Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hooray!

We haz rain - and what a lot of rain it has been. It was enough to cause a massive morning rush hour traffic jam on the freeway because the rain was so heavy everything ground to a halt. That looks good for much needed rain in the farming areas so let's hope it does get there and doesn't fizzle out before it gets inland.

Meanwhile every little bit of greenery I can see - from the street trees to the multitude of plants in the  veggie patch and everywhere else in the garden - looks happily revitalised. It always amazes me the difference rain makes to plants. You can water by hand or sprinkler as much as you like but it never makes the same change in the appearance of plants as rain does. The only thing that makes even more of difference is if it's a thunderstorm bringing the rain. It turns out the extra shot of nitrogen that makes its way into the soil with lightning acts as fertiliser. Well, that is unless the plant is unfortunate enough to be struck by lightning, of course.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's the Winter Solstice

and for no other reason than I can - and it cheers me up - here is a photo of some of my veggie garden.



I'm in need of cheering up today because I'm supposed to be out with friends for a movie and lunch. Only I'm not, am I. Instead, having been let down my body - something that happens more often than I would like - I'm home, in bed and in pain.

So let me talk about other things that are more pleasant - which brings me back to my garden where we are starting to harvest winter veggies regularly now. As you can see, we're even somewhat spoiled for choice truth be told, and the thought that I'm actually growing some of our food is highly satisfying. Even Pisces, who does not share my enthusiasm for gardening, although to be fair he is more than willing to do any heavy work I might ask him to do, enjoys going out and picking what he wants when he wants it.

There's one other thing I'd like to add to our food production - and that's some hens. Going out and collecting fresh eggs is mighty appealing. That's where Pisces and I do not agree. I grew up in a family which kept hens and ducks so I have a fair idea of what poultry keeping involves. It's not that hard - and actually I rather like hens themselves. He, on the other hand, has no experience of it and sees it as all too much. So for the moment we're at a bit of an impasse but I'm not giving up. Who knows one day soon I might be posting pictures of some sweet little chickens. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Slightly Confused

Not me. It's this daffodil I'm talking about.


It's in the flowerbed where I planted a whole lot of daffodil bulbs about a month ago - you can see some of the still quite small Iceland poppy plants I put in at the same time in the picture - and so far only about half its fellows have started to come up. I wasn't expecting to see more than a few leaves and certainly no flowers from the daffodils for at least another six to eight weeks but this one just poked its leaves out and must have panicked. 'Whoa, it's warm,' it said to itself. 'It must be Spring. I'd better start flowering - and fast.' So it did.

I'm not really surprised it's confused. I was out working in the garden yesterday in a lightweight summer t-shirt and sweltering in jeans - and it's winter here.  While it's been cool at night the days are pleasant - in the low twenties or high teens most days. The big worry is if this fine, warm weather continues because we're way below average rainfall so far for this time of the year and things are looking grim for the farmers if we don't get some decent falls soon. I've been having to hand water every couple of days to keep my veggies going, not what I'd usually expect to be doing at this time of year.

Oh well at least this stray daffodil is brightening the outlook from the family room.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Meanwhile At the Garden Centre

Last night we got some decent soaking rain - the first for this winter. This meant I wanted some more veggie seedlings, of course - what better time to plant them after all - plus some fertiliser and other oddments from the garden section at Bunnings. As well we really needed to see what alternatives there are to our old and unreliable clothesline, its tendency to fold up whenever we put sheets on it being disconcerting to say the least.

Well, we're still without a functional clothesline but we do have most of the rest of what I wanted - as well as a few impulse buys. Everyone needs a mushroom farm in a box, right. The other thing I was hoping for was asparagus crowns - I have a small bed already but I want to plant more. I couldn't see any and went to ask. A sales assistant went to enquire while I waited.

Soon there were three people, two women and a little man who looked remarkably like a leprechaun, discussing my problem. Much debate went on then they all disappeared into the depths behind the checkout. I waited. The leprechaun suddenly popped back out.

"It's not looking good," he said and disappeared again.

A minute or so later he was back again. "We're talking to horticulture," he said and was gone.

In a little while he was back shaking his head sadly before he was disappeared around the corner of the building. The woman I had first talked to reappeared. Apparently I was a couple of weeks early so I'll have to go back again. Oooh, I can buy more seedlings then, I guess. What a sacrifice, a prospect Pisces is less impressed by than I am. Can't understand why.

The leprechaun reappeared and helped pack up my purchases. As I looked back on my way to the car he smiled and waved cheerily. What a lovely way to end a shopping trip.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

I've Been Busy

Well that's what I'd like to say. Truth is these days  - and by these days I mean ever since I got sick at the end of last year - I only have a limited time span in each day to achieve what I need to so all the other stuff just keeps getting pushed back. Still my health is slowly - oh so slowly - improving as I whinged to the doctor the other day. He, nice man as he is, said, 'Well, it'll take as long as it takes, I'm afraid.' which was not what I wanted to hear. I've reached the stage of frustration where I want to push myself and I do. This invariably ends badly.

And that, my friends, is why I am sitting here in my PJs at 1:00 PM today. Yesterday I set myself the task of editing a short story and sending it out. Even to be considering this is an improvement because I haven't been able to summon up the energy - or brain power for that matter - to write or edit or anything else for the past six months. I expected it would take most of the morning and I was right. I was almost finished when I took a break about 1:00 PM to walk around in the sun and water the pots.

