Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Growing at Gully Grove

One of the things I love the most about living on our property, are the native wildlife. As we've effected the topography - building retaining walls to create flat land, on our slopes: we've seen the emergence of native wildlife, take up residence too. Because as we set the land in place (somewhat like setting a bone) the flora covers it over, like skin next. This flora is food and security, for the native wildlife, who act like the bloodstream - carrying nutrients all over the place.

This cycle of growth, is all connected...


In the dry


So when we experienced the drought recently, it was somewhat heartbreaking, to watch the skin failing, and the animals struggling. Above, is a baby Joey, caught in that particular struggle. The mother kangaroos, have always brought their baby's to our slopes - we've seen these mothers, be raised here, as Joey's. Now attempting to raise their own young. It's a cycle we get to witness, every year.


Slim pickings


They come to our slopes, in search of food to nourish themselves, and their babies. As the Joey's get closer to leaving the pouch however, they train at tasting the grass, that will soon become their diet. In the above photo, the baby Joey has very little food to grab. The grass is not long and lush, like it should be. So they can only grab at a dried-up weed, instead.

It was heartbreaking, to watch those tiny paws reach for something to eat, and only find something dead. I didn't write about it at the time, because it was hard enough to watch, let alone to share. Everything we do at Gully Grove, is to ensure the living systems are connected. But nature always has the final say, and periodic drought, is sometimes part of that conversation.

Thankfully, the heavens opened recently, ensuring this little Joey's future on our slopes was a lot more abundant....


After days of rain


Mama roo was able to find enough food during the drought, to make milk. This is what kept her Joey alive. With the return of rain however, this little girl is getting her fill of grass too. Just like Mama Roo. I'll tell you why it's a girl, at the end. It's similar to how I tell, boy and girl chicks apart.

Not only is she getting her fill of healthy greens now, but she's old enough to venture out of the pouch too.


 This is new?


Another reason, the mothers bring their Joey's to our slopes, is how safe it is for them to venture our of the pouch. We don't keep dogs, although our neighbours do. But between the house and the retaining wall, Mama Roo's can spring-clean their pouches, without worrying their babies will be in danger.


Just checking


Even with all this grass around, Joey's still want their top-up of milk - plus the security that pouch is close by. It's all the security they've known! But it's so funny, watching them leave the pouch for the very first time. They start jumping immediately, and get such a fright by their long legs, they jump straight back into mama's pouch!

We saw her do this, a few days prior. Gradually, she got used to her springy legs though, and began to become more daring in her adventures.


Look at me!


Above the retaining walls, are two intersecting footpaths. They come down either side of the slope, and meet in the middle. Designed for ease of human thoroughfare, they've also been adopted by the annual Joey population, as hopping ramps. Every year, without fail, they leave Mama's pouch, and make what feels to them, a giant hopping adventure - up and down the slopes.

For such wee things, they sure can hop! Faster than we can run.


Back again


At this age though, she's never far from her mother. While traversing the slope above, mum is just down the bottom of the retaining wall. Joey always checks in, to make sure mum hasn't gone anywhere. I'm reminded of human toddlers, who suddenly learn how to walk. What fun to try their new-fangled legs, but always scouting for mum too.


 Hugs


Then there are times to just stop and preen mum. Because Mama's need some love too


Satisfaction


And times to learn your legs, can even reach-up and scratch your belly too!


Newcomers


At the same time our baby girl was hoping back into Mama's pouch, this little fellow shows up. He's watching them, and isn't old enough to leave his mother's pouch yet. Look at his short hair though - it hasn't grown in properly. Yet he's nearly twice the girl Joey's, size.

This is how I know he's a boy, and she's a girl. Her hair has grown in, old enough to leave the pouch, and yet is smaller than the male Joey. This Mama Roo had to work twice as hard, finding the food to feed her growing boy. The males are always bigger than the females, and take longer for their hair to grow in. Just like baby chicks. Only it's with feathers!


Kisses


So we have two Mama Roos and two growing Joey's, on our slopes. Another generation of fledgling hoppers and eventual nutrient spreaders. They got through the drought, so can now gorge on the tender grasses in abundance. Their droppings will help feed the next crop of grass too.

