The year that was – 2013

Much to my surprise 2013 has come to a close. And as is natural at this time of year I am reflecting over the year that was.

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Hugels in the making

I’ve blogged before (herehere, here, here, here, here, and here) about our ongoing hugelkultur experiments. Hugelkultur literally means “hill culture” and they are raised garden beds built up upon a base of logs. The variations that you may find between them is using logs to line the base of a standard edged garden bed, creating the traditional hill from the logs and covering it with the various layers of nitrogen and compost, building them into dug out areas (great for extra water holding in arid areas), circles, lines, 2 foot high hugels or 6 foot high ones. Anything goes really, but the basic model is the wood in some form in the base to rot down. You can even mulch it although you do need more nitrogen to compensate for the greater surface area of the carbon layer. 🙂

Our first hugelkultur beds growing peas, beans, strawberries, raspberries, chard, a peach tree and more.

Our first hugelkultur beds growing peas, beans, strawberries, raspberries, chard, a peach tree and more.

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Gardening between the showers

It’s rather soggy around here at the moment due to a fairly substantial amount of rain (17mm this month) that has been falling this week. Aside from the gale-force winds and sideways rain the weather has been simply delightful. 😉 Continue reading

All systems GO!

It has been all systems go the later part of this week and the weekend. And we’ve achieved heaps. 😀 Continue reading

A day in the garden again

As much as I am both enjoying and making the most of this unseasonably warm start to Spring I must be honest and say I don’t like it. Surely, 23 degrees in early September pushes some weather records. 😦 And not for the better. But as I said, I AM enjoying it and have been making the most of it too. Today we were out in the garden from about 10am until after 6 and I am suitably exhausted. Continue reading

I hate weedmat

I hate weed-mat. 😦
I detest weed-mat. 😦
I loathe, despise and abhor weed-mat. 😦
Just in case you are in any doubt, I cannot stand weed-mat! And when it’s covered in pebbles and a tonne of weeds are growing on top of the mat (yeah, highly effective isn’t it 😦 ) and it all needs to be moved in order to do what we want to in the garden, well it is wretched, frustrating and non-recyclable rubbish. And our front garden is riddled with the stuff!

This is just one pile of weed-mat. There are still 3-4 more piles of the stuff lying around not to mention the bin is loaded full too. Oh, and there is still an area that would be 50m2 to clear of sand and gravel before we can pull up what appears to be thin plastic weed-mat.

This is just one pile of used (and now useless) weed-mat. There are still 3-4 more piles of the stuff lying around not to mention the bin is loaded full too. Oh, and there is still an area that would be 7 metres by 7 metres to clear of pavers, sand stones, sundry rubbish, weeds and gravel before we can pull up what appears to be thin plastic weed-mat underneath. And it must come up if we are to plant there too.

Happy Father’s Day to all those Aussie Dads out there. We spent our Father’s Day making Dad earn his keep I’m afraid. 😉 We have ripped, torn, pulled, tugged, lifted and dug up several different types of weed-mat today, installed 1 of the 2 cherry tree beds (the separation is to allow for a tap that runs through next to our old front steps) and started on the second one. We planted out our strawberries (I’ll pick up more of them on sale up at Diggers some time this week 🙂 )  and I also planted out 8 raspberry canes. I bought the Diggers raspberry collection so I have 2 each of Autumn Bliss, Chilliwack, Sandford and Williamette. I also dug up and moved a handful of Erlicheer bulbs that I missed digging up last autumn and replanted them in a more appropriate position.

The blueberry bed is looking good and holding up well considering there are a few bolts that need fixing. I have 5 bushes, 4 varieties in there. There are 2 Brigitta bushes, one at either end, and one each of Denise, Northland and Blue Rose.


Just one of 2 frogs we found whilst moving sleepers and weed-mat, both re-homed in the creek.

We also extracted the last of the stones (I hope) from the edge of what was the rose garden and is now the cherry bed and repositioned them along the top of the now drained pond. The old path has been mostly lifted up – terracotta pavers – and moved outside Martin’s shed which has been up until now a bit of a muddy mire. I also managed to get a top rail in place to cover where the old front steps were which is now much safer for anyone taller than 120cm at least. 😉 The wire and hooks are ready to go once I exchange the crimps for some the right size.  😦


The first cherry bed running alongside the front deck, lined with rotting lucerne and awaiting soil and cherry trees (I have a Stella to move and a few more to purchase).


Moved pavers with the sand and blue plastic underneath. The sleepers are being reused to form the edges of the cherry beds.

