Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post Christmas 2013

Boxing day is here at last. Christmas was fun, but I like the calmness which comes after Boxing day too. On the big day though, we finally got to try the family's new Christmas inflatable pool.


I've never been a pool person, but every Christmas is a scorcher. I'd like to think if we ever lost power in summer and couldn't use the ceiling fans, I'd have a cooler place to take the kids. It's only 3m in diameter and nearly 80cms tall, but its the right size for us. It's just outside the kitchen window too, so I can easily supervise.

Golden cane palm

The box the pool came in said only 10 minutes to set-up, but it took David and I, two days just to build the level ground. We re-used old Windsor Blocks left from our retaining walls, and only had to buy a load of road base to fill. We even used leftover lino off-cuts from the house, as the pool liner. We ran a little too short, and used old chicken-feed bags to fill in the gaps. It all came together in the end!

Muesli licked the mouse and biffed the monkey

Christmas presents were the order of the day, and I'm happy to say all our selections incorporated a little recycling too. Even the cat got some new chew toys, compliments of our daughter. A lot of thought went into wrapping "Muesli's" gift, which goes to show how much Sarah loves our cat!

Hats off...

I got the most nifty gift from David - a hat and coat rack. I said I wouldn't mind something to hang our hats from in the entry way, and he found this lovely solution. I secretly think David wanted a place to hang his hats too!

Our little Christmas Elf

Peter got a lovely Santa suit from one of his Aunty's. He looked so cute, but we had to take it off by the afternoon, as it was a getting too warm for him. Our little elf has started crawling for Christmas too!

First Christmas together

This was Sarah's first Christmas with her little brother and I must say she handled the day, like a champ. She helped him where she could and didn't get jealous of his presents. But she did get the reward of swimming in the pool for most of the day! A big sister perk. Sorry little man, you'll have to wait until a grown-up will take you in.

I'm glad Sarah has an outside activity to keep her fit during the school holidays.

So all is well in our little household after Christmas. We had some of David's relative's over, with just over a week to prepare - which included installing a pool. But as always, working together proved we can do what we set our minds to. I'm looking forward to some R&R, maybe in the pool...

I hope you all had a great time over Christmas, with whomever you were fortunate to spend it with.

Monday, December 23, 2013

So close...

Can you feel it? Only two more days until Christmas!

Cryptic clue

Some presents are already unpacked and just waiting for Christmas day to arrive. I can already hear laughter outside, as the Elves get increasingly restless.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Countdown

Only three days till Christmas...

A very sore 24 hours has just gone by. Time is marching on, and the Elves are still insanely busy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Out back

Yesterday, I showed some pretty pictures of the front verandah, but have you seen the view from out back?

It's demolition time and a whole lot of re-organising to do - but it's all for a good cause. More on that later. But yes, revel in our chaos before Christmas time. We have a lot of cleaning to do! Will we ever make it in time? Only four more days until Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Under the verandah

I was going to include some pictures in my last post, of my growing plant collection. For some reason the images weren't linking however, so I gave it a few days. Whatever Gremlin was in the works, it seems to be sorted now.

Our verandah is only 1.8 metres wide, but still enough room for plants and walking! They get a wee bit of early morning sun, and a lot of afternoon. Because it only lasts for about an hour though, it doesn't seem to cook them.

Before I came to understand how this space works with plants, it really just accumulated garden tools, wheelbarrows and whatever else we were too lazy to put away - mulch bales, bags of chicken feed, etc. But I knew one day, I wanted to have plants for the view out the window, but also to shield the bricks and windows from the heat of summer.

I guess you could call this my "zone zero" area, as its the closest to the house and visited constantly. We even grow the odd vegetable...

I use a small amount of homemade compost in my potting mix so I get more value from the bags of potting mixes I buy. Not surprisingly, we get volunteers popping up - like this tomato. They will never produce the kinds of yields from plants which get all day sun, but the few which do grow, are so tasty.

Here are some more volunteers from the compost heap, only Dave took these direct from the compost. He dug up the mature clod and placed them in an old broccoli box. We always have these boxes around, because Dave collects them from work with vegetable scraps for the chickens.  We sit it on the very edge of the verandah so it can get more sunlight. Don't know what we'll get from this lot, but it will be a surprise.

We also use the broccoli boxes (upturned) to raise plants up. Especially the seedlings which I want to get a little afternoon sun, but not as much as those mature plants in big clay pots. It also makes it easier on the back, when I have to inspect and water them.

