Friday, 28 February 2014

Touched by wonder

One morning, lo and behold! We had been visited.
Now, we need some windows so that, as these little figments wind their way up the circular staircase inside the tree, they have sufficient light, and do not misstep and tumble.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Spaces, and their labels

Officially, this is where I reside. In my fancy mood, I call my area an apartment, as it has a bedroom, a bathroom, and a living space. The people with whom I live, knock and ask if they can come in, admittedly AS they are coming in. In the evening, if I have need to go upstaire - rarely - I ask permission as I ascend. Apparently, arrangements such as we have, falter on lack of autonomy.

This is my parlour (living space). It looks out onto the front vegie patch and is about 10' from the kitchen. There is a connecting hallway, running past the bathroom, and into my bedroom, which I now share with a cot, mainly because I cannot carry a child in my arms up the stairs.

This space, is a sea of tranquility.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sisters | Week 8 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity.

 Alannah takes her bath | Home, Tuesday 18 February 2014

 Juliet kisses and cuddles with Mama | Front garden, Friday 20 February 2014

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A hint of autumn this morning

A season-changing chill was in the air this morning as I stared vacantly from a window of the near-empty 208 as it rattled through the gullet of Northbridge for no apparent reason. Good stolid burghers do not catch government buses at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning. in place of substantive flesh, I wrapped my cardy around my slim frame, and pondered on the joys of autumn in my garden.

It is time to ring the changes in my oft-commented-upon, bloomin' flower bed around the back. After the torrential rains last weekend, I started to remove the more bedraggled looking Petunias, the ones that went in first. They were planted last September, would you believe! Tomorrow, I will remove the rest of the Petunias, and Sweet Williams, dead-head the Marigolds, and prune them to shape, ensuring that they occupy a satisfying "shape" in the garden-bed, allowing me room to mass up some mauve, pink, and white Cyclamen.

Mmm ... this might create all sorts of colour clashes with the yellow, orange, and rust coloured Marigolds. Will have to play it by eye. I am reliably informed by our resident bloke, that the compost was a solid block, and he turned it enough times this arvo to make it crumbly for me. He and his motley crew are heading out Mudgee way next weekend, so it will be a good chance to spread compost.

While the cats are away ...

Friday, 21 February 2014

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)

By the halfway mark, I had found just two that were not sheltering the tiniest of white worms inside. A little stomach churning when the girls had been feasting just last weekend. A quick Google, revealed that this nearly always happens when ripe berries are allowed to sit too long on the cane, or allowed to drop to the soil below and putrefy.

This is the damage caused by the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a pest exotic to Australia and which the Department of Primary Industry (its heirs and successors forever), treats a bit like Mad Cow Disease! The most help to eradicate this pest from my garden came, however, from fellow garden bloggers, eg New Life on a Homestead. There is heaps of more technical information out there on this pest geared toward the commercial fruit grower, eg here, and here, and here.


There are a number of distinguishing features of the SWD for identification
  • They are miniscule.
  • The male SWD has two distinctive spots on the end of each wing.
  • The female SWD’s large, blade-like ovipositor.
  • They have large red eyes.
Both images courtesy of the Organic Growers' School

Prevention and Maintenance
  • Do not leave overripe berries on the vine, and do not let them fall to the ground as this will encourage an infestation. Keep plants picked clean of all ripe fruit every single day. Do not compost unwanted berries. The heat from the compost is not high enough to kill the SWD larvae and they will reemerge the following year. You can seal them in a ziplock bag and leave it out in the sun to kill the worms. Burying and composting are not reliable ways of killing eggs and larvae.
  • Keep plants pruned. Fruit flies like humid, shady environments. Thin plants out and keep sprawling varieties trellised. Burn the prunings instead of composting them.
  • Avoid any puddles or standing water in the garden because SWD seem to be attracted to these areas.
  • Do a ground clean up. SWD larvae can overwinter in the soil and reemerge the following year. Cultivate the soil around plants to expose the larvae to the elements. They don’t survive well in very cold or hot temperatures.
  • Set traps. You can put out a vinegar or yeast-sugar trap. Traps monitor for the arrival of SWD in order to guide spray programs.
  • Harvest in Spring not Autumn. Fruit flies tend to be more of a problem with Autumn crops. Prune them after the Spring harvest so that there isn't an Autumn harvest that would attract the SWD.
  • Both Entrust (Spinosad) and Pyganic (Pyrethrin) are acceptable for organic crop production. Entrust is reported to be most effective. A Spinosad containing product in Australia is Yates' Success Naturalyte, Yates' Nature's Way Fruit Fly Control, and Eco Natra Lure Fruit Fly Bait.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Books | There Once Was A Boy Called Tashi

Jess over at Malt Memories has started a beautiful series called A Book A Week.  I loved it immediately.  I do keep a record of the girls' favourite books, usually each week and over the course of the month, but I haven't documented the book itself or their interaction with it.