Basically, we have worked our (not so) little hippy butts off today and I for one am utterly exhausted. Narf7, the motivation bug clearly sank its fangs into me early this morning as we have achieved all this despite me starting the day with a migraine. 🙂 Thank goodness for paracetamol, ibruprofen and coffee (ok, not so natural but oh so necessary). The kids have enjoyed another day running around and have have helped with watering in the berries, moving lucerne biscuits (calling them biscuits was less effective this time round – “fool me once Mum” says Jasper) and of course playing and running and having a blast. 🙂 The most help they gave us actually was to help us fill in our giant driveway puddle with gravel collected from various areas of our front garden. The puddle is no more. 😀 and the kids are happy and muddy. 🙂


8 little raspberry canes all in a row. The woodpile still remains. I MUST learn not to make such grand plans.


And the strawberries and rock border along the pond edge.

This week I hope i get the chance to rip up the weed-mat underneath the stones to the east of the ex-path as I plan to build the asparagus bed there and I would dearly love to get that done although with Monday afternoon at gym and visitors on Tuesday and Wednesday I am not holding my breath. Next weekend though we simply MUST move those logs as the fruit trees really NEED to be in the soil now. Hmmm, maybe I should move logs this week instead. So much to do!

The bare rooted trees needing planting are 2 apples, a pear and a nashi pear although the nashi is in a small pot. I also hope to get 4 or 5 sultana grape vines to plant along the fence and I have a Purple Elder to plant out too. It’s a big ‘un though (6mx6m) so I need to do some thinking before making any commitments as to where to plant that one and I am hoping that some judicious pruning in its earlier years will see it reaching less lofty dimensions. The berries and flowers are fantastically medicinal though and the flowers will also do their bit for attracting pollinators to the garden. Oh, and I still have seeds to sow. Seriously, Spring is an insanely busy time for gardeners. Fun though. 😛

Well dinner has just pulled into the drive (Indian take away no less!) so I am off. 🙂 Stay well hippies. I hope you enjoyed the first day of Spring as much as we did. 😀

Yes, it's still a mess and I cleaned up after the photo was taken but you can see where everything fits together here. Cherry beds against the deck. Blueberry bed beside the area we're leaving bare for wood deliveries and guest parking, the area where the pavers are will have another raised bed there for our asparagus and then beyond the existing hugelkultur beds will be this years straw bale beds and later on, more hugelkultur beds.

Yes, it’s still a mess and I cleaned up after the photo was taken but you can see where everything fits together here. Cherry beds against the deck. Blueberry bed beside the area we’re leaving bare for wood deliveries and guest parking, the area where the pavers are will have another raised bed there for our asparagus and then beyond the existing hugelkultur beds will be this years straw bale beds and later on, more hugelkultur beds.


Updates and another weekend

I feel like I’ve been in hiding for the last month. In fact, I pretty much have been. It’s been needed. I am still not back to normal (not that I could really EVER be considered to be normal 😉 ) but I am getting there. I figured though I’ve been appallingly slack on the blogging front and there are several things I need to update on.

Firstly, I blogged about a giveaway that Missus Moonshine was having on her blog where the winner got to choose an outfit from Alicia’s Etsy Shop EvieandLiv. Well, I was the lucky winner of the competition. 😀 I chose a lovely upcycyled blanket tunic dress for Allegra which she loves and looks adorable wearing too. 🙂 I haven’t taken a picture of her wearing it yet but I shall when next she’s dressed in it. 🙂

Anna the goat is doing well too. She’s plumping up and the round of what may have been mastitis has cleared. She’s producing a little milk which we milk most of it out every few days although not completely. We don’t want her in milk at the moment as we’re trying to dry her off to allow her body to focus on gaining weight. Milk production takes a heavy toll nutrition wise and with her current state of underweight it’s not a burden we’re willing to place on her at the moment. We’re also working to get her into optimal nutrition in order to breed her again, hopefully in a month or two so we want nothing to be taking away from her. She is looking better every day. 🙂

The gardens aren’t seeing much action at the moment but it doesn’t mean things aren’t growing well. The broad beans have the odd flower although they’re a less than impressive height. I must admit I am disappointed in our crops this last year but I’m also trying to remember that this is purchased compost, our first year of the veggie beds and the soil and the gardens also haven’t had the full benefit of experience and time. However, I have my second cauliflower head forming in the greenhouse. I don’t know that it’s had enough feeding to be honest but we’re learning. My greenhouse spuds are coming up in their cage on top of the citrus bed. Citrus don’t like their roots being disturbed but a cage of spuds grown on the surface doesn’t hurt them and any extra nutrients from the spuds drain through to feed the lemon and mandarin. 🙂 In the garden beds proper I have 3 beds of garlic all looking healthy and 2 beds of potato onions which also seem to be doing what they’re supposed to. It’s hard to know with them though being an uncommon plant nowadays and also being my first year growing them but all seems well. 🙂 The traditional onions and leeks are growing somewhat but not enough to make me jump up and down and the broccoli that I planted back when we first moved up here are still just growing away with no sign of heads forming. I’ve left them there in order to see what happens but I’m figuring nothing will happen now. Time for them to feed Anna.

