Sunday, 30 December 2007

One More Day in 2007

About a month before Christmas, the Machinist bought me a brand new computer. It's one of those large screen, HP Touchsmarts, with no bulky hard drive needing space on the desk. You just put a printer behind the computer and the documents actually come out what seems to be the 'mouth' of the flat hard drive, which is attached behind the actual screen. I still can't get over how fast it prints, and how cool it is to watch the A4 come out the said 'mouth', and on to the back of my hands WHILE I'M TILL TYPING. Really cool. As I'm typing, tiny summer gnats and flies are attracted to the bright screen, and as their tiny bodies touch the screen, it beeps. Sometimes, before I can scoot the midgies away, they've already switched screens for me. That's how sensitive it is. To think that such teeny tiny creatures could have a great affect on technology... I'll be typing then suddenly I'm on another web page, or the hyperlink box appears.




Mam and da are staying with us for a few days. It's mam's birthday tomorrow. 31st December. She says that her mam was always rushing and just managed to have her before the old year ended and the new year crept in. I so wanted to give my darling mam her birthday gift today, and she was thrilled about it, chuckling with delight (as she still does), but declined the offer to wait until morning. It's nearly 'morning' now, but mam is fast asleep in her comfy granny nightie. She says she still wears long sleeve nighties in summer, because then she doesn't have to have heavy duvets or blankets over her. Such a dear cock-bod!

I hope it's not too hot tomorrow. Mam and I will be sorting the schoolroom (loads of plastic bins in the cupboard to go through), and dad will probably be out in the workshop with the Machinist, scrounging some work off him. I hate that the Machinist has to work tomorrow, along with Middle Daghter and NOS, but it is a good feeling to have a lot of large projects lined up as we go into the new year.

I hope to see you tomorrow, but if we get too carried away sorting and organising, I wish you all the happiness for the new year!

Helen xoxoxoxo
PS I only recently learned what the xoxoxoxos are. They're hugs and kisses. How about that...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Time

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

~Charles Dickens






Merry Christmas to you and your precious families!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Happy Birthday to the Machinist!

Happy Birthday to the Machinist!

20th November 2007

What a pity the Machinist had such a lot of work to finish on his birthday! Sweat on his brow, and determination on the rest of his face, he laboured on....and on, knowing that the project would very soon be finished. Each time the Machinist works on a large project, he has a saying; "I think I've found it. I've been looking for it, but I think I've found it", meaning that he has just finished manufacturing the last product for any particular customer's order.

The Machinist's birthday dinner was a braai with roast potatoes accompanied by a scrumptious side salad made from mixed lettuce, tomatoes, spanish onions and sliced apple - mostly from the garden, topped with 'Paul Newman's' salad dressing and hand made by the young ladies. A rhubarb, apple and custard tart followed this, but not straight after the main meal; oh no. The Machinist enjoys this type of treat later in the evening, and his birthday night was no different as he watched '300' on Box Office.

This is the way the Machinist and his family celebrate their special days; quiet and simple, yet more importantly - together.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Busy Punkin' Heads...

The past few weeks have been long and tedious, and the manufacture of linen skips and their delivery to a local hospital has been gruelling for the Machinist and his family. 35 degree heat and working in a non-insulated workshop makes a lady ...ahem... more than glow; It gives her delicate skin the appearance of embers. Fortunately, there has been relief from the heat, as after lunch each day, the swimming pool (now perfectly 'chemicalised' with the right ph, sunfilter, chlorination etc) has had a delightful workout. The Machinist says that the daily dip cools down his 'core' and encourages his family to cool their cores, too.

During the course of hard labours borne in the workshop, the planning and organising of our Village's annual pumpkin festival has also been consuming time which we knew not that we had. Taking bookings for the Pumpkin Lovers' Christmas Bash, writing to prospective stallholders, meeting with prospective sponsors is extremely overwhelming, yet oh so necessary at this time, so that all is in place and working like a well-watered-and-manured pumpkin by Festival weekend in May 2008.

The Pumpkin Festival Blog is a sheer delight to update and is done so regularly, with a dash of quirkiness and a twist of pumpkin. Click here for the latest developments.....

Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Brocante Home Puttery Treats Challenge

Alison May of Brocante Home has put out a challenge to her readers! How can we resist? She wants us to select one (sigh...) of her "Puttery Treats" from a generously vast collection and... well... blog about it. The difficulty is; how can we select just one? They are all so tantalising and seducing....
I have chosen a few of Alison's Puttery Treats, because I couldn't make my mind up about just one. It is late spring here in Australia, but because I ADORE harvest time, I simply could not refrain from reminiscing Autumns past... 

Thanks for the memories, Alison!

"Spend baking day this week filling your freezer with warming soups. Nothing is more homely than having a big vat of chunky vegetable soup on the go: the smell alone is enough to make you never want to leave the house. Serve with heavy multigrained homemade bread and lunch in the glow of candlelight".
 This is where the ladies do all their cooking and baking. The Machinist made the stainless steel benches and they are wonderful to use. He bought the steel from a local second hand dealer, and was absolutely thrilled at the price! (Much less than he would have had to pay from a stainless steel supplier). The stove you can see holds at least five massive pots and the whole kitchen starts to look like a Turkish sauna when the soups and stews are bubbling away. In fact, it is quite risky business when any attempts to stir the soups are made, as the juices sometimes erupt up and onto the ladies' faces.
Horrrors!
All scraps from the peeled and tipped veg-a-buls go into the galvanised chicken bucket under the bench, and the hens love to peck and scratch these offerings (we're careful not to put any garlic / onion skins in there, as they are not good for hens). The puppies just know they're in for a treat when they smell the aroma of smoked bacon, and don't seem to mind a few appendages of burned mushy pea clumps stuck to the bones. Nothing goes to waste.
The Machinist and Favourite Son often comment that they can detect the smell of the soups from the workshop, and that it calls them home....
If a large portion of time has been spent on preparing and cooking the soups and stews, home-made bread is mixed and allowed to rise in the trusty bread making machine. But....it is one of life's simple pleasures, and so satisfying to hand knead and drop the raw, stretchy dough into old and somewhat rusty bread tins and watch the (oddly shaped) loaves rise in the oven.

"Harvest the apples on your trees and spend an afternoon making puree, chutneys and pies. Leave a basket in the garden for collecting the fruit". 


When mam comes over to visit, she insists on taking a basket of apples home with her. She seldom takes the unblemished apples, but prefers those with nodules or tiny cankers, as they are "more tart" for her concoctions. It's the same with the plums, as she has her 'favourite' plum tree and persists that although it's branches are sparsely endowed, the tiny fruits still reign as palate champions.
This picture shows jars of apple sauce (for pork), cinnamon apple butter (for custard or when we fancy something sweet, straight from the pot), spicy apple chutney (delicious with bread and cheese) and curried apple chutney (no particular partner/s needed - it goes with everything). There's also jars of locally grown honey, transferred from huge tubs; ~ gifts from the Village Bee Keeper.
The fruit and vegetables are always collected in baskets, as we have many, and there is something so very 'country' about collecting a harvest in a basket. Sometimes, in really busy periods, we leave the fresh produce in the baskets, but later regret it when we discover that some of the fruits have matured too quickly and spread their aging juices - liberally - on the other varieties.

"Start squirrelling away some groceries for the times later on in the season when it is just too cosy to leave your house and face the flourescent horror of the supermarket. Add gingham tops to jars full of homemade jams and display on your counter tops. Autumn is all about abundance..."






"Come ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest-home; All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin; God our maker doth provide, For our wants to be supplied; Come to God's own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest-home" 

It seems that the Autumn harvest and gathering of food is synonymous with this poem by Henry Alford. The ripened produce. The Housekeeper stocking the larder with non perishable foods. The preparation of the house for winter.....

These jars were about to be sent to the tip, but we salvaged them. (They once contained sun-dried tomatoes, olives and artichokes). In cooler months, country mice tend to visit the kitchen and are always destructively hungry. The jars prove most effective in keeping dried foods uncontaminated from mousy antics! The ladies made green gingham toppers for the jars, but because they are used so often, the ties for the toppers became a mennace. Not only the ties, but the toppers themselves tended to become grotty very quickly. Fortunately, the lids to the jars are all the same colour - green, so they look uniform, but the ladies are still 'thinking' about grinding the paint off the lids and polishing them, so that they will have the appearance of stainless steel.

