Friday, December 30, 2011

Snails and my Lazy Ways... Again

Some things this year in my garden have been terrible failures. We have had way too many snails. I have lost track of how many cucumber and zucchini seeds I planted. I saw them emerge and the next day... gone. Same with sunflowers. I so wanted sunflowers this summer. I have done several lots of sunflower, cucumber and zucchini seed plantings since November. Eaten by those rotten snails. My basil wasn't going too well either until I took action and protected them with my snail zapper protectors. But I've run out of those and haven't mustered the energy to make more for all the sunflowers and zucchinis and cucumbers I'm wanting to protect. Of course, it probably wouldn't take much to organise some death-by-beer tubs about the place but I haven't been bothered. I'm the type to whinge and take the easy, wasteful way and just plant more seeds.

Mind you, I have been enjoying a snail squash at night. Now that I have a puppy to take to do her business after dark, I've experienced first hand just how many snails we have. They come out from beneath the ground covers and crawl their way along the path to my veggies. Unless they encounter my purple ugg boots taking Wokee for a wee. I've been taking great pleasure in stomping and crunching my way along that path each night.

Nevertheless, I don't seem to have made too much of a dent because things are still disappearing. And just before Christmas the lovely Phoebe sent me a packet of gem squash and poppy seeds. I actually won a competition! But they came with a note that ordered me to protect from snails at all costs. So today it's time to take a stand! If I can find the energy to put finger to keyboard and whine about the snails and my failures I surely can find the time and energy to make a snail zapper. I will make beer baths for them all to drown a happy death in. I will chop up some more milk and lemonade bottles and trim them with copper to protect my seedlings. And I will plant some more bloody sunflower and cucumber and zucchini seeds.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Final Festive Fallen Branch Friday

I thought long and hard about how to make this last festive fallen branch friday interesting. And I failed to come up with any decent ideas. Well, actually I did come up with some decent ideas but they were at the beginning of the week and they required time and energy... and then I forgot about doing them. Well heck it is Christmas and all and I'm run off my feet with parties and gift giving and cooking and stuff. Yeah it's a hard life! Anyway, I put my promise of an interesting post to the back of my brain. Until 6am this morning when my children and puppy woke me demanding their attention. And once my brain unfogged and I remembered what day it was and my commitment to you I got in a bit of a panic.

And then I had a brainwave.

What is more festive than one of those cutesy hallmarky pictures of an exploited baby animal all dressed up in tinsel in front of a Christmas tree? And I have the perfect cutesy puppy just yelping for camera time. Naturally I have packed away all my spare tinsel, but I did have a Santa hat and at this hour of the morning I thought that would do the trick. So I propped Wokee in front of my fallen branch Christmas tree, turned on the lights and requested that she look appealing. And festive.

Those card makers obviously use loads of superglue and sedatives 'cos puppies don't like to sit still dressed in stupid costumes and look cute. But I did manage one or two festive enough pictures.

And then Wokee decided to eat the hat.

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Thank you to Phoebe for the picture of her tree which has been decorated with her Grannie's very old glass decorations. She tells me that she has been busy making jams for pressies and she has sewn them into bags on an old singer machine with material that she picked up from the hard rubbish. Inspiring!

If you have a picture of your fallen or pruned branch Christmas tree that you still haven't sent in and would like to, please link up here.

Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed their pic over this month. They have been lovely to look at. But you can rest assured that I won't be doing this again next year!

Anyway, have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vine Twirling, Plum Picking and Swinging in the Hammock

This is the current view from my hammock under the plum tree. I'm loving having a swing under there at the moment. Only a few months ago it was all weeds. But you might remember I've been making an attempt to de-grass our yard and this was the first place I started. Those new veggie patches are doing quite well too considering they don't get much sun. The corn is growing nicely and I have a lovely lettuce mix growing well too. Lettuce I believe likes a bit of shade so this has turned out to be a perfect spot.

