Thursday, January 27, 2011

Have you got your cyclone kit ready?

Here's hoping that modelling is incorrect, and that you have your cyclone kit ready... just in case...

This is for Townsville area Sunday evening.

Right-click and open the images in a larger screen view if you want to look at the data closely.

This is for Friday just south of Rockhampton.

Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope it all just goes away.

At the very least, you should have in your kit:

- at least 4 litres of water per person per day
- couple of good torches and a plentiful supply of batteries (not the rechargable ones in case power goes out)
- fully charged mobile phone
- at least $100 in cash in case the power goes out and ATMs and Eftpos is down, too
- at least 5 days of tinned meals for everyone
- long life milk
- staples like flour for damper/bread
- a full gas bottle for the bbq
- matches or bbq lighter
- change of clean clothes for at least 4 days
- full tank of fuel in your car
- emergency plan for in case of evacuation
- the phone numbers of your local SES, fire station, police station, power company etc
- plenty of pet or stock food and necessary leads/halters etc in case you have to take them with you or secure them

There are plenty of sites that list what you should store in your kit.  Everyone's needs can be different so work it out based on the basics.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Isn't she (he) lovely?

The Princess found this little fellow on the driveway this morning.

Isn't she (he?) so cute?

We're not sure, but we think it is a Frilled Neck Lizard.

We have an adult one that lives down in the creek paddock and it's stance is the same as this little one's.

We couldn't see any frills on this one, but if you look at the last photo you'll see something that looks like the beginnings of the frill.  That's what we think, anyway.

What do you think?

Look at how tiny she/he is!
Yeah!  Work that camera, baby!

Now, stare off into the distance, acting cool.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Orange Cake

We found this egg in the nesting box this morning.  It's the largest one we've had so far.

Normally the ladies lay eggs around 60-66g, so we celebrated by making a cake.

An orange cake from the CWA cookbook I borrowed from the library last week.

Cream 1/4 cup butter with 1 cup of sugar (I use Logicane, it gives it a grainier texture, so if you don't like it, use regular white sugar).

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.

Mix in 1/2 sifted cup of self-raising flour, the juice and rind of 1 orange, another half cup of sifted self-raising flour and 1 more egg.

(Try and remember to not grate down to the pith!)

Spoon into well greased cake pan of your choice.

If you like, wipe any mess off the edges of your pan.

Little Man chose not to.

Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or until cooked.

I use a gas oven with fan bake at 180 degrees celsius.

Then go and play games on the computer for your  allotted 30 minutes a day.

Forget about the cakes in the oven until mummy realises and takes them out for you and...


Orange patty cakes made by Little Man.


(even if they are a little bit burnt but made with a little boy's love)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shopping pleasures

My name is --- and I'm a Shopaholic.

There.  I said it.  It's sad but true.  Once a shopaholic always a shopaholic I say.

But times are a-changing.

I remember the days of my long-gone, misspent youth (and late teens, very early 20's), when I was carefree and had no regard for money.

It was not uncommon for me to blow $200 a week on clothes once I started my first  job.  But somehow I never managed to remember to pay board to my folks...

Now, fast-forward some years, and I realises it's not all about me anymore.  I've got The Groom and two children to think of.

I still love shopping for clothes, now it's mostly for the children, but my priorities have changed.  I want to save money.  I've got other things I'd rather put our money toward.

Like paying off our mortgage.  Saving up for our big holiday at the end of the year.  Building up our savings.  Having money in the bank to pay for future renovations - cash in hand.

Today, I had to go shopping.  I blame it on the horrid weather we've been having.

First we went to the library and borrowed heaps of books.  And I got two BookCrossing books for the Groom.  

Then The Princess, Little Man and I went op-shopping.

I bought two floral flannelette pillow cases for 80c each.  They were brand new!

I use white sheets, pillow cases, towels and face washers normally.  That way, if one wears out or gets torn or whatever, I don't have to worry about something not matching.

But I couldn't resist these pillow cases.  I'll use them on the bottom pillows as it's summer, but they're so pretty.

