Category Archives: Garden

Vegetable gardening, fruit trees, weeds, lawn, insects, etc

in an octopus’ garden

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There are more hills beyond these, which on a clear day are quite visible.  Today we are under water.  For some reason you can’t see the thick sheets of vertical rain in these pics – but I also took them when the rain had eased a little.

Today is one year to the day when I planted my first food plant.  And I have not looked back.  At first, I madly planted everything that took my fancy, but now I have learned a lot and lost a lot (of seedlings), and have planned out my vegetable garden for this year.  And that plan stated, Australia Day – the beds are to be built.

So out I went in the rain, without a raincoat which just made me too sweaty, knee high socks and my gumboots.  It felt so good to be gardening again, as lately I haven’t been able to venture outside due to the extreme heat.  In the rain, I got so much done.  Until I started slipping over in the mud puddles all over the ground.

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Did I mention there was a lot of rain?

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The cows didn’t seem to mind getting their hair/fur wet.  But I was thankful to strip off my sopping clothes and have a hot shower (the last of the hot water though until the electric water heater kicks in).

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Then I made mango relish and started knitting a new dishcloth on the snuggle couch.  Quite possibly the most perfect Australia Day ever…

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Until the neighbours rang to say that in a few hours the creek will be up over the only road into the valley and 4 tornadoes will come through overnight.  So out into the rain again I went, to secure the guinea pigs on the deck, and all loose items in the shed.  Then I tried to get the kids home and secure, but that is a lot more difficult as their father doesn’t want to leave his Australia Day party early, despite the prospects of my valley being flooded in for the next 3 or 4 days.

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magic happens

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I was reading a blogpost by Tanya at Suburban Jubilee last night who has created a fairy kingdom in her garden for her nephew and asked if others are doing the same. http://suburbanjubilee.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/the-fairy-garden.html

For R1’s birthday last year I bought her a set of 5 fairy toadstools which I had desired ever since seeing them at a local market near my mother’s, but which we didn’t have a garden for until now.  When R1 created this garden, ‘suddenly’ 2 fairies took up residence – Lilly and Lucy.

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While eschewing fairy gardens as being too ‘girly’, R2 was feeling left out. So the kids created a little garden for male fairy Max and his fairy horses on the other side of the below ground tank.  Being a bloke, Max clearly needed his own man fairy space.  The fairy horse watering hole was circled by stones painted with white paint mixed with glitter.

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In these two spaces, the kids organise the furniture, decorate the scenery, dig swimming pools and hang up ‘tyre swings’.  Fairies are high maintenance creatures!

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Just ask the girls from next door…. When these gardens were first created, they would have to come over every day after school, while mine were still at after school care, to deposit messages from the fairies and sprinkle around a few flower petals, in order for R1 to elatedly cry out that the fairies have been to visit.  When the girls started to tire of this, R1’s daily expeditions out the back resulted in cries of ‘the fairies hate me, they don’t come any more’.

Conveniently, the fairies returned with a note to say they were heading off on summer vacation for a while.  A slight reprieve for the girls.  Until 2 days ago, when R1 happened upon a torn note amongst her fairy toadstools.  Then the welcome wagon came out and signs were painted.

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And I got in on the perpetuation of the magic as well – R2 got to see the fairies flitting about the garden courtesy of the sunlight glinting off my watch.

This is a beautiful age, when they truly believe.  But it takes a bit of work in keeping the magic alive, a support network with a common purpose in keeping the belief going.

It is not helped by random external intrusions from the disbelieving world such as my father stating facetiously to R1 in response to a childlike query: ‘And I suppose you still believe in the tooth fairy as well…’.  Gasp. Horror.  The web of wonder can disintegrate in moments.

day of[f] work

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I am perilously close to getting used to not going to work.

Yesterday I went to the office with my sore back, but left early to go to an acupuncturist.  Today I stayed at home, as the pain was quite debilitating and the long walk across town from the train station to my office building crippled me yesterday.  But today I did work and achieved a lot, in between sessions of lying flat on my back on the couch (working on healing).

