Saturday, October 25, 2008

Loose ends with clothesline

Is your clothesline one of those neglected areas of your backyard? Mine certainly was. Along with the previous footpath the weeds deighted in, the area around the clothesline had been left to grow unruly too.

So we finally decided to tie up one of those loose ends - the project we always meant to get back to.

This circle had been cut from the moment we installed the hoist, just so we could walk underneath it. I had to re-cut it however, to make way for the windsor blocks. I forgot to take a picture after the blocks were installed, so I'll just move on to the next stage.

This was destined to become the "fill" side, so the weeds had to go! I put them to good use though, which I'll share on another topic.

With the magic of digital photography, I can make the terrace blocks instantly appear! In real life however, it was a sweaty day throwing a mattock around to get the right level.

Mmm...but look at all those empty cavities, what should I do?

Time for some greenscaping! I scored these babies (mondo grass) for 3.30 a piece, from a local wholesale nursery. It's literally 2 minutes up the road. I'd normally pay between 7 and 9 dollars at a regular nursery for plants this size.

Fully planted out and bark down. We decided on using bark instead of the deco, because we wanted to have the feeling you were stepping down into a bit of nature. It also helps to cool the back of the terrace blocks.

And here is the full view. We used windsor blocks for the cut side and terrace blocks for the fill side. In case you were wondering how I got the circle, I tied a piece of string to the lower part of the hoist, then tied the other end to a piece of steel. You could also use a stick, but I had an odd piece of concrete rebar laying around (thanks to the builders). It was only 15cms long.

As the diameter span of the hoist was 3 meters, I measured the string to 1.5m and drew a circle around the clothesline.

Today I actually christened it with the new mulch down, and it was the first time in 18 months that I wasn't worrying about clean washing falling out of the basket! The footpath leads straight from the laundry to the clothesline and it's so much of a pleasure now to take the washing out. I feel embraced by the circle, the different levels and the greenery to one side.

Total cost for this project was $90. The blocks were the very last left over from our retaining wall project, so we didn't add that into the cost. Some were the seconds we couldn't use for the wall anyway, but they've still served a purpose in the garden. And they aren't sitting in a pile in the corner either.

Cost breakdown - I paid $66 for 20 pots of mondo grass (ouch - but worth it) and $24 for the bark. All up, the clothesline makeover PLUS footpath cost $102.

Sometimes those loose ends are worth the effort to tie off. I hope you're inspired to look at your own clothesline as a place of beauty, rather than a place of work. So many of those garden makeover shows, take away the clothesline as if it was never meant to be there. Well I believe it can be an outdoor room all of it's own. A place that embraces you as the washing goes up.

But I have a confession to make. Now I have to finish the chicken run, pronto, to keep curious beaks away from the mondo grass! I've been doing guard duty when they're out to free range.

I should have thought that one out better!


The Windsor and Terrace blocks referred to in this post, were manufactured by a local factory, trading as, Hanson. We are fortunate to have the manufacturer to buy from direct, but most landscaping supply centres will stock them as well. If you're only planning to do one course of blocks, don't buy A-grade blocks - go for the seconds. They should be cheaper!

The colour of the Windsor blocks used in this project was, "Santolina".
Terrace blocks, "Autumn Gold".

For further information, visit the Hanson website for landscaping solutions:

Where you buy them from however, make sure you also collect a Hanson "How to" brochure. Or you can click "Kingy's Tips", on the link provided. It will give you the basic understanding of how to lay the bricks, what to put under them, etc. With one course of blocks however, you won't need to be too concerned. It does help if they have a free draining base layer, such as blue metal, scalpings or gravel.

The main part is to have fun though, and don't be afraid to chase down those seconds!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seed success

I have to show everyone my first ever seed germination success!! These are my sunflower seeds, the first to come up! I also have some borage and greek oregano breaking the surface too.

Now I'm off to prepare the garden beds. I started them yesterday, but I'll share more later.

So excited!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pygmy grass propagation

I only bought two pygmy grasses to begin with. They both grew to full size. One I divided last year to give to my mum. This year I divided the remainder.

Out of two plants I ended up with five in all. Here are some around the rainwater tank:

Propagating plants can be very economical, and dividing grass is the easiest task you can perform in the garden. All you need is a fork and sharp spade. Once you dig the plant out of the ground, you can divide it with the spade. I always have the fork handy, to skewer through the middle of the clump. The prongs go all the way into the ground and act as a holding device, as you cut it with the spade.

I also soak the root ball in a fish emulsion tea for at least 10 minutes, before planting back in the ground. It helps the poor plant recover from the stress of division. I cut all the foliage off before replanting too. It will resprout new leaves quicker.

