Wednesday, August 04, 2021

It's Djilba

 This is the Noongar season which coincides approximately with August to September - the Noongar are the First Nations people indigenous to this part of south western Australia. Djilba is a bit of a mixture with cold clear days and warmer rainy periods. There are six Noongar seasons which makes much more sense than attempting to shoehorn our weather into the traditional European pattern of only four seasons. In that system we'd be still be in winter with spring another month away. Now there's more recognition that this really doesn't work and it's becoming common for the Noongar seasons to be acknowledged.

This is the time when the wildflowers burst into bloom creating spectacular carpets of colour. Last weekend we visited family on a bush block north of here and along the way we could see they are just starting to come out. Then this morning I noticed the first of my kangaroo paws are open. 

As you can see from this not great photo those I grow are the red and green variety (Anigozanthos manglesii) which is our state's floral emblem. They tend to be less tough than than the hybrid varieties commonly found in gardens (they're very prone to a fungus called "ink spot" for a start) but I like their rich colours so I persist. There are still some places in the hills to the east of the city where they can be found en masse and it's a lovely sight. As I live close to the coast - not their preferred location - I settle for a few pots to give me a taste of the bush. I have to say that they aren't all that easy to come by with only a couple of nurseries producing them. Still I think they're worth the effort, don't you.

Friday, July 30, 2021


 Pisces and I had a routine GP visit yesterday and on the opposite of the road is a garden centre which just happens to sell my preferred potting mix and has a popular cafe which serves up a pretty decent cup of coffee.  So when Pisces suggested we drop in there on our way out I didn't take too much persuading. It turned out to be a really good decision because the potting mix, which is usually a little expensive but worth it, was on special. Yay!

We sat and had our coffee - which was good - then I thought I'd go and see if I could find some cat grass for my indoor kitty. I usually rotate pots of this but when I went to do the changeover a couple of days ago I found ants had moved into the pot outside recuperating. We're already having ant problems inside so I had to dump that lot and start afresh.

This garden centre, which once was one of the busiest in the area with a huge stock of plants of all kinds, has shrunk dramatically in recent years with much of the land being sold off for housing. Their focus now is mainly on pots and indoor plants and gardening items that go with them but they do still have a small selection of seedlings and among the herbs I found the cat grass. I'm not quite sure how it fits there but, hey, they had what I needed. I loaded up my basket and then noticed they had some of the vegetable seedlings I wanted so I sent Pisces off for another basket and this is what we ended up with - a small veggie garden in a box.

The weather hasn't been kind enough to let me plant them out yet and it will mean I have to disrupt some of the heartsease - sometimes called Johnny Jump Ups - (Viola tricolour) that have self seeded all over the vegetable patch. 

I love these dainty little flowers and plant them and other edible flowers along the vegetable garden bed edges and this year because I wasn't able to work in the garden for such a long time they've spread out a bit. I haven't minded because a bare garden which would usually be producing food is a sad sight. Since it's late to be putting in any winter crops my box contains pak choi and kale along with some parsleys - plain leaf and curled - all of which will last into spring along with the already sown sugar snap and snow peas and the volunteer lettuces.

Now if the rain will just hold off for a couple of hours I'll get some planting done. I can't say I'm hopeful. We're on the verge of the highest rainfall recorded here for July since records began being kept and the forecast for the rest of today and all of next week is for yet more storms and rain. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Street Trees

 Our local council has a plan to put in a large number of street trees. I applaud this decision - the more trees the better as far as I'm concerned - but I have to question some of their placement decisions. 

We went out a while ago to find orange crosses along the verge all the way up the road marking where the trees for our street are to go. While many of them will add a lovely note to the streetscape - they're planting almond trees which will look lovely for a short time in Spring though why you'd plant deciduous exotics I have no idea - I'm somewhat staggered at exactly how they think trees will grow in some of the places they propose. We, for example, have a battle axe block which means we have a very narrow front verge - when the driveway is taken out of it it's around three metres across at its widest and that space provides our only access to the rear of the block. As well we have a huge marri tree in our front yard, the canopy of which shades the verge.  So we were somewhat surprised to find they had marked a spot for a tree in the middle of this minute space. 

