Sunday, September 28, 2008


I surprised myself yesterday by finishing the awning without Dave's help. He was at work (I'll come back to that in a minute) and so I decided to start with one post in the ground. After the first one went in relatively quickly, I thought I'd have enough time for another post.

When I got to the big cross beam, I almost downed tools. After all, it was a two person job. One to hold it in place, the other to drill. That's when I remembered the enormous woodworking clamps my mum gave me a few weeks ago. There was no harm trying them out and blow me down, they worked! The clamps held the beam in place as I drilled them secure.

I worked through the whole day yesterday, thinking I'll just get this bit finished. Before I knew it, I had constructed the whole awning. A very timely addition as well. I noticed in the afternoons that this side received the westerly sun. It was coming through the chicken door and hitting their water.

I used tall posts for an intended purpose as well. An entry gate to the run will be placed in the front, and I will be able to stand up straight when I enter. However, the rest of the run will tapper downwards. This will save me on materials, while still allowing me to enter the run without having to bend. As the extended run will only go a few metres beyond the gate, I can still reach the run with a rake for cleaning.

Plans...PLANS!! I always have plenty of those.

Now onto Dave's workload at the moment. An awful thing happened recently. He'd taken on a new fellow as second chef in the kitchen. Rather than go into all the details, I'll just get straight to the point. Not only has he cheated Dave out of his two rostered days off last week, but he also gave him 10 minutes noticed before his shift was due to start before resigning. He called Dave while we were out shopping. Apparently he got a better work offer elsewhere.

As Dave said, he wouldn't have been impressed if he was leaving but he would've given his blessings at least, if he'd given him enough notice. Ten minutes before his shift was due to start was pretty bellow the belt. The reason for doing this apparently, is he was waiting for his pay to go in. Once he checked his bank balance in the morning, he decided to resign.

Dave has now worked two weeks straight and it looks like it will be another week before his new off-sider can start. He's working seven days a week, from 10am to 10pm, and running a kitchen with only one other person to help, who also works the bar. So my poor-poor husband is just about killing himself at the moment. He cut himself with a knife yesterday, taking part of his nail off and some skin. His bosses, while lovely people in their own right, aren't professional enough. They should see this situation is serious enough to take action and intervene.

It isn't their fault, or Dave's, that this person did what they did recently. But Dave is the one working like a Trojan, risking life and limb (literally) to keep their kitchen running, while they "get around" to fixing the staff issue. It's not they aren't doing anything - it's just they don't see the urgency while Dave is under the same salary and working the job of at least 2, if not 3, people. One of the owners offered Dave a few days off in the beginning of this week, but the other owner intervened a day later to say they had other pressing issues to attend, and couldn't run the kitchen at the moment.

If Dave had managed to cut a finger off, then he'd be on workers compensation and they'd have to do something to fill the gap then. So as you can see, they just don't see the urgency of a man working 7 days a week, for two weeks straight, at 12 hours stretch at a time. I understand they have a business to run, but if anything happens to Dave at the moment, they'd be stuffed. It doesn't make sense to postpone the legitimate urgency of the under-staffed kitchen.

But I didn't mention all this to tell tales on anybody, because it's also been a valuable lesson for both of us. The natural reaction you want to take with an employee that's dishonest and without integrity, is to start lowering your own integrity as well. We wanted to loath this fellow, and I'm sure Dave did more than I. But every time we wanted to react like that, we told ourselves we didn't' have to become what the employee was, in order to handle the situation.

We were going to have to handle the fall-out anyway - but without losing our own integrity in the process. It's so easy to want to react badly when someone wrongs you. But it's also an opportunity to demonstrate what your own integrity as a person really means.

At the moment, my husband is demonstrating his integrity in truckloads! He's understandably upset and understandably exhausted - but still meeting HIS responsibilities at the workplace.

Due to professional differences however, Dave is going to be working towards giving his own notice in a few weeks time. He's already lined up a fellow to take over his job, and in another week the new 2IC should be ready to jump on board too. So Dave is continuing to look after his boss's interests. There have been a few job offers Dave has turned down, that were actually better jobs. He turned them down because his current bosses appeared to be nice people.

