Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shed full of wood

This is going to be a bit of a dull post, but I need to put it out there that there is actually building going on. As in wood being placed and then being screwed together, and then more wood and more screws and so on and so forth.
Our shed smells like a hardware store because it is full of wood. Big bits, bigger bits, and then some 'chunky bits; massive bits' according to D.

And one of the best bits is that some of this wood was sort of free. Not free, exactly, but a trade of sorts.
I have whinged about the enormous pine tree out the back before. It's in our neighbour's yard, but right in the corner and since it's at the north end of our block it's impact is enormous. We have been in discussions with the neighbour, N, about removing the tree. N was keen, but then decided to put her house up for sale. The pine tree is a negative for her too as potential buyers have been put off by it, so she's agreed that we can still go ahead and remove it, but we'll pay for it. Which is OK, actually, since we don't plan on going anywhere in the next 20+ years I think it's a good investment.
Anyway, N happens to be a bit of a greenie herself, and at some point in the past she had grand plans for decking around her house and she bought a whole heap of recycled hardwood from a house demolition, but then never got around to doing anything with it. She's given all this beautiful old hardwood to us to use in our house. There's enough to use for all our bearers and plenty left over after that. This wood might be jarrah, and the old nails have already been removed: bonus!
I love that we're reusing this old wood. I love that these worn pieces of suburban history are going into our little cottage. Aren't they cool?

So, there you go, real building! About time, too...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Winter Wednesday #5

I think we're up to Hazel's Winter Wednesday #5 anyway?

For today, some subtle Winter flowers in my front garden. They might not be hugely showy like flowers of other seasons who wave their petals and stamens and anthers like flags and shout, 'look at me!' but they are still there, peeking out from behind the leaves, a little bit shy, 'hello? I'm still here...'

There are the violets I pinched out of a nature strip last year. They have spread like crazy, and have luminous little blooms appearing everywhere;

And I don't remember planting a white one, but I must have? Did I buy it and forget, or did I manage to 'borrow' a white one by chance?

And then the natives, oh, the natives!

Lovely little correas, like stoic troopers going on and on in defiance of the wind and the rain and the cold;

There are the hardenbergias which have been twining their way about the roses. Their other name, Happy Wanderer, suits them well. I have a violet coloured one about to flower;

and a white variety as well;

There are pretty wee grevilleas, and a red eremophila, both only 8 inches tall;

And it's not all about the flowers. How gorgeous are these shining magenta Lilly Pilly fruits?

And lastly, not a native, and he's only small, but isn't there someone who always has to be LOUD? Red red red snapdragons, faces wet with dew, 'Hello Winter! Bring it on! You can't beat me!'

Stay warm, folks x

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I love making lists and then ticking things off them. Done! Check! Tick! The current gardening 'To Do' list was only stored in my head, but today was one of those miraculous afternoons when the sun is shining as though we are three months on from now, the air is still and nearly warm, lorikeets are bickering in the trees, and in four short hours I got so much done in our yard. It was amazing!

I managed to:
  • Finish pruning the roses.
(View from new 'Nightingale' [astringant] persimmon through to pruned roses)
  • Plant the quince tree (even though I swore I'd bought all the fruit trees I was going to this year I convinced myself I needed another one. Besides, quinces are one of Chef-D's favourite fruits.)
  • Plant the asparagus crowns (one purple asparagus, one 'Fat Bastard' asparagus. I had a brainwave about putting them in amongst the roses.)
  • Plant another round of broad beans (this time, 'Bunyard's Exhibition.')
  • Tie up the Experimental peas.

(Experimental 'Greenfeast' peas already have some flowers)
  • Transplant a living, healthy lavender from the end of the hedge (where it was an extra) to replace the dying one in the middle (why, oh why, is it always plants in the middle of hedges that turn up their toes?) The dying lavender went into the rose bed in case it proves to be a Lazarus cultivar.
(Dying lavender)

  • My boy, wonderful husband that he is, got rid of the last of the Awful White Gravel for me!
  • And the last thing I did today was plant the lomandra border along the driveway (I really need to scan that garden plan to show you...) I did it as the sun went down, as my grubby hands stiffened in the cold, and I completed just as it got so dark I couldn't really see anymore if I'd planted them in a straight line or not, and finished off with coffee and a biscuit from my boy while my babe caught a nap in the car.
And when we got back 'home' to MIL's there was a package in the post for me. Actually, it was addressed to D ('Um, did you order something in my name? What is this? It's really heavy'). That, my love, is 800g of mixed heritage and gourmet seed potatoes! I think I must have looked at just about every Australian nursery site on the Internet to find these babies. I wanted as many different sorts as I could get, but not too many of each because I don't want to fill up the entire backyard, and although I found a number of sellers who had a really good variety, only these people would post exactly what I wanted to South Australia.