I particularly like the pygmy grass (Pennisetum macrostachyum rubrum compacta) because it's seed heads are sterile, and it has a beautiful burgundy foliage in the garden. It's one of the hardiest plants I've ever encountered too!

Permaculture & Pigeon Peas

So what's the big deal? Well I have a few pigeon peas attempting to germinate as we speak. They are only short lived, but are drought resistant and grow to about 1-3 metres. Which is perfect for the job I need them for. Not only will they grow to feed the chooks, but in the spirit of permaculture design, they will also shade my garden shed.

The wall I am planting them against is directly north facing, so will cop a lot of heat in summer. Pigeon Pea, being fast growing, should reduce the amount of sun exposure this wall receives. The chicken coop is only a few metres away, so will make easy feed for the chooks.

I pulled the weeds that were in this section, threw them in the middle, with some of my lovely weed tea and the chook poo I cleaned from the coop. Throw on some wet newspaper and sugarcane mulch, and we should be ready to plant in a few weeks time!

This is the western facing wall of the shed, and where I'm storing my weed tea buckets at present. They smell atrocious, but the plants love it! What better place to hide these little nasties, than behind the shed on the boundary line. Don't worry, the neighbours live on the other side of the hill, so they won't notice the pong either.

Another tool in my permaculture design, is the wonderful herb, comfrey. Here it is growing underneath a tree and is only a few metres away from my tea buckets. I'm really happy with it's progress - as it only had 3 leaves to begin with. Now there's a rosette of leaves in the middle, just bursting to get out!

I plan to use the comfrey and pigeon pea, as regular additions to my weed tea. Positioned near the chook pen, they should make an easily accessible food supply too. The pigeon pea shrubs will also shade my garden shed.

I like it when things work together for the greater good!

Potting around

One thing puts me off the most when it comes to doing repetitious work, and that's not having an organised area to do it in. And believe it or not - this is organised:

I was very fortunate to be given this plastic potting trolley by my mum. It may be old but it still has plenty of valuable benefits to offer a keen gardener. It has a glorious tray I can mix my potting medium in, and a grate so when I put soil into the pots, it catches what doesn't make it in. I have little holes for my hand spades to sit, and other trays for garden ties, labels, etc.

While it does look rather messy around it at the moment, I've only just recently set it up. The milk crates are holding my plastic pots, and on top of the trolley is the tub where I've just planted my first batch of seeds.

I've planted sunflowers, borage, bottle gourds, tomato brandywine, greek oregano, pigeon pea and the greenery you see is a herb I'm attempting to propagate.

I have a special place intended for my pigeon peas to be planted out, and accessible for the chooks too, which is the main reason for having them. Pigeon Pea have a high protein content, so are good for feed. In the spirit of permaculture too, they will be used for another purpose in the garden - which I'll shared in the next post.

EDITED TO ADD: I should have mentioned this in my post, but my seedling tub was inspired by a lovely local lady, here:

In the mood for paving

If you're wondering where I've been the past few weeks, you'll understand soon enough. The footpath was our most recent project, but now I'll have to share the paving fever that has sprung-up in the most unlikely of places.

What about around the chicken coop?

That's wormwood and Italian Lavender in the lower shot, in case you were wondering.

Are we mad or what? I guess we are a bit, but our projects tend to be an amalgamation of old and new - and always with a practical twist. I wanted the pavers to stop predators digging underneath; including the mice which are a real pest at the moment. While they can't dig on the paved sides, the other two sides are exposed and I'm not happy!

I've decided to put sheets of iron around the chook run, to stop anything digging underneath too. What run did you say?

It's only just started and will probably take a few weeks more to finish. So watch out mice, your time is numbered. No-more freebies from the chook feeder for you!!

Making inroads

Or should that be making out-roads? Either way it's still a footpath! This is what we began with:

These were give-away pavers which traveled from our last rental, to our new home. I merely put them down in the clay, to give us something to walk on during the wet. It's the footpath to the clothes line. If you've ever tried to make a mad dash to get the washing off, in the rain - you know how priceless a sturdy footpath is!!

But I needed to borrow a few of these pavers to finish around the chicken coop, and it gave me a wonderful excuse to upgrade the footpath. It took me a good hour to pull them up and clean them off again - by then, Dave had returned home and helped dig the new footpath in.

We decided to use the pavers as inserts and a frame for the deco (crushed rock) which would form most of the footpath. The trick with deco is to wet it after you've compressed it, so it can set like rock again. It took us two afternoons and I was praying the rain wouldn't come halfway through the project.

It rained 2 hours after we finished! How close and perfectly timed was that? Anyway, here is the footpath when the afternoon storm passed:

We're going to wait a few days before we walk on it again, as it will retain the shape of the flat surface once it dries properly.

