Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cheese on toast.

It's a cool, drizzly autumn day today. The perfect kind of day to sit inside by the windows, watch the world drift by, and eat cheese on toast (two big pieces for me, one smaller for SP.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Buggy broccolini.

The broccolini I planted a couple of months ago is doing quite well. The grey aphids (cabbage aphids, apparently) think so anyway. Boy, do they love it. They are packed tightly into the heads, sucking away, "delicious!" they cry! I tried rinsing them off to no avail, I've tried drowning them in a sink of water, hoping they'd float off, but no go there either. I never did spray them with anything, but I suspect if I saw them and then sprayed they'd just die in the green broccoli haven and stay there tucked in the heads anyway. It's that old thing: prevention is better than cure. I have since read that when the heads begin to develop you can cover them with old pantyhose to keep them out so I will try that with some of the heads to come (but the scientist in me wants to know which denier I should use? And should I use nude pantyhose, or are broccoli more Gothic and would prefer black? Fortunately I have plenty of both after that brief but important time spent in Japan working as an English teacher, where I had to dress in corporate wear: the horror! But I digress...)
Where was I?
Oh yes, broccolini... Anyway, although I intended the broccolini for human consumption, yesterday I had a brainwave: I can feed it to our fish! We have a Gibby (called 'Gibby,' very inventive) who loves all things green, and I'm certain he or she (we don't know) would appreciate the extra protein provided by the aphids. The broccolini was just starting to flower when I picked it. It's quite pretty, really.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


For weeks persimmons have been tempting me from the supermarket shelves (c'mon, eat us, you know you want to...) but at $2 each they seemed a little extravagant. When we were living in Japan, persimmons ("Kaki") were everywhere; common as muck. They were one of the cheapest fresh fruits available during Autumn and we ate them almost daily. On our train-jaunts about the countryside we would see the trees in people's backyards as we flashed past, heavy with the orange fruits and bright with their flamboyant autumn foliage (contrary to what we Westeners may believe about Japan, quite a lot of people do actually have backyards which fit whole entire trees in them.)

Photo by Diglloyd

Some months ago I ordered some fruit trees from Digger's, and I included a 'Fuyu' persimmon as my nod to our time in Japan. It arrived today in a box on our doorstep, along with a couple of plum trees, a strawberry, a pomegranate, and a white echinacea.
Later this afternoon we stopped at our usual fruit wholesalers, and Behold! Persimmons at $1 each! Seemed like serendipity, so naturally we bought several to celebrate the arrival of our little tree.

Japanese persimmons, Diospyros kaki, are actually originally from China. "Diospyros" means fruit of the Gods, and while I do like them both crunchy and apple-like, and soft and jellyish, I don't think I appreciate them quite as much as the Japanese who make whole hour long TV shows about them, showing the fruit as it advances through it's ripening stages. Non-astringent varieties (like Fuyu) can be eaten when still firm, but the astringent types are very high in tannins when firm so are only to be eaten by daring sorts. It's also attributed with all kinds of healing qualities, but I like it best simply for being a pretty little tree with delicious fruits. Our little tree probably won't bear fruit for several years, but I'm really looking forward to eating our kaki when it does.
(Read more at Wikipedia, if you like).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Procrastination Post

This is a procrastination post, a brief post written when I should be doing something else - the Great Pantry Clean-Up of 2011 - and not even any of the half-written posts I have waiting in my Edit page.
It's a post for autumn roses, because they are lovely, and because they grace both the garden and our dining table on this glorious April ANZAC day, a day when we remember those who fought, who won and lost, who came home or did not, so that I may enjoy my roses today.
Lest we forget. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gardening update

Just a wee one today, little bit ranty.
The garlic I planted is doing well and growing fast.

My broad beans and experimental out-of-season peas have all sprouted beautifully.


But, but, but... so have the sour sobs. AARGH!

The problem with sour sobs, my most-disliked garden weed, is that they make a thick, suffocating carpet, swamping any other poor green things that happen to be trying to eke out a living in the vicinity.

These beastlies have gone mad in MIL's vegetable patch, and now they have turned up en masse in my 'new' garden beds, the ones that were previously lawn. Now, having been lawn last year, I don't remember there being so many. I guess the grass kept them down. But now, freed from their constraints, the bulbs that have clearly been lurking in the soil have gone, 'whoopee! Let's make a run for it! Our time is here!'
One of the other problems with sour sobs is that they are almost impossible to get rid of, propagating by little bulbs in the soil that hardly ever come up when you pull the plant, no matter how careful you are. Apparently, if you pull and pull and pull the plants, over some half  dozen years you will deplete the bulbs' energy reserves sufficiently and get rid of them that way. You can also poison them - best done when the plant is flowering - but I see this as a last resort only to be employed when in dire straights.
What is the solution? I cannot let them run riot in my garden; I will never be rid of them. So I am trying something out in both my and MIL's garden. I am sort-of 'hoeing' them down, scraping them from the soil and hacking them into the ground whenever they appear. I will let you know how this goes. I wonder how many times I'll have to do it over the season?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Pile.

