Thursday, November 27, 2008

Organising clutter

Don't you hate it when you live with clutter in the background, trying to ignore it's existence. Then you move a piece of furniture and suddenly realise how easy it was to fix!!

Take this nook for example...

It's right between the laundry and main bathroom, so it sees a lot of traffic. As such, it has also become an ugly junk area for things I hadn't found proper places for. Pretty ghastly hey. Enter the bookcase that was outside collecting cobwebs.

The table was a gift from my mum, and our daughter's laundry basket fits neatly underneath. The bookcase belonged to my husband when he was a little boy. It still has some of his writing on it. So far so good, but not quite finished yet.

Enter the stuff from round yor!

Finally, a place for my straw hat which isn't in the way any more. A safe place for an aging owl collection that has seen many accidents with children playing. Those glass jars will store plenty of knick-knacks I can never find places for. The other bits I'd had pushed into dark corners to keep out of sight, but a lot of them had sentimental value.

I can't believe I lived with that junk storage area for nearly a year! It was so easy to fix but I was preoccupied with outdoors stuff I suppose. Isn't that always the way with gardeners.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Update on the chicken accommodation

So the gate has finally been hung, I've finished the paving out front and I've even started planting along the run. On the left-hand side is the tomato trellis, and on the right is a rubarb crown!

Here she is. I'm so thrilled because it's already starting to throw new shoots!! I've had great success with the pebble mulch so far, so thought I'd try it around the rubarb crown too. I was a little paranoid about giving it root rot with organic mulch, but I've stopped the pebbles short of touching it too. Hopefully she'll do well.

Here is the rubarb again, next to the step which leads into the run. I had fun putting it together with the bits and pieces I had left.

This is the other side of the coop, where the kumquat, wormwood and Italian lavender (in that order) are thriving. I'm really happy with the pebble mulch. I wouldn't want to use it everywhere in the garden but what I've used it on, has done surprisingly well. I do have bark mulch around the kumquat too - for root expansion!

As you can see, even with the shade cloth on the run, the inmates still get lovely sun exposure.

And by inmates I mean:

They can't get my rubarb!

Mr Sheen says:
'don't worry little darl'in, I'll rustle up some grub!'

Long time between drinks

In case you didn't catch it in the news, South East Qld has been inundated with storms recently. All I can say is we got clipped by them, but the house is still standing. No major damage to report, other than the usual suspect - soil erosion caused by water run-off. Have a look at my agapanthus!

If you remember, this is the agapanthus I planted around the rainwater tank last year. This damage was done when the tank burst it's pipes again. The gushing water escaped out the inlet pipes and ran down the hill, taking a lot of soil with it. But this is what I love about agapanthus plants - their roots really do grow into a thick mat. I'm glad I chose this plant for precisely this reason.

While I'm not a big fan of storms, it did highlight the need for better drainage systems on our property. The retaining walls we started last year were fantastic! They did exactly what they were designed to do - which was stop the soil from washing away and drain the excess water safely. Dave checked the out-pipes during one particular afternoon storm, and he said the water was gushing out. So it worked!!

Next year we have more retaining walls in mind, but also incorporating a French drain in-front of them. Stay tuned for that project.

But now a quick garden update with some of my seedling developments. First, the sunflowers.

From this:

To this:

And that's a rouge pumpkin in the front, which has sprung up from our homemade compost. A lot of tomato seedlings have sprung up too, but they have been pulled!

My pigeon peas on the other hand, haven't been a great success. I've sewn 8 seeds in total, and so far only 4 have come up. Of those, only 2 plants have survived and one looks as if it's going to shrivel up soon. I've found better success planting direct, than planting in a seedling tray. Here is the survivor:

My brandywine tomatoes have survived and I've planted 4 along the chook run. They're only small but hopefully will grow bigger. Here is the biggest one:

And finally, not the best picture, but I made a cucumber support out of old sapling trees I had cut down. Hopefully it will hold the weight of the apple cucumbers I have planted underneath.

I must say, my growing attempts haven't been completely disappointing, but I'm realising how deprived my soil is. This is the first year I've added our home-made compost in some areas of the garden, but the seedlings are struggling to grow.

Either that, or I'm just incredibly impatient...which is entirely possible!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A big...

Thank you...

I have to apologise for being late in replying to a most generous award. It was given to me by Nicole over at Going Green. She has a very colourful and vibrant blog, which is always delightful to visit.

Like Nicole, this is my first award too, so a big thank-you!

"This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literacy and personal values every-day".

Likewise, it gives me great pleasure to nominate a few blogs with this Premio Dardos award:

(drum roll please)

Our Old Miners Cottage

Simply Suburbia

Cross Roads

Gobblers Run

I love to visit these blogs, plus many more - but some have already received this award. So I will leave it at these particular nominees and congratulate you all on a job well done.

For those nominees, when time permits, please pass on the Premio Dardos award to those blogs and sites which inspire you too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Very lazy 'No-dig' beds

Remember these weeds?

They came from the underneath the clothesline and weren't much good for anything. Seeing how resourceful the bush is out here however, I simply had to mimic it's very lazy approach to making soil fertile again!

First, take said weeds and pile in a row. Dump any soil you have on hand and add to the pile. Wet thoroughly.

