Christmas in Australia is a weird experience. Shorts, t-shirts and sandals were the way to go yesterday, as Melbourne experienced its hottest Christmas day in 18 years of records. But spare a thought for the people living in the city of Adelaide (which is in the state to the west of this state of Victoria), who experienced their hottest Christmas day in 70 years of records. Far out it was hot yesterday!
36.3 degrees Celsius (100’F) in Melbourne is a hot Christmas day in anybody’s language! And I reckon it is important to recall that 18 years ago the official weather station for Melbourne sat on a corner of a busy intersection just on the edge of the Melbourne CBD. I use the past tense to describe that weather station because a year or so ago - and in these more enlightened times - that weather station was moved into parklands along the banks of the Yarra River. Since that weather station was moved to a cooler location, I have cynically felt that the current weather records are akin to describing the differences between apples and oranges. Yes, they are both fruit, but it would be a very big call to describe them as tasting the same.
The editor and I were lucky enough to spend Christmas day in the company of friends, dining in the shade of century old walnut trees. It was a very lovely Christmas day and everyone enjoyed a very long lunch extending into an even longer dinner whilst the hot Christmas day sun fell below the horizon.
On Christmas Eve, the editor and I had decided – for research purposes for this blog, of course – to check out the nearby town where some householders had decided to adorn their streetscapes with massively huge quantities of Christmas lights. The night was warm and we arrived to find that the street was absolutely feral with people. It was great to see so many people enjoying the light display that the householders had installed.
|Carla Views in Sunbury had a great turnout of people to view the Christmas lights on Christmas Eve|
Some of the houses in that street installed a fantastic display of lights for the public and we really do enjoy their efforts.
|Some of the houses install a fantastic display of lights for the public and we really enjoy their efforts|
Every year, the editor and I are always searching for the most unusual Christmas light installations. In the past we’ve spotted drunken reindeer, Australian flags and the odd Christmas kangaroo and emu’s among other interesting light installations. Our diligent process of content curation, brings to you – dear reader – these Christmas lighting anomalies every year, and this year the award goes to an anatomically correct reindeer stag. You have to admit that it is uncanny the efforts that some people will go to ensure that their abstract representations are not misrepresented by the general public…
|An anatomically correct reindeer stag Christmas lighting installation|
I won’t even mention that the Christmas light in that particular installation is a tasteful shade of pink! Whatever was the manufacturer thinking?
The majority of this week was hot, so spare a thought for us as summer has barely started. Two of the dogs here at the farm have very long and thick coats and so this week, both of those dogs have lost a considerable amount of hair, as well as mojo. All thinking people know that if anyone or anything ever gets their hair cut, then they will lose mojo. In an unfortunate, but alas necessary hair intervention (edit: including eyebrows and nostrils), I also lost mojo this week! What’s going on? Anyway, unlike Sir Scruffy who looked very surly and unsure of his remaining mojo after being groomed this week, I looked reasonably happy about it!
|Sir Scruffy looks surly and unsure about his lost mojo after being groomed this week|
However, Poopy the Pomeranian (let’s not over inflate his ego by calling him by his proper and more regal sounding breed of: Swedish Lapphund) also received a haircut this week. Poopy loves the attention and couldn’t care less about the loss of mojo…
|Poopy the Pomeranian received a clip this week|
Who doesn’t love freshly baked bread? I do, but baking a loaf of bread in a hot oven inside a house during hot weather is a very silly idea. In hot weather we simply bake fresh bread in a dodgy old electric (solar powered) oven that is on a stainless steel bench outside of the house but located in the shade. Unfortunately, the front glass door of that dodgy old electric oven broke late last summer and no longer closed. This is a bad problem because if the door to the oven does not close properly, then all of the heat which is generated gets lost to the atmosphere – which could be said doesn’t actually require any additional heating – and the bread does not bake properly. Anyway, this week, I installed a piece of steel which holds the glass door of the oven firmly closed. That piece of steel can be easily slid up to open the door, and then slide back down again to lock the door firmly into place. I can now bake fresh bread outside again on hot days without heating up the inside of the house!
|The electric oven in the outside kitchen which is used on very hot days, was repaired this week|
This farm is at a reasonable elevation on the side of an extinct volcano and so we have a good view into the valley below. In the valley below there is a very large and well run farm. That farm sometimes conducts interesting experiments with their paddocks, and about two years ago they slowly burned the vegetation in a single paddock. The burned vegetation in that paddock was then ploughed back into the soil and the results now look like this:
|A paddock on a farm in the valley below that was deliberately burned off two years ago is now looking very good|
As far as I am aware, that paddock has not received any additional watering.
The elderberry shrubs have been in flower for the past several weeks, and a few days ago the editor picked more elderberry flowers and produced another demijohn of elderberry wine which is happily bubbling away in the hot sun:
|We produced another demijohn of elderberry wine|
Observant readers will note just how much muck makes its way through the plastic airlock on the top of the demijohn during the first few days of the fermentation process.
