Soil Mountains

“You’re gonna need a lot of soil to fill that hole”, said my husband after we removed part of the deck and discovered a 400mm drop to the ground. Even he didn’t know just how much! 6 cubic meters later and we’ll need more!  But the garden is definitely progressing…

When the soil arrived this morning I have to say I felt a little nervous. The truck delivering it was very large! The mound they tipped onto the driveway was much bigger than expected!

 

We’re using a granitic sand (also known as Tooborac Toppings), to create a path through the garden which will lead you  to a little seating area with a water feature.  I’m advised that this sand can be compacted down so it doesn’t just spread all over the garden!

So when another truck turned up with the sand and dumped another huge pile behind the first lot, I was started to feel very nervous! How would they move all this  by this afternoon? Will my neighbours start complaining we’re blocking the path? Will they clean up the trail of mud through the courtyard!?  Ah the joys of creating a garden!

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But the early results are very pleasing… the garden is coming together.  It even smells better 🙂 It has some order; the path is defined and the sand and earth look good together.  We might even have a garden in time for a planned birthday celebration… let’s see….

 

Williamstown Garden revival

Work is underway to return my formerly ‘aircraft-hanger’ covered garden back into a nearly wild native space for our local birds and wildlife.  I’m very excited that I’ve managed to find a local gardener who sees the same vision as me and we’re hoping to get started next week.

It’s a funny thing creating a garden.  For a while I looked out on what was just a barren patch of dry dirt which was uncovered when we removed part of our timber deck.  It looked very unloved.

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Over the past weeks, due to considerable rain and blazing sun in equal measure, weeds have established a foot hold.  Now initially, I wasn’t happy with the weeds as all I saw was the painful job ahead of removing them.  They go from a few green plants to fully- blown giant invaders seemingly overnight.  They nearly cover the bare ground now.

Strangely, now when I look out of my lounge window and I see their seeded, bobbing heads, I don’t feel annoyed in fact the opposite because the weeds have brought life back to my embryonic garden.

Already, butterflies have returned. Mostly Cabbage Whites but also lovely Dainty Swallowtails who until now only frequented the Melaleuca tree on my nature strip. I see at least one now every day and they always lift my mood as only a large, colourful butterfly can.

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Dainty Swallowtail in Melaleuca Tree

Wattlebirds and Blackbirds visit (probably after the caterpillars I am sure are being left behind!); enormous Dragonflies zip about on the hunt and Rainbow Lorikeets have visited to eat berries from my neighbours’ tree which has only been revealed due to the demolition.

A neighbour who knew about my garden renovation offered me four of her most treasured plants that she no longer had space for, now that she was moving house.  So I was gifted a large, thorn-less Lemon Tree full of fruit; a beautiful pink and white

flowering Pelargonium, a scented Yellow Rose and an Agapanthus, all potted and happy to sit on my deck until a space can be found for them in the garden (although the 42 degree days did challenge all of them).

Next stage is to bring in at least 7 cubic meters of earth and start adding structure to the garden.  The weeds will have to go but I’m sure some of them will find there way back. Along with the butterflies.

 

 

Share with your community for 2018

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Australian Black Swans Jawbone Reserve Williamstown

So a few things that will keep me busy in 2018 and may be of interest to you or a local community group! I’ve recently joined the board of Seddon Community Bank which is a part of the Bendigo Bank Group and also BirdLife Australia.
Seddon Community Bank provides sponsorship and small grants to local groups so if you know of a group looking for financial or in-kind support  around the Seddon area, please apply for assistance for 2018.
Every Bendigo community bank distributes the majority of its profits (in some cases more than 80%) back to their community so if you are not in this area, please look for your local community bank.
With this in mind, Bendigo Bank has created a family and friends offer to anyone looking for a loan or banking advice.
As it’s nearing Christmas, you may be thinking of making a donation to a worthwhile charity. If so, I can recommend to you, as a dedicated birdwatcher, BirdLife Australia.  I recently joined the board of BirdLife after many years of support and know that Australian birds and their habitats need all the assistance they can get.
You may know (how could you avoid it!) that as an avid birdwatcher, I take a lot of photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram.  Love to hear your comments 🙂
Thanks for taking time out to read my update. I wish you, your family and friends a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas and hope to meet up with you in the New Year.
PS: Please do share these links with friends and family.  Merry Christmas!

