Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hooray!

We haz rain - and what a lot of rain it has been. It was enough to cause a massive morning rush hour traffic jam on the freeway because the rain was so heavy everything ground to a halt. That looks good for much needed rain in the farming areas so let's hope it does get there and doesn't fizzle out before it gets inland.

Meanwhile every little bit of greenery I can see - from the street trees to the multitude of plants in the  veggie patch and everywhere else in the garden - looks happily revitalised. It always amazes me the difference rain makes to plants. You can water by hand or sprinkler as much as you like but it never makes the same change in the appearance of plants as rain does. The only thing that makes even more of difference is if it's a thunderstorm bringing the rain. It turns out the extra shot of nitrogen that makes its way into the soil with lightning acts as fertiliser. Well, that is unless the plant is unfortunate enough to be struck by lightning, of course.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's the Winter Solstice

and for no other reason than I can - and it cheers me up - here is a photo of some of my veggie garden.



I'm in need of cheering up today because I'm supposed to be out with friends for a movie and lunch. Only I'm not, am I. Instead, having been let down my body - something that happens more often than I would like - I'm home, in bed and in pain.

So let me talk about other things that are more pleasant - which brings me back to my garden where we are starting to harvest winter veggies regularly now. As you can see, we're even somewhat spoiled for choice truth be told, and the thought that I'm actually growing some of our food is highly satisfying. Even Pisces, who does not share my enthusiasm for gardening, although to be fair he is more than willing to do any heavy work I might ask him to do, enjoys going out and picking what he wants when he wants it.

There's one other thing I'd like to add to our food production - and that's some hens. Going out and collecting fresh eggs is mighty appealing. That's where Pisces and I do not agree. I grew up in a family which kept hens and ducks so I have a fair idea of what poultry keeping involves. It's not that hard - and actually I rather like hens themselves. He, on the other hand, has no experience of it and sees it as all too much. So for the moment we're at a bit of an impasse but I'm not giving up. Who knows one day soon I might be posting pictures of some sweet little chickens. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Slightly Confused

Not me. It's this daffodil I'm talking about.


It's in the flowerbed where I planted a whole lot of daffodil bulbs about a month ago - you can see some of the still quite small Iceland poppy plants I put in at the same time in the picture - and so far only about half its fellows have started to come up. I wasn't expecting to see more than a few leaves and certainly no flowers from the daffodils for at least another six to eight weeks but this one just poked its leaves out and must have panicked. 'Whoa, it's warm,' it said to itself. 'It must be Spring. I'd better start flowering - and fast.' So it did.

I'm not really surprised it's confused. I was out working in the garden yesterday in a lightweight summer t-shirt and sweltering in jeans - and it's winter here.  While it's been cool at night the days are pleasant - in the low twenties or high teens most days. The big worry is if this fine, warm weather continues because we're way below average rainfall so far for this time of the year and things are looking grim for the farmers if we don't get some decent falls soon. I've been having to hand water every couple of days to keep my veggies going, not what I'd usually expect to be doing at this time of year.

Oh well at least this stray daffodil is brightening the outlook from the family room.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Meanwhile At the Garden Centre

Last night we got some decent soaking rain - the first for this winter. This meant I wanted some more veggie seedlings, of course - what better time to plant them after all - plus some fertiliser and other oddments from the garden section at Bunnings. As well we really needed to see what alternatives there are to our old and unreliable clothesline, its tendency to fold up whenever we put sheets on it being disconcerting to say the least.

Well, we're still without a functional clothesline but we do have most of the rest of what I wanted - as well as a few impulse buys. Everyone needs a mushroom farm in a box, right. The other thing I was hoping for was asparagus crowns - I have a small bed already but I want to plant more. I couldn't see any and went to ask. A sales assistant went to enquire while I waited.

Soon there were three people, two women and a little man who looked remarkably like a leprechaun, discussing my problem. Much debate went on then they all disappeared into the depths behind the checkout. I waited. The leprechaun suddenly popped back out.

"It's not looking good," he said and disappeared again.

A minute or so later he was back again. "We're talking to horticulture," he said and was gone.

In a little while he was back shaking his head sadly before he was disappeared around the corner of the building. The woman I had first talked to reappeared. Apparently I was a couple of weeks early so I'll have to go back again. Oooh, I can buy more seedlings then, I guess. What a sacrifice, a prospect Pisces is less impressed by than I am. Can't understand why.

