We have a couple of plum trees in the garden, the first to ripen were the dark purple ones - not sure what type they are (possibly damson?).

The big tree was literally dripping with fruit so we had to figure out the best way to use them.  Ian suggested we get a dehydrator and after searching around I decided I would like a Fowlers one.  The Fowlers dehydrator has variable temperature and you can add in extra trays plus Fowlers is Australian and has been in the preserving business for a long time.  I checked ebay and had a couple of units on my watchlist, but I ended up with a new one after going into the local Mitre 10 and finding them on sale.  Not only did K&D have them on sale, but they had huge signs proclaiming "Summer time is preserving time!".

So we made prunes.  I just did a couple of trays for the first try and this photo shows them after they had been drying for about 20 hours (they were more densely spaced, but I forgot to take a photo before starting to eat unload them).

Sofia loves them.

We also made plum sauce using another of Sally Wise's recipes.  It is a delicious way to use the fruit and turns out a very deep beautiful colour.

The other tree's fruit is starting to ripen now.  We have been told by a couple of people that it is a Greengage plum which is apparently one of the best plums for eating.


The book

This is the front cover of a book we were told about two days after we moved in. The house on top of the hill in this photo is apparently our house in 1911, before it was painted white. (It looks about right but it  seems to be missing a chimney on the left hand side from this view.) The book says that our new house is the original farmhouse on the farm that partly became the golf links around 1900 and was subsequently subdivided in 1915. The book also says the house was built in 1818 which didn't seem right to us and we have since been advised that our house looks more like it was built in the 1840s. There is documentary evidence that there was a house here from around 1820 but it was not the one that we are currently in. Looking around the house there are some interesting things that we would like to understand more about. As part of the heritage assessment prior to the renovations we have to get an expert to do a thorough review and hopefully that will answer our questions. We also know that the house has been added to and modified on numerous occasions which makes it even more difficult to work out.


Rescuing the verandah

Early in the cleanup
This photo shows the part of the verandah that is closed in on the eastern corner of the house and down the south east wall. The garden went crazy here and grew up through the verandah and split the frame and woodwork quite badly. Grapevine, wisteria and climbing roses were the main offenders.

So this little project is to get rid of all of the things that were growing through and damaging the verandah to stop any further damage and to get ready for repairs to start.

You can see from the photos above that there were some pretty big vines in there, and this was after I'd removed the really big ones closest to the camera. Judging by where there are bits of dead vine, it had been much more overgrown in the past and this has split some of the window frames so it will take a bit of work to fix all of this up.

It took a few hours to pull everything out and clean out under the verandah to make sure it won't just grow straight back. For now there is nothing that will keep splitting further.
After the cleanup - nothing growing through now
A better angle shows it's all gone


Cleaning up the garden

This garden bed was overgrown when we arrived
There has been a lot of cleaning up to do around the garden as it was let go for the last few years. Here's a photo of part of one garden bed underneath the Greengage Plum on the back fence. There are still a lot of garden beds like this that need to be hand weeded and they often have prickly weeds and other things that need special attention.

We had no trouble filling up two large compost bins with garden waste. We bought a normal size compost bin (220 litres) for our kitchen scraps a few weeks ago but we had to order these guys (400 litres) in as Bunnings didn't carry them in stock so it was a bit of a wait. We ordered and paid for two but Bunnings very kindly delivered five so there are still three sitting in our driveway. Probably should call them and tell them there are some spares but was also kind of intrigued to see if they worked out where the other three bins they ordered had gone.

Two big bins
Three spares. Thanks Bunnings!

Cherry plums and chamomile

One of the appeals of this property was the big block (2300 sqm) with established fruit trees and other fruity delights.  Ian has been working hard to get a handle on the overgrowth and we have both been turning our attention to what can be done with the produce.

My initial forays into preserving some of the garden bounty have been with mixed success.
Firstly I wanted to find something to do with the abundant cherry plums available in our back yard (the trees are technically in our neighbours' yards, but they hang over our back fence).

After looking around for recipes I came across Sally Wise's blog and an entry devoted to cherry plums.  Sally is a local and appears to be a preserving guru.  So I gave the jam a bash and the results were great, a little tart as promised and the high-pectin fruit meant it set really easily.  The colour was the biggest surprise - it looks almost artificial in its intensity.  I am planning to try the cordial recipe as well.

I was also keen to make use of the chamomile that had gone nuts in the abandoned vegie patch.  I figured it would be good dried for tea.  It seemed to be the common advice to use only the flowers, no leaves or stems.  Ian and I harvested a quantity of the flowers, dried them on trays and I spent a number of evenings snipping the stems close to the individual flower heads.  Unfortunately, the resultant tea was very bitter (sorry to my guinea pigs Susie and Liz) . I am not sure why it turned out so unpalatable, but I do not think I will go to the effort again.


Our house

Our house

It's taken a few days due to technical issues (the camera cable is in a box somewhere) but we now have a photo of the house. This is the view from the bottom gate. Quite a bit of overgrown garden here. You can also see the sunroom on the right hand side where we spend a lot of our time.


In the beginning

Settlement day dinner
This is the story of our house and its transformation from slightly run down house with lots of character to our home, and of our adventures along the way.

Settlement Day was 9 December 2011 and this photo is our celebration dinner - fish & chips with vintage Jansz on the sunroom floor. We forgot to bring a glass so luckily we found one in the kitchen. (Vintage bubbles straight from the bottle is real classy.)

Parts of the house are old - probably 1840s - and it's been added to many times along the way. The plan is to maintain the character of the old part of the house and change the newer part (basically anything with plumbing) into a contemporary living space. It's a major project which will take some time.

The other great thing about this house is the huge garden. Pretty well every type of fruit and berry that can grow in this climate is here. Every house should have raspberries right outside the back door.