Thursday, April 06, 2017

Autumn Harvest


And here we have a basketful of butternut squashes There are eight in the basket and probably as many (if not more) in among the vines that weren't caught up in the great powdery mildew debacle. These come from plants which have already died back having lost the battle against the mildew and  as a result not all are as ripe as I'd have liked for storage. Still even those are certainly edible now.

It's odd that some plants were badly affected - mostly those in the back corner of the garden - while others simply shrugged it off and some responded well to the milk spray while those next to them didn't. We've had an unusually cool and humid summer - only a few hot spells when the temperature reached the high 30s instead of weeks of it. The climate has definitely changed over the past fifteen years and gardening is changing with it. If I want to keep my vegetable garden going I'll have to rethink my summer plantings for next year, I guess, and I'll have to find new ways and new places for plants susceptible to mildew. Where I've grown them successfully for so many years no longer seems suitable.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Still Waiting for the Fun to Start

In the meantime a few random things.

1. Waiting for Pisces outside a doctor's office yesterday. A couple with a baby in a pram arrives. Mum goes off to do something and Dad sits down to wait for her. Baby, who looks about 10 or 11 months old, is busy checking out the space. Then his eyes fix on me and a slight smile begins. Since a small person around that age is very much apart of our lives I do what I do with her and wave at him. By now Dad is watching and enjoying the interaction. Baby stares at me obviously unsure but fascinated. I wave again and now Baby is totally fixed on me but he isn't going to actually respond. No, he's trying to play it cool but he can't help the smile flickering and spoiling the solemnity. Dad is laughing by now and when Mum comes back we have a quick chat until Pisces arrives. The whole time Baby's gaze is fixed on me and when I stand up and go to the lift he watches me until the doors close.

2. Having a tooth extracted is better than I expected. This is because dentists are really good on pain relief these days and because our health insurance covered the whole cost. I have to wait for three months for everything to heal up, though, before they can look at giving me an implant to replace the missing tooth - and I'm still amazed that a tooth which was root canalled and crowned years ago could develop an infection after such a long time.

3. I decided not to do the A-Z Blog Challenge this year. I'm too disorganised due to all the health issues Pisces and I have both been having. Feels a bit odd though not to be spending April in search of interesting alphabet blogging subjects.

4. I have signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge again. Everything crossed that I actually get to post some reviews this year. I should because I've already read more this year than I have in a long time. Being sick does that to me, I find. As soon as I'm beginning to recover I start reading.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Well, It Was Worth a Try.

I'm talking about the milk spray I used on the pumpkins for powdery mildew. Unfortunately it hasn't worked all that well but I'm pretty sure it's because I had left it too late. The fungus was well established and, although I took off as many of the affected leaves as I could as soon as I saw the tell tale spots, it reached a point where I would have had to denude the whole plant. Ah well, a lesson learned for next year since I have no doubt that the same will happen again climate change being what it is. I'll just have to remember and spray early on.

The good thing is that, although the plants are slowly dying, they have already produced a decent crop of fruit which is already nearly mature. I counted 14 plump little pumpkins already changing colour this morning so we should have a reasonable amount for our winter stores.

I still have zucchinis and capsicums ripening, there are snake beans too, as well as spring onions, silverbeet, rainbow chard and a bumper crop of basil ready to pick - and there will be sweet corn for lunch tomorrow. The tomatoes are dying back already - they haven't been as prolific as they usually are this year for some reason - and the eggplant has been a major disappointment. They've flowered profusely but only two fruit have appeared.

As far as the fruit garden is concerned, the rock melons (cantaloupes) are doing well and are close to ready to pick - and we still have some grapes on the vines. This is a real surprise since they're usually finished by late February. There are a few blueberry and strawberry stragglers and the goji berry bush is looking healthier than it ever has. The fruit aren't that exciting but I grew it because I like a challenge - and that's why I've been growing pineapples, too. There are three of those with young fruit at the moment so I'm hopeful they'll ripen well.

I guess it's time to be thinking about winter plantings but it's far too hot to even consider planting anything yet. I did invest in some flower bulbs when I was at the shops earlier this week and they're sitting chilling in the fridge so maybe it's time to head to the seed catalogues. They make interesting reading if nothing else and with some help from Pisces I should be able to get some planting done in a month or so.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A "Volunteer"

This came up in my veggie patch uninvited a couple of months ago.




It must have come from when I dug some scraps into the bed a while ago and, as it was obviously a cucurbit of some kind and a freebie plant - always a good thing, I decided it could stay. As you can see it's made itself right at home. I don't have the room to let too many vines sprawl all over the place and so I made it a nice little bamboo frame and it's now twined its way up to over a metre above the ground.

It's been flowering profusely, too, but, while the bees love it, nothing much else has been happening. There were female flowers but none had produced anything in the way of fruit. But yesterday I got a surprise. I hadn't actually checked it closely for about a week apart from making sure it was getting watered but yesterday in the wake of the powdery mildew discovery I decided I'd better check it, too.