As you can see, the plums are ripe and are falling off the tree. So, as much as I like to have a lazy swing in the hammock and sip on a cup of tea, it's a bit of a guilty swing 'cos I'm reminded of the work that I ought to be doing. It's great having a whopping big plum tree in the back yard but as you know I'm a bit lazy about some things. And I don't much like picking plums. At this time of year we end up with loads of plums sitting in bags at our back door just waiting to find a home. I spend my time scouring recipe books thinking of recipes to make with them. Of course I will make jam. I also made a few jars of chutney last year and that went down a treat. Any friend who walks in the door will walk out with a load of plums. But still I know we'll have a smell of fermenting fruit in our house and some of the plums will end up in the compost. What a waste. The chooks have already got sick of them. So any plum suggestions from you all will be gratefully accepted.
In other garden news, those beans I planted in the big blue pots are creeping their way to the balcony. I don't think they'll provide much shade for the fernery which was my initial idea but I am nevertheless liking the little bean canopy overhead as I step outside. And they are providing some entertainment and occupation for Monkey Man. Monkey Man isn't much interested in gardening. He likes a big, messy jungle and he has crazy ideas about planting things in the wrong spots and too close together. That's why I've left the front garden to him and I'm in charge out back. But Monkey Man does like a bit of a prune. Whenever we are in a rush to go somewhere you can be sure to find him with a pair of secateurs in hand in his front garden. Only he doesn't do proper prunes, just little snips. He'll leave a big thorny rose branch to poke someone in the eye as they walk down our front path but he'll do a wee artistic snip from a twig nearby. And he loves to do a bit of a vine twirl. He's always finding a bit of vine that needs twirling 'round a bit of support.

And now we have a bean vine right in his line of vision at the back door. So whenever he ought to be making a phone call, or sorting through his papers, or writing a chart for his fourteenth carols by candlelight event, he'll be eyeing off the bean vine. And then he'll get a chair and wind the vine a bit further along the string supports he nagged me to put up. Even when I've already done the vine twirl that morning. So those beans are serving several purposes - beans for food, canopy for shade and entertainment for Monkey Man.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Festive Fallen Branch Friday

I can't believe it I have actually finished my Christmas shopping - a record for me. We often end up in a mad panic at a mad shopping centre at the last minute, bickering and sighing our way through the crowds. But not this year. Yay!

I have to confess that I am finding it a bit tricky now to write a decent post about a dead decorated branch every friday. And I'm not sure that you all want to read about it either. But I did commit myself at the start of the month and I am not a quitter. So you will have to tolerate today and one more Festive Fallen Branch Friday. I will try my hardest to make next Friday's post jolly and interesting and festive.

Here's my lovely friend Nyree's fallen branch tree made from a branch from a gum tree found in her local park.
If you have a pic of a Christmas tree you've made from a fallen or pruned branch or a bunch of twigs you could email it to me and I'll feature it in my last festive friday post next week. Or you can link up to your blog post here this week or next.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fluffy Pup Meets Fluffy Chooks

Wokee loves our chooks.
She loves to sit and watch them scratching away behind their fence.
She loves her morning visit to their house to check for eggs.
And she loves to bury her nose in their pea straw and chew on some chook poo.

So today I thought I'd let her get up close on the other side of the fence.
I know she'd love to bounce and play and bark at them but she didn't. She sat quietly watching. She's a lovely gentle pup.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Festive Fallen Branch Friday

I am a complete duffa! I've been wondering all week why I couldn't see Andrea's tree from Harvest with Glee on last week's link up. And yet it was showing that there was one entry. Then Jules from little woollie posted but I couldn't see hers. So I did some further investigation and realised I'd filled in my linkylink thingo wrongly. I rectified it on Thursday - way too late. But the linkup to Andrea's is on the wrong page and I have no clue about how to fix that now. So sorry everyone. And then this morning I tried to electronically transfer funds from my bank to enrol in a summer workshop and it wouldn't bloody work. But this time it wasn't my fault. I'm not having luck with gadgets this week.

Anyway, Dixiebelle and Andrea and Jules have all done wonderful trees that you must check out!

I've done my tree too.  Well I should say that the Monkeys and I did our tree. But to be honest I am a control freak when it comes to tree decorating. And when I didn't like what they were doing I sneakily moved it over a bit and spread the tinsel around a bit more and slyly suggested that some decorations don't need to go on the tree this year (the ones I think are ugly). All so that my artistic tastes are satisfied. Oh yeah, I'm bad.