"To match the rest of the kitchen..." declare the young ladies

At the moment, this is just a 'thought' - along with many others....

Friday, 9 November 2007

Manufacturing Skips

The whole family have been working in the workshop for the whole week this week (What a mouthful!).

The Machinist received a large order for Ergo Skips (designed, patented and manufactured by the Machinist - you can read about our Ergo Skips here if you have the time or inclination).

The Ladies of the House often have a chuckle and ponder how vastly different their roles in life are. One day it's glorious housework and homemaking. The next, planting, weeding and general gardening. Some days are all about cooking (and sometimes, even baking). And then, when the Machinist is extremely snowed under (ha! It's currently snowing in our Village in late spring. Delightful!) the Ladies don their worst attire and help out in the workshop and fearlessly, they brave dust, grease and metal chips. Here are a couple of pics which show part of the manufacturing process:

The Machinist and Favourite Son weld these frames together. The Ladies buff and polish the welds on the frames.

Then, the whole family work together on the folding machine to make several folds on what will become the base of the skip.

Tomorrow, there will be more folding (and buffing and polishing). We're all looking forward to the weekend, when hopefully, a touch of household normality may return.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Glancing at the date on my last post, I was immediately transported to memories of my childhood in England. The Fifth of November: Bonfire night and Bonfire Toffee. 'Penny for the Guy, sir?'

"Guy" was a home-made and always unique looking dummy, and days before Bonfire night, Guy was transported around the neighbourhood in an old pram, and was doomed to be burned on the bonfire, while excited children watched with glee.

Bonfire night was traditional, in remembrance of Guy Fawkes ~ a rebel character in British history who plotted, unsuccessfully, to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

"Remember remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot"

Sweet, sweet memories!

The Shoe Rack



The Machinist made this rack for our deck wall at the back of the house. The ladies of the house do not enjoy the experience of faint flutterings or shuffling of any live, abeit tiny ~ creature on their delicate feet. Hence the need to suspend said footwear upside down. It's not that the ladies think that little beatles or Hairy Marys can't crawl up the wellies; they can. But turning them upside down gives a somewhat sense of peace.

On the rack are a pair of trusty Colorado shoes, that got drenched on the day of the downpour. The green wellies are apparently posher than the hard-wearing clumsy black ones. The red Crocks were bought for the Machinist's wife. All pairs of footwear are interchangeable between the ladies, and are easy to slip on when a sudden dash to the washing line is required. Or when the hens need feeding first thing in the morning (the Machinist insists that 'his' hens are as regular as clockwork and love to be fed at the same time each day. "Breakfast at 7, eggs by 11").

Another reason for the shoe rack is that if ever any sandals or shoes or wellies are left on the back deck, or the pool deck, or elsewhere in the garden, the Puppies will tear them apart.

Oh, and we simply couldn't resist the leopard-print umbrella. Looks so foxy in a rainstorm....

Wives and Mothers

"Being good parents is, in my opinion, a rewarding if difficult career. Women who are bored with homemaking and being a wife and mother should take a long look at themselves. Being bored comes from within themselves. Boredom is, in fact, easily cultivated if you work at it, and it is a kind of blindness.

There is enough drama in any family to provide a challenge, and whatever intelligence a woman has gets full exercise. As for rewards, they cannot be counted. nobody in any so-called career is indispensable, but when a wife and mother so much as goes off for a change and rest, a replacement is impossible. And I believe it is basic in the feminine termperament to long to be important, to be needed. I think we are more personal than most men, because nature has made us that way. "

Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Alberto & Maria

Here is a picture of "Alberto and Maria", made by the Machinist as a gift to me and so named after our fond recollection of an 'Earthy' Italian couple. They are both carrying lettuce seedlings. The garden bed in the background has now been converted in to an exclusive herb bed. The great westerly winds that blow through our Village have often caused Alberto and Maria to fall over, so now they are firmly planted IN the revamped herb bed, and not at the gate.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Sunday In The Garden

The days seem to move so much faster when we are in the daylight saving mode. My mam tells me that when we were all wee snappers, she would have to put up heavy blankets at our bedroom windows to get us to sleep! The days went too fast back then, and they still go too fast now. Mam says that the Lord gives us all the same amount of hours, and it is up to us how we will use them.

