Monday, May 30, 2011

Experimental Monday

[Rewinding this one at 'And then there were four' because everything in it looks so delicious, and it's about peas, coriander and quinces, which are just a few of my most favourite things to eat.]

I hearby declare yesterday to be Experimental Monday (whether it's a stand-alone day, or a repeated one I am yet to decide).
On Sunday, on our drive out to the rose nursery, MIL, SP and I passed a number of places selling local produce. Naturally, we stopped at one and picked up a bag of cheap quinces, locally grown kiwifruit (a rarity!), some apples, and some very cheap persimmons. Oh, and a little frangipane tart, yummo!
Yesterday, D and I thought we'd try experiment #1 with the quinces. What if, we wondered, what if we cooked them in the slow cooker? We used the same recipe as last time, D washed them popped them into the slow cooker - whole! I was aghast! Until he told me that's how they did them at work and they were easy to peel afterwards, hmmm, ok, we'll see...

We covered them with the rest of the ingredients, the water, the fragrant spices, the sticky honey and sugar...

And then we went out, to our own house so D could help with the digging for the plumbing (becoming an interminable job, I'll not go on about it!) SP fell asleep in the car on the way over, so I was able to get loads of weeding done (I covered way more ground in weeding than the boys did in digging). The pea-straw peas were starting to take over and swamp everything, and there were lots of pea pods on them, so I thought it was time to pull them up. I ate a few of the peas (Experiment #2) and I thought they were OK, if a bit small. I got D to try one, and he declared it 'a bit bitter, ' but then he ate a few more and thought they were edible enough.
So we cleared all the pea-straw from the ground, stripped off the peas and then brought them home.

They were washed, and we tossed them whole into tonight's Green Curry (Experiment #3)

Along with masses of coriander straight out of MIL's garden.

And our curry was delicious (in Thai, "a raawy maa") So the verdict is in: Pea-straw peas are perfectly edible. I think the key is to pick them before they get too fat because then they're kind of hard and woody. Better to eat them whole, a bit like snow peas (this is also less work than shelling them!)
Then, back to our quince dessert, which by this point has filled the entire house with the most fabulous scent.

The skin had cracked open and begun to peel back, so once they were cool enough to touch I got going taking it off. And was it 'easy'? Erm... no. In my carefully considered opinion, peeling and coring cooked quinces is a bit of a bitch, and a messy one at that. Why I ended up doing it, instead of my chef who suggested it, is a bit of a mystery. But do they cook well in a slow cooker? They certainly do! It's a very easy way to prepare quinces, which is a bit of a time-consuming business, just peel and core them first to save sticky swear words flying all over your kitchen.
Eat, as usual, with cream and icecream.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rose wish list

I like roses. It's not very green of me, but I can't help it. It must be something in my European blood that says, 'here is a rose, you will like it.' (I like to say 'European', because it sounds better to me than 'English.' Four hundred years ago some of my family was French, I'll take it!) The love of roses is a bit like the way I like cats even though they are so environmentally devastating. My most favourite roses are David Austins, and of those I love the pale pinks, the yellows, the 'latte' colours. I chose all these colours when D and I married, and even after six years I still sigh over our cake and bouquet photos. Those are some of the colours I would like in our front garden.

Today, MIL and I went for a drive out to a rose nursery in the nearby countryside. To say we were impressed is an understatement. There were thousands of plants. Thousands and thousands of them. Even though most of them had a very 'end of season' unkempt and shabby air, there were still enough flowers to get an idea. In summer that place must be amazing. I loved all the names, the romantic 'Careless Love', the fun 'Cherry Vanilla' and the slightly silly 'Daily Mail Scented'. I wondered who 'Mme Kriloff', and 'Lillie Marlene' were, and in what way was was Jude Obscure? My favourite ground cover roses were 'The Grouse' and 'The Partridge'. And how about the species roses 'Fruhlingsduft' and 'F.J. Grootendorst'; now there's some names with oomph! But, I'm sorry, I think 'Crepuscule' is a terrible name for a rose. I cannot look at it without mentally changing to 'Crap-pustule,' which conjures up all sorts of images.
Anyway, we picked up a copy of their catalogue - it's 60 pages long, and there are no pictures - and I've been browsing through it and making my rose wish list. I'm going to have to rein in my list at some point, try to get it under 30 varieties for a start, but it's fun to dream for now. Top of the list, and unlikely to fall off because they have been favourites for a long time, are:
[all following photos are from]

Graham Thomas (David Austin rose)

Jude the Obscure (David Austin rose)

William Morris (David Austin rose)

St Cecelia (David Austin rose)

Strawberry Hill (David Austin rose)

and lastly, Julia's Rose (Hybrid Tea rose) (photo from:, this, by the way, is a beautiful site to look at rose photos)


A garden for birds

I have been trying to photograph the Firetails that hang out just outside the kitchen window. Firetails are small, very fidgety birds, and needless to say, none of my pictures so far have been particularly fabulous. There are a couple of bird feeders outside the window, and they skitter into them, and skip about the wires, and scatter the seed into the violets below (there's a bit of alliteration for you!). Then they jump about in the undergrowth looking for the lost seeds.