The leprechaun reappeared and helped pack up my purchases. As I looked back on my way to the car he smiled and waved cheerily. What a lovely way to end a shopping trip.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

I've Been Busy

Well that's what I'd like to say. Truth is these days  - and by these days I mean ever since I got sick at the end of last year - I only have a limited time span in each day to achieve what I need to so all the other stuff just keeps getting pushed back. Still my health is slowly - oh so slowly - improving as I whinged to the doctor the other day. He, nice man as he is, said, 'Well, it'll take as long as it takes, I'm afraid.' which was not what I wanted to hear. I've reached the stage of frustration where I want to push myself and I do. This invariably ends badly.

And that, my friends, is why I am sitting here in my PJs at 1:00 PM today. Yesterday I set myself the task of editing a short story and sending it out. Even to be considering this is an improvement because I haven't been able to summon up the energy - or brain power for that matter - to write or edit or anything else for the past six months. I expected it would take most of the morning and I was right. I was almost finished when I took a break about 1:00 PM to walk around in the sun and water the pots.

When I came back disaster had struck. Word had crashed taking with it all my edits from the previous two or so hours. I'm not sure how this happened because I was sure I had saved all but the last few minutes. Apparently not. It turned out to be a blessing in the end because I remembered pretty much what I had done and was working my way through the corrections when I realised I had a problem. This is a science fiction story and the science part was working well and making sense - except I'd forgotten to explain how these folk got around. I remembered when I wrote it  - oh so long ago now it seems - I had thought I'd go back and sort that and obviously hadn't. I had a picture in my head and every time I read it I presumably saw the image in my mind but neglected to put it into words.

It wasn't that hard to fix but by the time I had done that, finished the edits, fixed the formatting (which had gone completely haywire and kept reverting to something I've never even used) and sent it off it was nearly 5:00 PM. By this time I've usually been back in bed for a couple of hours. I closed up the computer so exhausted I could barely see and I literally stumbled to my bedroom where I collapsed on the bed, too drained to even get changed for an hour.

So today I'm paying the price and I'm off to bed as soon as I put up this post.

Monday, May 29, 2017

More Birds

I was out in the garden on Friday in between showers when I heard a sound I couldn't quite place. It was something like a tapping or cracking and intrigued me. So, of course, I went looking for the source. Guess what I found.


It's a bit blurry, I'm afraid, but the only place I could get a photo from was quite a distance away. The birds are - as I discovered today when they flew over again and I got a glimpse of red - forest red-tailed black cockatoos. These particular cockatoos are a sub species of the red-tailed black cockatoo which are unique to southern Western Australia where they are listed as vulnerable.

They are feasting on 'something' on my neighbour's Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia) tree. The Silver Princess is a truly lovely small tree with silvery, weeping branches and large, spectacular red-pink blossoms which are followed by equally large - 30 mm in diameter - gum nuts.  I suspect the 'something' is new buds or flowers because they flower from May to September and I noticed a couple of flashes of red among its leaves in this afternoon's photo below. If you look carefully you can see one flower in the middle of the left hand side upright branch and others up near the top on the far right and the reason you can see them at all is because these blossoms are big as well as beautiful.



I also suspect that there won't be many more flowers this year if the cockatoos keep on feasting but my neighbour, like me, is enjoying the birds at the moment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Of Cats and Magpies

A friend sent me something on Facebook - a picture of a cat carrying a snake and the heading was something along the lines of 'Well they didn't like the mouse I gave them, or the bird yesterday but they'll love this'.

While I've had cats bring me mice or rats as food gifts - that was in the days when I let them out during the day - none ever brought me a bird for which I'm very grateful. My cats are now strictly indoor ones. After I lost one to feline AIDS - a terrible disease - I couldn't face that happening to another furry friend so I talked to the vet. He said that, as our house is large and there are plenty of comfortable, sunny places for them to absorb essential Vitamin D, indoors would be fine and it has proved to be so. We used to take our previous cat out for walks on a lead (and he didn't show any interest in leaving the house otherwise). He was an very easy going boy and here he is in his Christmas finery, which I have to admit was not his favourite thing, not that he ever protested.



