Monday, 27 August 2012

Birdwatching for Dummies

Since John is home more often he has set up a bird feeder on a bamboo tripod  near the garden shed. He puts a small amount of parrot seed mix in it every afternoon to tempt some of the local birds and has been telling me how successful he's been. Apparently we are visited by 3 or 4 separate groups each afternoon in separate dining sessions. First come the blue faced honeyeaters, then the top-notch pigeons then the lorikeets . Sometimes there are also some rosellas. Even our chickens have a feast from the seed that the other birds drop so he told me.

We decided to set ourselves up a discreet distance away for some afternoon entertainment with chairs, cameras and refreshments to watch our backyard bird restaurant.

Just as John said, it wasn't long before the first bird appeared - a blue faced honeyeater. We took some photos, congratulated ourselves and settled in for the rest of the show.

While the birds had their feast so did we. Our table was an old bucket turned upsidedown.

Everyone was enjoying themselves.

The ladies were busy foraging in the garden for insects and worms.

Once the honey eaters left, the ladies went to investigate what was left behind.

We settled in and waited for the next lot of visitors,
 had some more cheese and another glass of wine,
and waited,
and had another glass of wine,
and waited.

Meanwhile, the ladies had been sneaking around to the vegie patch and were having their own feast.
By the time I realised what they were up to they'd demolished a lettuce and quite a bit of silverbeet.
They were most indignant when they were asked to leave.

No Miss Chookie. This is not an all you can eat buffet.

Probably because of the ruckus I caused evicting the ladies from the vegie patch, or maybe they were eating elsewhere, but no other birds appeared at the feeder. We finished our bottle of wine, packed up and went inside.
John: "But they've been here every afternoon." 
Ros: "They're camera shy. They always disappear when they see a camera."

I love my chooks but they are definitely no parrot substitute.

Then the next afternoon, as we were packing up the tools after working in the garden, two lorikeets appeared. They even stayed while I went inside to get the camera and line up the shot.

They saw us but it didn't seem to worry them.

Then this morning as I was getting ready for work I looked out and a couple of Rosellas were having breakfast. I was too slow with the camera that time though.

We have quite a few birds visit the garden but most seem to disappear whenever they see a camera. (or maybe it's me) We don't want to give the birds enough food that they become reliant on our handouts but I do hope that they feel they can come and have a treat if they want to and become regular visitors.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Glebe Garden Club Plant Fair

The Glebe Garden Club held its annual plant fair this weekend. By comparison with the larger Plant Expos it's quite modest. There were about 50 stalls selling plants. Some were commercial nurseries, but quite a number were private gardeners or club members. This is what makes this plant fair special. With every plant came the added bonus of advice from the gardener that grew the plant.

A feast of flowers for Spring
It was nowhere near as crowded as some of the larger shows so we could browse at a leisurely pace and the stallholders could chat about their own gardens. I met a lady selling begonias, chickens and ducklings whose garden is only a few minutes drive from us. They are part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme and have an open garden in November but she gave me her number and said if I call first I'm welcome anytime, so I may not wait until November. She breeds Indian Runner ducks and says they get on very well with chooks. I would love to have a couple.
For the cottage garden enthusiasts

There was even a "live band" although it wasn't exactly my style of music, it added to the carnival atmosphere. There was a program of speakers throughout the day and a "cafe" area with all the food supplied by club members, so you could make a day of it if you wanted to. We were in a bit of a rush so didn't stay to sample their wares, though the plates of goodies looked tempting.

This was what we came home with
 - some maidenhair fern for along the shady path, a few begonias and some more succulents.
I now have more than enough to fill my succulent wall.
John couldn't resist this abutilon. It's going into a hanging basket.
Euphorbia pugiformis
This stall holder had her succulents all planted up in old crockery (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage). I'd better keep away from op shops for a while or I may end up with a collection of them.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

I love a good harvest.

This is why I grow vegies - not just to look at them. I love being able to pick and eat food straight from my garden knowing that it is chemical free and fresh.

We have had quite a spell of dry weather this month and although the overnight temperature has been down as low as zero, the days have been warm and sunny (around 27 degrees C).

This spinach became....

Saturday's lunch. (Spinach and Feta Rolls)

This beauty (which I proudly grew from seed) became part of salad sandwiches
to take to work each day for lunch.

Some of the snow peas found their way into a green curry,

along with a couple of chillies,

and some spring onions.

Zucchini often features on the menu as well at this time of year.

Whatever herb a recipe calls for,  I love being able to say "I'll go pick some"


Oh you wanted the flat-leaf type. OK.

Maybe some Rosemary?

