Monday, April 29, 2013

Garden gone awry

 Red flowers of pineapple sage

One of the hardest daily aspects of this pregnancy, has been avoiding the garden. Nearly all of our garden is contained on a slope, or requires walking up a slope to reach flat land. In the six years we've lived here, I've only taken one serious spill down a slope. It was my own fault (a miscalculation) but when you're pregnant, any kind of fall down a slope can be potentially harmful.

So I did the right thing and only visited the immediate areas around the house, or waited for David to be home - that way, he could support me down the harder to access areas. Pregnancy is only for nine months though, so we've made do.

But oh, how I have missed the garden...truly...I stare at it through our windows, or from afar outside, and make all these plans in my head. I think about what I will do first, when I can run around and get tangled in the jungle again!

A heron, spied through our window

The plans aren't just in my head though, I'm working on putting them on paper. I'm not talking about placing a fruit tree here and a garden hedge there (the haphazard way I'm used to planning) rather I've got a full blueprint of stages of earthworks, remedial plant repairs and then permanent plantings - as I'm designing this system to maintain itself once it matures. We need a reliable garden, not just one that performs when the weather is being nice.

Kent pumpkin

I guess I tired of lamenting a lack of rain and fertility, because of where we live. Every year our growing plans are thwarted because we live in an environment of extremes. This year, it was our beloved Kent pumpkins; which have always produced a crop religiously - come rain or extreme heat! This year we got one!

 A gift

We were generously given a box of pumpkins by one of David's work colleagues, but I have to say - they tasted of nothing. I've made several batches of pumpkin soup, and not even the slow cooked chicken-stock, made it taste of anything remotely like pumpkin. Roasted, it still tasted like pale mush. It was that bland, it could easily be confused for choko! Which I have to say, even our choko's (growing over the chicken coop) had more flavour this year.

 I wish choko tasted like pumpkin - we'd be set!

We managed to produce a Ute load of chokos, sweet potatoes and a single pumpkin in our growing season. That's what haphazard planning can achieve, and we've taken our chances with that system long enough. Thankfully, I've done quite a bit of research as my bump has grown, and I can't wait to put that knowledge to use in the garden.

I'll explain the specifics once my diagrams are complete. I'm a visual aid learner, and need them to explain better. We're going to concentrate our efforts however, on the immediate areas around the house, and the land on the edges. If you're familiar with permaculture, this is often referred to as zone 1 & 2.

The key areas within these zones will address:

1. Capturing water run-off from the road and storing it in the soil.

2. Modifying how we manage the chickens.

3. Removing structures which aren't using the land to its maximum potential.

4. Implementing simple (non electronic) technology to boost soil fertility.

5. Reducing our energy demands on fossil fuels.

6. Stacking layers of natural energies/inputs, to support the environment.

It doesn't sound like a plan for growing better vegetables (where did I mention a veggie patch?) but they are the underlying issues we need to address first, that will ultimately resolve our problems with growing anything on our land.

I'm giving a generous time frame of 2-5 years to implement the new design, but it will probably take 10 years to be fully mature. I'm hoping to learn a lot from the process. In the six years of experimentation to date, we've already learned what doesn't necessarily work in our extremes - and that money thrown at a problem, doesn't necessarily solve it either.

Time we spend in the garden though, well that's always free. We're the avid experimenters - only this time, we're going to work within an integrated design.

It won't be long until winter arrives, which means a new baby and time frolicking/working in the garden again. Both things, I'm very much looking forward to!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Some days are surprising

David and I had "the talk" recently. We sat down and took stock of our plans for baby. Although we had given most of our baby gear to charity (10 years is a long time between pregnancies) there were a few remnants laying around the house. Both of us had been avoiding "the talk" however, because it meant knuckling down and meeting new objectives, which neither of us felt we had the time/funds for.

Yet in as little as 6 weeks, we're looking at a wonderful bundle of baby coming home and what will we have prepared for it? Bits and pieces are nice, but we had to bight the bullet on some bigger items. This is where my day of surprises began.