I spent the morning drafting and redrafting my planting schedule for my new vege beds, including a monthly calendar of activities.

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In the afternoon, I researched my family tree in the lead up to a mini family reunion this weekend.  I used the Births, Deaths and Marriages indexes and Trove newspapers to come up with this.

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I finished off the day with some weeding at dusk.

A full day of productive and immensely satisfying work.  Unlike going to the same workplace day after day.

Not that there is anything wrong with my current job – in fact there are parts I feel are very meaningful and interesting, vastly unlike my last job with a consulting company where I was treated like an automaton, unable and not allowed to have feelings, opinions, ‘issues’, hormones, interests, commitments, responsibilities.  Things I have in bucketloads.  There, I was explicitly told by manager to leave the office building one time that I was crying.  I was also told that work was my number one priority and I had to work my family life around that (I am a single mother!!!).  That was the day I applied for my current job.

An indication of how traumatised I had been by the previous workplace – in my second week at my new job I had an unpleasant event happen in my life, and I was asked by my supervisor if I was going to be alright.  My immediate response? Yes, I promise I won’t let it affect my performance.  She repeated, no, are you going to be alright?  I had forgotten how to be treated like a human being.

So when my manager yesterday showed concern and empathy regarding my back and said to take as much time off as I need to recuperate, then I know I am in a good place.  And yet……the idea of spending most of my waking life away from my home where the real work needs to be done is grinding and weighing me down.

being slack

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The niggle in my lower back started this morning when I dropped into Bunnings to pick up pavers.  I then went to Aldi to do my bulk shopping and the pain intensified, with dullness down both legs.  By the time I got home I could only carry my shopping items into the house 2 at a time as the shopping bags were too heavy.

I had to admit to myself that being upright was probably not going to be easy today.  So I left the pavers in the car and lay down on my bed.  And fell asleep.

For most of the day.

I woke up and had to take some nurofen, because I couldn’t just let the day slip away like this.  Despite walking with bent knees to lighten the load on my back, I felt I had to have at least one project under my belt.  So I made this.

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I got the idea for the paver hopscotch path from an open garden we visited a while back.  This is the original.

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I don’t really want to introduce any more grass into my backyard, as it just takes over everything and I spend enough time bent over pulling out grass runners (hmmmm….wonder if that’s how I did my back).  The hopscotch grid is practical – it provides a path from the bottom of the steps across the stones which can be hard on bare feet to the underground water tank where the kids play in their fairy garden.

The physical effort in creating this wasn’t really that intensive otherwise I simply wouldn’t even have been able to have done it.  I sat down and used the rake from the kids’ sandpit, so it was a bit like making sandcastles at the beach, albeit an incredibly stony one.

But the forced downtime today in bed, on the couch and in the hammock has made me realise that my body is quite possibly protesting at the regime I have put it through recently, trying to make every spare moment of time not at work, productive.  I need to bring some balance back into my life, slow down and try and learn to be more slack this year.

 

berry bad

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Saturday morning started off as I usually do, walking around my garden with my coffee checking out what has grown during the week.  I had been reading about lilly pilly berries on gardening blogs and decided to forage from my lilly pilly tree.  Sure enough, there was a plump juicy berry there among the leaves, so I popped it in my mouth and started searching for more.

Strangely, there were no more berries to be found, so I went back to the original stem and parted the leaves to discover to my horror that I had eaten the berry off a weed, which my ecologist friend had pointed out to me on my first walk around my garden as one to warn the kids about for its poisonous berries!!!

Feeling foolish, I started to feebly heimlich manoeuvre my stomach, before ringing the poisons helpline (Ph: 13 11 26), not knowing how many minutes more I had to live.  The conversation went like this:

Me: This is really stupid, but I was confused and ate a poisonous berry from my garden.

Her: What was it?

Me: I don’t know.

Her: Why do you think it was poisonous?

Me: Because my ecologist friend said so.

Her: There’s nothing I can do without its botanical name.