In my 800g of potatoes, there are 20 individual spuds, and 16 varieties within them. Unfortunately, they're not separately labelled so which one is which will only be my best guess, especially under the layer of dirt. The other slight problem is that some of the photocopies of the labels are unclear and I can only read 12 out of 16 despite my best squinty efforts. Shall I tell you what they are? For the potato connoisseur, I have: Sapphires, Nicolas, Red Norlands, Pink Fir Apples, Toolangi Delights, Sebagos, King Edwards, Cranberry Reds, Kennebacs, Bananas, Bintjis, Brownells, and the four mystery varieties (not expensive either, less than $20 including express post).

What's the plan for all those potatoes? Well, this time, for once, I'm not winging it. I've actually done a bit of research, referring primarily to Peter Cundall's Practical Australian Gardener. I'm going to use a no-dig method which starts with a green manure crop (which I sowed about a fortnight ago, a bit late but oh well), then involves lots and lots of hay and manure and potash. I've even already bought the potash; I'm ready to rock and roll... sometime in August.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A series of mishaps

A whole ten days ago I posted that I had some penstemon and geranium cuttings waiting for me to pot them up. It has, as I mentioned, been a long ten days since then. Apart from the various illnesses doing the rounds of the family, there was also the part where I was walking home from work, after getting off the bus at 3am last Saturday night. One minute I'm calmly, but quickly, walking along (it was very cold, wet, dark, windy...), and then next thing I know I'm lying on the side of the road. In the mud. I'd stepped right on the edge of the asphalt, and my ankle gave way beneath me, tossing me over into the gutter: SPLAT. All very undignified. My ankle hurt; the palm of my hand hurt, and there were some furious embarrassed tears too (although, at 3am, it's not like anyone saw me.) And I'm then sitting there, ankle hurting, owwww, how am I going to get home now? Before my better-self piped up with, oh just get over it, stand up for Heaven's sake, can you walk on the ankle, or not? Staggering to my feet, I realised sheepishly that my ankle was not, in fact, broken, and I could limp the last 200m home, where once I got into the light and the warm I realised I was quite literally covered in mud, leaves and debris to my waist, and I even had mud in my eyebrows. In my eyebrows! Good work, if I do say so myself. The next day my ankle hardly hurt at all, my hand had barely a scratch, but my wrist was hurting and my whole knee had turned purple (and still is) which is ironic because I didn't even realise I'd banged it at the time.

Anyway. Moving on.

So, as I said, it was a bit windy that night. I discovered in the morning that apart from my purple knee, the wind had blown my cuttings off the table outside -where I'd left them because I was going to pot them up 'any minute now,' and smashed the glass all over the paving. Bugger.
I rescued what I could and put them back into some water (where they languished for another week).

During the week we went around to our little cottage and I pottered in the garden out the front, clipping roses, planting strawberries, planting my second persimmon, and also, as it transpired, doing a little impromptu pruning on one of my favourite correas by being careless with the hose, accidentally ripping off the entire leading branch. Feck. I guess that particular plant is destined to be even more of a ground cover than I had intended. I thought I might be able to save some of it somehow, so took it home and put it in a container of water by the sink. Look how big it was!

What's a girl-gardener to do? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. (An unfair judgement on lemons I always think; I like lemons particularly.) Or when you accidentally rip out half a correa, try to take as many cuttings from the poor soul as you can. Like so. Or not like so. This is not meant as instructions because I have very little clue, I'm just winging it really, but more of a record of 'What Katie Did Next.'

This is as far as I've gotten with my propagating for a week: filled pots. They've been waiting, and waiting... and waiting... for me to get my act together.

Then I clipped off as many usable correa twigs as I could and pulled off most of the leaves.

I trimmed them all off to the same sort of size and dipped the ends into the rooting powder.

Then I made a little forest of them in a pot. There may be too many in here, but then I'm assuming that most of them, if not all, will not strike.

While I was there, I finally got around to making cuttings of the penstemon and the geraniums too.

Like little ducks all in a row...

I'll update this one in a couple of months or so when I know if it worked or not.

May your working week pass quickly xx

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Phat Grissini

It's been a bit of a long week. After SP got over her lurgy, she was happy for a whole entire day before falling victim to another one, so we have been pinned to the couch. Again.
So, first up, a belated addition to Hazel's Winter Wednesday series: Is there anything better than finding a patch of sunlight to flop into on a cold day?

