a little gardening and where on earth have i been?

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. Not that the weather has been told. Its sunny one minute, pouring with rain the next, frost in the morning, warm in the afternoon… Pretty normal really.

The garden is confused. Plants flower. Then the frost gets them. So they flower again, The frost comes again and gets what survived the previous frost. Pretty normal really.

The garden isn’t the only thing that’s confused. Annabelle (the goose) has laid eggs. On top of last year’s dead eggs which I never got around to removing from the nest she abandoned.

In fact we’re not sure she’s actually laid new eggs on top of the old ones or if she decided to give the stale eggs another chance… either way, she’s gone clucky. Too early.

The place is a mess. Muddy and wet. Seeds I tossed out are growing and blooming between the frost bitten plants. The grass is growing and the weeds are growing faster. When walking across the yard I sometimes just can’t resist picking up the grandpa weeder and ‘just grubbing out that obnoxious weed that’s just staring me in the face, laughing at me’.

An hour or so later I put away the weeder and go into the house.

In the good news department, my new hyacinths are up. And the tyre retaining wall is filling up as the plants grow.

I put more wire up for the hardenbergia so it can spread across the carport wall.

Even the dogs got into gardening – digging new holes where pretty succulents used to grow.


I’m trying to get the garden done in short spurts, a bit here, a bit there. There’s just so much to do. And so little time. Which is why I haven’t posted. I just haven’t felt like writing, watching TV is all I want to do at the end of the day.

That and exercising my fingers.

With the broken finger now healed I can do almost anything again. My fingers are very stiff and sore and my left hand has only 1/2 the strength of the right,but I’m grooming again and I’ve started doing things in the workshop again. Finally.

One of these days I’ll be organised and have time to do it all.

In my dreams.

z

our junky garden

In the last week I’ve managed to get a bit of work done in the garden. Not on my own… I had some help otherwise I’d be lying on the couch moaning in pain right now.

One thing I did by myself was move these broken old chairs into the front garden bed. Partly to stop the dogs from digging, partly as garden art. I got these chairs at the tip shop ages ago. The guy there thought I was going to fix and restore them. I had no such notions. I only bought them as garden art.

There used to be a gorgeous burgundy penstemon growing where the chair (below) is but the dogs dug it up and killed it. I have another one in there now but till it grows up enough to grow through the chair like the one above, I have an old jam saucepan sitting on it.

The birdcage is protecting a newly planted daisy.

I love my junky garden art.

Close to the front door the old washing machine drum which used to hold lettuce now has sweet peas in it. I’m using the broken windmill as a climbing trellis for them when they grow.

I do have plans to restore the windmill.

If you’re wondering about the springs… dog barrier.

Need I say more?

I found this little chair at the tip shop a couple of weeks ago. I had planned to fix it up but for now its holding some of my succulents on the front porch.

AND…. (drumroll)

I bought a maple!

Its a japanese maple, no idea what type exactly. I had one of these in Melbourne many years ago and I sure hope this does well. Till now we’ve had no trees in the house yard and that’s just wrong. This is tree no. 1.

I dressed it up with a few junky planters so it wouldn’t feel so alone on the side of the woodshed. The soil there sucks, but we dug a deep hole and filled it with soil, fertilizer and manure. Fingers crossed.

I did plant some trees just outside the yard – one canadian maple which bit the dust, one orange tree which was eaten by the geese, three birches near the dam of which one survived. The others were eaten by the geese. Seven birches near the water tanks, and five pussy willows, all of which have survived and are growing despite having been pruned back by the horses on numerous occasions.

Meanwhile, you may have noticed the tyres around the maple… We’ve now added tyres down lower in front of the new drainage ditch, creating an extended garden area. For now I’ve got some spring bulbs in the tyres closest to the maple but need more plants to fill the other tyres.