In an Australian country garden …

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Beau guarding a large Echeveria (he’s afraid of birds and butterflies so no worries there).

I have the amazing opportunity to create a garden from scratch.  Before we bought this house, I have always had to work with the garden I’ve been given… on more than one occasion I’ve lived in a rental house and my main aim has been to keep the garden alive for the next owner inspection.  When I last owned my own home I knew next to nothing about which plants to choose, how to keep them alive or even what I really liked.

Over the years of tending these gardens and killing more plants than I care to admit, I have learned a few things, I’m glad to say.  During those years, I experimented with plants in pots in lieu of my own garden so I planted bulbs and watched what would grow where; I planted a lot of succulents and absolutely fell in love with them.  Who can’t love a plant that replicates itself?!  Echeverias and Sempervivums  and other succulents create little clones of themselves and so you can create whole gardens from just a few plants and a bit of patience.  After a bit of investigation, I learnt that in some countries Sempervivums are called ‘Hens and Chickens’ because of this habit of replicating their own little baby plants.  In other countries they are called ‘house leaks’ as they are used in some countries to grow on the roofs of houses to little plug leaks. I love that!.

Australian natives plants offer an amazing range of subtle, hardy and in many cases, very beautiful plants that can be chosen to suit your local environment.  There are many varieties like the gorgeous Grevilleas. So while many of us still choose to plant up our gardens with roses and other ‘exotics’, Australian native plants are becoming increasingly popular not least because of their tolerance of our extreme weather and low rainfall.

If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know i love Australian birdlife and a native garden is a great way to attract native birds.  They need all the help they can get as their natural habitats are disappearing.  Many Australian birds are very small and need protection from large predators like our very large aggressive ravens, butcherbirds and magpies. Suburban cats are an absolute menace. So planting ground cover for little birds is essential if they are to find hiding places away from predators.

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Australian Fairy Wren

So in beginning to plan my own garden, I can start with a few of these lessons:

  1. I love Australian native plants
  2. I love succulents
  3. These two broad plant types for the most part go very well together as they require little attention and not a lot of water – both useful things for an amateur (read uneducated) gardener in a state where rainfall is intermittent.
  4. I love Australian birdlife and want to attract them so that I can enjoy them and photograph them and give then a little haven in an inner city suburb

This all means I want to create an Australian native garden in my very own backyard.

Over the next few months (and years as gardens are a lifetime commitment), I will be changing my 60sqm of dirt into a native Australian garden.

The garden I have to work with was, until a few weeks ago, covered by a huge aircraft-hanger construction that was supposed to be a pergola.  Made of thick pine planks, many struts, brackets, screws and nails, this construction was not only incredibly ugly in my opinion, it took up 3/4 of the garden leaving me just room for a patch of scrawny grass with a few paving stones leading to a small and inefficient shed.

 

 

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This is all gone… including half of the cedar deck which covered most of the garden. The decking was repurposed to create a new deck to host our spa.

Now that the pergola has gone, the spa has been repositioned, the shed has been dismantled and redistributed and the essential water tank has been rotated so it’s in a more practical location, we are ready to start to build the garden.

Actually.we are ready to start planning to build the garden.  I really couldn’t envisage what I had to work with until the space was cleared.  What I’m left with is a rather big hole… ! When I reduced the deck I realised the ground beneath it was more than 30cms below the deck. We’re going to need a serious amount of topsoil before we can even think about putting in a plant.

I am entering that wonderful design stage… I can see what I have to work with and I know roughly what I want to create. Next step is to get some professional advice (we used professionals to dismantle the aircraft hanger and move the deck and water tank around – couldn’t have done it without help).  Possibly I wont plant much until next winter/spring as in Melbourne we are entering the end of spring and beginning of summer and many young plants wont enjoy the 42 degree days we’ll get in the summer.  But I will wait to see what my gardener advises.  Until then. Stay tuned.

 ‘Planet Earth is blue …’ so ‘Let’s Dance!’


1997_earthling_cvr_fix_800sqDavid Bowie RIP

It seems there are quite a few things to be sad about lately.  There is so much beauty amongst so much hideousness. I don’t know whether I’m crying tears of joy, rage or sorrow at those moments when the world gives me such random, completely unexpected experiences.

