Fresh Air

Well sort of…

Rather dry and partched
The view from the veranda.
Grass is a thing known only to those in the UK.
Even the wind turbines are visible.
We haven’t seen those since the start of December.

We’ve had a week of interesting weather. Let’s just call it that. Along witha few nice sunrises. Also something we haven’t seen since the beginning of December.

One such pleasant morning sunrise.
And still the turbines are visible.

Stuart went to Melbourne on Sunday night and to get me out of the house, decided we would have a meal out on Friday when he got home. Good so far. And with him out of the house and one of our 6 monthly inspections due at the end of the mouth, I thought I’d get on with some of the cleaning that was needed. Cleaning such as wiping down every flat surface, cleaning the vynl floor and hoovering all of the carpets, I mean really hoovering getting into all those places normally missed including behind as much of everything to get at the dust on skirting boards. Even cleaning the fan in the kitchen/dining room.

That sort of cleaning.

Then we had some rain. Not much, just a mm or two. But in it was hail. And this hail was big. And not only that, there was enough of it to cause problems. We were fortunate. Both vehicles get parked under a really big fir tree which in summer especially can cause a few problems of its own such as sticky resin dropping onto the vehicle. Give it a week or two and it will harden and became brittle, but until then you can’t do anything except accept it is there. It looks like you either have a crack or chip in your windscreen or that you have a water droplet on the car screen. But it keeps both vehicles out of the sunshine which not only protects them but keeps them cooler than them being out in the direct sun. It also protects them from hail stones big enough to dent the body work of your vehicle and smash windscreens. Yep, you read it correctly. Several hundred vehicles in Canberra didn’t fair so well, including vehicles parked at the airport in the surface parking.

That was Tuesday I think. I watched it from the veranda sitting on the sofa as the rain came down. What I didn’t know at that point was that the rain was also coming in from the roof down the extractor fan outlet for the cooker. I met it on the kitchen floor on its way to the fridge…

Time to call in maintenance.

Wednesday was a quiet day luckily and the weather wasn’t too hot, but it was hot. But it cooled down quickly in the evening and I was able to have the windows open all night with out problem. That hasn’t happened since the start of December!

Our neighbours alpacas came down to the gate.
I don’t often see them on my walks to collect the post.

Thursday started with a wonderful sunrise. It was giving away nothing in the way of what was to come.The heat that day was hot. But the air was clear and I was able initally to sit out with the chicks and let them explore. We even had a nice sunrise, one that I photographed because it had been a while since we had had anything worth photographing.

It was a great start to the day.
Lovely colours in the few clouds on the horizon.
Going in to the clouds on the right.
Coming to the end of the sunrise
and the entire sky lights up with every patch of cloud from horizon to horizon lighting up in pink.

That is until it got windy. And it really did get windy. Before I knew it the wind was really bad and out of nowhere. It was ahead of a cold front coming through and suddenly we were in a dust storm, a bad one with high winds tearing branches off trees, or just bringing them down fuIIstop. Dust was being blown into the house everywhere and I mean everywhere. And not just in the usual places. I started on the stuffing J clothes Into cracks routine trying to minimise the cleanup job…

The view vanishes without warning.
Visibility is as far as the road.
A gust of wind brings incoming dirt…
as it hits the windows
Things can change in a matter of moments.

It is still going to take a lot of cleaning up again. And that night brought much needed rain. 3mm. Not a huge amount, but enough. Luckily this time I was ready for it with a big bucket on the stove to catch the rain coming down the extractor fan and over the cooker…

This had been cleaned only 2 days previously.

And with those high winds came problems other than dust storms. The very high winds escalated a number of fires and also brought down power lines causing more fires and grounding all flights in to Canberra because of a new fire starting and being fanned by the wind. At one point the airport was closed to incoming flights with outgoing flights only in an effort to get planes to safety presumably. Then the airlines stopped all flights full stop. The fire and smoke from the fire were causing problems and at one point had crossed the road and was burning in the business park alongside the airport. For a while it looked bleak.