There Once Was A Boy Called Tashi

On Tuesday afternoons, just as Alannah finishes at preschool, the local library next door opens.  It is like the libraries I remember from my childhood: a small reading area, children's books arranged around on low shelves, hardcopy borrowing cards that are typed up on an old typewriter at the desk.

You can borrow only three books each and Alannah chooses two books for herself, two books for Juliet, and two DVDs.  I instituted the two books to one DVD rule.  I like how the borrowing limitations require Alannah to think carefully about her choices and to return some to the shelves. 

On Saturday, Tessie and Mummy El came to play at our house.  Over lunch, we chatted with the girls about the books they are enjoying at the moment.  Tessie's favourite book was a 'Tashi' book.  And surprise, surprise, Alannah's choice of books at the library on Tuesday included There Once Was A Boy Called Tashi.

Ma has read it to Alannah each morning and I have read it to her during the day.

I love the length and complexity of the story.  Short picture books still have their place, but for reading aloud, she gets more from books which last 15 to 20 minutes.

It's an interesting choice for Alannah and, but for Tessie's endorsement, she would have shied away from the scary characters that grace these pages. 

* All my other photo '52' series have just finished week 7, so I am starting at week 7 so as not to completely confuse myself.  And because I can.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

My orchard - tee hee

I think of it as my orchard, but it is not like you can meander through it scoffing rotting fruit with the toe of a glistening, black gumboot, or anything. They are mostly in pots (large ones), that cramp their style and lead them into thinking that they can bring heaps of produce to fruition, when they can't. Perhaps they hear my scorn as I mooch around in the early mornings.
But they look okay, and I am chuffed with progress thus far, when these specimens have just completed their first full year. The Kumquat is an acceptable size, and veering on ripe, which is a shame as there is only one!Hear that Kumquat. Yeah, yeah I see what you have in store for the next season. You and whose army?

The figs are from the "black Genoa". I have not tasted one yet, but they are miniscule thus far. But it is first season. The capsicum is a min-variety, which is slender and fragile when cut. It is loaded with fruit which are readily changing colours quite early. I have big hopes for my Blueberry bushes thus year, but must must transplant to a pot before the Raspberry cans throttle them in their shared bed.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Remaining true

When we moved in, just over a year ago, we quickly found that many of the windows did not work properly. Mainly in the second storey addition. Newer one might have supposed. Quality of work, and all that. Whinge, whinge.

Some windows were wedged shut, from paint we presumed. Cannot think of any where we were able to lower the top frame to facilitate the flow of air. Yes, we could have opened the bottom, but it seemed weekly that a toddler was toppling out of half opened windows on upper floors. Some windows would not open because the pane could not hold itself up. And the bathroom window upstairs was quickly hanging precariously.

But how to rectify the issues. Choices. We could replace all windows with new aluminium slide windows. We could just replace the worst windows. Or we could get a tradesman in to repair, replace, renovate in sympathy with the original styling. The first and last choices would cost about the same. But the chances of getting off-the-rack frames to fit 1941 windows was not high. We went with the tradie.

Actually, we went with a bloke called Darren from down The Shire way. Shouldn't call him a bloke, really, but a laddie. Kirsten googled for a carpenter to repair sash windows, and her trawl netted two possibles, neither cheap. She went with Old School Carpentry, a sole trader, and window artisan, hailing from Scotland in 2001. He really is quite brilliant to have around. Cheery. Jovial. Thorough. Clean. Professional.

He is into his second week, and is still working on the top floor. Nearly every window has to be repaired. It will cost arms'n'legs, but will add to the value of the property, provide peace of mind, and enable us to better regulate the flow of air and temperature on both levels. Meaning that it will reinforce the value from the gas heater AND from the awnings. Brilliant.

It will mean, however, that we have to do some painting this year. Darren provides a top-coat only. I am currently hunting around for a good quality, long-handled, spider-web broom.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Hot air rises

Our cottage was built in 1941; well the ground floor was built in 1941. It is double-brick, meaning that when the weather is hot, the rooms stay cool, and when the weather is cold the rooms are bloody freezing!

The second floor is the opposite: when the weather is hot, the rooms are sweltering, and when the weather is cold, the rooms are just about right. Last winter, we installed a gas heater in the downstairs living area. This summer, we installed awnings over the north facing windows, and over the west facing windows.

