Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodbye, Winter!

As I begin to type this final Winter Wednesday post for 2011, Winter has exactly 58 minutes left in South Australia. Woo! Winter Wednesdays were started by Hazel as a sort of support group for people to help them find something positive about Winter each week. Last week, Hazel confessed that she herself doesn't like Winter much, and so she's not posting anything for the last one, but I'll do one anyway to say thank you, Hazel! I still can't say that I enjoyed Winter, as such, but I tried to find something good every week and each Wednesday did seem to roll around each week awfully quickly and Winter flew past, in the end.

The other day, on a whim, SP and I went to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. I had totally forgotten about the magnolias, but as we drove around the curves to the car park I saw something quite amazing out of the window. I totally forgot that I'd meant to show SP the ducks, and we went looking at the flowers instead.

SP launched in with that special kind of determination toddlers have, which is how we found that the entire area under those wonderful red bushes is basically a swamp. Not just muddy, but gooey, stinky, and with a scum layer of algae growing over the top. Perfect for SP, not so great for Mama when she sinks in up to her ankles trying to get the toddler out before she is covered from head to toe.

But the magnolias, oh my Gods, the magnolias! Never in my life have I seen a display such as this. Thousands up thousands upon thousands of the lovely things. Gobsmacked, really, mud and all.

From buds...

To blooms...

Is there any flower more beautiful? More luminous? And they come in Winter, as it gives it's dying gasp, flings its arms wide and surrenders to Spring.

If you're in Adelaide, or nearby, I highly recommend you come up to the Gardens and have a look, and soon! Before they're all gone. Otherwise you'll have to wait a whole other year before this comes again.

Happy Spring xx

Friday, August 26, 2011

Late night shopping

Sometimes I think I shouldn't be left unsupervised late at night, because when it's quiet except for the TV, and the babe's finally in bed, and everyone else is out I start browsing on my favourite websites and adding things to the cart as a bit of a memory aid. I try to decide if I'd rather have a tomato currant mix, or just some Wild Sweetie tomatoes, or if I should get scarlet runner beans and painted ladies, or just settle for one, and then the next thing I know I've clicked 'checkout' and bought the lot...

(click to enlarge)

Some of it's for now, and some bought for next year (like the crimson flowered broad beans), and I like to think of it as stocking up but really I'm just buying Hope in little paper packets. Like drugs, only legal.

Chef D must despair of me sometimes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I forgot to title this one.

With the warm weather has come a blossoming of activity at our little house. We've been painting our window frames with their undercoats and putting them up. And I really mean 'we' this time, even I wielded a paintbrush for one of them, and SP had the most fabulous time painting with water all over the patio. People are coming next week (I think) to put in the glass for the windows and our big doors too. Yet another thing I didn't know about building: not all windows come with glass automatically (like baths aren't sold with plug fittings, who knew?! Honest to God, I really thought that they came together!)

Aaaand... the sparkies have made their first visit to do the pre-wiring bits and pieces.

I LOVE how quickly the two of them managed this part. It took them six hours, including tea-breaks, to wire up our entire little house as much as it needs to be at this stage. Fantastic! Now we have loops of cables around everywhere.

What's one nifty green trick we got them to do for us? We asked them for a remote switch in what's going to be our TV room/library, so when we turn off the lights at night we can turn of the TV and stereo at the same time with side by side switches on the wall, just to help eliminate the 'hassle factor' and so we remember to do it each night. Easy peasy!

It's really starting to look more like a little house now, and like we might actually get to move back in one day!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It wasn't me... (Winter wednesday #13)

...who used the bread knife to cut up a block of peat and then used a Tupperware jug to prepare the peat. Ahem.
OK, I lie. I'm not sure it's what kitchenware companies have in mind when they design their goods, but it works quite well on a block of compacted peat, the old bread knife.

You may have noticed that I have been propagating seeds like a madwoman lately. They're doing quite well overall, aside from a few toddler related 'incidents' (SP has long arms!) I've moved them outside to the picnic table which gets more sunlight.

I like the way the lids are secretive about what's inside underneath the condensation.

This is why I moved them: That's bok choy on the left, which shot up like crazy and I'm sure it's not supposed to be that tall and leggy! Even though it was bright inside its' not the same as sunlight, so I think this is why that happened and I have planted more since. On the right is roselle, which looks good, if a little bit anemic.

The hollyhocks sprouted very quickly too, and overall are looking pretty good... except for that random too-tall one on the left.

I'm also trying these out in my quest to grow kangaroo paws (Anigozanthus sp) from seed (so far, entirely unsuccessful, they sprout and die, without fail!). They're called 'Seedsticks' and are a promotional product which was passed on to me from my mother, I think, several years ago. I found them the other day and am giving them a shot, but because they're quite old now I don't know how well they'll work.

