Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting things done

Monday was a good day. No, it was a great day. I wish every day could be like Monday, but we just have to accept what each day brings. Why was Monday so great? Well the day was so warm and enticing, we decided to move a lot of things around the yard.

We started by collecting dirt which was dumped by the side of the road. There was so much dirt from clearing all the drains after the flood, the Council ran out of places to put it all. So they've dumped tonnes of dirt in a clearing, near one of our local streets. It's got a lovely collection of weeds growing on it now, but we take a trailer load of dirt every now and then - plus rocks we find for our drystone retaining wall. While we were there recently, we also found this...

Plant in the foreground is my propagated rosemary

It's a lovely old piece of wood. Could have been a telegraph pole for all we know, but it was very big and took a lot of creative thinking to get it into the trailer, then up a slope once we got home - to it's final resting place. Dave and I enjoyed the challenge and working together as a team.


If it's going to end up in land fill, I can't see why it shouldn't find a useful place in our yard. I love the rusted nail (the size of a large bolt) or whatever that metal thing is. And I know the lizards will love the extra hiding space it will create for them.

We unloaded the trailer, full of soil, rocks and the log, stopped for some home made yoghurt for lunch, and then found ourselves starting another project. But first we had to build a plinth.

It begins

We hunted around the yard for some old bricks. I found the perfect amount in a neat pile, gathering moss, and some snails! There's a bit of Toowoomba history in those bricks, as they have "Toowoomba" stamped on the bottom. They were given to us by a friendly Toowoomba resident, but alas, we don't know the story behind them.

A splash of sand

Then I used the old fish tank sand, which has been sitting in a bucket for around 2 years. Sarah often plays with it, but I didn't need much, so I borrowed a little.

Fills the cracks nicely

Then I swept it into the grooves between the bricks, to ensure no weeds grew up between them. So our make-shift plinth was finished. All we had to do now was move a few rocks to get to what we wanted to put on it.

Welcome home

It's been a long time coming (about 5 years here) but we finally found a proper spot for our wedding day wishing well. It was built for us by some lovely relatives, for guests to put their cards in at our wedding. The two other houses we lived in prior, we never managed to find the right spot for it - and it only took 5 years to find the perfect place here.

Our daughter was chuffed to see it close to the back door, rather than down the back. She turned the handle as she had always done in the past. We spoke about what we were going to plant around it and possibly "in" it. The possibilities...

 Needs some TLC

But all that time spent unprotected outside, has left it's mark. You can see some kind of fungus or scale has developed underneath the eaves. And below we've lost some shingles that will either need replacing or be disguised.

The well was built around an old washing machine barrel

I'm all for looking rustic, but I also want the wood to last a bit longer. I've got some clear varnish specifically used for marine applications, which I think will be good protection for this old gal!

Not me - the wishing well. ;)

 Going up!

I would also like to say, no snails were harmed during the plinth construction. Although I'm sure some would say, that's a shame. I just couldn't knock them off. The foundation of our wishing well, had to share with the little things in life too. After all, it's the little things that make the big things worthwhile.

Looking through the arch which has a 3 year old luffa vine

We can see the wishing well from the back door and it's a reminder of how far we've come. Monday was the best day we've had in a while. Not because the other days aren't good enough, we just got in touch with what's important. Family, and getting things done together. It's not always possible, but when it is, we cherish those days.

Something new

I am blogging over here. It's a little blog about little things.

This is still my main blog, but I needed a place to embrace the small. :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tree disposal

When I talk about tree disposal, I'm really talking about consigning back to the ecology. This is not always an option when you have a monster of a tree and a small backyard - where it is possible though, look at how you can get the most out of your tree, by letting the nutrients decay on your property.

Pigeon peas

We had to remove 3 pigeon pea trees recently. The uncharacteristic wet weather in 2010 - 2011 had caused one to fall over. We could've gotten another few years out of these trees for their shade, nitrogen capturing ability and free mulch they drop with their leafs, but it was only a matter of time before they needed to go. They were, after all, approaching 4 years of age, when they tend to start deteriorating around 5 years.

