Monday, January 7, 2019

A shiny look a year later

How nice to be able to record the state of Helen's garden, now become an engine in its own life.

The past year was tough with months of drought but spring and now summer have brought good rain. We have developed a pattern in the past month of spending Friday evening and Saturday morning here. My physical limitations significant but able to use iPad for some photos. Also able to manage the battery powered Stihl chainsaw bought for Helen's birthday.

Here are some photos. One of the developments of the past year has been the completion of a retail building across the street, that robs not just parking but also the view of the ranges. You will see that Helen's establishment of a front hedge preserves some privacy.

So the view from the bedroom at 6.30am now includes cars and building but less of the distant view.

In the foreground, the beginning of training a quince into a circle.


These next show how the front garden becomes a food forest, and also shows the industrious gardener.

The wild fennel is valuable in the kitchen. The woody stalks are valuable as mulch.

constant mulching and cutting dumping in gardens in the backyard yields soil eventually, Quality soil. Here transferred to a garden in the front to cover roots recently exposed by heavy rain.
Because this was then mulched well, a storm (65mm) in the afternoon did not wash soil away.

A considerable slope in the front garden. Swales and plantings on the contours.
Here is info on larger scale swales.




7am in a country town... getting busy!

This hedge produces red flowers.
...shaped a week ago with electric hedge trimmer, already doing its best to look ragged.

a peak into a citrus forest
This began with two strands tied together, much as that quince above

Yes, mosaics on steps

The shade cloth has been adjusted since this photo.
The plants underneath growing quickly. Rosellas — the plants not the birds.  

Yes, a bay and and an olive tree and a feijoa bush visible beyond. 
The rubber tree centre left will have its top taken off, the bare trunk will provide a place to host a micro-bat home (I can't make them for this price for two).The rosella hedge will not be high, I said.
No, she said, there will be citrus trees in the mulch behind.
Aha, the permaculture principle of yield per square metre rather than yield per plant.
And with that she went to say good morning to Cory Gated, the giraffe.


Loganberries are difficult here. In hot days the fruit boils, but if you can catch them at the right moment...
This is hedge to the right of the car above. Drive-in picking.

A view of the back back yard, featuring a wattle, see movie.
For Helen's birthday, for Helen's garden, a new Stihl MSA 120C, battery powered chainsaw. I can do this work, though briefly. No need to be more than briefly when it's easy to use, clean and you don't have to mess about with mixing fuel and only using fresh fuel...

I'd not used a chainsaw for a year. So failed to anticipate that torsion in the weight of first couple of limbs of this wattle would jam to the chain so easily. Lots of rain, heavy limbs.

We will not remove much more of this wattle, it serves a great purpose in the garden, generally not understood. Acacias are pioneers, they grow swiftly. Like legumes they have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots. But unlike legumes, which lower pH, these acacias raise pH, valuable in most Australian soils. The tree recovers from hard pruning well. Every time you prune the top, a comparable amount of root dies, releasing carbon and nitrogen. And as the roots grow,  they mine the soil, open it up for less vigorous plants. A multifunction plant.

This light chainsaw makes light work. To have an arborist in would mean having the whole tree whacked and a huge mess of the valuable pruned material gone. But with the saw on hand, easy to prune part of it at a time and review.

At the end of the movie see why it was good to prune early morning, see the 1pm storm.


With the circular device on the left, easy to adjust the chain. And the instruction book is very clear.

To clean, I used kitchen paper and a basting brush...
I'll get a small round bristle paint brush, which will clean the screw holes better.

My chain saw rules remain:
clean wood, sharp chain
right fuel mixed (now well charged battery)
Only when weather is right and ground is clear.
Only when feeling very well.
Only one tank, or less...
... replaced by 'only one battery charge'.
And now no need to deal with leftover fuel mix, going stale.
Wattles, next generation
These require boiling water or scratching to open them to germinate.
In nature, in Australia, many seeds like this await bushfire to open their pod or shell,
to grow in the wealth of the ashes on soil (raised pH, carbon and potassium).

This view back towards that wattle: from left, banana, tap/sink with mosaic, lemongrass, very productive custarnd apple hiding nashi tree, wild fennel and on the right  pomegranate hidden by comfrey and sulking. Everything likes to pop up from the mulch under the clothes line.

Farm people, as seen from laundry door facing clothes line.
Rosemary, lemongrass, custard apple ... and Ralph.

Flowers on the custard apple. 
For your imagination! You can't see that the green tank collects water from the invisible house roof, connected also to another tank doing the same behind the camera. Nor can you see the pump that is inside that tank down there, that pumps to a tank up the hill, out of sight, at the back fence, with pipes then to gravity feed to taps in front and back garden.
 These two photos show the mass of fallen material from wattle (which I had chopped up variously, some longer pieces for edging here and there, finer material for mulch. The second photo shows that most of it did not have to be moved far. The large leafed tree is a guava.


it's not a python, it's the scarf I took off before using the chain saw.

Down the end here, in front of shed, rosemary hedge converted to a rosemary tree, making space for a seedling passionfruit.


