Friday, 15 September 2017

Cool running

There is never a dull moment along our road. After the rather bad flooding of a couple of weeks ago, I sent photos to our local council showing them that the "work" they did in 2015 to ease the surface water, cough cough, didn't work.

A week ago, the bulldozers arrived and started digging channels EVERYWHERE, including behind the embankment which had previously had been a Niagara falls type water feature.

Now it looks like the local council want to nominate us for the Horowhenua bobsleigh team. The channel would certainly take a sled and the incline is steep enough...although the finish line looks a bit brutal. The sad fact is, the drainage that will be laid runs down another incline into the same field that was transformed two weeks ago into a duck lake. I have a feeling that in a few more weeks I may be writing to the council again about their rather erratic engineering.

And as if this kind of reshaping wasn't enough, the logging season is upon us. Our outlook will soon be very different when the hill opposite is shorn of the radiata pine. 5 months of logging trucks along the road I believe. Sigh.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Surprise visitor from California

We continue to be delighted by the antics of our next door neighbours' chickens. They love our garden, and certainly the soil is enjoying their scratching ministrations. Each day they do a particular circuit, which includes the woodpile, the veggie garden and the garage (if the door is open!) In the last few days they have discovered our copse, and are happily hiding in its shade crowing, scratching and very possibly laying eggs. I was amused this morning to see the guilty looks when I started to take their pictures.

But the big event this morning was seeing a plump Californian quail running around our lawn. I can't make out if it is wild or an escaped pet. But that baby sure can run. It is an adorable creature with its bobbing "fascinator" feather on its head. They are somewhat out of focus, again due to the long lens setting required. Also I suspect quail constantly hear the words in their head "run Forrest, run!"

Saturday, 2 September 2017


Well, here it is, the cherry clafoutis.

I hope this makes me an honorary Frenchwoman for the day?

Trying something different

I love French patisserie, I love French food. OK, I admit, I love food, full stop....unless it is spaghetti.

A few years ago, I was loaned a French cookbook by my lovely English friend Elaine. I found a fabulous recipe in it for Breton prune tart, which is now a fixture on our Christmas menu. I was delighted a few months after borrowing the book to find my own copy of it in a book fair, so now and again, when I'm feeling brave, I try a new recipe from it.

Tomorrow we have friends visiting and I'm in the mood to try something new - here it is:

I'll post photos tomorrow if it works! If not, I shall never mention it again!!

The other thing I have been itching to make is a caravan appliqué. I don't use cushions as a rule, so this may end up as part of a quilt, or something else. But I'm going to teach myself some basic embroidery to fill in the details.

This is my fantasy caravan, something 1950s in style, with a place to make coffee and a table to sew or read and a few cushions so the cats can visit and snooze in the sunny windows.

Happy sigh

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Plum blossom and the Invasion of the Tui

The plum tree by our front gate

Every year our ornamental cherries are attacked by noisy and boisterous Tui. In the town, if you see a pair of Tui, you consider it your lucky day; a few days ago we had 17 here in one tree, making a complete mess on the ground as they knocked off every little carmine coloured blossom. The poor tree is bare in no time as the young thugs get drunk on the nectar. That kind of abuse can only be topped by naughty children with chestnut trees during conker season!

Regrettably I had to take the photos on a 48 x zoom lens, and I don't have the steadiest of hands.

This evening we are going for the first time to a quiz night organised by the local community association and held in the Bowling club in our village. Our team mates are our neighbours - we are all originally from the UK, so expect our team will be the glorious losers if all the questions are NZ based. Fingers and toes crossed!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

I've been in a flap

Our ginger cat has been unwell. We aren't sure, and neither is the vet what ails her, but she's been off her food (this never happens, hence she is lovingly known as the biscuit barrel). She behaved impeccably at the vets, who gave her some medication for pancreatitis, as she seemed rather sore in that area. I have been really concerned, as it really pains me to see an animal unwell. To add insult to injury, she was bitten last night by a feral cat who occasionally breaches the cat flap and steals food. All in all a "sorry for herself" few days.

In the middle of trying to tempt her to eat I have been baking - I think I got carried away with the fresh yeast. The pumpkin and sunflower loaves are 4 inches high in old money!

I have a chicken casserole in the slow cooker and as I was just about to serve it up, Fernando our shy pheasant appeared. He has a 6th sense concerning cameras, and I have yet to take a shot of him which isn't blurred. This one was on 48 times zoom, and he was in a hurry to get home for his tea. But if you can use a bit of imagination, you will see what a fine fellow he is.

And his name, well, do you remember the first line of the Abba song... Do you hear the guns Fernando?.....

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Lamington that wasn't a cake, and a Dragon that was.

Today is brought to you by the letter "C", for cake.

Except not quite.

Recently, a friend's son was travelling up north with his friend and they came across a dead sheep stuck in mud with a half delivered lamb. Being the tender hearted types, they wanted to help, but didn't know how.

My friend's son called his mum, who is a qualified veterinary nurse. She picked up the call when she was at home with a visitor. Afternoon tea was interrupted by giving her son a crash course in lamb delivery, including gruesome details of where to find the anus/womb etc. The boys succeeded in delivering a healthy female lamb. Sadly the mother sheep was long gone. Next step. What to do with an orphaned lamb and no way of knowing who it belonged to? Take it home to mum of course.

My resourceful friend cleaned it up, found it some appropriate food and got it wrapped up and warm. The family is now feeding it every three hours and it is sleeping happily inside an old tyre stuffed with blankets.

