Sunday, October 30, 2016

Up the Garden Path

Everywhere I weed or dig in this garden I turn up another old brick, so I decided to make a garden path. Really, it was necessary as every time I tried to fight my way through the undergrowth to the vegie garden I required gumboots and a mattock. As you can imagine, this project took some time, especially as I am easily distracted in the garden. Below you can just see the beginning of the path curving around at the top of the photo. This was a couple of weekends ago.

Here it comes. But very slowly. Every few minutes, distracted again. A baby apricot on the apricot tree, a rose bud, a volunteer tomato seedling, a bird, the cat.. anything will do.

But finally this afternoon it is finished! This is not a high tech DIY project. Some people faff around with cement and sand when they build a brick path. I simply dig the bricks into the soil, then brush more soil over the top to fill up the cracks. After a few weeks of tramping it down as I walk on it, it will all become quite stable. It is already ten thousand percent better than pre-path days, due to not requiring a mattock to get to the baby lettuces.

Yes, indeed, that is the cat drinking out of the watering can. You'd think he didn't have a nice water bowl of his own.

During one of my moments of distraction I was annoyed by some plastic flower pots on top of the old wood pile opposite the kitchen window, which have been sitting there since I moved in. When I went to remove them I found an untidy pile of bricks and an old wooden pallet under the wood pile, with the whole sorry affair knee deep in weeds. Because I was procrastinating about building the brick path I hauled it all away with enthusiasm, and underneath it all I found this tiny little square of paving, just right for two chairs and a cup of tea with a friend. It gets sun in the morning and shade in the evening - perfect! I am continually amazed by what I am digging up in this garden!

So here I am, with a new garden path, and a tiny new courtyard, a bit of sun, a lot of rain - what more could a gardener want?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Exploiting Your Niche

One of the many wonders of a backyard vegie garden is that you can beat commercial growers not in spite of, but because of, your small scale. It would be foolhardy indeed for a commercial grower to start a tomato farm here in Tasmania, unless they have several very large greenhouses, as late frosts can sneakily decimate baby tomatoes even up to November. However, if you have a small plot of backyard tomatoes, and by some miracle have remembered to check the forecast, you can cover up your tiny crop with old sheets (you can also use horticultural fleece, but one of my creeds is, why buy horticultural fleece when you have a stack of old sheets?). If your baby tomatoes are slightly bigger you can crack out the mini greenhouses (er, plastic bottle tops) that Bek has cleverly fashioned for her delicate snowflake tomato babies.

The other thing you can cunningly exploit in your backyard vegie garden is micro climates. I have mentioned before that lemons and other citrus aren't grown commercially in Tasmania because it is too cold. But practically every old Tasmanian garden has a lemon tree tucked in a warm corner. This is where suburban and urban environments can really come into their own - the built up nature of the town creates warm pockets - next to sunny walls, or black asphalt roads and driveways. There are often frost-free patches next to houses because the walls have absorbed sun during the day and release the heat slowly at night. Working out all of the intriguing quirks of your property through the seasons is fun, and can be very rewarding. One of my friends owns a 1950s brick house which has a small garden patch in a sunny sheltered corner where two brick walls meet, with a concrete path in front. This small patch was clearly the perfect place to plant a Tahitian lime and a mandarin, and these are some of the healthiest and most productive citrus trees I have ever had the privilege of cadging fruit from (well, in actual fact I am showered with generous gifts of this fruit, as it is so ridiculously prolific, and I have lovely friends).

Anyway, having managed to dodge Thursday night's frost I am hoping for balmy days and warm nights to encourage the baby tomatoes to reach passata size:)

I'll leave you with a front garden food forest. Here is someone who knows how to make a suburban garden work very hard indeed. Give me two years and I'll be there..

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Green and Thrifty

While walking home from my hair appointment I asked myself, "Why is that large, white fluffy dog sitting on that front lawn in the rain?" The answer turned out to be that the large fluffy dog was actually a tiny cow, or more probably, a calf (I am not an expert on cows, although I do know it is calf season), contentedly chewing its cud in the gentle rain. I was quite thrilled at this revelation that it is clearly possible to keep a cow in the suburbs, and went home to tell Rosy, "We could get a cow." Except we don't have any grass at our new place. But I would plant grass if a cow was coming to stay..

The next morning I took Benson-the-enthusiastic-cowherd-puppy to say hello to the cow, and snapped this photo. No, I hadn't been imagining it, cows in the suburbs are a thing. Until this morning, when it was gone. Maybe it was just having a little holiday. Maybe it is now snacking on the back lawn.. who knows? What I do know is that our local, independent book shop has a new section - small animal husbandry. Chooks, pigs and goats feature prominently. Apparently goats are the new puppy. So just chew on this idea - maybe if you have a lot of lawn, you could get a lovely calf instead of a ride-on mower.

This week I have been on school holidays and I took lots of naps. Naps are both green and thrifty due to not being able to spend any money when you are asleep. Likewise, lying on the couch uses very few non-renewable resources. So win-win. Let us fight climate change with naps.

When I woke up I sliced up the last few kiwi fruit from my neighbour's garden, and popped them in the dryer to add to my morning muesli.

