Saturday, August 13, 2011

Would've, should've, could've

I would have spent the day in the studio today, except that dearest husband is working in Sydney during the week at the moment and so Saturdays and Sundays are now IMPORTANT FAMILY TIME. I should have spent time in the studio today because I need to sort myself out, shake myself up and DO SOME WORK on my BAO books, but I really, really wanted to spend some time with Trouble and Strife, doing family things. I could have spent just some time in the studio and the rest with my family but you know, I just didn't...

Instead we all spent the afternoon in the garden, digging, rotivating, and planting! It was glorious.

View from on top on the pile of mulch, just up the driveway from the veggie garden entrance.

View of everyone else working!

Darling Daughter's little patch of heaven!

And a view from near the house, looking the other way...

So far we've planted potatoes, dahlia tubers, dahlia seed, gerbera seed, a climbing rose, a celeriac seedling and celeriac seeds, mixed heirloom beetroot seeds, leek seeds, spring onion seeds, and mixed heirloom carrot seeds plus lots of rhubarb, bergamot and plenty of asparagus. Darling Daughter has the climbing rose in her garden bed: she reminded us this morning that for YEARS we've been promising her a garden bed of her own and so today was the day! After Daddy rotivated it we dressed it with Dynamic Lifter and fresh soil, then I helped her to plant four strawberry plants, a speedwell, some flower seeds and heirloom carrots and lettuces. And in her own inimitable way the carrot seeds were sown thickly in the shape of her name (thinnings will go down well with the guinea pigs, we reckon) and lettuces were arranged in a heart shape. It's a creative approach that I hope I share since I'm planting flowers cheek-by-jowl with the vegetables partly so that the garden looks lovely and - there is a pragmatic reason too! - to attract pollinators, of which we have few judging by the fact that I had to hand-pollinate all our cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins. Future plans include a hive of stingless native bees.

No, not a vegetable

And yes, unusually for me (I'm known as a bit of a Luddite) I've also been seduced by technology in the form of my new Windows phone. I don't like having to have a new mobile phone (it seems very wasteful and recycling facilities for gadgets in Australia is still in its infancy), but since we don't have a functional landline it's a necessity and especially at the moment since I've got prospective candidates for the Principal position at Darling Daughter's school phoning me at all hours to discuss their applications... Anyway, my old phone (top right) has been on the blink for a while: there's nothing more frustrating that phoning someone or being phoned and the connection going after 30 seconds. Repeatedly. It turned out to be a fault with either the phone or the SIM card, and as I was entitled to a "free" upgrade I took advantage and ended up with the LG phone you can see above.

We're a non-Apple household and I can almost hear my Apple-loving friends yawning since the number of apps etc. for Windows phones is probably a lot less than for i-phones, but bear with me: I've been having lots of fun downloading various favourite albums from our networked MediaCentre onto my phone, with the realisation that I could listen to Verdi on the headphones while sketching! I tend to view anything related to games, music or videos on any gadget in a very negative light: why would you want to be playing Plants versus Zombies when you could be drawing/thinking/meditating? But even I can see some value in being able to listen to decent music while doing something else... Yes, yes, I'm very sad, but also very excited.

Now what else do I have to do this weekend? Ah yes, that's right... I have to felt a pocket for my new phone. You can tell I'm a Steiner parent!

p.s. great news this week: there's a possibility that the Regional Gallery is going to acquire one of my paper works for their permanent collection... which was very nice to hear. Fingers crossed it happens.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

After gardening, the rain

Just as we downed tools on Sunday the heavens opened and we had a massive - and very beautiful - thunder and lightning storm. Some of our working bee friends stayed for a while, drinking cider and watching the storm passing over, wrapped up in blankets on the verandah

The timing couldn't have been better! Since then I haven't managed to do more than spread all my seed packets around and contemplate what to plant and where to put it, spending several hours yesterday consulting various gardening books. The result is a plan of sorts, that will see various interesting and hopefully attractive combinations of vegetables, herbs and flowers, designed to provide a sensory feast as well as a sensible pairing of companionable species

This morning I've been to Bunnings and bought poles, polypipe and netting since the last thing I want is the local wildlife eating it after all our hard work. Yesterday I saw a big fat echidna wandering around near the raised beds and of course we have lots of little swamp wallabies and pretty-faced wallabies as well as the usual assortment of rodents and birds. When we are finally paid some more money the vegetable garden will be fenced, which should keep the wallabies out, at least

I realised, of course, that now I need to make myself a great big gardening book with lots of bookmarks and pockets, durable covers, pages for drawing and pages for writing, pages for making lists and pages for planning the next beds... coming soon, I hope, and in the meantime I'm enjoying scribbling on lots of bits of scrap paper!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A veggie garden in a day!

Do you remember this?

Last July I was blogging about how our digger driver Pete had flattened out a pad for our vegetable garden, down the hill from our house but in the sun all year. I had great fun marking out beds and planning them and then... the rain fell, the sun shone, the weeds grew and we ran out of money! Although I did plant some asparagus I'm blowed if I know where it is now... the pumpkins came to nothing and we had 3 watermelons and some beetroot among the couch grass and the occasional nasturtium. Ah well - that's what happens if you don't get on top of the vegetation in this part of the world: it gets on top of you!

Speed through the year and we get to July 2011 and - look away now, dear permaculture/rural fire brigade friends! - a sprayer full of Roundup, a couple of weeks of dry weather and a pyromaniac husband with a box of matches. Dearest husband kindly waited until I was off the block to "off" the problems, with the result that I drove back along the main road one sunny afternoon, looking thoughtfully at the column of smoke rising up from the driveway and pretty much guessed what was going on.

I must admit, arthritis and all, it was getting a bit daunting with wild Australian grasses taller than me and mouse spiders lurking underneath so I am secretly a little glad that the "problems" were resolved so quickly. From now on we're going to be clean, green and pesticide-free...

Earlier in the week I ordered nut grass-free super vegetable garden soil and tea tree mulch, and I bought recycled hardwood planks from the local reclamation yard and lots of carriage screws. On Sunday - a beautiful clear day and not too hot - our gang of working party friends came around at 9:00am and we started putting it all together:

Friends brought ratchets and socket sets, wheelbarrows and shovels, circular saws and sun hats and we provided tea, coffee, cake and lunch (salad, home made onion and herb rolls, home-smoked chicken pieces, roasted vegetables, potatoes baked in olive oil/salt/fresh rosemary/lemon, and home-cured and hot-smoked ham with - of course! - nice beer and cider). We worked until almost 2pm with a short tea-break, then had a leisurely lunch and worked it off again until we called it quits around 4pm.

8 adults over about 6 hours = 48 hours work = a lot of weed-matted paths, two compost bays made from recycled pallets and star pickets, a weed-matted pumpkin/sweetcorn/climbing bean bed, a rotivated and planted potato bed (I've been chitting the heirloom seed potatoes for a few weeks now!), a rotivated and planted asparagus bed with some added rhubarb and bergamot, and four 2.2 metre long/1.2 metre wide raised beds all weeded, stones cleared, wet cardboard in the bottom and 25cms soil and 10+ cms mulch on top.

The whole 'working bee' idea is just great: four couple works out about right since it means that if you do it roughly once a month you're likely to get two working bees a year at your place, and it's just a fun social thing to do anyway. So a huge thank you goes out to Taja, Robin, Ruth, Darren, Elsbeth and Linda with added support from the kids! And dearest husband did a magnificent job with the food, as well as the gardening. Toby had a lot of fun too, once he stopped barking at everyone.


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