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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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Surviving the Hissy Fits

Chives
My littlest monkey is going through a stage. I have to keep repeating Monkey Man's mantra "everything is a stage" because otherwise I'd be wanting pull every curl out of my head. For a couple of months now he's been chucking wobblies... big ones. Neither of my monkeys has ever been big tantrum throwers. The terrible twos weren't that terrible for me. In fact when Littlest Monkey was a baby we marvelled at what a wonderful child we'd been delivered. He was happy to just sit about smiling at everyone. But at six, Littlest Monkey has turned. He is very stubborn - I'll take the credit for that hereditary defect. He takes a long time to make choices. He would prefer to sit at home playing lego than go out and explore the world. He needs to be reminded twenty times to get dressed and have breakfast and to do the numerous other chores associated with getting out the door to school. And he is a very fussy eater.

On our recent holiday he decided he didn't want to do most things. We went snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef - he screamed repeatedly "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" so that all the other snorkelling tourists were snickering or looking concerned or wondering when they would be able to look at the wonders of the reef in peace. At an ice cream shop he couldn't decide what flavour to get - so I chose for him. He took a little lick and had a hissy fit. "THIS IS DISGUSTING!" and stormed out of the shop. While all the other tourists turned with disapproving looks to check out the spoilt child and his ineffective parents. We took a float in a boat on the Daintree River to spot crocodiles and other wildlife. In a voice that was not a whisper he informed everyone that "this is so boring". Only he still has trouble pronouncing his 'r's so it came out "bowing".

Problem is, he has such a cherubic face that no-one can believe he has hissy fits. My friends say he is so cute they just want to squeeze his cheeks and lay sloppy kisses on his neck. So I felt a teeny bit of satisfaction the other day at the park when he put on a show for them. Screaming and stomping about because the food had run out.

Oh yeah, we've been having a lot of tantrums over food.

But the great thing about growing your own is that it really does have a positive effect on kids and their eating. My monkeys are much more likely to try something new when it's come straight from the garden. I'm sure my enthusiasm for the freshness of the veg has rubbed off a bit on them. Last night we speculated about how many minutes old the celery on our plate was. The other day I made pasta. And I suggested that Littlest Monkey choose the herbs that went with the pasta. So the two of us had a wander through the herb garden. I showed him what each herb was and we picked a bit and sniffed it and then he chose parsley and chives for the meal. Good choices - I'm pretty sure lemongrass would not have been a taste sensation with eggs and parmesan. And then he ate it quite happily. Not a whole lot of food went into his mouth mind you but there were no tantrums. And I can't carry on enough about how great it is to have baby spinach growing. I've been picking a couple of leaves each day to chop up and pop into their sandwiches. They will grow to enjoy their greens even if I have to trick them into not noticing it amongst the cheese or tuna or hommus.

So I am hoping that the tantrum throwing stage will soon pass us by. 'Cos it's been catching on in our family and I've caught myself having wee tantrums at the tantrum thrower. Meanwhile, I'll keep sneaking in the veg and tending to the plot.
Look at those dimples. Butter wouldn't melt...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Melbourne Blogger Get Together

Image from here
Mrs Bok from the Bok Flock has taken the initiative and organised a get together for Victorian bloggers.  Yay!

Sunday 6th November at the Diggers Spring Festival Heronswood.
Meet at 11am for the garden tour.  105 Latrobe Parade, Dromana.

Diggers will be running workshops and garden tours and there are activities for little diggers.


We bloggers are all going to wear something yellow - like a flower or ribbon or brooch or something so we recognize each other.


Who's in?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting Rid of the Grass

When I first moved in with Monkey Man nine or so years ago, the backyard was a mess. A great expanse of weed with some well established trees. Good trees mind you, but he can't take much credit for them. The old Polish woman who lived here before Monkey Man had planted a plum and three lemon trees. There were also lilac trees but not much else. Actually, to give some credit to Monkey Man, in the ten years before I came along he had planted a couple of gems - a fig tree and a terrific Japanese maple which has grown enormous. But my neighbour Mr P told me that he reckoned the old lady would turn in her grave if she saw the neglect Monkey Man had inflicted on her garden. Gardening is just not his thing. He likes mess and jungle and non clumping bamboo (don't get me started on that one again). And, it seems, weeds.
Here are some before and after pics from a previous post I did a few months ago. You can see in the before photo that we're in the middle of a renovation - and look at the mess! And loads of grass. Oh and look how little Eldest Monkey Boy is.
Before...

After...
Now, I'm a bit reluctant to post this next photo of this bit of my garden as it looks today... because it looks terrible. I know you will be shocked at how dreadfully messy it is. My only defence is that we've been on holidays and the fortnight before that we were in renovation plastering chaos... and I'm rather lazy and like to focus on the bits of the garden that are working like the veggie patches and ignore the rest. Anyway, here's a rather nasty view of the grass down the back.
Anyway, this week I was reading Dixibelle's blog and she was writing about strategies at her place to reduce weeds and one of her ideas was to mulch the paths that were currently 'lawn'. And it struck me that I too should be done with the grass altogether and maybe mulch all over. And plant more stuff where the grass is and extend my veggie patches even further. Or maybe gravel over some bits? It's hard for me to envisage so I'm a bit hesitant to completely commit but... I think I'm about to embark on a de-grassing project.

So I've been googling about (you know I'm very fond of the google) and have started a little folio of web images of non-grassed gardens. And I would greatly appreciate your input. You can see from my shameful photo some of what I'm dealing with. This shot shows the trampoline to the right, the chook shed, slide and broad bean patch in the distance and is taken from under the plum tree. That colourful thing to the left is a sitting hammock that swings from the plum tree and those planks of wood are seats too. It's actually a nice spot - shaded in summer and sunny in winter... and impossible to see your feet in spring.

So do you have any advice? Am I fighting a losing battle? Have you de-grassed at your place? Any images or links you can direct my way or advice you have to convince me to de-grass or otherwise would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and I don't have much money to spend. So lots of pavers or expensive gravelly things aren't going to work for me. What do you reckon?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Resting

Just a quick post to let you know that I've been away. A lovely holiday in North Queensland.  Lolling about in the sun (smothered in sunscreen of course), walking through rainforests, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and allowing the monkeys boys to indulge in an ice-cream a day.

I discovered upon visiting the tropics that I am no longer fashionable. Not that I have ever been particularly interested in what everyone else wears, but I don't like to look odd. And I discovered whilst lolling about in my bathers up north that I was the odd one out wearing a one-piece.  Seems I shut my eyes for a minute and every female no matter age or body size is waltzing about sporting a bikini... and tattoo.  Well, my white tummy has never seen the sun. And the saggy flabby bits that have appeared below my bellybutton post monkey-births will prevent me from ever appearing in public in a bikini. Although I was once tempted by a tattoo but chickened out when the drill started up and nearly fainted. Which was lucky because it was a really stupid looking tattoo.

So I have posted a modest pic of me in a frock rather than my unfashionable bathers. The shock from the 15ยบ temperature drop upon returning to Melbourne today prevents me from writing a long post - I am longing for my blanket on the couch.  Will post later about the garden which seems to have changed tremendously in my two week absence. Looking forward to reading what you've all been up to. Will leave you with a couple of favourite snaps of the Monkey Boys.
Beach Dancing - Cape Tribulation
Forest Walk - Cape Tribulation
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