It is also a bad day with other fires. 6 in total were escalated to Red which is emergency and that very Australian line we’ve come to hear all too often just recently: “take shelter, it is too late to leave” basically you’re on your own getting through this fire. It also brought the sad news of the deaths of another 3 firies, this time in the loss of a water bomber in the Snowy Mountains.

We left Thursday not knowing if Stuart would get have from Melbourne, at least have to Canberra that was.

Friday was a busy day. I was in Bungendore in the morning and with quite a few things to get done it meant all morning.

Most of the dust in the atmosphere had settled following 3mm of rain overnight but you couldn’t see the wind turbines which always gives you an idea on air quality and dust or smoke ash levels. The guy came to look at the cooker and the extractor flue and did some repairs on the roof. The day only reached about 32°C so felt relatively ‘cool’. I was able to pick Stuart up off the plane and we grabbed pizza and chips at the Greek takeaway in Bungendore on the way home.

2020 Arrived

So I’m finally siting outside after 6 weeks (?) of not being able to even open a window or a door without a P2 mask or respirator on.

The air quality still isn’t brilliant, but it is better. It’s going to take a while before we have excellent air quality again. The bush fires are still burning and until we get significant rainfall, they are going to continue to do so. But today the wind is blowing from a different direction and for once the air purifier for inside the house isn’t going mad whenever a door is opened. NO2 has been the problem of recent PM2.5 and PM10 haven’t been as bad but they have been far from ideal. NO2 is associated with vehicle exhausts normally and innercity pollution but bushfires, forest fires etc are the original source of fossil fuels and thus also produce it. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is a brown gas so it’s visible and also has been leaving both of us dizzy and generally out of breath. It is still around now, we’re just ignoring it, it is all we can do!

As you may have gathered, the drought hasn’t broken. In fact, its worse. Here we simply haven’t been getting the rain at all. Last month, December, we got less than 5mm in total for the month. To date, this month, we’ve had exactly 1mm of rain. Putting that into perspective, if the shearing shed was 30m by 15m, that 1mm of rain will have added only 450 liters of water to our water tank. So, given that thinktanks in NSW says that the average daily water consumption per person is 340 liters at have and another 150 liters at work, for Canberra residents, (, that’s not a lot of rain collected over the course of a mouth. It’s a good thing that we are masters at recycling water nowadays!

But all that said, I’ve had to let most things in the veg plot die sadly. Some things have hung on by the skin of their teeth, like the sweetcorn. But I doubt it will produce anything because it is very stunted and only just flowering. The sweet potatoes are in pots anyway, so get the occasional bit of help. The potatoes are struggling and also get help. The courgettes just gave up completely and died so after the 3rd attempt and failure, I also gave up on them but I do have one or two squash that are still fighting so they get watered from time to time and obviously we are doing what we can to keep the rhubarb alive. There are a couple of tomatoes that are alive and producing tomatoes though nothing like Grandad’s tomatoes! But I don’t have a greenhouse to start the plants off early in and protect them from the late frosts we get here. And no matter what I do, I always end up with long leggy plants with leaf curl! The grapevine is covered in grapes mind you and the new olive tree I bought to act as a pollinator for the other olive tree I have happens to have been pollinated when it was at the nursery and has a handful of immature olives on it! The poor lemon tree is really struggling though and any spare water is going its way. it has dropped so many leaves and lemons that it is mostly bare branches. And there is no apricot, apple or pear harvest at all this year. The fig trees also are hanging on, just. We may yet get a fig harvest from them because they fruit continually rather than like apples and pears that flower once and fruit once a year.

Right now the place is the same colour as the sky has been for weeks on end, brown.