It's not just about watching cute, baby kangaroos, emerge every year. It's also about ensuring the connection between land and nutrient flow, can continue. Without that, our landscape would be a lot poorer, and our job a lot harder. We need the kangaroos on our slopes, to help.


 Pigeon Pea seeds


So here I am, with a handful of pigeon pea seeds, saved from last year. They're so small, but will play a big part in our plans. While there's moisture in the ground, I will plant many more perennial trees, such as these. Because it's an important food source for the kangaroos, when the grass dies back in the dry.

With the extended drought just gone, I realised we didn't have enough forage trees for them. Why do I care? Because I want to increase the organic matter in our soils - and the kangaroo population, helps us to do that. They're perfectly designed to carry nutrients around our slopes, without causing soil compaction. Neither do they require fencing to "keep" them, like regular livestock.

All round, they're just the perfect fit for our topography. I grow the food source, and they keep growing the Joey's. My most important job at Gully Grove, is ensuring I continue to build connections, where there's a shortfall. Drought is one of the biggest disconnects, in our location. But these tiny seeds, can help bridge the gap.


The cycle continues


For in my hand, I hold many trees. Nitrogen fixing. Ground shading. Bee forage, when in flower. But most importantly, food that will grow in drier times. Perennial trees are hardier than grass like that, because of their deeper taproots. So they can endure more protracted dry periods, and still put on leaf growth. Not much, but it's surprising what a tree can deliver, in the dry.

The above leaves are growing on a four-year old tree. It was completely stripped in the drought, like all the pigeon peas in our yard. So bare, you would think this subtropical species, deciduous. But as soon as the rain arrives, the grasses return, and the kangaroos eat them again - instead of the pigeon peas. This cycle happens every year, but the extended dry this year, just reinforced natures' own strategy, of plant more than you think you'll need!

So if you're a gardener (or want to be) I encourage you to bring all those seeds out of storage, and plant more than you think you'll need!



Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kitchen Garden - October

Before the arrival of the rain, which broke the drought, many of the plants in my kitchen garden, set seed. Especially the lettuce. So I set about replacing them with another green, I knew could probably handle the heat a bit better. Silverbeet!


Silverbeet sharing space


They really perked up, with the arrival of rain - but more so, from the overcast days. I want to get the most out of my container space, so decided to plant my favourite bean in the same pot: Purple King. As long as it gets water, it can handle the heat. I have plans for these beans to help cool the area, around the containers for summer.


Click to enlarge


This concrete rebar, was left over from our neighbours' house build. The new neighbours did a yard clean recently, and asked if we could use it. So now it will function as a climbing archway for many things!

Peter decided he wanted to use it for a play area, but as you can see in the background, the chicken tractor, also shares the green runway. Isn't it nice to see green again!


Curious as to how far, these will climb


So now the beans have a sturdy structure to climb, instead of curling around each other. I'm looking forward to tasting fresh beans again. The seed is saved every year, so they're fairly well adapted, to our harsh conditions.

I will probably put my potted choko vine, on this structure also. With the intention, in a few months time, we'll have some valuable shade.


Spring 2018


This is the kitchen garden in October. Unfortunately the strawberries are rotting on the plant, from too much moisture. That's a problem I can live with, as the plants themselves are doing fine. The cherry tomatoes are doing well also, and setting flowers. Although many of my herbs have gone to seed, so have planted more!

I intend saving the seed, from the herbs, to use again next year.


 New


As my original kitchen garden was performing so well, I decided to expand. I made a simple stand out of leftover wood, used for cementing part of the driveway. My kitchen garden projects, are using up a lot of supplies around our yard, and the neighbours!

The only question I am yet to decide, is whether I will build another archway, against these new pots. There's an extra piece of rebar yet to use. However, we couldn't install the marque for Christmas - as it shares part of this space, and only this space. Decisions? Honestly, I'm learning towards the archway. Because it will live there all of the growing season - with the benefit of shade. But the marque only goes up for a day.

With the rain, and my new growing areas being developed, I'm hopeful for some Christmas goodies, for lunch! I hope your gardens are thriving, wherever they are.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Closing airways

The last few days, have been a blur. David took Peter to the emergency room at our local hospital, when he had problems breathing and was vomiting. By the time they got there, he was very limp and barely conscious. They saw him immediately, and a team of medical staff quickly ensued.