Which they are - don't get me wrong. But there's a difference between being a nice person and a professional. At the end of the day, you can like your bosses all you want, but it's their business relationship you depend on. But we remain hopeful we can navigate these troubled waters, with our integrity in tact. We've come so far and there's still further to go. But like the bushland project shows us every day, do what little you can and soon it will amount to whole lot more than you thought!

So I encourage others to use their integrity when the opportunity arises. Be confident that a little bit can go a long way. And don't let the actions of others persuade you that integrity isn't required. Every given situation is an opportunity for integrity, and it's how we take responsibility for our actions.

Take care.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's done!!

Sweet Halleluiah! It's finally done. Finished. Finnito!

Dave helped me attach the colorbond roofing this morning, and it fitted like a glove! I would've danced afterwards too, if only I had any energy left. So here are the victory snaps of one of our largest builds yet! But first, let me remind you of the heart of this project and where it all began.

A recycled cot otherwise destined to become landfill.

To this...

Side profile with the people entry door.

And the chook door side.

The egg collection side - or front!

Some indoor shots now of the eucalyptus branch roosting perch. It sits on the rim of the hardwood box, and only held in by one large, U-shaped peg. You can see the dark peg on the right-hand side of the picture.

This is the nesting shelf, the chicken door and roost shot.

The proverbial "rear" shot.

And finally, if you noticed in any of the other pictures - the roofing doesn't extend out to the eave on this side. Do you see the wooden battens sticking out the top?

There is method to this madness though. We purchased 3 sheets of colorbond roofing to make the distance. Realising they would be too heavy for the roof battens we installed, our plan has changed at the last minute. We're going to extend this outside area for their food and water, by about 70cms.

We always planned to attach a run to this side, which will happen over the next month or two. But for now, we're just so glad to have gotten the main structure finished. The run is going to be a more eccentric design with a really interesting shape. I'm looking forward to completing the final stage of our chicken run!

I'm so happy for our girls - it's far superior to what they're living in now. We'll see how they go inside tonight!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Carnival of Flowers

Yesterday marked the opening of the Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba. Dave was working and I had to finish my coop, but we were definitely there in spirit. So much so, we even planted a Bowen Mango in the garden to commemorate the special occasion!

Here is the tree in question. The soil was perfectly moist and we planted it in the cool of the morning before Dave had to leave for work. I spent most of my day in the garden, working on the coop, watching the chooks and resting in the shade when I needed a break.

In the spirit of the Carnival of Flowers, I thought I'd take you on a small tour of our garden. It's by no means finished, but rather the start of a wonderful journey.

Since we installed this old bench seat near the new footpath, we love to rest in the dappled shade. I hear lizards scrawling through the leaves and birds in the trees. Very tranquil.

This is one side of the new footpath. It has a bird's nest fern, clumping grass and the ponytail palm in the background.

Here is the ponytail palm in full glory. It's at least 9 years old and stands a few metres tall.

Here is the upper side of the new footpath. I've planted ground covers with silver-grey foliage, some clumping grasses and pig-face up the top. It should look nice when the pig-face sprawls down the slope.

Here is one of the many pieces of petrified wood we have on the property. This one has become the place for a mud wasp to make it's nest. I much prefer this place than under the eaves of the verandah!

This is another sample of petrified wood. It's a huge boulder at the bottom of the garden. You can see the bark of the tree which has become part of the stone. We also think that white bit is an animal fossil. It's possibly a lizards tail.

Here are the wind-chimes we've recently added to the garden. Reminds me of the tranquility of a Japanese stream, when the wind blows through them. It's made of bamboo, so very mellow and melodic! Our daughter loves to play with them when the wind isn't blowing.

This part of the garden is one of those surprises, which catch you when your back is turned. We had the chicken tractor on this part months ago. Some pumpkins have sprung up with the recent rain, and those grasses are from the grains we fed them too. I'm tempted to just throw a heap of vegetable seeds in there to see what sprawling mess can surprise me next!

Now on to the flower parade. At the moment we have Federation Daisies in bloom.

And the grevillea!

Some yellow Silverdust Sunset.

Day Lilies, with the rain drops from last night's storm!

Here is the glorious orange of the pig-face! I love this colour in our bush backdrop. It makes you want to smile the minute you look at it.

And finally, some of the pygmy mountain grass I propagated and transplanted recently. Next to it is a succulent in a terracotta pot. I love terracotta pots for container gardening. Something so truly earthy about them!

