Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blooming hardy

Roughly nine months ago, I wrote a post about Carbon Pathways. It's where we cut down a Casurina tree, to rejurvenate an orange, in need of some light and free mulch.

August 2016 - Casurina tree, left

In that post, I explained how we used all of the tree, to mulch various fruit trees, and some roses. I didn't take any photos of the roses at the time, because they looked really pitiful.

We cut the roses right back, as instructed by the nursery we purchased them from. It's meant to stimulate branching and new growth, which we wanted. It's actually meant to be a rose hedge. Maybe one day, it will be?

September 2016

This photo was taken a month after mulching, with the leaves of the Casurina tree. We also used the trunk as a border. This position in the garden, is incredibly harsh. It cops the hot western sun, is on clay and really doesn't receive a lot of attention from us. Certainly not with additional nutrients.

The keys factors to success has been, purchasing the hardiest rose our local nursery could recommend. It's a rose resistant to blackspot, and a lot of the diseases which infect roses, grown in a hot and humid climate. But the second key to success, has been the kind of mulching material we selected.

Aged wood, and woody mulching material, provides the perfect environment for mycelium to grow. Mycelium helps plants take up water and nutrients better, and for longer. Without that structure in the topsoil, everything would be lost via gravity, to the subsoil. So the kind of mulch you choose for your environment, is important too.

September 2017

Still a month after mulching, and the new shoots are really taking off. The front rose is a rugosa rose - closest relative to the wild rose. The original hardy variety. The others in the rear, are a Tiger Rose. Back when we purchased them, they were just known as a Tiger Rose, but now they breed different varieties, with variations on the "Tiger" name.

I'm sure all the Tiger roses, must posses the same tough, disease resistant qualities though. I have not been disappointed with buying these roses. Not one bit. If you have a harsh environment, most traditional roses wouldn't like - look for the wild roses, or any new varieties, sharing the same genes.

April 2017

Four months, after the initial mulching now, and the roses are filing out more. It's autumn, and our roses survived the intense heatwave, we endured last summer. With no additional water or nutrients added by us - other than mulch.

The needle like leaves, of the decaying casurina foliage, was still present, but patches of soil, began to appear though it more. In the above photo, I merely weeded the grasses and weeds, which popped-up in the rose bed and around it, then laid them on the thinner spots of mulch.

I don't worry about unwanted seeds going into the bed. Anything which does pop up, just gets pulled for mulch on the garden bed again. The more I've been doing this, the fewer weeds there are. Plus they are really easy to pull. Although I have to avoid the thorns of the roses!

April 2017

Given this location is such an inhospitable environment, and we just experienced one of the hottest and prolonged summers I've been here (max 45C or 113F), it's remarkable to see how strong and healthy the new growth was, as we entered autumn. It's like we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Which highlights, the correct plant choices and mulches, makes it's possible to keep plants alive through extremes. We have that Casurina tree to thank, and why I'm an advocate for growing companion plants in your garden. The kind which can be used as a windbreak, shade enhancer (but not too much shade) and can afford to be sacrificed at the right time, so others, can continue living.

April 2017

That incredible gift to the landscape, hasn't finished giving either. Just as I'd hoped it would, the Casurina tree started re-shooting, from the stump which remained. Being hardy, is an excellent feature to have at our place. I'm looking to get more of these beneficial trees, as a form of long term mulching supply, and even hedging.

We let this Casurina get to a tree size, requiring a chainsaw to cut down. However, a regular pruning should keep it's growth in-check. So you'll still get woody material for mulching, you'll just use a set of pruners more regularly, instead of a chainsaw, several years in.

A word of caution though, if left to grow to it's full potential, it can get to be a big tree. So unless you plan to keep it's growth in-check manually, I would avoid introducing it into a small garden.

May 2017

This is what the rose bed looked like, earlier this month. Healthy, bushy roses, smothered in blooms. This arrangement, is actually positioned on our property boundary. We wanted it to be a living fence, however, I'm not quite sure if we got our spacing right.

Maybe it just needs to fill out some more?

In the distance

I was really chuffed to see our neighbours planted a pair of Jacaranda trees, near our rose boundary. I was a little concerned at first, they might shade out the roses - but really, they'll be benefiting them. They will help shade the hot afternoon sun, while still getting access to sunlight, for the rest of the day.