I also bought myself a pair of Levi's for $15 - they don't look like they've even been worn.

It also means I need to lose a kilo or two to avoid the 'muffin top' look (or maybe just wear a loose shirt over them instead).

My other purchases included 8 adult novels for $5, 4 children's books for $2 and two jackets and a pair of dressy trousers for The Princess that totalled around $10.

I've washed the pillow cases and they're on the verandah line, drying in front of the fan, so I can put them on my bed tonight.  

I'm pretty pleased with myself.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Days of rain and breezes

Today is a day of gentle breezes.

You can tell there's a storm coming again tonight, though.

The air has THAT feel to it.

It's a day for being outside and for cooking quiches for a cold dinner.

That's if they last long enough until dinner time!

Tonight's dinner is quiche with a mixed salad.

But don't tell Little Man it's quiche.

Tell him it's bacon and egg pie.

He doesn't like vegetables.  Or quiche.  Or salad for that matter.

Then watch where you walk when you go outside to feed the chickens.

This is a wasp nest built on a low hanging branch next to the fence at the chicken yard.

It's got to come down.  Paper wasp stings are very painful.

I waited until there were none around and then sprayed it with wasp killer spray.

Inside there are little grub-like things that I presume are babies.

I really don't like spraying with chemicals but if there's a chance one of us will get stung, then a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I think it's going to rain again soon.

There's thunder in the distance and the air has that, well, feeling about it.

That reminds me, I've got to get myself a new rain gauge.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I have a confession to make

I still have not put away the Christmas tree or decorations.

Maybe I can later pass them off as Easter decorations?

But I'd have to take down the Christmas cards that are hanging around on tinsel and fairy lights in the windows.

That'd give me away I think.

Even the solar lights in the tree out the front and over the old tractor are still blinking merrily away.

And you know what, I don't give a hoot.

I love it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rain rain go away...

I'm sure that by now anyone reading this would have heard about the flooding that is happening in Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria.  And the bush fires in Western Australia.

I've got family in the south east of Queensland, Western Australia as well as Victoria.  Fortunately, they are all well and safe and relatively unaffected, which I am thankful for.  I look at a lot of the images in Brisbane and recognise places as where I worked, had friends, hung out, shopped, travelled to.  It is sad and breaks my heart.  As for Victoria, I don't have family in the currently affected areas, nor in W.A.  I have online friends in some of those areas, some of whom we are yet to hear from.  Naturally, they would have more pressing issues to worry about than online friends, so my thoughts are with them and I hope they are safe and well.

As for us in the Northern parts of Queensland, we have a tropical low forming and there is a cyclone way out to sea.  Hopefully we will be spared heaps of rain.  The ground is sodden enough as it is.

On a brighter note, the amount of rain we've had so far has given us an insight into the lay of the land here.  This is our first wet season at the new house, so it's interesting to see where water flows or collects.  I've learned that the chicken yard holds more water than I originally thought it did.  Much of this water flows from the neighbour's property, we have to design some kind of drainage along the fence to channel the water away.  It'd be a bit rude of us to demand of the neighbours they alleviate the problem when they've been there a lot longer than we have and it was us who decided to place the chicken yard where it is.

The vegetable garden is right beside the chicken yard and that is holding water in places, too.  Eventually that will have raised beds so rotting roots shouldn't be too much of an issue.  I'm just concerned about mosquitoes breeding in puddles.  The Groom has been ringing around places that make plastic water tanks looking for seconds or faulty ones so he can cut them down into smaller rings and use as raised beds.  So far, no luck.  I got offered some older ducklings yesterday which I would love to have for in the vegetable yard, but that would mean we'd have to fence it to keep them safe from the dogs.  The dogs are fascinated enough as it is by the chickens, so free-ranging ducks wouldn't fare well!

