Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Garden Midwinter

Last month, Rhubarb Whine put up a round up of her garden as part of a Garden Share Collective.

I thought "that would get me organised to post on a semi-regular basis" and had myself hoodwinked so much that I even contacted Lizzie from Strayed from the Table and she sent me through details.

Unfortunately, that is as organised as it got folks, because the bit between when and where I was to post and paste links got me all bamboozled and then my feet got mixed up and there was that adventure and what-ho, its the end of June and no post has been forthcoming.

Henceforth and with alacrity, I shall give you a quickish whip-around, shall I?

This is the Eastern side of the house - in Winter, it gets lovely morning sun and has always, when encouraged, been a source of great things (and when not, a source of nut grass).  This is the bed where the original sunflowers in my header grew, where the lemongrass once presided, and where the garlic chives have ruled the roost for several years now.

The seemingly indigenous ferns have survived quite harsh treatment from visiting dogs in the past and are now working their way to the sunny corner that once had a Jade (or money) tree - which it seemed was pretty, pretty useless in its famed "money" gathering but very, very good at hiding paper wasp nests.

V has planted Rocket, Wom Bok, Pak Choi,Parsley and Coriander in this space, joining the Thyme, Oregano and Sage (or "dinosaur sage" as my workmates refer to it, as the leaves grow to an enormous size).  You will note there is no Pak Choi in the photo collection, and that is because it is all in our tummies - it was too good!!!

A great deal of the work done in enhancing the drainage/suck up ability of the outer rim of the garden can be measured in V's sweat and tears - not too much blood has been lost (although the air has been blue on occasion - especially in regard to the quality of fill that was used on the block that seems to contain 3 parts rock to 1 part dirt).

Whenever it rains here - and it does rain here, indeed it does - we get a moat form and, due to neighbouring blocks all being built up and garden beds blocking all drainage - it takes a long time to go away.

On top of this, as you can see, we have neighbours.  They aren't too intrusive or obnoxious but they are most definitely THERE - and no doubt to them, we are HERE - so as a two-fold attack, V has been putting in screens and breaks and drainage routes to try and gain privacy and a way to soak up some of the sod.  Definitely a work in progress.

The Frangipani tree has been here since forever.  When we first moved here in 2006, it had a large circle of dirt surrounding it, as the mower man had a great belief in Round Up as weed control.  In fact, every edge had a good 2" gap between the grass and the cement, because he seeminly much preferred to poison to edging.  Many years, many hand-picked clover patch and a few miracles have now seen this gorgeous (albeit dormant) specimen rising from a ring of stones (courtesy of the abovementioned fill).  She gives lovely creamy flowers every Spring - and has now been joined by a dwarf pink variety and another cream in a different corner of the garden.

Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who admire her, and she can be quite alive with ant activity whenever it rains (and have I mentioned it rains?) and therefore the "wouldn't it be great to be a kid clambering up those limbs" thought gets very severely kyboshed.

We have planted sweet peas and peas in this little patch.  There is one problem with planting both of these plants in the same bed - and that is knowing which is which.  Given I was having panic attacks earlier in the week about the lack of flying insects I have seen this year, scratching my head over whether to harvest the flat snows or wait until puffed by peas is a pleasant problem to contemplate.

The central plot now holds a very prolific chilli tree - as with all good chilli trees, beginning life as a bargain bin hidden gem but bearing great sensations for many a meal, creating tradition - and strawberries courtesy of Mum's garden.  We have a lot yet to learn (and are eager students) much about strawberries, but the bounty thus far has been favourably received.

This bed is a mixture of nostalgia and hope.  During ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald, this bed held a very promising crop of corn - unfortunately one of the surprisingly more-pleasant (relatively speaking) aspects of that was the high winds, winds that V valiantly tried to shield his corn crop from with judicious use of Paris' cubbyhouse - yet the winds prevailed and the crop of corn failed.  A month or so hence, out of an old compost pile, a small number of seedlings emerged, and V has carefully brought them into the sunshine and, despite the unsolicited advice from one of the neighbours, is hoping that good intentions will overcome the spoken fact that "corn does not produce in the Winter months".  Just your regular Accepted Science vs Optomistic Belief corner of the garden.