I've also filled up a few Styrofoam boxes with a mix of peat, compost, and manure, and have sown carrots and daikon in them. D snaffled the boxes for me from his work. Who's Ben, you ask? He's their fruit and veg wholesaler. I could fill my entire yard with these boxes if I wanted to; they only get thrown out otherwise.

Hum, hum, hum, what else? Oh yes, potato bags are filled with a peat/compost/manure mix too, and some old pea straw. And potatoes of course: two per bag. Keeping them company are my little figs and the pomegranate, which are all putting out their very first Spring leaves. Nawww!

And finally, the shape of things to come, drawn very shabbily with fluro pink marking paint. I'm not entirely sure what I was trying to focus on when I took the photo. Apparently nothing! But, poor photography skills aside, I am starting to see how things might look one day: a big, rounded garden bed with wide stairs up to it, and leading back to where I am standing is a low tier, the future home of my plum trees. No idea what I'm talking about? Have a look here: The Grand Plan (already altered, mind you, I need to update it!)

So that's Winter Wednesday for this week, and the second to last of the series: fun with paint, peat, poo, paws, and propagating. Spring is in the air and I am loving it! Pop over to Hazel's to see what else is going on.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three colours of camellias

Last night MIL had a dinner party for over 20 people - she is the consummate host, my MIL - and when we set the tables we strew them with dozens of camellias from her garden. There is a gorgeous deep red with the occasional variegated white petals, a middling pink, and a light blush pink I'm especially fond of.

Everybody brought different courses of food and we all stuffed ourselves... and will again today with all the leftovers.

And I know I really should restrict my posts to single topics, but I couldn't resist putting this one in too. Look what one of MIL's friends has given me! Seed potatoes! Now, when MIL said someone had given her some potatoes to pass on, I assumed there would be perhaps half a dozen, but no, there are nearly 40 of them. Very generous indeed.

I don't' know what type of potato they are, but then I don't know exactly what any of my potatoes are since they weren't separately labelled so it doesn't really matter. We'll be having potato pot-luck in 6 months or so. What fun!

10 days to Spring!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Do you recognise that child?

That's right, that's my very own Small Person, gracing the 'Dear Essence' pages of the ABA's Essence magazine. Some months ago I read an article in Essence which struck me so deeply I felt compelled to write a letter in response to it and send it in, something I've never done before to any kind of publication.

Now, I must say that I'm not particularly evangelical about breastfeeding. Feeding Emi was difficult for a very long time, and often still is for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with, and quite often I feel more of a martyr to breastfeeding rather than a supporter of it. Nevertheless, I have pushed on because I knew I would feel more guilty if I stopped - what would be worse? The guilt from not enjoying something you are supposed to, or the guilt from giving up? - so here we are nearly 18 months on. Anyway, we go down, we go up, we go back down again, and then my letter gets published and we go back up again, and so on although for how much longer I couldn't say.

So here was what I wrote - to save you from squinting at the screen to read the photo! - in all it's uber-formal glory:

Kim Lock’s article, ‘Breastfeeding to sleep,’ came at the perfect time; I read it less than two hours after hearing my first negative comment about breastfeeding toddlers. Imagine if this negative person learnt our 15-month-old daughter, Emi, sleeps in our bed as well! Sometimes, when you parent in a way that is outside the norm, it can be difficult not to feel you might be doing things the wrong way. Like Kim’s child, Emi is ‘wakeful.’ I have been told many times that I need to be ‘doing something’ to put a stop to her waking, and I need to resist the feelings of inadequacy; this is particularly difficult when we have had a long night and been woken 6, 7, 8, or more times, and I have found myself feeding her back to sleep for the majority of those wakings. It was refreshing and reassuring to read Kim’s story, to know that other people parent the way we do, and that it’s OK and normal. I will never regret having our girl in between us in bed at night, and even though I would dearly love an uninterrupted night of sleep, I love having her there curled up safe and warm beside me. I know it is the best place for her to be.

I'm quite chuffed; I'm officially published!

This is very deliberately not a mama-blog, however since I've digressed from that today indulge me while I show you my new idea for something fun for SP.

The other day the fitted sheet on our bed ripped straight down the middle. Muttering to myself, I washed it anyway and wondered what I could do with all the fabric that was still OK. I hung it over a clothes rack and my girl ran underneath and we played peekaboo through the folds, and then it came to me: I'll make an indoor cubby house with it! I'm not sure how yet, and I think I'll need to dig through the rest of my stash to find extra fabric, and I'm tossing up between a teepee-type cubby or a more traditional house shape, but I think it should be fun and SP will love the extra hidey-hole.

12 days until Spring!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winter wednesday #12 - Bountiful

Before the weather rolled in yesterday afternoon I was able to spend a lot of time in the garden, appreciating it in all it's blustery and soggy goodness. Look at all this! Spring onions, a baby beetroot (yes, just one!), more rainbow chard and...

