Monday, August 10, 2020

Storm Damage

We've had a couple of days of gales and heavy rain and this is what I found when I went out into the vegetable garden this morning.  Although I had staked them as securely as I could in anticipation of the rough weather almost all my sugar snap and snow peas have been blown off the fence.  I've picked what I can but the plants are so badly damaged I think all I can do is to pull them out.

Not everything was wrecked although the rainbow chard is somewhat mangled as are some of the cabbages and lettuces but one vegetable seems to have survived well and that's the beetroot as you can this photo showing of part of the beetroot bed.

You've probably guessed from this that Pisces and I like eating beetroot. Both the roots and the leaves regularly make their way into our meals and are shared with our neighbours. I grow a mix of traditional red beetroot and other variously coloured heritage varieties which is why this bowl of borscht, made from a mix of red, yellow, cream and pink beets, is more pink than the usual red. It's just as tasty, though.

Borscht isn't the only way I use beets of course. The roots are delicious as vegetables baked, steamed or boiled, you can use them in cakes and raw grated into salads or processed into vegetable smoothies while the leaves can be steamed, braised or microwaved with the tender young leaves a lovely addition to a leafy salad. It's a vegetable that just keeps on giving.

Thursday, August 06, 2020


We've had a spate of scam and nuisance phone calls on the land line in the past few days. There have been multiple calls when there's a lot of background noise but no-one speaks initially - my rule of thumb for any such delay is to say hello three times (there have been occasions when legitimate callers haven't spoken immediately so I give them this much opportunity) as well as a number when there's no sound or they hang up very quickly without speaking. Yes, I do know that some of these may be wrong numbers but they could be courteous enough to apologise if that's the case. I would.

Then there are the out and out scam callers such as the man who said he was from the security department of Visa and Mastercard, others saying they are from the ATO (Australian Tax Office) and the robot voice claiming to be from the Department of Home Affairs. As well Australia has been plagued by robot calls from "Nicole at the NBN" ever since that entity came into being before we even get to the supposed security department at Microsoft which has been annoying everyone for years. Usually I just hang up as soon as they begin their spiel but I'm getting more and more fed up with them disrupting my life.  Today I was very tired having slept badly and decided on a post lunch nap. We'd already had three scam calls during the morning and to get a period of peace I went as far as unplugging the landline which worked for that line but I was still woken by a call on my mobile. Another scammer.

I'm really fed up with this. Having to race to the phone is challenging for someone like me - and it's not only the phone. I get emails either phishing or threatening me with having various services cut off. I know there's no point in getting upset or appealing to their better nature - these people have no conscience or they wouldn't be doing what they are - but it would be nice if there was something I could do to irritate them as much as they irritate me.

I have had fun at the scammer's expense on a few occasions when I've had plenty of time. My favourite was probably when I let fly a string of abuse - without swearing once - at one man who obviously didn't quite grasp how to be a scam artist because he rang back after I'd hung up to tell me I was a very rude woman. On the other hand it might have been another I've just remembered. I was out watering the garden with the hose and one of the kids took the call allegedly from Microsoft security and brought the phone out to me. I entertained myself at their expense for a full ten minutes as the woman tried to get me to follow her instructions to input some computer code. I pretended that I didn't understand and things were going wrong as for example when I sobbed "Oh no, the screen has gone blank. How do I fix it?" I could practically hear her gritting her teeth as she explained over and over again until I got bored and told her she should be ashamed of herself. She was so stunned that she didn't even hang up, just listened as I ranted at her.

But while this amused me for a time - and prevented them from calling someone else for a little while - it doesn't solve the problem. Even caller ID doesn't stop the phone ringing and that for me at least is the real problem because until you get to the phone you don't know who it is. I guess we're stuck with these inconveniences since there'll always be people who seek to take advantage of others. It's sad, though, isn't it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

In the garden.

First poppy of the season and it's in surprisingly good condition after yesterday's heavy rain which it must have just missed.

The winter flowers have been pretty sparse this year apart from the calendulas like these that are part of a border in the vegetable garden

and alyssum here bordering the poppy bed.

I told Miss Four that alyssum is also called Sweet Alice and she gave me a sideways look of disbelief. Just wait until the Johnny Jump Ups jump up.  Maybe I'd better stick to calling them heartsease.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

And It's Back

- the masked woodswallow that is. This shows one of these handsome fellows. Not my photo unfortunately but I was lucky enough to find this image by Jim Bendon online and available under a Creative Commons licence. I particularly like this image because it shows the sleek body shape and large wing span of these elegant birds.

Image by Jim Bendon - Flickr Woodswallows7
CC BY-SA 2.0

We don't see masked woodswallows around here very much but every year around this time I catch occasional glimpses of them. Whether there's a breeding pair or two that likes the area and returns annually or they're just nomadic wanderers I don't know but the arrival marks the point where we're now past the coldest part of winter and are heading towards spring and Djilba, the Noongar season of first spring and season of conception which lasts from August through September.

Most of the sites I looked at say masked woodswallows fly in large flocks but that's certainly not the case around here. I have only ever seen them singly but as one site mentioned that some pairs come to the Swan River region to nest I assume that's the case with those I've seen.

