Sydney Hobart

Late on the night of the 27th it looked like the Sydney Hobart race leader, Wild Oats, was going to finish at 2am and smash the existing race record so it looked like here was no chance we were going to be at the finish line. But then the wind changed and fell right away. When I woke up just before 6am I checked the race website and Wild Oats was still an hour or so from the finish line (these things are hard to judge exactly). We didn't want to be late (we missed the finish by less than a minute last year) so Sofia and I rushed to get ready and head down to the finish line.

Wild Oats crosses the finish line
We got to the finish line at about 6.50am and the boat was in view but still a fair way away. There were a few people there but it was nothing like last year when the race finished at 7pm with two boats within three minutes of each other. This year we had no problems getting a parking spot right near the finish line and the CSIRO car park was empty so we could have even parked there.

These boats are really impressively big

Wild Oats did end up setting the race record by about 16 minutes and finished in 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes.

Despite the early arrival there were still lots of boats on the water to welcome the winner. This photo doesn't really capture just how many boats there were. The wave they created soaked everyone that was standing too close to the shore.

In front of the judges box were some men all kitted up with ye olde cannon to be fired at the end of the race. It was pretty loud as we were only about ten metres from it.

Cougar II near the finish line
And here is a photo of Cougar II which finished in 16th place with a time of 3 days, 7 hours, 9 minutes. The photo is taken from our verandah and the finish line is just out of view at the left of the picture. There are another 55 boats still racing (five have withdrawn). The last placed yacht is still in Bass Strait and isn't expected to finish for another day and a half yet.



A special treat this year is the cherries in our garden. We missed out completely last year because the birds ate them all before we moved in. Unlike most fruits, the birds don't just take a few cherries - they clean the tree out completely. So this year we netted it. At first when we put it on we didn't tie it up at the bottom and the birds just flew up inside it and got some. Once we worked this out, we saved more than half of the cherries.

Picking the cherries
We were a bit confused about whether they were ripe because a few had gone dark red but the rest were stubbornly staying yellow with some red on the skin. So we tried a few and they all seemed to be ripe and yummy.

No idea what the variety is. There is one called Rainier that looks like this so it is probably something like that. Still no idea why there was a bunch that went dark, it is like they were a different type.

The mutant cherries
And of course Sofia helped pick the cherries.


Lots of eggs

The eggs keep coming and we've just clocked our first dozen.

The eggs weighed 586g, averaging about 49g each but there is quite a bit of variation. One of the chooks seems to be laying smaller eggs although it could just be building up to bigger eggs as the other one has done.

We had to choose how to eat the first eggs and went with the very simple fried eggs on toast.

Nothing fancy but very yummy.


The harvest commences

Fruit season started in late November and goes on for the next five months or so. At first it was just the red currants but now there are a few types of berries and also the cherries are getting close.

Last weekend we picked just over a kilo of red currants (another kilo went to our friend Helen the weekend before) and so red currant jelly was on the agenda. After perusing a few recipes online and checking out Stephanie it looked fairly straight forward - add an equal amount of sugar to currants, boil, strain and pour into some jars.

The interesting bit was that it took a long time to strain through the muslin and I got worried about it setting in the bowl, so I poured off two jars of clear syrup and then squeezed the muslin to get the rest out. I knew that squeezing the fruit would most likely produce a cloudy jelly, but I figured it didn't matter too much. What I didn't count on was that the first couple of jars barely set and the subsequent ones got progressively stiffer. I am guessing the later jars had more pectin from the currant pips, but a little unexpected nonetheless.



In mid-September we bought some chooks. to live in our chook house and hopefully produce some eggs for us to eat. They were too young to lay back then - they were around 15 weeks old. The man who sold them to us said they should start laying around 20-21 weeks which would have made it a race to see whether Miranda or the chooks laid first. Others have since told us that 25 weeks is more normal. Otto is six weeks old this week so Miranda won hands down.

The chooks' behaviour started to change over the last week or so and we thought it must be nearly time. So we'd been checking the chook house but also in their favourite places around the yard as we'd heard lots of stories of people thinking the egg count was down then finding a stash of a dozen eggs under the mulberry tree. A few days ago there were some not very well formed eggs in the chook house - they may have been the first attempt. Yesterday I went for an expedition under the camellias and through the red currants but without any luck. Then Miranda checked in the prickly berries at the back of their run where she'd seen the brown chook hanging out a few times. We were very excited to find that there were two eggs there. They look just like real eggs!

 The chooks are so clever they even managed to put dates on them ;)

The two eggs together weighed 100g so they're a bit smaller than your standard supermarket egg.  But they are mainly made from our kitchen scraps and any seeds/fruit/bugs that the chooks can find in our garden (plus some pellets). The eggs are now in our fridge waiting to be consumed.

You may also have noticed that we bought three chooks but there are only two in recent posts. Don't know exactly what happened to the poor chook - it was sick one day, then looked a bit better that afternoon but the next day was no longer with us when I got home from work. I buried her - the roses next to the damson plum are now looking particularly lush.



I have a new phone so have been taking some more spontaneous snaps around the place (my old phone didn't take very good photos anymore). I also joined Instagram - you can find us here.

Now all I need to do is build up the collection so I can order some of these.