We decided to use their remains to feed a new bed. It seemed fair, considering the trees spent their productive years, feeding and protecting the same patch of ground right underneath their canopy. A worthy legacy would be to build a new garden bed for a new generation of plants, right there. So one afternoon I set to work, breaking down the trees.


Rather than cut the whole tree down, I started by breaking off branches, and then snapping off the twigs. They were easily dropped where I was going to build the bed. No need for barrows or walking, they were snapped and dropped.


This is how easy is was to snap large branches with my bare hands. No need for pruners here, or a lot of muscle. I really enjoyed the slow movement of breaking the tree down without the need for tools. I did use garden gloves though. I wouldn't be able to do this with healthy trees and new shoots.


The trees even helped me break the larger branches into more manageable pieces. I used the body of another tree to brace the branch I wanted to snap. Because I wasn't rushing, I had the time to contemplate the easiest way to break the components up. This is why I prefer not to rush at a job with a machine, although machines have a useful place too. I did use an axe for the much larger pieces.


The thicker branches (in this case the trunks) were piled on top of the smaller twigs. All that was left to deal with, were the stubs and extensive root system underground.

Trunk stub

Rather than disturb the ground by pulling the roots, they were left to hold the ground together. As they slowly rot under the soil, a host of living organisms will turn them into humus (I love a good work crew) and fill in the cavities left behind. The next job was adding more to the bed...

Building up the bed

I had some limes on the tree that weren't going to be used, along with some lemons growing fungus on them. So I went around the yard, looking for fallen fruit and placed it on the bed - along with some grass nearby. Then it was time to bring in some machinery.

Mulching the bed

Dave chanced upon a garden chipper/mulcher at a garage sale in the area. It was made in Germany and was priced within our budget. Although we've always wanted a chipper, we couldn't afford brand new. I'm glad we waited. And it works a treat too! Leaves and branches went into the chipper and medium sized mulch came out.

It was just a simple matter of moving the chipper when an area was sufficiently covered. Ensuring a pleasant afternoon in the garden, didn't become a trip to the hospital either, I used the recommended safety-gear of ear, eye, foot and hand protection.

 Finished bed
~ trees consigned back to the ecology ~

This job of tree removal took 2 afternoons of work. It was very enjoyable work at that, listening to the birds, taking coffee breaks and having chats with family. Now it's time to wait though. This bed will rest until Spring (another few months) and then we'll plant it up again - adding a shovel of compost in the planting holes.

Now if I didn't have the chipper, I could've easily laid the leaves and branches on the bed and covered it with a bale of lucerne, straw or sugar cane mulch. It would take longer to break down, but it's food for the soil, so exercise a bit of patience. If yo can wait for a seed to sprout and grow into a tree, you can wait for a tree to decay and form a new garden.

Late 2008

Speaking of seeds - this is when I first planted the above pigeon pea trees in 2008. I knew I had a picture somewhere in my old posts, and found it here. I had fears they wouldn't survive. I wrote:

"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"

Worry not, Chris, for not only did they survive, they lived a productive life propagating seedlings naturally, and showing you the importance of patience *wink*! Nature is pretty good at growing stuff - I, on the other hand, still had a lot to learn.

Tree removal though, doesn't have to mean a bonfire or a trip to the tip. Some times, maybe? But it can also mean new life for new things to grow.  What I enjoyed most about this exercise, was realising how easy it was to conserve energy. I didn't have to use my pruners at all, I swung the axe very little, my barrow wheels were spared the burden of transport and the mulcher featured at the very end, was re-purposed from one local household, to our own.

The most energy used, was obtained from a seed, the sun, rain and the microbiology of the soil. That's why I love working with nature - if I let it, it will do most of the work. The biggest investment I had to make, was patience.