Monday, July 27, 2020


In comparison to much of the rest of the world Australia has done pretty well in handling the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. There have been miss-steps - the Ruby Princess debacle for one - but the Federal and state governments have generally been working together to contain the virus and that's why where I live in Western Australia we are close to back to normal. The only active cases are those brought in by returnees and are under strict quarantine and our state borders remain tightly closed with anyone coming in whether they test positive or not required to go into quarantine for fourteen days. There are exemptions for long distance truck drivers but even they are checked at the border. Our state government along with several others has resisted Federal government pressure to reopen the borders. While the Federal government's stance is understandable - they wanted to get the economy moving again as we all head into the inevitable depression that all these lockdowns are going to cause - our state government has preferred to take the more cautious approach and very few of the locals disagree with this.

Just as well they did make this decision as it turns out because we now have Victoria - one of the states which relaxed restrictions - having to backtrack with a surge in cases and deaths. The daily figures of 400 plus new cases in Victoria may not seem many compared with other countries but they are the worst we've had and the Victorian government has made wearing masks mandatory and imposed stay at home restrictions in the city of Melbourne and much of the rest of that state.

Just how contagious this virus is has been brought home to us with one man, who came into NSW from Victoria before the most recent border closures and was unaware that he had been exposed to the virus, causing an outbreak which has affected many after he visited a workplace, a local hotel and various other venues. While the health authorities have acted quickly to contain it no-one can afford to be complacent. This virus is a killer and we're only just beginning to see the after-effects it leaves in its wake for many who survive it. This is not just a case of catch the virus, be ill for a few days, recover and get on with life.

While so far we're free of community transmission of the virus in Western Australia it will only take one infected person for us to have to deal with an outbreak. Like many others I think we need to be prepared in case the worst happens and while I hope we're not going to have an outbreak of the panic buying from the beginning of the outbreak I suspect that most of us are trying to make sure we have a cushion in case things go badly wrong. This was brought home to us when the Victorian government without warning locked down several tower blocks leaving many of the residents in need of food and medicines and unable to go out to get them. While the community stepped up delivering food and ensuring they got the supplies they needed no-one wants to end up in that situation.

If we were to be locked down Pisces and I are better off than many because even in normal times I try to keep us supplied with what food and other essential items we need for at least a fortnight so that if I have a flare up of any of my chronic illnesses we will at least be able to eat. As Pisces is not the greatest of cooks this includes keeping the freezer stocked with ready prepared meals that only need reheating. Who'd have thought there could be any positives associated with chronic illness.  I certainly didn't but there you go. And that, my friends, is my Pollyanna moment for today.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Rainy Days

I'm not complaining you understand. I live in a drying part of the world so any rain is welcomed, preferably heavy soaking rain showers without strong winds which is what we're experiencing today. Even better is that I was able to go out between showers and pull up some of the thistles which seem to spring up in moments at this time of the year.

Thistles aren't the only fast growers in my garden at present. The Flanders poppies are also taking off after a slowish start. You might just be able to see the first bud peeking out in this photo.

While the poppies may be doing what they usually do in other areas of the garden it's been an odd year in many ways with a lot of the winter bulbs yet to flower when they should already be in full bloom. There's still no sign of flowers from the paper white jonquils which I'd expect to be the first to appear and even the common jonquils in the front yard have only started to flower in the last week instead of in mid June.

Then there are the totally confused roses like those in this pot. I'd normally be giving them a winter pruning by mid July but as you can see, although they're looking a little bedraggled having just had a soaking rain shower, they're still flowering and the perfume is glorious.

Why this is happening I have no idea. All I can put it down to is the general madness that is 2020.

Friday, July 10, 2020

What a Saga!

and it all started out well - sort of.

You see we had to take our car in for a repair. This was the good bit because we scraped in - just - to get it done under warranty.  Off we went just after 9:00 AM to drop it off and pick up a loan car until it's fixed which is supposed to be by next Tuesday. The car was a keyless one which was a bit of a challenge for Pisces at the beginning but after a bit of practice he felt confident and away we went to do a few errands in the same area as the car dealership.

At the first stop we locked it using the remote, went in and got what we needed and when we came out found the boot (the trunk for those of you in other parts of the world) wouldn't open more than about 30 or so centimetres. Damn. We tried everything we could think of and nothing worked but we were still close to the dealership so we decided to go back there since obviously it was not going to be ideal if this wasn't accessible. It turned out to be a simple fix that they just hadn't shown us when we picked it up.

Great. So we put our shopping in the boot and off we went again this time a few suburbs away to Ikea where we wanted a step stool for the grandchildren to use in the bathroom. We parked - by now Pisces was quite comfortable with handling all of its new fancy systems - and tried to lock it with the remote. Nothing happened. We tried to open the boot with the remote, also nothing. Dang! We wondered if it might be the area - we'd heard there'd been remote control issues in that area before - so off we went about half a kilometre to another carpark. Nope, the locking system still did not work and the boot wouldn't open. Back we go to the dealership and there it worked. Dammit.

"Oh, yes," they said. "There can be problems in the carparks in that area. Would you like another car?" Well, we were definitely not going back there now since it was nearly noon by then so we said "no, thanks" and put our shopping in the boot. That was a big mistake as we soon discovered when we got closer to home, stopped at another shopping centre and - you've guessed, haven't you - it didn't work again.

Back we went to the dealer and this time got another car (which operates with a standard key locking remote). They managed to extract our shopping from the first one and home we went. By the time we got there it was 1:00 PM  and we both had tension headaches but this car works exactly as it should. It even fits in our garage. Phew. While it's unlikely we'll be getting a new car any time soon - our cars last on average 15-20 years and this one is only six years old - we'd take a lot of convincing to even consider one with a whizzbang state of the art keyless operating system after this experience. Yes, I do know we were probably just unlucky to get one that had developed an intermittent fault but why tempt fate.