Sunday, June 19, 2016

The heavens open

They're predicting 40-80mm of rain for us today, but I think we'll be lucky to see 40mm here. Not to worry however, as our various earthworks projects, around the place (mostly dug by hand) are busy capturing as much as possible.


The pond, connected to our upper swale is full, and could get even fuller. Which means it will lap up to the lemon grass, without falling over the edge. I'm glad I did all that work around the pond recently. Both our pear trees, sit either side of the pond and this rain event, should hopefully see them through until spring. Especially since they've been recently mulched.


The driveway, that would formerly run water, straight down to the house and erode, has now been dealt with by our new concrete pavers. They collect water in the cells and there's very little movement, even if the cells fill and spill over. I'm hoping the grass can eventually populate the whole driveway. That would make it absolutely rock solid and very difficult to erode.


Down in our lower gully, the dragon is awakening. David snapped this picture, just as the water was starting to tickle down the footpath. Perhaps you remember this footpath, from my recent posts about Natural fertility and Natural resilience? This is what it looks like in the dry...


The water moves slowly, and when the rain stops, it will sit here until the ground drinks it in. Which will cause the plants we recently cut back, to re-shoot again. Then we will cut them back to mulch, continuing the cycle for the next rain event. If this was all sand, like it was formerly, we'd have serious erosion problems. So would our downstream neighbours.

Water moves

This view shows the same footpath flowing with water (top) with the middle section of water, virtually still. The water runs on the higher ground (read Peter Andrews, Back from the Brink, and Beyond the Brink) because it has been blocked by us, higher up stream, causing the water to split. It runs on the higher ground, and barely dawdles on the lower.

This is how we are attempting to manage water flows in the lower gully, to prevent soil erosion, and maximise water retention.

Dragon detour

This is where all the action is happening. To the far left of the image, the water is entering our property. It hits the barriers we placed across the gully, using vegetation. This causes the water to back up, and split into different paths where it can get away.

Splitting the water, effectively means you're splitting the velocity it flows at. In this way, our dragon takes many detours to the higher ground, to the middle ground and down to the lower ground.


Of course, the land is happy to receive all this rain, but what it also means to us, is a full rainwater tank. Until rainwater becomes your only water supply, you'll never truly appreciate a full rainwater tank. This means we can shower, wash our clothes, cook and clean again. Its such a thrill to see it overflowing.

I write posts about rain events, as a record for when the rain is falling, how much and what its doing in the landscape. Back in May, this kind of rain was filling up my new swales, I'd dug, to capture run-off from our driveway.

May 2015

I was worried when we got to June this year, and hadn't had any serious rainfall. Without it, moisture doesn't get captured in the ground, for the dry weather before spring. So I am happy to see our swales filling, as they ought to be.

We're about one month later, than last year, so I wonder what next year will bring? As an extra note, its good to have as much mulch down as possible, before it arrives.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A way of coping

I've had the craziest few weeks, lately. My dishwasher broke, my mobile phone died and my credit card has been replaced twice, due to fraud. The second time, I didn't realise my bank had cancelled the card, and ended up in one of those awkward situations, where you can't pay for what you've spent an hour, shopping for - and absolutely need!

So when most of that drama is put behind me, I go find some relief and peace in my garden. Even when it hasn't rained for a while, and looks like its teetering on the edge of death, it's still a reassuring place to visit. Because there are echoes of my hand at work, still there, pushing through the lull. It reminds me things are still happening, when it seems like the rest of my world is upside down.

The lemon grass is re-shooting again. Fresh and deliciously green, against a background of brown. The former stalks were slashed down and left to mulch the footpath. I did this when there were rumours of rain. When the rain did finally arrive, there was much less than predicted. By slashing the lemon grass ahead of time though, I preserved the moisture, which did fall.

Some tasks really show their fruits, only when the timing is right.

Then, there is the pear tree, I resurrected from the weeds. I pruned its branches back too, so it can focus its new growth on less. Today, I added to the mulch I laid down previously, with fresh, pigeon pea leafs and branches. It looked like a patchwork quilt, sewn together, only when the material was ready.

I was feeding the peas themselves to the chickens, and they needed time to fill out their pods. Having stripped the trees bear now however, it was time to cut everything back. Not just for the benefit of mulching the nearby pear tree, but also, for the pigeon pea itself.

Growth is slower in winter. Much slower. But once the branches are cut back, they seem to burst with renewed vigour. New leaves, for new flowers, that will produce pods to feed the chickens again. No doubt, the brush turkeys too.

Cutting back, really does renew things. I take that thought into my mind, as if its a worthy thing to transplant elsewhere in my life. Maybe it will bear fruit another time.

Right now though, I look at the large branches left on the ground, that we collected from fallen trees. I broke them up, piece by piece. Clearing the yard of debris, and placing them under the trees. It's taken many months. I started in autumn, and here I am again, in winter - repeating the same process.