Here's our tree. The photos are not the best but I'm having a bad day with technology. What I like about our tree this year is the old metal bucket. Usually I cover it with Christmas material but this year the monkeys wanted to decorate the tree with some thick tinsel that they found in the box. And I didn't want them to mix their tinsels. So I suggested we fill the bucket and surrounds with it instead. So sneaky. So controlling.

And here's my mum's tree. This is the first year that mum has ditched her artificial tree completely in favour of a fallen branch one. She says it's because she's feeling lazy. But couldn't possibly be. Putting up a fallen branch takes just as much effort. I am taking full credit for this change in tradition!

Ah you wouldn't believe the trouble I just had trying to download those images. What's going on with the gremlins this week?

Now I'm pretty sure I've managed my linkup technical stuff properly this week. So if you have a Christmas tree that you've made from a fallen or pruned branch, please link up here.
And if you don't have a blog but would like to email me your picture so I can feature it next week, please do. Only two more Festive Fallen Branch Fridays to go. (Sorry - do I sound like one of those countdown to Christmas shopping adverts?)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festive Fallen Branch Friday

Here's my friend Emma's picture of her decorated fallen branch Christmas tree.

So, has anyone else put up their Chrissie tree yet?

Shamefully, after all my yacking and nagging to all of you - I haven't even done mine. Usually I hang out for December and Christmas cheer but I'm feeling a bit cheered-out already. New puppies are a bit like new babies. Well I am massively exaggerating, but they do require a fair bit of attention and I am suffering from sleep deprivation. My monkey boys wake up at the crack of dawn - 6am on the dot every morning. Then they turn their screen-sitter on for a while, get dressed, make their breakfast and feed themselves all before I have even yawned myself awake at 7.30am.

Up 'til now. Now I have to get up at the crack of dawn with them because they inevitably wake up Wokee who wants to play and bounce about. As well as bouncing about, she tends to have a lot of business to do first thing in the morning and without a vigilant eye she will do her business all over the place. Every rug in the living room has been annointed. Monkey Man's work papers which have piled their way from his desk all over the floor have also become a favoured spot to deposit a little doggy doo.
So consequently, I have kept up my routine of going to bed late but am suffering from getting up too early. And I have been busy starting a website for Eldest Monkey Boy's band (
...and I have been busy finishing off my classes for the year...

Anyway, that whopper of a rant was just a bunch of excuses to let you know that we haven't yet put up our tree. But I have made a start. I have pruned the lilac tree to make way for a doggy run down the side of the house and that branch will be our tree this year.

Here's a pic of the work in progress. See pruned branch with some of the leaves pulled off. I'll show you the finished product next week - promise.
Anyone else who has a tree, please email me a photo and I'll include it in next Friday's Festive Fallen Branch Friday post. Or if you have a blog you can link up here right now.

How Do Your Beans Grow

Wow beans are weird!

First mine wouldn't come up at all. So I planted more. Then a little bit of warm and wet weather and up they all came including the ones I'd first planted. And now they are growing like crazy.

Remember those beans I planted in the pots in front of my ferns? This is last week's photo...
Well check them out today. They are 58cm tall.

Because I've never grown beans before, I had visions of them making a huge vine and providing a lovely overhead canopy for the fernery over summer. But I realise I was dreaming - I don't think they'll reach the balcony. Doesn't matter.

I've been trying for weeks to get some beans to grow up my tree stump arbour in some pots. But every time I see life, it disappears overnight. And then I plant more and they disappear again. There are a lot of snails in my garden. Which I discovered the other night when Wokee decided she didn't want to do her business in her dedicated business spot and went for a nocturnal wander. While I was following her I saw and felt and heard an absolute mass of snails on the long march to my veggie patch. I had great pleasure in stomping on the lot of them.

Not to thump myself on the back too much but just letting you know that I risked life and limb this morning getting these shots. I knew you wouldn't be impressed with my fuzzy bean photo so I went out with my measuring tape during a thunder storm. Just to prove that they've grown a lot. And because I am such a dedicated blogger, I risked being struck by lightning and got pelted with heavy raindrops to find a snail and take a snap for your amusement. Just saying!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Festive Fallen Branch Fridays

Were you around last December when I did my Fallen Branch Christmas tree thing?

Well I'm upping the ante this year and thought I'd do a weekly Friday Chrissie Tree meme! Yep. I am now so techno literate that not only can I upload a blog post but...I know what a meme is!

