Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Praise of Gardening

The Geek has drawn my attention to this touching post by Derek Powazek, about his father, himself, and why they like gardening.

I'm not sure that the Geek has noticed that Derek is himself a geek -- who likes gardening. Do you think my Geek might be catching the disease?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another List of Gardening Activities

One day, my horrible garden sheds will be demolished, which means that the contents have to go somewhere else.

Have you ever looked at your garden shed and contemplated having to pack it? It occurred to me that disintegrating bags of lime and blood-and-bone are not packable, so I did something radical on the weekend... I used them up! The lime went on my vegetable patch and the native plants got the blood-and-bone -- it's their favourite fertiliser.

The Geek and I put up some more pea-netting and the Sprig helped me plant 'Purple Podded Dutch' peas under it. I'm still deciding where to plant the snow peas, as I never have much luck with them.

The new pea-netting used to hang at the back of our house, where I had a small brick-edged garden bed and a 'Nelly Kelly' grafted passionfruit. Now I don't know if this happens with all of them, but the stock suckered unstoppably and inevitably the graft died off. The stock has been going strong for years (still suckering madly), but it doesn't produce edible passionfruit. The same thing happened to Dad's 'Nelly Kelly', so I won't buy one again unless someone gives me a very good reason. But with the wall slated to become an interior wall, there was no reason to waste my netting on an ugly stock any more, was there? And those bricks could be reused, so out they came. The boys had a lovely afternoon building with them.

My cut finger has prevented me from planting up punnets for a couple of weeks, so I turned to that next. I had to plant out a few beetroots and cabbages, and found that the bed was full of volunteer lettuce and bok choy seedlings -- which is great, seeing as I have missed out on planting those things recently!

Seeds planted:
  • Beetroot 'Globe Free' and Heirloom Mix
  • Cabbage 'Mini'
  • Florence Fennel
  • Kale 'Tuscan Black'
  • Leek 'King Richard'
  • Lettuce 'Yellow Leaf' and 'Forellenschuss'
  • Onion 'Borrettana'
  • Pak Choy 'Red F1'
  • Silverbeet 'Five Colour'
  • Spring Onion 'Evergreen'
The one thing we didn't get to was building a teepee out of the pruned branches you see at the top of the post. Next week...

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Very Light Frost

Very light, but it was definitely there this morning! The first frost of the year. Now this IS early -- I recorded last year's first frost on 6th July and in 2008 it was on 30th June. I notice that nobody bothers to record the last frost in Sydney!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Excitements for the Back Yard

A while ago, a young couple bought a post-war cottage in a quiet street. The house had everything they needed, in terms of location, aspect and price, and even a lot of the things they wanted. In particular, there was a lovely big back yard for the woman to garden in and for their future children to play in. And, they thought, the layout made it easy to extend if they wanted to.

It turned out fairly quickly that they did want to extend. While the northerly back yard got plenty of sun, the house had few windows on that side. The big south-facing windows caught the prevailing wind and kept the house cool in summer, but in winter the house merely felt dark and cold. The kitchen had some awkward walls so that the table never quite fit, and the lack of bench space continually frustrated the cook. Then there were the books... and then the kids came...

The house had been built before barbecues became popular, so the back door and yard were utilitarian. The Hill's hoist was only a few metres from the laundry and directly in front of the back door, with a by-now-illegal incinerator adding depth to the view. Shade from westerly sun was provided by two astonishingly ugly and impractical sheds. The aluminium shed was eventually concealed by a wattle tree... that grew much taller than advertised, shading the solar hot water system just as its twin in the front yard grew through the electrical wires. As the carport was a bit awkward for parking, the family started using it as a patio, but they found that westerly sun made it a bit too hot in summer. And the gutters still drained to a silted-up pit in the back yard, creating a boggy patch in the grass.

So we want a modest extension to suit the character of our little austerity cottage, give us additional living space, and provide an attractive frame to a patio and the rest of our garden. In realising it, we also plan to improve the energy use, capture some of our rain water and bring the drainage up to code. Years of planning (and a not inconsiderable sum of money!) have brought us almost to construction, and this is what has been keeping me a bit quiet lately. But now almost all the paperwork is done, and we are waiting for builders to quote.

The new work is marked in green, and the entry and kitchen are losing a few walls to improve flow and to enlarge the kitchen space. This blog will be changing direction a bit as I'm planning to document the building process here, and I'm not sure quite how much gardening I'll be able to do if half the back yard is dug up for drainage... but we'll see. I can't quite see myself giving up gardening; I feel as Gavin does about that!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ghastly Moments in Gardening IV: Nine-Fingered Chookie and the Secateurs of Doom

You can guess how this story ends, so I'll show you the result now.

I was having a lovely time on Sunday afternoon with my secateurs when I made a slight misjudgement. The cutting blade sliced through the pad of my left ring-finger. I think the top end of the blade only just caught my finger, so the anvil (the thick lower jaw) was not involved. But the secateurs are Swiss-made and, I discovered, still razor-sharp after some years of use and abuse.

It was a deep cut, though, with lots of blood. I zoomed into the laundry to wash it off a bit. It was only after I moved my hand and the water bent the flap back that the world started to go dark. I've occasionally felt faint, but have never been so close to collapsing on the floor before! After the Geek had helped me wrap it up, I'd rested for a while on the bench outside until I felt better.

By now I knew that I needed at least a tetanus jab, if not stitches, and on a Sunday afternoon that would mean going to our local hospital. So I had a cup of tea, made by the Geek (one should never go to hospital unfortified). I think his first-aid skills might need a bit of work but the tea was well made! By 3:30 I was in Casualty.

The triage nurse replaced the hasty dressing with a proper constriction bandage to reduce blood flow, and then I had to wait for the doctor. My only entertainment was two coppers arriving with a fellow in handcuffs who had no shoes and no teeth, and who appeared to be slightly on the wrong side of the sanity line. And there was a B-grade meerkat documentary on the TV.

I think I saw the doctor at about 5pm, which isn't bad for a small hospital on a Sunday afternoon. I ended up with four stitches, as you can see, a tetanus jab and a Keflex prescription. And local anaesthetic injections into the finger are just as painful there as they are anywhere else. I was grateful my wedding rings escaped being cut off.

Meanwhile, the Geek had been cooking a lamb roast. Delicious, though the anaesthetic had worn off and my finger was pretty sore. Most annoying things: I missed out on all the other garden work I was planning to do, and as I type properly, having my ring finger out of action is a nuisance. But it looks like it's healing well. The stitches will be removed on Friday.