Monday, October 16, 2017

We Haz Frogs

As you may or may not remember I have a cat. Now Mr Puss is 'special' and not only because he has a potentially life threatening health condition which means he get rather spoiled. Having had a very scary beginning to his life, he is inordinately afraid of everything and everyone except Pisces and me. Because of this he's always been an inside cat. We have a large house and he's never shown any interest in braving the outside world being more than happy to just follow me around. He occasionally pokes his head out but that's it. We've had other inside cats and they've all been happy to walk on a lead but not this boy. He wouldn't even accept a harness when he was a kitten.

To help make up for his lack of outdoor activity I keep cat grass in the house, something he goes into a frenzy of delight over. I grow it in two long water well pots that I rotate in and out of the house. Water well pots as you may know have a place for water in the base which wicks up to keep the plant wet and are filled through a hole in the side. I don't usually use this on the cat grass pots because I don't want to bring undesirables like slugs and slaters into the house, so I keep the hole taped over - but when I went out to bring the new pot in the other day the tape had come off.

This hole in this particular pot is quite small - about 3.5 cms across - and I don't know why but after I picked it up I decided I should tip out the car grass to make sure all was well. Since these pots are rather weighty when I went to put it back down it landed rather heavily. Out of the hole popped a large brown motorbike frog (Litoria moorei is its proper name and it gets its common name from the call of the male which really does sound like a motorbike changing gear). It was so large in fact that I have no idea how it got inside in the first place. It sat a few moments staring at me before it was followed by a tiny - and very pretty - green and cream juvenile about 2.5 cms in length. The big fellow took off and disappeared but we had to relocate the little one to the frog pond since it froze there on the hot concrete and I had visions of it dying where it was.

Since then I've found another similar little froggy among my seedlings and these are unlikely to be the last because I noticed yesterday there were at least half a dozen large tadpoles already with legs as well as scores of tinier legless ones of every size you could think of in the frog pond. Most of these will not survive for long but while it may be sad, it's probably a good thing given that just about every potential frog dwelling place in our yard is already occupied - something Pisces doesn't always remember so that startled yells as he lifts something are getting pretty much standard around here.


Monday, October 09, 2017

She Has a Point

Jo, of Jo on Food, Life and a Scent of Chocolate, commented here the other day that perhaps I should change my profile to gardener instead of writer. I can see why. My posts lately have been more gardening than anything else. I seemed to have lost my writing mojo with my illness. No matter how I tried my creativity had fled and all I managed to do was to struggle through each day and - if I was lucky - fiddle around a little in the garden. I'm not sure if growing food counts as creativity but it should. You're making something out of soil, water and seeds after all.

Not that I haven't always gardened, of course. I mentioned once before how I was gifted with my own garden when I was nine and in one way or another I've gardened ever since. The thing about gardening is that it's restful on one level - pulling weeds is hardly mind stretching, just methodical and repetitive for instance - but needs careful thought on another, especially if like me you like to grow at least some of your own food. You have to plan to make sure you have a regular supply of crops coming in or you will end up hungry.

In this it's very similar to writing or any other creative activity. Even for a pantser like me you have to have some idea of where your story is heading - so planning - and there's a lot of time spent on the repetitive task of just getting words on the page. Finally, though, you get to pull it all together and that's the harvest of the finally completed and edited story.

The thing is I wasn't able to do any of this. I started blogging more regularly in the hope that it might help but I had not one creative thought in me and I had just about resigned myself to just messing around with plants forever - until yesterday that is when an idea suddenly sprang into life. It's been percolating all day and for the first time in over a year I feel that wonderful rush of wanting to get words down of the page. Whether this will develop into anything worthwhile I have no idea but for now I'm heading to Ulysses (the writing program I was using before this hiatus) and I'm going to see what happens. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

I've Been Gardening Again

In the aftermath of the storm - and with the arrival of some lovely warm, sunny Spring days - I decided it was time to plant at least some of the summer veggies. It was Pisces' fault because I had mentioned I needed some potting mix and as we were passing by our local garden centre on Friday he suggested we pick it up and have a coffee at their very pleasant cafe - Waldecks in Stirling if you're interested. Naturally enough I then wandered off to look at the seedlings - well, what else would I do with temptation mere steps away - and stocked up.