Things were slow getting going this year with all the rain and lack of sunlight we had in July, but the vegie garden is powering along at the moment. I hope this weather remains for a while longer so we can continue to enjoy the harvest. It's perfect weather for vegies.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Renewing a garden bed

Sometimes a garden bed just needs a tweak here and there to make it look good and sometimes it needs a total makeover.
The garden bed along our side fence was long overdue for some major tweaking. I'm not sure whether the franginpani trees had depleted the soil or the mulch we used had caused nitrogen drawdown (or a combination of both) but the soil dirt in the bed was so poor that even any weeds that came up through the mulch were stunted.
Over summer, with the frangipanis in bloom it looked OK (but not great). At the moment with the frangipanis in dormant mode it looks terrible.

Some drastic action was called for. This was not a case of adding a plant or two. A major overhaul was needed. Some plants needed pruning, some were beyond saving and needed to be removed and most importantly, before any new plants were added, the soil needed to be brought back to life.

We bought a half cubic meter of mushroom compost and one eighth cubic meter of decomposed cow manure. The mulch was scraped off and about 6 cm (2-3 inches) of this mix spread over the entire garden. We then applied a dusting of blood and bone with added potash and trace elements before replacing the mulch layer and watering the area deeply. Watch out worms your dreams are about to come true.

Of course the supervisor was on hand to check that we were doing it right. Missy was in puppy heaven - the smell of cow manure AND blood and bone. She may be cute and fluffy but she's a real dog and gross smells are hard to resist.

Her nose was working overtime
The more we chased her from the garden bed, the more determined she was to sniff the "delightful" scents.

Obviously the frangipanis stayed and the murraya hedge, as did a pink flowering justica and a callistamon. At one end there is a ground cover of variegated jasmine which looks healthy. It can stay as well.

I trimmed the hedge and cut back the poinsettias, which are tough as nails and provide a show of colour during winter while the frangipanis are bare.
Everything else was removed.

This lot is destined for the shredder and compost bin and will become mulch elsewhere in the garden.


This callistomen will remain.

The mushroom compost and cow manure cost $38 for the trailer load, so I can probably afford to buy a few plants but first I had a look to see what I could use from my greenhouse. I want to stay with shades of pink/maroon/red, shades green and touches of white. There are a variety of cordylines, dracenas and crotons propagated from cuttings last summer. Some of them will go into this bed. A clump or two of red leafed canna would look nice as well I think.

I had bought a couple of musseandas in Autumn (when they are for sale in the nurseries) and because I have lost them previously during their first winter in the garden I kept them in the greenhouse this time. They are beginning to show signs of new growth so I'll cross my fingers and plant them out into this bed.
We recently divided some clumps of a variegated dietes (Dietes Vegata Variegata possibly).  A few clumps along the border might be nice.

So once all my free plants are in and settled it will be time to re-evaluate whether a visit to the nursery is called for. The bed is quite large and I would like it looking full so a few more plants will be needed I think. Any ideas? It faces North so is in full sun all year round.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

An End to Procrastination

Campbell Newman to slash solar subsidies

QUEENSLAND will wind back some of the nation's most generous subsidies for solar power by slashing the feed-in tariff to households by 80 per cent.
From July 10, the feed-in rate under Queensland's Solar Bonus Scheme -- the price paid by the state for solar power generated by a household and fed into the public system -- will be cut from 44c per kilowatt hour to 8c/kWh.
However, the Newman government said it would honour its election commitment to preserve the entitlements of the 180,000 households that have signed on to install solar panels and sell the electricity they do not use back to the public grid.

I was horrified when I read this.

Yes, while the rest of the world is encouraging renewable energy and sustainable living, Queensland's current crop of idiots government are demolishing any attempt at reducing our carbon emissions. By the way, this isn't the worst thing our new state premier has done, but it did spur me to stop procrastinating and commit to solar power.
I had been thinking of getting solar power for quite some time, but just had never got around to it. Suddenly there was a rush to make sure we could get the existing tarriff. We were one of the many thousands that booked in to get solar power before the cut-off. Finally had them installed today. Hopefully we are eligible for the old rate, but even if we aren't, it feels good to have solar power.
We live in the Sunshine State. We should be using it rather than  using electricity generated from coal.

Up they go!

Look at that blue sky - it's a shame to waste it.

They fitted the panels around the solar hot water panels that we've had since the house was built.
After it was all installed we went to look at the meter box. It was running in reverse. Yay! That has to be a good thing.

Some family members weren't so keen though. The ladies didn't get let out while the workmen were here. I'm sure they'll forgive us though.


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