Next take a bale of mulch material and some newspapers to cover the wet pile. Paper down first, wet paper then cover with a thick layer of mulch. Leave for a week or two.

Come back and plant seedlings. I opened up the centre of the pile and cut through the newspaper, as it likes to stop water penetrating the soil. I added some compost down the centre strip then planted out my sunflower seedlings.

Here are the seedlings so far. I'm keeping the moisture up to them as we've had a pretty hot day today. I'm also experimenting with pulling the mulch up to shade the soil trench. I've heard this can help aid in preventing moisture surface evaporation, but I'll see how it works.

Hopefully I'll be back in a few weeks time with an updated photo - sunflowers still surviving!

Run construction methods

I now have the shade-cloth attached quite successfully, but also with a few setbacks. Most of it went together like clockwork, but one element just couldn't change the laws of physics - and that was getting the shade-cloth to fit from the archway to the rectangular box.

The only way I could do it was by cutting the cloth - leaving a big hole in the process. This was quite a frustrating process. I've decided I'm going to sew a patch onto it later. It couldn't be avoided however, because I needed to carry the cloth right along the length of the conduit pipe. This is why:

The width of the shade-cloth was the perfect size to span the two archways that were spaced 2.4m apart. I used thin, flexible galvanised wire to sew the cloth to the conduit pipe (shown in orange) but I also sewed in the bird netting to tie it all together.

I used cable ties to attach the cloth to the irrigation pipe archways. I also used timber fasteners to attach the cloth to the hardwood timber. About the irrigation pipe - be prepared to bring a trailer or ute to collect from the irrigation supply store. This was quite embarrassing for me, as I originally rocked up in a family sedan. The guy cut and rolled the 10 metre length of pipe (fastened it with strong gaff tape) and then discovered I only had a sedan. It would've been 3 metres in diameter - about the size of the area around my clothesline! Naturally, it had to wait at the store for a few days until I could borrow Dave's car to tow the trailer.

The only thing I needed for cutting the irrigation pipe once I got it home, was a hand mitre saw. The thicker, taught steel, made it easier to cut through. I found the regular handsaw used for timber, was too flexible and would get caught after bending.

To make the arches, metal stakes were banged in until they stood 1.4m above ground. They were spaced 2.4m apart. The 2" irrigation pipe was cut to 4m lengths and simply pushed onto the stakes until they couldn't go any further. I found the thinner conduit pipe (leftovers from the builders) not only tied the pieces together, but it also gave me something to attach the shade-cloth to that was rigid. There is also a bit of conduit pipe used to tie the two arches together. See above.

All pipe attachment to the structure was done with wire. Be cautious of the wire ends when attaching the shade cloth however. I had all my wire tie-offs inside the structure, so they wouldn't catch on the cloth as it hung over the top.

One of the final problems I had with shaping the shade-cloth, was the very end of the archway. I had a mass of fabric and one straight conduit pipe to attach it all to. So this is what I did.

I made a rosette in the middle and attached it through the folds of fabric (onto the pipe) with nothing more than a plastic cable tie. I cut off the excess and now in the process of sewing it to the conduit pipe.

I also had to do a couple of folds on the sides, but you can barely see these. I attached them in the same manner as the main rosette - with cable ties. I have a few inside shots too.

Underneath the shade-cloth it's very calming, with a slight tinge of green.

While the rain can still come in - as we learned last night - it does keep the ground more protected. Damp but not waterlogged or muddy!

With all building projects however, there is always the finishing off to do. I will describe these a little later. Just to summarise, I'll do a little shopping list of the main building materials.

8 metres of 2" irrigation pipe
5 black metal stakes (1.8 to 2.4m long)
3.66m width 70% shade-cloth, cut to desired length
25 (300mm x 4.8mm) black UV protected cable ties
100 timber fasteners - in this case made by coolaroo
10m x 90cm bird netting
20m fencing wire (sorry didn't keep the gauge size)
20m thinner fencing wire to sew shade-cloth

There will be stuff left over, but this is just a basic guide. I found with the 2" irrigation pipe that you wouldn't want to go any smaller than 2.4 metres apart. The reason it holds it's shape so well is because it's taught and only flexes so far. Anything under 2.4m will probably put too much pressure on your metal stakes . For smaller expanses, you can always go the 25mm irrigation pipe sold in many hardware stores, but it won't fit over your stakes - you'll have to tie them on with wire.

I also found these two blogs very helpful for ideas:

The Frugal World of Doc:

The Garden Desk:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The run...away!

So we've done some more work on the chicken run. It actually looks like it's meant to be there now. Although it is beginning to look a bit strange - even some of the neighbours have slowed down as they've driven past.

But first, I had to show my favourite girls getting stuck into a biscuit of hay. They took a liking to some of my garden beds with this down, so I decided to put a biscuit of their very own in the chook run. Do you think it broke the boredom for a bit?

This one is always jumping on top of stuff - even the chicken feeder! She's the adventurous one. If she was orange in colour, I'd call her "Ginger" aka: Chicken Run!

So here is the developing project...

Looks a bit weird at the moment, but should come together when the shade-cloth is finally put on top. Weather permitting, that should be done tomorrow.

We bashed down some roofing iron around the edges, to stop things from digging underneath - hopefully. And that thing the shovel is leaning against will be the gate.

It's ever so slowly coming together - but the end is near in sight!