And Jacaranda trees, don't tend to have thick foliage either. So a nice, dappled shade. I'm imagining the bright purple flowers of the Jacaranda trees, contrasting against the hot pink, and white - later turning yellow, of the roses. I'm so glad our neighbours put these trees in.

Blooming hardy

I don't believe you should have to go without roses, in a challenging environment. These magnificent blooms, subsist on natural rainfall alone. And it can be such a long time between drinks, too. Just select a hardy cultivar, and the kind of mulching material that will attract mycelium to the soil. Also, don't forget a companion plant of some variety.

You might not always want to go out and buy mulch for your roses. I find straw breaks down too quickly in our climate. So a companion plant with some woody material, that takes longer to break down is beneficial. I can recommend the Casurina tree, but for smaller places, the humble wormwood too.

The benefit of having roses, are beauty, delicious fragrance, bee food, habitat for predatory insects near our vegetable garden, a living fence, but also connection with our neighbours. Whenever they pull into their long driveway, and check the mail, they get to see roses. That connection, possibly encouraged them to see what was possible, so planted their own trees with attractive blooms.

 White turns yellow, as the blooms mature

So now we've created a community of biological lifeforms, for a more alluring  outlook, than just brown grass. I'm sure this area will only get more beautiful, as long as we continue to apply the right mulch.

If you want to get this rose, I can highly recommend the Brindabella Nursery in Highfields, if you're a local. They have really healthy stock, and know how to select the right rose, for your environment. But I also think they can be mail ordered to other States. Wild roses, like the rugosa rose, tend to be available, in most locations (here and abroad) too.

I'm looking forward to the rose hips, that will develop into winter. They are full of vitamin C. But that's only if the kangaroos don't eat them all, first!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Time for...

David and I, had the luxury of pottering around the garden lately. Although pottering, usually involves moving large tree trunks, copious amounts of dirt, and breaking up bark, by hand, to use as mulch.

To that end, we've been dealing with two enormous trees, we had cut down, over nine months ago. Our plan was to incorporate their natural decaying process, into the landscape. But where do we put two, 30 meter trees, so we could still access the land they were felled on?

First felled, August, 2016

We intended to build some retaining walls into the landscape, which would help us garden more effectively. Because it's hard to garden on slopes, with gravity taking water and nutrients down hill. By using terraces however, we get a more manageable landscape. The tree logs would help us in this endeavour.

Downside, is the short term, intensive work involved. Upside is, it should last as long as the landscape does. So a more longterm pay-off, for the short term sacrifice.

Being more organised

David rolls logs now, like some people roll yoga mats. But we weren't always so comfortable, working on this scale or intensity. As former suburbanites, a lot of the perceptions which gave us security, revolved around ready-made solutions, on demand. Without those solutions on our acreage, we felt subject to it's scale. Believing it required more from us, than we were capable of giving.

Compost, mulch and plants, could always be purchased in large quantities in suburbia. How could we make it happen ourselves, on the scale we were working with, just involving the two of us?

As we pottered around the garden, I was reminded of our former selves, compared to who we are now - dealing with tonnes of carbon, like we were taking a walk in the park.

March 2016

What is the difference between rocking up to a landscape supplier, or nursery with your trailer - and moving tonnes of carbon at home, by hand? It sounds simple enough, but it's, time. Time is the difference. However, it's a little more involved than that.

Obviously, we worked on a time scale, which enabled us to get the job done in stages. David had to clear the area, by removing lantana, other weeds and decaying wood, we left earlier. You can still see some of them, around the tree.

Time was not just important on a physical level, however. As the passing of time was also working on "scale", for us. Evaporation over time, removed moisture from the logs - making them lighter to move. But evaporation also, shrunk the wood, prying the bark away from the logs.

 Tree bark

Time also allowed the seasons, to transform the bark, so we could use it as mulch. Several bouts of rain, combined with a little heat and the organisms drawn to such conditions - and even our 4 year-old, could get into the action, of breaking up tree bark, with his hands. He reveled in it.

I'm not attempting to discredit the benefit of having landscape suppliers and nurseries. But I do believe we become unnecessarily intimidated by nature, and all it's raw forms of material, when it's not pre-prepared - or packaged in a way we understand.

We're not use to seeing time, as a component of large scale, resource management - or that we (small as we are, compared to nature) can manage through a different understanding of using our time.