Yesterday afternoon SP was briefly well enough that I was able to whip up some grissini (bread sticks), a seriously underrated food. They're very quick and easy to make, so long as you don't try to be a perfectionist about it and make them all the same size or anything, and you don't need to worry overmuch about how much or little the mix rises because it's not that important. I think they'd be a fantastic one to try with kids.

I based my recipe on this one which I found in a quick Internet search, but as usual I changed it up a bit, not least because I thought that '623g of flour' and '397g water' were very strange measurements indeed.

So, take:
  • 320g flour
  • 200ml luke-warm water
  • 1 sachet yeast (7g)
  • 5g salt
  • 20ml olive oil
and mix the whole lot together roughly with a fork. When it comes together into a dough, turn it onto a bench and knead it about for a few minutes. You can add extra flavours at this stage, I added about 1/2 a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese (the cheaty stuff out of a packet). When it's all nice and elastic, pop it into a bowl, cover, and leave it somewhere warm for an hour or two until it's doubled in size (on top of the coffee machine is a fantastic place if you have one, otherwise turn the oven on for a couple of minutes to warm it up a little, then turn it off again and leave your bowl in there).
Then have a cup of tea, watch some TV, pop the laundry on, etc, until time has passed and you're ready for the next part.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Divide the dough in half. Roll out the dough to make it nice and flat and as thin as you can manage, then fold it in half and roll it out again. Cut into about 16 long strips, then roll into snakes or twizzle into long rolls.
Place on a tray about 2cm apart.
Sprinkle extra flavourings over the top: a little salt and pepper, or garlic salt, or flaked dry chili, or extra Parmesan cheese.
Repeat for the other half of the dough on a second tray.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. The longer you bake them the crunchier they will be.
They'll keep for a few days in an airtight container, but they might not last long enough to worry about that.

Apparently they are nice enough for even poorly SPs to have a couple at once.

Happy weekend everyone xx

Monday, June 20, 2011

My good news

If you're a regular reader, you might have noticed a hint a couple of weeks ago that I had some good news. Well, now I'm in a position to tell you what it is.
I have a new job!
I'm don't believe in fate, or at least I don't think I do. I think when you see what you want you need to go out and get it.
The story goes like this: Back at the end of May I was at work at the Big Hotel on a Saturday night (actually, a Sunday morning.) It was 2:30am, or thereabouts, and we were packing up. I was tired and grumpy, and like a flash I thought, what am I doing? WHAT am I doing here? I've been working as a waitress for over ten years now, and I think that's long enough, considering the waitressing was only ever supposed to be a temporary gig so I could 'get overseas.' So, that Sunday I thought I should update my resume, and while I was there I thought I should have a little look online to see what was around. And there it was. My job. And I knew it was mine the minute I saw it, 'sales and nursery assistant' at a well known, long established Australian native plant nursery. My heart nearly stopped when I saw that the date for applications had closed the Friday before. Oh no! But, it was time to behave like an adult. So I rang the nursery on Monday morning to ask if I could put in an application anyway and they said I could, and with the help of some friends and my MIL, I madly wrote my first 'real' application and sent it off that day. There was a long wait before I knew I had an interview, and another long wait before I knew I'd been successful, and weeks more before I was given a start date - early July - and I never wanted to get my hopes up in case the whole thing fell through, even though I was pretty sure I had it. Then I had to wait for my current boss to get home from a cold Scandinavian holiday so I could talk to her, now I can finally let people know that I'm on my way to a new career.
I'm happy; I'm nervous; I'm excited. This is it, this is my 'thing,' and it's not just theoretical and dreamed about anymore, it's the real deal. I'll get to spend all day at work surrounded by plants, talking about plants, looking after plants. Can't do much better than that; onwards and upwards!

[So is that Fate? Deciding it's time to change, and there is the change right there, ready and waiting for you? What do you think?]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking back.

I have no gardening to talk about today. We went out for lunch with a couple of visiting family members (Hello, you two!), and as we got home it started to drizzle a little, and two minutes later it was pouring. Sideways. So we spent the afternoon inside, which looks a bit like a dry cleaners' thanks to the mountains of laundry attempting to dry, draped over the table and chairs and couch.

