Saturday, August 05, 2023

Storny Weather

I've just been out fixing up the damage from last night's storm. This is pretty much the first time I've been able to  spend much time outside and do anything really since I managed to fracture my other wrist  two and a half months ago. This time I did a lot of damage to the internal structure of the wrist and the fracture itself wasn't a clean one. I still have to do regular exercises to try to get back full function. It's not too bad and I am making progress but it is still painful.

But enough the whinging. I could get out there and actually do something albeit mostly still one handed. Given there were houses with their roofs blown off we were lucky as far as the wind damage is concerned. The front driveway gates are mostly much destroyed which considering they were already in pretty bad shape and we intend to get them replaced in a few weeks is fine. 

Apart from that we had some large pots blown over - quite a few actually. My little lime tree which was loaded with fruit - and very pretty they looked, too - is now bare after being blown offf the wall it usually sits on. I've shared the fruit with my neighbours but I'll miss being able to go out and pick a lime whenever I wanted. The  curry leaf tree,which is in a large ceramic pot, was also blown over. While the tree is fine the pot I'm afraid has suffered a fatal injury. Because it's a very large pot and I will have to source another the pot is currently glued together. Not a permanent fix but it should give me some time.

The pineapples also suffered . These pots are in what is usually a safe place at the side of the house. Not this time. When we went to see if there was any damage from overflowing gutters - the rain was exceptionally heavy and Pisces had already found one spot  with a  blockage - we found more than half the pineapple pots on the ground. That meant a rather prickly rescue. Pineapples have long spiky leaves and these were large second year plants which should fruit this year, and they were heavy. Once they were all back in place I could see that the very large birds nest fern which belonged to my mother and must be at least eighty years old had also fallen over. It stands in a corner of the house and it is huge so it took both Pisces and me to manhandle it back into position. 

So everything in the garden is now back as it should be  - or at least in order - and I'm not complaining too much as we need rain. It's just the wind I could do without.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Tangled Lands by Glenda Larke

 In the interests of transparency I should tell you that I know Glenda and have done for many years - since we were in our teens in fact. That said I have to say she is has also been one of my favourite fantasy writers ever since her first novel was published. She has an incredible capacity to create extraordinary worlds. People using a tidal bore as transport, a world where giant millipedes are used for transport and, of course, magic to mention just a few details from some of her novels  will tell you she has an amazing imagination. Add to that the ability to transport you into these worlds so they are utterly believable and to create strong and beautifully drawn characters and intricate plots and there's a lot to like. So when I heard she working on a now novel I was watching to see when it might be released. Now it's here and it was worth the wait

The Tangled Lands is Glenda Larke at her best. As Pisces would tell you I could barely  be dragged away from it to do, well, anything really. She has created yet another unique world where magic happens but life also goes on. There are universal themes of prejudice, fear of the other, temptation and different kinds of deeply personal griefs but there is also honour and growth as characters make mistakes (sometimes with terrible consequences) and  learn and change. 

To say it was gripping is an understatement. I love fantasy when it's like this - and  as you've probably guessed I recommend this novel highly. Who knows you might then want to have a look at some more of Glenda Larke's novels many of which I see are still available. There are all sorts of extraordinary worlds to enjoy between those covers.

Monday, April 24, 2023


It's been a grimly grey and damp day here today but in a rare break in the weather I went for a wander around my garden and this is what I found.

 These calendulas or pot marigolds brighten much of my garden from flower beds to the vegetable garen where they self sow. They are used medicinally I'm told and since they're edible they make a colourful addition to salads. Mostly though I just find them a cheerful addition to the garden,

The cymbidium orchids are in glorious bloom at the moment. I have several and as each stem of flowers opens I move it to a table on the veranda where its beauty can be enjoyed from inside the house.



 And finally here is one of my yellow bearded irises. I love these and have several large pots of them  - it was this lovely stem of blooms that drew me outside in the first place. The blossoms don't do well in heavy rain or strong wind - the delicate petals damage easily - but on a day like today they stay perfect.


Monday, April 03, 2023


 At last! It's been a very dry summer. We don't get much summer rain here - there'll be the odd thunderstorm if we're lucky but most are thunder and lightning and not much else so dry is not unexpected. This means we don't get much in the way of humidity - there's an old joke where when asked about how we handle heatwaves - and w have some beauties - a Western Australian will say: "I don't mind the heat as long as iy's dry heat." It's true enough. When the odd tropical storm shakes things up and  it gets a bit  humid we start to wilt. Even then we don't often get much in the way of real water coming out of the sky so so it's something of a pleasant change when we have a few wet days like we've just experienced.  The garden perks up in a way no amount of hand or sprinkler watering can make it do and everything gets a much needed wash so the whole garden looks fresh and bright. Plants survive and even thrive her with hand d or sprinkler watering but there's nothing rain to give it a renewed burst of life.