This morning the children and I raked out the hay on the chicken house floor (after all the rain we've had it's getting a bit smelly and yucky) and threw it outside in low piles.  I also emptied all of the shredded newspaper out of the nesting box and threw that out too.  Wearing a dust mask left over from demolishing the bathroom, and some latex gloves, I sprinkled lime all over the floor, nesting box and perches.  The chickens have been scratching; I can't see if they have mites or lice, so I thought I'd play it safe and lime anyway.  It was suggested to me by a breeder, but they didn't tell me how much to use!  I erred on the side of caution and sprinkled a light layer over the floor.  Hopefully that's enough.  Then once that was done, I raked over the piles of hay and paper outside to mix it up a bit, put it all back in the chicken house and then threw more new and clean hay on top to build up the floor.  The floor has had puddles in it from the rain, so I guess I'll have to do this every couple of weeks until the wet season ends.  If you have chickens and think I'm doing it wrong, please let me know what you do.  

While I was doing the hard work and sweating rivers (at 10am in stifling humidity), Little Man and The Princess stopped working to watch Ginger lay an egg in the pile of new hay.  We've watched sea turtles lay eggs before, so they knew what to expect, but they were still amazed as how wet the egg looked when Ginger stood up.  We waited a respectful minute or two after she left her 'nest' before collecting the egg.  It wouldn't pay to accidentally step on her gift to us now, would it?  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From their own two hands

Ta Daaaaaa!

Yesterday Little Man and The Princess wanted to make a cake.

Not just any old ordinary vanilla cake. No sir-eee.

This had to be the Franken-cake of all cakes.

I was booted out of the kitchen and they did everything.

Measuring, mixing, adding, pouring, turning on of oven etc.
And this is what they presented me with...


It has green, blue and yellow food coloring in it.

There was also one cup of shredded coconut and one cup of chocolate chips.

The only thing they forgot to do was grease the cake tin.

I had to cut the cake in the tin and use the spatula to lift it out.

That's why it looks rather messy.

But it tasted okay... if you like lots of coconut...

Well done my little ones!

Now, all I have to do is show you how to make a roast lamb and vegetables and then I'll be set!

Monday, January 10, 2011

From little things...

Big things grow.

I love that song.

Saturday night's dinner consisted of an odd-assortment of treasures found in the freezer.

I'm trying to do the $21 Challenge at the moment. I'm not perfect at it (I keep forgetting to cross items off my inventory as I go, or adding to them when I buy new items), but I'm doing okay. Let's just say my last grocery bill was a little bit less than previous ones.

In my freezer I found a packet of sausages, two packets of chicken kebabs (6 in each of two flavours) and a packet of Spanish Mackeral that The Groom caught a week or so ago. So we had them all for dinner with some salad.

There was enough left over for lunch the next day so I used up some of the fish with some cooked frozen mixed vegetables and mashed potato and made fish cakes for afternoon tea yesterday.

They were delicious and I had some thousand island dressing in the fridge as a dipping sauce.

There's even leftover mix to make more today! They'll be for dinner, I think.

After fish cakes yesterday, Little Man decided it was time to relax in the hammock.

Lucky him. He didn't have to clean up the mess in the kitchen!

I'm still working on the chicken yard.

It's a bit wet there at the moment. We've had rain almost everyday this year so far.

Sometimes it's about 100ml, usually it's 10ml.

Yesterday, after this photo was taken we had a good bit of rain. Some suburbs got 60-odd ml, we only got 14ml (my apologies to those who are still waiting for any rain at all, let alone decent falls). After the rain passed I threw in heaps more straw from the big bale outside the chicken yard to try and soak things up and give the ladies something to scratch around in.

I have old security screens laid on angles against things to provide shade and shelter from eagles. I move these around every now and then for variety. The plastic packing pellet and screen to the right of the photo pretty much stays in the same area though; the grass is very lush there and the chickens love laying in the long grass.

I've hung the hand line reel in the tree for fun. It was what The Groom used to string fishing line along the top of the 'roof' of the yard to hopefully keep the eagles and hawks from getting the chickens. You can't see it but it's to the right of the white bird netting.

There's plenty of shade from the trees, too, but the afternoon sun comes in from behind where I took the photo - enough to dry out any wet patches in the chicken house, but still keeping parts of the yard shady.