The front gardens have ground to a halt sadly since my last update on them. When Martin was gathering wood from off our block across our creek the other week the chain tightening gizmo from his chainsaw came loose and has taken an extended vacation to the land of missing so we’ve been waiting for a replacement part which has just arrived so here’s hoping we can get some more trees chopped down soon. We’ve decided to forego hugelkulture beds for the rest of the garden this year though simply due to the time required but I think we’re going to do best by buying in straw bales for straw bale garden beds. They will rot down to produce good composted straw for the hugelkultur beds for next year. 🙂

We’ve finally sorted out a way to get our washing dry over winter too. Friends of mine have a drying rack they built that hangs above their wood heater which is on a pulley system and we have blatantly plagiarised the idea. 😉 We have a hexagonal play pen purchased when the kids were little, half of which we use as our fire guard but the remaining pieces have been used as lash up drying racks so we arranged for our builder to hook us up one too. I love it! With the fire roaring we can get jeans all but dry overnight and most other clothes dry faster. The sock hangers I built also allow us to dry our underwear and socks quickly (in the space of an hour if the fire is cranking) so it’s one more use we wring out of the wood we burn. We’re up to 5 uses now (heating the house, heating our hot water, cooking stove top and oven and now clothes drying) so i feel like we really are being conscientious about our fuel usage. Whether fossil fuels or not, judicious use of fuels, even the renewable ones, is a wise idea. Trees still take time to reach maturity so it’s not wise to squander that resource. 🙂

Orik is also now in a big boys bed so I’ve been coming to terms with no longer having a baby. He’s still my snuggle-bug so I’m not struggling too much but for the past 5 years I have had a child under the age of 2 to cuddle so this is an adjustment for me. I’ve packed up the cot and put away the cot sized sheets and blankets. Orik is sharing a room with his big brother so I’ve been packing up the nursery too. I’ve met that last challenge with mixed feelings. On one hand I no longer have a baby but on the other hand I now have a spare room which has been converted into a room for us to do some of our educating. Yes, we are considering homeschooling our children. So this last weekend, whilst Martin sourced firewood from across the creek, I spent my time converting an old cot into a desk and moving furniture around to get a working set up for us. I think I’ve got something I can work with. 🙂 The cot desk now just needs painting. The top will be painted with blackboard paint and I might see if I can attach a large bulldog clip to one end for a painting easel. We will see. 🙂

In cleaning this all up I have also been working through more boxes and bags of stuff that’s still unpacked from the move. I’ve a box of books to return to my cousin from when she lived with us over 7 years ago (whoops) and I’ve also come across photos. Several packets thereof. 🙂 I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. Many, like photos from my brothers 21st will be posted on to those for whom they are relevant. Others will be recycled but there are many that I wish to keep for the memories although I definitely have no space for the hard copies. I either need to sit and scan them one by one or find the extra money to pay someone to do that. I have the negatives for most of the pictures too. It sure takes up a bit of space so all I can say is thank goodness for digital mediums and terabyte drives. 😉

We’ve also had to replace the glass on Ignisa. Just another frustrating expense really. I managed to close the door on a large piece of red-gum which broke the glass yesterday evening. Frustrating much? We dug out our electric oil heaters to warm the house and made it through a night that dropped down to around 2C in comfort. The use of electric heating grates at me but it is for only one night and sometimes needs must. Martin had a day off booked and so has changed plans to take the fire-box door up to Ballarat to get the glass fitted. Wood n Energy, through whom we purchased Ignisa repaired the glass whilst we waited to save us the drive up this afternoon to pick it up. Their service has been exemplary I must say and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone in the area looking for a wood stove.

The last lot of news I have is somewhat amusing. Mandy, our female duck had decided to sit eggs again and as I had a dozen in the pantry of her eggs I placed them under her warm feathery derriere to sit which she did with pleasure. I have however been noticing the eggs disappearing one by one until we h=now have 4 left so it appears we have an egg eater. We’ve increased their food and hopefully we lose no more. However, Miss Mandy decided she wasn’t interested in sitting them any more the other day and deserted her nest. Fortunately for us we’d had a slight misunderstanding with eggs and Martin hadn’t realised that Blackie was once again sitting on some eggs. He brought them inside and it wasn’t until morning that I connected the necessary dots, by which time it was too late for Blackie’s eggs. She decided then to help take over from Mandy so when Mandy ditched her nest, Blackie took over. Another hen had also deposited an egg in the next and since I think they’re due to hatch at similar times, I’ve left it in there so Blackie is sitting on 4 duck eggs and a hen egg. It should be interesting to see what happens when they hatch. 🙂

Well, it’s time for me to go and get into the day properly. It’s been a slow morning due to a week of very broken sleep as we’ve had a virus through the family this last week resulting in another hospital run with suspected croup last Thursday night I think (not croup, just a nasty chesty cough for Mr Orik which is on the mend), and we haven’t had good sleep since then.  I hope you all have a productive week and hail the arrival of Spring on Sunday. 🙂