for a firebreak, because it’s cooler, and just because I like it.

This morning I woke to an awesom thunderstorm, I went outside at 5.45am to watch the lightning and rolling grey clouds tumble above the house and out on the mountains. Now it’s actually been raining! Yay! There’s water running into my water tank again and the whole garden is looking refreshed. This reprieve is only supposed to last today so I’m hoping the birds make the most of it.

Orphaned
Orphaned

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A reprieve from the heat

That’s two mornings in a row now that have been cool, and I mean the temperature has been lower and more comfortable, although it is pretty ‘cool’ to also be living here surrounded by the beautiful mountains.

A light breeze filters through and around the house, gently swaying the bushes and trees in the garden, the water from the sprinkler reflects the early morning light like diamonds cascading to the parched earth.  Even the birds seem louder and more active, hopping around the lawn, drinking from the birdbath and playing in the water. It’s beautiful to sit on the verandah and just take it all in….yes, there’s still a bit of smoke haze around the hills – but nowhere near as heavy as last night where there was a glowing red sun amidst the smell of thick smoke blowing in from fires burning in the bush 60km away. The helicopters have been flying over the house and back for a few days now, carting water and firefighters to the mountainous terrain where the fire tears its way through the bush. It’s easy to feel safe here, confident in the abilities of our wonderful firefighters.

It’s also good weather to restock the snack foods, raw chocolate balls and mini mango cakes (world’s easiest recipe, flour free and dairy free – thanks to my sister Jacinta for sharing it with me).2014-01-21 11.19.08

There’s also nothing better than to be able to wander across the back lawn to the vegie garden and pick fresh ingredients for my morning omelette. Knowing there’s been no chemicals anywhere near them, spinach, basil, chives, chillies, zucchini, and this morning the first tomato of the season 🙂 I, of course, won’t be eating the tomato raw – never been to my taste, but I will bottle them for using in casseroles and pasta sauces later in the year. And the lemons are falling off the trees, trying to make room for the second crop of the year which are just starting to grow….so might be making lemon cakes later – and will freeze some of the juice for making raw vegan raspberry mousse cake later in the year! 2014-01-22 09.59.19

A few more days of this cooler weather is forecast, and then back to the more usual hotter weather that we enjoy in Summer here!

The joys of sheep

I love my sheep. Really. I do. I have a small flock of Wiltshires, numbering around two dozen at the moment. These sheep don’t need shearing or crutching and don’t get fly blown….otherwise they can be just as annoying as any other type of sheep.

Currently the deer that became residents in my paddocks over winter are consuming the summer feed that the sheep would normally enjoy. Consequently I have opened up the laneway so the sheep have more feed, lots of it actually, and a fresh water tub right near their shady area. You’d think they’d be grateful. Helpful even. This is, after all, an inconvenience for me, because I now have to stop and open a gate every time I leave the property and when I return. As do visitors.

Unfortunately these same sheep have discovered the joys of  dropped fruit from my nectarine and plum trees (thank you again birds). This means the minute I open the gate to drive through it they’re racing through it to get back to the fruit trees, in the paddock with no other feed. It’s hot work in 40 plus temperatures chasing sheep out of paddocks and back into the laneway, especially ones that don’t really know what’s best for them.

So, my decision today is to find some ringlock (wire fencing) and block off my house yard so the sheep can move down the lane and around the house and hopefully be content! I feel what will happen is they’ll get divided and spend the entire night calling to each other to make sure they’re not lost….I do love the sounds of nature in the mountains. Really. I do.

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Birdsong

It’s a beautiful thing to be woken up to the sounds of a couple of crows singing out their joy as they find, and start to demolish, the not-yet-ripe fruit on my nectarine tree in the backyard.

There’s such a small window of opportunity whereby I can eat the fruit straight from the tree and it’s both crunchy and sweet (some would say not ripe, but that’s how I love it!), maybe a week, tops. And it’s not like I don’t mind sharing, I’m happy for them to have up to half the load on the tree, but they don’t seem content with that. Just a couple more days, that’s all I’m asking….is that unreasonable?

At least there are 3 nectarine trees so my chances are a bit better than with the cherry tree fruit. Not one cherry made it to my mouth this season….and in the 15 years the tree has been there only once have we ever had ANY cherries. Don’t get me wrong, the tree is laden, they start to colour – just a little red, maybe 2 weeks more and they’ll be ripe….and then in one day flocks of little birds descend and strip the tree of all fruit. The one exception was ten years ago when we sprayed the tree  with a product called Dter, supposedly safe and it did work (although timing is everything and if it rains in those two weeks prior it stops working). That year I bottled 16 large jars of cherries and ate about 2kg worth straight from the tree….sigh…not happy now about spraying anything on any food source or around my home or farm, so may have to think about netting the trees….but then I worry the little birds will get stuck in the tree, or won’t be able to eat the bugs for me….dilemma.

Oh well, for now I’ll just try and make the most of my short nectarine opportunity and hope they leave a few for me to enjoy. If there’s any left that actually get to ripen into soft fruit I’ll make some fruit leather…..but that’s only if I can convince the birds to share!

nectarine tree

A start

A recent guest suggested I start a blog, which I had thought about off and on but this last nudge pushed me over the edge….might be quite a lot of boring stuff, in which case you don’t have to read it!

Today it’s a good excuse to sit in front of the air conditioning. It’s cooled off a little since yesterday – after a week of above 40C temps (that’s over 100 F), today it’s only in the high  30s – just peeking under the 100 F. The dogs are flaked out on the floor just inside the front door, which at least stops the Willy Wagtails from stressing out about them outside near the two new fledglings they’re feeding.

While bushfires have been (and still are) a major concern in many parts of Victoria, we’ve been lucky – although last night the smoke from both the Benambra fires and the one at Jingellic did finally impact here with the smell and haze. We’re in no danger. It does make the washing smell a bit smoky though, so another good excuse not to do that yet!

I might go and pinch another homemade raw organic chocolate from my fridge….but I used up the last of my ingredients making this batch so need to eke it out until I can get some more….can’t be without chocolate, that’s just not right.

I still have a bit more work to do before tea time when it’ll cool off enough to water the garden – until dark anyway, after that I’m not too sure about the location of tiger snakes so all walking outside on the grass stops until daylight 🙂