The roof-line is at such a rakish angle that the measuring, and then the installation, was hair-raising. For us, not the tradies, who appeared to take it all in their stride. We were not happy with the manufacturers, who mucked Kirsten around no end with an installation date. Before Christmas. We did not realise we needed to specify the year!

But they work. They keep the upstairs much cooler, and the blinds have been removed, and the windows reopened. There are fans upstairs, but they were inadequate from the get-go. IMHO they also add to the overall appeal of the house, adding to its homey-cottage feel.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sisters | Week 7 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity.

The sisters play on the swings
Hallstrom Park, Willoughby | Tuesday 11 February 2014

Juliet swings for the first time
Hallstrom Park, Willoughby | Tuesday 11 February 2014

 Alannah picks and eats our raspberries with Tessie
Kitchen garden | Saturday 15 February 2014

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Curling up their toes

Bit sad looking, isn't it? This is the newer of the two "Brown Turkey" figs in my garden. The other, is a "Black Genoa". I welcome your thoughts on what is causing this leaf curl.
The three plants are still very productive as you can see, and my original Brown Turkey has produced some deliciously plump specimens, and will so again this weekend. But leaf curl like this, cannot be good. One of the plants has a bit of browning at the leaf tips, too, which is contradictory. Or possibly so. It could be over-watering, or shallow watering. I put a sprinkler on each afternoon for about an hour, and these pots are well in the catchment. I could move them, and just resort to the daily 3l of water around the base, rather than overhead. Or ...
The issue might be, perhaps, that they are root-bound. Take a look at the root system of this one plant. How can it be anything BUT root-bound? And this is nowt but one season's growth. Although the entire weekend looks as though it will be raining (yippee!), I could nip over to Hamish's yard and fossick for three massive black plastic pots to transplant them into. Pots like this are not big sellers in "Garage Sales" (as Hamish has been having).
It being 24C and drizzling, today might be the perfect time to tip this plant up, and check out its engine!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Fee Fi Fo Fum ...

From memory I planted something like 48 bean seeds. They are "Mr Fothergill's Dwarf Bean, Brown Beauty". I already have a row of his Snow Peas on a trellis at the end of this high bed. I am giving them 10 litres of Thrive Complete Fertiliser each Wednesday (beans and peas.)

I will sniff around Hamish's junk yard for a sheet of reinforcing rod to fit over the top lip of the corrugations of the bed, then ensure the plants grow up and through, meaning that the fruit does not lie on the soil. I am learning heaps as I continue on with this venture. I think I am on a winner with snow peas and green beans. The smaller bed will be ready for a turnover come the end of February, which is when I should be going with two more cauliflower, and two more Broccoli. Need to find another good Cucumber seed supply. Probably need another standard Zucchini, too. Can't say I appreciate the 'globe' Zucchini, as there are heaps of flowers but no fruit. It did not say it needed fertilisation from a third party.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

How green is my backyard?

The rear garden of our "gingerbread cottage" does not have the aspect of the front garden. Our block is on a north-south axis, front to back. There used to be a massive Port Jackson Fig tree in the front garden which overshadowed everything, and fostered mould inside. This was cut down (by Hamish and his boys) sometime during 2010. The street-view on Google-maps show just how many changes have been made to this house - and the house next door - since Spring 2010.
The back yard is protected by three massive trees, that shield the sun during summer, and make of it a pleasant glade. In Autumn about a gazillion leaves fall, and the yard is a pleasant sun trap. The front garden comes into its own during Winter, and the rear garden during Summer.

However, the grass at the back is a bit the worse for wear, or conditions, really. This past 7 days, I have set upon the long task of rectifying this. I will Weed'n'Feed each Tuesday, and water twice per week. That should give it a spurt along from now, until August, at which time Darren and I will top soil and seed it.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Striking the right note!

This Frangipani cutting was struck for me by Ross'n'Robyn (he is my brother). They always seem to be able to strike segments that fall from their own tree, a skill that has forever escaped moi. If I am right, this appears to be a flower spike. How wonderful!.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Garbage In - Garbage Out!

I have a most reliable composting system on the go. Within about 6 weeks I can degrade nearly anything (I choose) into compost. This includes all the surplus from the kitchen - including tomatoes, which are supposedly too acidic to degrade properly. All the lawn clippings go in, and make it wonderfully HOT!

However, this time I have a problem. The compost that I spread on the newly tilled green bean bed, and the newly tilled broccoli bed, have been overwhelmed with tomato seedlinga. Hundreds of them. I have now weeded this lot, but know that in two weeks time there will be another green carpet.

Perhaps, I should rethink my attitude to the inclusion of tomatoes. These beds I show you here are meant to grow Broccoli and Cauliflower, which are in this little lot somewhere.