Weeding, weeding and more weeding today. When it began to drizzle, Polly (Staffy cross with a Silkie) and I rested under the canopy of our faithfully-fruiting Quince tree. Before long, Sasha, the tabby joined us, but Polly 'smiled' at her; that is ~ bared her teeth. Sasha doesn't have to be told twice. She darted to the verandah for cover. I heard the side door to the workshop slam shut, and observed the Machinist moving rather quickly down 'Grape Walk', not wanting to get wet. On his return, I whistled to him, and when he saw me sitting under the Quince, he found it quite amusing. "You're enjoying yourself under there, aren't you?". He knows, you know....

For some weeks now, there has been a variety of weeds and miscellaneous green life, sprawled lifelessly in the bottom of our ancient hole-y wheelbarrow. Said greenlife has now turned to soil. When did that happen? How did I not see it? I passed it several times during the day, each day.... The Machinist says that it isn't good for an ancient wheelbarrow to be left abandoned with a full load. Adds to the holes. And rust. I mention the wheelbarrow, because before performing any sort of garden chore it is like opening a Pandora's box. The mis-en-plas of gardening: Gather the tools. (Where did I leave the fork?). Push (drag) the wheelbarrow, meandering past the vegetable beds, hoping contents of wheelbarrow doesn't fall into the vegetable beds. Search for the dog poo bucket and tongs (always elusive). Struggle with water fitment at each garden tap, so that the bore water doesn't come splurting out ~ usually in the direction of the mouth. Yuk!

It's still fun though. Gardening. The Machinist says that if his Ouma was alive she would be so very happy that we both have a penchant for plants (hey, that goes!). A penchant for plants...

Planted five pots of Pigsface under the apricot and plum trees. Also transferred several 'wild' seedlings of white Valerian to the base of the Ballerina Apple. The empty vegetable beds are ready for seeds now. Pumpkin seeds (more on pumpkins in another blog...) They've been dug over and raked, and we all hope that the kitties will not seek to use the freshly made beds as their giant kitty litter, or Bob (black Staffy) will not use them as a burial site for his archealogical 'dig', returning his treat of an enormous cow bone ~ dust to dust. The pebbled path in the orchard has been raked of excess straw (a result of the puppies having the mad half hour), as have the paths between the two rose arbours. The fenced herb garden has also been weeded, and 'Alberto and Maria' (two metal figures that the Machinist made for me) have been transferred to the top of the herb bed, so that they can watch over the growth.

I think a constant 'to do' list is in order for garden chores, as one job leads to another. And another. The front garden is next. A more 'showy' garden. Non-edible. The lawn patch is far too long, and I really must try and create some type of wind break so that each azalea bloom isn't overwhelmed by a sneaking suspicion that they could, at any time, be lynched by something they can't even see...

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Day After Deluge

It's the day after the deluge, and the Machinist is really happy that the workshop has dried out. Sun shines brightly, and a man from the local Council has called around to inspect the current (lacking) stormwater drains. Which makes the Machinist even happier, as there is a promise of "...something has to be done about this, that's for sure..." Declared on a Saturday, too. The creek at the bottom of our garden is full, and the Machinist has perfect 'Lake Views'. "Where on earth could a person work on his lathe, gaze out of the window (from said lathe) and watch wild ducks and Ibis?" he asks.

Yes, where?

The girls will be finished work soon, and the Machinist has promised to take us out to the movies. We were scheduled to go last night, but none of us wished to venture out after the water fight. And besides ~ what if it decided to rain heavily again while we were out? There's always areas of our old house and grounds that needs to be 'kept an eye on' when it rains. The Machinist informs me that we received 53mm of rain yesterday. Not bad.

As I write, there is only the sound of silence and cricket song. At least I think it's crickets. It could be frogs. Cricket song? Frog Song? Either way, it's a peaceful sound....

Friday, 26 October 2007

When It Rains, It Pours!