...a cauliflower! I'm super proud of this one. Who'd have thought I could grow a real, live, edible cauliflower?

This little section of the garden is doing fabulously. At the front is garlic, in the middle are the experimental greenfeast peas, at the back are my tall broad beans.

I tried to take a photo to show you just how many flowers are on those peas, but I don't think it quite conveys it. There must be hundreds, and they are starting to set peas. I can hardly wait to start eating them!

The broad beans are suddenly bursting out with flowers all over too.

There are lots of spring onions out there too. These are called 'red legs,' and they are planted in a pot with my Tahitian lime tree.

The globe artichokes I planted sometime last year are finally looking a little bit happier and less weedy. Perhaps I don't have to pull them out after all? Behind them, looking good, are the second round of broad beans I planted a couple of months ago, such babies compared to the early sowing!

This little unknown 'gambler's choice' fig is sending out it's Spring leaves already, well ahead of the pack (I have, I think, five fig treelings now!)

The weeds are doing beautifully too. Look at them go, so lush and luxuriant!

Yesterday wasn't just about harvesting and photographing, I got a couple of important jobs done too.

I planted my new 'Nellie Kelly' grafted passionfruit, it's new leaves are almost metallic.

Her new home is up against a west-facing fence with the brown turkey fig. Now, please, a special request to whatever bugger ate the passionfruit I planted last year down to the ground: Please leave my newbie alone!
I'll rig something up on the fence between the posts to give her something to climb up against.

I also completed 'round one' of the potato planting. You're supposed to plant after all risk of frost has passed, and I figured since we don't get much frost in my area I could take a chance and start now. I planted 7 out of 20 gourmet assorted tubers.

Well, I say 'planted' but as I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm using a no dig method this year for most of the potatoes, so they were just plonked on the ground after I'd turned it over and tried to take out the worst of the soursobs.

Then I piled on the peastraw, manure, blood and bone, potash, and a sprinkle of Dynamic Lifter and a general slow release fertilizer for luck, and watered the whole lot in with a dash of Seasol (I love that stuff! It was a bit like making a giant, layered pie. I hope the spuds like it! It was quite a lot of effort.
I'd bought a bag of compressed peastraw to try out, and whilst I don't like to moan about such things, I have to say don't waste your money on it. I had this grand idea that I could keep the bag to plant some more taters in, and I did manage it eventually, but it was so hard to get out without destroying the bag that I ended up cutting it halfway down and making my bag half the size. That's not a reason not to buy the stuff of course, but the straw was very fine and would blow away in a light wind I think, and it didn't go very far and was quite expensive, so all in all I wish I'd just bought a couple of bales of normal peastraw and gotten at least 4 times as much for the same amount of money.

Lastly, just for kicks, I had to show you my 'firelight' kangaroo paw which has been slowly, slowly growing it's flower spikes up to chest height. Beautiful, hey? I wish I had more than one! That red against the grey of our house is pretty special.

Head on over to Hazel's to see how other people are getting through the tail end of Winter

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let there be light!

I was all set to write up this week's Winter Wednesday post, and then I realised it was, in fact, Tuesday, so I shall save some of my ideas lest I peak too soon! Probably just as well, I went through the photos I took today and there were 88 to chose from out of the garden alone, so this means that you won't have to suffer through so many of them.

I searched and searched to find an original photo of our backyard. I was sure there was one somewhere, and then finally I came across this one which happens to have been taken almost exactly a year ago. Look how tiny our little girl was! Behind, looming overhead at the right is just a fraction of the pine tree, which I named the Robber King.

The best photos are probably on my boy's camera, which is back at our house, so I have borrowed the following photos from Jungle Bros Treescapes's Facebook page, as they took a pretty good series of photos as they took down the Robber King. That pine tree was the biggest one they've ever had to remove, so they were keen for the publicity for their website.

Here's the tree still in one piece as the tree removal guys arrive on Doomsday (shot taken from our neighbour's driveway.)

Limbs beginning to thin (notice the small tree lopper near the top).

Looking distinctly different now. First shot taken from our neighbour's yard looking down towards our yard, that's our red roof in the background, second from the driveway looking back in the other direction. Play 'Spot the Tree Loppers,' it's like Where's Wally.

Robber King looking quite sheepish at this point.

Top lopped off completely now.

It's crunch time. Sorry, old man, it's time to go and begin a new life as pine mulch in dozens of other gardens.

The long-awaited after-shot. Our yard is going to love all the extra light and water it will get now (back to my own photos now)

Our view to be looking from the inside of our extension, through our new big sliding doors, out to the building site I like to call my garden.

And last but never least, my boy and my girl, one year on from the original photo:


15 days to Spring!