Natural resources

The above picture, looks organised, so it's less intimidating - but there are several vintages of raw materials, we had to gather and prepare. First, the large tree logs, moved into place, to build a retaining wall. There are large sheets of bark, sitting on the logs, which came off the tree too. We broke it up, by hand, into the mulch you see on the ground. There are wattle prunings, we put down, just to cover the soil quickly. As breaking up the bark, takes a little longer.

Last of all, are the older and smaller tree trunks which had aged in this area formerly. They weren't finished decomposing, even though they'd gotten a head-start on the new logs. What those olds logs were doing, were acting as a soil conditioner for the plants we moved in.

Starting to plant area

Talk about instant foliage effect. Only it's not so instant. I've been nursing this Philodendron Xanadu, in a pot for years. It started as a small plant, and outgrew it's pot regularly. So even though it now looks like it's always been in this landscape, it's still took "time" to grow to the size, it has.

Which is something we don't always get to appreciate, when we have the luxury of buying nursery plants, for that immediate head-start. I personally love nurseries, and glad there are businesses (large and small) dedicating their time to growing so much plant material. I wouldn't want there to be no plant nurseries.

But as our economy winds down from the demands of our time, fossil fuels, freed up for us (ironically) we have to become re-acquainted with the scale over time, equation again. We have to see a way for ourselves to work with tonnes of carbon, moving through our gardens. Rather than feel like it's beyond us, because it is so big.

Lower retaining wall

After preparing the site, David moved the logs into position - burying some, so the tops were (more or less) even. He laid two, on their sides, to use as stairs. This wasn't just a retaining wall. It was going to be a place for kids to explore as well. Peter loves this area. So does the cat!

It also served as extra seating, when we had the kids' birthday party, recently. We swung some piñatas from a nearby tree, and spectators came to our new seating arrangement (complements of 12 years, or more of stored carbon). All to watch blindfolded children, wave a stick, in hopes of hitting the target.

So this labour of ours, was not just for the purpose of improving soil fertility so plants could grow. It was also about making this site more accessible to people.


To this end, we also used some of the branches as steps. Nothing fancy. Just a practical purpose, for the raw materials we had available. The goal was to use all the trees. Which we still, have yet to do.

When I work on a scale like this, I wonder why myths about food scarcity for the world, perpetuate. Nature is putting this stuff out there, in more amounts than people can handle. But it's not as simple as rolling up to the nursery with a trailer, or the supermarket with a car.

I don't feel as nervous about food security, with first-hand experience of the fertility being dropped in my backyard. I'm not feeding our family on the stuff we grow yet - but I am developing a better understanding of the resources being accumulated by nature, for that purpose. I just haven't worked with them as much, as I've worked with nurseries and trailers. It takes a bit of adjustment, to be comfortable turning so much raw material, into something you can use.

Upper retaining wall

This is the upper level, being put into place. The walking track created, to move the materials, will remain the access area for the garden. This track snakes from the upper level, down to the lower level.

Flowing areas, create better access - especially on slopes, where terrain can be more challenging to navigate. Our design reflects what we are capable of achieving in our younger years, so we can use it to our benefit, in our older ones. Succession is nature's original trademark, and it has taught us to appreciate all the stages, over time - to use them for future benefit, as well as, the present.

  Backfill, come walking track

This is the continuation of that flowing track. Or rather, where I'm standing to take the photograph, is the end. Plants under trees, grow better at the drip-line, or where the canopy of the tree ends. As they don't have to compete with so many tree roots, robbing them of nutrients and moisture. 

Building a track, was a better use of area around the tree trunk, than planting foliage. We will be planting other advanced specimens, from my container collection too. But they will be vines, designed to grow up trees. So being close to the tree trunk, won't be an issue for those particular plants. But the track will remain clear for access.

Natural designs

What I love about using these large trees, as retaining walls though, are the stories they tell. Like insect trails, caused by beetles, who spend their larvae stage in the tree. Boring into, and eating the trunk, is how they reach the beetle stage. We have an integral, endangered species of bird - the yellow-tailed, black cockatoo, which helps control the numbers of beetle larvae in our trees. 

Without those migrating birds, we'd probably have an infestation of beetles, and a lot of dangerous, 30 meter trees, threatening to fall over.

Signs of life

You can see where the beetle bored into the wood, and where the larvae has traveled. It's so beautiful, and part of the indigenous life-cycle of the tree. It plays host to a food source, for a migrating bird population.

I expect to hear the cockatooes' cries again, come June and July. Which is when they take their new fledglings, on a hunting lesson. And in so doing, those birds will leave their droppings behind, to fertilise the trees again.

