Monday, 22 July 2013

New vegetable garden/potager design

It's been a bit gloomy and drizzly lately so I decided to spend some quality time indoors to plot my new veggie beds.  I borrowed a great book from the local library which has plenty of practical and easy to understand design tips so hopefully that has helped.  

I'm keeping the crop rotation system I devised last year to minimise the chance of disease.  It seemed to be working quite well at the old place although it wasn't in place for long.  The soil here is quite impoverished and water repellent so the green manures will be essential to keep the nutrition up.  I've also started up a couple of compost heaps to kick things along before I start planting.

I've discovered our property is a giant termite terminal so I need to be very careful about which mulches and edging materials I use.  The termite man informed us that sugar cane mulch is a big no-no.  Fortunately I hadn't yet ordered the two round bales I'd been planning on getting for the gardens. Instead, I'll have to do some research to find out what mulches termites aren't super-attracted to.  I was also planning to try no-dig garden beds but cardboard and newspaper is out of bounds now too so it's back to cultivating the soil with chicken feet and my hoe.  Fortunately there is plenty of rock around the place to use as garden edging.  The local landscaping supply lad informs me this is basalt from Beaudesert.  Hopefully that means a good source of minerals and iron.

Now to find some motivation to get of the couch and mark it out then lug edging rocks around.  Although the drizzle has just started up again so light it's like the sky has dandruff.  Just wet enough to dampen the washing on the line and the spirits...Perhaps I'll continue with planning the orchard instead.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens

In an effort to get to know our new local area (and to celebrate my birthday) we visited a fairly small but beautiful botanic gardens down a very steep hill from the main strip of shops at Mount Tamborine.  It is mostly run by volunteers who tend the garden on a weekly basis.  The climate is a little more temperate that where we live, making it possible for some of the cooler climate plants to flourish.  It's well worth a visit and is off the beaten track enough that it is not crowded, it's free (donation box available though) and well looked after.  While still beautiful in winter, the gardens would look amazing in spring.  Here are some photos from our visit:
We were greeted at the entrance by a kookaburra
It seemed they were stalking us the whole way through

Grotesques at the start of the walkway

A lovely calm place to sit and meditate

Not part of the gardens but a glimpse of turret attached to someone's house, complete with weathervane

Wait-a-while palm - see the hooks?

I didn't get very close before this cute little wallaby scarpered into the bush

Camellia providing bee food

Striking orange of (Kniphofia uvaria)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

One lonely violet flower


Bromeliads, and the really interesting trunk of the Kapok/Silk Cotton Tree (Ceiba bombax)

Friday, 12 July 2013

I just met a pig named Maria

Rain was threatening again and I peeked out the window to check on the washing and likelihood of it getting wet...again.  I dark shape behind the washing line caught my eye.  Two legs and a wagging tail protruded from the thick mat of weeds (we don't have a ride-on mower yet).  Enough of its body was showing that I could see it was wearing a little jumper to protect itself from the winter wind.  It certainly wasn't the rear end of my cat that I was inspecting.  He was curled up on the bed ignoring the world.  It also wasn't convincingly canine in appearance; the little jumper was, yes, but not that sparse wiry hair nor the tail a little too long to be that of a dog.
I must have made a noise because a little head popped up from its rooting around among the weeds.  The floppy ears and flat nose instantly gave it away. This was no dog: it was a piglet - and a pet one at that in a pink and white pullover.  I called out to hubby to help me catch it.  Alas it decided to head off down the hill to the back damp(er) corner.  Then it saw me coming, gave me series of grunts and headed into the long growth.  We traipsed through spiderwebs and farmer's friends (cobbler's pegs) looking for miss piggy but couldn't spot her.

The next day this flier turned up in the letterbox: 

I gave them a ring and someone came to repeat our search through the long weeds with the same outcome.  We came to the mutual conclusion that the piglet had most likely moved on.

