A Welcome Visitor

eastern spinebillFor almost 8 years I’ve been keeping a list of the different types of birds I’ve seen from my home. It includes the various birds seen in my garden, from my garden (on neighbouring properties) or flying over my garden. The one limiting factor is that I have to be on my own property when I see them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to add another bird to the list, but this morning I saw something different feeding from a small Correa plant now in flower.

While it’s always exciting to be able to add a new entry on my list, this morning’s sighting was more special than most. It was an eastern spinebill.

What is so significant about this bird?

For many years I’ve owned a watercolour painting of an eastern spinebill. It’s been hanging on my bedroom wall since we moved into this house in 2006.

Almost from the day I bought the painting I’ve been wondering why I didn’t get one of a bird with more personal significance – for example, there were several I could have bought of blue wrens, birds that I regularly see .

Today’s sighting has now given more relevance to the painting. It’s no longer a depiction of a random bird, but is an illustration of a welcome new visitor.

Photo (of Spinebill on a Grevillea plant) from here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinebill

Garden Renovations

For years we’ve planned to create a small area of paving in our backyard. The first idea was to try doing it ourselves, but I finally realised that it was going to remain an intention rather than a reality unless we got someone else to do it.

We are very happy with the result. Not only has it given us somewhere to sit outside, it has given the garden more structure and coherence.

Here are before and after shots.

BEFOREbefore

 

AFTERafter

 

AFTER (CLOSE-UP)after close up

Taking A Break

I’ll be away for two weeks so this blog will be neglected for a while. Any comments made during that time will have to wait until I return to be passed through moderation.

It will be the longest break that I’ve had from work for 4 ½ years and I want to keep away from computers and anything that would remind me of my job.

Gloria and I will be spending some of the holiday in an 1850s granite cottage in northern Victoria. We are taking Gloria’s mum, hoping to spoil her after she went through some difficult times at the beginning of the year.

I’ll be back around the 5th November.

Invasion of the Onion weed

A few days ago I found an onion weed plant in our garden. It’s the first we’ve had and hopefully (although not likely) it will be the last.

Onion weed is apparently a very invasive plant that is hard to get rid of once it’s established. Each plant produces hundreds of little bulblets that can be left behind in the soil if the plant is uprooted. It also spreads very easily from seed. If a plant is found it needs to have any flowers removed before they can produce seed.

Other suggestions I’ve seen for dealing with onion weed include continual cutting a plant to the ground which will eventually “tire” the plant out reducing the viability of the roots and bulbs. This is easier if the plant is growing in a lawn where a mower can be regularly run over it. A more brutal approach is to treat it with neat glyphosate, but many people are reluctant to use harsh chemicals of any kind in the garden. I’m guessing that the best thing is to find plants and deal with them as early as possible before they can become too established.

One possible source of our onion weed invasion was discovered last night. A while ago we bought some potted nerines from a nearby market. We found a second onion weed plant growing in one of the pots. This could have been the result of seed transferred from elsewhere after we bought the nerines or it may have been there in the pot all along. It has made us more wary of where we buy plants in the future.

 

[There are several plants that go by the name “onion weed”.  The one I’m referring to seems to be Allium Triquetrum.

Small Country Art Show

Last weekend I visited a small country town art show. It was part of the program of the town’s annual festival. Entry to the exhibition included the opportunity to vote for a favourite painting. The painting with the most votes would receive a $250 prize and all of those who voted for the winner would go into a draw for an equal amount.

I was told that last year the voting had been so spread-out that the winning artist received only 37 votes. After seeing everything on display I could understand why. Everything was very well painted but nothing stood out from the rest.

My vote went to the only abstract in the show.

Seeing the quality of those artists reminded me of how far I still have to go with my own work. I know I couldn’t match their technique. That’s probably why I stick mostly with my abstract work that is more based on instinct than on planned and precise painting. I can either continue doing that or I could stumble along, failing to catch up with what others are doing and become discouraged.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t try to paint still life, landscapes or portraits. I’d definitely like to improve my skills in those areas. But I think of what appeals to me – what kind of paintings would I hang on my walls at home.

While I appreciate the clear skill of well-painted pictures, and find many of them appealing, I’m not sure how long they would keep my interest if I saw them day after day. But there is something about a good abstract.

They make me think, even if the thought is: “what on earth???”

 

The illustration at the top of this post is a portion of my painting “Fruitful”. For a photo of the whole thing see my “art by onesimus” page.

I recently took it to get a quote for framing.  It’s painted on a canvas board so I needed it framed for hanging in an approaching exhibition. Unfortunately common sense deserted me and I ordered something  far too expensive and far too extravagant for the purpose.

I should be able to pick it up on Saturday and hopefully I won’t be disappointed with the result. I think the lesson learned is that I need to decide what I want before I go to the framer – and I need to stick as closely as possible to that decision and not be swayed too far off track by any suggested alternatives.

