Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What We Did Yesterday

It is amazing what the extra time on a long weekend allows you to do.

On Saturday, the Geek and I prepared our bathroom for painting. The Geek was able to put two coats on it yesterday and it was dry in time for the kids to have a bath. Turns out that the Geek's long arms enable him to clean and paint all the bits of the bathroom which I need a ladder to reach. So I cleaned the bits I could, used the Spakfilla, and cleaned stray paint off the tiles afterwards. Our next project is attaching the medicine cabinet.

Our bathroom now looks almost as I want it to. We have a timber vanity unit that looks like it was made in the 1930s, which suits our house. The dark sage-green wall tiles have a border of gum leaves at head height. Above is the lighter sage green paint. The floor tiles are a medium brown. Our tapware is chrome with the old-fashioned, comfortable cross handles, and the basin and bath are white.

While the Geek was painting, I kept the boys occupied in the garden. We had moved the chooks along in the garden, so half the vegie patch was ready to plant. The boys cleaned old vines off the wire trellis for the peas, and I rehung it. The boys did the planting of 'Greenfeast' peas, though. The Sprig planted some carrots, and the Twig the broad beans. I did the seedlings, however, and sowed some new punnets of winter vegetables.

The Twig and I moved the strawberries into the vegetable garden as mentioned, and planted their trough with sage and thyme. I also potted up some Allspice Plant (Coleus amboinicus, but it has many common names) to sit next to my aloe-and-dichondra pot.

Another big job, where the boys were a real help, was to remove an old weeper hose from under the fruit trees. We didn't quite finish laying the new one, but then, who does finish all their planned garden jobs in a day?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Portrait of Autumn

It's my favourite time of year for gardening, so felt a sudden need to buy a few things at Bunnings on Friday. Today I set up a terracotta pot combining Aloe vera and Dichondra argentea. I've admired this Dichondra for some time on Digging and now have it in a combination which I'm happy with. It will live in a sunny spot under our carport roof.

Then I decided to plant my 'Nelly Kelly' blueberry in a big self-watering pot, which had been holding tomato stakes for a while. There was a lot of leaf litter in the bottom of the pot (and perhaps redbacks), so I tipped the pot sideways to clear it. Next thing, something had leapt out of the water reservoir! The frog then sat still in an I'm-not-here fashion, so my children were able to have a look at it too. Given its size, I think it might be a Pobblebonk, rather than the Common Eastern Froglet or Brown Toadlet. I made sure I replaced the pot in roughly the same spot and am hoping that Jeremy Fisher returns to his home. I am also hoping that 'Milkmaid' nasturtiums grow true to type as I've put some seedlings from last year's plants around the blueberry.

Tomorrow, I'm moving my strawberries into the vegie patch and planting the empty trough with sage and thyme. It occurred to me that these plants would probably do better in a cactus mix, so we'll see if that improves their lifespan. I'm good at killing thyme and sage, alas. Then there are a few other vegetable seedlings to transplant, carrots for the Sprig to sow, and a bathroom to paint...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Garden Visit: Leuralla

When Leuralla advertised that its gardens would be open on the Easter weekend, I was keen for a look. The twelve-acre garden was supposedly developed by Paul Sorenson early in the 20th century, and after enjoying Everglades a few years ago, I wanted to see what else Sorenson had achieved. After a visit to the Leura Book Fair and afternoon tea at the Wayzgoose Cafe (where they have Proper Leaf Tea!), we thought a garden visit would be a good way to spend some not-too-strenuous time outdoors. The Sprig was still croupy.

Unfortunately, Leuralla was a bit of a disappointment. While the garden had good bones, there was no sense of love and care for it, somehow: no-one taking a real interest in it. No particular care had been taken to ready the garden for visitors on the day we came, for the very good reason that it's open all the time.

The house itself is handsome, and and the gentleman who took my money assured me that the architect had been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. And who was the architect? Well, he didn't know, just that he'd been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. Poor nameless architect. I couldn't see any resemblance to Wright's work at all, but then I have only seen a few of Wright's better-known designs in photographs.

Rather oddly, Leuralla does not face the uninterrupted view of the Jamison Valley southward, but a suburban street to the east. Even more strangely, there is no view to the house from the street. There is a a high paling fence and boundary line of enormous pines, a narrow garden, and an established hedge almost against the house. Yet the eastern facade is majestically symmetrical, as if guests would first have seen it from that side. A mystery!

Fully a quarter of the garden was closed to the public for no apparent reason ("For use of staff"? How many can there be?). The "rosetrellised walkway to the picturesque "New England" style gabled and shingleroofed barn" ended at a work area. Now we all need work areas, but this one was at the end of the pergola walk and in front of the "picturesque" barn, which was being used as the gardener's shed. I know you should end a pergola with some kind of special spot, but for me, a ute and a pile of building materials isn't really a grand finale. And why advertise the barn if it's inaccessible?

Here's a pictorial example of the not-quite-rightness of this garden. I like jungly borders with restful colour combinations, but what's that waving and shouting at us above the sedums?

Yes, dahlias in fire engine red, like Laurel and Hardy turning up at a chamber recital. Just a few of them -- not enough to make a statement, but enough to disrupt the blur of greens and soft browns. What were the gardeners thinking?

That isn't to say that some of the old parts of the garden are not well-kept.

But an established hedge doesn't need imagination and love. And I'm not showing you the ornate wooden gates at the end of the drive, because somebody has decided to prevent unauthorised entry by wiring two-metre panels of reinforcing mesh to them.

Despite all this, there is still a little magic in the garden, left from long ago when loving hands set the stones in place. This picture refreshes me whenever I see it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The Geek pointed out this Ars Technica article. I must admit I had never thought about the hideous power demands of data centres, and it's great to see such intelligent responses to the problem, using passive methods. The permies strike again!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter Weekend Scenery

As usual, we went to Katoomba Easter Convention, up in the Blue Mountains, for the long weekend. I think it's astonishing that we have such wonderful scenery so close to home (it's about 100 km from our place). The Geek took these photos at Govett's Leap. 'Leap' is the Scottish word for waterfall -- the story that Govett leapt to his death here is a myth. He was the surveyor, and an artist.

View down the Grose Valley to Mount Hay, about 9km away

We couldn't do much in the way of bushwalking over the weekend as the Sprig had croup, but we did manage the 1.5 km return trip from Govett's Leap Lookout to Bridal Veil Falls. You get to cross the creek at the top of the falls.

Now I know where the idea for wet-edge pools came from.

Wind gives the bridal veil effect to the falls while the water drops about 165m (537"). You can hear rapids under the tree canopy as it tumbles to join the Grose River lower down; the gorge is about 600m deep.

The walk to the falls is pleasant, but includes lots of steps down... which of course means you need to walk up them afterwards. The kids found the return trip hard going and my legs were very stiff the next day! I hate to think how hard it would be to climb up from the floor of the valley, but the bushwalks to the Blue Gum Forest in the valley are quite popular. One day walk (Perry's Lookdown to Evans Lookout) requires five hours to cover 10km (6mi). I don't know how much of that walk is straight up -- or down!