I bought a new camellia which I put in a container on the side of the house. Advice of a friend: put it in a container in the spot you think you want it to live, that way you don’t have to dig a hole and plant it till you know if it likes it there.
Excellent advice.
Procrastination 101.
The white banksia rose I moved twice and almost killed has come back. Its now in a pot in the spot I intend to plant it eventually. I like this way of gardening. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

Other than that, I got this old singer from the tip shop. The base is broken but I’d love to find a way to grow a plant around it. Same with the typewriter. I got them both with the plan of making them into garden art. I can put a small pot into the centre of the typewriter, something which will grow up and hang down over the keys a bit. The sewing machine… maybe I can remove the base and sit it in a container and grow a plant around it…
There’s still more to do, but isn’t there always? I’ve spread sugar cane mulch, got the vegetable garden cleaned out of weeds and attacked the weeds. Again. We’re coming in to winter here so I won’t be doing an awful lot to the garden till spring. I just wanted it to look tidy.
z
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aliens in the garden

You know how hard it is to get flowers to grow? I mean really. You plant them, water them, baby them, plead with them, then they either go and die or the dogs dig them up.

And by ‘you’, I mean ‘I’.

Yet, some plants just pop up where you least expect them.

Or plants you don’t want pop up everywhere.

Here is one I did want. Verbena, growing on the edge of the footpath, nowhere near where it used to be in the garden bed (where it no longer is cause it all died!).

And here are some yellow buttercups growing between the retaining wall which holds up our driveway and the carpeted footpath.

Ok, we didn’t really carpet the footpath, think of it as a heavy duty weed barrier.

Which didn’t deter the buttercups.

Who knew they were such resilient little suckers? Not me. There are 6 of these little guys growing between the carpet and the wall or the house.

Only the yellow ones.

I don’t like yellow ones.

I pulled the yellow ones out before I pulled out the pinks or whites. Wierd.

Then there’s this:

A pumpkin plant! Its growing alongside the fence on the dam side of the house.

I figure it grew from a pumpkin seed we tossed out for the ducks.

What about the foxgloves?

I put in a couple of plants a few years ago and they’re growing everywhere now. I try to stop them taking over by cutting down the flowers before they seed. Doesn’t stop them though. They’ll grow in anything.

At least they’re pretty.

Then there’s the unwanted aliens – like this prickly customer in the middle of my succulent garden patch.

Yeah, yeah, there’s a ton of white clover as well. I haven’t weeded in a while.

I also have about 7 or 8 tiny avonview lavender bushes growing in the concrete that passes as soil on our embankment. That’s the area I filled with tyres in order to get things to grow. These little plants have just come up on their own! I can’t figure out how the seeds managed to not roll off the slope, let alone get a grip and put down roots!

Plants are pretty incredible.

z

gardening with dogs, is it possible?

I’m not sure.

I thought it was. I mean, for a long time things were going great. I planted things, half of them died, but the rest grew up unmolested by poodles.

Then one day the poodles began to dig.

And dig.

Never in the same place.

They dug up some of the new foxgloves I put in along the back fence. They dug up the lupins. They dug up the catmint and new columbines. They dug and broke low branches off the crepe myrtle. They dug and broke the hardenbergia in half. They dug and knocked out the pigface I’d dared to survive in the cement-like, inhospitable slope. They dug small channels under fences.

…I tried to stop it.

I put up fences. I used dog pens and stakes and zip ties.

They knocked them down and moved them.

I put them up again.

They found another spot to dig.

And then yesterday I got home and found this:

Flattened osteospermums and a hole between the english lavender and the pink daisies.

Broken and flattened double osteospermums – looks like someone decided so take a nap there. Thankfully the young penstemon on the left avoided annihilation.

So far.

The alyssum wasn’t so lucky. It looks like this was another nice spot to rest.

(Actually, it DOES look like a nice place to lie in the sun… but that’s not the point!)

Ok. I’m not overly worried about the alyssum. That stuff is growing in cracks in the path.

The snow in summer is looking scraggly but that should be ok. And the osteospermums should bounce back. I’ll just give them a trim, I have to do for winter anyway.

Its that I plan to replant the old garden beds in front of the casita with new plants. Last weekend I got my garden helper to remove all the too-large plants from the beds, dig up and mix in new soil in preparation of planting all sorts of smaller flowering plants: mixed bulbs, columbines, whatever strikes my fancy.

The dogs have been leaving footprints all over the narrow beds, which I could cope with. But they’re also digging it up.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I’m really beginning to get annoyed here.