The Facebook post brought back memories of a magpie that lived in our very large backyard when I was in my teens. Magpies are highly territorial and Maggie, who couldn't fly, had claimed our yard. He couldn't defend it himself, of course, and so formed an alliance with our dog for protection. He would proclaim his territory and challenge every other magpie in the area to battle and when they arrived to deal with him he'd shriek loudly for the dog who would race out from wherever she was and get rid of the intruders. Maggie would then warble triumphantly as if he had done the deed himself.

Magpies live in family groups and, probably because he had no kin of his own, Maggie became very attached to our family, in particular to my mother and me. When we sat outside he'd climb onto one of our laps where he'd lie on his back to have his tummy rubbed or clamber up onto a shoulder where he'd sit rubbing his beak behind our ears. The other way he showed his affection was by bringing us food gifts. We were given a lot of dead mice, their fur carefully plucked off, as well as assorted insects and on a couple of occasions tiny scorpions, their stingers broken off. These were not actually welcomed by us but they were obviously well meant and we could hardly explain why we didn't want them so they were accepted and then disposed of. There was one that really freaked me out though. 

That was the day when I was working in my garden with Maggie pottering around with me as he usually did, snatching up anything that took his fancy. He suddenly dived into some leaves and emerged with something in his beak that he started to thwack against a rock. I wasn't taking much notice until I felt something on my shoe and heard a soft warble. I looked down to see a centipede - not something we often found in the garden. It was about 15 cms long and draped over my shoe. I jumped, yelled and kicked it away. Maggie was puzzled. He raced over to pick it up, brought it back and laid it down on my foot again. It was limp and definitely dead having had been broken at each segment of its body. Now I'm not a fan of centipedes, even dead ones, but it was obviously a gift. I picked it up and offered it back. Maggie stared at me with a very puzzled expression, head on one side, and when I didn't show any signs of eating it myself he finally decided to take it away and eat it - much to my relief, I have to say. Also much to my relief, he never offered me a centipede again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Visitor

No, not the human kind. This was a large, white, feathered one that came drifting in through misty rain to settle on the back fence yesterday. Pisces just happened to be looking out the window or we wouldn't have realised it was there.

Since it was too wet to go outside and the back fence is too far away to get a decent photo - ask me how I know and I'll put up the blurry shots I took of the kookaburras which have taken to hunting in the lower part of the garden - I can't show you what it was. But I did grab my trusty bird field guide where I had it narrowed it down to two birds when it obligingly stretched its long neck and turned partly towards us so I could see its bill.

It was a yellow-billed spoonbill but what it was doing sitting on our back fence in the rain I have no idea.













Yellow-billed spoonbill at Perth Zoo






Licensed under C C 3.0 Image by Martin Pot (Martybugs at en.wikipedia)


Spoonbills aren't that uncommon in our local wetlands where they forage for small creatures in the water, using their rounded bills to dislodge and catch their prey but they are definitely not common in our yard. We do have a frog pond but it has a net covering that the frogs can get through but keeps out any predatory birds so I doubt that was what it was interested in. It swung its neck around to survey the neighbour's pool at one time but then went back to sitting hunched on the fence looking in the opposite direction. After about five minutes this it shook itself and flew away in the direction of one of the nearby lakes.

This almost rates as highly in my memorable bird sightings as the early summer morning when I heard something knocking outside my bedroom window where I had the sprinkler on. I went out to investigate and found a large purple swamphen which I assume was trying to catch some of the drops leaking from the tap connection. Why it didn't choose the sprinkler where there was much more water available I have no idea but as soon as it realised I was there it took off running up the road and disappeared.

Wildlife in our garden - you have to admit it's interesting.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Progress Report

It's been a grim six months since I first got sick. That's six months of barely leaving the house except to see doctors, of doing something as simple as making breakfast and tidying up the kitchen and having to collapse into bed for the rest of the day, of going out to the garden and watering (something that takes around an hour) and maybe pulling out a few weeds and having to collapse into bed yet again, or putting through a couple of loads of washing, hanging it out with Pisces' help and ... well, you can guess. I've got very, very tired of my bedroom.

Things have been improving albeit at a minuscule rate. Instead of collapsing into bed every day by mid morning it changed gradually to midday. After barely having the energy to eat lunch which would for months was the simplest thing I could make - no cooked meals, just something on toast - a couple weeks ago I looked at the clock and it was 12:30 and I felt hungry not exhausted. Wow! I pulled a veggie stew out of the freezer, made up a currant and almond couscous and enjoyed it as did Pisces who has uncomplainingly been making his own food more often than not.

