Wattles on a Grassy Knoll

On brilliantly sunny days the top of the block can be an enchanting place to work. Though I seldom really stop long enough to take it all in. I usually find myself staring at a photo of it on the computer screen much later in the day thinking to myself . . .

“Wow, that’s really nice.”

With all the rainfall this winter and my sporadic thoughts of general, impending, global environmental doom, I did what I guess any self deprecative, soil-under-the-nails, backyard gardener would do.

I planted trees.

Now, as seen in the pic above, I planted the grassy knoll with wattles about a year ago. But the growth on these has been rather more impressive than anticipated. As I sorted out the fruit trees from their winter resting places and found just as neglected wattle saplings all pot bound amongst them I thought,

“Bugger it. Set them free!”

So I did. I trotted them up to the top of the block with Little T in tow and we had a lesson in tree planting. I figured that rather than spend the next few months in pots, they might as well grow up on the hill and create more habitat for the local wildlife in the meantime. And one Little Fella extra in the world who knows how to plant a simple tree has to be a good thing I figure.

They are of course ultimately a sacrificial bunch, these trees. But in the meantime they are going to do so much more. I will, as is my practice, prune some of the branches to create mulch and compost. Allowing the trees to spring back with new growth. This is what I do already with the Sydney Wattles.

Presently the Sydney Wattles have finished flowering and are adorned with the thinnest of seed pods which hang from them like fine tassels.

Shortly I will savagely and without remorse, prune and coppice these trees to create mulch for the garden and then they will diligently and earnestly set about sending out new branches of growth for next year. In this part of the country these wattles are a declared pest, but given they grow so well I am using this to my advantage in our garden and managing them resourcefully and responsibly. They always get pruned before the seed pods mature, and usually when green so that they have a premium amount of nitrogen contained in the mulch.

It doesn’t ever seem to stop Mrs PP from asking me when I’m going to get rid of the wattles.

“I’m not getting rid of them, I planted them on purpose. I’ll prune them before they seed and then I’ll do it all again next year.” I think after three years she has finally got it.

This Spring we also had new neighbours move in. Though we still have the Little Eagles flying by, in around August I noticed a pair of Kestrels were frequenting the area. This has not made for very happy New Holland Honeyeaters, who declare noisily to the garden and to any other critters in earshot whenever the Kestrels fly by.

But I am happy with the new neighbours and I think they are breeding somewhere and have made this side of the mountain home for now.

Our other Neighbour, our human one, has been allowing me to empty the green waste bin of grass clippings. Pretty much once a fortnight it seems. This have been a boon for setting up a good, healthy base for the Hothouse soil and for heating up the various compost bins that are scattered around the garden. We exchange garden produce from time to time, though more of it seems to come our way as the Little Fellas benefit from the ‘seconds’ oranges and lettuces that are about to bolt.

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The First Cicadas & General Update

About a week and a half ago in Perth I heard the first cicada for the season. It was a really warm day in amongst others that had brought showers.

Today, after a few days of rain and then a hot Spring sun that made the air steamy, I heard the first cicada for our garden here in Albany. Oddly enough, I thought this was going to be the case for some reason. I woke up thinking it was about time and that if we had a hot day, I would hear it. That first cicada that wakes up to let us know that Spring is here – and Summer is on the way.

As I type this, it is evening and there is a gentle shower falling outside.

Capturing my observations and thoughts of and around the garden has not been absent from my mind, it is just problematic to get it down and onto the blog when there is so much else going on around the place. Still, I get pieces down. And the cicadas first call is usually never missed as I endeavor to record it each year.

I also have an update on the tagasaste that I grew from seed. This past year and particularly the last 6 months, they have leapt up quickly. They are about 14 foot high now.

Here is a post when I last updated.

Spring 2021 – keeping the bees busy during a wet winter with full flowers just starting to fade now.

Over the first few weeks of September I really got into the garden and continued the foundations for the hothouse. This provided a nice organised area to throw in a heap of weeds, biochar, twigs and sticks and some soil from the vege garden. It also used up the multiple piles of stacked pavers left over from renovations enabling a little more room to move around the garden.

Spring is always a time to take a bit of an audit on what plants have managed to survive the winter and the substantial level of neglect that accompanies it. This year I was once again grateful to see that most survived. The odd fruit tree or avocado from seed, but most of the cherished trees were healthy enough to get re-potted and given some of the freshly procured compost from the bio-reactor.

Even the paths got a tidy up and the very, very wild pepino bushes got a severe prune to allow sun to the fruit in an effort to speed up ripening and removed them from the vegetable gardens altogether. I have planted cuttings and propagated cuttings into some of the uppermost swales to see how they go shading out the kikuyu further up.

As mentioned above I also emptied out the first bioreactor. I hope to post on this separately, but here is the post from when I filled it and below is an image of the contents.

The dark material is the compost scattered over the top of the fresher pile with woodchips. The contents of the compost had lots of fine carbon, worms, worm castings, worm cocoons, fine young worms and much, much more soil life. It was also interesting to note that a particular type of woodchip was covered in fungal growth more than other woodchips. I am looking forward to seeing how the fruit trees go with some of this incorporated into their pots and used to mulch them.

