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.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Odd Sort of Day

It started off with my noticing "something" black on the wall up near the ceiling. Got the ladder to have a closer look and discovered it was a spider with its legs tucked in and that meant it was about the size of a 50 cent piece. Eek!

Now I don't mind sharing my house with the odd spider - as long as it's not poisonous I hasten to add - because they help deal with any stray insects that get inside since we don't like using insecticides unless it's absolutely unavoidable. But there are limits and this was one of those times. I had to act.

What to do? My usual go to is to take an envelope, manoeuvre whatever beastie I'm trying to remove into it, hold the envelope tightly closed and take it outside. This works for all sorts of little critters - spiders, little skinks and geckos for example - as long as I'm fairly sure I'll be able to contain them because I really don't fancy having any of them run up my arm. But this spider obviously a) wouldn't fit in an envelope and b) probably wouldn't cooperate in going into one even if I tried to make it go in. I was going to need help.

So I called Pisces to be ready to open the door, armed myself with a dust pan and brush and headed back up the ladder. Turns out the spider wasn't all that keen on being held down by a brush - can't understand why. Anyway it crawled around and hid on the back of the pan where it stayed while I took it outside and found it a nice place to live.

Then a little while later I went out to get the mail and over the road there were four police officers wandering around the front yard opposite, three in uniform and the other apparently a detective as I heard them say something about 'he must have got in here because footprints'. No idea what it was all about but I'm certainly making sure every security measure we have is in place.

And the final thing - my cat, who has never done this before, nipped me and I have absolutely no idea why. The good thing is he only left a small scratch and apparently I'm forgiven for whatever he thinks I did because he's back in his usual place on the end of my bed. And, no, he's not forgiven by me yet.


Monday, February 20, 2017

2016 Aurealis Awards Shortlist.

Yes, it's out and it's lovely to see so many of the books I enjoyed in 2016 are shortlisted.

The complete list is here and the award winners will be announced during Swancon in Perth at Easter.

And now I'm off to get hold of some of the books I missed last year.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


There's a naked lady dancing in my garden. See.

It's a belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna if you want to be formal) and it gets the name of 'naked lady' from the way the flower spike seems to appear out of bare ground. Actually it grows from a bulb which doesn't put out leaves until it has flowered.

When I said it was dancing I wasn't joking. Getting the photo was quite a challenge because we've been having strong wind gusts that meant the first umpteen photos were blurred. Finally, though, I got this one which is just about clear. I love the way the centre of the blossom positively glows in the sunlight.

These lilies are often called Easter lilies here because they used to appear at about then. Now that our weather has changed so much - we've just had the second wettest day on record (over a hundred mms in twenty four hours) and the coldest February day on record (a maximum of 17.4 C) at a time of the year when we'd usually be expecting dry and hot (mid thirties) -  the poor lilies are totally confused and so we have them flowering early in February.

Lovely as they are, they do have a dark secret. The sap and bulb are both toxic so if you have young children visiting your garden you need to be watchful to make sure they don't chew on it or come in contact with the sap.