We came home with tomatoes - lots of tomatoes because I found some heritage ones I wanted to try and I'm none to sure of how successful they'll be, capsicums, more sweet corn, zucchinis, a couple of different kinds of basil, spring onions and two different cucumbers to add to what I planted last week. Over the weekend I planted all except the onions because I wanted to make sure the aphid problem really had finished first. Now, apart from the onions, all I need for this first planting are pumpkins - they will fill up any vacant spaces and some more beans, bok choy and lettuce although I will be doing staggered follow up plantings of most all the way through the season.

All this planting and warm weather means I've had to hand water daily. That's very time consuming so this morning I decided it was finally time to get out the sprinklers. At least that was the plan.

I went out early - Puss thinks I should wake up at daybreak to dispense food and clean litter trays and luckily my body clock works that way, too, so we're both waking up at about 6:00 AM these days - and the first sprinkler would not connect with the hose. Dammit. The second wouldn't either. nor the third. Things were getting desperate when I finally found one that did. It was only a temporary solution though because the veggie patch is an awkward shape and to get an even coverage without wasteful overlaps I need all four sprinklers.

Pisces was awake by then - and extremely grumpy  - but he worked his garden fittings magic and finally we got the two most important sprinklers working. Why sprinklers that clicked into place on the hose perfectly at the end of Autumn no longer work I have no idea - but I've now handed it all over to himself to play with. I'm just hoping he'll have managed to resolve it by Saturday, which, if it doesn't rain first, will be the next time I need them.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Windy Weather

It certainly was. We've just had one of the Spring storms we're prone to here when a cold front comes up from the south bringing strong winds and heavy rain - rain is much needed so you won't hear me complaining about that at least. The wind was blasting the house, so much so that when I went out to put something in the bin I was almost blown off my feet.

We had very little damage although the sound of bits of tree - only gum nuts and small branchlets fortunately - hitting the roof above my bedroom at the height of the storm was a bit disturbing - and we are certainly better off than those left as some were without power or with roofs blown off or fallen trees. The veggie patch took the brunt of it here. When I went out yesterday morning the coriander was flattened - luckily it's still only in flower or I'd have lost all the seeds - and the borage was a mess. I grow that against a trellis given its tendency to snap stems at the drop of a hat - or a careless brush past - but that wasn't enough to protect it this time. Those weren't the only casualties. Half the snowpeas had been ripped off their trellis, too - not that this was too much of a loss since they've just about stopped producing and are starting to die off. There were other minor problems but they are just that - minor.

The coriander was in most urgent need so I started by making a temporary fence of stakes around its bed high enough and secure enough to hold the plants upright. Luckily they're in a long narrow bed and their stems aren't broken or it would have been much more difficult. When I turned to the borage it was obvious the bulk of it was too damaged to rescue - though I did manage to save a couple of plants ready for a certain small girl who loves to eat the flowers - and I ended up filling two big bins with it and the remains of the snow peas.

My back was telling me I should leave it at that but I had some sweet corn seedlings that desperately needed to go in and Pisces had obligingly shifted a big bag of sheep manure to that part of the garden and all I had to do was to spread it and plant them so, of course, I did. You know how it is. You start with one task then you see another and another. Gardening is especially like that, I think, which is why I then remembered I had started to empty the compost out of one of the bins a few days ago and I should move and spread the rest. Then I saw some weeds that needed to be pulled out and really I should put around some slow release fertiliser and so it went until suddenly it was around 3:30 PM and Pisces was hovering around looking worried because I had seized up so much I could barely walk.

It might seem silly to push myself so hard but the truth is working in the garden clears my mind and is deeply satisfying. I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago and we decided that gardening was good for the soul and it is. I'm still struggling a bit today - the arthritis I've had since I was a girl is not forgiving - but it was definitely worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Yes, It's Definitely Spring

because the masked woodswallow is back. I only see it at this time of the year and my favourite bird guide - The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight if you're interested - tells me that they are nomadic and migrate seasonally to the coast which all fits in with their regular appearance here. As you can see below they are handsome birds and I suspect it is here to breed since their main breeding period is September to December although there can be earlier and later nestings.