I get that they dig after critters in the yard. Rats probably, around the foundations of the casita. The odd native animal. Whatever.

But digging in a new bed? There are no critters in there! They’re just loving digging!

I’ve never had diggers before and I’m stumped. I plan to put a fence over the new beds but that won’t guarantee anything.

Sigh.

I think I may go back to toy poodles. At least they can’t dig up a whole tree.

z

small changes make the world of difference

I really do love the way the porch is looking these days. The potato vine I planted a couple of years ago has taken off and is threatening to swallow up the whole house, but it provides a calm spot to sit and read in dappled shade during the times when the sun normally sends you scurrying inside.

My various pots and containers with succulents and one pink geranium (I may be greek but I’ve never been a really big geranium fan) are all doing well.

I bought a couple of outdoor setting cushions for the adirondack chairs a friend made for us and they’re way more comfy and inviting.

Of course, we have to bring them in when we finish our ‘front porch sitting’.

Not cause of the dogs. Its the birds that worry us most.

We don’t call it the poop deck for nothing!

My plan is that one day we’ll put a roof over the back porch as well, making it more usable in all weather and a good spot for hot summer afternoons.
When that happens we’ll still have this little corner where roofing will be a challenge. I’m not worried. I’m thinking more trellis, a pink climbing rose I’m growing from a tiny cutting, and we’ll have an ‘arbour’ area at the corner of the porch.
How pretty will that be?
Or… I could go all Greek and put in a grape vine…
I have time… The rose is too little to go in the ground till spring and it’ll be at least a year before its tall enough to need support above the rail. I have till then to find a way to convince Wayne we need a roof on that side of the porch.
z
PS I apologise to geraniums for my earlier comments. I had no idea they come in so many varieties and colours. Thanks to Google, I’m now re-evaluating my stance on geraniums and will most likely become a staunch supporter of them in the future.

busy bees

When I say ‘busy bees’, I mean real bees, not me. I’m lying around the house trying not to move and work up a sweat in the heat. 
And not to put strain on my aching ribs which have put a limit on the amount of oxygen I can pull into my lungs at any given time…
Do you have bumble bees where you are? We do. I’d never seen these bees till I came to live in Tasmania. They’re big and round and drone kind of like the Boeing 747 of the bee world.

Have I mentioned I love my new camera? Its a cherry red Nikon Coolpix L830 that I got almost new on ebay.
Have I mentioned I love ebay?

It has an incredible 30x optical zoom (incredible when I had a 3x with my old camera). Its very handy when you want to take pics of animals in the distance. Like the geese.

Of course, full zoom needs a tripod or you just get blur, but I have one of those. A Velbon tripod, in great condition.

I got it on ebay.

Naturally.

Did I mention we’re one goose down? We had three geese originally, they had 3 babies. Two girls and one boy.

Unfortunately one of the girls got into the yard before Christmas and the dogs killed her.

I was really upset. But to be fair, they did leave her when I called them. It was just too late. They’d already broken her neck and she died in my arms.

Wayne and I buried her near the dam.

Everyone said “Why didn’t you eat her? She’d have made a great Christmas dinner”…

How could we? She was our goose. She wasn’t bred to eat.

One of our new chickens is going broody. She’s trying to nest in a sky box in the chicken coop. No forethought on her part. I mean, what’ll happen to any chicks she has soon as they step out of the box?
Splat.
Anyway, we’ve been taking her eggs and she’s been getting increasingly cranky about it. Wayne thought that maybe we should just catch her and let her go broody in Stalag 13*. That way any chicks won’t have to skydive before they can walk, and will be less likely to be crow food.
I’m not sure I want chicks.
We have 4 chickens and currently get 4 eggs a day. Its hard for us to keep up with that. Sure, with the new law saying that people with under 20 chickens can sell eggs without going through all kinds of regulations and stamping of eggs, which cancelled out the previous new law which made it illegal to sell home laid eggs without accreditation, we can sell our eggs to support our chicken habit…
But having chicks means getting roosters as well as hens.
And that means we have to make a decision: what do we do with the roosters? We can’t drive them up the highway and dump them on the side of the road like so many people do. We can’t bribe people to take them, or smuggle one into every visitor’s bag as they’re leaving. 
We can’t eat them cause by the time we know they’re roosters they’ll have names.
Sheesh. 
Mom was wrong. I’d never make a good farmer’s wife!
z
*Stalag 13: Original dog kennel on the property when we bought it. Its been used to incarcerate escape artist dogs, house roosters (given to us by a friend for the pot, and accepted by Wayne who thought ‘no worries’ then found he couldn’t kill and eat them cause “they were cute”), and raise various clutches of ducklings to save them from aforementioned crows. I was considering converting it to a green house for winter, but hey, winter is months away and who needs a green house in summer?