Fell asleep (with his sister) at midday ~
Mario and Luigi came to hospital, along with his favourite blankey


David and Sarah took the day-shift at the hospital, and I took the night-shift. He responded quickly to oxygen, but struggled to keep food down. I'm grateful we live in a country that will treat our children, regardless of whether they have health insurance or not. Because we didn't have to worry, when an overnight stay was advised.

He's back home now, and all is returning to normal. Except we are now treating him, for asthma. It only occurs when he has a respiratory infection - which is likely what he caught from school. So his medication is socked away, and ready to use, when required.

I have some gardening posts I want to get around to soon. For now though, we're just taking time to recuperate.



Friday, October 5, 2018

In the timing

Perhaps the title of this post, should read: "Just get it done, already!" For I've been dragging my tail on a few pertinent jobs. I kind of blamed it on the lack of rain, but maybe I was just finding a reason to procrastinate. Maybe drought induced procrastination? The kind you get, when almost everything hinges on that next downpour. You hold your breath, when it's all on pause, and then...


Drum-roll, please


Exhale...because it rains!! Yes, that elusive wet stuff has visited our landscape, once again. And they're predicting more for the week. What this timing suddenly brings into focus, however, is what the heck you were doing, in the dry. Like, did you clean the gutters so they wouldn't overflow - or install new rainwater catchment to take advantage of the wet? In my case - did I fix the skylight that fell down from the garden shed?

It fell down, twice. I put it back up, TWICE - knowing full well, I should replace the adhesive tape, after nine years of service. Nothing like rain leaking into your garden shed, to bring it all back into focus. I hurried like the repentant procrastinator, I was, and got it fixed before lunch.


Peekaboo, I see you!


I have some friends, who are pretty happy with the rain arriving too. Mama Roo and Joey, were both looking for the tender greens which emerge, surprisingly quickly, after the rain. My potted silverbeet, has responded well too.

It's all in the timing, no? I often observe the natural sequences, which come into play, after rain events. Everything hurries to push itself out of the ground! But I'm observing now, how exactly, it kicks my butt into gear as well. 



Saturday, September 29, 2018

Scarcity

Several storms have threatened to bring rain, but somehow, always seem to skirt around us. Food is so scarce, the kangaroos are simply eating everything in our garden. They're normally such fussy eaters too, but when there's nothing to eat, you simply eat what's left.


Male grey kangaroo


You can see from the dead grass above, why this buck has to resort to other measures, in order to get the calories he needs. This boy would have been raised here, by his mother, some time in the past 10 years. He's not particularly old, but not that young either. I'd say he's in his prime.

He knows there is food in our garden too, and luckily, size is on his side now. So he can reach to higher places for it.


Stretching high


This is a leucaena tree, I pollarded a few months ago. Despite the lack of rain, it has managed to push out new growth. The leaves are full of protein, so this boy hugs the tree, and stands on his tippy-toes, to reach them. The female kangaroos cannot manage this feat, so I'm going to have to organise some shorter pollards, elsewhere.

This weed tree, we're asked to eradicate, is feeding the wildlife, long after their native food sources, are gone. Consider the farmers now in drought, some are completely reliant on this particular tree as a form of food for their cattle now. If you're interested in learning more, and whether this is a suitable forage plant to grow in your region, visit The Leucaena Network. They recommend responsible control, as their #1 growing tip.

Anyway, I'm glad I pollarded this tree earlier. I was intending to grow it as mulch for the garden, but so long as he poops it out nearby, we'll call it a trade.


Red grevillea


Here's something new I learned they eat too. Grevillea flowers! I had no idea this could be a part of their diet, until I saw him munching them from off the shrub, one morning. It seems the bees, have some stiff competition for blooms now. They better get up early, to beat the rush.


Garden variety geranium/pelargonium


He's also been eating the geraniums, which completely surprised me as well. This stuff must taste awful, and yet, the kangaroos need to glean their calories from somewhere.

If you click on the picture, you may even catch a glimpse of the tick, I think is on the side of his eye. Either that, or it's a war wound from the fight he had with another male recently.