Waiting for baby

I did a Google search on baby bassinets, to see what brand new ones would cost. We weren't planning on buying new, I just wanted the ball-park figure to start from. At least when I did the rounds of the second-hand shops, I would know what is a realistic amount to pay for second hand. They were going for around $120-150 brand new. Here is the exact same one advertised for sale at Target.

So imagine my surprise, when the search on baby bassinets, also turned up a result on Gumtree. Gumtree is like an Australian version of Ebay, only without the auction side. There was a brand new bassinet, going for $50, about a twenty minute drive away from here!

I thought surely it would have been sold by now, as it was listed over a month ago? I tossed my hat into the ring anyway, and received a quick reply. Before I knew it, I was organising to come and take a look - then I was driving home with it. The previous owners, even gave us a new baby breathing monitor they didn't use, along with the bassinet. Apparently, they had planned to use both, but their baby ended up co-sleeping with them instead. It was also meant to have sold about a month ago, but the buyers were no-shows.

Bed for the first 3 months of baby's life

So yesterday, I rearranged our bedroom and set the new baby bassinet up! We planned to have the baby in our room, to share the heater with us during winter. Otherwise we'll be paying for 3 heaters to run, as Sarah's room has one too. Much happier to only pay for 2 heaters instead. Plus it's easier to collect them from beside the bed, than walk to the nearest room. We did that when Sarah was a baby, and you get chilly feet walking between rooms - even when they're just a few meters away!

All in all though, WOW, I was shocked to find such a lovely, never used item, at a price we could afford. Imagine my good fortune, to still have it listed when it was supposed to have sold a month ago too. WOW! Some days are just so surprising, and I'm glad we finally had "the talk".

If you're an Australian, have you ever used Gumtree?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Early labour

Click to enlarge

This picture was taken yesterday, before we left for my 32 week ultrasound scan. I'm looking much happier than I did the day before, as a strange turn of events happened from something rather simple.

I'm not entirely sure when it happened, it could have been 3 days ago when I put on my ugg-boots for the cooler weather - as I noticed my feet starting to swell then. Or it could have been 2 days ago, when I went outside to pick the guinea-pigs some food in some tall weeds and thongs.

But at least 2 days ago, I noticed one particular foot starting to swell. There was a welt on it, like something had bitten me. I noticed a couple on the other foot too, but they were smaller and not painful. The bad foot swelled, became painful to walk on, I couldn't fit any of my shoes any more, but worse of all - I started to get painful contractions.

I didn't notice it at first. I just had several nights of sleeplessness. I kept getting up every two hours to use the toilet. It started to remind me of my pre-labour before Sarah was born - even David said he heard me making the same noises. We called the hospital when it became apparent it wasn't going away, and visited the birthing suite for a thorough overview.

They strapped their little machine to me, which monitored the baby's heartbeat and any contractions. It was clear I was either going into early labour or experiencing braxton hicks. As it had developed over a few days, they couldn't rule out early labour, so ordered a test to be sure that wasn't happening.

Thankfully, the test came back negative, which meant they didn't have to inject me with steroids to mature the baby's lungs in case he came early. I was relieved, but they did say to return, should the pains reoccur. My antenatal appointment was moved up a week, just to keep an eye on the situation too.

I suspect I know what happened though. Something did bight me (I don't know if it was a poisonous spider, or whatever bit me gave an allergic reaction) but the result was a fever to fight the infection and nausea - which probably also led to my uterus contracting.

As I said to David when we left the hospital, I'm glad we got it checked, even though I suspected it would pass through my system. It was sensible to get it checked out medically. But I'm also glad to know my body did what it had to do naturally, given a very simple source of infection had entered it.

Needless to say, I'm watching my shoes very carefully and it's the families job to pick food for the guinea pigs now!

Other good news is, I think we have finally settled on a name. I don't want to share it until our little guy arrives though.