It's a beautiful time of year in the garden. This is the same time as we first looked at the house last year and the agent certainly chose the time when the yard is at its best to advertise the house.

Everything is so lush and green.  The fruit is on the trees but its still a few weeks until the first fruit kicks off (and six months til it finishes). The red currants are starting to get a red tinge. We also found a berry today that was ripe and in a few weeks the berries will be in full swing.

It was a beautiful day today so we decided to have a picnic under the plum tree. The chickens kept trying to steal our food when we weren't looking and they also drank our water. It was a bit glary which is why we're all squinting a bit.

After we'd finished eating we went on an expedition and found some peas in the vegie patch which we then ate raw - they are so sweet. Needless to say, Sofia loves them.

There was a fairy wren around while we were having lunch. It's such a treat having these beautiful birds in our yard.




Thursday this week was a bit of milestone - on that day Sofia was 21 months and Otto was 21 days.

The convention (old wives tale?) is that if you measure a girl toddler's height at 21 months and then double it, you will have an estimate of their full adult height. So I had a hunt around for the growth chart that Aunty Lynn had given Sofia when she was just a wee thing and taped it up on the one smooth piece of sunroom wall available.

 Sofia didn't really want to stand up straight next to the chart...

I have to say that my approximate chart placement, spongey carpet and Sofia's lack of co-operation mean that the measurement I took can only be rough guide, but the 84cm recorded means that her estimated full height is just shy of my height.

And here is a gratuitous shot of Otto sleeping...


Otto comes home

Otto and Miranda came home from hospital last Tuesday. He got all dressed up for the occasion and did his exercises.

Going into the outside world for the first time is a very exciting occasion.

And here he is getting out of the car in the much greener and more pleasant environment at home.

Welcome home bro! Sofia is fascinated by her little brother and also adores him. She learned to say Otto after her first visit and would start saying Otto repeatedly as we got near the hospital.

Our first afternoon in the garden.

Adding a new family member is a bit of an adjustment for everyone (especially Sofia) and we are very lucky that Oma and Opa and then Granjan have been around to help smooth the transition.





We are very happy to announce that Otto joined us on 18 October. He is a very healthy little boy and seems to have adjusted to life on the outside pretty well. It also looks like he'll be a good eater just like big sister.

Sofia went to the hospital Thursday afternoon and looked a bit confused but she likes babies and seemed to like Otto. She touched his hand and gave him a kiss on the head. I think she will be a loving big sister once she adjusts. She went back to the hospital with her grandparents on Friday after a full day in child care but she fell asleep on the way there and couldn't be woken up. Saturday morning's visit was a bit up and down. She likes the baby but lots of things have changed and it's all a bit unsettling.

But now the big question needs to be answered - should this blog change its name? 


Fruit season is on its way

Last year we didn't keep very good records of when our fruit trees flowered, fruited and got their leaves - partly because we only moved in well into the fruit season - but we did throw together a rough fruit calendar. This is really helpful information for some fruits as it can help us know when the fruit should be ripe. So this year I had been keeping reasonably detailed records for each tree in a spreadsheet on my laptop. But my laptop went when we got burgled last week so again this year we have guesses and hazy memories about when everything happened in the garden. We don't even have dates on photos to refer to as the camera also went.

Lots of the fruit trees have flowered and a number of them are showing reasonably well developed fruit. The apricots are the size of olives, the peaches and nectarines a bit smaller. The almonds look pretty well full size, the damson plums are starting to develop, the quinces are there but small. And various currants and berries are also developing well with the red currants leading the race.

Last year there were only six apricots on the tree but they were the most intense fruit I've ever eaten. We were told different stories about why apricots struggled last year - some people say apricots are very sensitive to late frost, others said it was due to excessive rain while the fruit was developing. This year there are about 100 on the tree for now and hopefully we get a reasonable strike rate from here.
The almonds are full size and now need to ripen. The cockys have had a few goes at them but haven't taken many yet. Last year they took almost all of them by the time they were ready to eat.
The peaches are still tiny. Remarkably the tree has held together for another year.
There are heaps of damson plums, just as there were last year. These are yummy to eat and also make a great sauce.
Damson plums
It's only two months now until the fruit season kicks off and we are really looking forward to it, especially Sofia. Her new sibling will probably be on solid food in time to enjoy the end of the season too.



The chooks have been in residence for a week now and the plan was to let them explore the whole back yard once they had settled in. Saturday was a nasty day with constant rain and an icy wind (snow down to 400 metres) and being outside was no fun at all so we waited for Sunday which was a beautiful sunny day. You know you're acclimatised to Hobart when a 14 degree day feels hot.

Before we could let the chickens out Sofia had to give them their instructions.

It took a little while but they finally came out when we put some food outside the gate.

As they became more confident they explored further afield but were still definitely up in their corner of the yard.

The black chook (Barbara) seems to be the tamest one and walked right up to Sofia when she was sitting next to the apple tree.

All this exploring was thirsty work so they found some rain water in an old lid. Sofia thought his was such a good idea that she gave it a try too. She's going to have a super strong immune system.

The garden also has much better places for dirt baths than the pen so the girls spent some quality time in the dirt.

The plan is to let the chooks out into the backyard every day. We've fixed the gate so that we can open and close it more easily and keep them shut in. All we need now is the cheesy sign "Beware of the chooks - please shut the gate!".