Sunday, July 27, 2014

In a week...

Last Sunday, I got this brilliant idea to change an area which needed a face-lift. No problems, I thought, just a few rocks and we'd have it finished in a day. Ha! We tried to remove some stakes by hand (holding some of the logs in place) but ended up having to cut them off at ground level. Most of the day was gone by then...alas.

All new nursery plants

This was the area nearly three years ago. It looks as fresh as a daisy back in 2011, but most of the plants in this area died. After the grasses at the base eventually went, I required a new retaining wall solution. But I was to learn how dry it would become in our winters, when we normally have little rainfall. This year, particularly so.

Yucca (left), eremophila (right)

This is what it looked like seven days ago.  Dry and overgrown. The yucca and eremophila (native fushia) are what you can see in the image. They are plants which have adapted to desert conditions, and the only reason they have survived. Another prostrate eremophila, nearly didn't make it though.

Eremophila ground cover

Since I have mulched and made an effort to water it recently, new growth has formed on its bare branches. I was happy to save this particular plant, as its rather beautiful with its silver-grey foliage.

Prostrate eremophila foliage

Eremophila has to be one of my favourite plants to grow here, and it typically does very well on natural rainfall alone. The honey-eaters and bees especially love the flowers. Another hardy plant I had to rescue (only planted last year) was a lomandra grass.

Native grass

This is "Tanika" lomandra, and survived our incredibly hot summer last year. But it was starting to die back with the extended winter drought. With some new mulch, water and removing a lot of the dead stalks, I think its in better shape for next summer.

 Old mulch (left) new mulch (right)

This is our jelly-bean plant (next to the yucca) and ideally it wouldn't be this red. It's supposed to be light green, but living in such an inhospitable area, it dons the red protective colour to retain moisture. With the new revamp, I'm hoping to help it out a little more.

David took this photo without me knowing

I decided to build another rock retaining wall, and it meant a lot of standing back and evaluating the level, by eye. Not very scientific or mechanical I know, but I'm an organic worker. Actually, I'm lucky to be any kind of worker, with my little fella in-toe. I couldn't have him on site, in case he tipped a barrow full of dirt on himself, so I was limited to working on the wall when David was available to baby-wrangle.

That's why it took me a whole week to do such a small wall, mostly by myself. David helped collect some rocks around the yard and did some weeding in the beginning, but it was a small area to work in so was best to have a single worker.

Yucca (background), eremophila, lomandra and prostrate eremophila

I have mostly finished the wall now and the new area has come alive again. I'm happy to have some mature plants (survive) to give an instant effect of foliage, in what is an incredibly dry area. I have added some new friends to the wall garden however...

Lavender Avonview, now in revamped area

Would you believe, the spark of this whole idea last Sunday, was a humble little lavender plant? A lavender out the back, threw 3 little seedlings which I was able to transplant into pots. I thought a lavender plant with its colourful purple flowers would look nice in this area, and decided to start moving rocks.

Mostly finished

It's not the only reason I was inspired to revamp this area however. When I decided to re-work the swale above, it naturally drew my attention to the overgrown and dying area below. I always notice areas that don't work as originally intended, but when you're living on acreage and raising a family at the same time, it takes a while to get around to fixing things.

It was certainly a long week of work, but I'm content with the results. At the halfway mark however, I was tempted to believe it was a bunch of sweat for nothing when David said, the wall reminded him how I like to bring my ideas into being. From one little lavender plant which happily sprung up by itself, to a weeks work of rock moving and baby wrangling.

At the time it feels like the work will never end - the muscles ache, the baby cries for mum to come inside and the project is left incomplete (again). I kept hoping for rain that never came either. It's easy to think in those moments, what difference does building a wall make anyway?

Some inspiration

Building a wall doesn't make much of a difference to the rest of my responsibilities in life, or the weather for that matter, but it's an act of adaptation nonetheless. Embracing the environment I have, using the natural resources available is attempting a balance between extremes. That is my responsibility and (surprisingly) pleasure; finding something in the environment I can marry to my concerted efforts. I look at the wall now and see adaptation at work, something which will probably never be finished.

So in a week, I didn't manage to change the world for the better, but I'm content with the labours I chose for myself anyway. Is there anything you have struggled with over the past week?


  1. The wall is beautiful! If I'd done that I would be so pleased, but unfortunately no natural rocks here and they're too expensive to buy.