Well thank you for coming on the small tour of our garden. It's growing all the time and it reveals itself in more ways than we could imagine. It really is a gorgeous time of the year, and for the Toowoombarites, a time to celebrate a wonderful carnival dedicated to our gardens.

Have a wonderful Sunday at your place!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Patchwork coop!

Things are moving along with our chicken coop. Dave and I have been working flat-strap the past two days and I spent most of today adding the snake mesh (not shown in these photos).

I'm so very close to finishing, but there needs to be one final push. Hopefully the weather will hold out until I get the roof on. I did find some corrugated iron from the Demolition yard just down from the railway crossing. Very helpful guy and he even strapped down the trailer for us as well.

This is the side with the chook door I've yet to construct.

This is the side with the people door. I didn't have to make this door as it was from the tip! It wasn't planned this way but it's the same "Pale Eucalypt" colour as the shed in the background.

There are two long, fold down doors on this side of the cot. Yep, remember, it started with a blue wooden cot! The lower door is for if the chooks decide to start laying underneath the above shelf, which is what the above door is really meant for. Collecting eggs!

The top door needs another coat of paint, but I'm saving that for the last job of all. The pine panels will be painted with a stain - if I have enough of it left, too. It's what I used on the same pine paneling as the tractor.

These were the girls checking out their new home. I was running inside the house and outside a lot today, as I had my mum visit - so the girls stayed close to where I was working. They are so adorable - great companions for the backyard.

I'm missing one lovely lady unfortunately. She developed a cough and didn't recover. So the rush is on to get them into a new (larger) coop. They certainly don't complain about the free-ranging though, and I love them as my constant companions. I'm probably going to feel a little heartbroken when I get them a new rooster. Then hopefully, a batch of chicks before the cold weather sets in again.

I have one constantly broody chook. She keeps trying to peck my feet whenever I enter the tractor. For such a wee little thing as a Pekin though, no damage is done.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just a quick update

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging as much, is it's been one of those weeks where a lot of things happened, but nothing completed. So I've decided to add a new label which I'll call, "Quick bits". This is just to summarise a few things I've been up to lately...

I've decided to do some propagating. Something I'll get in to more seriously soon, but at this stage I'm just experimenting with the easy strikes to take.

I'm using two shelves of my greenhouse at the moment, as the lower two have excessive sun exposure. I've got some natives in there which I'm surprised haven't died on me yet.

These are the pepino cuttings a member from Earthgarden gave me, which are also doing well. In the background are a couple of yellow federation daisies.

I also divided up some pygmy grass which I won't show pictures of yet, as I had to cut their leaves off. I've got four clumps planted around the front of my rainwater tank now. When they grow their burgundy foliage back, they should soften the look of the tank nicely. No reason why a boring old poly-tank shouldn't get some extra garden attention too.

I also gave our neighbours their first carton of eggs today. Not a bad effort for only 5 small pekins. Sadly our neighbours recently put their house on the market. I suppose that's the way it goes. I'm sure whoever moves in will love it, as they've done so much work.

Dave and I have also decided to be more creative with our debt thinking. He needs a job with better work conditions because time at home is something we don't have. It's a sad reality that many workers spend more time at work than at home. We've toyed with the idea of downsizing, so Dave can get a less demanding job. But as much as I like the idea of having less debt...we also have to be realistic about where we are in life and how expensive change actually is.

Selling is an expensive exercise. So is moving. Dave would still have to work his job to pay for the mortgage, so where would he find the extra time to organise it all? Then there's relocating our daughter to another school - buying another uniform, etc. The reality is that we are in a cycle in our life, demanding time and financial outlay. We just have to be more creative with how we plan our expenditures at present.

It's a difficult time for us. We're standing on the edge of a cliff where we can either jump to the other side, or fall to our demise in doing so. Facing the expanse - the void - brings the uncertainty of whether we can make it.

So we're rolling up our sleeves and getting creative with our options. We want to stay here and we want to make it work. I'll report back with any headway we make on new strategies.

In the meantime, it's a joy to potter around the yard and dreaming of dreams for my family. The kinds of stuff involving dirt, compost and a good harvest for the season.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cot gets a hat

When the weather was finer a few days ago, I was able to do some more construction on the cot-coop. Hubby said it doesn't look so much like a sled now and I'd have to agree!