October Garden

This photo was taken through the back window of the house and captured the insect screen as well as the garden. It shows the different kinds of raised beds I’m using.

Those with the grey concrete blocks are the originals. Last year I added the green corrugated beds and recently I included the silver ones at the back.

Most of the older beds are planted with onions and garlic. Half of the front one was planted with mizuna. That has now flowered, but I left it for its ornamental effect as well as for a new supply of seed.

In the green beds I have two kinds of broccoli. The third was planted with strawberries, but on the weekend Gloria transplanted the plants to one of the newer silver beds. The other new ones have been planted with lettuce and beans – the first bean shoots emerged this morning so I’ll have to find some way of protecting them against the frost for a few weeks.

The furthest grey bed (a bit of a blur in the photo) was used as an open compost heap over winter. I used it for my grass clippings, pulled weeds, dead leaves, and layers of straw. It has produced a beautiful rich looking soil into which I’m planning to put my zucchini seedlings.

Towards the right of the photo is a small mound of straw and plant prunings (another minor compost project). This is where I plan to put some butternut pumpkins.

As yet I still have no idea where to sow my corn seeds or where I can grow water melons. I have seeds of the latter in pots but they haven’t yet germinated.

In the centre of the photo, behind the birdbath are my attempts at espaliering apple trees. The closest one, A Fuji, is looking very neat and is already in blossom. The one to its right is a Worcester Pearmain. MY espaliering attempts with that one haven’t been quite as succesful and I need to reassess which branches to keep and how to train them more suitably.

Last year we managed to pick a few decent Fujis but most rotted. We salvaged nothing from the Worcester Pearmain. The whole lot spoiled. I’m not sure whether the problem was codling moth – we didn’t find evidence of any grubs.

How Does My Garden Grow?

My Garden December 2011

Winter does strange things. It sent my gardening ambitions into hibernation. I lost interest. The backyard was bare (except for some persistent weeds) and I didn’t care.

In late autumn I’d planted a few broccoli seedlings, but winter seemed to come early and they refused to grow. I prefer to grow brassicas over winter because it’s a cabbage moth free time when there’s less chance of caterpillars spoiling the crop. Few things are more off-putting than finding boiled caterpillars hiding within the stalks of broccoli on your dinner plate.

This year we had no winter broccoli. They didn’t have the chance to become established and start cropping before the coldest weather set in.

Things have changed now and a few things are starting to grow. The broccoli has recovered from its few months of inactivity and while it’s still early days, we are able to pick enough whenever we want some to add to a meal.

We’ve also had our first taste of asparagus. Only two spears, but it’s a promising start. I noticed there are another two generously fat spears almost ready for picking.

The warming weather has also inspired me to get back in the garden, preparing beds for lettuce, beans, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, zucchini and pumpkins, but I still have to work out where to sow the corn.

It will be a while before the onions and garlic, planted before winter, will be ready – and they are taking up quite a lot of room at the moment, spread across three different beds.

It’s a time of excitement and anticipation, a time of promise, with a healthy crop of home grown food to look forward to; a time before the pests emerge to compete with us for that food. And a time before our neighbours start avoiding us through fear of having to accept another kilo or two of our excess zucchinis.

Tree Change – The Country Difference

It must be six years now since Gloria and I left Sydney, moved a few hours inland, and started “country life”. At home we now have the benefit of a garden, not quite the acreage that was part of our initial dream, but it is a lot more than we had in our Sydney flat. It is also much more manageable than our dreamed of acreage would have been. Our ¼ acre gives us more than enough to do on weekends.

Disappointingly my employment situation means that my working week is little different to my life in the city. From Monday to Friday I’m still stuck at a desk, staring at a computer. While the details of the work are different, the broad nature of the work is much the same.

It’s not quite the change I had imagined when we decided to make the move but there are some positives. I no longer drive to work through city streets choked with traffic. I work several kilometres out of town and I can get from home to the office in about 10 minutes on traffic free roads.

Instead of streets lined with buildings I drive through farmland populated by sheep or planted with various crops. Apart from the occasional truck loaded with stock, or sheep on the road being moved from one paddock to another, the main driving hazards are the wildlife.

Kangaroos have frequently jumped in front of or even into the side of vehicles around dawn or dusk, and smaller critters can see the road as a suitable place to bask in the sun and it’s not uncommon to see large lizards, small turtles and various bird species “playing chicken” with traffic.

My thoughts today have been inspired by the sounds around the office. While we do have a few vehicles moving around the company’s compound, the most consistent sounds over the last couple of days have been from the neighbouring farms mustering their sheep.

Their pens are close to our boundary and the sheep have been vocally protesting about the disturbance of their usual routine. This current reminder that I’m no longer in the city almost makes up for the disappointment of being cooped up in this office.