Since then there has been definite if slow improvement. I've started cooking lunch most days - nothing exciting, generally just vegetables from my garden supplemented with something already from the freezer like a stew or a veggie patty - but it's a proper meal. I'm not collapsing into bed these days until 2:30. Granted that's me done for the day but it's a big improvement.

As a result I made a big decision this week which was to see if I could go back to hydrotherapy exercise classes, something I haven't been able to even consider until now. Today was my first session and although I only lasted for 45 minutes instead of an hour I'm happy it was that long. Admittedly I came home at 2:15, rinsed the chlorine out of my bathers (that's what we call swimsuits here), heated up and ate a bowl of leftovers then crawled into bed where I slept for two hours but at least I've made a start and there's light at the end of the end of this particular tunnel.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Weather Has Changed

and quite suddenly, too. In my last post only two days ago I was saying how I was still in shorts and T-shirts. Not today. The temperature has dropped dramatically after a brief thunderstorm followed by some very welcome steady soaking rain overnight and this morning. We've had to pull out jeans and warm jumpers (sweaters for those of you from foreign parts) that have been packed away since last September.

As I dug through my warmer clothes I realised that I really should not have put off going through my wardrobe for so long. The shops have been full of winter gear since early March but while it was so warm I just couldn't think about cold weather clothes. This was a mistake given I've now discovered some serious gaps in my winter clothes. Jackets I've relied on - well, loved to death truth be told - are showing alarming signs of wear and, since I threw out a lot of my most disreputable looking tops at the end of last winter, they also need to be replaced. At least I'm okay for good jeans but I've apparently lost weight since last winter so my old house jeans - the ones I have on at the moment - are trying hard to slide off as I walk. It might be okay if I had a belt to hold them up but sadly all my belts have developed large cracks which I'm pretty sure means they can't be relied on either.

There's nothing for it. I'll have to tackle one of my least favourite chores, shopping for clothes. I hate clothes shopping. Nothing I like fits me and what fits me I generally loathe. This is partly because I'm not a standard size - I'm short and my top is bigger than my backside. You'll never hear me asking if my bum looks big in something because that has never been something I've had to worry about. I'm pretty sure many people would think this is a good thing but the truth is women's clothes are cut to fit a rounded rear which means getting pants that fit me is, to put it mildly, challenging although I've finally found a brand of jeans that actually fits and doesn't sag. Woohoo! Tops - well, they're a nightmare for other reasons and don't get me started on skirts.

I'm close to desperation point, though, so maybe it's time to gather my courage and my credit card and head out. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Distractions Needed

and that's to keep me from dwelling on other things happening at the moment - like my collapsed clothesline (the one loaded with washing that managed to get tangled around the recently oiled support post leaving stains that show no signs of coming out despite much scrubbing and many stain treatments) for instance or the fact that my 'good' knee is currently playing catch up with my bad knee in the pain stakes. You'll note I'm trying to not even think about the grim state of world politics.

Let us think of other things - like the fact that the vegetable garden is still producing quite a lot of food despite most of the summer crops having been pulled out. I found two new self seeded tomato plants about 20 cms high and flowering yesterday - not something you expect at this time of year - and I've just brought in the last of the rockmelons and butternuts. I'm still picking snake beans, green capsicums, spring onions and even some silverbeet from the two survivors of the summer planting and trying to catch the lettuces before they bolt too.

The thing is we've had a mild summer and, although night time is getting a little chilly averaging around 12 °C, the days are still pleasantly warm in the mid twenties and this is confusing many of the plants. It's confusing us, too. I'm still wandering around in shorts and lightweight T-shirts and only adding a light jacket in the evening.

So something pleasantly distracting to finish up. How about Dolly Parton singing Jolene with a cappella group Pentatonix? Or something quite different Pentatonix by themselves singing Daft Punk? I'm in awe of what the human voice can achieve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Garden Update

Well, it's taken me 12 days but most of the garden is finally planted out. I'd put up a photo but tiny little seedlings I've discovered do not show up well.

Instead here are some calendulas or pot marigolds which are currently brightening up the garden bed outside the family room door.