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The Haunting

Hello.

What do you do when your dream starts to fade?

I haven’t been here for a while. My last post was in February this year. It occurs like this from time to time. I’m romantically involved with life, not my blog. Though in truth, I’ve just been caught up in keeping my head above water.

But there is also a deeper reason I’ve not tickled the keyboard, though I’ve not wanted to admit it. And it stems from way back to November 2020.

Last November I watched David Attenborough’s documentary, A Life on Our Planet.

It put everything into perspective for me, including how we as humans might receive the news and contribute to the change. I think I was spot on with my predictions.

I asked around at work. Who had seen it? What did they think?

The general consensus was that it is an awesome documentary highlighting the predicament the planet faces and how we as a civilisation have created such problems – and what we can do to begin to make changes for the better.

But no one I spoke to actually held any hope that anything could be done and that we are pretty much doomed. Which I suspect is very much just a resigned attitude that empowers us – in a very strange way – to justify doing nothing.

I kept asking people if they’d seen it. And then I stopped. Because the responses were all the same. Resignation.

I watched the documentary again. It’s a pretty clear message. There is hope, but we need to act. Like decades ago.

But then it all just went quiet and so now it’s just another nicely filmed and presented documentary detailing the decline of our planet and the inevitable collapse of humanity.

My family watched it with me. They still leave the lights on when not in the room. They leave doors open when the heating is on. The Little Fellas grow more and more intrigued by Youtube for Kids and Minecraft than the guinea pigs they need to feed and clean or the fact that our local council is now supplying kitchen scrap caddies for each household to encourage a practice that Daddy’s been doing for decades.

Even Mrs PP’s interest in the garden waned. She started reading more and more ebooks on her cell phone. I’m assuming to escape the mind numbing world of day to day life and caring for Gran which just seems to be spiraling further and further into a sugar-fueled madness. The carer’s take Gran out and, not wanting or perhaps even being allowed to deny Gran her moments of culinary pleasure, return her home with elevated blood sugar. This inevitably means Gran is up all hours of the night. Watching TV with the volume up loud because she won’t use her hearing aids or headphones. Back and forward to the toilet. Sleeping and napping during the day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I upped camp and have been sleeping in the office for weeks now because I value my sleep, and still don’t appear to be getting quality sleep. Only from time to time.

And so I slipped away.

Everything has become so much more harder and overwhelming. The garden projects have stalled. I’ve pushed myself to keep the progress up. But some days I’m just too tired or there is other stuff to attend to. Or usually, there is other stuff to attend to and when I have time – I’m just too tired.

I moved into survival mode and began to shut down. Still the message of the documentary clung to me. The resignation, indifference and self imbued ignorance I saw in myself and others haunted me.

I became troubled by observing Gran living day in day our for the next jigsaw puzzle piece to fall into place. For the next sugary treat. The next installment of the news. The next television cooking show. Or The Chase. Or Escape to the Country. And all the while there is COVID stuff happening around the world. Icebergs are melting. The Little Fella’s are growing. Bills need paying.

Ignorance is Bliss.

But the reason I’m here today is to report that I’m back. And despite it being the wettest winter for decades and that this year the winter days appear darker for longer. I’m back to claw my way out of this. I’m rebuilding the vision.

What do you do when your dream starts to fade?

Build a bigger dream.

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A Thursday with Gran (BEFORE School starts back.)

A warning dear reader. This is something of a therapy session for me, writing this. It is more for the sake of someday looking back and pondering on the madness of it all. Or just not at all.

Regards, Mr PP.

—-o—-

About mid November last year, Gran’s bowels became problematic for us all as a family. I could be sitting at the computer of an evening once the Little Fellas are in bed and a voice will come from the darkened living room outside the office door.

“I’ve just had another Big Bowel Action.”

That’s exactly how Gran says it. Like its something of a Big League abdominal achievement. Other times she groans and moans at the table or gets up at 3 in the morning. Again. And again. And again. Banging and scraping her walking aid along the doors and walls. There are track marks across the paint at the bottom of the bedroom and bathroom doors. Often I just lay in bed awake until it’s time to get up for work.

There’s been a trip to the Emergency Department and multiple phone calls to the office of Gran’s specialist in Perth. Nothing however to explain anything, or remedy anything. In 2021, it appears that we are witnessing the gradual decline of Gran’s liver.

—-o—-

This morning however, Gran is decidedly cheery when she wheels herself out to the breakfast table.

“Hello boys, all ready for school?”

There are vague, almost bleak looks from both Little Fellas.

“School starts next week Gran.”

“What’s the day today?”

“It’s Thursday. They start back next Monday.” I reply.

Despite this, when Gran returns to her bedroom for her morning insulin injection she proceeds to tell the morning nurse that it’s the first day of school. Then the nurse comes back out to the dining area looking a little bit confused herself.

“No, it’s next week.” I say.