The interesting purple leaf belongs to Mustard, a green that is awesome for the compost, apparently.  We have tested the edibility and, while definitely palatable and gotta be healthy for you reviews, have yet to find the secret to admire the flavour without either drowning it or being subsumed.  Or it could just be we have a unique crop - but I have not yet ceded to defeat in that matter.

Yes, there are more Wom Bok here also - obviously the Winter Sun is still a little too eager to allow the leaves to form ball (or whatever the technical term is), but I have hopes of the results being okay - although I feel that regarding it for too long may not be conducive to this outcome.

The giant tomatoes are there entirely by their own choice and design.  All we do is keep the numbers of these triffads down to manageable and attempting to keep them from certain beds in hope of eventually getting  good soil balance (and defy nemotodes) with some sort of crop rotation - again, science is creeping up on divine intervention here.

The back corner was "the shrub that you never wanted to lose a ball under" when we first arrived, and is on the spot where my family first learned first hand about the dangers of Wasps to my brother when we were young and they had first bought the house.

However, over the years (and it appears they are years I didn't label any of my posts and therefore cannot find the relevant posts for perspective), the shrub has been pruned and shaped and the undergarden has been formed from compost and leaf litter and lawn clippings and self-seeded everything grows in abundance.

See that sweet purple flowered plant?  That is Borage.  I have to remind myself of that several times a day, as I know V got very excited about Borage and Comfrey after he went to a Permaculture Workshop earlier in the year (amongst other things - including Amaranth with boiled eggs) and I always think its the other.  Or maybe it is.

Anyway, usual blurb on the tomatoes - I did get close to them whilst on crutches to give a good prune, because that is my forte in the garden - I wield a good secatuer.

And as you see, we are looking forward to both a rather bumper crop of Sweet Potato Leaves but perhaps even may emulate last year's underground bounty.

Here is that bit of the yard that is so handy.  Its where stuff gets put.  This is an essential part of any working garden, I have found.

Just along from there you can see our neighbours.  Hopefully soon, we will be able to say "just along from there, you can see the great bamboo screen" but they are still young and as a result, we and the neighbours either have to force greetings or ignorance at the sudden appearance of the other while relaxing in our respective spaces.

Mind you, with V's earthmoving, we may eventually be able to build a wall - no?

The South-Western side gets nearly fully sun come Summer, and those hippeastrum give great bloom in November.  Last year when I lifted and separated the bulbs, I had hundreds moved to other parts of the garden from this bed - all from one clump (a large one, admittedly) when I first moved here.  It is quite a luxury, actually, to be able to just plant them wherever and, if they fail, it can be called composting!

The Lime tree is the only survivor of 3 fruit trees we got for our wedding - but it is worth 100 trees.  Unfortunately we have had to be quite strict with Neeming and Banding it, as ants have been farming aphids with great success - I got less than a dozen limes this season after a bumper crop last year - but I have high hopes for next season.

In the garden we also have these little beauties - Bush Babe gave a set to V for Christmas, and they have proved the best gifts out.  They even acted as our torches during the events of the Australia Day weekend.

There is so much to say about this picture - about the neighbour and his widow and the meaning of that yellow-flowered vine and the pruning of it; about the punk bottle-brush; about the blocks of flats; about the bales of hay - its a work in progress.

This front flower-bed is going through flux - the marigolds have just been trimmed of all but new buds and I envisage they will go by then end of the month - but they come back - as do the wierd hybrid flowers that are self-seeded and apear to be a mix of some fire-something flowers and some coral-something flowers that a seedlings guy at a market gave to 'Salina several years ago to encourage her in gardening.  The Ponytail Palm is another yarn and happy to be part of our garden family.  Paris is having a marvellous time watering and getting wet and cheeky.  The dirt in the background is plans for the future strewn with today's garden waste because who knows, one of its incarnations may be a Marigold Strip!

