Friday, January 14, 2011

We're okay

I haven't been able to get online, since the power was taken out in the recent Lockyer Valley floods. We are located in Upper Lockyer, so were spared the same devastation experienced just 5 minutes drive away.

Dave is still trapped in Brisbane, as on Monday he was cut off at Helidon and couldn't return home. He went the other way to stay with family overnight in Brisbane, and then Ipswich and the Bremer river was flooded. As of Monday, Dave has been away from his little family of two (Sarah & I) and we so miss him dearly. But he's safe.

My mum was cut off from reaching us too - only over the other side of Toowoomba, where Warwick was flooded. There is only one road out of here to Toowoomba, and that is through Ballard. I went into shock driving that way, in an attempt to get a car battery charger for my mobile. My landline had been cut for two days, so my mobile was the only means of communication I had with family. The destruction I cannot fathom on my drive into town. Sheer cliff faces have slid off the side of mountains, the little creek has quadrupled in size. I've seen house slabs where houses used to be. Backyards have been eroded to the back of houses, so family are now forced to move out. My favourite permaculture place with chickens and such, has been destroyed.

It was so hard to drive through to Toowoomba, but I had to get through to get my mobile phone charger. I have it now so I only hope the car battery stays goods, LOL.

I have a wonderful friend in Toowoomba who has put Sarah and I up. I really needed someone to help support us, as I have insulin dependent diabetes. I try very hard to manage my treatment, but these were exceptional circumstances. Many times I've gone into shock. Many times I've walked from room to room (back at home) trying to remember what it is I was trying to remember.

My mum was in cyclone Tracey in Darwin 1974, and knew the signs of my shock. She was able to talk me into going to my friends house over the phone, as I didn't want to drive back into town with the destruction I'd saw the day before. I had the chickens at home, I had no power, so no running water or septic. I didn't have the phone for a few days. Anyway, so much was going through my head but I knew Sarah needed support too. She needed someone to be able to watch out for me, so that at seven years old, she wouldn't be forced to run up and down long driveways to get to neighbours, who may or may not be home.

This was a very harrowing experience and I keep telling myself that I got it good. All my family is safe (as far as I know) and our house is still standing. The gully is a mess though. Pictures may follow as things return to normal. Power should resume in about a week, so I have been trying to find a generator in town. They've all been sold out. At least I have a friend I can stay with who has running water. Sarah and I didn't wash for 4 days and even though we had neighbours who were checking in with us - they had family matters to attend to as well.

Anyway, my thoughts are with those who weren't so lucky. I'm devastated but I'm holding on for their sakes. It's a terrible day for Queensland, but I'm hopeful we can get back on our feet again.

I don't know when I will be able to update again, it all depends when the power back home gets turned on.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit "fuzzy" but I'm still trying to come to terms with everything. I hope Dave is able to return to us next week. We miss him loads. You never realise how much you miss loved ones, when you don't know when you'll get to hold them again. I'm hoping Dave will be in my (and Sarah's) arms soon.

Signing off for now, but hopefully not for long. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Summer 2011 another season

The rain started again this afternoon, after a good week of sunshine though! It was so nice to have the soil dry out a little, so we could continue working in the garden. The true sub-tropical weather we experience in the Lockyer region, forces everything out of the ground in summer. It's one of my favourite times of year. Although I don't always look forward to the increased work load, managing the weeds, it's another year we get to see the garden grow too.

We got stuck into the garden this morning, or should I say, "Dave" did - pulling weeds and adding compost to the veggie patch. He was on a mission to prepare the ground for autumn plantings. I was on my own mission, braving the weed forest with my trusty camera, to snap a few of the wonderful things happening in the garden. First things, first though...the veggie patch.

Main veggie growing area

I'm not sure if I've ever really explained that our veggie patch is on top of a retaining wall. Or at least one bed is. This year we got a few good crops of corn (more on the go) and the sunflowers and canna lilies were there for bee food. The canna lilies must've sprouted from the compost with root cuttings - we didn't plant them on purpose.

On top of the wall - two long beds
rhubarb (left) on the other bed

We have one bed directly on the wall, and another bed on the other side - with a grass walkway down the centre. We love having grass there. I wouldn't trade it for gravel or bark, because it ensures any nutrients which could be leached into the soil, gets taken up by the grass. We cut the grass and it feeds the soil again. It's not a running grass variety though, so it doesn't creep into the beds. Saves us a lot of sanity that way!

What we can harvest from the veggie patch at the moment, is rhubarb, lettuce and purple king beans. We're growing them over re bar, so they can sprawl down the retaining wall.

