Archive for the 'garden' Category

settled (in a fashion)

Wow! What a month it’s been.

As briefly mentioned in a previous post, we have moved in to our new place. I like to call it Legolandia. Let me describe the neighbourhood for you…

Double garage. Double garage. Double garage. Double garage…

It’s a bit soul destroying really.

Thankfully, while the view out the front is as I’ve just described, the view out the back glass doors is this.

Which redeems the place somewhat.

We have moved and unpacked (pretty much) everything. The house is huge, and we haven’t got much furniture* so the house echoes. The already noisey sprog noise is amplified, so I’m keen to get some quilted wall hangings on the walls to deaden the sound a bit – which is an achievable goal** now that I have a dedicated sewing/art room (squee!).

My sewing room isn’t properly set up yet, unfortunately it’s not been able to be a priority yet since I had some assignments to do and the more practical areas of the house to set up. Now all of that is done, and so I can get on to sorting out my fabric stash and setting up my machine. For all these excuses, since the rest of the house was unpacked and my assignments handed in I have lacked the motivation to set my room up, some days I could probaby find snippets of time to do little bits here and there which would all add up to a functional and productive space in no time, but I haven’t really felt very driven to take those opportunities.

Being in this house has been a bit of a challenge for me, particularly as it hits me that we’re staying in Albany for another year (well, 11 months now, but who’s counting huh?). It’s not beautiful. Not to me. It feels like I’m visiting someone else, it doesn’t feel like my home. I’m fully aware this is such a wanky, middle class thing to whinge about… but indulge me, please?

The yard is bare. Builder’s sand, dead lawn and some very sick looking lavender bushes. That’s certainly saying something… when do you ever see sick looking lavender bushes? Lavender is so hardy!

I’m working on it though… My pot plants all together on the back patio make that part of the yard look beautiful, and at the weekend I transplanted a heap of gotu kola into the bare space between the path and retaining wall down the side of the house. At the top of the same retaining wall I planted some native violet. I chose them because they both survive well in low light situations and that area only gets direct sunlight for around 1-2 hours per day. Soon they’ll both begin spreading to fill that space and add beauty to the view from the sprogget’s playroom. Planting the gotu kola there means I can harvest it more frequently than I have been able to harvest it from a pot since there’ll simply be more of it to harvest, and it won’t be able to spread too far since the growing space is contained by retaining wall and pavers. Out the front on a steep hill where there has been some pretty bad erosion caused by foot traffic killing the grass I also planted some rosemary (a prostrate variety that spreads to 2m and a bushy variety), with some pennyroyal (spreading) and yarrow (spreading). I want to stabilise that hill before Winter brings heavy rains that will wash all that sand down to our front door.

Indoors it is not beautiful either. The fittings are cheap and the workmanship is poor. I suppose it’s really to be expected when you build a huge house for very little money but it still irritates me that the carpenters didn’t hang the doors straight, the plasterers left gaps in the cornices and the electricians put the light switches in illogical places because it would use less wiring and therefore be cheaper. The floor is cheap vinyl, printed to look like wood. It’s torn and heavily marked in some areas, making it look even more tacky than it would have the day it was laid! Places like this seem so soul less to me. Still, as with the yard we are working on it…

We are doing what we can to make this soul less space a little more ours. To fill it with a bit of our soul.  There are some picture hooks on some of the walls, and so we print some of Bean’s photos to hang. There is a large jarrah dresser in the living area that came with the house, it has become home to my dipensary. Tinctures, dried herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, clays, ointments, creams, pure plant incense… I think it is beautiful, and it is convenient too since we use items from my dispensary every day.

I am trying to love this place as our “for now” home, and trying to think of it as more than simply a stage to wait out until a better life comes along. Some days that’s easy, and some days it’s terribly hard.

Today has been a nice day, we had rain overnight which cleared to bring us a sunny, warm day that was perfect for playing at the park which we did twice. There was more laughing than crying today, more co-operation than argument, and lots of love. The love is always there though, even on the days we all cry and argue…

We’re doing our best, I’m doing my best, to enjoy right now and to be very grateful for what we do have,  and right now that is a home that is much larger and more comfortable than the shed. Being rid of the shed is something I am particularly grateful for!

