Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cat-Astrophic Energy Generation

Happy to see the light of day!
They say cats are curious.  "Curiosity killed the cat"!!  Well, it did just nearly do that for our little resident feline last Friday!  As previously mentioned in my last entry, we have just had our solar panels installed on the roof - all 19 of them.  There were electricians, panel installers on guy ropes hanging precariously off the roof, plumbers etc - a total of 11 people moving in and out the house (luckily I was away at work and this was an incumberance metered out on my husband and daughter.  Nothing untoward there.  
Then we prepared a meal, ate and watched a movie.  We wondered briefly where Shanti, our cat, was but assumed she would present herself soon enough.  The movie finished and it was well after 10pm, so we started to worry about her.  The three of us searched, calling out for her - outside, in the garden shed, the cottage, then back inside.  We fretted that she may have hopped into any one of the 11 tradesmen's vehicles - if they had opened their door she would have bolted and would be a very lost and farwaway cat as most trades people live in the Big Smoke.   Further calling and we heard a faint meow.  We were relieved but frantic - we searched every nook and cranny, every cupboard.  We began to fear for her life as the meows were no longer answering us.  Where was she???

On impulse, I checked in the storage area running along the outer reaches of the roof.  I spied tell-tale squares on the wall - 2 of them, where the solar guys had cut holes in the wall and closed them up.  Could she have crawled in there?   We could not be certain as she wasn't answering anymore.  We wondered how to cut them open again, as they had been nailed, screwed and gib-stopped.  One more desperate meow and we knew she was in there!  Mike didn't hesitate - all those years of karate training kicked in - his loved one was in danger!  He struck the gibbed patch with the palm of his hand and sent it hurtling inwards - peering inside, he spied one very dusty and cobwebby cat!  As he reached down into the wall/roof cavity, her purrs reached Harley Davidson decibel frequency!  Happy to be released from her dark prison of about 5 hours!  Happy ending to that tail!

Solar City
The solar panels have all been installed since Friday and Mike is in his Solar Element!  He is logging how much electricity is being generated with frequent checking on the Enersol Meter in the new Solarium.  He is happy to report that we have generated 24kw on Saturday, 25kw on Sunday and 22.6kw on Monday.  An average household uses around 25kw energy per day, so things are looking good.  We could generate all of our summer needs but winter will be another matter............. we love to be warm!!  May use far more than we can generate with little sunshine hours.  We shall see....

In the garden, we have been harvesting leeks (as usual), salad greens, strawberries (about 500g every second day), a handful of asparagus (just fed them sheep poos tonight as I am sure they could be doing much better), oranges, grapefruit, kale, silverbeet and chamomile.

A deep container filled with juicy strawbs

Home-grown lettuces and home-cured olives accompanied by market tomatoes and feta cheese.
Fresh and full of goodness and flavour.  Nothing beats it!
At the end of this week, we shall be heading into December, which always starts me thinking all-things-Christmas!  Have started to make some little Christmas decorations - not my idea but something I saw in a magazine.  Cardboard wrapped in jute string.  I have packaged them with a label - 100% Biodegradable Decorations - Fully Compostable!  (that is, everything, except the bells which should be recycled!).

Fully Compostable Decorations


Enter the Sock Bag!  We tend to wear through our socks at the heels - all 4 of us!  I darn my socks to last another mile but refuse to do so for the rest of the family (it's a lot of socks we are talking about here and I have tried to offer sock darning lessons to my family but none have taken me up on the offer...).  So they end up in the Sock Bag - basically a sock grave for holey-heeled socks which is denigrated to the confines of the hot water cylinder cupboard.  I have tried to think up ways to use old socks - soap in a sock is a great one!  Or Tool Socks to protect sharp tools.  The best I have come up with so far is garden ties.  Socks make the perfect tomato or vine tie.  They still have some elasticity, which allows for tying around plants that can grow and stretch in time.  Perfect solution to unwanted old socks and a need for garden ties!

Take one old washed sock.....

Sock ties for the garden.  Come in a variety of funky colours.

