There is nothing I love more in winter than sitting in front of the fire and gazing into the flames. The warmth seems to reach into every corner of the room. What I dont love is the extra work that it creates. Aside from the work involved in collecting and stacking the fire wood, there is the monotonous task of cleaning it out each day and re-setting it.
I’m not sure if it’s the type of wood that is being burnt or the effect of a slow smouldering fire that causes the glass to turn black. Whatever it is, it’s a nightmare to clean. Over the years I’ve tried many different methods of cleaning it off. Hot soapy water, Gumption, vinegar & bi carb soda. None really worked that well and they all made a huge mess. Then out of the blue my Mum gave me the secret recipe. In my world this is what’s known as a “Game Changer”.
Take a few pieces of newspaper, scrunch them up then dampen them slightly with plain old water. Dip it into the cold ash at the bottom of the fire. Using a circular motion wipe the inside of the glass. Hey Presto! The ash makes a fine abrasive paste that takes off the burnt on black soot.
It might take a few pieces of paper to get it totally clean, but I just throw them into the fire and they dry out by the time you need to re light the fire. If you do this at the first sign of discoloration then it’s a 2 second job.
Wow! Can we just take a moment to reflect on this week of crazy weather? I mean really enough already.
Monday & Tuesday saw us flooded out of the farm. The creeks came up so quickly. I feel nobody was really prepared for this flood. Previously when we’ve had flood warnings or the creeks are “up” and they predict more heavy rain you assume that flooding is likely so you get yourself prepared. Add wind gust of over 100klm per hour and its serious stuff. Come Friday the water levels had dropped so we were able to get into the farm to asses any damage. Luckily there was no damage to the house or villas, and we only had a few trees down across the fire trails. Others in the Hunter Valley were not so lucky. Tragically 4 people were killed in flood waters and may people lost their homes.
Due to the widespread damage across the region it took 7 days for the power to be restored.
Saturday afternoon brought the second wave of freaky weather in the form of a hail storm. Sydney was hit the worst, but we got a light covering of hail that made the paddocks look like a winter wonderland.
Some of these photos are mine, others I’ve taken from the Wollombi Fire & Flood Face Book page. The FB page is run by volunteers who do the most amazing job in keeping people connected in times of crisis. Community spirit at its best!
What’s that old saying?…”the more things change the more they stay the same”.
A few years ago we were offered an old vacuum cleaner. At first I said no. We already had a vacuum that we left in the shed along with a host of cleaning stuff for the villas. If I needed a vacuum for the house I’d just walk up and get it. Then I had second thoughts. We only have carpet in the bedrooms so I didn’t need it that often. The vacuum was in perfect working order, and it had all the extra attachment even one called a “Power Head”. Perfect for all that 60’s shag pile carpet! So then I relented and said yes. It would be handy to have in the house. Trent was not so convinced, but as ever he was very supportive. He even managed to find a new connector for the hose on e-bay. Seriously is their nothing you can’t buy in e-bay?
I nick named her Betty Draper.
The first few times I did the vacuuming with Betty, it was a bit of a laugh. I could imagine house proud women of the 1950’s being totally in awe of Betty. After a few uses I could also see why housewives of the 1950 loved a “Bex and a good lie down”! Betty wasn’t actually that old, probably a child of the ’70’s more than the ’50’s but never the less, Betty was hard work. None of the extra piece were ever on hand when I needed them so I was forever walking back to the last room to retrieve the missing bit. The power head attachment was fantastic but it required an extra cord to be plugged into the vacuum for it to work. She was big, noisy and cumbersome but I persevered because she was free and it wasn’t like I was using her that often. But then I was. Our love affair went downhill fast.
Enter her replacement. I named her Ruby. Because she’s red. Original name I know.
Ruby Meile is compact, quiet and whooshes around behind me like a ghost. All of the attachment are hidden on board, and she has 3 power head options. Realistically I’m never going to be THAT type of house proud person, so the additional 2 are still in the box. I didn’t pay extra for them, they just came with the vacuum. I wonder if Betty’s attachments were optional extras?
I guess the bit that made me laugh was the fact that even though Betty still did the job, I wanted Ruby. She was easier to lug around, smaller and with whiz bang air filters, defiantly better for my health…We women can justify anything can’t we?
I had succumbed to consumerism and clever marketing. Much like Betty’s original owner I suspect. I could have persevered with Betty until the very end, but seriously vacuuming is a dull thankless job at the best of times. Why prolong the pain?