Time for a renovation update! A story in pictures tonight... lots and lots of pictures!
Over the last week, FIL has been busy building the formwork for the concrete footings. Our extension is not going to be built on a slab, but on 'bearers and joists' to match the older part of the house. This means that our formwork is in a big hollow rectangular shape up against the house.

So we arrived this morning and took our 'before' shots while we waited for the truck to arrive. 

Apparently, the truck was driven by a pirate. 

 FIL loaded up the bobcat scoop with the concrete and tipped it into the wheelbarrows.


And in went the first barrow load.

We had a bit of an issue with the formwork bowing...

So we frantically shored it up.

Even the pirate helped.


We used barrows and bobcats around the sides the truck couldn't access, 
and got our pirate to tip the concrete into the formwork directly on the driveway side.

A neighbour wandered in to see what all the noise was about

before high-tailing it over the fence (or, at least, he would have high-tailed if he had a tail to high...)

Then we decided not to take up any more of Cap'n Boral's time and unloaded the remaining concrete onto the driveway, thereby making a giant cow pat.

We smoothed it off; leaves drifted from the ash tree into our neat foundations.

While we cleaned up it began to rain. 

SP arrived to sign off on the job.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walking for inspiration

I'm a nosey sort of person. When SP and I go out walking, I am forever peering over people's fences, sticky-beaking in their yards (and occasionally pinching ripe figs when their tree overhangs the fence). I'm looking for inspiration. I'm seeing what works well in gardens, and what doesn't. I love seeing established gardens, and gardens that look a little abandoned or overrun. It will be a long time before my young garden looks anything like established. 
Recently we have seen:
A house I love, sunk into a nearby gully. Maybe it's not a house, perhaps it's just a shed, but I like it's rust-streaked roof and the scurrying blackberries alongside it. It looks forgotten;

An uplifting pop of bright orange berries against lime green leaves;

Some fascinating fungi;

And a mysterious pathway leading to a ramshackle gate. What secrets lie beyond?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Autumn walks

Have I mentioned that I love autumn? Have I waxed lyrical about it and bored you to tears talking about crisp and clear days, and coloured leaves, and soft rain? No? Well, I probably need not go on about it, but I do love autumn, love love love it. It's my favourite season of all, and it's such a shame winter must follow it every year.
Anyway, in my area every year there is the 'Stirling Autumn Garden Festival,' where all the European trees in the area put on a show, and there are some open gardens and a market down the main street where people sell foods, wines, cheese, plants and all manner of good things. This year it was on the weekend just past. I bundled SP into her pusher and we walked to one of the open gardens, the immaculate Beechwood, which is only 10 minutes from where we live. We could not have had more perfect walking weather: 24 degrees Celsius, sunny and still.
Along the way I had lots of opportunities to appreciate how lovely this area is in Autumn (though I do feel a bit of a traitor to Australian Native Plants to say that) as we walked past people's gardens and admired them.

I think I want to try growing a couple of roses for their hips rather than the flowers. I rather like the idea of making my own rose hip tea.

We walked into Beechwood, along the hydrangea path to the conservatory, where just past past it I spotted my first 'favourite plant' of the day: a lovely apricot coloured, climbing fluffy rose (a David Austin?). Sigh.

Just over a lawned area from there, another 'wow' moment, a stone wall just like I'd like to have, and slate pavers in the grass much like I have planned for our garden. Gosh, it was lovely!And it gives me a small bit of confidence that my garden design is not totally off track (though we have not got the space for sweeping lawns and lots of trees).

I loved this too, though I'll not be able to do anything like it myself. The contrast between the pale rendered wall and the bronze and green magnolia leaves is fabulous.

Quite often I'll fall in love with a plant based solely on the shape and structure of it's leaves. How wonderful is this?! Like fans or many-fingered hands. I think it might be a rhododendron but to be honest I'm only about 60% sure of that.

And then a garden seat under tree ferns and flanked by Japanese windflowers. Beautiful, beautiful.

I have a post all about Japanese windflowers in the works. They are my plant of the moment.

Once SP had had enough of the garden we walked up into Stirling for the market. It was the end of the day by now, after 4pm and people were beginning to pack up, but there was still plenty to see and lots of plant stalls to peruse for my 'thinking' list.

Of course, this little gardener cannot go to a market without coming away with something a bit cute. I have been admiring a leucodendron in a neighbour's garden, it's about waist height and rounded and has bright red growth at the end of every branch, a bit like candles. I'm not sure which species is in that garden, but I found a stall with half a dozen smaller red varieties (yellow too, but it was red that I wanted) and I chose this baby: a Red Devil (Leucodendron salignum), to go under the roses I think. Or should I put it out the back? Decisions decisions!

Successes and failures

Remember how I mentioned our corn harvest about a week ago? We ate them last night, and they were delicious. Some were perfect and almost supermarket worthy...

And some were decidedly not! Next year I will shake those stalks more assiduously.


And out in the garden? The garlic has sprouted! I can hardly wait until we can harvest these babies (patience, Grasshopper, patience). Not much is more exciting than green shoots!

And the peas-straw peas which sprouted and I let run riot have the prettiest pink, purple, lavender and mauve flowers. Some of them have set peas already, too. Does anyone know if we can eat them? I'm thinking we could, but the question is: are they delicious?