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Flora and Fauna

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Get This Prescription Filled at your local Forest

In a world where our children grow up staring at screens rather than laying on a forest floor staring at the clouds, nature needs it’s own publicist.

When kids drive remotes rather than billy carts, slouch on sofas rather than climbing trees, build mine craft cities rather than tree houses, nature needs it’s own advertisement.

While young people text and snap chat rather than talk to each other, pet animals on Farmville but never touch real feathers or fur, use an apple rather than picking one from a tree and eating it, nature needs some media attention.

So some clever people have come up with this… enjoy!

Share the video with a friend or family member.  Not only will they get a chuckle but also maybe a bit of motivation to get outside this week and experience Nature for themselves.

Chapter 27 – Happy Place

Chapter 27
Happy Place


While I sit here in the slight chill of five o’clock afternoon mid August, swatting the mozzies (surely it’s not warm enough for them already), sipping champagne which sits stable on my newly “made with love” outdoor coffee table, I know I have found my “Happy Place”.  The place I will go to in my mind during the rare chance at meditation (sans mosquitos), the place I will go to when things get me down, and the place I hope to be every afternoon once we move full time to the farm.  
The veggie garden has had a few incarnations over the last three years and finally it is becoming the place I envisioned it to be.  The crop circles which gave us an abundance of eggplant, tantrically entwined carrots, furnace hot rocket, and a pestsometimes known as mint, have now been transformed into the promise of veggies to come.  I know if I look back to the previous Crop Circle Chapter I will get a total expenditure of the project, which of course I am avoiding as just last week I called the local landscaping supplier and ordered three cubic metres of organic potting mix to fill them.  I am sure that done the right way with the proper preparation the “no dig” method of gardening works a treat.  But we all know that is NOT me.  Jump in without all the information, without considering the area, the light, the preparation etc and end up with a tub of plants falling over without sufficient soil to hold their roots, and a tub full of grass that has come through the sparse layer of newspaper and taken over and strangled any veggie that might have existed.
So failure admitted (apart from the eggplant), I physically pulled out all the runner grass and put it in the compost, shoveled out the decomposed mulch and deposited around various trees and plants, layered weed mat, and heaps of newspaper into the circles and started all over again.
I had done a rudimentary calculation of the amount of soil needed to fill the five circles and had come up with an estimate of eight cubic metres.  Thankfully Benny worked out it needed more like two, and so I ordered three.  The guy came with the truck and thanks to the new and improved gates we have at that end of the yard, was able to drive right up to the edge of the pots and dump the load.  Looked like a lot of soil to me and I thanked my lucky stars that Benny had dissuaded me from ordering more.
The weekend came and while I was out being Mum’s taxi, the hard work began.  Benny shoveled soil into four out of five, only because I still hadn’t emptied the last one of the grass infested mulch that was in the fifth.  Once I was home I pulled out all stops and got that done and also shoveled in the soil, thankful that he had left the closest pot to the soil for me to do.  That, my friends, was enough work for the day so on Sunday after reading one of the books I had collected on growing veggies, I and my list went to Bunnings for five packets of seeds.  Yep seeds this time not seedlings.
That afternoon I planted the five things I knew I would eat, and were appropriate for our climate and the time of year, yep I learned something from my previous experience.  As they were circles and I couldn’t very well plant rows, I used a bamboo cane to draw out a spiral in each pot, from the centre out allowing about 15cm spacing.  In the first pot I planted silver beet, the second which received the most shade cos lettuce because it keeps the longest and you can just remove the leaves that you need as you need them.  The third I planted with carrots as it was closest to the awesome fragrance of the rosemary bush which I read keeps “carrot loving” pests at bay. 

I also used a little trick I had learnt from a DVD I bought myself last Christmas “A Year in Pete’s Patch” (available from ABC shops) and mixed the itty bitty tiny carrot seeds in with a jar with sand to disperse them.  With a hole pierced in the lid it is the perfect pouring receptacle to plant a thinned out layer of seeds without having to use tweezers to pick them out individually.  The next pot I planted with snow peas and used a different technique.  

As I needed to make sure there was room for a trellis to support the growing vines I drew a line through the centre and then on either side a zig zag planting a seed deep in the ground every 5cm.  This way each of the plants will support each other as they grow and all will be able to reach the support of the trellis.  The last pot I planted celery from seeds that I had had for over a year and as yet they are the only ones that have not germinated.  Reckon there must be a life span for seeds? 
Fast forward one week and all the lettuce plants had sprouted, two weeks and the silver beet, and carrots had broken through the ground.  Three weeks later and I have gorgeous little snow pea plants as well, but still no celery.  I have an old wire chair (cushion just inside the front door for ease of grabbing) and a solid timber side table on adjustable feet that can be leveled to adjust to uneven terrain (gotta love him!) to hold my cuppa or wine, laptop, book or whatever floats my boat.  Happy Place in place, the next job is constructing a trellis that can be moved from pot to pot if needed.  Think I might give that job to Benny as I feel that some hand made pavers will be a nice addition to the garden and a crafty project for Lawson and I to do over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

PS – One week later…. and my new mobile trellis is installed!