I'm a big lover of Christmas - any celebration actually and since having kids, Christmas has excited me no end. But the Christmas tree thing makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I've gotta admit I secretly like a bit of tack and tinsel but those artificial trees are just too much. And according to wikipedia it takes at least 20 years of re-using for an artificial tree to leave an environmental footprint as low as a real tree.  Real Christmas trees can be mulched when you're done, but you only have to take a look around the neighbourhood in January to see that lots of them aren't. Of course, those potted Christmas trees that are brought in and decorated each year aren't a bad choice but they've never appealed to me. Truth is I don't much like pine trees.

What I've been doing now for most of my adult life is to make a Christmas tree from a dead or pruned branch. Come 1st of December I've just taken a bit of a wander about my backyard or the neighbourhood or park and found myself a branch, plonked it into a bucket and decorated it. And I reckon my fallen branch Christmas trees look bloody good.
2009 Christmas tree made with a pruned Silver Princess Eucalyptus branch.
Now I know from last year that some of you do this too but I'm really surprised that I don't see more of them around.

So this year, I'm sticking my neck out and doing a real plug for the fallen branch thing.

Will you join me?

Go find yourself a branch or prune a tree. Stick it in a bucket and get decorating. Link up to me on Fridays during December. If you don't have a blog you could email me your pic and I'll wack it in a collage on my Friday posts. Now I know some of you are very attached to the smell of Christmas and a traditional Christmas tree. And I get that. But you can join me anyway by making an extra tree for outside or the table or another room.

I thought good and hard to come up with a name for my Chrissie tree meme and I'm afraid "Festive Fallen Branch Fridays" is what I came up with. I know. Lame. Never mind, pretty soon it'll be rolling off our tongues.

Now, if you're super-organised or super-excited about Christmas and already have your fallen branch Christmas tree done, you could link up here now.  (That's you Dixiebelle - I saw your goregeous bit of work this morning. And you Hanni - you're pretty amazing with a tomato cage).

Or you could wait 'til next friday - or the week after...

Now, I'm taking this Festive Fallen Branch Friday business seriously. I'm even facebooking my intentions. And I'll be nagging my friends and rellies for their pics. You wait and see.

Chrissie trees from last year

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beans, Weeds and Snail Zappers

Lazy Housewife Bean
What's the story with beans eh? I planted loads of them and they were all munched by snails and slugs. So I planted more and waited what seemed like a long time. Nothing happened. So I planted some more (remember those pots). And within two days they were up. But so finally were all those other beans I'd planted weeks ago. And now I have quite a lot of butter beans growing and some lazy housewives. None of the monkeys are terribly keen on beans so in anticipation of a bean-glut I decided to get my ears accustomed to the whining and buy some at the market yesterday... the masochist in me coming out.
Butter Beans
I think there are an unusually large number of snails about at the moment. We've had a lot of rain. I don't usually go wandering about my garden after dark but since puppy's come along I've been making hourly visits. And my footsteps are constantly accompanied by crunch noises and I'm not even trying for a snail squash. 

Every sunflower seed I planted has been eaten. My cucumber and zucchini seedlings... munched. Six basil seedlings... gone overnight. The only surviving ones are those I protected with my snail zappers. I was a bit skeptical about these because once I found a snail on the inside. But given my basil experiment they must work. I bought the copper strips from Diggers. Apparently they give a little electric zap to snails. I must make more.
Basil with protective snail zapper
In my spring planting frenzy I also sprinkled some lettuce seeds (mesclun mix) about in my new patch. And I have had something pop up. Trouble is, I'm not too sure if what's popping up are lettuce leaves or weeds. I suppose a bit of weed in a salad won't harm anyone.
Lettuce or Weeds?
My passionfruit vine is looking dreadful again. Last year Mr. P came along and sorted things out for me by chopping and building a bamboo trellis and tsk-tsking at my neglect and incompetence. And his efforts did seem to pay off - I saw one flower.