Right next to these boxes are some old tree logs, which are handy for sitting on, or in this case, used to hold the seaweed feed and spray bottle. Very handy on the back, not having to lift from all the way on the ground. They're placed close to the seedlings, as I use the spray bottle every day, especially just before the sun hits them in the afternoon. I like to spritz the leaves to create humidity.

I couldn't leave without showing the intricate mud wasp nests. These can grow quite big as they add to it. Their nesting coincides not with the heat - but with the rain. As that is how they obtain their building material.

I don't mind sharing the verandah eaves with the mud wasps, as they control the spider population, which also likes to inhabit the eaves. Everyone who visits, never fails to mention we take the nests down, but I remove them only if they're in the way (ie: near the front door). I don't blame people for suggesting we remove them, as the verandah becomes quite a freeway of wasp activity. But as they're carrying clods of mud or paralysed spiders, they're not interested in attacking. They're just about the business of securing the next generation of wasps.

I've only been attacked once by a mud wasp, and that was when it decided to build a nest inside our mailbox. I stuck my hand in to collect the mail, and it stung me. The poor thing only wanted to get away though, as once it was in the clear, it flew away. Paper wasps are the ones you have to watch out for. They will sting you repeatedly if you're too close to their nest. Thankfully we don't get too many of those

I've also tried something new this year in plant selection for the front verandah. I've never tried planting fruit trees in pots because we always have the space to plant them in the ground. But I was looking for something with a lot of foliage cover and when I saw this Cherry Guava in the nursery, I thought, why not a fruit tree? I couldn't find a good reason not to try it.

As it's so close to the house too, we may stand a chance of actually eating some of the fruit before the native animals do. It's worth trying anyway.

I also got the chance to break up some old raspberry canes and potted them on separately. An old milk crate and recycled plastic tray (found in any second-hand shop) makes for a nice place to grow them out. These will go in the ground around autumn, we have a special place in mind - more on that later.

This area on my verandah is constantly changing though. There's something nurturing about having green foliage embrace your house, so I will always try to find something to fill the space. Hence, my search on the internet for planting ideas. I'd rather recycle stuff than buy brand new.

There are many advantages to keeping pot plants though - even on acreage. They help control the micro-climate round the house, and create habitat for other animals - I've noticed a resident green tree-frog living in my seedling trays, as it's often very moist there. I'm sure as my collection grows, I'll notice even more animals turning up.

What I love most about keeping pots on my verandah though, is they're just one step down from the front door. It's all kept on flat ground, I can control what I feed the plants and spot problems very quickly too. It's also a synch to raise things up to a level my back will appreciate.

There are a few more Christmas surprises attached to our verandah, but I will probably write about that after the big day. So much happening beforehand. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are enjoying your plants and having a festive season.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clever green thumbs

So I've been doing a mad clean outside, in readiness for Christmas. Hello spiders and all manner of crawly things! I normally like to leave the spiders, as the mud-wasps are collecting them by the dozen at this time of year. They paralyze the helpless arachnids and seal 'em up in their mud nests, for their emerging larva to eat later on. Mmm, right?

Er, well, maybe not!

Anyway, I left all the higher up spiders and just cleared the webs around the ground (and windows) for my lovely plant collection, which seems to be multiplying. It was during this activity I got the idea for container planting. I normally use pots, but I started thinking innovation and unique design ideas. The kind of stuff which is quirky and frugal, rather than the veneer of brand-new. So hello Google, and all manner of pretty things at my fingertips!

Some of these ideas are way OUT THERE and utterly gorgeous in their ingenuity. I love old things. When they outlive their usefulness, just plant something beautiful in them...

Now you know what to do with broken watering cans and buckets laying around the yard. Lovely vertical planting idea too.

Don't let your spare tyre collection become a breeding ground for snakes. I can see a much friendlier lizard and frog habitat in there. They like warm spots to sun themselves, with foliage to cool or hide in. 

These boots were made for walking, and that's just what they'll of these days, these boots are gonna...okay, they've stopped walking and started sprouting blooms instead. It's a beautiful, if not rustic, planter. But 'Oy, the shoes I could plant!

Try these on for size. I've always thought I'd look great in a size 9 galoshes up a tree. No? Who knew gum boots were so fashionable, and very handy in the garden too, I hear.

It might not be sifting flour any more, but it has the perfect drainage holes for planting. As they're succulents too, they won't mind being neglected if you happen to forget to water.

I wish all my junk around the yard, would spontaneously bloom like these magnificent bicycles. Someone must really love those planter boxes to keep them in such good condition.

If you click on all the "source" buttons underneath the images, you will see a wealth of planter and re-purposing ideas too. Utterly amazing how junk can be made to be useful again.

Are you a clever green thumb?