Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Our house sits on the land of a former dairy, and abuts crown land on one side. We have a fair bit of wildlife. Snakes in summer, especially. Frogs and lizards. Turtles. Wallabies. Rabbits, hares and foxes (too many of them unfortunately). Tons of birds. And the occasional echidna, like this one.
This one was found a few metres from the back door last week. I knew it was there because Dash was going absolutely ballistic. It was his first ever echidna, and he didn't know what to make of it. He must have gone in for the nip before I got there, because he knew not to go near it. He just barked and barked. Meanwhile the echidna was doing its best to burrow into the dirt.
Even though Dash wasn't getting near him, the din of his barking must have been pretty traumatic, so I dragged the dog inside, and crossed my fingers that the echidna would move on. It did, but hung around the house for a few days.  Dash would erupt into barking at intervals and I would know that he had found the echidna. So I would drag him inside and tell the echidna to move on. Eventually it did because Dash hasn't had a barking fit for a while now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken Bake

Here's an easy dinner that is a bit of a family favourite - every likes this one, and I like it especially because it requires minimum effort from me. Fifteen minutes on the stove, then into the oven for an hour, and dinner's done.
 I often serve this if we are having other families for dinner. The ingredients aren't too spooky for most kids' tastes, but it is tasty enough to appeal to adults too. Also it is easy enough to double the ingredients and cook it in two roasting dishes.
I've been cooking this for a few years now, and honestly can't remember where I found the original recipe - maybe Australian Good Taste?
Also, there is normally a bit more sauce with this dish, but for some reason I went light on with the liquid in this instance. Don't ask me why.

Mediterranean Chicken Bake

8 -10 chicken pieces (I normally joint a whole chicken)
Olive oil
1 kg potatoes (I normally use chat potatoes, halved, leaving the skins on)
2 sprigs rosemary
3-4 chopped tomatoes
Olives - according to taste - for me the more the better
1/2 cup dry white wine (water will do)
Salt and pepper

Turn your oven on to 180 degrees C.
(If you have a roasting pan that can be used on the stove, use this. Otherwise use a frypan and transfer ingredients to a roasting dish.).
Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil over a medium heat. Brown off the chicken pieces, transfer to a bowl.
Heat a couple more glugs of olive oil, then add the potatoes and toss around to brown them as well.
Turn the heat off. Return the chicken to the roasting pan. Scatter with rosemary (I don't normally bother chopping as I like the rustic look of whole rosemary leaves, but you can chop if you wish), chopped tomatoes and olives.
Pour over the wine or water. Season with salt and pepper and bake for about an hour. Check during cooking and if it seems a little dry, add a bit more liquid. Do as I say, not as I do.

Sometimes I'll tear up some sourdough bread or turkish bread and add this to the pan for the last 20 minutes.

Serve with salad and/or steamed vegetables.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bread needs yeast

Bread needs yeast. Really, it does, unless you like bread that can double as a house brick.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Crazy weather

Thanks for the feedback on my gardening dilemma. I think I'll go the green manure after all, and give broad beans a try. Tracy, you are right, a garden is a good substitute for the gym - better in fact. I take your point, too, africanaussie, about mulch. I did have mulch on the garden, but obviously not enough. I have prunings in a pile that could be turned into mulch too. Truth is though, I am scared of our mulcher.

As I have mentioned before, we had an unusually cool, wet summer in these parts. But this May has so far been the driest in 130 years. Last week we had a run of beautiful days in the high 20s. So while I am contemplating pruning the grape vines this winter, the vines have gone off and pushed out new growth only about 3 months too early.
Actually, Action Man is still cogitating on whether to pull out the grape vines altogether. They do require a fair bit of attention - pruning, netting, and constant spraying in summer. And for the last three years, all the effort has amounted to nothing, as very wet summers have spoiled the grapes well before they can be harvested.
Should they stay, and we persevere, or should we declare grapes a failed experiment and get on with stuff that might yield results?
What do you think?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My gardening shame

Ever wonder what happens when you pay your vegie patch no mind while you go away for 5 or six weeks? This picture may give you an idea.
It's an absolute jungle up there. In the foreground you can see a mint bush that threatens to take over. Why, why, why, did we ever plant mint in the vegie patch? The darn thing just won't go away, and spends its life waiting for opportunities like this to insinuate itself everywhere. There are also basil bushes gone to seed which I think I'll save, and radicchio as well (actually, this has quite a pretty flower).
Elsewhere its a mess of tomato bushes dying off, dock, chickweed (I have read this is edible - if anyone can verify this, it would be appreciated!), dandelions, kikuyu. Only the rhubarb is in good nick.
Since taking this photo, I've started to clean the patch up. I have to admit, it is slow going, and at the moment seems a bit like climbing Everest. There are just so many weeds!
The other thing is that I'm not sure what I'll do once the weeds are removed. Being May, it's too late to sow winter veg, and too early to sow summer veg. I need to get some garlic in though. Apart from that, I thought I would sow some green manure seeds - but then I read Peter Cundall on the subject, and he warned against too much nitrogen, especially for plants like tomatoes. Our tomatoes this past summer were not a big success - part of that was the crazy weather, I'm sure. But we got lots of leafy growth, so maybe I shouldn't go the green manure. Confused? Yep, so am I!

The question is - green manure or not? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back blogging

No, I didn't fall into a blogging abyss. I've been away with the family for the entire month of April, returning last Friday.
I had all sorts of plans to write posts for automatic upload while we were away, but hey, in the general craziness of preparing to go away for a month, I didn't get there.
Where have we been? Action Man, the kids and I spent a month in the United States. This was a trip AM and I had been planning for a long time. At our tenth anniversary, preoccupied with career changes, house purchases and preschoolers, we decided that for our twentieth anniversary we would travel. I nominated New York City in particular. Our plans expanded to include the US more generally.
Our 20th anniversary was last year - we are closer to our 21st anniversary than our 20th. But finally, the planets aligned and we had a month that made sense to go. Amazingly, too, the exchange rate with the US $ smiled on us.
We had a great trip. By that I mean every place we went met or exceeded expectations. I've travelled in the US before. I find it an amazing, and at times, an appalling place.  Always fascinating, though.. I am not sure how to put this. Coming from Australia, so much is familiar in the US, and yet, we have very different countries.
The highlight for me was the week we spent in New York City. Sitting here in my study, in my house on a hillside on the South Coast of NSW, there is not a place that could be more different than NYC. What can I say - I loved it all, the museums, the food, pounding the streets, Central Park, shopping the Garment District for fabric, the people, the energy. One week just scratched the surface. I hope to return.
Four days after our return, and the trip seems a while ago. It seemed the house went into a sulk while we were away, and decided to teach us a lesson. Of course, our grass needs a mow badly - BOTH mowers broke. The dishwasher played up. The hot water tank broke too.
Then, I went back to work on Monday, to find that I no longer had a job. This was not a big surprise - bookings had been very quiet before I went away, and I thought that if things did not improve while I was away, things would have to change. They did. I am no longer employed outside the home.
This is the first time this has happened to me. Normally, I've left jobs at a time at a time of my choosing. But Australia's two-speed economy put paid to that.
I'm surprisingly sanguine about it. We've managed on one income before, and we'll do it again. The house and garden badly need some attention and maintenance, so I'll get stuck in to that, then see where I am.

It's nice to be away, but it's nice to be back.