But now it's back to this.
Sick Passionfruit Vine
It seems I am not destined to grow passionfruit. These three vines have been here for two years now wasting space and I am seriously considering yanking them out. But a little voice inside stops me every time. Maybe some miracle will happen and they'll revive. What do you reckon?
Wokee running to me
And finally, we've named our pup Wokee (as in ewok). Eldest Monkey Boy is a massive Star Wars fan. The number of people who suggested the name (including 500m2) when we were already contemplating it was surprising. I suspect that little squashy face makes it an obvious choice for a shih tzu. Anyway, she's bouncing about and entertaining us with her antics and doing all the things I suspected she would. Except that she is smart. I didn't really expect that! And on the third day I was busy congratulating myself on just how smart she is and what a brilliant dog trainer / owner I was when she left me a present. A stinky little poo in the middle of the living room floor. And since then, despite my dropping her on the outside toilet spot every hour and in a high pitched, manic voice encouraging her to "do your business", she much prefers to do her business in a spot of her choice. Hmm. Cute, smart and independent. A formidable combination.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Roos & Goats and New Fuzzy Creatures

When we returned from our holiday a few weeks ago it was strangely quiet in the garden. Apart from the rumble of trucks out the front door and the yipping of the yappy dogs next door, there was a sound I was missing... crowing.

Seems while we were away, someone in the neighbourhood made a complaint to the council about the noise from Mr P's roosters (remember they were mine originally).

So he ate them.


Then I started to hear another sound coming from Mr P's vacant block that sounded like a baby. Seems the goats have been doing the Spring thing and have delivered themselves a lovely little kid.
And while I've been writing this post, my lap is being kept warm by a lovely new fuzzy creature that I've been contemplating for a while.

Drumroll please....
Our shih tzu puppy picked up from the breeder yesterday afternoon.

Aw. Cute.

We're still in naming discussions and I can't comment on her personality yet 'cos she's just settling in and a bit nervy. But she's very friendly and loves a cuddle and comes when she's called.

I don't think I'm going to get much work done today with this little fuzz ball to keep me happy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mulch and Paths and Not-So-Brilliant Ideas

Bean structures for fern canopy
I quickly got cracking on my brilliant idea. Unfortunately, Mark in his comments to my post was right. Whopping big pots cost a whopping lot of money. But I already have a ginormous lovely blue pot in the corner of my herb patch. My friend gave it to me for a birthday. Trouble is, it's filled and has flowering snap dragons growing in it. Also, some little amaranth seedlings that I've been nurturing for weeks have finally taken off directly in front of the pot. So I was cautious about moving it but impatient to start the job so thought I'd give it a go anyway. Completely unsuccessfully of course. You'd need to be on strong steroids to shift that thing and the trolley was threatening to snap under it's weight.

So I gave up on that idea and headed to my local barn. I settled on a couple of moderately big pots and maybe next year I'll empty the whopper pot and relocate it in front of the fernery too. Hazel also pointed out a teeny flaw in my fabulous idea. If I managed to grow a pumpkin (and judging from last year's efforts it was a long shot) I was likely to be knocked unconscious by it dropping on my head as I exited the back door. It would need to be a rather sound structure to hold the weight of pumpkins and I only have experience building flimsy structures that I'm forever fixing after a storm. Nope, on second thoughts my brilliant idea wasn't so brilliant. So I've taken 500M2's advice and have planted some beans in the pots. I'm hoping they will provide at least some shade for the ferns. And I planted the pumpkins up the back hoping they'll climb the kids' slide and the chook shed.

If only I could manage to get a bean to germinate and grow more than 5cm without being chomped by a snail. Mrs Bok and my fellow bloggers recommended Lazy Housewife beans when we were at our  Bloggers' Meet the other weekend so that's what I've planted. And their name really appeals to me naturally.

Since finishing the kids' bedroom renovation I've been the laziest housewife ever. I've retreated to the garden instead and have been in a frenzy of de-grassing and path-making. Remember when I unearthed a brick path a couple of weeks ago? Well I worked a few blisters onto my hands extending the path. We have loads of recycled bricks stacked up against our shed wall. So I managed to make a bit of a dent in those and overcome my fear of red-back spiders in the process. And I also dug up a fair bit of the grass along the way.
Extended path with emerging corn patch in the foreground
I'm thinking I might lash out and get some euca mulch to mulch the remaining paths and maybe also the sitting-about spots too. I remember my mum using it on her garden quite a few years ago and it looked good and felt lovely and soft underfoot. Has anyone else used it? What do you reckon?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Occasional Brilliant Idea

Every once in a while I come up with a bloody good idea. And then I spend the following couple of hours thwacking my hand to my forehead wondering why I didn't come up with the brilliant idea earlier.