There's a lot happening in our bushland, which plays over time. But then we come to utilise some of the resources, to make our lives a little more functional again. The lesson here is, what we end up removing, should be balanced by what we return. Because it is only time, which makes up the difference. If we squander what we return, we only squander our time, playing catch-up again.

Mostly done

Because only time can take resources, grown on the property, and let the seasons prepare them for use. Then there is the time we choose to work outside, moving those resources around. So much of my understanding of how plants grow best, started from that limited view of immediacy. How quickly, can I get what I need, and bring my vision into being?

Yet so much of what's important - the building blocks that give life to people, requires a lifelong devotion to doing without. What we have achieved, only happened because we went without, while nature was busy, growing the means to provide the rest. Then we went without rest, and time for other things we wanted to do, when it came to putting the new area together.

I'm not against bringing inputs in. They can help too. But the danger is when we become entirely dependent on inputs - that we feel deprived or insecure, when we cannot acquire them, in a timely enough fashion. That scarcity mentality, and all the fears that go with it, can cause short term decisions - instead of planning for the long-term. And we are all in it (I hope) for the long term.

Feeding people and eco-systems takes time. So how are you spending yours, and what have you enjoyed learning along the way? I imagine there are quite a lot of stories about who you used to be, compared to who you are now.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Plant saga

I mentioned in my bathroom reno post recently, it wasn't so easy to find a plant that could actually "live" in the bathroom. Turns out, plants have different tolerance levels of light, shade and humidity. I already knew that, but didn't realise how critical it was to an artificial environment, such as bathrooms.

I figured, I couldn't go wrong with a fern, as they love warm, moist conditions. But at the time, I wanted to use what I had - rather than go out and buy something new!

First choice

Enter my "baby panda" bamboo. I had successfully grown this in a pot, in both full sun and indirect light, on my outside verandah. My mother loved it - anyone who saw it, loved it! So I divided it up and gave one to my mother, to enjoy. I had two smaller plants from that same division.

Given it lived in a range of light conditions on my verandah, I thought it was flexible enough for my bathroom. But within a month, my bamboo turned into this...

Poor choice

All the leaves dropped off! I've had this happen to a larger bamboo, when I transplanted it from the garden, and into a pot. In the first year, it dropped all the leaves that were conditioned to direct sunlight. It eventually grew new leaves, better suited to the conditions under the verandah.

So I knew I hadn't actually killed my bamboo, it just didn't like the new, lower light levels. The leaves that grew to live on the verandah, weren't suitable here. So outside my bamboo went, for rejuvenation.

Second choice

So then I was forced to consider buying a fern, from a reputable nursery. This was a maidenhair fern, which my mother would keep in a pot, indoors, so knew it should fair better than the bamboo did.

However, the Adiantum spp, from which maidenhair ferns originate, have over 200 varieties. And, each one is grown, in slightly different conditions, depending on the nursery.

When I looked at the above fern, it had harder leaves than the soft ones my mother would grow inside. Something told me, perhaps this wasn't the right fern, but I purchased it anyway. It turned out, even though it was grown under shade-cloth in the nursery, it still wouldn't thrive in the light levels I had in the bathroom. I took it back outside, before it defoliated, to the extent of the bamboo.

Third choice

So my lovely little shelf, was abandoned for many weeks. I didn't make it a high priority to find a better specimen, as I had too many important tasks on my list. But on a trip to Bunnings Hardware, looking to replace spent shovels, I found a fern, which I knew would fair better.

For starters, it was kept under a roof eave - a dark little corner, with no indirect light from shade cloth. The size of the specimen told me, it had been grown in similar conditions to my bathroom. Which is why it had those big, soft leaves I was use to seeing on maidenhair ferns.

Best choice so far

It's a Lady Moxam variety, which is a hybrid of the maidenhair fern. So a new cultivar. It has survived the longest of the other two in the bathroom, and is even putting on new growth.

My only concern will be winter. It likes temps no less than 12 degree Celsius (53F) and the heater only runs in the bathroom, when someone is showering. So we will see how it fairs through the cool of winter and heat of summer.

I suspect I'm going to have a range of plants which visit my bathroom shelf. I may be able to get my baby bamboo, back in, if I acclimatise it's leaves to lower light levels - as it's more cold tolerant.

