Sunday, 12 October 2008

Spring Rain

Oh, I know this blog has been in hiatus for winter, but it's back now, so dry your eyes. The garden is looking fine thanks to Dougs compost. Today Doug picked some red gladiolis and brought them inside. The spring rain is knocking the blooms about. Visitors to the garden include the King Parrots, Currawongs, the soprano sparrows and the fast green rosellas. Magpies and blue tongue lizards alos are making the trip into the yard.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Radish & Basil Salad

Okay, just because we are growing radishes & basil at the moment, here is a fabulous salad that hints at south east Asian salads without the fish sauce. You will need a bunch of fresh basil leaves, 3 or 4 large radishes, 2 small Lebanese cucumbers, 1/2 cup of pepitas toasted and drizzled with shoyu sauce, salt & pepper and olive oil & white wine vinegar. Method: Thinly slice the radishes into almost translucent orbs, dice the cucumber finely and briefly chop the basil leaves. The pepitas are pumpkin seeds but if you prefer you can use sunflower seeds (yum) or sesame seeds, regardless, they need to be toasted in a pan over the oven or if you're clever, in the grill, but I always forget them in the grill. At least they stand a chance of not blackening to a mere husk of their former selves if I can see them. Once toasted, remove and put them in a bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of shoyu over them. They should make a sizzling noise as you add the shoyu, and shake them around to cover all the little seeds. Terikayi or soy sauce can be used instead of shoyu. Once cooled, they can be sprinkled over the top of the salad. Oh, and for the post below, I forgot to mention to dice all the ingredients quite small, so it can be eaten daintily with a fork, should you invite the Queen for tea..

Feta and Walnut Salad

This salad is good for any time of year, but perhaps not in the extreme of winter. Works best without lettuce, otherwise you have a mess. 1/2 stick of Danish Feta 1 Lebanese cucumber 1 handful walnuts 2 sticks of celery 1 fennel bulb (no leaves) 1 small apple, peeled.
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grape tomatoes finely diced capsicum Please note, I use the Danish feta because it's soft texture melts into the olive oil & vinegar and enhances the dressing. It is alsways a little cheaper than the beautiful Greek varieties too and that always helps.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Radishes and rabbits & Black Cockatoos

The weather is beginning to get cool in the late evening and this Autumn afternoon I saw a flock of black cockatoos, calling as they flew southwest, lazily. The call is sort of like "AAH-EEeee", and commandingly loud. They are absolutely impressive birds to see up close. I will venture they are a bit magical. The rabbit Oscar spent his dusk out in the front garden digging up dandelion roots, and imagining Farmer Mac Gregor coming over the hedge. At the moment we are harvesting radishes, eggplants (at least the ones the wasps haven got to) and beans. Well we didn't quite get enough green french string less beans the last time we planted them, so just to make sure the kids and I are really sick of eating them, Dougie thoughtfully planted a lot more. Thankfully the guinea pig family and the fussy rabbit have become allies and eat as many as I do. So Radishes, beans, eggplants, and the naval oranges are all coming on nice and thick hanging in juicy gaggles on the spindly little tree. We desperately need to make up a batch of pesto with the mountains of basil dominating the veggie patch. Doug has just planted out the lettuces for Autumn and mulched the yard with lucerne. Doug also found time to bake a chocolate marble cream cheese slice, which is noice. I'm nursing injuries from washing too many cars.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Oscar arrives.

The rumours are all true. We have another rodent in the back yard called Oscar, the white and silver bunny rabbit, just in time for Easter it seems. Oscar belonged to friends moving overseas, and he prefers to remain local. We have set up a run in the front yard that he goes to every evening on dusk. He's developing his bunny hop. We welcome Oscar into Dougies Backyard.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Johnathon is a Mum!

Yes, that's right, you saw it here first. Two male guinea pigs can reproduce, given the right environment and lots of love. We thought Johnathon was just getting fat on the good life here in Dougie's garden, but it turns out we were wrong. Just as wrong as the pet shop guy who told the little boy (who gave us the guinea pig) that Johnathon was a male. Grace would like to announce the arrival of Snowy, Pearl and Apricot. We are now a family of 12!
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Sunday, 10 February 2008

Here's the man from Country Energy grabbing the bats from the wires above our driveway. At this stage the baby is clinging onto the mothers fur still hidden under her wings. The mother looked like she was sleeping, but the baby bat moved around quite a lot throughout the day. The only people who are qualified to touch the wires are Grade 2 Electricians. It means that the local Joe at the lighting shop is unable to climb up and deal with baby bats. Most locals here are not particularly fond of the bats for various reasons, but they are a valuable part of our eco system and the propagation of certain types of night-flowering gums.

Dramatic Bat Rescue

We've had some excitement in Dougies Garden of late. A baby bat was rescued from the power lines right outside the garden last week. It was a 3 week old female eastern black bat clinging onto it's dead mother who had been caught on the telegraph wire lines. The Mango tree is in season and it may have been the attraction to Dougies Yard. We obediently called Wires (wildlife rescue volunteers) who immediately called Country Energy and the local News team even turned up for the rescue. Grace was the first person to spie the baby and we studied it for ages to see that it really was alive. It was moving carefully arounf the mother's fur, trying to keep cool in the hot summer day. Thankfully there was quite a breeze and the little thing managed to hang on until help arrived. It waved it's tiny wing in the air to keep cool. Lots of photos were taken.

