A Day In The A Blue Mountains.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I welcome you to take your time and browse , visiting my bush garden and discovering the wonders of my city within a national park; Blue Mountains National Park. Via my blog you will travel with me through the successes, trials and tribulations of gardening on a bush block. I share with you my patchwork & quilting, knitting, paper crafts, cooking and life in general.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Before The Storm

On Sunday, the sun was shining.
Mr HP, Miss Seven, her Mum and Dad and I, went for a bush walk.
A leech became attached to my shin.
I now have a nasty reaction to the leech bite.
Today I drove myself to the GP to have it seen to.  Luckily it's not infected.  It's inflamed and at times gets extremely itchy.
I drove in extreme weather for thirty minutes to get to my appointment. Since Sunday night it's hardly stopped raining.
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night. I realised that I had woken because the rain had stopped.  The silence had woken me up.  But it wasn't long before it was raining again.
Before Sunday we'd already had more than our fair share of rain so everything was damp and squishy, hence the leeches (well there were two leeches all up...and five humans)  We came across an interesting variety of fungi on our walk. 

Since Sunday night, Springwood has had around 150mm of rain.  We have been fortunate though, as we've had very little wind and so have been spared the devastation that has struck the coastal regions of the south east of Australia.
Today, Sydney airport was disrupted, railway tracks were flooded, a cruise ship locked out of port, flood rescues carried out, towns devastated as residents watched houses floating down the street, schools closed, and sadly, confirmation of lives lost was announced.
Flash floods are not uncommon in Australia, but it's not often do we experience such immediate devastation from flooding.  In this instance, the accompanying wind would have classed this as a category two tropical cyclone.  But technically, this storm is not a cyclone, because it did not occur over tropical waters, but it is an intense low-pressure system packing winds gusts of up to 135km per hour.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Batten Down The Hatches

We had such beautiful weather over the weekend.  

Yesterday's Blue Skies

Even so, we managed to receive more than our fair share of rain, which, thankfully fell mostly overnight.  This morning however, most of the south-east coast woke to a dreary wet Monday which is developing into an even drearier wet Monday afternoon with the potential for high winds.
We've lived in the Blue Mountains long enough to know that high winds means exactly that.  The Bureau of Meteorology has become a very reliable weather forecaster and when it issues a severe weather warning for damaging winds, I sit up and take notice.
As a result, all our deck chairs are neatly stacked on the verandah, my potted cuttings are set back out of the winds, and all loose objects (you know, the empty polystyrene box, empty plastic pots, gardening gloves, etc, etc), are packed away so that we don't have to spend the next month collecting stray items from the side of the holt on which we live.
Outdoors, the temperature has dropped from yesterday's comfortable mid 20 'C to around 12 'C so I think this calls for some serious cooking.
The heating has been cranked up but I always love to use the oven to help heat up the living areas of our home; so tonight (well, this afternoon), I'm preparing a slow roast fillet of beef for dinner.
I usually search the Internet for recipes but rarely do I follow a mains recipe completely. After scanning through three or four recipes I adapt them to suit my family's taste and what's available in my pantry.
The garden is overflowing with thyme...seems our dry, sandy, soil and humid conditions are ideal, after all, thyme has Mediterranean origins, so I've flavoured the beef with 25 (or is that 26)springs of thyme . Previously I had rolled the cut of beef in a mixture of freshly ground black pepper and Celtic sea salt.
After inserting the sprigs of herbs under the string I also rubbed some olive oil into the beef.
It is now in the oven roasting away in a pre-heated oven (reduced to 140'C - my oven is a 'hot' fan forced oven.)

  About an hour before serving the beef I'll put on a tray potato, beetroot and pumpkin to roast and just before serving make a nice dark gravy using the tray juices and steam some green beans.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

This Month In The Garden - April - Chilli

I have had two worthwhile crops of chillies this year.  I don't normally use chillies in my cooking, simply because Mr H.P. doesn't like spicy food. As you can see in the above picture, I've had to net the one plant I have because the possums treat chillies like delicacies.  On a nice hot sunny day I picked all the red finger chillies and using a needle and canvas thread, I strung about 20 onto the thread and allowed them to dry in the hot sun for a few days before bringing them indoors to completely dry. 

My first strand was exchanged at Crop and Swap for a yummy piece of blue pumpkin.
My second strand went to a friend I have made via an online garage sale and in exchange I received some kefir milk grains.  I gave the kefir grains to my daughter because she has been coveting some for a while now.  

