Australia day long weekend 2015

I do love long weekends. 😀 An extra day with back up and support with the kids means we both get the opportunity to do some jobs without little people always wanting to “help”. 😉 It also means an extra day where we get to spend time as a family and that is always a good thing. 🙂

We spent Saturday working hard on part 1 of the long weekend plan which I’d put together. Sunday we had plans for a trip to Ballarat.

Last week whilst in Bacchus Marsh I made a trip to a plant nursery in order to pick up a kiwiberry which I’d seen advertised on eBay. Whilst at the nursery I also picked up a male and a female kiwi plant, 2 blueberries and a dwarf red Dacca banana and some strawberries. The banana was in need of a 60L black rubbish bin for its wicking bed in the back deck passive solar greenhouse so we went to Bunnings to pick up the bin plus some extras. After talking with a friend I was also on the lookout to see what else I could pick up to plant in the garden and scored with a native Finger Lime for $29, a goji berry for $9.50 and a Chilean Guava too. I planted the rather prickly finger lime in the greenhouse and put the others into a container with some water to keep them moist. I learned the hard way about crappy potting mix in the kiwi and blueberry pots which dried out in 1/2 a day and didn’t do the plants any favours. 😦

After Bunnings we headed over to fill the trailer with things manure and lake weed. 🙂 Free! The Ballarat sale yards (on the corner of La Trobe and Learmonth Streets) have a huge pile of manure which is free for the taking. Although sellers aren’t supposed to have wormed their animals within a certain amount of time before selling their stock, it does happen so this manure is not organic however, I figure that the worming solution will wear off in the manure about the same sort of time that the manure loses its heat and I’ve used it before and seen huge fat worms crawling in it once it’s cooled down somewhat. I’ve learned the hard way though that it’s best to hot compost it as the last lot which I spread out on some logs for a new hugel bed didn’t hot compost and it grew me a spectacular crop of extremely poisonous hemlock! NOT what I wanted in my garden.

The manure is spectacular in the soil and adds a lot of nitrogen plus the digested grass and hay for carbon but to create the perfect mix, adding some lake or seaweed is better I reckon. Lake Wendouree in Ballarat is dredged of its weed, up to weekly I believe. The dredged weed is then dumped at an area not far from the sale yards (on Gillies Street not far from Gillingham Place). It smells almost like seaweed except for the distinctive lack of the salty smell. Far less pungent than rotting seaweed actually. 😉 There are piles from several weeks ago which are rotting down nicely and are much denser, hence you can pack a lot more into your trailer or the piles of the fresh weed which is much lighter so you can carry more of it. I like the fresher stuff simply for the ease of loading it.

Armed with gumboots, shovels and forks we loaded up the front half of the trailer with manure then the back half and over the top of the manure with lake weed. Forks and shovels in the trailer, a tarp on top and strapped down (we would not have been pleasant to follow if not for the tarp 😉 ) we headed for home. With time constrains of Martin heading out to a music session at the pub we just parked the trailer in the driveway.

Only a small portion of the lake weed. The older stuff is up the back, the fresh stuff is obvious due to its greener colour. I opted against a picture of the manure. It's pretty obvious how it will look after all.

Only a small portion of the lake weed. I opted against a picture of the manure. It’s pretty obvious how it will look after all.

Half manure, half weed. A perfect mix for a luscious Autumn garden.

Half manure, half weed. A perfect mix for a well-fed Autumn garden.

Monday morning and a happy Australia Day saw Martin reversing the trailer into place beside the compost bays before I took the car out to meet a friend, L, and see if some nectarines growing on the side of the road were ripe. Sadly they are still as hard as rocks and tart to taste but the tree has been duly noted for a return visit in a few weeks. I’m keeping that location a secret, had you noticed? 😉

L and I then headed out to Blackwood for coffee and cake before heading on to St Erth to browse the Diggers shop. I came away with a dwarf apple tree, an apricot tree, 4 cranberry plants and several packs of seeds. After a tour of the gardens L headed home to plant up her purchases and I got stuck into building a garden bed for the cranberries.

Cranberry bushes don’t grow in water like they are shown to on the cranberry juice ads (that’s just commercial harvesting) but they do like lots of water but not permanently wet roots. With 3 kids home, home education and being a lazy gardener I figured their chances of survival was best in a wicking bed. A wooden box we’d been using for wood storage that wasn’t working for us any more was repurposed and placed outside next to the pergola and back steps.


Some pond liner leftover from when I built our pond was perfect for lining the box.


Jas gave me a hand by finding the worms curled up in the folds of the liner which had been left outside for some months and they were added to the bed too.