Anyway, when I can I try to take part in the Weekend Rewind at the Pink Fibro Blog. Nights like tonight are good, when SP has consented to actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and even stay asleep for a decent interval, so not only do I put my link up, but I actually get to read a goodly number of blogs by people I might not have found otherwise, but I even get to thinking about my own post, about travel, broadly, and the Philippines more specifically. The Philippines - that land that I can never remember how to spell, two Ls, or is it two Ps, or is it both? - taught me something important about travel: You won't like everywhere.

When I started travelling at 17, everywhere I went was tinted with gold, the food was fantastic, the people were wonderful, etc etc. Of course, there were the bad parts too. The poverty which rose up and slapped us in our Western faces, the occasional dodgy meal (although my Stomach of Steel saved me many times), the horrendous and frequent road accidents and so on, but overall I wore my rose coloured glasses and managed to gloss over the scuffed parts.

Then, in 2008, we went to the Philippines. I have mentally divided the trip into two parts. The first part is Palawan, which I 'rewound' today here: Palawan. Palawan, on the far western side of the Philippine archipelago, is beautiful. It's my kind of Asia: dusty streets, palm trees and papaya, happy kids, bamboo huts, nice food, noisy markets, deserted beaches, and monkeys.

The second part of our trip I call 'everywhere else.' I like to blame the food. From north to south, on the half a dozen different islands we visited, the food was universally terrible. Meals stand out for being exceptionally awful, rather than good. Not only did they taste bad, on several occasions they were actually poisonous. There's nothing quite like choosing to eat at Pizza Hut three days in a row because it seems to be the best option in town! But really, it was more than the food. The constant presence of guns bothered me a lot. We never felt very connected with anyone or anywhere. Don't get me wrong, there were good things about the Philippines. We were lucky enough to see the famous Banaue rice terraces on a glorious clear day, tarsiers proved to be quite cute, and the overnight ferry trip from Cebu back to Manila is a stand out memory from all our travels. I will never get over the amazement as our fellow passengers stared up at the full moon overhead as we glided through the islands. A ferry of that size cannot possibly be silent, yet I remember that night as being hushed and full of low murmurs, as though people didn't dare to speak too loudly on deck (inside, however, was the karaoke machine where all bets were off.)

All in all, the Philippines was the first time we have ever changed our flights and left early. After a salmonella-laden chicken sandwich, we decided to withdraw, not very gracefully, and we went to Singapore for a couple of whirlwind nights instead.

But, anyway, I learnt something. I won't love everywhere in the world, some places I just won't 'get,' and that's perfectly OK. Admitting that once seemed somewhat shameful. How could this backpacker who loves everywhere have not loved this land of 94 million faces and stories and places? But I didn't, and it doesn't matter. There's still the entire rest of the world to see, and man, I'm looking forward to it!

Wot chu lookin' at?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lurgy lurking

I've got The Dreaded Lurgy (MIL had it, then SP had it, then me, D next?). Still, I am pretty robust, generally speaking, and feel vastly better already compared to very early this morning, which I put down to my famous 'stomach of steel.'

The plan for today, before I was struck down and confined to bed for the day, was to pot up the cuttings I took the other day, which are waiting calmly and greenly for me on the kitchen windowsill. I noticed them when I was lying on the floor trying not to be sick, or pass out (my body, at that moment, couldn't seem to make up it's mind. Fortunately, after a few minutes 'resting' on the cold lino, I did neither.)

From left to right I have: Penstemon (magenta flowers as in yesterday's bouquet, see the photo below), then a big pelagonium, then a little ground cover-type pelagonium I have fallen in love with (see here, halfway down, bright fuchsia-coloured flowers, green-grey leaves), then another big pelagonium. Or are they geraniums? Anyway, I don't know exactly what they are but they are all dense, very leafy mounding types, rather than the leggy sort.

I found some pots in the shed, I have a new bag of potting mix, and I've even gone all out and bought a little bag of rooting powder to help them along (after staring blankly at the rooting gels on the shelves in a certain Humongous Hardware Store and wondering if my cuttings were hard wood, soft wood, or medium wood.) As you may have guessed, I'm a propagation newbie. I've tried a few things here and there, but without much success, apart from a furry peppermint geranium which I merely snapped a few bits from the mother plant, poked them in the ground and then forgot about them. Some things need no care or knowledge at all!

So wish me luck, both that I'm up and about tomorrow, and that this bumbling gardener successfully propagates at least one or two plants out of this bunch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Winter Wednesday #3

Today's scruffy Winter bouquet is brought to you by leftover roses, magenta Penstemon, and stems of leafy Correa alba, in celebration of Winter Wednesdays, because even now it's nice to know there's enough out there in the garden to make a bundle of flowers.