A friend gifted me this plant.  She doesn't know what it is, nor do I.  At one point we thought it may have been a Galangal, as it has a very distinct (but we can't quite place) perfume when disturbed, but the rhizomes aren't pink enough to convince us.

For some reason, once upon a time a Happy Tree was planted in the front garden - benath a verandah.  This was before my time.

For some reason, this was pruned.  I may have been responsible.

We have learned much about Happy Trees.  We have learned it is not a good idea to plant it beneath a building.  We have learned fairytale morals about cutting and creating more.

Anyway - I have the post almost finished with 9 minutes to spare - I hope you enjoyed the meander.

If you want to see other gardens that Lizzie is sharing, go to:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seven years ago today...

...a boy young man sent an e-kiss to a girl lady woman who had caught his attention with her weaving of words and she e-kissed back in response to his stories of smiling and supermarket trolleys...

Being, perhaps for the first time in that seven years upon the date of our anniversary in a position where we could do the whole celebrate - both in terms of child combinations and manana - and in need of an excuse to test said children upon the frontier of babysitting - we proceeded to try and organise ourselves in the general direction of a night out...

(Well, one child - 'Salina would be completely fine now for us to leave her to her devices - those devices being of the i- variety - and in truth, she may well be able to wrangle Paris, but we wanted to not put that responsibility on her shoulders and come home to any forms of sister-cide).

We had sounded out Ms B - a trainee from Paris's school/daycare - on the concept of undertaking such a task, and we were so well organised that by 3pm this afternoon, it was booked.

Unfortunately, our first choice for a foodie date, the newly opened Thai with good reviews, was also completely booked, so we had a babysitter but not a venue.

Still, with the sort of determination that creates a relationship out of a 400km each-way commute, we forged on.  We prepared Paris and 'Salina - Paris sang Ms B's praises ("she is quite nice") and Salina was extra cool as only can be pulled off when you are that age and that stage of evolution.

So - after feeding the girls and getting glammed up, Ms B arrived and we handed over total control to her - we hit the road, the night next 2 hours in front of us and nary a care.

Before driving too far, our minds and taste buds were salivating at the concept of exotic tastes and gorgeous delights, and our sensibilities were busy fist-pumping the no washing up concept.

After driving along the strip a little further, we agreed to settle on not having to travel too far and getting food.

And, upon reaching that resolve, we rounded a corner and discovered the answer to that particular moment's prayers - the Tavern.

We parked as two lovebirds with seven years under out belts do - as close as possible to the entrance and  far enough away from other cars as to not get uncalled for damage.

As I walked towards the entrance, I had one of those momentous decisions to make.  

You know the one, where you come to the kerb and think "hmmm, should I go the extra short step or just clear it in one?"

At that point, the house orchestra really should have struck up some ominous music or the a bit of a trill on the trumpet, because what came next was really a "wah wah WAAAAH" moment.

Yep - I chose wrong, and therefore V suddenly felt a tug and the few patrons braving the coffee-deck got to witness the not so gradual demise of Jeanie's dignity due to an extended step and a twisty foot.

I think I heard something as I fell - I am pretty sure that my foot swore, and I may have emitted a gasp.

After the major operation of moving my carcass to the edge of the driveway, we sat in the gutter and discussed our options.  It wasn't so painful that I needed an ambulance right then and there.  We were out, the kids were safe, we were hungry and there was an eating establishment not too far from where we sat.  As I was swept up by V arose  clampbered to my pins, I determined that I could walk on it without screaming in agony, so we went on with determination.

There were enough tables that I could nab an extra chair just for my foot, so I gently advised V of my need for this setup as soon as possible and took stock of the situation.

For the first 10 minutes I couldn't actually see properly - everything was sort of black and white and rather pixellated, which made checking out the blackboards specials an interesting task. 