Rogue sunflower & purple king beans

These are a wonderful bean, I really love the full, fresh taste and especially how they look.


It has such a pretty purple flower and the leaves have a purple sheen to them as well.


The beans themselves are prolific and not scrawny like a lot of other beans. The dwarf green bean I had in there, were prolific too, but scrawny and caught every disease possible. I will be sticking with the purple king bean as a mainstay in our garden, just because it's a consistent producer and surprisingly hardy.

The second place I stopped off at, was Middle Ridge chicken coop. Here live the bantam Araucanas we bred and raised from eggs, plus the Araucana cross Barnevelders we raised in the same batch. Here is one of the crosses, that received the Barnevelder genes for the lovely lacing.

Pretty girl - the one with the best lacing

The hairdo of the Araucana is still there though! She's bantam sized, like her other cross sister.

Broody Ginger - daughters favourite!

This is a look alike for Gumnut, and only a few months older than Jacqui's hen. Gumnut was an egg (out of half a dozen) I posted to Jacqui, for her wonderful hen Buffy to hatch when she went broody. Both Gumnut and our hen (living so many hundreds of kilometers apart) received the genes for blue in their feathers. Crossing breeds can be fun as you never know what's going to come out!

Big Bertha - definitely NOT broody

Like their big sister, who didn't get the bantam genes - nor the brooding tendency! Her mother was a standard sized Barnevelder hen, which passed onto her, the only standard sized hen in the batch. She still has the funny Araucana neck and beard though. Oh, so funny. This girl (although bigger than them all) is the most timid of the lot!

Just to think it all started here back in Autumn last year (2010).

Our Araucana & Barnevelder cross Araucana chicks

I love raising chicks! They are so fluffy and cheeky and then you get to see them grow-up and graduate to the laying coop. Each chick develops their own personality and they keep it for life! Just call me the chicken mama. ;)

Enough jaunts down memory lane though. Back to the garden! My next stop with the camera, was to check some of the trees we had planted this year. On the way though, I couldn't pass this enchanting sight.

Kumquat holding station

Our daughter loves stuffed dogs and this one was tied to the kumquat tree, so it wouldn't get away as she played in the garden. Two other puppies were given a play pen instead. This was stationed just near Middle-Ridge chicken coop.

Puppies get into all sorts of trouble if they aren't kept safe

Notice the barricades (concrete seats) as fencing? This is to make sure the puppies don't escape while she's playing in the garden too. There's a story behind all this though. We have our dog living with my mum, and we've always said we couldn't have our dog here because we don't have fencing yet. So our daughter is very aware of the need to have dogs safely secured. It was so cute to see how she made sure, her stuffed dogs were equally safe.

Back to the trees however. I braved a weed forest for a lot of these photos. First stop, was running past a sunflower, the native bees and European varieties were feasting upon.

Bees and sunflowers say summer!

Another rogue sunflower in the garden, but finally here is the Japanese maple tree I wanted to see. It's still very young but bigger than when we first planted it.

Red Japanese Maple Tree

This is ornamental, rather than an edible tree, but its deciduous tendencies in winter, make it a good source of food for the soil in the garden. We planted it near a water way so that with periodic rainfall, the water can carry the nutrients down hill too.

A Brazilian Cherry and a very fast grower. It has doubled in size since we planted it a few months ago. 

Brazilian Cherry

A Brown Turkey Fig, and it has grown rather quickly too. It started out with two small leaves and now it has many!

Brown Turkey - not the poultry variety!

Our Black Mulberry is doing exceedingly well too, although it's in a rather shaded position here.


When we remove the saplings around it, the growth should be even better. Any prunings from this tree, go straight to the guinea pigs - Nellie & Gloria. They love mulberry leaves.

Our Kensington Pride Mango is the eldest tree in this lot. It's about 2 years old and we pruned it this year, causing it to branch finally.


The red-bronze leaves are it's new growth. This mango is in a shaded position too. The intention was to get them (mulberry too) established under the shade of the sapling natives, then remove them when the fruit trees could do with the room. I think this autumn we'll take out a lot of the saplings shading them at present.

Near the mango however, is a walking track to the backyard. It has gone from this in Spring 2008:

Walking track laced with Pekin chickens

To this tangled jungle, in Summer 2011! Dense and impassible now...minus the chickens!

Anyone else thinking Dr Who (Tom Baker) and...
well the one where the plants take over!

I love seeing the garden change. There's much we have done to influence it, and yet so much just does for itself. This is our rapid growing season and with all the rain this year, it's been even better than ever! So much to do while the sun shines.