These were self sown in the vegetable garden where the bees and I like them for their bright flowers. As well they are useful in companion planting as they deter a number of pests. I transplanted them to give the garden a lift while I wait for the red poppies which are already coming up and will soon turn the garden into a mass of vivid crimsons and scarlets.

Pot marigolds have many other uses beyond being pretty. The flowers are edible and used in salads and herbal teas - though I haven't been game to try that yet. They also have a number of medicinal uses. If you're interested you can have a look here.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Not Been Around Much Lately, Have I

and I'm sorry. I've still been struggling with health problems which have meant I can count on one hand the times I've left the house for anything other than doctors' appointments since last November when I started the series of infections which have left me battered and totally lacking in energy. There's light at the end of the tunnel though. In the last week I've actually managed to stay out of bed until around 2:30 PM every day. This is a massive improvement over crashing at around lunch time which has been the pattern pretty much since mid November last year. I even managed to go to a morning tea, the first purely social event I've been to for five and a half months. Is this a sign that I'm recovering at last? I sincerely hope so.

I was feeling so inspired by this turn of events that after we went to the doctor on Friday - yes, there's still a lot of that going on but you can't have everything, can you - I suggested to Pisces that we should go and get some seedlings from our local Bunnings store and now I have a veggie patch of seedlings sitting out the back ready to plant out along with some flowers. I've already planted out the rainbow chard, sugar snap peas and snow peas and the kangaroo paws but there are others - coriander, beetroot, pak choy, onions, fennel, lettuce and mizuna and mustard (I've no idea what the last two will be like but I do like to experiment with new flavours) which, along with some iceland poppies and calendulas, will gradually make their way into the garden.

I'm hoping things will continue to improve because I've had enough of feeling unwell - and, although he'd never say so I'm pretty sure Pisces is feeling equally fed up since he's the one who has had to pick up the slack for me. My fingers are crossed and if you like you might want to wish me luck, too.

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.

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

Ooooh!

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.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Little Something From My Vegetable Garden

Before I got sick - and it''s now more than two and a half months since I got the original infection - I had planted the summer vegetable garden. In fact I was already picking the first of the vegetables before I ended up in hospital. This has meant that, although I haven't been able to do much to keep up repeat plantings, we have been able to harvest regularly getting most of our vegetables from the garden. At present we are harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, burpless and Lebanese cucumbers, silver beet, rainbow chard, nasturtiums, capsicums, beetroot and spring onions as well as onion chives, garlic chives, flat leaved and Afro parsley and several kinds of basil.

This morning I went out to water and while I was there I took a few photos. Here they are.








This pretty little thing is the flower of the snake bean. These are the most successful beans I grow and they are prolific.












These lovely golden blossoms are zucchini
flowers. Spectacular, aren't they - and 
they're good to eat, too

And finally here is some stunning purple basil, which also tastes as good as it looks.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And Another Visitor

I was out in my vegetable garden this morning when something white flashed past my shoulder about 30 centimetres away. It was a pair of little corellas which swept by me to land on the fence a few metres off next to the last sunflower seed head. I had caught sight of them helping themselves to the seeds before - or at least one was helping itself while the other danced around on the fence obviously uncomfortable with the situation.

This time, though, I had my phone with me so I lined up for a photo - and then Pisces came around the corner. The nervous one on the fence took off to the safety of my neighbour's roof where it stayed screeching warnings. Its mate was far too interested in picking and eating seeds to join it so I managed to get this photo.


Little corollas aren't native to Western Australia - they come from the Eastern States with those here descended from aviary escapes - and numbers are increasing mainly due to people feeding them. In some areas they are proving pests as they can form large flocks and this leads to damage caused by fouling from night roosts as well as other things. Despite this I don't mind having this pair call in occasionally and helping themselves. At least it stops the rats getting to the seeds if I'm a bit slow on cutting off a sunflower head.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We Had a Visitor

As I was closing up the house around sunset yesterday evening I was greeted by a young magpie - or more accurately a young, very loudly begging magpie. It was sitting on the back of a chair on the veranda - and it was certain that I was a source of food. Nope. I don't feed magpies for a number of reasons although those living near us are delightful creatures, friendly and living and letting live. Not everyone is so lucky in their resident birds. Magpies have a well-earned reputation for launching attacks on unwary passersby during nesting season - and they can inflict a fair amount of damage - but fortunately it's not all of them. Most just go about their business and the clan that nests in the park behind us generally take no notice of us, just hunting for goodies like caterpillars in our gardens and pretty much ignoring us otherwise. Every time a new family moves in to our area there's few weeks of breath holding and finger crossing while we wait to see if they - by which I mainly mean the children - and the magpies will get along but so far all has been well.