And this is what I found.



So it's a rockmelon. It has a way to go - it's only about 8 cms in diameter - but Pisces is already salivating at the thought. He's going to be even happier when he realises that I have another five rockmelon plants already growing up the fence in the back of the garden but I'll keep that for a little surprise later.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

A Garden

according to the poet, Thomas Edward Brown, 'is a lovesome thing' - and for the most part it is. Even while I've been unwell I've managed to spend at least a little time out in the garden every day - and as I've said before, since I had put in the summer vegetable plants before I ended up in hospital I've been able to keep to keep the vegetable garden going with some help. Pisces is no gardener but he is very willing to help with watering and even notices and pulls out the odd weed so everything has been ticking along nicely - until now.

This morning I wandered out to see that quite suddenly powdery mildew had begun to attack my pumpkins. Noooo! There are a lot of pumpkins this year in part because I dumped some
pumpkin scraps in one of the flower beds some months ago and they have sprouted. Woohoo! There's nothing like getting freebie plants, is there. So I shifted them into the vegetable garden and they've been growing beautifully. Now, though, some leaves - courtesy of the humid weather we've been having lately I suspect - have developed spots of mildew. This is not something I've had to deal with before although I've been gardening for as long as I can remember - my parents gifted me with my own space to do with as I pleased when I was nine. Our climate has changed and I'm going to have to adapt, I guess.

Since I don't like to use chemicals I went online to see if there were any alternative methods - and  there were. Who'd have thought that something as simple as milk and water - that's 10 parts water to 1 part milk - would be a way to deal with mildew. Okay, it turns out I should have been spraying every ten days before the mildew showed up but since we've sprayed thoroughly both under and on top of the leaves I'm hopeful we can get on top of it. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Guess What - Another Critter Tale

I got up the other day just after sunrise. By the time I'd opened up the house to let some cool air in - it'd been a horribly hot night after a 39 C day - and fed and medicated the cat the sun was already starting to bite so I found myself a cool spot to read the paper. Yes, we still get a newspaper. Pisces can't bring himself to give it up. I heard a couple of bangs and realised that the neighbours behind us - they are not the quietest of folk - were out in the yard so I assumed it was them especially after they started using a power tool of some sort. It was too early - you're not supposed to use tools before seven - but there wasn't really anything I could do about it and it was only a little while before seven by then.

Back to my paper. More thumps. What were they doing? The power tool stopped and the neighbours switched to loud conversation. I often wonder if they know or care that we know all about their private affairs. I certainly have no desire to know the details of their private life but it's impossible not to hear sometimes unless we close the doors and don't get me started on their barking dogs, Anyhow they finally went inside - but the thumps continued getting more and more frequent.

So off I went outside to try to track it down. Weirdly it seemed to be coming from an open metal rubbish bin Pisces had left on the edge of the veranda. What could it be? The sun was really hot now - obviously we were in for another scorcher. Pisces was up by then and came out to join me. Was it some sort of effect of the sun on the metal, he wondered. I went over and looked in. I couldn't see anything except for a few plant fragments. I touched the outside and it was quite hot. Maybe he was right. Then, as I turned away, I caught sight of a movement accompanied by another thump. Back I went to look again - and there was a small frog in the process of launching itself up. It hit the side of the bin with a resounding thump and fell back again.

We have a number of froggy residents in the garden, some in the pond but others have set up home in flower pots and I keep a bowl of water for them in a shady spot. I thought this fellow needed some recuperation time without having to jostle for a place among the larger ones in the pond so I took it to the bowl where it sat for a moment on the edge of the bin before making a break for it. Since it looked quite dehydrated I hope it came back and luxuriated in the water after I left.

The question of how it came to be in the bin is still something of a mystery, though. It obviously couldn't jump high enough to land in it and there was nothing that we could see near the bin that we thought it could fall in from. Let's hope it learned its lesson is all I can say.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Another Spidery Tale

Yesterday's spider adventure reminded me of a childhood spider 'friend'.

My parents had a similar, if not even more relaxed, attitude to spiders to me and so, when a huntsman spider of about the same size as my visitor yesterday moved in, they were happy for it to stay. It turned out to be a rather curious little creature and we often found it where we were presumably watching us. It became so much a part of the household that we named it Oscar.

For more than a year Oscar lived happily with us. He had a few narrow escapes from enthusiastic kitties who thought he should be killed or chased out of the house and once he misjudged a leap and landed on the hot stove top where Mum was cooking. She quickly scooped him up and put him in the sink where his feet could cool down and he recovered fully after a few days.

All was fine until the day my grandmother opened the toilet door to discover hundreds of tiny grey spiders. They were all over the toilet, on the walls, even on the ceiling. Oscar, it turned out, was a girl. She was unceremoniously collected in a dustpan with as many of her babies as could be swept up and dumped outside and then the room was sprayed to mop up any remaining critters.

For some reason Mum and Dad never welcomed a huntsman spider back into the house. I can't think why.