    1. Thanks for the compliment. :)

      It's hard to find rocks on our property too. During the storm season, we sometimes have them roll in, but Dave has collected them over time when he's been able to collect dirt people no longer need. When Council is working on a road, you can flag the trucks carting away dirt and they'll take it to your property for nix.

      We get quite a few rocks that way.

  2. Chris, most big ideas start with a small one and from that, you did change the world, your world and thats all that matters. i love stone walls especially when you build them yourself. the new revamped area looks great. i dont know how you guys cope with so little rain fall. i could not live where its so dry all the time and hot.

    1. You're very fortunate to have great water supply. We used to live in NSW (Coffs Harbour) when I was a teen, and the gardens were always so lush and green. It's taken some getting used to, where we are now but I've recently discovered we're probably in a high rainfall area for this region, lol.

      I did a search on surrounding areas (up to 4 hours drive away) via a weather website, and found we have probably received the most rain for 12 months. Very close to 700mm. The closer you get to the coast of course, the more rain there is.

      The problem is we receive it only during the summer storm season, and next to nothing in winter. We have to plan better for these dry months. As much as we want a wood heater for next winter, that second rainwater tank is looking like it will happen first. ;)

  3. This looks so amazing Chris. I actually find the desert plants to be very fascinating and having grown up on the West Coast of the U.S. miss these types of landscapes a great deal. Infact I am starting to collect indoor succulents lately.
    Have you thought to grow white sage in that spot? Its got a really nice dusty pale green tint to it and its very hardy. Some say you can drink it in small doses but I have only used it for smudging. Its sometimes called sacred sage here in the U.S.
    I would let a lavender seedling inspire me to that extent too:) Great work. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation on plants. I'll have to look for the sacred sage. What is smudging?

      I'm with you, appreciating desert plants too, especially their ability to survive extremes. They can teach us humans a thing or too. ;)

      I bet your garden is keeping you busy at this time of year. How are your herbs recovering from winter?

    2. My garden is all weeds. I am ignoring it:)
      Smudging is a native American (including Mexico and further south) way of using herbs to cleanse a person, place or thing of negative energy. If you look the topic up you will see bundled herbs (not always white sage) or sacred wood sticks like Palo Santo-or perhaps resins like Frankincense, myrrh and copal. It does cross over into many cultures and religions. These are lit and used over the person while praying allowing.

    3. I haven't heard it referred to as smudging (or at least I cannot recall) but I'm familiar with the practice. I do believe that herbal smells can change out brain chemicals though. Lavender does that for me! It can put me at peace in a nanosecond, lol. But it has to be fresh leaves and flowers, or else it can be too potent otherwise.

    4. I don't know what else its called. In the Catholic church that I grew up in, it had a name but I can't recall. Lavender is actually sacred to the Peruvians I think actually. I love that plant too-the essential oil can be overkill but I do add lavender to my tea mixes in small amounts as well. It feels clean.

  4. Well done, Chris and a great post. So true about adapting to one's local environment and growing conditions. I've been thinking a lot about that in regards to our pastures. We've put a lot of work into them but two months of no rain make it look like we wasted our time. The very thing that survived is something the goats don't eat!

    Well, always something to learn, always something to research and improve upon. I agree that it is satisfying work.

    1. Ah nuts, heart sank when I read that part about your pastures. I know the feeling all too well. It starts to feel like its all in vain sometimes. Then you have to find someone who can manage to grow the feed for the animals.

      The kangaroos have plumb cleared-out anything that was growing for the chickens and guinea pigs. Thankfully I have small offerings of vegetables I get to share with our animals. The kangaroos appetite however, is partly due because the neighbour bulldozed most of their block, which cut down their feed supply for this year.

      It's the knock-on effect, and why I try to remember it every time I want to make drastic changes on our block. I always imaged if I had goats however, I'd want to have strips of pasture on contour, partitioned with edible, hardy hedges on contour.

      When we don't actually get the rain we want, the next strategy has to become finding the means to prevent what moisture we do have, evaporating that moisture slowly. I have found hardy shrubs and trees can provide needed shade, as well as trying to provide some flat areas between slopes, to collect water when it does rain.

      Or at least that's what I'm attempting to work with. It's always a work in progress, isn't it. :)


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.