For there is always debris, where new growth is forming. I don't always appreciate this in my other duties in life, but my garden never fails to remind me. It's there every year, and every day. I just have to step into it and forget everything else happening around me.

Then there is our rescued cat, from her feral mother - reminding me, its not where you come from, but where you are, that can be embraced. She always sits on the pallet, watching me - or perhaps to position herself at eye level. So I might run a hand down her back, or just lean forwards, and kiss the top of her nose.

She's not the biggest fan of personal contact, but she does appreciate brief encounters of affection. Don't we all.

I found mine in the garden today, embraced by all those cycles - the lull of waiting, and the drama of cutting back. The repeated cycles. Knowing we're all kind of rescued by nature, aren't we?   

Friday, June 17, 2016

Weekend projects inside

It's been a while, since I've done a weekend project update. These are jobs which can reasonably be done in a weekend. The last time I updated, it was all about storage solutions for my kitchen. I promised to update what I did for the bathrooms at the time. I'm now fulfilling that promise, some eleven months later!

Personally, I love storage solutions which can be built using recyclable materials. However, not all spaces are created equal either. Sometimes, you have to purchase something which is designed to fit the limitations of the space. Such was the dilemma, in our small ensuite.

Former storage solution

Where to hang towel rails, when wall space is a premium? We managed to erect a permanent towel rail, above the toilet, which kept it high and dry. The second towel rail however, involved purchasing a free-standing unit, with lower shelf. While it successfully aired the towel enough to dry, it was awfully close to the floor too.

The free-standing unit, inevitably became a haven for dust bunnies, because it wasn't so easy to pull out of its nook, in such a confined space. I always thought the shower wall, would make a perfect spot for a second towel rail. But I wasn't thrilled at the idea of drilling through glass to install one! I eventually got my wish, without having to involve power tools.

New look

Getting the towel rail up higher, not only prevented the dust bunnies, but it also made the space much larger. Our free-standing towel rail, went into the adjoining bedroom instead, to air clothes worthy of another day's wear. We could also store our slippers on the lower shelf.

Holds well

What made this possible without drilling through the glass however, was a new product using strong, silicon suckers. Forget all the other products you've seen, which inevitably lose contact with the wall. These ones are designed to hold up to 15kg in weight. More than adequate for a slightly damp towel.

These towel rails are about 80cms long, which was perfect for this space. It serves ordinary bath towels well, but may not be suitable for the much larger bath sheets though.

Also in our ensuite, and the main bathroom, is a matter of counter space at the sink. This has been solved by moving the toothbrush console, into the cabinet, under the sink. This was from the same suction cup, product range.

Suction cup

Start by cleaning the surface, allowing it to dry, and then applying the suction cup, according to the instructions. These will be included in your product, but I'll show a video down the bottom too.

Cup holder

Next, sit the metal cup holder into the lip and gently pull down, until it clicks into place.

Final assembly

Then sit the plastic cup into the holder. Be sure to check where you position the product, that it allows the cupboard to open and close freely. Some bathroom cabinets, have an upper lip you have to take into consideration.

Ready to use

Then fill with your favourite toothbrushes and paste. We still store a lot of stuff on the bathroom sink, but getting the toothbrushes into the cabinet, also meant they were protected by a lot of things which naturally float around the bathroom. Think, stubble and random hairs.

There was also one more product I purchased, which I wanted to try out in the main bathroom.

Off the ground

The single toilet roll holder, is screwed into place, but the multiple holder, is our new addition. We've always kept extra toilet rolls at floor level, for some reason. Probably because it's where the major storage solutions, focus on keeping them.

If you're anything like me though, you hate having to move the extra toilet rolls out of the way, to sweep and mop. They inevitably collect dust bunnies on them too. I wanted a solution that would lift the toilet rolls off the ground, where all the dust seems to collect.

This new holder (also utilising he same suction cups) has been working really well, and I haven't regretted purchasing these various items for our bathrooms. It's been almost a year now. In the interests of DIY though, I also wanted to include some other solutions in this post, in case it may suit instead. Especially if it uses existing features.

If you want to use your existing toilet roll holder, you can make a pouch in this tutorial, or come up with something of your own design. The only thing you'd have to take into consideration, is your holder is long enough to accommodate a roll, plus the ribbon on either side.

Or visit this link, for some more ideas on toilet roll holders and extra storage.

Now for the video I promised. It's like an infomercial, so skip it, unless you're genuinely interested.

I purchased this particular Everloc range, online, from Lifespace, and I notice they have a sale on their limited quantities of large towel rails, right now. Just look under "Bathroom", and then, "Towel bars and racks". I'm not affiliated with the company, I just thought I'd mention the sale if anyone was interested.