Magpies are very intelligent birds and testing has shown they can distinguish between different people. Even those that attack are very selective as to who they launch at and will leave one person alone while attacking another. It's suspected that they are only targeting those who have harmed them or who resemble those who have harmed them in the past and since no one has so far interfered with our resident clan they have no interest in attacking any of us.

As I said I don't feed them for a number of reasons. It's illegal for one thing but also feeding them meat can cause nutrition problems and they can become dependent on hand outs. This little fellow has obviously learned that people will feed him and when his parents said 'Enough. It's time to leave home and fend for yourself' it thought it would go begging instead of foraging.

When I woke up this morning I could hear it begging loudly and this is what I found yelling loudly when I opened up the curtains.







It looked somewhat scruffy and bedraggled so I went out to check it for injury. Turns out it was still losing its baby fluff and it could certainly fly well enough to take off and land on my neighbour's roof at one point so it was fine. It kept yelling as it followed me around as I went out to pick some vegetables in the veggie patch, while I checked the pots on the patio and watered those in need and whenever I went inside it stood at the door and yelled even more. In its opinion it was hungry so someone should do something about it.

Three hours later it was still yelling and I was beginning to see why its parents thought it was past time for it to be independent. I decided that I'd see just how hungry it was and moved some of the pots out on the patio uncovering slaters, crickets and other assorted small beasties. It took a few moments before it caught on, but from then it gobbled them up with assorted squawks in between. Finally it quietened, grateful for the snack perhaps, and after a few more half hearted attempts at coaxing food from me - the two very ripe strawberries which had been attacked by something overnight did raise its hopes briefly when I picked them to throw away - it gave up and flew off back to the park.

And at last we had glorious silence. Long may it last.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ah Summer

- and this is a strange one as summers go. We have had hot days with maxima mid thirties to low forties centigrade but they have not lasted long, only a few days at a time. Then they've been followed by quite cool days where the temperature has been in the low to mid twenties. This is not the usual pattern. Normally we'd expect 5-7 days at the higher temperatures and then a period with temperatures in the high twenties.

With considerable effort  - and a lot of help from Pisces - I've managed to keep up the watering to the pot plants and the veggie garden but even these are suffering because I was about to order the mulch that is essential for summer here when i got sick. Pisces is well intentioned but he's no gardener so ordering mulch did not rate highly in his list of priorities at a rather stressful time.

We're now heading into the hottest part of summer - well, it is usually but who knows what it'll be like this year - so we've decided we can't delay any longer and, although I'm still not well enough to do anything energetic like spreading mulch, we need to get it ordered and in place. Pisces is not enthusiastic - he's the one who'll have to spread the mulch - but he accepts that if he wants to keep being able to pick his vegetables from the garden he's going to need to do the work. Life is hard, isn't it.


Saturday, January 07, 2017

Are Things Looking Up?

Well, I'd like to say yes - but while there is a slight improvement in my health it is still very slow going as you can see by the fact that it's nearly 11.00 AM and instead of going to a dear friend's birthday lunch I'm going back to bed as soon as I've finished this post while Pisces is heading out to the fun.

Talking of Pisces, while he was at pilates on Thursday, he and the physio who runs the class got talking about infections and how I've been struggling to recover despite multiple courses of antibiotics. She'd had infection problems after she injured her foot and had some suggestions as to what had helped her. As a result he went off to the shops and came home with a load of probiotics and other supplements that are supposed to help you regain normal gut flora and boost your immunity. I'm entirely not convinced by the claims of some of these products but at this stage I'll try anything.

Fingers crossed things will improve - and soon. It's now eight weeks since this started and I'm very, very tired of it all.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Still Not Having Fun

Just a very brief post, I'm afraid, because I've been having a lot of health issues and as a result I'm on the third lot of antibiotics in six weeks. Hopefully the third will be the charm. So keep your fingers crossed for me. I've certainly crossed everything possible in the hope that things will start to improve.