This will not only block our access to the backyard but will also (unless this is a very odd almond tree) obscure our view of the road and make backing out of our driveway very hazardous - that's assuming, of course, that the tree will thrive there. This is fairly unlikely because we are also in an L-shaped corner of the road which means in the summer, even with shade from our tree, this area gets a huge amount of reflected heat from the large expanse of road in front of it. In the many years we've lived here the only things I've managed to grow there are gazanias and osteospermum daisies and, extremely hardy as these are, both struggle to survive the summer, by the end of which they look very sad indeed. Actually almost dead is a better description. I'm a gardener who likes to take on growing challenges - usually fairly successfully - but this area defeats me.

So I rang the council to find out exactly what was going on which is when I discovered the tree we're getting is an almond.  I confess I laughed out loud when I heard this. Apart from the inconvenience to us in having our access to the back yard blocked, the possibility of an almond tree surviving let alone thriving in these conditions is pretty much nil, something I tried to explain to the woman I spoke to. The only answer I got was "They will have considered that.". Really? In the event that it does survive we will, of course, then have to contend with the danger it presents when we have to exit our driveway. 

To say we're not happy is putting it mildly but there's apparently nothing we can do about it. We're getting a tree no matter what and will have to learn to live with it. The silly thing is that had they placed the marker approximately 30 centimetres to the right it would be in the minuscule garden bed - still almost certain to die because of root competition, shade and heat stress but causing us less inconvenience. We're not the only ones who have complaints about placement. In one instance a eucalyptus - one that grows to be huge - was planted under the power line into a house and we noticed that a tree is to be planted directly on top of a solenoid that controls the sprinkler system of one of our neighbours. 

Interestingly, our cross has all but disappeared due to the heavy rain and severe winds we've suffered over the week since since it was put in place. That's what happens when you spray something on loose leaves and a winter gale hits. It blows away. But I'm sure they will have considered that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I Heard a Raven

It's not that unusual around here because we have a number of Western ravens (Corvus coronoides perplexus) living in the area. They nest in the big trees in the park behind us and in the taller garden trees and while I tried to find a photo most of those I found were of the Easten raven which, although similar, is not the exactly the same. You can see the only photos I could find here. Sadly they're not available under a Creative Commons licence so I can't use them and the local birds are not obliging enough to let me take a photo. While they are handsome birds, ravens tend to be unpopular because of the mess they make as they haunt places like shopping centre car parks and school yards and anywhere really where people congregate so they can raid bins and pick up scraps. Their loud, harsh calls don't endear them either.

Personally, although I don't like them attacking the small denizens of my garden - they are largely carnivorous - I do admire them for their intelligence. They come into the garden to drink and bathe in the birdbath and to dunk and sometimes leave to soak hard crusts and other such things they steal from rubbish bins. I could do without the soaking because the birdbath turns to a messy sludge which has to be emptied and cleaned frequently but you have to admit it's clever. People also dislike their bin raiding. If someone is foolish enough to overfill their bin and leave even a tiny gap the ravens will flip it open to scavenge and they are messy creatures. Because of this we find bones they've collected scattered around the garden from time to time along with all sorts of scraps they drop when finished with. 

My little dog hated them. They would sit on top of the internal fences and stare at her until she could stand it no longer and had to rush at them determined to get them out of her space. Knowing they were out of reach they would just gaze at her as she barked frantically. Then they would flap lazily onto the clothesline and stare some more. They are large birds and can be quite intimidating so I didn't blame her for her dislike. 

But back to the raven that started me on this track. What was unusual was that it was on the paving outside the family room door, calling loudly, not something that often happens as they usually keep their distance, preferring to look down on from a height. I looked but it was raining and I couldn't see much. Then I noticed it was pulling apart a handful of coir lining from a hanging basket that had fallen down in the gales we had just had and that with the rain, which had been pretty continuous since, I hadn't been able to clean up . Interesting, I thought. Then off it went with some coir in its beak leaving bunches of fibre all over the paving. Next thing I knew it was back with its mate - ravens usually pair for life so I can be pretty sure they were a couple - who inspected the area and what he was collecting presumably to give her approval for it as a nest lining before leaving him to his gathering. By the time the rain stopped and I could go outside he had been back multiple times, leaving nothing for me to clean up.