So just like I move my pot plants around the outside verandah, at different times of the season, I will have to do the same with my indoors plants. As well as having a place outside for them to go, when its not the right time of year in the house for them. Is it worth it? Well, for a plant-nut like me, it is.

Do you have tricks of the trade, to do with keeping indoors plants, happy? A favourite plant for the indoors, perhaps?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bathroom reno

I finished my bathroom renovation, a while ago, but it took some time to gather the right accessories, to finish it off. I'm still on the hunt for a few things, but when you're on a budget, you have wait to find the right bargain.

I believe the last place I left this particular renovation though, was a cryptic clue...

Mystery object

Back in February, while still enduring the summer heatwave, I showed what I was working on. This little installation, was why the renovation began at all. Because we were experiencing a problem in our main bathroom.

It has to do with moisture (natural environment in the bathroom) and perhaps two different kinds of boards meeting together.

 Pre-drilled Holes

This crack, about a half to a third, up the wall, was where the plaster join was cracking. It was a problem in our main bathroom, as well as our ensuite. It's law in Queensland, to have a special board for wet areas, up to a certain point, then you can have drywall/gyprock, further up.

The bathrooms, are the only place in our entire house, we're seeing these cracks. If it is a moisture problem, weakening the plaster join, or a result of two different boards, expanding at different rates (due to the moisture present) then patching it up, would only be a temporary fix.

Enter, our little wooden installation, to place over the crack. You can see we drilled into the board (above) already. This was to install...

 Plus, boards

 ...a baseboard and shelf. Which results in a permanent fixture over the joint, doubling as a storage area in the bathroom. I mean, who doesn't need more storage in the bathroom?

But those screw heads, were a little too obvious for my liking. So enter the molding, next.

Plus, molding

The molding, not only covered the screws, but added extra bracing for the top shelf. It was installed with little tack nails, I pre-drilled holes for - top and bottom. As it was an awkward place to swing a hammer, so needed the pilot holes first.

But I wasn't going to rely on nails alone, with a shelf. So used heavy duty, epoxy glue, to affix all the wood in place. I originally purchased this glue to fix our dining table, chairs several years ago. I also used it recently, to adhere a ring to the back of an owl, so I could hang it on the wall. I've gotten a lot of value out of that original epoxy glue, purchase!


Once I had affixed both shelves (either side of the window) it was time to paint them. I really liked the grain and colour of the original wood, so a stain wasn't necessary. But it did need a clear varnish to protect it, and made to withstand marine conditions. Which is exactly what I had on hand, in my supplies. I like using what I already have, rather than buying something new.

Same with the tools to apply the varnish with. I cut the base off a plastic milk bottle, and used it to mix the varnish with turpentine, for the first coat. Even the sponge brushes were given to me. I always use traditional bristle brushes, but challenged myself to use what I already had. As my bristle brushes were reserved, strictly for acrylic paints only. This marine grade vanish, was a solvent based paint.

 Ready to go

This is what it looked like after the first coat. It needed to be thinned down with turps, to help it adhere to raw wood. But all subsequent coats, were just straight satin varnish. I still used the milk carton for subsequent coats, as my wide sponge-brush, wouldn't fit in the tin. Four coats were required, in total.

If you notice, I had to tape the window trim and part of the mirror (above) as it's a really narrow space to wield a brush. I'm glad I did that.

Between window and mirror

After adequate time to dry, we were able to use the small shelf to hold a candle, and some shells collected from our last rental. We knew the owners and their son had collected them on their various holidays. He had since grown up though, and our young daughter at the time, had fun, unearthing these gems from under the house, or in the garden.

With their blessing, we were able to take them when we left. They had been living on the bathroom window sills, and it just didn't do them any justice. So it was good to put them in full view again.

Between window and shower

The second shelf, holds more shells, sandalwood scent bottle, and an ornamental succulent. I think bathrooms are a tremendous backdrop to bring outside plants, indoors - which this bathroom really needed.

It was plain, cream walls, from top to bottom, with absolutely no dimension. Yet just outside those windows was a garden. It was my plan in this bathroom renovation, to bring some of those outdoors elements, inside. Which is why you may have noticed, some of that green paint.

I wanted to make a small feature wall, with it...

Introducing colour

As you can see, even before I applied the full colour, this wall screamed utilitarian and boring! I wanted something to highlight the toilet, inviting you to sit on it. Rather than make it look like a harsh, blinding wall of light you needed to get away from.