 

 

*Our mattress got mouldy at the shed so Sprout is the only person in our family who actually has a bed and mattress at the moment, the rest of us sleep on the floor!

**Provided the owner agrees to let us put some hooks up.

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sunshine & green thumbs

We had some sunshine this weekend, and our list of things to do inside the shed isn’t so huge anymore, so we decided to begin our productive garden.

In the shade near the entrance I’ve planted some shade loving, wet loving, herbs – soapwort, self heal, peppermint and spearmint – plus a few little pansies for a bit of colour.

In the sunny area next to the little garden shed we removed a whole heap of rubbish that had been turfed there when the house shed was emptied out for us to begin the conversion, then we got stuck in to building a raised bed out of some scrap wood & corrugated iron. We have cut the bottom out of a couple of 60L bins & buried them half in the ground, they’re our food scraps to compost converters… We planted some yarrow next to the bins & four strawberry plants in the garden bed next to the bins.

The soil here is fantastic! Full of earth worms and organic matter. Bean’s parents aren’t gardeners so they’ve neglected it for years, which is fabulous because it means there’s been no chemicals used there for years!

It was lovely to make a little start on our vegie patch out in the sunshine, even if we had to stop work before we were willing because we ran out of materials. We have some more scrap corrugated iron coming soon from a workmate of Bean’s, so we’ll be able to build plenty more beds in that space. Stay tuned… Until then, tonight it is raining so our newly transplanted plants will be thoroughly watered in come tomorrow.

Photos by www.liamwilde.com

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Twig Fence

So that garden bed that I filled with biomass and sowed seeds in last weekend… Babyman (the all terrain vehicle) thinks it’s a very nice shortcut through to the cubby! He also thinks I’ve put the little plant labels in simply for his amusement and takes great delight in pulling them out.

Solution: The garden bed needs a fence around it, obviously.

Problem: We don’t have the cash this month to buy materials to make a fence.

Solution: Build a fence with what I can find around the house & yard.

Problem: There’s nothing to make a fence with around our house & yard.

Solution: There’s a park across the road with big Eucalyptus trees (mainly citriodora) and there are PLENTY of twigs & small branches on the ground underneath them. The council workers regularly clear them out so I can take them knowing I’m not destroying habitat.

Result: A twig fence…

I’ve tied it with a green hemp string and a cream hemp/wool yarn. Eventually it will break down and can be either burnt in our firepit one evening with friends or composted further. Until then, it should last long enough to keep Babyman out of the garden until it is established enough to withstand his ATV nature! I’ve not finished fencing the whole garden bed yet, but I’ve made a good start.

Last night Bean rigged up some work lights so I could keep working once the children were asleep. There was a fairly strong wind which seemed to keep the usual plague of mosquitos away so I was able to happily plug away at it for about an hour before Babyman woke for a feed. I’ll keep on at it until I’ve fenced that whole garden bed. It’s about 25-30 metres of border and the rate I’ve been going has been about 2m per hour so it’ll take me a while… Oh well, I’ve got a reason not to mung out staring at fakebook now!

As for aesthetics… well I think it looks rustic and quaint. I like it, and I think I’ll like it even more when there’s some healthy herbs growing behind it.

*** In the background of the last photo you can see the dead grape vines (cry!). They’ve been cut off at the base so the children don’t harvest and eat the poisoned fruit. Now we need to dispose of them. They were infested with termites so Mum had them treated by a pest control company when she had the house treated with a termite poison. The poison contaminates the fruit so the contractor treated them on the condition they’d be destroyed.

I feel sad because they were so old and they looked fantastic. Buuuut they were wine grapes and I don’t care for wine, particularly not making it at home, so it’s not as upsetting as if they were good eating grapes.

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Up the garden path

We spent a bit of time in the garden last weekend.

We’re replacing the woodchip paths with paved paths. We’re using old red bricks currently, and when we’ve run out of them we’ll use some old pavers that friends have pulled up at their place. The bricks are laid in a very higgledy piggledy fashion. We’ve not used a compressor on the sand before laying them so the path is uneven, which I like quite a lot.

Last time we lived here we covered the grass with old carpet* then covered the carpet with woodchips. Initially it was great, there were heaps of good sized woodchips and it was comfortable to walk on.