Monday, 4 February 2008

More rain on the way

Doug checked the rain guage today and it is screaming "90 mililitres". So we may be in for another feet wetting ankle dripping mouldy clothes smelling few weeks. We've released the tadpoles from the previous downpour and I think one was called 'Elsa'. I don't know what the other 8 were called. At night the frogs are calling so loudly that it's hard to get to sleep. I never know whether the guinea pigs are calling out because they're hungry or because they're drowning in the surface water that's lying about. I do check on them occassionally with a carrot in one hand and a big stick in the other to keep the dogs away. This week in Dougies Garden we're getting cucumbers, radishes, basil, eggplants and coriander. Although it's in need of a good weeding. We'd like to plant a vine for the Richmond River birdwing butterfly. Aristolochia praevenosa is the only native vine that will sustain the Richmond Birdwing.

Best Chocolate Cake for everyday use and birthdays

This chocolate cake recipe is sensational. It's moist and flavoursome. Even better, it makes up in one bowl. Don't serve it for the little nut free people in your life unless you are standing by with an epi-pen and the phone. xx 125g butter chopped, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 cup milk, 1 cup SR flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tspn bi-carb soda, 1/2 cup almond meal, 2 eggs, 1 tspn rum essence ( I have never bothered with this and it still turns out fine). Preheat oven to 180'c & grease or line a 20cm round tin. Method: In a large saucepan heat butter, sugar & milk for 2 mins until melted & combine. Sift flour, cocoa, & soda together into the saucepan. Stir in almond meal, eggs, & essence & stir until smooth. Pour into cake tin, bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in tin 5 minutes. For fancy serve with whipped cream & chocolate ganache recipe as follows; 200g dark chocolate, 1/3 cup cream. Method: Combine chocolate & cream in a small pan, stir over low heat 3 minutes until combined, transfer to bowl & cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Baked doughnuts

Ha, Ha, Ha. You and I know that it's not really Doug & Fifi's Garden at all. We ALL know it's Doug's Garden and that I just wander about with a cup of tea in my hand from time to time inspecting the plants. Occasionally with a snicker doodle in my hand if Doug has made some. So here's a recipe for back to school mums & (obviously) Dads. Nigella's Snicker doodles. 250g plain flour; 1/2 teaspn ground nutmeg; 3/4 teaspn baking powder; 1/2 teaspn salt; 125g butter; 100g caster sugar; 1 egg; 1 teaspn vanilla extract (or if frugal, essence) ; 1 tablspn cinnamon. Heat oven 180c. Cream butter & sugar. In another bowl, combine flour, nutmeg, baking powder, salt. Beat the egg & vanilla into the 'creamed' butter & stir dry ingredients into the butter mix, until smooth. Roll out into little balls between your hands (20 cent piece size). Mix 2 tblspoons of caster sugar with the cinnamon and roll each little ball in before placing on baking tray. 15 minutes at 180`c. Cool on rack. Delicious for school snacks / afternoon snacks. There is no point in messing with this recipe.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


We have survived the flood of '08. Nearly as big as the '54 flood, in which, our neighbours all solemnly told us while the water was rising, our house went under. Thankfully that didn't happen this time, but what a lovely discovery to make in the middle of a flood - that ours is the lowest house in the street. What a great way to get to know the people who live in your street though - as we trotted up to the river at regular intervals throughout the day and night to check on the rising river's progress. Needless to say, Dougie and Fifi's garden has not been short of water. After 135mm of rain in just one night, we had more of a swamp than a garden, and in the 2 weeks since it hasn't stopped raining for long. The poor old guinea pigs have certainly discovered the downside of being the lowest to the ground of the garden residents but they are taking it all very philosophically. They've had to move to the higher ground of the back garden, which is less boggy but involves having at least one dog on top of their hutch all day long. They've perfected the nonchalant shrug as a Jack Russell does it's best Big Bad Wolf impression only centimetres away. Ive decided the beans did so well this spring they deserved a second run for summer and the new plants are looking every bit as happy as their predecessors. The tomatoes unfortunately have been a casualty of the humid weather. The conditions were just too good for fruit flies and tomato rot, So they've all been pulled out bar one lonely outcrop which is still just hanging in there. The pumpkins have also run their course for this year. A little disappointed to yield only 6 pumpkins from what seemed like acres of vines, but then again, we didn't even plant them so that's not bad for a bit of self-seeding from the compost. My latest crop is cucumbers, which are just starting to bear fruit. My next door neighbour is seemingly the worlds foremost expert on backyard cucumber production so there is really no need for me to grow any at all because he arrives at the gate almost weekly with an armful of assorted cucumbers, but I just couldn't help having a go myself. Of course I had no desire to offend anyone so my cucumber vines are suitably scrawny compared to his and that's the way things should be between neighbours. The biggest fans of the wet weather have been our bamboo plants. They have grown a fabulous number of new shoots and are looking really bushy and bold. Before you ask - no they're not spreading bamboos - just clumpers. One, called Timor Black, has grown to a massive height and has really transformed the look of that part of the garden very quickly. One neighbour's house is fast disappearing from view. I also have two new residents of Dougie's garden to report. They are cold blooded but without any mean streaks. We have a young blue tongue lizard, which was a very exciting discovery. Rupert rather shockingly killed the old blue tongue about two years ago and we thought that would have been the end of it, but somehow another has turned up, and it has made the very sensible choice of residing in the fenced off veggie garden away from any Big Bad Poodle-wolves. The other lizard resident made me jump a slight height as I was digging over the compost heap recently. Thought it was a snake, but on semi-close inspection it turned out to be a legless lizard. Not the sort that can be found outside the pub at 1:00am, but rather the sort that must like a nice warm compost heap to live in. It's not actually legless but the legs it does have are tiny and obviously don't serve much purpose. It definitely gets around just like a snake. Before I go I have to report one other - equally rare - sighting in Dougie's back yard. Fifi was spotted only days ago mowing the lawn. I hope the receipt of this news is as exciting for you as the reporting of it is for me. Apologies to any readers who may have noticed the lack of posts from myself. I will endeavour to pick up my game from now on. Hooroo.