Total cost for this project was $12 for the deco. Amazing what you can do with free pavers, rock and some divine intervention.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections, October 2008

My gosh, I can't believe how close Christmas is! Normally we do a round trip to Brisbane and back to Toowoomba on Christmas day, but we're thinking of spending it at home this year. I've read some great ideas for alternative Christmas plans, and I like the idea of not making it about gift giving. I'd rather have a big meal with family, talking about our year gone and plans for the next one.

I must admit, I have a dream that one Christmas we will feed the family on what we grow in the garden. Probably not going to happen this year, but hopefully it'll be closer next year!

Since this is a Reflections post however, I would like to start a new year's resolution list that I've been contemplating during the past month.

1. Keep working on the garden with a sense of achievement. I saw a butterfly land on our lemon tree recently to lay an egg. To me this is an achievement. Not because we built the retaining wall the lemon tree is planted above, or because of buying the plant and putting it in the ground. The achievement comes in seeing it be embraced by the natural systems around it. As a gardener, that butterfly paid me the ultimate compliment by choosing to lay it's eggs on our lemon tree.

2. Keep plodding along despite the economic hardships. Every morning I hear the rooster crow and see the finches swooping on the back lawn for breakfast, I am reminded that where there is life, there is hope. No-one asks the finches where they will find their food or sleep for the night, but they KEEP returning every morning to find their bounty and sustainance. The animals here have so much to teach us about perseverence.

3. Make my kitchen the nerve centre of the home. I struggle a bit with my kitchen. It's a gorgeous, open space in which wonderous meals can be cooked. But I don't lavish the appreciation on it which I should. I don't think I've organised it very efficiently. This will be one of my projects to accomplish next year - starting now, by getting my pantry in order.

4. Find joy in my husband's smile and in our mistakes. It's not hard to look around our place and remember the moment Dave and I decided to build something. Although some wouldn't notice it, we do recognise the mistakes made along the way and how we can do it better next time. In all our struggles building stuff, I have to say it's been my husband's sense of humour in the face of Rome falling down around our feet, that I remember the most. At the time I don't think I appreciated it, but when I look around now I see that quirky smile looking back at me, somehow knowing it would all turn out alright in the end. I want to appreciate that smile more in the moment, than in hindsight.

5. Learning to borrow rather than have. This has been one of my biggest realisations of late. It occurred to me if I suddenly died tomorrow, I couldn't take the house or land with me. I couldn't take the fruit trees or the hard work. That's when it dawned on me that I didn't "have" the Bushland project, rather I was borrowing it for a time. Somebody else will have to borrow it after us, and so on and so forth. I want to learn to approach more things in life as a borrowed work to be passed on to someone else - because the "having" part is really a selfish work for the ego. Like the native animals I see constantly borrowing the land for a season, I too want to mimic them and not "have" it for myself.

This is just a very small list which I'm sure will grow well into next year. Hopefully, like our vegie patch!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mr Sheen 2

You may recall we lost our black rooster just over a month ago to ill health. We affectionately called him "Mr Sheen", because he was a shiny black colour like his girlfriends. The name has stuck for our daughter however, so we decided to call our new rooster, Mr Sheen, too.

He isn't a black pekin rooster, but a gorgeous, splash pekin rooster instead.

He's had a few issues adjusting to flock life, as he was previously a show bird kept in isolation most of the time.

I think the girls are showing him a thing or two about going walkabout! He's finally ventured from the coop, following the girls wherever they go. He's also a little more relaxed around them now - not pecking so much. I can only hope his temperament keeps improving.

Boy he can crow though! He likes to call back to the neighbours' rooster over the hill.

Because he's a splash rooster and my hens are black, in theory at least, we should have 100% blue babies. I haven't seen much action in that department though. I'm hoping he just needs a bit more time getting use to his new, ahem...duties.

I'd love to have a bunch of fluffy blue pekins, running around the place!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Much appreciation

I just wanted to thank everyone who commented on my last blog. Dave's finger is healing well, and so is his peace of mind.

The good news is the former female 2IC hadn't left town yet. She was planning on moving with her partner - why the 2IC position became available in the first place. The owners were able to contact her before she left, and thankfully agreed to cover Dave's two days off at the beginning of the week, and he's even getting two night shifts off (still working the lunch).

It's been such a welcome relief for all of us!!

Our beautiful daughter also slept over at her Nan's house last night too, so Dave and I almost feel like we're living a charmed life again. I guess these things work out in the end, even if they test our resolve in the process.

Thank you for thinking of us and your comments were much appreciated during a trying time.