I've got some bread pallets and milk crates laying around to give them something to stand on it the ground is too wet, or I use them to allow the grass to grow without them getting at it. We've had so much rain lately I haven't had to worry about saving grass for them - they're refusing to eat kitchen scraps as there's so much grass, weeds and bugs already.

In the yard I have got planted a bush lemon seedling, a pigeon pea (there were three, but the rain has killed two plus the native mulberry seedling), three rosella seedlings and a little container of comfrey. They're all inside wire cages. On the outside, near the back of the yard, I planted a young passionfruit against the mesh fence. It will provide more shade for them eventually.

This is Augusta, she's my favourite. She's really sweet and the others pick on her a bit.

She's a real 'lady' who carries herself well.

Her only 'vice' is that she loves to peck at the holes in my crocs. She must think my toes are worms or something.

This is Ginger (a.k.a Chicken Wing). She came from a neighbour's flock and along with her 'sister', Morgan, is downright evil. Morgan and Ginger are relaxing away from the terror of their rooster, so they look a bit scruffy with missing or torn feathers. They gang up on my two store-bought ladies and are quick to let the girls do the hard work of scratching up tasty morsels then racing in and picking them up for themselves.

They grew up free-ranging so the chicken yard must be a bit of a novelty (or frustration) for them.

This is the lovely Maude. She has been sick lately but now she's doing better. She was rather listless, gurgly and off her food. She had a runny nose and sneezing. I was worried it was something serious but she's picked up and on the mend.

She also picked on Augusta, but since being sick she is nice to her. These two have been inseparable and the reason why I couldn't isolate Maude during her illness.

Yesterday we found this really tiny egg in the chicken house.

The ladies are not all laying, I think it's just the free-range girls who are laying right now. I know Maude and Augusta have laid, they each laid normal sized eggs the day after we got them.
I know that Morgan and Ginger are laying, we've seen them, but they're laying on the straw on the ground under their perch. Morgan sleeps in the laying box. I think Maude has gone off the lay since being sick, and I'm not sure about Gussie. We're only getting two eggs a day at the moment.

Anyhoo, this egg was tiny. The shell was hard and bumpy and had the tiniest yolk inside when I opened it. The white was firm and intact. I let the dogs eat it.

Today, we're back to two normal sized eggs.

The Princess collected the first egg this morning; Little Man brought in the second egg about 1/2 and hour ago.

Hopefully there are more to come... Little Man wants to bake cakes!

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's a procrastinating kind of day

I think it's the heat and humidity.

I don't really feel like doing much at all.

I'm waiting for the online shopping van to arrive with my groceries - what's there of them anyway. Supermarket stocks are running low because of flooding down south cutting highways, therefore supplies of almost everything. And because of the inability to get stock Woolies has cancelled all delivery charges for their online shopping customers until January 15th. That's a bonus for me as it means I can get my delivery sooner, rather than find a delivery window that is free (it would have been Saturday between 1pm and 7pm otherwise). I had an email from the supermarket saying they were out of a couple of items on my order, but it isn't anything I desperately need and can't go without. It's silly how most of the produce grown here has to travel back to Brisbane before coming back up here to go on the supermarket shelves.

Anyway, I have hung out two loads of washing today, fed the dogs and chickens and that's pretty much it. I started to clear off the kitchen benches to clean them all down, then got sidetracked by checking email, reading the paper online and my blog. You can tell how interested I am in cleaning the benches, can't you!

After the groceries are delivered and put away I need to go and buy a new rake, bird netting and some shadecloth off-cuts if I can find them. It's all for the chicken yard. We've had so much rain their straw in their house is going all yucky and I don't have a rake anymore to moosh it up with.

Maude, one of the girls, is a bit sick. She's a bit gurgly in her breathing and has a bit of a wet nose. Last night when I put them to bed, she was sneezing. She has been a bit quiet and not eating much and when you pick her up she sounds croaky when she makes her noises. I'm hoping it's just a cold and nothing more serious.