I tried the colour sample above, first, which was a little too citrus (aka: warm). I really liked the colour in the pot, but it didn't mesh with the existing cream walls. So I went for a cooler coloured green, instead - aptly named, "Cool Aloe".

Feature wall, done

I thought the new colour, looked so much better! Notice the dimension it adds to the white toilet too? It allows the eye to rest in that area now, without wanting to look away from all that white.

Speaking of which, one of the accessories I'm waiting to find, is to replace that white laundry hamper. I thought a nice rattan basket would be more inviting, especially by introducing more natural fibers. But I'll just have to wait until I find the right accessory, at the right price.

Silhouette painting

That green feature wall, however, is why I made the painting of a plant, to go on an opposing wall. I didn't want to paint the whole bathroom green, just invite some feature colours in various areas.

It highlights the plant theme, I wanted to introduce into the bathroom as well. But really, there's no imitating the best - which is why I wanted a living plant in this bathroom, also. Which (surprisingly) proved harder than I thought. You can't have just any plant in the bathroom. It has to like the prevailing conditions.

I needed a dedicated place I could keep it in the bathroom, though.


Enter another naked wall, where the corners just happened to meet. Not very exciting. It was another utilitarian space, screaming desperately for new life.

So I went looking at my local Mitre 10, hardware store. I actually stumbled across it, when I was looking for the molding to build my little shelves. I was excited to find it, because it was perfect for what I needed.

Plus, shelf

For under $25, I was able to install a hidden corner shelf. It added new dimension to the walls, now being used for something other than holding up the roof.

This would soon become the mantle, to hold what I hoped, would become the highlight of the room. A plant! Am I the only one who goes crazy, ga-ga, for plants? Surely not.

Plus, plant

I really loved this plant, it's called "baby panda", and is part of the bamboo family. Only it grew outside in different light conditions. The light in this bathroom, wasn't strong enough. I'll save that story for another post - the saga of finding the right plant for the bathroom.

But that's really all I did in this bathroom renovation. Very small solutions, and within budget. I would have spent around $100 all up. I don't include the new towels I bought, as that was a necessity. Holes were starting to appear in our old ones. I just picked lovely green towels, this time around.

So we went from a bathroom that looked like this....


Sorry, it's not a very good picture. I was rushing at the time, as I wanted to get into the work. I had already started painting behind the toilet.

Over a period of a few months though, we slowly transformed it to look something more like this...


All those additions of shelves, plants, wall art and colour accents, added more dimension. My favourite part was introducing real wood into the room, via the wooden shelves, to accompany the existing, wooden blinds. I loved using the vertical space available too.

While the shells might seem trivial, they are filled with memories of two children (the original collector, and our little archaeologist) and they bring more natural elements into the bathroom too. It looked stale before, now it echoes a little more, the elements of nature.

To think, it all started when cracks first appeared. It gave me the opportunity to evaluate the room, beyond just fixing that little area. What else did it need?

As they say in permaculture circles - the problem is the solution. And I really enjoyed implementing these ones. Although, I don't think anything can really beat this bathroom, for introducing natural elements. If I had to build a bathroom again, I would want that one!

Since this is the bathroom we had though, it took not a lot of effort (but some dedication) to make relatively, inexpensive changes. Do you keep plants in your bathroom?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My passion

One of my great passions in life, is growing plants. Especially through propagation! There's nothing quite like being able to duplicate a plant, many times over, and plant them around the yard. It's kind of magical.

But even more magical, are the plants which show up, of their own accord. It's propagation by nature - and I can appreciate how other animals go about their business (literally) and move seed around for me. Especially after a well-known parent plant, dies.

July 2012 - parent passionfruit vine 
note the silver foliage, of the wormwood (front - centre)

Take the passionfruit vine, in the background of the above picture. It was a splendid producer, with minimal care by us, but it needed more room, than we had beside the chicken coop. So we removed it one year, in preparation to install some new hugelkultur beds in the vegetable area, below.

See part 1 and part 2, of those particular hugelkultur installations.

I attempted to take a few of the remaining fruits, and scatter their seeds around the garden - in hopes more plants would emerge. All but one, didn't make it!

April 2016 - new vine

It was the least likely specimen, I thought would survive, as it came up in an arid area with minimal moisture. I knew it wouldn't survive long, so I relocated it under this acacia tree. I hear these trees are great for allowing passionfruit vines to invade, as they're a nitrogen fixing tree. The passionfruit benefits, as the tree goes into decline - lapping up all that nitrogen near its roots.