anatomy of a fall

I’m feeling a bit better this afternoon. The pain killers no doubt helped some. I think I’ll live.

On one of my short breaks from the ugly purple recliner I thought I’d take some photos for you.

These are the culprit tyres.

And this is a diagramatic re-enactment.

I don’t care if that’s not a real word.

Ouch.

Imagine me lying on my side, elbow bent underneath me bottom left, my feet up between the two tyres. Not a pretty sight. Luckily no one around with a smartphone.

Please note the gravelly clay soil. Much like cement.

On the upside, I’m getting to catch up on computer and mobile phone stuff… On the downside I’m not crossing things off my never-ending-renovation-To-Do-List.

Speaking of smartphones, did I mention my new mobile phone? New to me anyway.

I had an el cheapo mobile phone which I bought when I lost my old mobile about 4 years ago. It cost me something like $75. It was simple. Took calls, made calls. Took photos which were impossible to see on the tiny screen, and refused to open multimedia messages.

I’d been wanting a new phone for a while. Not a long time, but I was getting there.

Then one day I ran over my old phone.

I swear, I did not do it on purpose! Many won’t believe that, but I swear its true.

In fact I have no idea how my mobile ended up on the other side of the driveway, near the gate.

Anyway, while lamenting my carelessness great loss on FB (as you do) cause I was going through an especially broke stage and couldn’t afford a new phone… and at a time when my grooming work should have been booming, but wasn’t, due to a lack of aforementioned roadkill phone…

… someone offered me an old phone.

Its a 2 year old Huawei Ascend and its my first ever smartphone.

A steep learning curve which I’m enjoying.

I am ever so grateful.

I am a big believer in doing good for people cause good will come to you from unexpected sources. I’m always giving things away to people who want or need them rather than sell them for personal gain. I’ve never been a “what’s in it for me” person.

Then, when I need something, someone kind will give me what I need.

Like a mobile phone. Or old carpet, or a doona cover.

So I’ve spent today working on a logo design, editing and cropping photos, cleaning up files on my computer, learning about apps and figuring out how to fix an “insufficient storage” error on the phone.

Anyway, I leave you with a couple of pretty pics of the tyre embankment which shows that one day, this will be a pretty wall of plants and not just a row of tyres.

z

no longer an ugly duckling

You’ve come a long way baby!

(Does anyone remember the Virginia Slims ad? or am I just too old?)

I am loving my home. I get so much enjoyment out of stepping out the door onto our front porch and just looking at it and the garden. Sure, the back deck (or the poop deck as its affectionately known) is still a mess, it really needs a roof and bird evictions, and there’s still a healthy farm-like amount of crap around the place… but its home and its becoming beautiful – and I love it.

We went from this:

To this:

What’s not to love?
You can read more about the before and afters here.
Here is the back deck, unpainted, exposed… I have plans for that… one day… till then I pretend I can’t see it.

The deck is welcoming and cosy now. The potato vine has gone bezerk and provides dappled shade in one small area.

Soon the pale yellow banksia roses on the trellis should also hide the water tanks on the left. And once the potato vine spreads a little more to both sides there’ll be more shade in the afternoons.

The plan is that when we roof the back deck we’ll just put more trellis on the corner and make it sort of like an arbour area where you can sit in dappled sunlight with plants growing around you. Perhaps a pink banksia rose… I’d love a purple potato vine but they’re not so hardy, and I’d love a jasmine but I’ve killed two of them so far.

Maybe I’ll stay away from them.

Ah… home. In this pic you can almost not see the bare spots on the weeds lawn where I sprayed Roundup. As I keep saying, if it wasn’t for weeds we’d have no green. 