Thrills and Spills

Chapter 19
Thrills and Spills
There is a running joke in our family that every 99 steps that I take, I trip up (funny for some perhaps).  So every time I catch my heal on a floor board, twist my ankle on a rock, go off the edge of the concrete path onto the sand and stumble, my beloved mumbles under his breath “99”.  The fact is that I do trip up quite a bit.  I’m not really sure why, perhaps it is my love of heals , even on work boots, or weak ankles or a balance issue but I am definitely more than a little accident prone.  Living on any property with hidden rocks, holes, drop off points, bits of unseen fencing wire, rough and tumble modes of transport, weeds that lasso you like ropes, and all manner of trip and fall hazards means that I come undone quite often.  Here are just a couple of examples…
When we bought the house Benny was soooo excited because it came with his very own ride on mower with trailer and two acres of potential grass to mow.  After much use and abuse the poor MTD, broke some whiz bang component that was going to be horrendously expensive to fix.  So the decision was made to purchase a new, second hand Husquvana ride on because they are big and orange and a lot more manly don’t you know!  As Lawson had become quite a hit at school with all his mates because he would tow them around in the trailer for hours on end when they came to visit, we didn’t dispose of the old mower but just removed the scary blades and voila it became a useful transportation vehicle.  I have myself used it on many occasions to move mulch and dirt and tools from one spot to the next and sometimes had fun being towed around in the back of the trailer too, until one day…
Benny and I usually walk the property at the end of every weekend and take a look at whatever we have achieved or talk about things that we would like to do in the future.  For some reason this one Saturday afternoon I met Benny on the MTD and he offered me a lift.  It is noteworthy to point out that some visiting kids had been playing on the vehicle most of the day without incident.  I hopped in and he took me for a spin around the Secret Garden and then proceeded up the hill towards the top house pad.  About one metre from the top something happened that seemed to play out in slow slow motion.  The seven centimetre long pin that held the trailer to the tractor came out and let go!  Seems the jiggling over rocks, the angle of the slope and my weight put the centre of gravity to the back creating enough angle, just enough that the pin fell out!  
I screamed nay shrieked as the trailer with me in it began to roll (slowly at first) backwards down the shale and gravel covered hill.  I can tell you I have had all sorts of nightmares about what could have happened if I had stayed put and it had picked up speed.  But I didn’t, I jumped out while it was moving which once more changed the centre of gravity tipping me out.  I fell, rolled and slid on the gravel on my forearm and thigh finally stopping on top of a sharp rock, and to add insult to injury the trailer rolled and tipped straight on top of my head! Now I don’t know how kids do it, fall down, get straight back up again, no tears.  Not me thats for sure.
Meanwhile Benny was oblivious to a point until he heard the scream.  He parked the vehicle and came down to inspect the damage.  One thing that Benny has on his side is his extreme calm under emergency situations.  He assessed that I hadn’t broken anything although it felt like it to me, and told me to just sit there until I was ready and then he would help me to get up.  I was soooo sore and sorry for myself.  I’m sure adults aren’t meant to fall out of trailers, heck they probably aren’t meant to be in them in the first place!  
So I have some scars to add to my collection and for a while it was a recurring nightmare, and quite frankly I have not been in the trailer since.  The lost connecting pin has now been replaced by a pair of pliers, the handle of which is much longer than the pin.  Still not sure it complies with any OH&S regulations, but it has been holding things together just fine now for over a year.
I’m sure that Lawson has had many more lessons on how to use the machinery around the place than I have.  Just recently h

owever I found out for myself one important rule with the ride on mower.  While I was coming down the steep section of the second driveway collecting the branches that Benny had cut with his chainsaw and piling them into the MTD’s trailer I decided to just put it into neutral and roll forward just a tad.  Big mistake, HUGE, the vehicle has no control in neutral, no brakes even!  As I careered down the hill picking up speed and screaming “HELP!” like anybody could do a thing, I took a corner way too fast and headed to the water tank on the flat hoping that I could just jump off it if I couldn’t get the thing to stop.  All of a sudden though my reasoning kicked in, I turned the key and put it in gear (which nearly bucked me off the thing) and I had control again, just seconds away from crashing into the trunk of a huge tree.

