Monday, September 29, 2014

The ways of the force

"Gee Mum, why are you pointing that thing at me?" 

"Why, to see you mastering the force, my young padawan!" 

I found Sarah's old watering can (from the days she was a wee nipper) and discovered her brother loves playing with water too. He tried using my big watering can at first, but kept bumping the spout on the ground. Now he has a size which is just right for him!

Give him one bucket of water and one empty bucket, and he pours the water between them. When the water runs out though, he starts turning to the dark side. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The right connections

We had this silly little dream, around nine years ago - wow, has it really been that long? It's when we first started looking for land. Move to the country and grow our own food - life would make more sense.

Unfortunately, the romantic notion of changing from supermarket junkies to homegrown heroes, overnight, was somewhat disappointing. There was an incredibly large disconnect from our food and our environment, which wasn't going to be alleviated with mere land. The way we lived every day, had to change.

When I glance briefly back at what we've done, its really looking to connect to things we probably didn't fully understand. Getting into a rhythm that life had to be constantly threatened (our livelihoods, food supply, the weather, etc) really had to become our new normal.

Because only out of the conflict of nature, comes the most amazing diversity. That's the reality of food production. Something has to die, so that something else can live. Ancient civilizations which lasted more than a century, knew that reality well. They kept the rhythm of their landscapes, and only continued living because of that close connection to their environment.

So now, every time a flower blooms in my garden, I get to witness a miracle. When a bee lands on that flower and dances over the pollen, there's a million-year evolution I get to be privy to as well. That makes me feel pretty special. These things have been going on for centuries, and I've only just noticed in a manna (wink) which matters?

There's no real secret to food production, other than learning to dance along with the bees again. Collecting those natural seeds (pollen) and storing them in soil cells around the yard. Then nature can surprise us with what the season brings. Something does eventually bloom and feed us.

Will it be what we expect though?

Part of the course of living here over the past seven years, is coming to terms with changing our expectations. How can we take part in the life on offer, while so worried about the many fates of mankind's future?

The seasons have always been thus, and so we should always dance along with them.

I actually don't expect to have a garden, so I'm surprised when one materializes before my eyes. I knew I took part in it. I knew I didn't fully understand what I was doing either. But here it is, surprising and delighting me.

Maybe I can grow better food in the future, but really, loving what's already here, is the important connection to make. So wherever you live, find something in nature to dance along with too. You'll be surprised at what you notice, afterwards. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It has begun...

Give me a few hours in the afternoon, some tools and a chicken coop, and you better stand back - because today I started demolishing Hilltop chicken coop...

One sheet off...

Off with some metal roofing, and then removing the metal sheeting down the side. I was surprised how quickly it went, with just me working away. David was baby wrangling, and I'm grateful for it. I've been wanting to start renovating this chicken coop for months.

What's this?

I even found a mud wasps nest, parked in behind the metal sheets and timber holding up the chicken nest. I noticed the wasps last summer. With the wall gone now however, they''ll find it difficult to rebuild.

Two sheets gone...

I'm opening up the inside, because while I've liked having an enclosed area, separate to the run - I quickly discovered ventilation was reduced. I think my new design will be much nicer for the chickens, and I've got further changes which will benefit us too!

Now I just have to wait for another vacant day, David will be available, to continue.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lovely limes

There are so many uses for limes. I love them! Especially when they're overripe and turning yellow. More juice, so more deliciousness for me.

Just add water

I stumbled across a wonderful new use for limes though, which I will surely be using over the summer months. A little squeeze in a glass of water, is so refreshing to drink. I was worried about this summer, as its normally when I drink a lot of diet softdrink!

I know, softdrink isn't good, but water doesn't seem to quench my thirst in summer. Just outside my backdoor however, was the answer.

Lovely, lovely limes!

By the way, I've tried this with lemons before, and it was not as refreshing. So if you've never tried it with a lime, give it a go!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just a little potty

I've been doing quite a bit of pottering around the garden lately. Pottering is all I can manage, it seems, as I have a little shadow...

The ginger hasn't sprouted yet, but thanks for checking

Like all shadows, I'm followed everywhere.  Which means what I do, has to be child-friendly. That overdue chicken-coop renovation, will just have to wait!

Even though I'm only technically pottering, its still important stuff though. I'm planting a lot of seeds at the moment...

New seedlings

I try to plant more pigeon pea trees, every year. Not only are they great forage trees which lure the kangaroos away from my vegetables, but they also double as mulch. In our dry season (winter) they will naturally shed their leaves, which helps improve the soil around the property. Gotta love the potential held within those tiny seeds.

Something new

I'm also trying a new forage shrub, called Old Man Saltbush. Its drought hardy and has good protein content. It will also feed the kangaroos and double as a mulch plant. I use anything which needs a regular trim, and drop it as mulch.

Oh my, Kipfler!

Can you believe there are POTATOES growing in MY garden! After all the years of failing, I hope this year will be a success. I've mulched them with dead grass, dried sweet potato vines, old passionfruit vines, and even trimmings from my wormwood. I'm hoping the scent from the wormwood will help deter pests.

Because I want LOTS of mulch plants, I need to plant seeds and take cuttings when I can. Its what occupies most of my days actually. While my shadow is napping though, I can occasionally be found outside rescuing trees...

Newly re-potted

This was a blood orange I had written off in the garden. I thought it was the root stock re-shooting, because the main graft had died. When I dug it up recently however, I found most of it was regrowth above the graft scion. What a delightful surprise. With a bit of TLC, I won't have wasted the money...and maybe, one day, blood oranges!