Two days later we had been helping my sister move and had just finished moving the rest of our things too.  We sat down to a nice afternoon cup of tea only to look out the window to see a certain piglet rooting around in the grass just beyond the fence.  Quickly donning gumboots and snatching up the phone and flier we were out the door after her with a bucket of chook feed as a lure.

Once again she heard us coming and darted into the long growth.  Hubby waded in after her.  Somehow he found her and realising this she made a last dash for freedom.  Fortunately her jumper got caught in the weeds, impeding her escape.  She gave one squeal as she was lifted up, then stopped abruptly, as if realising that we might in fact be inclined to feed her.  As we awaited her very excited owners we put her in an unused bathtub next to the driveway and gave her some of the chook feed to keep her occupied.  Her owners were very relieved to have her back safe and sound.  Maria the piglet was quite happy to be getting cuddles from mum again too.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Give me a home among the gumtrees

June was an incredibly busy month.  Long hours at work coupled with moving one weekend then  helping my sister move the next as well as no internet connection for well over a week has meant no access to the Blog and last ditch efforts at an internet connection at the local library and visiting our old place.  At the end of all the kerfuffle, we are happy to announce Colliwat Farm is now semi-rural on a 2.5 acre block about 30 mins south of Brisbane.  The chooks and cat survived the move intact and were surprisingly not too stressed.  The new chook pen is not all that secure; however, and I'm greeted each day at the front door by a cheeky Hopscotch looking at me endearingly.  It seems she's now taught the others her escape route too as I found three of them out and about scratching around in the garden on several occasions. Luckily there's nothing too precious in the gardens at this stage that I'm worried about losing to beak or claw.

It's been continuously raining for the last 4 or 5 days (the washing is still on the line!) which has meant not much can be done outside.  We've been disappointed to find the downpipes are not delivering the rainwater to the water tanks with only a very marginal increase in the level despite half an inch of rain in the last 24 hours.  We've devised a new route which will involve some replumbing of downpipes but will hopefully mean more rain in the tank so we don't have to rely on trickle feed.

Another water issue has been the pump in one of the grey water tanks.  It trips the power for the entire house when we attempt to switch it on.  Hubby persevered and managed to get it working intermittently and long enough to eventually drain most of the tank.  The pump it still not working properly and looks like we'll need a new one.

On the bright side the dam is full and we were able to check out the overflow pipe in action one afternoon.  It was nice to listen to the chuckle of running water under and over rocks not far from our front door.  We were excited before moving in at the prospect of swamp hens living in the dam.  After the move we've found we got much more than we were expecting: not only are there swamp hens but ducks that ski across the surface daily and a resident turtle!

I've been itching to get out in the garden and have been thinking and making plans with all the wet weather forcing restraint and a patient approach.  The garden is currently a sparse higgeldy-piggeldy mess of vaguely matching plants.  Fortunately the garden beds themselves are laid out well without much need for redesigning.  I've been mulling over which plants to keep, which to dig up and feed to the compost and pondering over the overall theme for the garden.  In the meantime we have to be content with our left produce from our old place - carrots, pumpkins and soon some peas.

The neighbours have dedicated the rear of their block (next to our house) to land for wildlife so a more native approach to the garden seems appropriate.  It's also something I've been wanting to experiment with for a while in terms of aesthetics and edibles.  Some edging for the dam is certainly in order to keep the toads out and the frogs in.

Next on the list is to choose a site for the orchard and vegie patch.  It's likely the current chicken pen will become the vegie patch once it's been turned over by their little feet; that's if we can get them to stay put!  It's a gently sloping, cleared section of soil near the dam that gets a decent amount of sunlight during the day.  The soil here is a sticky clay and is fairly water repellent.  Before I groaned, I reassured myself that at least it's something I'm familiar with and it can be worked into a beautiful loam with patience and the right materials.  Time to get out there and start the compost heap!  

I'll try to post some photos as soon as we have an internet connection again.