Over the last 3 years the woodchips have broken down a lot and the woodchips that remained were big and sharp, making the paths uncomfortable to walk on – especially for children with tender feet. So, we’ve decided the woodchips have to go so we can make the yard a more comfortable and fun place for the children (and us) to be.

There’s already a concrete path heading into the yard from the driveway that we’ve uncovered, and we’ve continued it on from where it ends to where the children’s play area begins. The children’s play area has been covered with a limestone road base already.

After making the red brick path we bordered the concrete path on one side and transplanted a big lavender bush to frame the path. I also planted a comfrey plant and sowed some herb seeds in one of the garden beds that is empty excepting a rose bush and some lavender.

The seeds were all quite old, so I just scattered them about, hoping that some are still viable.

In the coming weeks we may or may not find borage, calendula, chives, shallots, tansy, Indian (clove) basil and sage in the garden… Fingers crossed huh?

Finally, we cut a large branch from the poorly kept lemon tree out the back. The branch had been eaten extensively by termites, so I thought a vigorous prune was in order.

* We’ve since learned is not good to use carpet to smother weeds or lawn since there are so many chemicals used in the manufacturing of carpet that can then leach into the soil. It’s unfortunate really because it was VERY effective, there is no sign of any cooch grass where the carpet was. We only used it where the paths were, no carpet under the raised garden beds.

 

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Asbestos & termite treatments: toxic nasties

When we moved back to the parental rental we noticed some termite damage in the little garden shed attached to the carport so I suggested Mum have a termite inspection. As expected, the contractors found termite activity so Mum booked them to do a termite treatment. AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!! Toxic chemicals! Toxic chemicals that work by binding to the organic matter in the soil & are guaranteed to be effective for 8 years (which means they’d actually be in the soil for a long while after the guarantee runs out).

Still. It needs to be done, it would royally suck to have the house fall down because termites ate it!

Remembering how long it took us to build up the biomass when we lived here last time, we decided to rescue some of the delicious, compost-rich soil from a garden bed close to the house (treatment area) for use in a raised garden bed later on. We shoveled it into the wheelbarrow & dumped it in a currently unused part of the yard close to where the raised vegie beds will go later on & far enough away from the termite treatment area that it wouldn’t be affected by the chemicals.

Once we’d dug out most of the good soil we started to break down the garden bed wall we’d made with old pavers and mortar, we’d planned to remove this garden bed.

Garden bed with most of the "good" soil removed.

While we were at it we decided to remove some fibro sheeting from the end of the driveway to open up the yard a bit. When Mum first bought this place 3.5 years ago she had a building inspector tell her the fibro wasn’t asbestos. I’ve always been skeptical about that since the house was built in the 60s so I did a little research on what would distinguish asbestos sheeting from fibro cement sheeting. After doing that research I had no doubt in my mind that we were dealing with asbestos, it ticked all the warning boxes! So we read up on safe removal of asbestos, & we treated it like it was asbestos. Better to be unnecessarily cautious in situations like this, rather than to find out later that we should have used caution. I had to stay inside with the kids while Bean kitted up in safety gear, removed the sheets & wrapped them in black plastic. Once it was sealed we took it to the local tip & found that it was much cheaper to dispose of than we’d initially thought it would be.

A terrible photo, but the only BEFORE shot I have

We intended to leave the wooden frame & replace the asbestos with aviary mesh so there’d still be a barrier between the front and back yard, but when the sheets were pulled away it was revealed that termites had eaten out the entire frame! All that was keeping it together was the asbestos sheeting. So, the plan changed…

We removed what was left of the wooden frame & the area is now a lot more open, and presents us with a lot more options.

Looking at the yard from the driveway

Looking from the back yard toward the house & driveway

We’re still unsure just what we’ll do with the space now. The little garden shed I mentioned earlier is also asbestos. We had initially planned to seal it with a fresh coat of paint, though in thinking about it more we’ve decided we’d probably prefer to remove that also.

Our next task in the yard is to make it a safer & more enjoyable space for the children to play. I’ve drafted a plan for the yard and I do wish I could share it here. Perhaps one day I’ll find the time to scan it & add it to the blog. Until then, we’ll just keep pulling some things down, building some things up, moving some things around & growing some other things…

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