Friday, February 26, 2010

New Header Image

For those who may be curious to know what kind of moth I've placed in my Header Image, it's a Grapevine Moth, or Phalaenoides glycinae, if you're into speaking Latin. :)

It's a native moth and I've only seen a few around here over the past few years. I suspect it was sussing out my Luffa vine nearby - which makes for a pretty convincing Grape Vine impersonation, if you ask me.

Given that it's a native insect, and happens to be a good host for wasp eggs who feed on them, I reckon it has a place in the food chain here. It happened to be sunning itself on a log stump, next to our rusty wheelbarrow, when it caught my eye. A really stunning sight!

If you want to know a little more about this moth, visit here.

I've been meaning to...

As I'm writing this entry, I'm wondering if I'll even have time to finish it. So much to do and so many times I've jumped on the computer to write a post, then something always whisks me away. It's not a terrible thing for this to happen, I suppose, as it's just my life and it takes priority. Well, it's not just my life either. It's also the life of our six-year old daughter, a hard working husband and a plethora of chooks.

Speaking of which, I have a few photos of my barnevelders. Actually, I think they're a barnevelder crossed with a welsummer, although they were sold to me as a pure breed at the time. This was the earlier picture I took last year, when they were only a few weeks old. Those two in the picture, turned out to be hens - one was red and one more ginger-blonde.

They are quite docile. Adorable in fact. You can pick them up as they scratch for food near your feet. On the other hand, they can be quite flighty when they want to be too! Their eggs are a lovely dark brown colour, but one girl lays a really splotchy coloured egg. I don't have a decent picture of the eggs yet, but this is the ginger-blonde girl, we named Penny...all grown up!

Her sister we named Jenny. So they are Penny and Jenny - shouldn't be too hard to remember I hope. Their two brothers had to get the chop, unfortunately, as they were terribly aggressive and we couldn't have that. Not this boy though, remember him...

We decided to name him "Alfred" after all this time. He just seemed to carry himself like a dignified Alfred, strutting around the yard - head held high, like most Araucanas do. Well, I've gone and crossed him with our two barney girls, who share Hilltop coop with him and two other araucana hens.

The eggs are due out of the incubator in a day or so. I know - terrible aren't I; for not writing something about it sooner? What can I say...I've been having fun learning how to Homeschool and not spend money, LOL. The only reason I have time now is due to the fact our daughter is having a few days sleep-over at her Nan's.

We missed her terribly yesterday. So much so, Dave and I had a sudden urge for chocolate and fatty food all day. Okay, so we were working hard in the garden too, but most of the day we both wanted something deep fried and covered in chocolate. It took me until the late afternoon to realise, we were missing our girl. The food was our compensation for the void I think.

Upon speaking to her on the phone later that night, she too confessed tears that day, all because she missed us too. Awwwh...

How are we going to be when she leaves home for good? I'm surprised how much we miss her now. I'm longing for those hundred questions and hugs and kisses we have every morning. I want a big squishy hug right now. And this folks, is why most of my days are spent wondering if I have the time to blog. Life with my family under wing, is amazing. My daughter is amazing for all the things she gets me to do. My husband is amazing for not complaining about all the crazy stuff we do too, LOL.

How do I convey that all in a post? Believe me, I try to, but then something always calls me away. Like the recyclables I should be taking to the transfer station right now. I've put it off for three weeks already, LOL. I promised myself I would do that today. Hang on a minute...

...back again! Did you miss me? Of course not, LOL, what just took me 30 minutes to drop off three bags of recyclables at the transfer station, and two bags of clothes at the thrift shop bin, can appear mere seconds in cyber space. But I just had to run out and do that - it was bugging me. I wasn't going to miss another week.

Perhaps due to the fact, in part, that we've been increasingly busy in the garden. More ramp digging, feeding and mulching the fruit trees, seed collecting and something recently which broke our no spend year. Ooops! I guess we were compensating for our daughter's absence and spent just over a hundred dollars at the nursery. If we were going to break our no spend challenge though, then I'm glad it was on plants. When you buy a fruit tree, you're buying it's lifetime of food production for your family. Or when you buy flowering trees and shrubs, you're also buying it's lifetime of food production for the eco-system it will be planted in.

