It’s that time of year when summer is still weaving its peculiar magic. The holiday rush has abated and the kids have been packed off to school again. Somehow, things slowly begin slotting into place as the world passes by in a dozey, in-between daze, and summer manages to bedazzle us with a second fling, forging warm, bright mornings and drawing out long peaceful evenings.
 
 
The view out to Pigeon House Mountain. Photo taken using Jacob’s aerial drone, above the house. Pretty cool.
 
It’s a full house as we’re all settling into the routine of living together on the farm. Maiya slaves away in the early mornings at McDonalds and crafts away her afternoons. Kate has finished up the crippling holiday duo of working day shifts at the caravan park and nights at the pizza restaurant in town. After jetting off to the remote Indonesian islands with Joel, she is back with stories of spicy noodles, erratic electricity and no showers.  Anna has been working flat out at the pizza place with Kate, and strangely is yet to tire of eating this Italian delicacy. Apart from pizza artistry, she’s just started Year 11, and thus is the only Smith child to have a genuine, legitimate reason for living at home. A trifle, really. The more the merrier.
 
Jacob has been flipping thousands of burgers at Pilgrims over the January manic period and is settling into the normal flow at the BEST vegetarian cafe I’ve ever been too. Seriously, if you’re ever in Milton, you need to stop at Pilgrims. It will change your LIFE. Sara is working in a local catering company and is usually the bearer of mouth-watering delights left over from weddings and various shindigs. When she’s not providing leftovers, she’s our resident baker extraordinaire. Date scones, pancakes, pikelets, muffins and cakes are generally to be found filling the kitchen with an intoxicating aroma of deliciousness. She’s the afternoon tea goddess.
 
The past few months have passed in an agreeable blur of beachy, sizzling days; family picnics at the lake, nights of Grand Designs, Selling Houses and Escape to the Country (aka the holy trinity of lifestyle programs), the odd board game and family feasts. We’ve had a smattering of birthdays, too. Kate turned 21 with a drizzly garden party and some tipsy cake throwing (but mostly cake appreciation, as Sara concocted an incredible triple layer cake bathed in ganache).  Jesus had a birthday, then Anna turned 16 with a Mexican fiesta on the farm with her friends. She also smashed her driver’s test on the same day and is officially on the road. Sara outdid herself with an array of birthday cupcakes, and there were many, many moustaches, ponchos and sombreros. Jane (aka mumsy) turned 53 with an epic game of backyard cricket, kayaking on the lake and a ginormous barbecue. Sara remained the go-to birthday cook and dazzled with a showstopper pavlova. Basically, there was a lot of cake. Prepare yourself for a cake montage:
 
Kate’s three-tiered, chocolate, ganache-covered cake complete with truffles.
 
Anna’s birthday cupcakes. Pretty in pastels.
Mum’s birthday pavlova, a mosaic of fruit.
 
And me? I’ve been plodding along in the garden, weeding, mulching, planting, picking and cooking. I’ve also just started studying horticulture at TAFE, so everything is very (excitingly) garden-oriented at the moment. Ours has certainly come a long way in just over three months. Take a look at these photos:
 
 
The back slope and vegetable garden a couple of years ago, plus the gorgeous Anna.
 
 
Now: a panorama of the mulched back slope and vegetable garden.
The vegetable garden.
 
 
The vegetable garden after some much-needed rain.
 
Now, come February, the vegetable garden is bursting with plants. The zucchinis have rocketed into productivity, and vigilance is required to prevent the inevitable appearance of monster marrows. The pumpkins are creeping out their tentacles, swathed in orange suckers. The watermelons and rockmelons are ripe, aromatic and falling off the vines faster than we can eat them. Above them, the sweet corn is oh-so-close to being harvest-ready.
 
In the main vegetable beds, the snow peas have lived their life to the full, but not before providing us with months of the most succulent, tasty pods. The green beans are also on their way out after being plucked dry by hungry foragers. The silverbeet is a welcome addition to most meals. The greens continue with a bed filled with crisp lettuce, bok choy, spinach, wombok cabbages and rocket. The capsicums and eggplants are gaining momentum and the approximately 80 tomato seedlings we’ve raised from seed are blushing into adolescence. I can barely wait.  More snow peas, green beans, butter beans and strawberries have just been planted, which should see us through the rest of the summer with happy tummies.
 
 
Silverbeet on its way to dinner.
Planting dwarf yellow butter beans,
 
The back slope is cleared and mulched, and the resident red-bellied black snake met an unfortunate end after weeks of turning up around the place and terrifying various members of the family (mostly Jane and I as we worked in the garden). There is so much more work I’d like to do, and Mum and I have spent many an afternoon strolling around in deep discussion about potential additions. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.
 
 
Pumpkin, corn, cucumber, zucchini, my caravan, and some shy melons.
 
Pumpkins overseen by Gypsy and Shadow on the fencepost.
 
Zucchini, squash, and…*the hybrids*
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