Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spring around the corner

This morning I went for a walk (yes, walk alas, not run), and it is the first day I can say spring is on its way. It was there in the way the trees are just starting to leaf, the warm breeze that had me taking off my jumper but mostly in the spring smell. What it is I can't pinpoint but there was a definite smell of spring in the air.
Sometimes I think I should rename this blog "Fruit Fly Follies", because once spring rolls around, it's on my mind. And then for the next few months it's ongoing guerilla warfare against the darn things.
The stone fruit is just coming into flower, so now is the time to start planning, because this year, I really, REALLY want to eat my own stone fruit. For the last two years, most of the fruit has gone straight into the bin (after leaving them in plastic bags in the sun for a week).
I mentioned my goal to Mick the Gardener who I hired to prune my seriously overgrown fruit trees a while ago. We agreed that because I have a number of non-resident neighbours with orchards, it is highly unlikely they are attending to their fruit fly. So whatever I do, I'll never get on top of them.
His suggestion was exclusion bags. Given that our trees are now a much more manageable size, they should be much easier to use. Sounds like a possibility. I wonder if anyone out there has used them? Did they keep the FF out? I would love to know.
If you're interested, here's the link he sent me to the greenharvest website.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Running roundup - Week 5

In my last running post, I wrote that I planned to repeat Week 5 of the running programme, which I did. Over the week I was gradually running a little more and walking a little less. Great! My last run was last Tuesday, though, because on Wednesday I woke up with a back twang so painful I had to knock back work - being a casual, I really have to be sick to give up work. I spent the day lying flat on my back, alternating cold and warm compresses, and taking painkillers. It was the worst back pain I've ever endured.
So now I'm not sure what to do. I don't run when my back hurts, and it never hurts during the run. But twice now, my back has gone into spasm 24 hours later. Mmm.
I'm wondering if my body is really suited to running. Should I go back to walking and try and build up some strength in my abdomen, before running again? (Actually I think that after year's of yoga, my core strength is pretty good) Or just forget about running.
Not sure about this one...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our lucky country

A couple of years ago, I went on a tour to Egypt, where I spent a lot of time grilling our very patient guide about Egyptian life.
Talk inevitably turned to politics.
"Do you have elections?" I asked.
He looked at me as if to say, you poor, naive person.
He told me that after many years of rule under Mubarak, and under some pressure from the US, the Egyptians had what was supposed to be a free and fair election. Except that somehow in his area the papers were marked, so it was possible to trace votes to people. And he had friends who were arrested and detained for not voting the right way.
"So yes there are elections, but better not to vote", he said.
So while here in Australia plenty of people bemoan the debasement of the election process to a policy auction, today as we go to vote, we need to remember we are exercising a right that plenty of people in this world don't have, or have only gained through violence and bloodshed.
Exercising the privilege to vote is an action that moves me to tears.
On Election Day 2010, let's give a cheer for democracy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Three new chooks

A rubbish photo, I know, but here are our three new chooks, presents from my dad recently (he raised them himself).
We started off by putting them in with the rest of the chooks, but despite our precautions, they found themselves at the rough end of the pineapple, especially from the Muscovy duck. So, Action Man got himself in gear and finished off the chicken tractor that had been languishing in the shed since last year, and they are now happily ensconced there (except when they are out and about flinging mulch around).
The downside of this arrangement is that these chooks live out the back, while the "old" chooks live closer to the house, and are within sight of the chickens. The result is I'm not getting to "know" these chickens very well at all.
These chickens are doing the bulk of the egg-laying work around here now. In the "old" shed, we have three layers and a bantam, who are at least four years old, who probably lay 3-4 eggs between them a week.
My grandmother kept chickens all her life, here and in Italy, and she was pretty unsentimental about old birds - they made way for young chickens via the stockpot. But because I feel that our old girls are as much pets as layers, I'm totally against this idea. And so, we have an old chickens home, and have to bring in young birds to take up the slack. And I guess we'll have to get some more when these new birds become aged. They never talk about this dilemma is books about chicken keeping!
In other chooky news...this afternoon I was listening to an interview with a scientist who had won a Eureka Science Award for her work on chicken communication. Her thesis is that the chicken is by no means dumb, and has a complicated means of communicating to each other about their environment. I'm thinking, well, yes...that's kind of obvious to anyone who has spent any time around chooks. Maybe I should have written that thesis!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Loads of lemons