Needles to say, AGAIN, I reckon if you're going to break a no-spend challenge on anything, then plants have to be an incredibly sensible indulgence. Of course, we didn't just go willy-nilly at the nursery with an open wallet. We made sure every purchase had a purpose in the garden.

For starters, we needed another pollinator avocado to help fruit production with the first avocado we planted earlier. It was beneficial to plant them in the same season together, even if it was a few months apart. That way, they should come into production around the same time. We've got at least a 3 year wait for first fruits on avocado (yum...avocado) so that's why I didn't want to lag a year behind with the pollinator.

Secondly though, we bought a blood orange citrus tree. Not exactly an essential citrus to have in the garden (in a no spend year) but I haven't seen them stocked in nurseries much, so we took the plunge and grabbed it. We also purchased 10 assorted natives for a noise barrier between us and the neighbours dogs.

Every time we hear them howling, it reminds us of last Christmas when the neighbours went away. They left their dogs on the property (friends came to feed and check on them) but on Christmas eve they wouldn't stop howling. It was very frustrating.

As much as it irritates me, I don't want to be one of those constantly, "shaking my fingers at the neighbours", type neighbours. On the whole, they're not bad dogs and the neighbours do what they can to control them. Besides, we always meant to plant a native garden on our side of the property boundary anyway. Feeling indulgent, we spent our money on some bird feeding and sanity saving plants, LOL.

One last picture before I dash off and turn into a pumpkin! These are the luffa's doing exceptionally well on their trellis. It's a pity it's taken them so long to get to this point, as the heat of summer is almost gone.

For this reason, we're planning on some permanent grape vines next season instead. They'll take a few years of training before we get the kind of coverage we want, but I love the thought of a green wall here, so it will be worth the time invested.

Anyway, that's just a quick run-down of our happenings lately. I cannot promise how regularly I'll be posting in future, as the living part of life is something I don't want to miss. I figured if it was getting increasingly difficult to post my thoughts, then maybe I needed to accept that. If anything my daughter's absence has taught me lately, is how important our family is right now. We're going through a busy period with lots of changes - and I cannot predict when that will end. Or at least, when I have enough time to blog.

So don't consider this goodbye, just a few interludes of wonderful distraction. I promise to post when I can...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Building paradise

Everyone dreams of paradise. More to the point, I think everyone dreams about arriving there. I'm certainly no different. Whenever I visit a permaculture garden on acreage - you know the type - dripping with foliage, water and productive plants - I always end up wishing it belonged to me. If only I lived there to enjoy "that" paradise, oh the things I could do!

My dusty five acres, in comparison, seems rather lifeless. Sure I have recent fruit trees in the ground, chicken coops and the potential for more development - but it's not paradise. It doesn't look or feel anything near it - yet.

And that's really the silly game we play with ourselves about the concept of paradise. It's something other people (or nature) does for us, while we just magically arrive there. The truth is paradise can rarely be afforded by common folk. You either buy it by the million, inherit it from a wealthy relative, visit it, or - you build it from scratch.

Which happened to be the only option we could afford at the time too. This particular block of land was nothing flash. The fact it was five acres, located near a rural city, was probably its most sellable asset. Otherwise, it had two slopes that converged right in the middle - where all the storm water ran through. We could take our pick of house sites - the north facing slope or the south facing slope. The only flat land was the sand pit in the middle!

Our sandpit, or stormwater run-off area

So it seemed our paradise was to be riddled with 30 metre native eucalyptus trees too, lantana thickets, clay-loam type soil which eroded in enormous caverns in any disturbed soil - not to mention the water repelling ability of the soil, not to retain any moisture. We bought into all this rather naively too. All we had to do is build walls, plant plants and use any earth-moving equipment required. Oh yes, and the little thing about water - didn't that just fall from the sky?

