There’s No Place Like Home. Except …

It’s not often that I find a day at work preferable to staying at home, but today is one of those rare times.

About three weeks ago I wrote about our ongoing home renovations. At that time we’d been reduced to bathing in a child’s paddling pool while the bathroom was being removed and replaced.

Not long after posting that report, we regained our shower and put the hot-pink pool behind us. Apart from some minor touches the bathroom is complete and we’re ready for the next stage of building.
But that’s not yet our planned laundry changes. We’re still waiting for the new cupboards. Instead we have other work starting today – the replacement of the ceiling throughout our open-plan lounge-kitchen-dining rooms.

Several years ago we found our ceiling had begun to sag significantly. A handy-man friend helped us out by pushing it back and fixing it into its rightful place. All we needed to do after his repairs job was repaint it to cover the filled in screw holes.

We kept putting it off.

When the builder came to quote on our bathroom Gloria thought it would be a good opportunity to get someone to do the long neglected painting.

Problem!

When the painter saw the job he wasn’t happy with the condition of the ceiling and in consultation with our builder it was suggested that the only solution was to replace the whole thing.
And THAT is what’s happening today.

On the weekend we had to empty the three areas of furniture, cramming everything into other rooms and leaving ourselves very little living space for the duration of the work. Fortunately the worst part, the ceiling removal and the first stage of its replacement should only take one day, and then the finishing of the new surface ought to take another day at the most.
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I left Gloria at home this morning just as the builders were arriving. It’s now three hours later and I’ve had the first progress report.
The ceiling came down with unexpected ease. Apart from the screws our handyman friend had used there was very little holding it up, so hopefully the job will take less time than anticipated. The messy work will be over when I get home this evening and we should be able to get things back to “normal” in a day or two.

Sadly the work hasn’t exposed any interesting “archaeological” finds; no hidden artefacts left behind by previous owners of the house, just a few mummified rodent corpses.

Splish Splash!

Gloria and I finally got around to having our bathroom renovated. Our house was built in the early 1980s and seemed to have the original bathroom, which was both out-dated and in need of repair. Floor tiles were continually coming loose under foot and the wall tiles in the shower seemed to be held on (and together) entirely by the grout between the tiles.

img-607075612-0001We are now in the third week of building work, a period during which we’ve had no plumbed-in bathing facilities. Our way of overcoming that inconvenience involves a small plastic paddling pool (hot pink) and several buckets of warm-hot water. We bought the pool at the last minute to use as a temporary bathtub. I don’t know how we’d cope without it. The original plan had been to use a camp-shower provided by the builder, but we couldn’t get it working properly.

Ordinarily our simple bathing facilities wouldn’t be very comfortable in the middle of winter , but we’ve been blessed with abnormally warm minimum temperatures throughout these weeks of inconvenience. Usually at this time of year we’d be expecting days of heavy frosts, but so far most mornings have been well above zero (Celsius).
If things go well this week, we should have our bathroom back before the weekend. I’m REALLY looking forward to that first shower.

And then the next renovation stage starts: a total rebuild of our laundry.

Fly Like a Magpie

A few days ago I wrote about Sparky, the half blind, non-flying magpie that visits our garden. Since then he’s discovered the ability to fly short distances and has been able to find his way up to low branches. He has also become a little more timid and doesn’t come so close to Gloria or myself.

swoopSadly, one thing that hasn’t changed is the bullying. More able bodied magpies still conduct occasional attacks on him.

One of those attacks was launched after I arrived home from work yesterday afternoon. Through the window I saw that three of them had him pinned to the ground, so I rushed outside and ran at them clapping my hands, to drive them away.

However, I suddenly found myself taking flight, but only momentarily. I soon crashed to the ground ripping the skin from my palms and grazing my knees.

It seems I’d slipped on the wet grass and ended up a few metres away on the garden after “bouncing” off the concrete path. Gloria says I just missed the concrete bird bath as I rolled several times across the ground.

At first I thought I must have hit my head because my glasses were knocked off but I couldn’t find any damage to my head or the glasses, but my hands were in a bad way. This morning the lower part of both palms are pitted, looking as if I have several burst blisters on each hand and my left wrist is painful.

I wonder whether Sparky appreciates what I suffered for him.

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

Early Spring Garden

gardenWhat a difference turning the page of a calendar can make!

As soon as spring arrives it seems more appealing to get into the garden to pull weeds, dig garden beds and plant new things.

My garden is looking much better already. Garlic is doing well (planted last autumn) and onions are starting to look promising after a late planting. The first crop of broccoli is almost ready and we’ve already eaten the season’s first asparagus.

Throughout winter we’ve been able to pick self-sown lettuce as needed, and it is now taking over a large part of one garden bed.

New plantings include capsicum, chilli, zucchini and Lebanese cucumber. I’ve also sown corn, carrots, beetroot and butternut pumpkin.

So far a good year seems to be ahead.

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.