I'm happy to say, this vine survived the killer summer temps we had, due to the shade of the hardy native tree. Mulching with coffee grounds and twigs, helped in part, too. I expect this one will be putting out fruit by next growing season. Complete with it's pre-grown, natural trellis.

Much to my surprise however, I found another vine had popped-up in a secret location.

Surprise vine #1

The passionfruits which fell to the ground, on the old vine, were often hauled around the garden, by the brush turkeys or native rats. What seed wasn't dispersed as they were ransacked, were pooped out later. This passionfruit vine, was the result of nature's special propagation tactics - using other animals for seed dispersal.

This is one of the benefits of having brush turkey's in your yard! They pick at your food plants (annoying when they dig them up entirely) and move seed around in their digestive tract. Eventually leaving little nuggets of seeds, waiting for the next rains to germinate them.

Surprise vine #2 - that wormwood again!

Another passionfruit vine emerged from underneath the wormwood bush, near the other one. Which I only noticed, when it's leaves emerged at the top.

So nature managed to illicit several animals, to take the abundance of fruit drop and turn them into several new plants. Two plants, to my one, actually! So I'm happy for the help, and accept the good with the bad as far as living with brush turkey's is concerned. Boy, they can be destructive. But they do play an important part in nature too.

Which is why as much as they annoy me (digging up my seedlings) we find a way to live with them. We're all in this propagation business, together.

Monday, May 8, 2017


I sure have some catching up to do with you all, now our kids' birthday's are done for the year. They were both born in May, 10 years apart. For the first time, we combined their birthday's, just for this year. As we didn't know when David was likely to get another weekend off work.

We were madly preparing in the meantime, to receive some friends and relatives, in a house that we'd just finished doing some major work to - like painting the wrap around verandah.

The verandah - front door

It turned out pretty neat in the end, which I'll detail more about in another post. But we were really stoked to have a properly sealed surface to received guests.

The day before, I gave a few troubled spots a quick mop (all due to toad poo!) and because of the lovely new paint job, it was no trouble at all. So quick to clean! Made all those weeks of preparation and painting, worthwhile.

I received a lot of positive comments, and learned from a relative, how we saved ourselves thousands by doing it ourselves. We paid $1600 in materials, but prices would have started from $4000, for a contractor.

On the big day

But about that party...before breakfast, both our kids tried to go undercover, so we wouldn't notice them. Unfortunately, I found Owl Gal and Spidey Boy, out of their natural habitat - a tree (although Spidey was looking to relocate near the dubious waterspout) so their cover was blown. They put those spidey senses and owl eyes, to good use, and helped dad, put up decorations.

Sarah's friends were great - adopting her younger brother to involve in their games, like chasing girls with water guns! But that's not all. When they weren't running in the bush, there were piñatas to swat!

Spidey versus Spidey

They both had one each, and after they were broken open - friends and adults got into the act, and started tossing what was left of the piñatas around. Trees were climbed, slopes traversed, water-guns hotly fought over, and even over-sized frizbees were thrown.

Just one of the benefits, living on five acres. Where you can run amok without bothering the neighbours. It was a great day, we were told many times. Which is really a testimony of the people who attended. Because we only provided the place and food - they provided the company and entertainment.

And what of that quilt, I had been working on, for months in advance for my daughter...?

On the bed

Well, it was close. I missed her birthday, deadline, but I had a few more days until the weekend, when we had the party. I had a cotton thread, hold-up, thanks to the shipping company's dodgey, label. I couldn't sew without "cotton" thread. I lost an entire day's sewing, thanks to them. But I didn't lose hope. Having located new cotton coated, synthetic thread at a local shop, I kept plugging away, until I got most of it done.

Free-motion quilting

Sarah loved the quilting, so much, she's asked me to show her how it's done. So I've marked that in for next weekend.

She was thrilled, I made one of her favourite characters, instead of the special emblem, the game is well known for. In my research of quilting, I've found it's the uniqueness of a quilt, which makes it so appealing. So I couldn't put just anything on it. It had to be something special. The quilt brought us closer together, and I think, inspired my daughter to try things, just because you can. Because it means something to you.

All in all, it was a great day, filled with lots of fun, and cherished memories. The youngest at the party was 4, and the eldest 97! Now the slow rhythms of our bush existence, will preside again. I'm really looking forward to that - our very ordinary lives, sometimes doing extraordinary things.