A long narrow pot works for a water inlet and I stapled it and the liner to the edges of the bed.


A hole drilled and a small piece of hose in there for the overflow pipe.


Some soil, a heap of manure in the middle to rot down then more soil on top and then the cranberries in (away from the manure).


Some mulch on top then after an initial worm wee watering in, lots more water to fill the reservoir in the bottom of the bed.

I’ve now got a pot sitting under the wicking bed outlet to catch the overflowing water. Waste not want not right? I’ve since changed out the soil in it too as it was the soil leftover from the tomatoes I’d been growing inside over the winter and up until now. I’m working out what to plant in there now. Something fairly low. The larger square pot is in anticipation of a grape which will be trained up over the pergola.

I’ve glossed over the “how-to” as I’m sure there are far more experienced people who have shared the details online. Google is thy friend. 😉

I also planted out the apple and apricot trees, the blueberry bushes and harvested some potatoes to plant the blueberries and apricot. Again, I’m most impressed with the size and quantity of the spuds I grew. I’m learning more and more that good soil equals good crops. 🙂 The trailer is also mostly emptied. Just a little bit of remaining manure that I think I will add to a garden bed near the front door. I might need a little more soil to fill the bed after or any visitors might be overwhelmed with the smell. 😉

Well, it’s not long after 8:30pm and I am pooped! I ache sufficiently to remind me that I’ve worked hard these last 3 days and think I need a 3 day weekend to recover from my 3 day weekend. Thankfully the weather was much cooler although I could have done without the panic that a 2°C morning brought on. No frost but it must have been close! Anyway, time for me to hit the sack I think. It’s another busy day planned for tomorrow with an official start to home schooling too. 🙂

Going bananas but not for much longer

The demise of the Cavendish banana is at hand. Yes, the writing is on the wall for the Dwarf Cavendish banana, that curvy and beautifully nature-wrapped yellow potassium punch of perfect snack fruit imported to us from tropical climes. Panama disease, the insidious rot that wiped out the Gros Michel banana back in the 50’s is once again the culprit. 😦

I’ve written about the demise of the banana before it looks like Panama disease has reached Africa now, where many people depend upon the fruit for their livelihoods and where it is a major part of the diet (plantains are a cooking banana). This is not a good situation.

Something we may not see for much longer.

From what I read in Wikipedia, Panama disease TR4 (the disease strain killing off the Cavendish banana) has been around since the 1980’s. The strain that all but wiped out the Gros Michel took 50 years to do so. This strain is also supposed to be more virulent. I’m not holding out much hope of my grand kids being able to enjoy a banana, not without significant cost of importing from overseas at least. 😦

On the bright side, my little Lady Fingers banana pup that was toasted in the greenhouse in a frost, has lived to tell the tale. I potted up Lazarus as he has been named (he did come back from the dead after all) into a black rubbish bin made into a wicking bed looking most sad and sorry and he is currently about 15 inches tall and with several lovely green leaves. I’m still not holding out massive amounts of hope for fruit but if nothing else he looks lovely and green and I may get a pup or 2 from him. 🙂

All hands on deck

The deck has inched its way towards being done. In fact it is all but done. A few aesthetic touches to go, possibly a weatherboard or more and a second coat of paint and then all complete. 🙂 Continue reading

Going Bananas II

Back in January 2013 not long after I installed my greenhouse I had a go growing a banana tree. It was a Dwarf Cavendish from Diggers Club and although it is considered a cold zone 10 plant (we’re cold zone 9b here in Ballan) it was thought that inside a greenhouse it might do well. The morning our thermometre registered -6°C outside the greenhouse it also registered -4°C inside and my poor little banana froze itself solid, never to recover. 😦 Continue reading

A rough few weeks

It’s been a rough few weeks here really. Not all bad and not all negative but still and all, I’m looking forward to February very much as it means January will be over.

We added some more chickens to our flock last Friday, 5 more Dorkings (that’s the last of them) and 2 Chinese Silkies who will be our incubators next year. These 2 are also pets for the children. What funny sweet little things they are too. Sadly this morning when I went to check on the flock I was unable to find Mrs Silverpants, the children’s favourite silky. I eventually found her, drowned in the ducks swimming water. I have an awful feeling I heard her fall in last night too as I heard a squawk last night but figured it was the usual of a chook pecking another and thought nothing of it. The guilt this morning… And yes, I know. But I still feel awful. 😦 Blackie, our other little silkie is doing well without her companion fortunately, although I am on the hunt this morning for a replacement Mrs Silverpants. We also lost 2 of our Dorking chicks to Coccidiosis, a common enough illness that young chicks are susceptible to. That’s how John the chicken died. So yet again poor Jasper is trying to get his head around death. I am profoundly glad we kept the death of the 2 other chicks from him. 2 chicks dying has been enough to thoroughly upset him.