We have a little fern garden at our back door that is flourishing. Check it out.

Making this fernery was the first spot of gardening I did at our place. As you can see I've spent more time on the garden than completing essential, tedious, jobs like painting around the window frames on the extension. That's been eight years in the waiting but hey it's a very fiddly job and not very satisfying. Now at the moment the fernery is thriving, especially 'cos we've had a lot of rain. But in a few weeks the Summer sun will be high in the sky and the edge of that garden will be touched by it. And some of those fronds will burn and shrivel. In past years we've constructed some ugly, flimsy protection with shade cloth. And I have wondered about building a permanent overhead structure - but that's too much work and expense and would take a lot to convince Monkey Man. But yesterday I had my brainwave.

I'm going to get a whopping big pot and plonk it right in the middle of the pavers. Then I'm going to erect a bamboo teepee and string up some wire from it to the balcony. And then I am going to grow a protecting canopy for the fernery of Summer pumpkin vines.


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Melbourne Bloggers Met

Yesterday I met a few bloggers at the Digger's Spring Festival in Heronswood. I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling a tad nervous beforehand. What if they only seemed nice on the screen? What if they didn't recognise me by the ridiculous yellow tiger I'd pinned to my frock and I had to walk around all day wearing it? What if they thought I was a tosser? Anyway, I needn't have worried because everyone was lovely and kinda just like I imagined.

Mrs Bok organised the do and she had the uncanny knack of being able to spot everyone within the first three minutes. Even those who hadn't posted pics of themselves on their blogs. She was as chirpy and lovely as you'd expect and she quickly offered us all a sample of her vegemite chips (which tasted as expected of vegemite). Barbara from The New Good Life is blessed with the smiliest baby I've ever seen. She didn't frown or spit or grump the whole time. Just sat happily in her sack grinning at everything (although just a warning Barbara, Littlest Monkey started off that way too). Pheobe from Ballynoe Cottage from now on will be known by me as the garden expert. I'll be sending her all my garden questions. She even knew botanical names. And how to pronounce them. Definitely an expert. And Hazel was as lovely as I'd imagined. Still my favourite Victorian blogger - right on my wavelength. (Hmm now I'm feeling nervous that she didn't think the same of me!).

Anyway, we spent a lovely morning and early arvo wandering about Heronswood checking out the veggies and eating scones and perusing the seeds. Of course I couldn't resist making a few purchases. And Mrs Bok gave us all a pressie of a bottle top seedling waterer.

And the day would have been completely lovely if it had ended when we waved goodbye at the gates planning our next meet up at the Melbourne Flower & Garden Show. But unfortunately, an hour earlier (at noonish) I had bid the Monkeys farewell and sent them off to the beach. They'd started to get bored with flowers and veggies and I knew it wouldn't be long before the hissy fits started and my fellow bloggers would cop an eyeful of their true natures. So I sent them away in the car. Leaving myself stranded, but with instructions that I'd ring shortly to be picked up.

Only Monkey Man didn't answer his phone when I was expecting my chauffeur drive home. So I decided to take a wander down the mountain (it might look like a hill but believe me it's a mountain) and meet them at the beach. But they weren't at that beach. So I decided to have a bit more of a wander and walk myself to Dromana. Where there were shops. And as I'd already indulged in Mrs Bok's vegemite chips I decided some more chips were in order. But this time I chose those pretend healthy vege chips that claim to be 40% less fat but come in a 50% bigger pack and taste 70% less good. And I scoffed those while sitting on the beach and made a few more fruitless calls to Monkey Man's answering service and bamboozled myself trying to understand the instructions to the Digger's clover kit.

By this time it was getting rather late. And I started to worry. Something was clearly wrong with Monkey Man's phone. Maybe he was waiting for me back at Heronswood and worrying about where I was. So I started the long trek back along the beach and up the mountain. Only this time I didn't stroll, I walked at a brisk pace with an anxious look on my face. And I arrived with much panting at 3.30pm. But they weren't there! The car attendant fellas were rather impressed with my trekking (or that's what I hope all that laughing and offering of seats was all about) but they hadn't seen the monkeys.