They like to hang out in the fuchsia patch, the shrubbery gives them good protection and a safe roost. They don't actually nest here, I've never seen a nest anyway, but they must stay nearby somewhere since they are 'largely sedentary' (according to the link above).

Lorikeets have been visiting the bird feeding stations too. This photo is the best I could do. It's not such a bad shot of the feeding post, the hydrangeas and azaleas and the senescent wattle trees, but click on the photos and you'll see a larger version with brightly coloured blurs that represent the birds.

When I mentioned the bird feeders to a guy I worked with briefly a few years ago, an Uber-Greenie I didn't particularly like - unusual for me, since I like almost everybody - he smugly told me we shouldn't feed the birds but only provide water. To that I say, 'Sod You.' If birds come into our garden it seems only fair to me that we provide something for them to eat, since we've not left much natural habitat for them out beyond the fencelines.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crafting update

As Winter closes in, crafting increases. I have been industriously knitting the cot quilt WIP and I think it's finally big enough. All the rows are stitched together, but I haven't yet tidied up all the loose threads. I am contemplating teaching myself to crochet from You Tube videos so I can make a bit of a border for it. Maybe. The irony is, since I started knitting the cot quilt several months ago, I don't think SP has slept in her cot more than once or twice! Still, I think she likes it anyway!

Another WIP, the front garden design, is nearing completion too. I am reasonably happy with it. I need to sit on it for a while and think about it.

And finally, not a WIP but craft related... I have finally sold a kid's quilt on Etsy! This green beauty will be winging it's way to the UK shortly.

Happy cold weather crafting, folks!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's Mr T!

So I have been working on a drawing of our front garden, and got to the stage of needing to rub things out, but all of my drawing gear is at our house so I didn't have an eraser to hand. So I went into the study (The Den of Chaos) and scrabbled through the drawer labelled in texta, in child's handwriting of 20 years ago, 'Useful Things', and there was only one eraser in there. And it was Mr T. I couldn't make this up if I tried...

"Everything started as a dream. You gotta have insight, know what you want. You gotta have a plan. Like I tell anybody, if you fail to plan, you're planning to fail. I've been planning ever since I was a youngster..."

Mr. T

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Native plants in the front garden.

Yesterday I got chatting with someone about Australian native plants, and they asked me what I had in my garden. I rattled off about a dozen names and they looked a bit impressed, but as I went away I kept turning the names over in my mind and thought of a few others, and then last night, at 11:30pm in bed, I got up again and found pen and paper and wrote out my list, coming up with about twenty-five species. Then I've referred to past posts in this blog and found some more, but I still think there are a few more I've forgotten. I'm going to have to go out there and look and find my little box of labels. My feelings on native plants are these: I think it's very important that we plant these species in our garden. I think, where possible, we should be planting indigenous or provenance species - IE those that are native to our area, not just our country - to provide food and shelter, safe havens, for native animals and plants and to maintain local biodiversity. However, I'm also a realist, and I have a love of many, many plants, an awful lot of which are introduced. I also think it's important to plant lots of food plants so you can eat produce from your own garden. And then, of course, we want to have good looking gardens as well. So many functions our gardens should fill! My own garden is becoming a human food garden, I intend to squeeze in as many food plants as I can. In the gaps, I'm planting native plants, many of which are indigenous. I'm also trying to use native species to provide structure, such as my Lomandra border. I'm trying to have it all! So, apologies for the boring post, but I'm going to use this as a bit of record keeping. All of these plants are in the front garden and most of them are ground covers (* for indigenous species).

So, as at 24-05-2011, this is what I have out there (31 plants in total)

(Wherever possible, I'll pop in a link to information but not to plants for sale, links are a work in progress)

Grasses, rushes, strappy leaved plants etc

  1. Anigozanthus flavidus, Kangaroo paw 'firelight'
  2. Poa poiformis*, Coastal Tussock Grass
  3. Juncus usitatus, Common Rush
  4. Lomandra longifolia ‘Chewton Grey
  5. Lomandra longifolia, unnamed variety
  6. Xanthorrhea quadrangulata*, grass tree/yacca
  7. Isolepis nodosa*, Knobby Club Rush
  8. Poa australis, Blue Tussock Grass.
  9. Dianella sp*, Flax lilies
  10. Arthropodium strictum*, Chocolate Lily

Small Shrubs and Groundcovers

  1. Correa (likely hybrid of Correa reflexa and C. pulchella) 'Dusky Bells'
  2. Correa pulchella, ‘Autumn blaze’
  3. Hibbertia sp*, Guinea flower, ground cover
  4. Swainsona formosa, Sturt's desert pea, ground cover
  5. Eremophila glabra 'Rottnest Emu Bush' (Red form).
  6. Eremophila maculata compacta (Red form).
  7. Melaleuca fulgens 'CF Payne'.