Kefir is a fermented milk drink probiotic.  I must admit, milk is not one of my favourite foods and the closest I come to consuming milk is homemade natural yogurt which I religiously make about ever ten days and add to my porridge or smoothie at breakfast.
Tonight we used yogurt in our pumpkin soup instead of sour cream.
I think I will wait and see what kefir tastes like before I decide whether I will make it or not.
In the meantime, the weather has become very damp and humid and my chillie plant has been infested with aphids.  I'm hoping that a spray of soapy water will bring them under control.

It's not unusual for Sydney to be hot and humid over summer, in fact, it's quite normal.  But the past three or four summers have been so dry that I must admit I've forgotten how unpleasant the humidity can feel.  Unfortunately, the bugs have revelled in the return to more normal conditions.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

This Month In The Garden - April - Indian Summer

The Blue Mountains has sort of been experiencing an Indian summer this autumn.  Technically it's probably been too wet but the combination of warm weather and high rain fall has seen some extraordinary things happening in my garden.
I have a potted echinacea purpurea by the front door which had a second flush of blooms late last month.  I honestly didn't think the buds would mature but I was wrong. 

Echinacea is also known as the coneflower because the seed head left after the 'petals' drop looks like a cone.

The 'cone' then continues to grow taller and taller.

What an amazing example of the Fabinacci spiral!

The pink petals of this echinacea are not true petals but bracts.  The many flowers grow from each of the spikes (eventually seeds) growing in the cone.  Sometimes a spectacular display happens when each of the spikes flower simultaneously.  This hasn't happened this year but if you look closely at the third picture from the top you will see three tiny, yellow, flowers growing to the top right of the cone.

My most favourite characteristic of this plant is the wonderful perfume produced by these tiniest of flowers.  I honestly believe the perfume rivals that of a rose.

Echinacea is commonly used medicinally to treat the common cold and boost the immune system.

Even though I've had this one plant for around six years I have not used it for making a tea simply because I felt the plant was not mature enough to cope with being harvested.

  Soon, it will die right back leaving only the seed head which is a favourite of florists to use in their floral displays.

Once the new shoots appear in spring I plan to split up the roots to start off some new plants.

I have under-planted the echinacea with runuculus so that over winter the pot continues to produce flowers.

Echinacea is a culinary delight to some of our wildlife and for this reason I have chosen to grow it in a large pot which I place close to the front door.  The possums and wallabies dare not venture this close to our house and so the plant survives long enough to produce flowers.  On a warm day, the perfume is glorious and can be appreciated every time we use the front door.

In the garden it works as a bee attractant too so if you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about what might eat this versatile plant...consider growing some in the vegetable and herb garden to help pollination.

Monday, 6 April 2015

This Month In The Garden - April.

We have had a most unusual weather pattern this past summer and now into autumn. We are into our second autumn month and I have seen not one gold coloured leaf as yet.
On April 4 Springwood received 76 mm of rain.  In one hour on the same day 10.4 mm of rain fell.  I have had to rescue some of my potted plants from the extreme amounts of rain.  One of these potted plants is an orchid that I have managed to grow from a cutting given to me by a local orchid enthusiasts and professional grower, Alan, who I met by chance at a garage sale.  He was generous and happy enough to take Mr HP and I for an impromptu tour of his nursery in Glenbrook one Saturday afternoon last June or July.  He offered me two cuttings he found on one of his work tables which I gratefully accepted and then gingerly planted into two small glazed terracotta pots when we arrived home.  

I have only every grown dendrobium or Sydney rock orchids so I was a little dubious about the success I would have with these.  For the first six to seven months they resided in the loft studio above our garage bathed in filtered light from a west facing window. I watered them rarely, almost forgetting their existence. I didn't hold much hope for them but after a few months some new growth appeared and then as the weather became warmer and our youngest moved back home, they began impinging on his space, so I moved the pots outdoors and hoped that they would continue to thrive.
Which they did.
On Easter Sunday one little flower bloomed and today I was thrilled to find all the flowers blooming happily, bopping their little heads in unison each time someone walked by the table on which I have now placed them in an attempt to control  the amount of water they receive.

Although I'm not 100% sure...I think they are Cirrhopetalum ornatissimum.

It's been love at first sight!  I wonder what surprise the other little pot will have to offer soon? 

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