Now Monkey Man I must tell you is a very bad driver. And we drive a rather old, very small car. And I have quite an imagination. So I sat there for half an hour wondering what road they'd been scraped off or whether a monkey had drowned and numerous other scenarios.

And then they arrived.

With casual smiles and all barefoot and sandy. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE TIME IS? Turns out Monkey Man is so relaxed that he didn't even notice his phone was out of range. And he was having such fun racing with the monkeys along the beach he didn't even think about the time. Or about me. So we all jumped into the car, along with my mum who lives nearby and who I had phoned in a bit of a panic and she'd come to keep me company while waiting. And we drove back down the mountain, along the beach and to the ice cream shop. Whilst I gave them a commentary of the trek I had made and all the landmarks that I had already seen. Twice.

So it was a lovely day until the end. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures but Mrs Bok has made up for that. Her post today is chock full of snaps. And there's even one of the bloggers and their feet. But my foot, I fancy, looks rather clean and bouncy and not at all the miserable, red, blistery thing that it is today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unearthing Garden Secrets

Melbourne must be the only city in the world that gets a public holiday for a horse race. We are sport mad in Australia and even sport madder in Melbourne. We have sport stadiums all over the place. If you don't follow the football people look at you like you must be loopy. And to be sure I am. But sport just bores me silly. Don't get me started on my sport rant.  Why can't Australians embrace the arts... Anyway, really don't get me started because I become very boring. In fact I have been known to make up facts just to sound more knowledgable when I'm on a rant. Recently at a family function certain nameless family members declared themselves to be climate change skeptics. Well you should have seen me turn purple and start up on a rant.

But I'll leave the blog-ranting to Hazel who does very thought-provoking Sunday rants on her blog. And I don't think she makes up any facts.

No, I'm not complaining that yesterday in Melbourne was a public holiday so the nation could stop and watch some horsies running about. Because I do love a holiday and because Cup Day is the day that marks for Melbourne gardeners tomato planting time. Unless they are me. I had planned to plant the tomatoes but I got stuck unearthing surprises in the ground.

On the weekend, I started to dig up some grass to plant flowers beside the shed when I discovered a brick. I kept digging and discovered more bricks. I soon realised that I was unearthing a path that hadn't seen the light of day for quite a few decades. And the fantastic thing is, this path is right where I was planning on making a path. Remember I consulted you and had decided to get rid of the grass and make mulch paths? Well someone (who has now likely gone to their grave) has done some of the work already for me. But in brick form which is much nicer and more practical.

The funny thing about unearthing a nice surprise like this is that I started to get a bit greedy. I found myself crossing my fingers in hope that the path would continue and pave under the plum tree for me. And I was a little disappointed when of course I found that it didn't.

I started fiddling about in the garden around noonish and just couldn't stop. I was interrupted at 5.45pm by my family. Still digging.

Unearthed Garden Secret No. 1 - The Path

We live near a railway track and in the very early hours of the morning last weekend I was woken by the crashing and banging of men replacing the railway sleepers. Monkey Man offered the workers half a dozen beers for half a dozen railway sleepers and they were happy to oblige. So we scored some garden edging. I dragged these to my backyard (with much huffing and puffing) and as I was unearthing the path I also managed to make some raised beds.

Oh, and I also dug up this old key. Which was rather exciting again as I imagined when it was last held and by whom and where was the door standing that the key unlocked. I fancied I could have been an archaeologist if I had my career to start over. But then I remembered those documentaries I've seen with archaeologists sitting about in the blazing sun for hours on end working with a teeny brush and I know that would be no life for me.

Unearthed Garden Secret No. 2 - The Key

So anyway, yesterday, on the day that was supposed to be dedicated to tomato planting, I didn't have time. Instead I chopped out the broad beans and made a smashed broad bean dip for lunch with friends. Delicious served with sourdough bread, slices of tomato and marinated feta cheese.

I've read that green manure crops and broad beans are good for the garden because they take nitrogen from the air and fix it to the roots to later be released into the soil. Yesterday, while I was chopping up the broad bean plants I accidentally unearthed the roots of one. And I saw with my own eyes what these little nitrogen nodules look like. Now that was exciting too. So I quickly took a photo for you and then dug it back into the soil.