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I’ve just (almost) stopped tearing up over the Paris attacks which affected me and many others so deeply. I stood in Federation Square in Melbourne with so many others and there was a tangible sense of loss and confusion in the air as strangers hugged each other.

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Bowie singing Wild is the Wind

Last week I was recovering, like most of us who were teenagers in the 70’s, from the death of David Bowie. Such a loss to the world at a time when we so need love, creativity and a real sense of wonder.  Perhaps that’s why we’ve responded the way we have: European church bells tolling out ‘A Space Oddity‘; Chris Hadfield singing a tribute to Bowie from the Space Station; Scratch artists scratching out ‘Let’s Dance’ in honour of the Thin White Duke. Every one of these brought me to tears and made me wonder why the world can’t demonstrate such amazing outpourings of love and respect more often.

When beautiful people like Bowie leave the world, I feel like we have lost not just a great artist but somehow one of the guardians at the gate. Who will take their place?  So I suppose I am laughing and crying for the loss of Bowie, for the risks to the world that I know.

Grey Fantail

Grey Fantail

And there are times when the world is enchanting. Last night, my  husband & I went out for a sunset walk and a bit of birdwatching at our local reserve.   A pair of young Grey Fantails chose to take as much interest in us as we did in them.  We spotted them in a tree just ahead of us and on seeing us, they flew straight over, flying around out heads, fanning their tails and looking cockeyed at us. They sang to each other and continued like this for 5 or 10 minutes while we stood quietly, happy to be the subject of such delightful avian attention. I was a little choked.

250px-Golden-headed_Cisticola94Later, while I watched a tiny and rare bird, a Golden-Headed Cisticola sing to the setting sun from its grass stalk, I really was moved to tears.  Because there is so much uncertainty in the world and I know that Australia is a bubble of stability in an increasingly turbulent, troubled and most of all chaotic world and it worries me how all that chaos can end.  And I don’t want my world as I know and love it to end. So I cry with happiness for the Cisticola but with fear and worry that all the other chaos can all only end in the saddest of tears.

So let’s take up the Bowie charge… let’s dance, let’s sing to the sunset and the let the tears dry as we move towards a new world without some of the heroes we’ve looked to for inspiration for so long. We’ll need to find some new ones. We can be heroes.

Go star man.

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

 

New Year Resolves…Good New Things

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Sacred Kingfisher

It’s another January 1 and the New Year sits before us.. untouched waiting for us to decide what to do with it.

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Cheeky Currawong

A Good Thing

You can choose to make no resolutions about the NY. Many do (or is that don’t).  While I understand it feels like a waste of time if you don’t follow through, at least you had a goal to aim for.  Is it better to have no goals at all and take what comes?

So this year my resolution is specifically vague.  I’ve resolved to do something new (and positive) every day. That is, something I’ve never done before.  So that’s specific. And the vagueness is that I’m not going to plan what that ‘new good thing‘ is. I’m just making a commitment to do something new every day.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly dangerous, exciting or mind-bending, it just needs to be new.

So. January 1.  I kayaked down the Goulburn River to birdwatch and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.  Well not all of the GR but a nice, friendly non-rapid bit with my husband and a friend who showed us the way, let us use his kayaks and drove us back and forth! That is friendship, I’m sure.  In return, I pointed out the birds I recognised… a few Darters, lots of Little Corellas, 2 wonderful, delighting Kingfishers, lots of ducks, a Currawong singing in the trees, lots of noisy Cockatoos.

As we were visiting friends in a beautiful part of the Victorian farming region, perhaps it was easier to find something to do that I’d never done before. The more difficult thing will be to discover something different just as part of my normal everyday routine when I’m at home with the cat and wondering why I can’t watch foxtel for another hour.  Let’s see.

Happy New Year. And may many unexpected, happy, healthy and magical experiences come to you whether you resolved it that way or not!  PS Thanks BirdLife for the photos … I was too busy trying to stay in the Kayak to take photos! 🙂

Birdlife – all sorted for Christmas

A little addendum to my last post. BirdLife has just put out their formal Christmas campaign and given how much I like birds and want to protect them, I’m giving them an extra plug.   They have some really lovely bird-related products in their online store.  And who can resist a baby bird in a santa hat?!