V found a menu that I could actually hold and adjust for the vision issues, and I saw that I would need to move my tastespace from "exotic and dangerous" to "rich and comforting" - luckily it moved with an ease I have to give it credit for.

V went up to order and brought me back a red wine (a medicinal requirement) and I crash-tackled a busboy (busgirl? busperson?) to ask for a bag of ice.

We got a chance to survey our surrounds.  The crowd was made up of family parties, groups of old friends and several smatterings of first or nearly first dates.  There was a choice of the kitchen/servery,  trotting on tele, Keno, people or fish tank views - we actually found a table that offered all of that, so pretty chuffed.

The breads came out - and they were truly yum.

It is at this point where I apologise profusely for my woeful camera skills - you can't see how light and warm and fluffy the bread was, or how tender yet chewy the crust.  The orange disc was herb butter, the yellow/green garlic - and both were delicious (although if I had to chose one, the garlic was the one - luckily V agreed and we didn't have to contemplate this)

For my main, I chose Coq au Vin, and went the veges rather than the chips and salad option (the sign of a truly upmarket restaurant, I believe, is they inherently KNOW what sides go with your dish and impose their choice on you)

That gravy there? R-I-C-H and totally yummy.  The mushrooms were awesome, the chicken cooked just right, the corn so juicy - the only very slight downside was that the veges could have had a little less time on them, but in the grand scheme of things, exactly what this little duck required.

 V went the Rump Sophia - Steak and Prawns in a creamy mediterranean sauce - they had cooked the steak to his specifications beautifully (the sign of a truly smart tavern - bugger what the chef thinks, listen to the patron) and the portions were extremely generous.

One of the upsides of tavern vs fine dining, is you can do this sort of malarkey and no-one raises an eyebrow - so you CAN slather your pumpkin and gravy over your last bits of bread and explode your buds with the tasty goodness.

I was going to wax lyrical and do a full review of the food, but the appendage at the end of my leg just gave me a hurry up and blew all adjectives regarding taste out of the water.  Let me just distill it into HUGE RICH and YUMMY.

We would have given you shots of the desserts, but we were far too full to even think about the Cheesecakes or Mars Bar Cake or Puddings - we might think about them another night.

By then, our two hours were up and it was time to take the pumpkin home and find out how successful the babysitting experiment was.

And really, it depends on your measures.

In terms of Ms B being nice to Paris, it was a success.

In terms of 'Salina and Ms B reading ALL of the library books several times to Paris in 'Salina's bed as she missed Mummy and Daddy and didn't want to go to sleep, well, that would be a tick also.

In terms of the house being quiet and Paris being abed - it was a fail.

Still, we are going to try it again some time soon - perhaps practice will improve her ability to relax into the whole "compliant and go to sleep for other people child" that goes well with babysitting.  Apparently.

Happy anniversary, honey - seven years ago, my life was blessed.  :)

(and to top off the whole anniversary festivities, we are now contemplating a medical  opinion on the foot - because I am pretty sure the signals that it is sending me are in the "you may have done damage" part of the inter-body dictionary)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


(This is a poem that I wrote in about 1995.  I say 1995, but it could be anytime around then, as I was quite prolific at the time, and, as is a running motif in my life, I was excellent at keeping a system of indexing my work - ahem - to the point where I would have considered it aberrant behaviour on my behalf to be remiss in recording the date and status of mind, except - well, except that always has been the case in my life (hence the running motif reference) to the point where it isn't working at all and I have to rebuild a new system - and apparently, as I discovered this evening, such a schism in organisational prowess seems to have occurred about exactly when this poem was penned. Anyway... once upon a time.)


Day breaks
                And unrested, alone I wake.
I rise with slumber’s rage

Without the pillow of another spine,
My arms around a chest entwined:
Sleep leaves me best when I arise
With another -
                and shower and wash
                away the night’s devotion,
Massages me with body lotion;
Feeds me well, gives caffeine hits -
                I am soon unclouded of morning mists.

Yet this day crests,
                And alone am I, too.

And I say
                “Poor me”.

                “Poor you.”