8. Goodenia amplexans*, Clasping Goodenia

9. Goodenia ovata, Prostrate form of the Hop Goodenia.

10. Goodenia albiflora*, White Goodenia

11. Scaevola albida*, Small-fruited Fan Flower

12. Eremophila glabra, 'Kalbarri Carpet'

13. Grevillea lavendulacea* (Victor Harbour form)

14. Kennedia prostrata*, Running Postman

15. Kunzea pomifera, Muntries (edible fruits)

16. Rhagodia sp, Alpine Everlasting Daisy


  1. Dodonea viscosa*, Sticky Hop bush


1. Clematis microphylla*, . Old Man's Beard
2. Hardenbergia voliacea*, Native lilac or Happy Wanderer


  1. Rubus parvifolis*, native raspberry, small cane plant (edible fruit)
  2. Pelagonium australe*, Native stork’s bill

And what's a post without a picture? Instead of showing you a plant or ten, instead I'll show you a picture of the notebook I wrote my list in. Why? Because I bought it some time back, at an infamous, recently bankrupted, multinational bookshore, because I fell in love with the picture on the cover. It's called 'Happy Titta,' from the'Magic Soup' and published by the Pandaisy Corporation. It pretty much sums up how I feel about plants :)

PS. I must apologise also for the font and formatting issues. Blogger is not cooperating today!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Late autumn garden

This morning, at 9am, it was already as dark as dusk. The wind had whipped and wailed around the garden all night, and it was very wet and squally. A whole tree has fallen down over the road about two houses down from us; we saw it in chain-sawed pieces this morning, roped off with plastic safety tape. The garden was best admired through the big glass sliding doors, sitting in front of the heater, with cup of tea in hand. Luckily for us, I got out there the other day and took a few Autumn happy snaps. There is so much going on, loads of colour, but it's easy to miss when you'd rather be curled up inside in the warm.

There are the inevitable and irresistable Autumn leaves on the trees;

There are flourescent orange berries;

The magnolia fruits are splitting open, revealing cherry red and glossy seeds inside.

The hydrangeas are fading, their veins showing like spider's webs.

The feijoas are swelling and I think we'll be eating them soon. There are loads this year!;

There are thyme flowers, miniature roses, pelagoniums, and snowbells;

and SP is particularly taken with the glorious Tibouchina, sitting on the grass amid it's scattered royal purple petals and the leaves dropped from the ornamental pears above.


The last of the windflowers

I love Japanese windflowers. There is a large patch of white ones right outside the kitchen window. They are the most lovely flowers, swaying on long stems and somewhat serene. I have been meaning to write a post about windflowers throughout all of Autumn and yet I never got around to it, and now, in the kitchen patch, there is only one white windflower left. Given the way the wind is whipping and screaming around the hills today, sending not just twigs but entire branches flying, I don't expect the last lonely windflower to be there by the end of the day. But here it is, in perpetuity.

There are a few more pink windflowers left up in the back of the garden, but they're looking a little shabby and worse for wear at the tail end of the season.

But even though the flowers have gone, there remains dozens upon dozens of pea-sized fruiting bodies dancing in the wind.

All that, from all this. Beautiful.

I'll leave you on this stormy Sunday with some photos I've taken of these graceful anemones throughout the season.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In lust with a tall, dark and mysterious stranger...

I met someone very sexy down at the native plant nursery today, and I even got to take a picture (what did we do in the days before camera phones?)

That, my friends, is 'Vintage Red.' The world's first red eucalypt, and I want him. I want him bad. It's a cultivar of the Sugar Gum, Eucalyptus cladocalyx (and grafted onto the same rootstock).The next photo is not from me, but look how beautiful the leaves are. ~SIGH~
(Photo by Lucy_W)

Unfortunately, I don't think I can have this tree. Or, I could, but it would probably be a bad idea. The key word in 'tall, dark and mysterious' is 'tall'. These trees grow between 6-20m tall. If I got lucky with a 6m adult tree I'd be laughing, but I can't guarantee buying a shortie. It's also prohibitively expensive for this stay-at-home-mum at almost $80 for the smallest treeling.

Fortunately, I've discovered that this tree has a smaller cousin: Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark,' the Willow Myrtle. Isn't he cute?!

Growing to 10m maximum (or 6m, depending on which site I read!), with a very pretty weeping habit, I think this tree might be more up my alley, and I have just the place for one, or two, or three of them right up the back of our yard. And they start at about $15. Wonderful!
(This photo by Melissa Gale)