It’s February and there is the tiny hint of change in the air. The nights are getting cooler and a few of the leaves have started to dry out and slowly change colour. I cant wait for winter. Crazy? Maybe, but it’s my favourite season. I love everything about winter.
The “first drop” of winter fashion has started to arrive in stores. This is my signal to start sorting. What I have, what I need and what I want. Over the years I’ve developed my own style. The outfit’s I wear time and time again. The things that work for me and suit my lifestyle. It’s one of the many things I enjoy about getting older. No longer do I feel the need to spend a small fortune on this season must have. I might pick one or two things replace something that is worn out or add a splash of this seasons colour, but overall I stick with what I know suits me and suits my lifestyle. I like the ease of winter layering. Starting with a simple silhouette of core pieces then adding scarves, jackets, hats, gloves, and boots. So what are my core pieces for winter?
Weekend/casual wear will always be jeans or tights, a fine wool jumper and a jacket. Depending on what I’m doing I’ll wear boots or flats. I then pull the look together with a scarf. I’ve also fallen hard for the poncho over the last few seasons. It’s a more relaxed and fun look than the jacket and it a great way to breath new life into the core basics.
Looking at what women have been wearing in the northern hemisphere over winter I’m predicting cobalt blue as this season colour.
I also noticed a lot of lace up shoes. I’m approaching this trend with caution. It could be tricky. Much like over the knee boot where it’s a fine line between chic and cheap, this flat lace up could have you looking totally on trend or like you are wearing school shoes.
Summer can be a very unforgiving season in the country. One year the talk is all about how dry it is and our desperate need for rain. The cost of hand feeding stock can be devastating to farmers.
This year we have the opposite. Heat and humidity. OMG!the humidity. It sucks the life out of you like nothing else. On extreme days, any outside work is restricted to early morning or late afternoon. For all that bemoaning, there are some very big positives. Add high rainfall to the heat & humidity and you have the best possible grass growing weather. Perfect for fat, content cattle and overflowing rain tanks. Not so perfect for keeping lawns & weeds under control.
35 mill of rain over 7 days + Average daytime temp of 32 degrees = Happy Farming.
This is the image I’m holding in my head for 2015. When I start to feel overwhelmed with all the things I need to do, should do or want to do this will be my focus.
Today was my first day back in the office. My real job. Not the farm job. I do sometimes feel like I have two separate lives. It’s a good thing.
Christmas was a constant flow of family and friends. No sooner had one group left than another was arriving. We like it that way.
So what’s on the agenda 2015? Gardens & landscaping. As with most things “farm” it’s a bit more than a Saturday morning trip to Bunnings for a few bags of potting mix. It takes planning. Lot’s of planning. The vegetable garden will be a series of raised beds. Irrigation is essential. We did a test run with our herb garden and the a drip system attached to a timer works perfectly. I remember my Grandparents loved watering their garden. It was their post dinner ritual every night over summer. Realistically we wont have that luxury, so a reliable water supply is essential. The garden bed’s will also require some form of netting to protect them from the wildlife. I’m not talking about insect & bugs. I’m talking kangaroos, birds, possums and wombats!
We also have plans to plant along the retaining wall at the back of the house and around our pool. Timing is essential here. Instinct tells me that Spring is the time to plant but we have found March/April is our best time for general planting. The plants have time to get established before the winter frost, and then have their growth spurt in spring.
We’ve had great success with our herb garden. One bed has rhubarb, silverbeet and shallots. The other is a mixture of herbs. We love the young silverbeet simply tossed in a pan (think stir fry) with garlic, butter, salt and pepper. Yum.
Talk about a mixed bag. Friday night we frocked up for the Boots & Ball Gown dinner. Who new line dancing was such fun!
Saturday we braved the extreme heat and headed into the annual Wollombi Valley Small Farm Fair. Unfortunately the heat got the better of us ( and some of the stall holders) so we only stayed a short time. Sometimes the weather can be your best friend or worst enemy.
The forecast was for a late storm to come through on Saturday afternoon and a cooler day Sunday.-but as the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for”. The first front that came through was lovely. We had a drop in temperature, a slight shower of rain, and a rainbow! The second front was more severe. The wind picked up and was swirling in every direction. Tree’s came down. Thunder and lightning exploded across the sky. One huge flash of lightening and the power was gone.
So Saturday night looked a bit like this…
Power was not restored until lunchtime Sunday. The joys of country life.
Sunday however was perfection. Clear sky’s and a cool breeze.
Just me and my girl. It doesn’t get better than this.