New bean frame built around the last of the leek crop.
Leeks will be harvested before beans grow too big.
In the kitchen, am really getting into my weed pestoes!  Made one this week with 3 kale leaves, handful Herb Robert, bowlful of spent parsely going to seed, dandelion and nasturtium leaves and oregano and curry bush for flavour.  Add salt, chilli, lemon juice and tahini to taste.  Big-Time Yum!  Costs next to nothing and is  a seriously epicurian delight!  And my very fussy daughter will eat a whole bottle in one sitting!!
A bench full of green stuff from all corners of the garden
Something else I've prepared a while ago,  is ready-made pizza greens.  Pulled off all the leaves of swiss chard/silver beet going to seed, steamed lightly and pressed small handfuls together to remove excess water, then froze them on a tray.  After 4 hours, I bagged them and we have easy-peasy pizza greens............  simple and resourceful.  Makes perfect sense.

Hand sized balls of swiss chard

Ready to pop into freezer for when they are needed for pizza toppings.
Hot on the heels of sock sagas, Mike's favourite walking shoe elastic stretched and perished, so he returned them to the shop to see if they could mend them.  Nope.  So he went to Ajays Emporium and bought some thick elastic (green was the only colour option) and brought them home for me to fix.  20 minutes later, and at a princely cost of $2, his shoes should last another few miles.

And turning to the subject of chooks, they are still squarking early hours of the morning - well, I have noticed it is Lizzie!  Not Spence, she is a later sleeper and stays cuddled up in her bed early hours.  But Liz, pictured below, is active, busy, noisey and curious.  I have tried to hose her when she screeches but she quickly hops up into her bedroom, then as soon as I turn of the hose, return inside - she hops out and starts up again.  We do this routine several times a morning!!  I used to run down to feed her but that reinforces her thinking I will feed her whenever she screeches!  Mike really wants to give them away and buy some quieter versions - Wyandottes or Orpingtons............ not sure I want to simply pass the problem onto someone else.  Seeing as we saved them from the cooking pot, we should maybe see them through to their timely ends............. anyone know how long chickens live??
Lizzie, doing what she should!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sugar and Spice

Memories of travels in our new solarium
Mindblowingly Awesome!  We watched a movie recommended by a friend last week - Searching for Sugarman.  The unbelievable true story of a rock legend who never knew he was!  It resonated so deeply within me and my husband that we were nearly sobbing in the boutique cinema (luckily - only about 8 other viewers in the audience!).  I rummaged in my bag for a tissue but as I had bought a treat of Maltesers tucked away in my bag, the rustle seemed to draw way too much attention and so I gave that up as a bad job and used my sleeve instead!

Sugarman is the story of Sixto Rodriguez (simply known as Rodriguez) and as legend would have it, his first album flopped majestically in the States but a copy found it's way to South Africa, where the music was shared and copied until some record companies picked up on it and started to print records.  The music reached cult status and when, some 3 decades later, 3 South Africans decided to trace Rodriguez to find out what had become of him, they found him still living in a state of semi-poverty in Detroit, totally unaware of his cult status back in South Africa.  This is the music I grew up with - while my husband was partying to the music as a teenager, my own teenage sisters, brother and father were all playing his music and it's in my DNA.  Although the lyrics are mostly about drugs, I knew them off by heart from the age of 8 or 9.  So when the doco covers his return to South Africa thirty years later, with his 3 adult daughters, it portrays a humble man who is overwhelmed by the hero-worship of old and young South Africans, this is where the growing lump in the base of my throat burst and I could no longer contain the fountain of emotion!  Like Tongariro erupting, the emotions all spilled over - and poured out from my eyes and nose!  And it wasn't helped by the sniffs and snuffles coming from my husband's quarters..... I knew I could not look at him for fear of really sobbing deeply and embarrassingly loudly!

It was an epic movie for us, reconnecting us with our roots, taking us back on a journey from whence we began.  I thought for days of how unfair Rodriguez's life had been - if only the royalties from South African record sales had gotten to him, how it would have changed their impoverished lives.  Made life a little more easy and more comfortable.  This amazingly talented musician lived out the ensuing 3 decades doing demolition work and hard labour!  How must he have thought in the wee small hours of how things could have been different, if only......?

A garden sculpture spoon gifted to me
And of course, the movie reconnected me with who I am, was and will become.  The things that shape our lives.  Memories from the past.  I got to thinking how I am who I am because of so many things.  The family I was born into.  From my mother I got the love of growing things and sewing things.  Of making do with not much at all.  From my father I got the principles of loyalty, humility, right from wrong and love of music.  From my grandmother I inherited the love of cooking and words.  She used to listen to the radio, with a pencil and pad of paper next to her bed.  When she heard the announcers say a word she didn't know, she would write it down and then look it up in the dictionary afterwards. Totally discombobulating!  She collected words like people collect shells!  And she always won at Scrabble!  From my step-father (German know-how-can-do) I developed an ability to make things - to figure out how to fix or create something out of wood or bits and pieces lying around.  From my step-mother, I got the love of animals and sense of humour.  And from being in a big family, I probably learned to be so much of who I have become.  From my closest sister, I learned compassion and caring.  From my husband, I learned to fight!  As a timid newly-wed, he would coax me to speak my mind and he probably regrets that as I now never stop!