Well, that's the way it's been but our climate is changing. The south west of Australia is getting dryer thanks to climate change and the dams which once supplied Perth and it surroundings with more than enough water are now at sucj low levels that Perth now depends on two desalinisation plants for around half of its water needs and there are plans to build a third. Garden sprinkler watering is restricted to two days a week from September to the end of May with a total ban on use in our wettest months of June, July and August. 

Along with this our ur gardens and gardening practices are changing. Water hungry plants are being replaced with hardy natives and those from other dry climates. While there is still a place for planting that needs watering such as fruit and vegetable crops we're learning new techniques which will keep us fed. It's an interesting exercise to look at gardens and see how they are changing because Perth sits on the edge of a dry continent and for too long we've tried to emulate a European style of gardens - and it no longer works here.

While I've always been very careful and strategic in how I water I'm always looking to find ever newer and better ways to cut back on my water usage. This is where my raised beds are coming into their own. Because they're wicking beds I only need to make sure that the water level is maintained to ensure my plants stay healthy and productive. While they're not the answer for everything - plants like beans and peas still need a frame of some sort - they are certainly working for smaller plants. At the moment I have capsicums, eggplant, chard and basil but they will soon be replaced with brassica like kale and pak choi and maybe some smaller broccoli. These beds have covers which keep out pests  like cabbage white butterflies  so the brassica should do well in them.  

There has been one setback, though. When the beds were set up for me the potting mix supplied turned out to be less than optimal. It should have been sterilised to get rid of any pathogens and this was obviously not the case. Within a few weeks a  host tiny moths hatched and I'm still months later dealing with their off spring. I hate to use chemicals at any time and in beds like this  they would be even more problematic so I've been spraying with a naturally occurring bacteria. I hope that will be enough to rid me of the little beasties sooner rather than later.

So my garden is changing and evolving as the climate changes but there will always be a garden here because if there's one defining thing about gardeners it's that we never stop wanting to surround ourselves with plants and I don't believe we ever will.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

When Life Gives You Lemons

you're supposed to make lemonade or something  In my opinion these platitudes are more harmful than good. All we can do when things are a mess  - and  it doesn't matter if it's health problems or a personal tragedy - is to try to survive and I find part of survival is finding small moments of joy where you can.

With that cheery beginning in mind here are a few of my moments of joy lately.

Mr Three has been spending more time with us lately - it's the last year before he goes to kindergarten and he starts to have a busy social life. We're having great fun playing silly games. This is a magical age when pretending is the way to go so when he tells me we scurry through the house pursued by crocodiles and tigers - oh and biting plants just for good measure - to the safety of the boat (my bed). then we creep back to the family room before we're under attack again and have to seek safety on my chair. This is all very bemusing to Pisces who is intomore into tangible toys.

While I've been sitting here I've been being distracted by the afternoon procession of birds at the birdbath. I made sure that the birdbath is clearly visible through my study window so I can watch them when I should be working. A few minutes ago there was a flock of New Holland honey eaters - around ten of them were splashing in and out of the water before flying off.  Now there's a red wattle bird trying to manage an uninterrupted drink and the resident willy wagtail isn't putting up with that. He's about half the size of the wattle bird but it's given in and decided he's too annoying and flown off. Mr Willy Wagtail is now spending his time alternatively bathing and strutting on the side of the birdbath. I've seen him take on a bird as big as a raven and drive it off. Foolhardy? Well, he usually gains his objective so I guess not.

I invested in some raised garden beds at the beginning of summer. It's been getting harder for me to get down to garden these days and theses Vegepods are at waist height so much easier to maintain. I'm now harvesting chard, basil, and capsicums regularly from the pods. While the pods are a very good thing the area doesn't compare with the vegetable garden I used to have so I have a few  plans in the ground - cucumbers and various herbs mainly but when I fractured my wrist gardening was out of the questions. It was a very long three months of healing and rehab my but arm is functional again and I I'm - at last  - able to get out into the garden.

The abundance of capsicums and basil means I have the additional pleasure of converting some of my harvest to meals for  the future. This means we have portions of home made pesto and vegetable stew in the freezer. The cucumbers are coming in, too, and I look forward to enjoying them for months to come. 

I didn't get a chance to put in things like pumpkins or squash at the beginning og summer - for obvious reasons - but more in hope than anything else I threw a handful of butternut squash seeds into what is usually a flower bed outside the back door and they have emerged and and are growing very fast. Butternut squash are known as pumpkins here for some reason and keep very well so I'm hoping for  at least some to carry us over the winter. Besides butternut plants are attractive enough to fill the space before the self seeded winter flowers come up - and they have spectacular large, golden yellow flowers so that's an additional bonus.