One evening in front of some guests I stepped off the deck, my hands full of plates and cups, straight into a hole dug out by the chickens, twisting my ankle and falling in a heap.  Not graceful at all, I lay there swearing and cursing the chickens and the pain and the fact that I was going to have to spend weeks with it taped up and loads of money in physio to get it to work not as well as it had in the past.  And this would be weak ankle number two after breaking a minor bone in the other ankle in a similar stair incident two years prior.
There have been many other minor incidents at the farm and now that I think of it, all through my life, so many it seems that I am starting to think that maybe I should take a new nickname from the piece of machinery that has been the cause of so many of my thrills and spills-  “MTD”, which I have since been informed stands for Made To Destruct!  Guess I am!
 

The Pumpkin Patch

Chapter 9
The Pumpkin Patch
 
Gardening is all about experimentation to me.  Perhaps it is more about my lack of motivation to do any research before poking in a seed or planting a cutting, but I am enthralled by the results that very little prior preparation and planning can still produce.  
 
After a recent tour of a friend’s wonderful acreage with organic vegie garden I learnt that one of the best things to control weeds is the planting of running vegetable plants such as pumpkins.  He had a wonderful crop of robust Blue and Kent pumpkins running mad around the bases of his stands of banana trees.  They seemed to be cohabiting quite well and there certainly didn’t seem to be a weed in sight.  
 
Taking this information on board I thought the perfect place to employ this technique was one of the car tyre retaining walls (oh so attractive!) which was both eroding and constantly overgrown with weeds.  
 
We have a number of vegetarian friends (as I may well have previously mentioned) and so I constantly make a big tray of feta, pumpkin and spinach quiche.  Every time I peel and deseed a store bought pumpkin I scoop the seeds into a container to allow them to dry out in the kitchen.  So I had plenty of seeds to propagate in some shallow trays, which soon produced about a dozen healthy butternut pumpkin plants.
 

I know well about caging my vegies when you have free ranging chooks, so after planting the seedlings at the bottom of the tyre wall (thinking they would climb UP it), I put a frame over the plants, covered it with chicken wire and the chookies were not impressed.  From then on the weather was bad and good and wet and bad and eventually with little help from me the plants took off.  And “took off” is exactly what they did… in the wrong direction.  As I watched the plants grow and send out tendrils strangling the “mother of millions” or “cobbler’s pegs” as I had instructed them to do, I also noticed that they were heading downwards towards Brent’s workshop and across the driveway leading to it.  So the tyre hill was still covered in weeds, eroding and UGLY!  The best part is that even though they didn’t GO where I wanted, they did DO what I wanted them to do and we were happy to receive about a dozen lovely little butternut pumpkins which were quickly turned into quiche and so on and so on.
 
Okay so we live an learn.  Back to the original premise.  The top of the tyre wall unfortunately was not retained in any way.  It is the top of the walkway and goes off on a steep slope towards the shed.  So the new idea was to retain a boxed plot at the top of the hill, plants some new seedlings and hope that they would have no choice but to cascade down and give the desired end result.
 
Projects like this really do excite me.  I am even more chuffed when I tell my husband and he asks “how can I help?” rather than telling me it is a ludicrous idea.  So we cut some boards from some rubbish timber lying around.  He helped me run some stakes into the bank to support their weight and we cut some triangle shapes to enclose the ends.  We ended up with a box about two metres long and half a metre wide.
 
I weeded the area as best I could with a little help from the curious chooks, and then it was my job to back fill it with soil.  So I hooked up the trailer to the mower and took it through the gate (closing it behind me) and down to the compost heap.  
 
Each shovel full was teaming with worms which was quite encouraging and I was secretly hoping the curious chooks wouldn’t come down and see what I was doing and get in the way.  I shoveled and shoveled until the trailer was full (no mean feat) and then drove it up to the yard and as close as I could to the walk path which was still a few metres away from the planter box.  Then shovel by shovel I walked all the soil to the box only to discover it was going to take at least another trailer full to come close to filling it!
 
Back again to the compost heap, more hard work, back up to the walk path, and guess who is in the planter box eating all the worms?  There is nothing like a fresh pile of dirt or a heap of garden mulch to get chooks excited!
 
After I finished shoveling in the dirt I shoed the chooks away to plant the seedlings and cover them with mulch.  In quite a hurry I caged the new plants behind a mesh fence and gave them a drink to help them settle in.
 
Weeks have passed.  Much rain has fallen.  The only problem with the location of the pumpkin patch is that at the top of the hill is it doesnt get as much sun as at the bottom of the hill.  The plants are growing and I havent lost one yet but they arent really growing very fast.  I should also mention that it is now winter so maybe that has something to do with it.  Experimentation. Live and learn.

