Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chapter 15: warm toes and scarecrows

Now that we have our new fireplace installed that has been keeping us delightfully warm  for the past three weeks we have become like those people who win the lottery. You know those rags to riches scenarios where people forget where they have come from? These days as we nonchalantly whisk past our fireplace in nothing more than a Balinese sarong, slopping around a pina coloda and saying something derogatory like "to think there are people out there who still pay for their heating...I suppose they find it novel watching those little air-flaps go up and down on their Cyclone 2000.... god its hot in here, I'm going to slip into something more comfortable, honey can you rummage for some more ice cubes - mine seem to have melted?"

How quickly we had forgotten our roots, and just as every rose has its thorns, our shamefully over-heated hautiness came crashing down the night we ran out of fire-wood. It was back to the threat of consumption and donning unfashionable beanies and squeaky bomber jackets.

Installing the fireplace
We were somewhat naive of what was required in installing and running a fireplace. Initially we thought it involved cutting a hole in the ceiling and removing a tile from the roof... too easy. But after some helpful advice from ppl in the know we realised there was more to it. After a full days work Joe and my brother Ben had cut beams out of our roof and rebuilt the framework with aluminium so as the flue (and its heat) would be well and truly away from any wood. Although installation was a pain, the end result is well worth the effort.

Fueling the fire
So far we have collected wood from the garden and occasional neighbourhood drive-bys if a good log is spied. Although the first two weeks of warmth were blissful it quickly became obvious that we needed more wood. Since we installed the fireplace, any family drive has turned into a neurotic scout for firewood. Joe's obsession was bordering on potential illegal acts when thankfully he had the seemingly brilliant idea to cut up the old wooden palettes that were under our house when we arrived. They are hardwood and burn beautifully, but after some Internet research, the jury is out on whether or not wooden pallets contain nasty chemicals.

Our lovely neighbour up the road kindly collects kindling from her yard each week, and leaves it in a bag hung on our fence. In fact, relatives have even been supplying firewood as an early birthday present for Joe. their timing has been uncanny. Just when it seemed most dire, the charity of others has kept us warm.  Thus far we have remained warm, but the hunt for firewood remains ever present. "stay vigilant or perish, children!" has become the new family motto.

Scaley chicken feetSpeaking of neighbours, we have temporarily adopted 3 more chooks from a lovely family around the corner, whilst they holiday in Malta. We were initially enthusiastic about the idea, until we saw their feet. Not our neighbours feet, which seemed normal, but the chickens feet. scaly leg mite was afoot! In chook terms, its the equivalent to leprosy. small mites burrow beneath the chicken's leg scales causing bulbous deformities that make you feel itchy just by looking at them.

eeeewwwwwww..... the dreaded scaley leg mite.
We quickly quarantined the newcomers to avoid contamination with our Kubla Khan chook paradise, hoping our three ladies remained untraumatised by the knobbly scaly yucky stumps of the visitors.

Joe became depressed and anxious. How would this blight affect the egg laying ratio of our hens, let alone the delicate diplomatic relations with our Maltese neighbours? It was a real catch 22! then, suddenly, after yet some more Internet research, Joe sparked up. "Ive found a cure!" Move over Madame Curie, Joe had discovered yet another miracle use for canola oil spray in a can! Yes that's right, you can buy it from Aldi's, but more importantly, by spraying it on the affected legs of your hens, the oil suffocates the mites, reversing the affects. After 2 weeks of daily applications, all the mites should be well and truly dead and the chooks legs are beginning to recover. 

But more incredibly, the three post menopausal visitors have began to lay again! It seems that these old ducks have a few more eggs to lay and a whole new lease on life with a bit of love and some canola oil.

Scarecrow Party
Seeing as though July is the most depressing month of the year for veggie gardeners we thought we would give the garden a break this blog and talk a little more about kids and fun activities. Recently for G's birthday we decided to make a scarecrow as she has been quite obsessed with them for reasons still unknown to us.

We bought a bale of hay for $12 and got busy stuffing some old jeans, a flanny and a pillowcase to make our very own scarecrow. For anyone who is hard up on ideas of what to do with kids one Saturday, go out and buy yourself a bale of hay. For $12 we kept both N and G thoroughly entertained for at least three hours. It also gave us an excellent opportunity to do something creative with the kids out in the sunshine.

Dress Ups
Of late we have also discovered the potential (from one of our very creative neighbours) in having a 'dress ups' box full of cheap but fun outfits. Recently N and G were invited to a fancy dress party for wizards and so we set about making their costumes, this also turned out to be a great family activity. We made the capes and hats for them and then N and G spent a morning sticking stars and moons to their paper hats. After making some magic wands and finding some old straw brooms the wizards were away. We have put some of their old favourites in their 'dress ups' box like N's knight costume (which we often wears with brights yellow goggles and a cape?) and G's doctor and lady beetle outfits but have also added a collection of capes (material with holes cut out for their head), old business shirts and bangles. We highly recommend making a 'dress ups' box, throw in anything you can find but more importantly spend some time making the outfits with your kids, it is loads of fun.

With 8 days before the arrival of number three (yipppeee) it may be a few weeks before we blog again but in the meantime we would love to get your feedback on whether or not you think we should rebuild our veggie garden beds with either bessa-bricks or galvanised corrugated iron. If you are a fb reader of our blog feel free to leave an opinion on fb. We have decided that our current garden beds are too large (2 x 3 m) and are planning on replacing them with 8 - 10 smaller beds of 1.5 x 1 m. Bessa bricks are more expensive but may be more aesthetically pleasing while corrugated iron will be cheaper and faster to build. Either way the old beds will probably be burnt in our fireplace. P.s. anyone with great ideas for free fire-wood, cough up.

So til next time when we will no doubt be totally sleep deprived but hopefully still warm...oh and for all those die hard fans of moon planting out there, here is the July/August moon planting chart...aaahhrrrrooooo. Next month, its time to start preparing for spring, with the return of favs such as tomatoes, egg plants and capsicums. Spring is just around the corner.