From my children, I have learned patience, the capacity to love completely, to recongnise the best and worst in myself and  how to give of myself when I have thought there was nothing left to give.  I also learned from them early on, that I could survive on very, very little sleep!  I learned resilience.  From living under an Apartheid regime, I learned about the ugly side of human nature.  I also learned to value living in a society that is tolerant and peaceful, one that values human life.  And from my kindergarten children I work with, I have learned to laugh, to see the funny side of things, to view things differently and not take everything seriously.  They have taught me that when I have thought I knew every kind of response and behaviour, there is always something more to discover.  They teach me to stay in touch with the magnificence of life - small discoveries become laden with a sense of awe and wonderment.  They teach me to stop and look and listen. To slow down.  Not to jump to conclusions too fast.  They teach me to feel the joy of living and being alive, of discovery and invention.  Young children ask a lot of questions but when you realize you don't need to "fill the empty vessel with knowledge" and you deflect the question back to them, they amaze you with their own ideas of how the world works.  Pure genius!
A scent-heady bee seeking nectar
And of course, our journey into ever-increasing sustainability teaches me so much!  Like the saying that almost has become our motto: "Be careful of what you desire, you might just get it and then question if you really needed it in the first place!"  There is a price for everything!!  Sometimes a monetary cost - but often we don't factor in the other actual cost.  Our whole solar panel energy system journey has been an epic one. There have been times my husband and I have fought about it - the financial outlay, whether or not we were doing the right thing, whether NZ solar industry is mature enough and not still on the learning curve, whether or not we were adding another headache to our maintenance regime etc.  Then the building of the solarium was completed after hiccups with every tradesman that entered the property!  For them it's a job - they get to walk away.  We LIVE it!  So all the little compromises and less-than-perfect finishes we get to live with and look at every day!  Then in come the solar panel guys, and they say they will come on a day but don't.  Then they come and realise the weather is inclement and they can't work on the roof so they leave without any great volume of work being achieved.  Then it drags on to week 2, bits of wires dangle on walls and out of the roof.  Then one day they come to set up the panel tracks and when they leave we discover they have left great big globs of black all over the roof, from the bitumen roof seal they have walked on.  They say they will be careful next time but today when I looked out of our dormer window, my heart sank - my once clear view of the garden is now impeded by the elevated row of solar panels on tracks to raise them to a 45degree pitch, so we look at the underbelly of the panels!  And the black globby marks are now everywhere - including 3 large dents in the new roof of the solarium where the solar guys have stood on the ridges.  
Kilos of lemons

Lemon Syrup

There is always a price to pay!  I just hope the price we are paying for this energy generating project is going to pay itself back and not become just another pain-in-the-poof money-draining experiment!  My husband is much more positive than me about it all and very philosophical.  He says in order to improve our way of living sustainably, we have to make some sacrifices that will benefit us in the long run.  I certainly hope he has the last laugh!!

And back to the garden, I harvested two big bunches of rhubarb today - the first of the season!  Still getting a small handful of asparagus every 3rd or 4th day to supplement the leek infestation!  Had a lovely stir-fry with leeks tonight, in a marinade sauce.  Also opened up my first bottle of 3 month-old home-made spicey Dijon mustard (not really my thang, mustard!) to peals of delight from the household.  All were yumming away whilst trying out the mustard on rice crackers so I think I'm onto a good thing there!  Maybe I'll develop a taste for it.......
Detailed inserts in the new concrete step

A sand koru experiment - it worked!

Playing around with glass inserts

Small bits of tiles break the monotony of concrete edging
I did have fun with the concrete pathway and mowing edges that were laid, although I was a bit late home from work to do too much as the concrete had already been laid and was starting to set in the heat of the afternoon sun.  I managed to put enough pieces in to create a sense of fun!  The concrete man was most amused!  I excused it all as being a kindergarten teacher - nothing in life is taken too seriously!!  And even if nothing is set in stone, it sure can be in concrete!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fight for your Rights!