Lambshanks has been dubbed Lamington (she's a pure white little thing covered in coconut flakey wool). I met her this morning and she is as tame as cat and very sociable. My friend will raise it and hopes it will be then adopted out to a local farmer.

Now, the dragon.

Cakes are given the strangest names. Today is my husband's birthday, so I offered to take a cake to work tomorrow. I borrowed a recipe called "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", so named because it is a cake made with very thin alternating layers of orange and chocolate sponge which makes it look like a tiger. Unfortunately I don't have the right size or shape cake tin to make it like the recipe, so instead made it in an oblong tin, like a marble cake. In fact looking at it, I should probably rename it an earthquake cake due to the cracks!

And finally, the real Crouching Tiger. Ruppin The Terrified Tabby has taken his anxiety to another level with the arrival of the Famous Five chickens from next door. This is him yesterday watching them from a safe distance before he rushed back inside to hide behind the kitchen curtains. A case of the timid Crouching Hidden Tiger.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Love at first bleat

There are compensations for getting out early in the morning and digging up weeds on the driveway. About five minutes into my dig I heard a high pitched bleat from my neighbour's front paddock. There were two newly born, wobbly legged lambs staggering around in the frost and moving instinctively towards mum and sunshine. One picked sunshine under the tree, the other picked mum.

and a few hours later

The mild and torrential weather of late appears to have forced spring into an early arrival if our cherry and plum trees are to go by.

And our neighbours chickens only spent a few seconds on our frosty lawn before heading back to the sunshine of the paddock.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Shaking a tail feather

I do far too much sitting around - whether at work in an office, reading, sewing or typing at the computer. Today, I had to get the muscles moving so went for a perambulation in the 'hood. It is amazing how many neighbours I met, either running or taking dogs for walks.

Just a few photos from the stroll and Mademoiselle Plume when I got home. She is rather a pretty creature. I do enjoy her gentle murmuring to the other hens. Not so much Reg the Rooster who has finally found his crowing register and practices at all opportunities. He started off with the sound of an old Austin 7 engine being cranked with a handle. This was alarming and very funny at the same time. I did wonder if I needed to buy him some cough drops. Now he is in fine fettle and proudly screeches to his girls. This has had an alarming effect on the cats who occasionally have been dozing on the verandah when he has strolled right underneath them and let rip.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The rain it raineth every day, but dogs don't care

We have had an extended period of rain across the Lower North Island which is causing a few issues with flooding. In theory at least, we should have weather cold enough to have snow, but we don't, so we live like walking sponges.

Our road is rather worse for wear. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. The dog belongs to our neighbour and friend. He is a livestock dog, but today he was "dressing up" as a water dog. A happier creature you could not find!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Secret Sylko hoarder

One of my earliest memories is of my mum's sewing table (built by dad) and playing on the floor of her sewing room. When I got dextrous enough, I was allowed to "sort" her thread drawer. She was a seamstress by profession and always had dozens of alterations on the go for various neighbours and friends. I absolutely loved the lazy afternoons of childhood, listening to the musical whirr of mum's Pfaff sewing machine, and "Women's Hour" on the radio followed by "Listen with mother".

Today I have been sewing half a dozen draught excluders for our very draughty home. It has only taken me 3 years! Other projects have got in the way. I got distracted part of the way through the project when my sewing machine spool ran out of thread. I ended up sorting out my sewing threads (two drawers of them!)

I love the names given to the colours, which seem richer and bolder than the synthetic threads of today. You can almost visualise the trendy two piece or daring miniskirt to go with the name.

I am always hunting for a colour I don't have, so fabric fairs have a frisson of "the chase" as a result. As they seldom cost more than a couple of dollars each, I don't feel too guilty collecting!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Flight Lt Mango defends the borders

Poor Mango doesn't know if he is coming or going. Our neighbour who has a farm at the back of us has nine very polite and somewhat timid chickens who occasionally wander into our paddock. But he has to be in a position to see them when they do, because there are a lot of trees blocking the path they follow down to the fence.

The new neighbours chickens are a different story. They are quite happy to arrive on our lawn in the morning, less than a foot drop from the verandah and eat all the remaining bird food from the night before. They are currently doing some long overdue weeding for us in the border which separates our property from our neighbours. The paddock chickens were unceremoniously chased away by Mango around 10 minutes ago. He was showing off, because he lost interest quickly and proceeded to run up three trees in succession - great watch towers.

Meanwhile Mr White (I think he may be a rooster) and his 4 girlfriends are blythe and bonny and only quietly indignant at being watched by two gingers from the table on the verandah. Cumin runs from them all bushed up, and given that she is actually smaller than one of them, I'm not surprised.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Returning the egg boxes

One of our lovely neighbours occasionally leaves us some eggs from her chickens (the white ladies who like to flutter around in our paddock). She pops them in our letter box and emails me to let me know they are there. Today I returned the egg boxes with some afternoon tea in them. Her chickens lay the most delicious eggs, so I reckon I get the best part of the deal!

One of our resident solar panels has been soaking up the last few moments of a winter sun day. She is now middle aged and I think feels the cold a bit more. Tonight we are expecting -3 degrees, so we will be lucky if there is room in the bed for us after the cats make themselves comfy.

Monday, 24 July 2017

When you can't pee in peace

Our large ginger lad has a particular corner of the garden he likes to dig a hole in. Today he was royally interrupted by the next door's new flock of chickens. They have taken a liking to this corner of our garden; it is shady and has plenty of soft soil and delicious worms.

Here is the poor lad trying to read the paper on the loo, being harassed by a chicken, then being royally told off by the chicken. He went off to sulk elsewhere!