Still a fair bit to do but it's finally starting to take form.

Hopefully by next week, we'll almost be finished this part of the coop. Then it will be onto the next stage - the run.

I haven't put the iron on top yet, as I need to maneuverer underneath to attach the netting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reflections, September 2008

I can't put it off any longer. I have to get something off my chest. Although it wasn't planned to be on the first day of Spring, we nontheless came to the decision to put our two beloved cats to sleep.

It's the first time after 10 odd years that we've been cat free. As hard as it was to come to this decision, it's nothing compared to the silence afterwards. We've found ourselves looking at the sliding glass doors, where they use to sit in the sun - and they aren't there. I keep expecting to see their kitty-litter tray in the laundry, their water dish near the front door. Last night I came out of our bedroom, and didn't see Panda sleeping on his usual couch.

My husband said he's walking past the kitchen bench, stroking it automatically - as he's missing patting the cats. He was the brave one who took them to the vets. As I was unable to control my spontaneous sobbing, he said I would trigger his emotions if I came to the vets with him. So I stayed home and found their final resting place in a lovely part of the garden. I dug two holes through the constantly flowing tears. They are about 7 meters apart from each other, and they would be happy for the many tiny wrens and finches that frequent that part of the garden.

Which brings me to the reason why we had to do the unthinkable. In all the time we owned our cats, they had never been forced to live inside continually. Since we moved to the bush block it became a necessary arrangement however - for their sakes, and the environments. Eighteen months of extended living inside, and they began destroying stuff while we slept in the middle of the night. I won't go into all the details of what they destroyed and how, but it became increasingly obvious that the environment had changed for the cats - but in nature, they still wanted to be cats.

I didn't want to lock everything up in the house like fort knox, only to then punish the cats when they found something else to destroy. We knew in our hearts this was no life for them, and no life for us. Was it really an option to let them outside, to slowly destroy the delicate eco-system? Whether you agree with our decision or not, it was the hardest decision we've ever had to make. To put to sleep an otherwise healthy member of the family. One morning they were doing what they normally do as cats, by lunchtime, we were burying them in the garden.

Every day now seems to be a reminder of them. I've even toyed with the idea of removing the pictures of Panda from my blog. Maybe I will, but right now I've decided not to. Maybe I'm not ready to let go of them completely yet.

But the whole reason for sharing this news in my monthly reflection, is because it's had an impact on our environment - on the bushland project. We planted two olive trees on top of their graves, and in coming to terms with their end - for the enviornment's sake - I've become more resolute about what I'm going to do to the land here.

I have to plant more trees - attract more wrens, finches, lizzards and frogs. The sacrifice of my beloved cats to protect the environment, is not going to be forgotten easily. Instead, I will dedicate the bushland project to them. They are now permanently outside, watching the wildlife without destroying them. They are feeding the trees that will provide more habitat for the wildlife. They will shade the ground from losing moisture, so the understorey can continue growing to sustain the wildlife.

As much as their life has ended with us, the story of life continues outside. It's our duty to ensure it continues by planting more trees and providing habitat. More than ever, it's now clear what our path is. No more playing with nature. No more pretending it's the right thing to do. Now, restoring this land for the wildlife is the only thing to do.

If we get something out of it, then it's a bonus - but pleasing ourselves for ourselves, is no longer the way to live. We have a responsibility to the animals which share this land and every micro-organism, not to destroy their home. We have a responsibility to our dearly departed pets, not to forget their sacrifice and why.

It's been a difficult beginning to Spring, but the hope still lingers of the promise of new life.

R.I.P our beloved Minka and Panda. We will miss you and remember you in the seasons to come. May your olive trees bring much life with it, restoring the blance.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spring ladies

I couldn't let the first day of Spring go by without some happy-snaps of our pekin chooks. They're allowed out to free-range for an hour or so in the afternoons now. Ever inquisitive, our ladies love to scratch around the scrub looking for grubs!

Classic Pekin Pose...bottoms up!

I can't make heads nor tails from these three

Five ladies out for a walk, down the garden path.

I told you the grass was not greener on this side!

This is how we collect the eggs when moving trolleys and little children. She has a little egg in her hand - third one of the day!!

Hope your Spring is warm, full of compost and the garden rearing to go.