No sunshine calls for desperate measures....
The weather is improving, with a whole week of sunshine behind us!  The bad weather had afforded me a day indoors to cook up a storm in the kitchen - I bottled 7 bottles of peach jam (courtesy the freezer - I had frozen 1 1/2 kg peaches last summer, as I had already made 2 batches of the stuff!  So I banged them in the freezer and was reminded of them one morning as we tucked into some home-made jams on ciabatta bread for breakfast!).  And then made some gingerbeer.

Mike has painted the new solarium ceiling and walls.  The former nearly did him in for 3 days as he recovered from neck and shoulder strain.  I potted up some wonderful Tropical plants in our newly acquired ceramic pots.  Our entrance pathway has been concreted, now we can create a Mediterannean style courtyard - can't wait!  I will plant 2 silvery wispy olive trees as screening from the neighbours, so that we can sit there and soak up the sun without any prying eyes.
The new solarium on a very dull day
The floor to the Solarium was ground and sealed a few weeks ago - it is brilliant - looks like a million dollars and cost the same as laying tiles.  I am very, very happy with the look!!  It is supposed to absorb the sun's heat and reflect it slowly over the evening.   Long may we be warm!  The daybed (as seen above) cost a grand sum of $30 and was built out of 2 old kiwifruit packing crates by Warren, a very handy American helpxchanger.  The mattress is an old one covered with Indian cloths.  Wonderful for lying on during the day, whilst ready and occasionally dozing off...........ZZZZZZzzzzzz.  I await that occasion with anticipation!

There was a little hiccup with the solar voltaic panel installation story when the company informed us they had miscalculated and  the panels would exceed the crest of the roof by 150mm!!  Of course I freaked, and they came up with a better plan - some of the panels will be placed horizontally, so they all fit in to the existing roof structure!  So those will be installed tomorrow and we can start to generate our own energy!!  Yeeha! Our power company has already come to install the new energy meter, to measure the usage against energy coming in.  Mike also discovered that the solar panel water heating was not working - probably hasn't worked all winter (we wondered why our power bills were so excessively high!) - to discover that the sensor on the roof was not working!  Oh boy, all these little challenges with technology!  I guess it's all still relatively new technology for NZ!  I could write a book on the challenges we have had with our hot water solar panels to date!!  There have been 3 replacements in 8 years!!

But wait...... there's more!  The solar system plumber also discovered that the switch for the solar water cylinder is faulty, also needs to be replaced.  Uh oh, what's this?  He took the control cover off of our hot water cylinder to check everything was working, only to discover that the very expensive hot water cylinder that we had to buy for the solar system, was leaking internally!!  There is a ceramic glass cylinder inside the cylinder which is NOT supposed to leak into the external chamber!!  It is not even possible to repair.  We are looking at TOTAL replacement.  So he rang up the company and they said - oh, dear, the cylinder is 7 years old, warranty is only 5, thank you for calling. Huh?  This is not something that we expect to replace every 7 years!!  It is also not an item you handle daily, and so could be subject to wear and tear - it sits under our stairwell in an enclosed cupboard, sulking away.  How can an internal leak not be a manufacturing weakness?

SO!  I went online.  Found out that this little short-lived beauty was Aussie built.  So I rang them - the operator in the call centre gave me the 5yr warranty line.  I insisted I wanted to speak to the manager.  Not possible, the manager would only tell me the same thing, she said.  So I got angry, and eventually she put me through to a "team leader".  Team leader told me about the 5 yr warranty in a very very whiney and irritated voice.  Like I was the one who was not up to the mental arithmetics of 5 and 7yrs.

SOOO!  I filled in an online inquiry - and I went APE!  I won't repeat on this post what I said but the sentiment was very irate!  I also went online and found out who supplies these Aussie misfits in New Zealand and did the same thing on their inquiry box.  I mentioned that their buy-line that most hot water systems were Japanese owned, but this one was proudly Australian, permitted me to remind them I would purchase a Japanese cylinder next time, which might cover more than 5 years on manufacturing fault.  That night I received an email response from the manager of the Aussie company - she said sorry, but there is only a 5 year warranty on the product.   At this stage, I would have taken a Bazooka to the friggin' cylinder.  Yesterday I warily opened my emails to find that the New Zealand company, CAROMA, had replied, saying that they understood my frustration and ALTHOUGH there was only a 5 year warranty on the product, they would like to replace the cylinder out of goodwill.   They only carry the product here, they don't manufacture them!!  Worthy of mention!!  A company that will stand by it's product!    Good on ya, Caroma!