Me: Please….tell me what I should be watching out for.

Her: One berry is not going to poison an adult.

Me: I feel so stupid, as I have told the kids not to eat this berry.

Her: (not really sure what she said as she cut me off and hung up)

So comforted that it was just one berry I got on with my day and didn’t give it any more thought until 1:30 when my stomach literally blew up like a balloon, distending more and more until I was groaning on my back on the floor. Then I started throwing up repeatedly.

One berry!

Lessons learned:  Do not forage anything that you haven’t planted. Use wikipedia. Know the botanical names of everything in the garden. One berry can poison an adult.

This is not a lilly pilly berry kids.

This is not a lilly pilly berry kids.

lady for a tradie

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Who does garden projects?

Certainly not people who work full-time, home make, and raise children on their own…

But with a weekend sans children last week, I tackled my most important project, the reason for buying a house in the first place – the first of my garden beds.

Hammering in the star pickets was not a problem, but then, the chicken wire started twisting and recoiling, slashing me across the face.  Heart break, or rather, chicken wire rage, when the length I had cut was a couple of inches too short. So out came the star pickets and started again.  And digging the trench in heavy clay soils – not really sure what I thought I was doing, but had some inspired genius notion of preventing bandicoots from digging under the fence. Except I dug the soil out on the wrong side, and the chicken wire just bent in on itself..duuuhh.  Swearing a little more frequently and loudly than usual, I abandoned the fencing project for another time. I’m pretty sure it looked a little like a toddler tantrum.

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I had other jobs I needed to get on with: handwashing clothes, vacuuming, present wrapping, baking for teachers’ Christmas presents, and so on and so on.  Why oh why did I think I could add a ‘major infrastructure project’ to my list of jobs and still manage to get it all done???

Because I’m a woman, and I think I can do it all.

Except when I compare myself to much more worthy female DIYers like my friend Kirsty.  She is the type of person who when asked how her weekend was, answers with ‘oh I put up a deck’.  Once I described my vision of creating rooms in my open plan living area, and she stated that we could put up a stud wall one weekend.  We???!

But you see, as Kirsty explains it, she is the handy woman because her partner is in IT. Enough said.  She taught me that I don’t need to wait for a man to rescue my home maintenance and renovations dramas, or to ‘complete me’.  I need to be enough on my own, and then whatever he brings to the table, he brings.

That may be, but I can tell you, if a tradie comes knocking at my door, he would have me at hello.

Sunday log

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Another week already???

So where am I up to in this creative evolution called life…

Steps forward.

1. I am a mature woman.  I sat beside the children’s father for two evenings’ concerts and made small talk, while he mocked and ridiculed my words for no apparent reason but that he is just not mature enough for the sort of relationship we have, in order for the children to feel loved by both parents, and a little normal like everyone else.

2. I started a few projects. First is my sister’s Christmas present, embroidering a sampler which I hope to get to her by April, and the second a garden project, which did not go wonderfully and I swore a little too much and I have gashed my face on chicken wire, but at least I am turning some long made plans into reality.

Step back.

1. I was bitten by a ‘small black spider’ on the hand last weekend whilst weeding, and thought nothing of it, apart from a strong tingling pain.  By Tuesday I had ulcerations all over the back of my hand and wrist, and am on antibiotics (which I loathe taking) and antihistamines.  The doctor suggested I get someone else to ‘do my garden’ from now on.  Like who??! Besides, this whole life trip I am on right now is inextricably tied to a productive garden.

I’m not sure if this is indeed a ‘step backward’ in relation to the yet to be determined goal, and it vied with many other contenders this week.  Such as the absolute despair over grasshoppers which have destroyed all my herbs and leafy veg, and which cannot be got rid of with ‘companion planting and chili spray’.  See here. Here. And here.

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Or the passive aggressive supervisor who ripped shreds off me Wednesday afternoon for 2 hours because “I’m just having a shitty day”, and then brought me caramel slice Thursday. But no apology.

Looking forward to some positive steps this week.