Growing stone fruit is such a sad saga around here, it's nice to be able to bang on about some fruit tree success! Our citrus trees - lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins and grapefruit - have been producing really well this year.
I've been busy seeing to the lemons. Above is the product of a "lemon session" I had last weekend. From left, lemon curd, limoncello, lemon and lime marmalade and preserved lemons. The recipes for the limoncello and marmalade are in the recipe list in the side bar. The marmalade is a bit - ahem - overcooked. It tastes good though!
This is the first batch of preserved lemon I've made, and I'm a bit unsure about it, maybe because I've never tasted preserved lemon, so I'm not sure what I'm aiming for. Still, you read about it a lot in Moroccan recipes, so I figure it was worth a go.
I've also been juicing lemons and freezing the juice in ice cube trays, and have frozen lemon slices for upcoming summer gin-and-tonics.
As for the oranges, mandarins and grapefruit, well they are eaten as is, although I've had to cultivate a taste for grapefruit to get through the volume.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Keep on running - Weeks 4 & 5

In my last running blog post, I was off the programme with back twangs, that had me shelving the running shoes until the back went back to normal.
That lasted 10 days. I returned to the programme, starting again at Week 4, and have now finished Week 5. I'm planning to repeat Week 5 in the upcoming week, mainly because I just feel my body needs it!
I am finding runs of longer than a kilometre a bit of a challenge . As soon as I hit the 1k mark, my legs seem to sieze up and not want to run any more.
I've been resorting to "positive affirmation" type stuff at this point- things like telling myself "I am running smoothly and easily" etc. etc. I still haven't run 1.5km straight, but am slowly getting there.
The other challenge is finding the time to run. This is my busiest time of year, workwise. I have very few "open" windows to run when I work, and I found this week they can easily close up, mainly with kids' activities - choir practice, doctor's appointments and the like.
In the next few weeks, though, as days become longer, early morning runs will be become a possibility. Even though I feel I get up early enough as it is (6.00am), some early morning starts will mean I can get my run done with before my time is at the mercy of work and family.
Last weekend, the City to Surf was run, a 14km run from Sydney city to Bondi. This year 80,000 people entered. I think I would like to make this a goal for next year. One year from 1km to 14km is doable, isn't it?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chickweed anyone?

Chickweed and a struggling lettuce seedling

Brrrr....I reckon it's been the coldest winter around here for years. This is what I base this observation on:

1. The temperature gauge in my car has only been over 15 degrees twice since the June long weekend, and regularly reads below 10.
2. We've had at least a dozen frosts, instead of the normal 1-2.
3. Nothing is growing. Normally I can keep growing lettuces at least through winter, but this year, they have steadfastly refused to grow.
4. At school I am keeping my coat on all day, inside and out.

In the vegie patch, I have just harvested the last cabbage. There is nothing left to pick beside parsley and a few leeks, so for the next few months until the spring plantings get going, I will be buying 98 per cent of our vegies ( we are still eating through the autumn pumpkins). Sigh.

One thing that is growing is chickweed (stellaria media). In Darina Allen's "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" she talks about eating chickweed, in salads, as a cooked green and in soup. At the moment I rip it up and give it to the chooks who seem to like it. I'm a bit wary though...has anyone else out there eaten chickweed? What did you think?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What did bower birds do before blue plastic?

Well, it's been a cold winter for these parts this year, but the wildlife around here is gearing up for spring.

The bower bird that lives just outside my bedroom window has been busy getting the bower ready. Bits of blue plastic (what did they do for blue before the invention of plastic I wonder?) and bits of lime green foliage.
Meanwhile - the election!
The other day, for the first time in my life, I was polled about my voting intentions. This came as a complete surprise to me as I don't live in a marginal seat, and as far as I could see, the only views that count in this election are those of swinging voters in marginal electorates.
The surprise to me in this poll was that I was given to opportunity to give reasons for my intentions, which the researcher took down verbatim. So, I didn't hold back, and let fly with everything I thought about both sides' policies. It was a lengthy interview!
Polls. To me they are a scourge, a dampener on any politician with a bit of long term vision. The current election campaign bears this out. No policy from either side that will scare the horses. Policies completely devoid of any leadership. Instead, both parties' policies feed on exactly what the polls tell them.
Whilst it was interesting to take part in a poll, you have to wonder what politics would be like if they didn't exist. Would the parties be free then to devise policies that they might think are right instead of popular?
While we are on the subject, wouldn't it be great if our politicians weren't career politicians, where the meaning of their existence is to win elections. If these people had lives and jobs to go to, they would be able to put out what they think is right as policy, and see what happens. If the policies don't fly, no matter - they have other options. Instead, we have people who have only ever been in politics, wouldn't have a clue about any other field except politics. And to do that, they have to dance to the polls' tune it seems.
This need to change, don't you think?