Blue space, Corina's spade, with spoodle, mosaics, bananas, fine legs, gardener eating.
Down the end, tamarillos, still struggling from decision to plant them on south side of fence.
I brought a kitchen knife to remove most of the bananas as should after fruiting.
"No don't reduce it to two, they shade the pool.
I've just filled the pool and it's a hiding place for the big lizards."


Near 9am, time for me to make coffee!
I do not stink of chainsaw fuel and I do not have to change clothes.






Thursday, February 15, 2018

and in February (2018)

I realise it's been half a year since last entry in this blog.

The climate has been rough, as also for many others in other places.

The sharp changes in weather, plus strong spring winds, meant a lack of bees and pollenation in Dennis's garden, notably for the tamarillos for which we had great expectations, but negligible fruit set. We enjoyed bananas: in this cooler climate the lady fingers ripen very slowly and though skin showing experience of winter and wind, the fruit itself rich as custard. Would that they did not all ripen at once. Now we have new banana bunches and growing guava fruit. A tropical tendency.

In Dennis's garden the soil historically shallow and on top of very deep fast draining sandstone, so moisture retention is difficult and compost and mulch tasks constant. With an eye to whether to let the more sensitive go, and accept shift to a more desert-like environment, grabbing niche moments and using microclimate corners for growing leafy greens. Visually it's currently full of gone-to-seed fennel (we've abandoned use of onions in cooking, fennel a wonderful replacement) and herbs that think they are in the heaven of a hot Greek plain, but without the goats.

In Helen's garden, a different situation: milder and more humid, 30km away, by the sea. Volcanic soil, good water retention, very pleased with custard apples and more. Now near forty fruit trees... and some small bleeding heart trees, seedlings which began in my raised strawberry bed, above which bower or black birds sat strawberry-oggline, before dropping a fertilised seed. Now doing well in understorey environment which they need most.

We are planning micro-bee habitats for Dennis's garden for pollenation; micro-bat housing for Helen's garden, where there is a bit of a mosquito problem.

Photos from Helen's garden 15 February 2018: (click on any photo to enlarge all)

outside the kitchen

up steps from previous photo

up close in that backyard view, a pomegranate at last


in front of the house
view from street, morning sunlight

Lemon tree view through hole in hedge (which you probably can't see in last pic)

Fennel with spider web

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AS mentioned above we are making habitat for micro-bees and micro-bats.

And here is a man in the UK wonderfully obsessed with micro-bee habitat construction and so much more... so many ideas! If in a rush, skip the first eight minutes of this...



and another of his is here

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A complete insect hotel from Colorado


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Here's a thoughtful, concept focused, presentation about micro-bats


Team work here is fun but design may not be ideal
— could be taller, can't see if internal surfaces are rough enough (decking is good),
and colour depends on climate: bats need to be above human blood temperature for comfort)



Sunday, August 6, 2017

the egg does not fall far from the hen


Down there in the out of focus short distance, the hen house.

Here for my Sunday lunch, three eggs fetched this morning from the hens not long before their conversion into light scrambled-omelet with fresh garden herbs and rocket (arugola) too. Helen out to lunch with her sister, a Sunday sororal pattern.

Thus I have another chance of a moment or 20 in this magic garden. During the week I had cause to write somewhere else about last Sunday at this table and how
as I sat in dreamy sunlight at a small mosaic table in my garden, eating crumbed fish on a plate with knife and fork, a tiny beautiful wasp-waisted paper wasp alighted on the other edge of the table, opposite me, almost missing the table edge in its sensory stupefaction, straightened itself, waggled its antennae to clarify and reconfirm the fishness that brought it thus far, then set out, straight line, gentle march, across the table towards me. 
I ended that piece of writing with such suspense. I can report (alas no camera) that the small drop-dead-gorgeous wasp did continue forward and did disappear under the edge of my plate. I waited silently to see if it could find its way to the top of the plate (as a fly or cockroach might, if permitted) but no, eventually it wandered disconsolately away slowly towards my 2 o'clock. I picked a tiny crumb from my plate and dropped it at 10 o'clock but the act of doing so broke the spell and the wasp wimped and flew instantly off.

I am reminded writing this and recalling these instances of beauty of Masanobu Fukuoka's observation in One Straw Revolution, in the box on the left.

Fukuoka has been a great influence on me. I agree with the virtue of that quote more than anything as a jolt for the mind, a what-the-hell-is-he-getting-at.

The purpose of the old mosaic table being – this week and last, everything changes – to meet the wasp and show respect for the hens and the eggs. AND for the sunlight in cool late winter. Looking at bare things around me, trying to be here and now, not just planning the look and yields of summer. Mindful.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

mid-winter 2017: part 3, beauty in the small

This page just a browse for aesthetics, eye on the details
Hardenbergia violacea opportunistically climbs on a table
young lime, lavender, guava
geese on loan from Helen's garden
A potplant that in summer catches aircon drips by the front door, books decaying, water injector, lurking behind, new passionfruit
just to tease the bowerbirds who collect blue things

decadence is normal
and all that jazz

aloof, alight, a sweet delight

a carved burl in the woods

just fine details

everywhere bits of herbs, always look at the details
after the bower gone
the water bowl is still here, in reflective mood
wattle below, banana with bunch, eucalypt overarching
and then back inside for high-5 and coffee