In the spirit of last week's gardening post about cadging garden plants from friends, I drank tea while strolling around and admiring the gardens of three separate friends this week. It is my favourite way to spend time with friends, strolling in their gardens. I came home with a bag of lettuce, homegrown lettuce and mustard-green seedlings for my new vegie garden, and a promise of a thyme plant (originally from my old garden, donated to a friend, now being offered back) and some iris bulbs (also originally from my old garden). So lovely to see plants travelling all over the neighbourhood like this!

When I haven't been napping or strolling in gardens and drinking tea, I have been helping one of my lovely friends lay floorboards in her upstairs room. Really, we have been lackeys for the person who actually knew what he was doing, but it has been an excellent experience in upskilling. I have a blister on my thumb, which means I must have been doing some serious work with a hammer.

I took Posy for a lightning quick trip to the op-shop between appointments because she wanted summer dresses. We found two in ten minutes, for $6, which is my kind of shopping trip. I also found this tea tin, which is perfectly beautiful  and now full of chammomile tea, perfect for bedtime, because, see above, sleep is good for for the planet, and also for me. I am a much nicer person with nine hours' sleep a night, so sweet dreams:)

Tell me about your green and thrifty week. Did you get to nap?

PS, My blog links are back! I did nothing except procrastinate (one of my best talents). And here they are. Life is full of mystery and wonder..

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Keep Occupied on a Rainy Holiday Afternoon

I mean, really, I could have sat on the couch and read a book. That's how the girls entertained themselves all afternoon. But it is the second week of the school holidays, and I felt an unaccustomed itch to achieve something. This basket of towels has been annoying me for months. I unpacked my towels into this laundry basket the day after I moved in, and it has sat there ever since, in the little alcove next to the bathroom, getting in the way. Lacking a linen closet I have been eyeing off storage options around the house. Should I tip out Posy's teddies from their large, lidded cane basket and use that? ("NO!" shrieks Posy..) Should I get some dedicated storage built in somewhere? I could turn that entire alcove into a large storage cupboard.. but really? I am much more comfortable with my 'less is more' mantra, and using what I have.

Today I decided to move the towels into the chest of drawers behind them. That chest of drawers was the hall table at my old house. So of course it contains, you've guessed it, a lot of useless crap. The bottom drawer contained all the things I have borrowed and need to return to friends. This was actually kind of useful at my old house, because I would check the drawer every time friends left the house. But here? These drawers are nowhere near the front door, and I haven't even looked in them since I moved in. That drawer was easy. Pile everything in it next to the front door. Done. Next drawer was piles of paper tossed in when I opened mail or emptied bags. Again, easy. Everything recycled or filed. These days far more gets recycled than gets filed. I am learning that I do not need to hoard every piece of paper that walks through my front door..

This leaves.. the thing drawer. Who doesn't have a thing drawer? So handy, just to pop 'things' into when it is too hard to decide where to put them really.

This one was sheer agony. Hundreds of tiny things in there, which no more have a home now than they did when I threw them in there over the years at my old place (yes, I really did just throw them in a box and bring them with me from the old house. Then I tipped them straight back into the same drawer when I arrived). Lots of them have gone to bin heaven now. Or recycling heaven. I am pretty fierce about letting crap into the house these days, so the very tiny drawer I decanted the essentials into will be enough (essentials: stamps, pens, pencils and other stationery. Phone books. Address book because I am old school). This was a desperately boring exercise, so I had to take little breaks every ten minutes to do something interesting, like walking the dog, and going to get my hair cut. But finally..

We have a cupboard for towels.. only eight towels, mind you. I had to get rid of some of them too. Not that one ever gets rid of towels. They are too valuable for drying the dog and cleaning up when the roof leaks. But then you store them in the rag pile, which luckily has space to spare. There was no space for flannels or hand towels in the chest of drawers, but this inspired me to man up to a task I have also been wrestling with since I moved in. The bottom drawer in this ridiculously adorable bathroom vanity (made out of an old chest of drawers) has been stuck closed all this time due to being painted in by the previous owners, who clearly did a quick touch up paint job before they left. So far, all I have managed to achieve was to pull off the drawer knob.

The thing I love most about this vanity is that the mouldings on each of the drawers is different. I like to think the long-ago cabinet-maker was having a whimsical afternoon..

But now I needed that space so I messed about again with box cutter blades and knives to no avail, when it finally occurred to me to take out the third drawer and bash the bottom drawer from behind. Der! Fixed, and now all the flannels and hand towels have a lovely new home.

So here ends my small triumph for today. A storage solution that hasn't involved buying anything, and has encouraged me yet again to think about living with less. What I have gained - another laundry basket, less clutter, and an unfortunate case of piles - no, not a medical condition. Bags of stuff at my front door, including, but not limited to: nine pairs of 3D glasses to go back to the cinema, piles of books to return to friends, a dance costume that we borrowed three years ago for a ballet performance, keys that may possibly fit the doors of the cabinet I gave to my dad, a bag of dead phones, chargers and batteries to be recycled. Tomorrow will be the day for schlepping.

Tell me about your thing drawer. Is it scary? Go on, I know you have one..