Someone commented on a blog I follow that the raven's call is like a small child's cry. I can't say I agree with that. I hear it more as loud and raucous although they do sometimes murmur quietly to one another. Listen here and see what you think.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Oh No Where Did They Go?

 I'm talking about my Google Groups which I suddenly realised had disappeared when I wasn't getting any emails from them. Truth be told since most of them are just sitting there - or I should say were just sitting there -and haven't been active in a long time it could be quite a while since they were actually in place. I don't think I'll miss most of them - see the just sitting there remark above - or that anyone will miss me but there is one which I do interact with - it's the missing emails from that which alerted me - and I definitely want to be kept in touch with those in it. This is a group of fellow writers and we work together at critiquing and writerly advice so it's pretty important. Writers without honest feedback are not going to be able to give of their best, are they.

Fortunately the members of this group are also in contact in other ways so I reached out to one to get her to see what had happened. Bizarrely she found my email address was wrong - it was one I've never had or used so I don't know how it got there. She corrected it and I was invited to join the group. Great, I thought, I'll see if it's the same problem with the other groups.

Sadly this didn't work because the password I now use and any others back quite a way don't connect with either my current or the incorrect email. Oh well, as I have no more ideas as to what's happened or why, I don't think there's much else I can do. It's disappointing but there you go. Much as I love the internet the problem with anything online is that you don't have a physical way of connecting when something goes wrong - and in this case it has gone drastically wrong. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Plants You Don't Expect To Find In A Winter Garden

I found these summer veggies - all volunteers - as I was weeding.

I didn't think to take this admittedly pretty awful photo of a French bean plant before I'd picked the handful of beans it had produced. I've actually already got more from this plant than from any of my beans last summer - and there are more to come. I like that there's a little Johnny Jump Up - Viola tricolour - nestled in near it. I grow them and borage for flowers for salads and to encourage the bees.

                         Then I discovered this optimistic capsicum. 

And finally this is one of three tomato plants.

Who knows - since it already has buds and if it survives the rest of the winter cold - I may get some early tomatoes.

Monday, July 05, 2021

And The Storms Are Here Again

It's winter so only to be expected but cold and wet is never a very enjoyable experience, is it, however much we may need the rain. We have just had a couple of sunny but by no means warm days, though, which let me get out into the garden. It's been badly neglected in the last few months due to my health problems and then recuperating from surgery so it's going to take a while to get it back to how I'd like it. Pisces is not a gardener so although he'll willingly do things like dig holes and lug heavy things around for me anything else waits on me. 

With my having finally been given clearance to dig, prune and plant I took the chance of the sunny days to dig over the vegetable garden and put in a few seeds - spring onions, coriander, and sugar snap and snow peas if you're interested. I sorted all these out during the last rainy spell and I still have a whole pile of seeds that need to into seed raising punnets sitting in a box near the family room door which were supposed to be planted as well. I bought some seed raising mix and my intention was to head off to the garden centre and invest in a a mini glasshouse to put them into so that they would benefit from any sunny days without getting too chilled. 

Then we went into a four day lockdown after someone who had visited Sydney came down with COVID. Our state government has no hesitation in imposing such short, sharp lockdowns which give time to trace all contacts and isolate them. We've had a few of these and although they're not ideal as far as businesses are concerned and cause general inconvenience, it's probably the safest way to prevent community spread and they have widespread support within the state. Western Australia has had very few instances of COVID and by and large life here after the first major lockdown in 2020 has been pretty much as usual. No masks but social distancing is still encouraged - albeit not carried out all that strictly by everyone I have to say, with complacency creeping in - and we are supposed to check in with an app or sign in whenever we go to the shops or other businesses so that if an outbreak occur it will be easy to trace any contacts and this is working well. Vaccinations are somewhat of a vexed question due to failures at the Federal level and some controversy about the Astra Zenica but are ramping up.

The lockdown has now lifted although there are some restrictions on numbers and masks are mandatory outside the home so my plan for this morning was to head for the garden centre. I'd been keeping a watchful eye on the weather forecast and it was for rain and a possible storm later in the day so it seemed that it would be okay and although it was dull and grey when I got up my plan still seemed feasible. I made my coffee and sat down to drink it - and there was a vivid flash of lightning immediately followed by thunder and the heavens opened. They stayed that way all day. Oh well, planting can wait a bit longer