Needless to say, our pursuit to find paradise by building it around us, came at the expense of those original (idealistic) beliefs. They had to go! There was much more to it than that. Oh so MUCH more.

The reality is, we haven't stopped working from the day we first bought the land in 2005, until this year, 2010. Five years in total. We've moved dirt - ate dirt - got bogged in mud after the dirt got wet, and still the dirt persisted at teasing our personal thoughts of paradise. Are we deprived? Hardly. But it's certainly a long way awaaaay from the kind of paradise we first imagined.

Our wall, still resembling a dirt mound

For's a lot harder to believe it's paradise when the ground is parched, the plants won't grow and your back hurts from all the physical labour. But this to me is where my pioneering spirit takes flight. God isn't making any more land, as far as I know, so it's up to me to help rejuvenate paradise to what it used to be.

It may only be a small dream and I may not see anything but dirt for a long time to come. But one should never be accustomed to arriving at paradise. For that generally leads to idealistic opportunism. You can believe what you want, if you've never been tested in paradise.

No matter how much you believe your patch isn't as nice as "paradise", or it's too much hard work, just remember that any labour of love going into growing things, reaps more rewards than the initial effort. It will feed you, shade you, comfort and build you up in years to come - probably when you most need it too.

If you don't build it though...

A day full of dirt (in my books) is a day well spent in paradise. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Base jumping?

Ever heard of base jumping? It's an extreme sport where you strap a parachute to your back and jump off the side of a mountain. Well, minus the parachute and the fact I didn't jump willingly, and you have an extreme form of gardening in our front yard!

Yes, I base jumped from the top of our wall, as I was removing a sapling tree by the roots. I only fell about 3 metres down the 6 metre drop, but it was the fact the side of my face collected the dirt as I somersaulted down, which left me feeling sore and sorry for myself.

You can see the offending tree at top of the brick wall. It was formerly at the top of the footpath I was carving out, when I decided it had to go. I cut off many of the roots that were holding it in place, but it was the tap root I was finding harder to get to. Solution, push the tree forwards.

Believe it or not, I took precautions too. I only pushed as far as I could still hold my weight on top of the footpath. I mean, it would be silly to push so far that you couldn't stop yourself from falling if it snapped! Unfortunately, it decided to snap just as I was making sure my feet were in the right place so that I *wouldn't* fall over.

This is the picture taken from above. It all happened so quickly too. I heard the crack just as my feet were changing positions. There was just enough weight in the favour of gravity to tip me over the edge. I can remember thinking, "I hope I don't crack my head on the wall," but then the side of my face made contact with the dirt - doing a neat little somersault and landing on my butt again.

Thankfully my head came nowhere near the concrete blocks, LOL. But boy, my face was sure throbbing afterwards. To top it all off, I had an eye full of dirt too.

Dave was inside, and received quite a freight when he came out and saw me at the top of the brick wall, holding the side of my face. I have to say, he was very calm. He got our daughter to collect my shoes, which had fallen off, and they both helped me hobble inside. My heroes!

After a shower and a couple of aspirins, I was back out in the garden watching Dave turn the compost again. Do you want to know the funny thing though? After 3 years living here, I am the first person to Christen, falling from the top of the wall. I hope to be the last as well. As soon as the footpath is cut, we'll be putting a full railing in.

Although my ligaments feel a little stiff today, I have to say my recovery has been relatively quick. Apart from a scratch on my leg and some minor grazing on my forearms (plus one slightly numb cheek bone) I was very lucky. Dave said it made him realise how quickly things can go wrong. We've agreed we won't be doing any more digging on the wall unless both of us are present.

I've got to say though, I think I'm in love with our wall - more than before. It has made our experience here, all the more richer. I hope it won't be the death of me, LOL, instead, I hope we remember the extreme sport of putting it all together.

Our wall...our beautiful; often painful; wall of bruises and memories.