Miss Nearly Seven and her Dad called in last weekend. I hadn't seen her for a few weeks - you have a very busy social life once you're in school - and she's had a growth spurt. She's all long limbs and missing teeth while her big cousin Miss Eleven is now not much shorter than me. Given I'm a shorty I suspect they'll all tower over me eventually.

I've been making time for writing in among everything else that takes up my t me. I'm still working my way through some short stories. I have no idea where they are all going to end up  - if anywhere - but I've now finished to first draft a bunch of of them and I'm thoroughly enjoying writing them. 

I got a text from Virgo earlier in the week. Miss Nearly Seven and Mr Three wanted to come over after school and wanted Virgo to leave. I suspected plans were afoot and I was right. After a few games there were requests for  Poppy Biscuits which are just BBQ Shapes but thse little cracker biscuits are very popular among the younger set. Then a few minutes later there were whispers in my ear. Could they please have ice cream? This is something have at home but there's something special about ours apparently. Since I don't want them to not want their dinner they each get a small - and I do mean small - scoop of whatever I have in the freezer. What's hilarious about this is that they would be given exactly the same thing if Virgo was here but apparently it's much more exciting if they think it's a secret.

One last note - Pisces has been out and topped up the birdbath and a flock of little brown birds - which after searching through my trusty field guide I've managed to identify as weebills - fluttered in as soon as he moved away. They didn't get long before the willy wagtail shooed them off and proceeded to have a very thorough bath himself. No sooner had he left the little birds were back noisily skimming through the water then fluffing out their damp belly feathers on the fence before they go back again.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

And Still They Come

 They are ants. I feel as if I'm living in a version of Groundhog Day where instead of reforming myself I just have yet another invasion of ants. I'm not alone in this battle  which isn't actually any consolation.

We've always had ants  doing anty things in the garden - like undermining the pavers and putting up neat little piles of sand everywhere and anywhere. Annoying - and the under paving excavations are starting to be quite a lot more than annoying but that's another story. These ants were coastal brown ants and have been around in some form or another for as long as anyone has built houses on the Swan coastal plain. They are as I said generally only annoying but in the past couple of years things have changed.

There are some new ants on the block. These are tiny - and I mean really tiny. Generally I can't even see them unless they move. Even Pisces who eyesight is much better than mine struggles at times. These little blighters - and I'm trying to be polite here - are like the invaders in the song, Close the Doors I posted about a few days ago. Now I think about it the ant apocalypse may be what has set off my obsession with such songs. 

But enough of that and on to my battle with these little pests which currently they seem to be winning. Every day I get up to a trail of ants coming in from somewhere new. My kitchen is wiped over diligently after any use, everything edible is kept in sealed containers and the bin is emptied at least daily. It does no good whatever. I've tried every natural way of detering them and none of them work. They just keep coming. I don't want to use insecticide in the kitchen near foodstuffs  - although Pisces did give in and spray where the bin is kept the other day and I don't blame him.

Because they are so tiny their ability to enter the kitchen has opened up a whole new lot of problems. They'vecome in behind the glass splash back  and no sooner did I block the first hole than they were coming in through another. Whether the silicone seal on it was not done well enough or as I suspect they've chewed through it who knows. They've come in inside the cupboards which are supposedly sealed, they wended their way along the edge of the tiles , down beside the oven and then around to the sink. 

Today though they really excelled. My lovely cleaner J. was in the kitchen when she saw them and yelled "There's hundreds of them" which might be a slight exaggeration but there certainly a lot - all over the cook top and coming out from under it. The cook top has been kept wiped over scrupulously - it actually shines - and I've even scraped  under the edges to take away anything that could attract them. So how did they get there? Why were they there? Was it some sort of ant conference where they were making plans on where to go next? Who knows. J. entertained herself by going back multiple times and killing as many as she could and I turned on the burners for ten minutes in hopes of driving them out. We shall just have to wait and see I guess.

So if I come up with more songs about "things" invading people's live you'll know why.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

I've Tried toWrite a Sensible Blog

Really, I have - but I keep finding nonsense filling my brain. So here's a selection of what I've had in there over the past week. 

Let's start with Stanley Holloway's recording of The Lion and Albert. This was a favourite of my Dad so brings back all sorts of memories.

Then there was this novelty song by Phil Harris The Thing.

 Another bit of musical nonsense was this - Close the Door here performed by The Stargazers.

I did manage one  more cultured piece of music. It's Orinoco Flow sung here by the original members of the Irish group Celtic Woman. I've been trying to get a playlist organised for an upcoming event and and this is right at the top of my list. Enjoy.