Adult male masked woodswallow
Photo by Peter Jacobs
 from Australia

Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0









I'm more than happy to welcome them because they are insectivorous and, as a gardener who tries not to use any sprays or poisons if at all possible, I need all the help I can get in controlling pests naturally. I'm not completely pure in this as I'm occasionally forced to use Dipel (a naturally occurring bacteria that is fatal to caterpillars like those of the Cabbage White butterfly but has no effect on anything else and I confess I did spray the swarming big headed ants (yes, that really is their name and they are a exotic and significant pest here) out on the paving a couple of days ago although I'd probably have left even them alone if they hadn't swarmed over my feet and bitten me. Mind you if they excavate much more under the paving they are likely to find me less accommodating.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Well That Was Odd

I went into the kitchen to clean up after lunch and there on top of the plate of food scraps on the bench was a small (about 2.5 cms in length) piece of brown plastic with a couple of prongs jutting out. Where it came from, or for that matter what it was, I had no idea. I couldn't think of anything it could have come from so I put it out of my mind and disposed of the scraps. Then I opened the dishwasher and there was another similar small piece of plastic on the open dishwasher door. That they appeared on opposite sides of the kitchen made it even more bewildering.

Weird, I thought. Then I noticed that the two prongs on the new one were hollow and seemed to correlate with those on the other piece. Even more odd. I pushed them together and the prongs connected and clicked into place. Then I noticed writing on the top piece. It was a brand name but as far as I know - and, as I've now felt compelled to go through every drawer in the kitchen and trawled the manufacturer's web site, I'm pretty sure - I don't have and, if I remember correctly, never have had anything that made by this particular manufacturer.

We'll probably never know where it/they came from but I have a theory - formed after living here for many years of strange things turning up without explanation. We're either located on top of a portal into another dimension or we have some very tricky fae folk, with far too much time on their hands who like to amuse themselves at our expense, living nearby. The only logical conclusions, don't you think.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Ducky Tales

So there we were a couple of days ago just about to go out when I heard a loud honking noise and I went to look. Coming along my neighbour's driveway was an Australian shelduck with four ducklings in tow. She was obviously very distressed and under attack from the resident ravens while a pair of kookaburras were looking on with definite evil intent.

Our neighbours heard the commotion and joined us as we tried to encourage her to find shelter. These ducks often nest quite a distance from water and all would have been well if we could have persuaded her to change direction so she was heading towards Lake Karrinyup which is about a five minute walk away. But she was determinedly heading in quite the wrong direction. There are other watery places in that direction - Star Swamp (misnamed as it it is actually a pretty little lake in a bushland reserve) on the other side of several very busy major roads and Lake Carine, also in bushland and over major roads. Both are about a twenty minute walk from here.

My neighbour tried to contact someone who might be able to catch and release them in a more appropriate place but could find no-one available. So things were looking pretty grim. We had an appointment and had to leave - there were five other people there by now and I figured they would be able to handle the situation and truthfully, however sad it was, I was starting to think it would be more appropriate to let nature take its harsh course.

We were coming home three hours later when we spotted a neighbour who lives five houses down standing by the side of the road staring into their neighbour's garden and stopped to see what was going on. And there was mother duck and now there were only two ducklings being dive-bombed by the ravens and kookaburras. Mother duck was still heading in the worst possible direction towards the busy roads but she suddenly veered off through their open garage. She'd spotted their swimming pool and all three dived in happily bathing. We left our neighbours working out where they could find a large enough net to try to catch them since chlorinated swimming pools do not provide much in the way of sustenance and that was the last we expected to hear of it.

Not so. Yesterday we heard that they had finally managed to catch them and taken them to our local vet when mother duck had one final surprise. Of the two remaining ducklings one was a shelduck but the other ... was not. We had noticed that it was considerably smaller than the others and much darker in colour but how mother duck ended up with it remains a mystery.