Fight the good fight people.  Don't let companies fob your off when you buy their product in good faith and it does not last a reasonable mile.  Manufacturers need to take responsibility for their sustainability factor - we consumers should not accept the warranty line IF there are extenuating circumstances.  Can you imagine what our landfills would look like if every householder had to replace their hot water cylinders every 7 years??  There's a whole lot of metal, glass, polystyrene and electrical paraphenalia in each one!  At least they should be able to be recycled, repaired or reconditioned!
Ginger-beer, bottled and ready for the fridge.
Moving right along................ as I said before, I managed to make some gingerbeer and a HUGE batch of biscuits one cold morning - should have lasted the week - 80 seed biscuits in all!  Well, they are sort-of healthy, so we scoff them down in the blink of an eye!  The recipe is one I got off a grandma of a kid I taught about 20-odd years ago, so I call them by his name!  They are very nutritious and a wonderful treat inside children's lunchboxes:

Richard Trevor's Grandma's Seed Biscuits

300ml oats
150ml oatbran
500ml flour, sifted
500ml sugar
pinch salt

Mix all of the above together, then heat the following up in a pan and add bicarb which makes the melted mixture frothy, then add to dry mix:

260g butter, melted
50ml honey
50ml water
7ml bicarb

100ml sesame seeds
25ml aniseed
45ml poppy seeds
150ml sunflower seeds

Add the seeds and melted mixture and work well till all is blended.  From into small balls, place on greased baking tray.  Flatten with a fork and bake at 180 degC for 15-20 minutes.  Makes up to 80 biscuits.

We are still harvesting grapefruit, oranges, silverbeet, leeks, asparagus, herbs galore and just started to collect bowls full of strawberries.  I made a yummy pesto with a bowl full of parsley (bush going to seed, so it had to be harvest pronto), Herb Robert - about 25 leaves, 2 leaves kale, oreganum, bunch chives and half a bulb of garlic.  Minced in the blender, then added salt, pepper, chilli powder, juice of half a lemon, olive oil (half cupful) and tahini (about half cupful).  Lots of chlorophyl and green goodness, and oh my goodness, it's pretty delicious too!
I harvested all the leaves of one silverbeet bushel reaching for the sky as it goes to seed, steamed it in the pot with a little salt, then scrunched small handfuls of it into balls which I placed on a baking tray.  Froze it for a couple of hours then bagged the frozen balls - this way, when we need small amounts for pizza, we just grab a frozen ball and it doesn't need to be prepared.  Short cut Suzy!  It's great to use up little bits that would normally just end up in the compost!

Silverbeet and more silverbeet

The newly planted tomatoes ..... just wait till they are dripping in hues of reds, yellows and oranges

Some leftover sheep wool insulation becomes weed suppressant around the bean teepee

Shells strung up together for a sculptural effect

Leeks to last the miles..............

Leafy green bed with curly kale and lettuces
So we are happy with the outcome of our hot water cylinder woes - but it would not have happened without a little carry-on!  Sometimes it pays to put up a little fight - but as a wise friend once said: "know when to pick your fights, or else Life will be one Giant Battle!"

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Birds and the Bees, Flowers and Trees

I have been watching a very determined shiney Starling trying to break into the Chook Tractor, and steal their food, for the last 20 minutes!!  What a funny sight - he is very very determined, single-minded as he hops around the cage, looking for the opening he discovered this morning when my daughter went to take them out and put them into mobile scratching cages, and forgot to close the door.  Having closed it, now the Starling cannot believe his bad luck, as he hops all along the chicken mesh - "Where is the opening, I know it's here somewhere.... I used it a little while ago....".  Quite comical to watch.

The chickens have become a nuisance, skrawking all day long.  They are driving us nuts!  They have begun to lay, but start to make a ruckus at about 5.50am, precipitating me having to rush downstairs in my pj's to feed them and shush them in case the neighbours complain.  Well, I am getting a wee bit tired of that.  Specially since they eat and then start to squawk and screech again.  All blinking day long!  If we were not vegetarian....... chicken potluck stew!! My daughter reckons they are just communicating with us.  Couldn't they just chat quietly amongst their own kind??