The Things you Pick up at a Garage Sale

Chapter 8
 
The things you pick up at a 
Garage Sale
We had owned the house just over a year at this point and ever since we moved in we have had a “boarder”.  Border Collie that is!  The first neighborhood greeting we received was a visit from two local pooches, the Collie and his little mate a very fat, old Jack Russell Terrier.  Our son Lawson was beside himself with joy at being able to come home every afternoon and play with two dogs.  They were our “Claytons” pets (the pets you have when you’re not having a pet), long before the chooks arrived.  We hadn’t met the neighbours yet and for weeks we were tempted to write a letter and put it in their mail box introducing ourselves and asking the names of their dogs (so that we could properly address them of course).  
 
As I work from home during the week the Collie had taken up residence at the front door whenever I had it open to let in the breeze.  Not inside the house but on the door mat, like he was keeping me safe, or keeping me company.  Lawson would come home every afternoon and throw the ball for him to chase, which gave an indoor child a well needed excuse to get outside and run around.  On the weekends Benny, not know for his love of dogs, would be caught sitting on the step patting and chatting with the Collie or rubbing the tummy of the little fat Terrier.  We were all very content with this arrangement and made a conscious decision that apart from playing with the dogs we wouldn’t feed them (but we did put out water) or do anything else to overtly encourage them to stay at our place and avoid their own owners.
 
The little dog was old and arthritic so only managed to go home down their massive driveway in the evening for meals and wander back up once in the morning.  So he stayed on the road or in the yard all of the day.  The Collie was more fit and adventurous and would chase the ride-on mower, birds, motorbikes etc and we often felt that he slept in our yard and didn’t go home at all.  We did start to get worried that he wasnt having any meals but he always looked healthy and cared for so we let it go.  
 
So our Claytons pets just hung around every day, Collie on the door mat and Terrier just always there keeping him company, sleeping on a mat, the outdoor couch cushions, the new pet bed we bought him (couldn’t help ourselves)…until we realised he was incontinent!   Argh!  Of course by this time he had grown accustomed to getting up on the outdoor furniture, even on the bare bases when we removed the cushions (after a number had to be discarded).  We were at our wits end having to pack everything up every time we left to go out anywhere and weren’t there to patrol the yard furniture.
 
As hard as it was, we had to discourage the little dog from coming over.  Lots of “shooing” and “go on off with ya” later and he got the message and stayed away.  The collie however recognised that he was still welcome so long as he didn’t get up on the furniture and so he continued to keep us company.
 
We eventually met our neighbours and told them what was going on and what we had done to dissuade the little dog (now known as Ben) from coming back over.  We also told them that Scruffy (the Collie) was welcome to come and hang out and play catch and sleep over etc if it was okay with them.  They “said” it was okay but secretly I think they were a little jealous of us getting all the attention when they did all the feeding and paid all the bills!
 
Well, as I mentioned we had owned the house for just over a year and we saw a sign up across at the neighbour’s place advertising a Garage Sale.  We were curious as we had heard whispers from other neighbours that maybe they would be selling up and touring Australia in their luxurious new caravan.  We were desperate to know what they were going to do about the dogs (one in particular) so we thought we would go down the driveway and check out the sale and have a chat.
 
We were greeted warmly and encouraged to have a look through the mounds of books, furniture and tools that they were hoping to off load.  A couple of hundred dollars later Brent was the proud owner of an air compressor and series of air tools and I bought nothing because frankly that was enough!  
 
We sat at the table and asked them about their plans and they told us that although they were hoping to sell up, as the market was slow they thought they would rent their place so that they could get on with their plans to travel straight away.  We took a deep breath and asked “What are you going to do with Scruffy?” 
“Well he’s your dog isn’t he?” replied our neighbour with a wry smile.  “We thought you might like to take him.”
Well, we couldn’t contain our relief and joy!  They mentioned how at first they were jealous and tried to keep the dogs at home so that they wouldn’t go over to our house.  They even locked them in the pool enclosure!  But they soon realised they were punishing the dogs for their own reasons and as they were away most of the time working they recognised that Scruffy was particularly in need of companions that would chase, run and play with him.  They said they would be taking Ben in the caravan as he was small and getting on in years and we were also very happy with that news!
 
They handed us the registration papers which had recently arrived for renewal (timely) and answered all our questions about feeding, worming, brushing, etc etc as this was our first dog and we knew basically nothing!  We were so excited to tell Lawson.  He was beside himself and ran to call his school friends about what had happened.  
Soon after we went for our first of many trips to the Pet Store as new dog owners and stocked up on all sorts of gizmos, gadgets and thingamybobs to claim Scruffy as our own.

Unashamedly an ad for Decor Pet Beds
www.houseandhound.com.au
Again an ad for Decor Pet Beds
www.houseandhound.com.au

 

I know I know but they are lovely aren’t they!
www.houseandhound.com.au

 

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