Waiting seems to be a pre-requiste to gardening I've found. Especially when you're still learning the ropes and making mistakes. I'm always making those. Like the reason I found myself planting some new Pink-Lady apple seeds recently, from a bag of apples we bought to eat. They tasted nice, so I planted them.

New trees sprouting

We will have to wait several years before we get any kind of crop from these wee nippers! Would you believe I planted these Pink Lady seeds, because I already have a Granny Smith Apple I grew from seed...

At least three years old

Only I didn't quite know it was a Granny Smith apple tree at the time. I did plant the seed several years ago, but it didn't grow. I promptly forgot about the apple seed, until the 2011 floods, and this suddenly sprung up. I couldn't be sure if it was the same apple seed, or a weed species which had trickled in. It was deciduous though and sort of looked like an apple tree. I got confirmation last year, when I sprouted another Granny Smith seed in a pot. Thus the search for a new pollinator began.

Eat apples, plant seeds - can't beat that kind of pottering around! But you have to wait for the results. Nothing happens quickly in a garden. It helps if you've got the snowball effect on your side though. Just keep planting...just keep planting...mistakes can happen but at least you've got more plants!

The promise of healthy food

Then of course, there are the punnets of vegetables, purchased from the mark-down shelf at the hardware store. It's getting a little late for cabbages and cauliflower for our climate. They will just go to seed in the summer. But David bought these, so I had to rescue them. I potted them into a larger, recycled punnet. Plus gave them a little artificial feed.

I'll find some place for them in the garden...eventually. I wonder if I can keep them potted until autumn?

 Cos Lettuce (left) Fordhook Giant silverbeet (right)

In the meantime I have greens growing in recycled styrofoam boxes too. Styrofoam is not my preferred means of growing vegetables, but if you look at the soil in the background, you'll know why I've resorted to them!

We get the boxes for free, from David's workplace, and we put them to use growing pampered vegetables. I've got fresh pick for the guinea pigs and us. That's what pottering around, can amount to.

Taking a step back...

Actually, my pottering enterprise is pretty productive. My whole garden is a pottering wonderland. Like a mad scientist, I'm busy experimenting in my laboratory, to see what works and what doesn't.

I've got a particular new garden bed, I'm trying for the first time. I'll update on its progress during the end of summer. But like everything in my life at present, it will just have to fit-in around my shadow.

I hope that shadow will make an excellent gardener, one day.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bloom'in here

Spring has officially arrived, but in truth, it had been knocking on winter's door for at least a month. Now is the time of year which becomes every gardeners treat - to walk around the garden and see some of last year's efforts, putting on a show.

Pink Aster Daisy

This daisy has finally gone full bloom, after contending with kangaroos determined to push it sideways to get past. This is one hardy plant. I've taken several cuttings already, and placed them around the garden. None have died on me yet, despite not receiving a lot of attention.

Verbena Candy Cane

Another plant I have successfully propagated next to the chicken coop, is the Verbena. It's living in terrible soil but this is an exceptional plant! I love the candy colour, but will find other colours of the verbena to grow as well. Simply because its so hardy.

Grevillea Honey Gem

Behind the other chicken coop, is the beautiful Grevillea Honey Gem, living up to its name and drawing every kind of honey-eater to its display. There are wattle birds, Rainbow Lorikeets and Hummingbirds feasting whenever they can. There is one particular, territorial wattle bird, which has claimed our front yard for its own.

Wattle bird

They do their best to perch on top of the highest branch, to search for intruders. I'm doing better this year with more native flowering plants, so spats are fewer. I'm doubling my efforts this year, to get more flowering natives into the ground and prune back the others to increase flowering times. I love having birds in the garden, so its something worth committing to.

Lavender Avonview

I didn't think this lavender was going to make it last summer. The western sun scorched it to a near crisp. It's looking much better now and is currently blooming. This one threw three seedlings nearby, which I happily scooped up and even created a rock wall for transplanting one in. I'm hoping those seedlings make it through this summer.

Eremophila (native fushia)

Another bird attracting native, which is currently in bloom, is the Eremophila Glabra. There is a lovely range of colourful flowers to select from this particular group, but I love something about the light-green flowers contrasting with the silver-grey foliage. It's very subtle and refreshing.

Recent wall project

This was the mature specimen I had growing on top of the rock-wall I recently built too. I've propagated from this plant successfully, and have three cuttings planted in different spots around the garden. The small honey eaters seem to especially love the flowers from this plant, but even the much larger wattle bird, will happily feed from it too.

Black mulberry tree

The mulberry is sporting new leaves and fruit. Maybe we'll stand a chance to eat some this year? The birds always seem to beat us to them. This tree is only a few years old, and we're so impressed with how low maintenance it is, that we put in another tree too. More berries for the birds, and us!

Star Jasmine

As mentioned previously, the jasmine is in full bloom and smelling so sweet and delicious. It brightens up this edge of our garden, and makes it worth the trip to the garden shed.

It wouldn't be the end of winter, without the ever faithful kumquat tree putting on a vitamin C show...

Kumquat 'Marumi'

This is our favourite snack food in the garden at the moment. We grab a bight on the way to feeding the chickens, or hanging clothes on the line. It's planted in an ideal position to snack on. Fruit which isn't edible, gets rolled across the lawn, for the cat to chase. She loves chasing kumquats. Strange cat!

Seeing what worked in the garden and what hasn't (another post) has given us some ideas to try different strategies this year. There's quite a lot of work to be done and material gathered for writing other posts. In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, or savouring Autumn which has just started for North Hemisphere gardeners.