When I came back disaster had struck. Word had crashed taking with it all my edits from the previous two or so hours. I'm not sure how this happened because I was sure I had saved all but the last few minutes. Apparently not. It turned out to be a blessing in the end because I remembered pretty much what I had done and was working my way through the corrections when I realised I had a problem. This is a science fiction story and the science part was working well and making sense - except I'd forgotten to explain how these folk got around. I remembered when I wrote it  - oh so long ago now it seems - I had thought I'd go back and sort that and obviously hadn't. I had a picture in my head and every time I read it I presumably saw the image in my mind but neglected to put it into words.

It wasn't that hard to fix but by the time I had done that, finished the edits, fixed the formatting (which had gone completely haywire and kept reverting to something I've never even used) and sent it off it was nearly 5:00 PM. By this time I've usually been back in bed for a couple of hours. I closed up the computer so exhausted I could barely see and I literally stumbled to my bedroom where I collapsed on the bed, too drained to even get changed for an hour.

So today I'm paying the price and I'm off to bed as soon as I put up this post.

Monday, May 29, 2017

More Birds

I was out in the garden on Friday in between showers when I heard a sound I couldn't quite place. It was something like a tapping or cracking and intrigued me. So, of course, I went looking for the source. Guess what I found.


It's a bit blurry, I'm afraid, but the only place I could get a photo from was quite a distance away. The birds are - as I discovered today when they flew over again and I got a glimpse of red - forest red-tailed black cockatoos. These particular cockatoos are a sub species of the red-tailed black cockatoo which are unique to southern Western Australia where they are listed as vulnerable.

They are feasting on 'something' on my neighbour's Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia) tree. The Silver Princess is a truly lovely small tree with silvery, weeping branches and large, spectacular red-pink blossoms which are followed by equally large - 30 mm in diameter - gum nuts.  I suspect the 'something' is new buds or flowers because they flower from May to September and I noticed a couple of flashes of red among its leaves in this afternoon's photo below. If you look carefully you can see one flower in the middle of the left hand side upright branch and others up near the top on the far right and the reason you can see them at all is because these blossoms are big as well as beautiful.



I also suspect that there won't be many more flowers this year if the cockatoos keep on feasting but my neighbour, like me, is enjoying the birds at the moment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Of Cats and Magpies

A friend sent me something on Facebook - a picture of a cat carrying a snake and the heading was something along the lines of 'Well they didn't like the mouse I gave them, or the bird yesterday but they'll love this'.

While I've had cats bring me mice or rats as food gifts - that was in the days when I let them out during the day - none ever brought me a bird for which I'm very grateful. My cats are now strictly indoor ones. After I lost one to feline AIDS - a terrible disease - I couldn't face that happening to another furry friend so I talked to the vet. He said that, as our house is large and there are plenty of comfortable, sunny places for them to absorb essential Vitamin D, indoors would be fine and it has proved to be so. We used to take our previous cat out for walks on a lead (and he didn't show any interest in leaving the house otherwise). He was an very easy going boy and here he is in his Christmas finery, which I have to admit was not his favourite thing, not that he ever protested.



The Facebook post brought back memories of a magpie that lived in our very large backyard when I was in my teens. Magpies are highly territorial and Maggie, who couldn't fly, had claimed our yard. He couldn't defend it himself, of course, and so formed an alliance with our dog for protection. He would proclaim his territory and challenge every other magpie in the area to battle and when they arrived to deal with him he'd shriek loudly for the dog who would race out from wherever she was and get rid of the intruders. Maggie would then warble triumphantly as if he had done the deed himself.

Magpies live in family groups and, probably because he had no kin of his own, Maggie became very attached to our family, in particular to my mother and me. When we sat outside he'd climb onto one of our laps where he'd lie on his back to have his tummy rubbed or clamber up onto a shoulder where he'd sit rubbing his beak behind our ears. The other way he showed his affection was by bringing us food gifts. We were given a lot of dead mice, their fur carefully plucked off, as well as assorted insects and on a couple of occasions tiny scorpions, their stingers broken off. These were not actually welcomed by us but they were obviously well meant and we could hardly explain why we didn't want them so they were accepted and then disposed of. There was one that really freaked me out though. 

That was the day when I was working in my garden with Maggie pottering around with me as he usually did, snatching up anything that took his fancy. He suddenly dived into some leaves and emerged with something in his beak that he started to thwack against a rock. I wasn't taking much notice until I felt something on my shoe and heard a soft warble. I looked down to see a centipede - not something we often found in the garden. It was about 15 cms long and draped over my shoe. I jumped, yelled and kicked it away. Maggie was puzzled. He raced over to pick it up, brought it back and laid it down on my foot again. It was limp and definitely dead having had been broken at each segment of its body. Now I'm not a fan of centipedes, even dead ones, but it was obviously a gift. I picked it up and offered it back. Maggie stared at me with a very puzzled expression, head on one side, and when I didn't show any signs of eating it myself he finally decided to take it away and eat it - much to my relief, I have to say. Also much to my relief, he never offered me a centipede again.