After many attempts at sitting on eggs (maybe 5 attempts) since the start of the season, we finally let our bantam (Stacey) sit on a clutch of eggs. But it was on the proviso that we were hand rearing the chicks because any chicks she raises are feral and you can’t even hand feed them let alone handle them. And I just don’t do feral chickens or bantams! In the end, she ended up on 2 clutches of eggs 1 week apart because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the growing 1 week old embryo’s that were crossbreeds (and not just between varieties of chicken but also between sizes). We were not expecting the eggs she sat on initially to be fertile, let alone develop but 3 of them did so we have some really odd combinations to come! One is an Old English Game bantam crossed with a standard sized Gold Lace Wyandotte. And 2 are a pencil laced Wyandotte bantam, crossed with a Standard Gold Laced Wyandotte. The 2nd clutch she was sitting on were purchased pure breed eggs and are bantam Silver Laced Wyandottes who are gorgeous little things!

When you can’t go outside because of the bushfire smoke pollution, the only way of hand raising bantam chicks is for them to be inside. So for a while we had the bantam chicks running around like a herdof dinosaurs indoors whilst I hand raised them. Every now and again, you’d turn around to walk across the kitchen and not wanting to stand on this minature beasts, you’d shuffle your feet rather than lift them up off the ground, and you’d accidentally score a have goal with a chick as you superbly kicked it across the length of both the kitchen and dining room only for it to skid to a halt, right itself and came running right back at you! They still haven’t learnt but this weekend gone their cage was moved outside for a number of reasons not least of all the fact that I need to teach them that they are chickens albeit very small chickens, and not puppies or kittens…

2 other chickens were also allowed to sit on eggs. One of our Lavendar Sussexes had her 3rd or 4th attempt by which time we gave up and gave her eggs to sit on. She hatched 4 chicks, sadly we lost another 3 at hatching due to the weather conditions, and then we ended up with another 2 (free) chicks off the lady who I purchased the eggs from. Pebbles, did a really good job on raising the chicks for 3 weeks then decided motherhood wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and quit. The chicks were by then pretty independant and as a pack/gang of 6 are fine by themselves. Finally, Speckles, our Speckled Sussex, hatch just 3 chicks last weekend and so far is doing great with them.

The only other excitement has been the arrival of our new sofas. Yes plural. We decided we didn’t like the three seater sofa we had and when Stuart was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, we started looking at recliners because he has to keep his feet raised when he’s sitting down, now. Plus I wasn’t finding the fit or softness of the existing sofa suited my back and had taken to avoiding sitting on the sofa at all. So we now have 2×2 seater sofas and a single chair. with them being a custom order, I needed to think about what we might need as well as what we currently need. They were ordered back in October and arrived just this week. Unfortunatly, they didn’t do any bright cheerful colours in the fabric covers (only in the leather covers which I won’t have), so we went light and are now adding colour with cushions which is almost as challenging because we like the rectangular cushions but currently their covers are all boring. So I now have 5 bright red square cushions that add colour and probably won’t get used as anything except decoration.

We’ve gone hi tech!

And we’ve gone Australian.The old 3 seater which is still in excellent condition along with its foot stool and single seated chair are now on the veranda. We may donate some or all to the bushfire charities to help those who have lost their hermes, but for the moment, they are on the veranda covered with many sheets and throws so we can sit out in the evening or first thing in the morning if the air quality permits.

We’ve been ‘playing’ with trying out cold soups because it has been too hot to eat anything hot (thermally or spicy) or anything “filling”.

Borscht and Sweetcorn Soup

Mango Soup with rice noodles

Avocado and Coconut Soup with rice and chilli fava beans

Beetroot Soup with tomato

One or two other nice but cool dishes have included

Yoghurt, Pomegranate Rice on Oatcakes

Yoghurt, Pomegranate Rice served with Khandvi (spicy chickpea pancake made with yoghurt)

And finally a treat for breakfast over the weekend, which should need no introduction. Pikelets.

I’ve also managed to obtain for free a brand new, unused Pasta maker which has been used with varying degrees of success, several times now.

And finally a Christmas present has been completed for it to join last year’s.