On the subject of birds, our last Helpxchanger, Mekayla, painted an awesome picture of my favourite  NZ bird, the Kakapo, for my birthday!  It is life-like and covered in gold speckles which catch the light.  Such stunning ability to capture the likeness of this endangered bird.  I once wrote a children's story about the kakapo and tried to get it published to raise the awareness of this incredible bird - but it was rejected!  Didn't try any more...............  Don't know how most authors managed to keep on going till they found someone whowould publish their work!  Too busy with other things for that!
Did you know the Kakapo is the largest flightless parrot?  It weighs up to 5kg and is nocturnal?  It is highly endangered, owing to the fact it only lays 3 eggs every 2-3 years (if my memory serves me well).  In fact, there are less than 150 left.

Beautiful, beautiful Kakapo.
Our lovely American couple who stayed with us, set to work on the first Saturday morning with great enthusiasm.  They stacked 8 cubic metres of firewood in our new wood store, in a fraction of the time it would have taken us!  We got the wood at a bargain price (redwood!!) as it was a fundraiser for the local school. They also managed to turn the compost, clean out the water fountain (full of builder's dust), paint our old garden bench a brilliant blue,  aerate the soil which became compacted around the building site, lay several large flagstones, which are a remnant of our building, cook up delicious meals restaurant-style (Justin is a chef), paint an undercoat on our new solarium roof, weed acres of garden and then some!!  We miss them already!  Communal living is definitely the way to go to reduce stress!  It's like living with extended family, with fringe benefits!  

Of Bees:
When out and about in the garden these days, it is wonderful to hear the drone of bees at work.  There is a incessant buzz and hum out there in the garden.  Knowing these little miraculous workers of Nature are setting about not only collecting pollen and nectar for making honey, but also pollinating all our vegetables and fruit trees at the same time brings a buzz of joy to the heart!  Every now and then I catch a glimpse of a fat-bottomed bumble bee.  Man, wouldn't they just make the greatest little cuddly pets if only a little bigger?  All fluff and bum.

Of Flowers:
Along with the season of the bees, the garden is dressed in her finest - flowers bloom in every little neglected corner - some "weeds" and others, wild flowers.  I delighted to walk around on the weekend and snap some of the different species...Where I don't actually know the name of a flower, I make them garden, my rules.....Forgive me.
I am sure to have missed some, and not all photos were usable - ever tried photographing flowers in a breeze - focus... click..... breeze.....blurred image!  Can be frustrating.

Cotton topped candyfloss poppies

Flanders poppies

Brilliant blue cornflowers

Sunshine WildThings


Ruby-red Geranium

Wildflower daisy

Starburst Firework Flower



Globe Artichoke

Globe Artichoke

Neighbour's overhanging Tea-tree.... too good to ignore


Fairy Party Hats

Chrysanthemum (Shingiku)

Feijoa flowers

Chamomile flowers

Phycellium (I think)





Wildflower Gem

Fragrant Orange blossoms


Pear blossoms

Strelitzia (Paradise flower)
If I didn't know it's name, I'd call it Rhinoceros flower

Rosemary geranium whirls
Of Trees:
The feijoas are in beautiful bloom - with gorgeous Pohutukawa-like blossoms.  I laugh at my ignorance a few years back when they were small trees and blackbirds kept on coming to peck at the flowers.  I would rush out and shoo them away, to protect the flowers, 20 times a day or more!  It was only later I learned that birds are the pollinators for feijoas - so now I let them nibble to their heart's content.
Sadly, the peaches and nectarine have leaf curl - badly!  I guess it is because we were unable to spray organic copper at the required stages (weather was always against us) and the extremely wet winter we had.  We shall see what impact this has on fruit set - oh well, can't always have everything go well.  Maybe our pears and apples will shake off the coddling moth this year to make up for this stone fruit set-back.  The plums have set little pinkie-finger-sized fruits................. bring it on!!

Most other trees are looking like they have set new leaves and or flowers.  The citrus trees are full of fragrant blossoms - quite a heady experience to walk past.  The bananas have recovered from the heavy frosts.  All is good and well.

Of Other Matters:
We have concreted a pathway to the front door, as well as a mowing strip around the new solarium.  We moved in on Monday evening, creating a great little place to read, relax or chat.  I rushed home on Friday to poke bits and pieces into the concrete, as the thought of endless grey would do my head in.  It was a bit stressful to get home on time, as the concrete truck arrived earlier than expected and was already starting to set!  Probably just as well, as I only just managed to set a few bits of tiles in at random intervals.  Had I had my way (not always a good thing), it may have ended up resembling a Thai temple!   Shanti the cat seems to think we put the couches in the solarium just for her, so we are continuously shooing her out.  (We have rules in this house.........she takes absolutely no notice of them!!)