There is still much to do but at least I can say I’ve managed to do something over the Christmas break. I finished painting the front of the house where we had bare timber from moving the kitchen windows. I undercoated the enclosed porch area ready to paint. And I put up my corner brackets, something I’d been planning to do for the last couple of years.

Now, if I wasn’t such a clutz I’d be out there painting today. Top coating the enclosed area and all the window surrounds.

Instead I’m sitting in the ugly purple recliner trying to move as little as possible.

Why you ask?

I was climbing ladders, on uneven ground, for days painting and screwing in brackets and I was fine.

All I did was water the embankment yesterday and I think I’ve cracked a rib.

I need to rethink riding again… I don’t think I should get on anything with its own feet. I can’t be trusted on my own two feet.

Let me explain: the embankment is made up of old tyres. A bit redneck but in the spirit of recycling, which I’m into big time. Its a steep embankment, impossible to walk up at the best of times. The other day I’d walked along the top tossing down the tyres from the top line that I thought were unnecessary.

Obviously, I didn’t put them out of the way or stack them nicely. I left them where they fell.

My bad.

So, while watering last night I was walking along the bottom of the embankment, a small channel which catches rainwater and directs it away from the house, when I tripped on one tyre, stepped back to get my balance and stepped on another, bounced off it and landed like a sack of potatos.

Hm… not quite. A sack of potatos keeps its shape.

I landed like a sack of potting mix. With a big splat, on my left side, on my left arm and on my ribs. My whole weight just kind of formed around and over my arm so that I had to kind of pry myself up.

After I’d caught my breath… ie about 3 minutes of moaning and groaning in pain.

It probably took me 5 minutes to stand up and pick up the hose again. I’d been lying in the ditch of course so of course I was covered in mud.

Like a trooper, I kept watering. It had to be done, right?

Then I went into the house and sooked to Wayne while I changed and washed the gravel off my arm.

The elbow is bruised but doesn’t hurt. In fact, the right elbow (which was nowhere near the squash zone) still hurts more than the left, but the bruising is impressive.

Its my ribs that hurt. And the weight of my left breast. Youch. (Wayne kindly offered his support. Pun intended.)

I can breath but deep breaths hurt and moving hurts.

Wonderful.

I’ve had broken ribs before. Many times.

You don’t want to know.

There’s nothing to be done but rest and patience. So, whether its soft tissue damage or a broken rib, I just have to wait it out.

Wonderful.

I still have a week off work and I had so much to do.

NOT happy Jan.

z

PS. I watch too much TV and have a head full of quotes and movie trivia.

step by step, we’re getting there

Our home may not be beautiful and neat, but one thing I can say for it… it has character. Like the side of the garage where some previous owner thought ‘what the hell, you can’t see this side from the gate’ and stopped painting it blue. And all the rusty bits of metal leaned up against the corner to stop the dogs from excavating all my plants in pursuit of some critter burrowed under the shed.

The foxgloves Ginny gave me are so tall I’ve had to stake them, and the lobelia and alyssum are looking great…

I hadn’t posted for a few days as I haven’t really had much to share. I’ve been busy with work and haven’t put any time into doing anything creative worth sharing. However, things are slowly moving along. I’ve had my trusty helper come out and do some of the heavy lifting for me so things are coming together in the yard.

For one thing, he’s put a brick border along the footpath to stop the blue metal (gravel) from falling onto the path and then into the ‘lawn’.

(I use the word loosely.)

I love the neat new look. Maybe it needs a brick border on the other side too?

You can see the tyre wall is coming along too.

Another view of the tyre wall from the garage to the front gate and our wonky wood shed. We figure about 3 more loads of tyres and we’re onto the next phase: soil and pinebark. I’ve already got some plants in the tyres down the front end, I need a whole lot more to fill the whole wall.

I’ve had my trusty helper put carpet down along the path between the house and driveway retaining wall. That area has always been a problem. Some of it has blue metal and the rest had weeds… almost impossible to mow with all the gravel mixed into the grass. This way no more weeds and I can buy more gravel to put on top of the carpet. You can’t really see it in the pic but there’s another brick border to hold in the gravel at the far end of the walkway.