I've been told to isolate her but haven't yet. I've laid down straw in the old aviary, made a nesting box and put in an old tree branch for a perch, but haven't gotten around to putting her in yet. She's a lot perkier this morning, still a bit gurgly. None of the girls have laid an egg for the past couple of days, though. My neighour said hers are not laying as much either and it's probably because it's been so hot. Maude perks up in the afternoon, though, so I'm hoping it's just too hot for her. But it doesn't explain the sneezing etc.

The owls are still in the tree and they watch intently when the dogs wrestle and play in the shade. I wave to them and say a big 'hellllooooo' to them and they look back at me with their huge yellow eyes. The magpies are back, too. Normally the follow the mower around but they weren't there the other day when I mowed. Maybe it was because the sea eagles were there instead.

It's too hot. I haven't even been bothered to take down the Christmas lights, tree and decorations either. I think there are snakes in the tree out the front where some lights are, so I'll leave those for later. That's my story anyway.

I think I shall go and clean the benches down now. And I suppose while I'm at it, clean the microwave, too. The delivery van has until midday to get here so I'll need a tidy bench before then.

Aaah, the joys of a tropical summer!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yesterday was a lovely, sunny day.

A perfect day to get out and mow the last 2.5 acres.

And get the ride-on mower bogged in the spot where the grey water pipe ends.

And watch the two sea eagles fly around hoping for tasty morsels the mower unearthed.
(and make sure they don't spend too long flying over the chicken yard!)

I can't wait until the wet season is over and the ground dries up enough to get machinery in to dig the trench that will eventually connect the pipe to the pit to collect the grey water.

The owls are back.

They are there in the trees in the morning and just as it gets dark in the evening, the silently fly off into the night.

All sort of weird and wonderful bugs are coming out of nowhere.

Monday night brought 100mls of rain with it.

And a large green frog in the rain gauge.

Surely we haven't had that much rain that the frogs are trying to escape from it?

I discovered new star fruit forming amongst the leaves on the bush.

There was fruit on it when we moved in here in March.

I managed to have one - the birds ate the rest.

Bird netting is on my list of things to buy now.

And a new rake. The last plastic one perished.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A lovely start to the new year

How spoilt are we - two long weekends in a row!

Which means that The Groom has been home with us and we've had some breaks in the weather to get some things done around the house and yard.

And I've had a chance to get out and do some photography. I'm keeping a pictorial record of changes we're making/made, as well as where water sits and flows.

The picture below is of some fungi I found at the back creek fence. A tree was growing where the new fencing wire had to go; originally all the fences were barbed wire and not suitable for children or dogs! This is near where I have found a baby curlew once before, so I often wander down and peek into the grasses for any fluffy bundles.

I love the orchids on the rain trees. It's a shame one of the trees is riddled with borer and needs to be removed. I'm still trying to work out where I will transplant the orchids and stag/elk horn ferns that are growing on it. And I shall miss the beautiful shade the tree throws (but not the mosquitos it harbours).

We have finally got the chicken yard finished. There are old cut down power poles as fence posts and half of the yard is surrounded by mesh as high as the posts go. Then there is fishing line zig-zagged across the top to form a 'roof' and closer to the chicken house is some bird netting off-cut. The rest of the yard has mahogany trees growing in it for shade, and hopefully, protection from flying predators.

We've now got four Isa Browns (two are crosses from a neighbour's flock). They're named Maude, Augusta, Ginger and Morgan. In 3 days we've collected 3 eggs. So far, so good. We were going to be given some young birds but they're still too small and would easily slip through the fencing wire. We'll wait for them to get bigger before receiving them.
This ant was on the fencing wire. We don't know what it is, but there were a couple of them around and we've never seen them before.

New Year's Day brought us four owls in the rain tree outside the back verandah - the one that must be cut down. They stayed there all day, watching us come back and forth from the chicken yard as we were building it. I joked they were watching us prepare dinner for them! We haven't seen them since they flew off that night. I think they are barking owls.

I wonder what else the new year will bring?

I know it will shortly bring rain - I can hear the thunder getting closer and the sky is darkening. I should check for more eggs (one already this morning) and then sit down and eat the tuna salad The Princess has just made us for lunch. Yum!