Stay warm, folks xx

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We'll still have to go to the Green Grocers for...

Rewinding this on July 1st 2011, not because it's a funny post, because, let's face it, I'm not a funny writer, but because quite often in this gardening gig you need to have a sense of humour or you'd give up completely.

We'll still have to go to the Green Grocers for...

... our sweet potato, because, clearly, I've not yet got the hang of growing it!

The sweet potato (kumara) in the background is one we bought from our friendly neighbourhood vegetable wholesaler this afternoon. It was an especially big one, granted. I weighed it and it was 1010 grams. Then I weighed our minute harvest, which is from two plants, and in total the weighed a mere 118 grams.
But nothing is wasted: I scrubbed them clean, and they were tossed whole into the pot with a free range chicken, some kipflers, a lemon and big slug of verjuice, and they tasted so good, so very, very good, that I really, really wished they had done a little better. They were so much brighter and deeper in colour than our bought whopper, and so much more intensely flavoured.
I think the lesson here is that next time, I should do a little more reading and preparation before I plant them, rather than just chucking them in the ground and hoping for the best!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A package full of promise

On Friday I got something lovely in the mail: 10 'Kamu' bare-rooted strawberries.

I did the right thing and took them straight out of their plastic packaging and popped them in a glass of water to wait until I could plant them (actually, you're supposed to put them in the fridge, but it's so cold here I think the kitchen windowsill is good enough, especially overnight).

Today I was able to plant them, I'm sure they've been unfurling their leaves already. I have to say that these mail-order (internet-mail-order) strawberries have a far superior and stronger looking root system than the poor dears I bought in packets from a hardware store last year.

I had to scrounge around to find enough pots. The actual strawberry pot is on indefinite loan to me from MIL (nice new pots are expensive, have you noticed?!); I evicted some shabby parsley from it to make way for it's new inhabitants. The other pots I unearthed from the shed. They might prove to be a little too small, but I figured better to get them planted up ASAP and if they outgrow their flats I'll upgrade them to the penthouse suite later.
(For my own record purposes, they are planted in a mix of new premium potting mix, old used potting mix, compost from a bag, and a big sprinkling of dynamic lifter pellets)

Here they are settling in to their new homes, hanging out of the windows and enjoying the fresh air.

This one, in the maroon pot, has suffered a small toddler-related incident already, not irreparably, thankfully!

[Last night, very late, I was left to my own devices on the internet, unsupervised, looking at plant sites, my credit card muttering to me in distress from across the room. I caved: I have also ordered 10 Cambridge Rival and 10 Aroma strawberries, and I might have ordered a fig tree or two as well... Can't have too many fruit plants about the place, I figure.]

Little veggie update

Just a wee update of what's going on in our veggie patch at home. More pictures than text: here we go :)

The garlic is doing quite well, needs a bit more of a weed but I've gotten rid of the worst of them.

My experimental Greenfeast peas look great in their tangles.

The broad beans - Aquadulce - have taken off. They're much more delicate and fragile looking than the variety I planted last year (I can't remember what sort that was, but it wasn't Aquadulce).

The pepino is looking blousey and lush, and it has striped violet and white flowers! I don't know how well it will set fruit, it's very cold outside and there aren't very many insects about for pollination.

And even though I pulled out most of the pea-straw peas a couple of weeks ago, I did leave one little patch to their own devices (mainly because they weren't in the way of anything else) and look how beautiful their flowers are, like dancing faeries.

SP thinks it's all super interesting. All the drizzle has been keeping us inside, and my poor little bird is bouncing off the walls a bit. She doesn't like being confined like that.

And last, but not least, I picked the little pumpkins and we ate them last night. I made that mistake of planting out a few varieties and not writing down which was where, and so of course I've forgotten which one this was. Most of them did nothing, but this wee plant made a couple of fruits. I think it might have been the Golden Nugget, but maybe it was just a plant which felt like making very small fruits? The little ones were too small and fiddly for me to be bothered with so they've gone to the fish tank for fish food. The bigger ones fit nicely in my hands, tennis ball sized, I cut them into slices and roasted them with Australian olive oil and a touch of salt. Pretty good! But if only they'd been more than two of them!

I've made a couple of gardening resolutions for next Spring:

1. Write things down! Make diagrams of what I've planted where, because my memory will surely fail me.

2. Plant fewer varieties of pumpkins, but more of each variety (ie not one butternut, one kent, one golden nugget etc, but maybe four butternuts, four kents...) and put some in the front garden where there are more flowers to attract the pollinators.