Howards storage world, is also selling them online, slightly more expensively, but they seem to be advertising a 10% store wide discount too. You can also find them in-store at Target and Bunnings. Non affiliate recommendation too.

Is there a clever bathroom storage solution, you've had to come up with, for your particular space?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wicking box #3

Back in May, I wrote about installing our first wicking boxes. We finally got around to setting up bed number three - remember the issue we had with a cracked base, in the last tub though?

Minor crack, but still not water tight

David went and bought some silastic in a tube, which I was dubious about the practicality - given the base is actually rather thin and flexible. I thought the weight of the soil, might break any seal we could manage to dry. I made sure to use silastic on the facing side and underneath too. No photos unfortunately.

Silicon repair, top, right- hand corner

But I did manage to take a photo after we sealed it, and packed the road base underneath, so it sat snugly under the plastic base. Our hope was to reduce the possibility of movement. We tested the water holding capabilities, for 24 hours, then deemed the silastic a success!

I'm relieved that particular idea, worked, as I didn't fancy purchasing more plastic, to act as a liner, in the already plastic tub. Kind of defeats the purpose of recycling plastic, if we had to buy more plastic. The rest of the silastic went to repairing other needed jobs around the place too - like holes in the chicken coop, roof, and the metal watering can had developed a small leak that was getting increasingly bigger. Purchasing the silastic met more needs than one.

The watering section

Once the tub was sealed though, I filled the base (water in situ) up to the drainage hole, with sand. We're going to try a different approach to the first two wicking boxes, where rocks were used in the base. Not only, did I want to avoid more weight in the tub than necessary, but we always have plenty of sand, from the silt bed. which fills up, after every rainy season.

The hose is set up, within the sand itself, as I demonstrated in the original post. Only instead of rocks, I'm using sand. It will be interesting to note any differences between the two systems, as they grow.

Fabric plug

I've also read with the sand layer, you don't have to use a barrier, like the shade cloth I used in the first two tubs. Which allows the plant's roots to sink right into the wet sand, without being held up by a barrier. The concession, of course, was to plug the drainage hole, with a small square of shade cloth, to stop compost falling out.

I actually enjoyed setting this wicking box up, more than the other two. Because it used fewer, but more readily available resources. It was also, a lot easier on the back!

Adding more

Once I was happy with the sand layer, I started to bring in the compost. Light materials again, made it easier on the back and faster to fill. What I'm liking, more and more about these tubs are, the worms are going to do all the soil work for me. I'm waiting on an order from our local hardware store, for worms. Once added, there will be no more turning beds or dealing with tough weeds in compacted soil. So it will be worth going to the effort, initially setting them up.

I have the recent photo of what the bed looked like, immediately after planting:

Tub #3

I had some society garlic, which needed to come out of its hydrophobic pot, and I transplanted some parsley too. Love having herbs for cooking. They've both adored the new conditions since.

I also took photos of the other two boxes, on the same day:

 Tub #2

A lone broccoli plant, went into tub 2, with some rubuarb, herbs, and tatsoi, plus some buckwheat which germinated from seed. Pretty happy with that.

Tub #1

Tub 1 (the first to be constructed) was filled with mainly bracicas, pot marigold and snow peas. Some have done great, others, not so well. The peas have suffered in the strong winds we've had lately, for example.

Here are some more recent photos, taken several weeks later, with the addition of sugar cane mulch. In order of construction:

Tub #1

Planted one month ago

Tub #2

 Also planted one month ago

Tub #3

 Planted two weeks ago ~ parsley quickly recovered

I still have not mulched tub number three, as I've been waiting for the green mizuna seeds to germinate. Once they grow a little bigger, I'll put the mulch down. I don't want to risk rotting them, with a thick layer of mulch.

Mainly mizuna, and some tatsoi

I can't wait for our greens to start producing enough to eat. I'm sure our guinea pigs won't mind in the slightest either. We have more space against our retaining wall, to build several more tubs. Although we're not going to go searching for these particular tubs any more - as we have some supplies we can use on site instead.

It's to do with a little accident we had, back in May of last year...

May 2015

I'm sure my dearly beloved, would love to be reminded of this particular incident. When a chainsaw met a tree, that didn't quite fall in the direction it was supposed to. Down it came on our only garden shed on the property! We purchased a new kit shed, and replaced the two sides, which were damaged. We have other building projects reserved for the pieces of the new shed, we didn't use.

However, the damaged tin remains, of the sides which had to be replaced. They still need to be found a useful purpose. So we are hoping to use the straighter pieces of metal, for building more wicking beds. What became an unfortunate accident, we would rather forget, can be redeemed instead, by growing vegetables for us. I like the thought of that.

The best part is, I can make these beds longer this time - giving more space to grow!

2016 seems to be the year of wicking beds.