We put carpet skirts around the trees we planted in the paddock as well. I told Wayne I was over weeds and planned to carpet the entire yard. He was not impressed.

We also put up a bit more wire for the potato vine and sweet peas to grow up. The garden is beginning to look really nice.

Well… except for the weeds where the lawn should be and the bare patches where I poisoned weeds…

I got a pleasant surprise the other day. This plant grew in one of the garden beds and I had no idea what it was. I wasn’t even sure if it was a weed or not. But since I didn’t recognise it as a weed I let it grow and voila! Its a delphinium!

I’d bought delphinium seeds a couple of years ago and not a single one grew. I think I tossed the soil from the empty pots in this area and look what grew!

I’m loving the way gardens can surprise you like that. This is a new thing for me. Mostly things I put in the garden surprise me by disappearing.

Meanwhile we had to do an emergency operation on the hardenbergia and azalea corner… another critter living behind them I guess, cause I came home to find dirty dogs and the plants almost ripped out. Its a pity cause both of them had just started to take off.

When I bought the azalea Patrice was all ‘oh, you’ll kill it’ and I was on track to prove her wrong. Hopefully no permanent damage was done.

A rickety cage made of a dog pen side, some old trellis, bits of wood and tied together with hay bale twine… add the tyre wall… a bit white trashy huh?

Oh well.

I’ll just call it the ‘Make Do’ culture. I’m recycling and using what I have on hand.

And I have a LOT of hay bale twine…

z

homestead news

Summer is on its way down under and the grass is growing at lightening speed (except for all the bald patches on our ‘lawn’ where I poisoned all the weeds). The vegetable patch is starting to produce stuff.

Strawberries actually. Only strawberries. This is my first bowl from the garden. They’re the sweetest tastiest strawberries I’ve ever had!

Last weekend I lay straw around the strawberry plants to stop them growing on the ground and keep them slightly above slug dining level. And Matthew and I made a frame and put up bird netting. We used scrap wood which we cut up as stakes, then tied some thin old moulding (which had been left in the yard by the previous owner) to create a cage. We used hay bale twine to tie it all together.

Very pretty. In a redneck kind of way.

Then we put flat head nails down the side of the garden box so we can hook the net down tight.

A good job I think. Today’s strawberry crop was less chewed on than the odd strawberry I’d been picking lately.

This morning while I groomed, Matthew came around again to do a bit more work on the tyre wall and I got him to move the poor abused pussy willows to a better spot. Here they are at the side of the casita, to the left of the vegetable garden. Five of the seven I’d originally had.

Those poor trees have had the roughest time in their short lives. Firstly, they were just sticks I cut off the trees I had in Fentonbury before I moved here. Pussy willows will grow from sticks. I’d originally put them in the ground just below the dam.

Our dam is spring fed and it leaks. I wanted something to take up some of that water.
We put some electric fence up around them to keep the horses out and they grew for a while.
Then we had to move the electricity to another fence (you know, we play games with it, some days this fence is on, some days that one’s on… it amuses us), the horses got in and gave them a haircut.
We put the fence back on and they grew again.
Then we needed to dam shored up so we dug them out and moved them to a spot on the far side of the back paddock, near the creek. Plenty of moisture there too.
We put up posts and tied electric fence wire around it to keep the horses out. They looked like they died for a while, but then they came back. The trees, not the horses.
The horses realised the fence wasn’t on and they gave them another haircut.
We gave up. They were just sticks with roughly chewed ends for a long time. Then this spring they got new growth.
The other day I was thinking how I want more trees in the yard but we don’t actually have anywhere to put them, and it dawned on me that I could plant trees outside the vegetable garden, outside our yard… and that I could still enjoy them there.
Best of both worlds. The trees won’t stop the sun on the vegie patch, only in the late afternoon. They’ll give us a bit of a screen from the road and the house opposite us way down there. And once they’re grown enough they’ll also provide a bit of a wind break and give the horses a bit more shelter.
So today Matthew dug them up and planted them for the third time.
Third time lucky don’t they say?
We put up another fake electric fence with lots of wire and stakes and even angled posts to keep it strong.
Fingers crossed this time.
z