Unearthed Garden Secret No. 2 - Nitrogen Nodules

I did plant my tomatoes in this same bed last year and would have liked to do a bit of crop rotation but for reasons which I will not bore you with, they will be going here again. But on another day. Because after all that path excavating and sleeper hauling and broad bean double peeling I am pooped.

Smashed Broad Bean Dip
• double peeled broad beans (as many as you can be bothered doing)
• 1 small onion finely chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• olive oil
• salt & pepper

Double peel the broad beans. Slowly cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Smash the broad beans with a mortar and pestle. In a bowl, mix the beans, garlic, onion and oil together. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with sourdough bread, slices of tomato and feta cheese marinated in olive oil.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well, although I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like, I have been busy as a bee both in the garden and in the house.
Look what we've been busy with - plaster, wardrobes and painting in the kids' room! It's a massive improvement from what it was. (That's a shadow on the wall not a mistake with our painting). And despite doing very well in my theatre design classes at uni, I realise that choosing paint colours for house walls is not my thing. It has completely done my head in over this last month. Nevertheless, I think it's turned out well. In fact it looks so beautiful I'm reluctant to relinquish the room to the Monkeys.

In the garden I have surprised myself in a frenzy of pulling and planting and planning following my de-grassing post. I have been checking out your blogs and ideas and taking your advice. I've started pulling up the grass and plan eventually to have mulch paths. Because I'm a wee bit lazy, I haven't taken your advice and done the job properly. Yet.

I know I ought to lay down layers of wet newspaper and then mulch on top but I don't have enough leaf mulch. So I'm just doing a start job for the time being.
New under the plum bed (see the two bean seedlings that weren't eaten by Beverly)
Under the plum tree I've pulled up the grass and have decided to put some big, roundish pavers in. When I find them. I also decided that I could make some more garden beds there. It gets filtered sunlight over summer so something will grow. I popped in some herbs - all self seeded from elsewhere. And in the bit of patch under there that gets more sunlight I popped in some beans. Which already started sprouting until Beverly escaped from my newly erected chook gate / veggie protector and gobbled and trampled most of them.

I made a new veggie-protector gate to keep the chooks out of the patches. No hammering or bolting required - just digging a bit of a hole and popping in some old crates that have been hanging around our junk pile for 9 years. Unfortunately, the slats are the perfect size for a sneaky silkie to squeeze through and help herself to fresh seedlings. So I need to do some more work on it.

I've been extending the current beds and imagining flowers and herbs and veggies in every spare spot. And instead of just umming and ahhing and wondering if it's the right place or if it'll get enough sun, I've just been popping things in - what's to lose. I've put potatoes under the slide - maybe they'll grow. I've mass planted chillies at the back of the chook shed. Pumpkins seeds have been put in pots at the base of the arbour as promised a while back. My table chook tunnel is gradually being filled with pots and herbs. I'm getting there.

But now I'd better get back to filling the new wardrobes and putting the toys back in the kids' bedroom. The best part of having finished the kids' room renovation is that there is somewhere else with a door in which to house Eldest Monkey Boy's new full size drumkit. It has been sitting in the middle of our living room for a month. And it makes a hell of a racquet when thumped by a mini maestro monkey boy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Celery - My New Number One

Silverbeet has recently been overtaken as my number one veggie in the patch. It's been surpassed by celery. How I'm loving the celery. I've never grown it before and I'd read that it's a bit tricky. It apparently needs a lot of water and sucks the nutrients from all around so nearby plants may not do too well. But I've surprised myself with a few bunches of celery grown from seed that are flourishing and have received not much attention from me. We've had so much rain over winter and spring so far, that water hasn't been a problem and the nearby garlic doesn't seem to have suffered either. And I'm just loving that I can cut a couple of stalks from the outside of the bunch and it'll keep growing.

I can never use all the celery when I buy a bunch from the market. And I often have a wilty and wobbly half bunch of celery sitting in the fridge at the end of the week. But not now.

I've been chopping it up and putting it in my lentil soups, I've whizzed it in the food processor with other veggies and made veggie patties for the kids and I've chopped it up with other veggies in a stir fry with rice.

Loving the celery.
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