Luckily these are not the only saltbushes I have


What started out as a couple of broken branches, on one shrub, has turned into a procession of broken branches on three saltbushes. Old-man saltbush, contains protein in their leaves, so is often planted by farmers, as forage for livestock in drought. I guess it's serving it's purpose here too, even if they're not cattle or sheep.

I wonder how much of my garden will be left, by the time the rains arrive in earnest? I'm not particularly precious about my garden, but this is the worst drought year, we've had. I just hope it's enough to get the local inhabitants through. Surely, we'll catch one of these storms soon!



Friday, September 21, 2018

Play time

School is out for another semester, so now is the time to activate imaginations, and enjoy two weeks of holiday. Surprisingly, when the kids were packed off to school for the last day, today, I found myself a tad obsessed.

When I say "obsessed", I mean I was engaged for HOURS - making preparations for the holiday. What was so enticing, it would take-up most of my day?

LEGO!


The Mario Brothers


It was all Mario's fault (in red) because Peter almost finished making him, before I had to pack him off to school. I thought I'd surprise Peter, by putting him together. Of course, I couldn't stop at Mario, could I? I had to build his brother Luigi (in green) next.

For those who aren't familiar with these two, they're a popular gaming franchise of Nintendo. Peter doesn't have much merchandise from the Mario Brothers, so we make our own. In this case, with Lego...


Help me, Mario!


Most of the Lego collection, was formerly his sisters. Which is why I was able to find a smidgen of pink, to make Princess Peach. Where would Mario be, without his Princess?

Of course, you know wherever Princess Peach is...Bowser is never far behind.


Hah-ha-ha-ha-HAHHH!
Mario doesn't stand a chance, Princess


This giant dinosaur, and arch nemesis of Mario, is always capturing Princess Peach - trying to force her to marry him. Only because he wants to take control of the mushroom kingdom!

My Lego version of Bowser, looks more like a Koopa Troopa. Doesn't matter when Peter is convinced it's Bowser though! That's what a good imagination is for.


Do not enter...


There's a Lego Mummy, guarding the entrance to Bowser's castle, so Mario and Luigi, won't have an easy time, getting through.


Defend the castle!


There's also a former Lego Knight, manning the giant crossbow again. It's been years since he's seen some action (tucked away in the Lego box) so he was keen to defend the castle once again - even if it was for a giant dinosaur.

Then there are bad guys, who aren't quite sure if they're bad guys or not...


...banana?


Poor Bob the minion, was just looking for some bananas to eat. Bowser promised him plenty of bananas, if he guarded the tower door, from two pesky plumbers!


Enter at own risk ~
especially if you're a banana


This tower came together, thanks to his sister's former lego collection, and Peter's new. I love mashing them together, to make new structures. Talk about getting value for money. His sister's collection must be at least 8 years old now, and still as sturdy as the day it came home.

So many interesting shapes, to put together. Whole new worlds to create! You can see why I became a tad obsessed...


Play time


So this made-up world, created with toys we already had, awaited Peter when he came home. He played - the bad guys lost (of course) then he went outside, to draw on his chalk board. In the time it's taken to write this post, he's come back inside, and playing with his Lego again.

I have a few other activities up my sleeve to pass the two weeks away. Things to be creative with. Things to do with our hands. I think I've been looking forward to these school holidays, just as much as the kids. Because I like being creative in the home, and not having to race-off in the mornings. At least for two weeks.

Have you been doing anything creative in the home, lately?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Springtime visitors

Mornings are when you can see some delightful visitors to our yard. I always look forward to their arrival. I might be making coffee, or opening the curtains to let the new day in - and there they'll be. Just waiting for me to grab my camera.


Grey kangaroo


This mother kangaroo, was standing on the slope with the morning sun on her pouch - giving herself a good scratch on the belly. I was concerned I hadn't seen many mother kangaroos, with their baggy pouches, around. She has turned up recently, and is munching on whatever green is available.


Kookaburra


This fellow had decided to perch on the chicken tractor, while his mates perched on the outdoor furniture, nearby. Obviously, a hunting challenge was on, for who could catch the first meal of the day.

He spotted me at the kitchen window, with my camera, and was most put off. So they all decided to fly to a more secluded hunting location. Which was just at the trees, a few metres away.

So much to see, if you're up early enough.