“Oh. OK. That makes sense.”

“Yes.”

When Gran returns to the table fifteen minutes later following her shower she asks when school starts back. 😦

“Next Monday. There is no school today.” I shout from the kitchen sink.

“What day is it today?”

“It’s Thursday today. School starts again next week.”

Later in the day, Gran has a morning visit from a carer. Myself and the Little Fellas are playing Uno Flip at the kitchen table. Grans doing her jigsaw puzzle and telling the carer all sorts of stories and mistruths about what’s been happening recently.

I don’t really listen in to these stories and prefer, if I’m doing housework, to just plug myself into the ipod and switch off. It usually ends up with me getting mad and frustrated by what Gran tells the carers and I just wish she would wear the hearing aids that it took us ten months and several thousand to get sorted for her. She might get the stories straight then.

After the carer leaves I pack up two young boys, two electronic tablets (to keep the boys occupied) and one Gran for her podiatrist appointment. We get Gran inside and sorted and then return to the car where I close my eyes and rest while the boys play electronic games in the back.

There is no rest.

It is noisy, despite the entertainment and I get the sense that Gran’s appointment is probably nearing an end already, so I go in to fetch her.

She’s just leaving the room and I hear the podiatrist “Ok, enjoy the rest of your day.”

“What was that?” Gran asks.

“ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR DAY!”

“Oh, yes. Was that it.” says Gran, as she wheels off in the wrong direction down the corrider. Before I can correct her, the podiatrist calls out. “Other way . . .”

On the way home I ask Gran if she’s going out for afternoon tea today with the carers, to which I get –

“No, better head straight home. My tummies a bit rumbly. I should have gone there I think.”

I can almost sense the boys in the back tense up, hoping that we’ll all get home safe before Grans bowels empty themselves in our clean car.

We make it. More importantly, Gran makes it. We all assist in getting the house un-locked and Gran up to the door and delivered, clear of obstructions to the bathroom.

I prepare Gran one of her scientifically formulated nutrition drinks. The ones that require booking an appointment with a nutritionist and Mrs PP once again sitting through something of an nutritional care plan with some recommended guidelines that Gran not only doesn’t hear – but hasn’t got any intention of even following.

With this scientifically formulated milk drink I give Gran her Anti-Exploding Bowel tablet which she probably didn’t take this morning. It’s an educated guess.

I then go and turn the bathroom fan on – and turn off the tap that Gran has left running. Not just because she can’t hear it running, but she probably can’t see it either.

While Gran is not in her room I take her drink bottle and fill it up with fresh water. Pick her book up off the floor. Pick up the sugar-free lolly wrappers to put in the bin and clear the empty drink glasses.

It’s a guess, but I suspect it’s the sugar-free sweeteners in the lollies that Gran stashes away that is giving us all grief. Plus the Tic-Tacs. Although I find more Tic-Tacs on the floor than I’m sure she is consuming herself.

Respite is Coming.

This year, given Gran is now needing insulin injections administered to her, we have decided to plan some respite breaks for us in advance for the year ahead. Ordinarily, Mrs PP would just phone the community service we use and book whenever they had a bed available.

But things have changed.

Mrs PP kept getting a recorded message from the new service provider and wasn’t able to speak to anyone. Eventually she left a message. A week later she got a call back where she discovered it was no longer possible to call and book. Now she has to make an appointment to talk to a counsellor. This was another three odd days later and was thankfully at least a phone call instead of a physical appointment. Though it still took rearranging the day and missing a few planned events during school holidays so that Mrs PP could take the phone appointment and make the bookings for the dates we decided on.

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Days of Summer

Summer in this part of the world has a particular soundtrack.

There is the click and ticks of the cicadas. The percussive rhythm that gives the heartbeat to the days of summer. There are the intermittent melodies of birds visiting the garden. The embellishments to the audible tapestry . . . infrequent squeals of kids playing in the park, the buzz of a motorcycle climbing up a hilly road, a simple dog bark or the beep of a car horn. A noisy flock of galahs, or lorikeets, or black cockatoos passing overhead.

There are driving surges of trucks accelerating along a road or the more gentle, lower frequency sounds of a street sweeper or the penetrating crashing of waves at the beach in the distance. The early morning swishing of dancing sprinklers at the park or the spraying of garden hoses. The dissident, sweeping woosh of the black easterlies as they slip through the air. Clean and warm and sucking every ounce of moisture out of the garden that they possibly can. And then continuing on and on.

And always. . .

Somewhere in the background. . .

In a passing car, or Gran’s bedroom, or on a spare tv or radio . . .

Is the commentary of the cricket games.

Banana leaves forming in the patio garden are a haven for frogs during the hot weather.

After a brief spell stepping back from the garden it is nearly time to start back into it and take it to the next level. The black easterlies have been strong and persistent. And I’m going to say that in my opinion, they are also early this year.

In retrospect, we’ve had it good the last couple of years. So I guess they are making up for it – and our garden is doing very poorly defending itself. Its also possible that the warm weather will continue for another two, maybe even three months yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

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