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Martin has been working hard to clean up the last bits of the old house and get it ready to rent out. The Real Estate agents are coming out tomorrow to take photos and get it listed which is very exciting. John our builder and Martin have both done an amazing job and I am once again reminded of what an amazing husband I have. I am looking forward to having that house rented out and no longer being a drain on our time. We need to spend that time here. BOY do we need to spend the time here.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds. I need to research my amphibians I think. 🙂

We’ve also come face to face with the information that there are venomous snakes within 50 metres of our house, a though that is sending chills through every inch of my body. Our neighbours have had to deal with the snake bites in their livestock and although we don’t know which species it is we do know that its bite is fatal to a half-grown bull calf and is likely to be a Tiger snake or a Brown snake or possibly a Copperhead too as I believe all of these are indigenous to the area. I tried my hardest to mow the vegetable garden grass yesterday but the mower hasn’t been working and conked out on me again yesterday after I got maybe 20% mowed. I’ll have another go today as tomorrow is going to be hot and that grass is LONG!

I had a bandicoot in my potato beds the other day and came away empty-handed. 😦 There may be spuds down further than I dug (I dug in about 9 inches) but it looks like the 1 thing I thought we would definitely harvest has not done what it was expected to do. The mulch layers haven’t rotted down like expected which is disappointing although I think I know where I’ve gone wrong. Once we do harvest anything that may be in there I’ll treat the 3 spud beds like compost bins and fill them up with the necessary before planting them with broad beans or the like. Hopefully by springtime I will have some compost that I can spread over the other garden beds.

I do have some good news to report though. I contacted my uncle on Saturday as we had recently purchased some used corrugated iron from him and we knew he had more. I gave him a call and teed up to purchase the rest and for once lady luck was on our side as he was driving from Bendigo to Warrnambool for work on Monday and offered to deliver it for us! We now have 30 or so sheets of corrugated iron, some ridge capping and a large metal tool box that he threw in thinking we could use it too. 😀 And at a bargain price including delivery as well! So, Monday morning saw me in the garden with a hand saw, tin snips, an impact driver, some roofing bolts/screws, some iron and the old red gum garden posts from the old home. With Orik in bed asleep the kids and I set to and built a raised garden bed to go int he greenhouse. We then loaded the trailer up with compost and filled the bed (again my wonderful husband helped here, shoveling most of a cubic metre in for us) before planting my mandarin tree (a gift from a friend who attended the home birth of Orik), the banana tree I bought from Diggers Club at St Erth the other day and a Lisbon lemon I bought last year from CERES which was pot-bound and on its last legs. Tuesday morning after we’d topped up the bed with some more soil we relocated some of the plants in the veggie garden which weren’t yet flowering and so won’t make harvest, into the greenhouse. We replanted several Siberian tomato plants and 8 or so capsicums and then filled in the gaps with seeds. We then planted radishes, carrots, purple beans, leeks, chives, rocket and coriander so hopefully in a month the greenhouse with be a verdant paradise of fresh smelling garden and burgeoning harvest. It was exciting and calming and very healing to get my fingers into the soil again. I most definitely need to do some more today. In fact the plan is to build another bed today once I finally wake up enough and locate my motivation (MUST get to bed before midnight).

Sawing red gum posts

Sawing red gum posts by hand. I used tin snips to cut the iron but no photos. Martin dislikes me using the more dangerous power-tools whilst I’m home alone.

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse


Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. :D

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. 😀

We also had a lovely visit from my parents on Sunday where we had a lovely and mostly local lunch in the garden. We had lamb riblets (the last of the non-organic lamb I had in the freezer) cooked in organic garlic, homegrown rosemary and home bottled tomatoes, served with fresh organic sourdough and salad. The salad was all organic or farmers market purchased (I’m not sure on the organic status of this stall) and it was all fresh and delicious. Dessert was sourdough cinnamon scrolls although calling them scrolls is more about their intended shape than the end result. Flopped scrolls still taste scrummy though. 🙂

Maxxie surveying his domain from on high.

Maxxie surveying our domain from on high.

Well, time to finish off the hot chocolate and get some shoes on and out in the garden or the day will be half gone. Not to mention the kids are driving me crazy to get out in the garden.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the Erlicheer bulbs to permanent beds.