A few months ago we planted a variety of strawberry plants that promised white strawberries, and we got a white strawberry this week. Nuff said really. They taste like strawberries to me so I’m not sure what all the fuss was about.
|We produced our first white strawberry this week|
On the other hand, the many raspberry canes produced the first raspberry. This berry is the first raspberry that we have ever successfully managed to grow, and it was superb tasting! We have not watered those raspberry plants either and so the raspberry flavour was very sharp. Commercial raspberries are usually over watered and picked underipe and so taste like cardboard.We’re looking forward to more raspberries over the next few weeks.
|Our first raspberry fruit ever|
The newly completed berry enclosure is looking very good, but could obviously use a year or two’s extra growth. Over winter we have plans to extend this berry enclosure.
|The recently completed berry enclosure is looking really good, but will be extended over winter|
Speaking of berries, the jostaberries, gooseberries, black and red currants began producing edible fruit this week. Yum!
|A jostaberry shows off its many edible berries|
A couple of minutes of picking produced a good quantity of ripe and very yummy berries from various garden beds.
|A couple of minutes of picking produced a good quantity of ripe and very yummy berries from various garden beds|
All of those berry plants are so easy to reproduce too. In late autumn, I take cuttings from the existing berry plants and then poke those cuttings into fertile ground. By spring you will note that the cuttings are producing new leaves, and by the following year you should be seeing ripe berries.
The mulberry trees looked very sickly earlier this season due to the cold and very wet spring, but once the sun began shining with some serious force, the mulberry trees perked up and produced lots of fruit. Mulberries are delicious and the first of them are only now just becoming ripe and ready to eat.
|The mulberry trees have begun producing ripe and very yummy berries|
The Asian Nashi pears have really put on some size this week. Observant readers will note that in the photo below the local parrots have already begun sampling them and if I’m not quick, the birds will consume them all!
|The Asian Nashi pears have really swollen in size in the hot weather this week|
Apples are also swelling in size in response to the hot weather as this Pink Lady shows:
|Apple are also swelling in size in response to the hot weather this week|
Mother shield ferns are a local variety of fern and I noticed massive quantities of spores on the underside of their leaves earlier in the week. These ferns are very sun and heat hardy and they look great en masse.
|A local variety of fern – mother shield fern – has produced massive quantities of spores on the underside of their leaves|
A larger herd of deer approached the orchards earlier this week. There were about eight does and one stag and fortunately for me, Poopy and Sir Scruffy again worked in tandem to see off the orchard invaders who retreated into the depths of the surrounding forest. However, the many house wallabies have been up to their usual fruit tree destroying tricks in the evenings. Here is a photo of Stumpy the wallaby from the other evening:
|Stumpy the wallaby enjoys the rich pickings|
Stumpy the wallaby looks innocent, but he is a formidable opponent to unsuspecting fruit trees. The apple tree in the next photo shows the sorts of damage that wallabies do to the lower branches of fruit trees in an orchard. It is a fair thing to say that there are few if any lower branches on the many fruit trees in the orchards here!
|Wallaby damage to low hanging branches on an apple tree|
My experiments with growing radishes, beets and turnips are yielding a huge quantity of seeds for next year. As each type of seed is collected, I’ll remove the plant from the soil in order to determine what type of root vegetable that the seeds belong too.
|The radishes, beets, and turnips are growing prolifically and producing a huge quantity of seeds which will be sown next year|
Whilst at my favourite café in Melbourne the other day, I happened to notice that they had bags of coffee grounds and also bags of the husks from the coffee bean roasting process. I asked if they were throwing the bags out, and apparently they give them away free to customers. So I said that I’d happily take any and all of the organic matter that they could spare! Best Christmas present ever: free organic matter!
|Winning! Best Christmas present ever. Free organic matter|
With the hot weather this week, the farm is jumping with insect life all of which are harvesting the vast quantities of pollen and nectar from all of the flowers. Other insects are however more pragmatically feasting on the these unsuspecting pollen and nectar harvesting species!
|A butterfly collects pollen and nectar for food on this flowering geranium|
|A European honey bee collects pollen and nectar for food on this flowering geranium|
It is interesting to see that the European honey bees that live in the feral colonies in the nearby forest are much larger and have more diverse body shapes than the European honey bees in my hive. I’ve read that this situation arises because the European honey bees in the feral hives draw out their own wax and are thus able to produce cell shapes and sizes in that wax to suit their own preferences. This then determines the size and shape of the bees.
And, just because some of the readers in the Northern hemisphere are suffering through a cold winter, I’ll include a couple of flower photos from this very sunny and hot week at the farm:
|Californian and European poppies, plus cat mint and pyrethrum love the hot, dry, sunny conditions|
|This stunning rose has produced a multi flowered head which has risen out of hiding in among the herbs|
|I reckon this photo just looked nice|
|About 1,000 litres of rainwater was collected in the rainfall today|
The temperature outside now at about 8.00pm is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 1,183.4mm (46.6 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 1,181.2mm (46.5 inches)