I've always said how much I love the rain. My children have grown up, witnesses to the fact of how much I love it. They, too, love nothing more than to venture out ~ well clad or not so well clad ~ to frolic in pure fall and inhale the pre-pavement ozone. However, ... in a (usually) dry land, endowed with a generous impermeable membrane, the results of a deluge of spring rain can be rather chaotic. Hazardous, in fact.

Such was the case today. Rain fell and fell some more. The Machinist scurried past my office with broom in hand. Before long, the Machinist and his girls all had brooms in hands, sweeping the twiggy, gritty, weak gravy mix that had started, quite rapidly, to pool into our workshop. "Quick, pick up the electric chords", the Machinist urged. The puppies (they're fully grown, adult dogs, but we still call them 'The Puppies') retreated, tails between legs, thinking that they had done 'bad' things. Mi Lad, the cockatoo, started to retreat further into the workshop as well. Not because he thought he had done something bad, but because he didn't want to get his claws wet.

Favourite Son was frantically digging a diversion channel at the front of the workshop. His overalls, so thoroughly drenched, looked like blue, droopy, excess skin. Rain fell harder, and the Machinist and his girls resembed broom machines as they methodically and rhythmically pushed the murky waters out of the workshop, into the already bulging stormwater drain. Had it no end?

Just when the Machinist began making plans for greater protection, the downfall eased to a drizzle. Favourite son called us into the deserted country road and egged on by his mischievous sisters, here he is, semi-clad in the make-shift wading pool, which we call the main road of our tiny Village. The other pic shows how our workshop was flooded.

At least the orchard had a watering! Greenlife is, in fact, greener. The air is fresher and our swimming pool is spilling over....

Thursday, 25 October 2007

"He doesn't look ill or anything....."



This is our pet cockatoo ~ Bucknuckle B Knucklehead Esq. or "Bucko" or "Mi Lad", as we fondly call him. Well, we think it's a 'he'. No-one's sure. Not even the vet. Mi Lad crash landed in our front garden one March morning. One of his legs were broken. Catherine the tabby was most inquisitive, and Mi Lad hop-hopped through the golden cypress trees, attempting to escape her potentially bacteria-infested feline teeth. We were quick to rescue him and later travelled the dirt road to our friendly (and extremely funny!) Polish vet.

The Machinist painstakingly crop-fed Mi Lad for two months or more, as he couldn't eat seeds, or peck off fruit; his diagnosis was 'beak and feather' disease and wild birds with this malady usually don't last a year.

Mi Lad will be two this December. He can speak English and he can act like a professional (he limps when you watch him and hops confidently when he thinks you're not watching him). He has spent the winter inside the house with us, and I'll wager he hates being back out in his cage now that it is springtime. We have to pass his cage as we enter the workshop. If one of the girls pass his cage, he whimpers. On the other hand, if one of the boys pass his cage, he squawks. When we are gardening, he follows us around.... intent on ruining as many plants as he can.

During coffee break, there's much chatter and laughter and messing about. Mi Lad can hear the commotion and he calls to us, so we let him out of his cage. He dodges metal shavings with much agility and precision, despite his disability.
Today was no different.
Favourite Son had made refreshments. We were watching Mi Lad amble around the workshop floor, with a pompous and indifferent air, despite the other pets who sat around watching him. The Machinist tilted his head to one side, pensively. "He doesn't look ill or anything, does he? He doesn't act like he's sick. You wouldn't think...."
Explosions of Toby's Estate*tm Coffee showered the concrete, and faces creased with laughter. After a while, the Middle Child managed "Not unless you were an outsider!"

All Kinds of Everything

Mam would often sing or hum when she was busy around the home. Songs and ditties that we, her offspring, remember to this day. She would sing when she was sad, too. Much of our repertoire, as teenagers was not always the current Top of the Pops, but many songs that preceded our birth by twenty or thirty years.

When I think of the Machinist I wonder "..How do I love thee..Let me count the ways...". My love for the Machinist is vast and unlimited and it just IS. It is for All Kinds of Everything (Dana at the Eurovision Song Contest, 1970s, and a favourite of my mams) that I love him.

Our life together is All Kinds of Everything. When I began to think of a theme for this blog, there was no particular aspect of life that stood out that I wanted to write about. I want to write about everything. All Kinds of Everything.

And so, with this in mind, dear Readers, let me now consider each of our days and count the ways...