Petit Paradis in Collage

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The Eighth instalment of our annual bit of artwork tracking the Two Little Fellas.

This year, on a whim, our youngest Little Fella takes the stage given that he’s played smaller roles in previous pictures and I loved how he embraced his nature playground in the garden – quite literally.

Over the years friends and family have wanted to know a bit of the story behind the artwork so this is a little about this years . . .

In the New Year we will move to Tillellan, the long-term project that is finally nearing completion. The landscaping and backyard will be a project within its own right. In anticipation of the move this years art features some of the elements of the original petit paradis abode.  A kind of thank you and goodbye for our first family home.

This place has seen several families of guinea pigs and chickens pass through it. It was pivotal in my adventures in seed saving and building up varieties, quantities and experience in locally adapted edible species. As a result, much of the growing space was for seed production and really only supplemented our kitchen from time to time with food. Moving to Tillellan we plan to accommodate both requirements.

There was a whole lot I could have put into this picture, but some of the highlights are the Pitaya flowers that made a showy display the last couple of autumns. Our eldest Little Fella is feeding Pinky, Brownie and Missy Miss – some of our current guinea pigs. Our original g-pigs Maiki & Jazz can be found in the picture as well along with various pet chooks that have been on the adventure also.

One of the favourite things about the house that I will miss is seeing the flocks of ibis and pelicans flying past the house on their way out to feed or returning home in the afternoon. Quite regularly we’ve had a half dozen or more pelicans glide low and slow over the houses and past our living area window in the early morning. It is a magical site, especially when they are low enough to hear their wing beats, and I missed it when we rented briefly so I know I will when we move.

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There are various flowers and the quail, some of our container gardens and goldfish and koi. Fruit trees and crops that we’ve had. The garden itself was different with every passing year as it adapted to the needs and requirements of the family and whatever we were doing in preparation for the eventual move. Whether it was sorting out salvaged resources or propagating varieties of plants.

It will be a little sad I imagine to part ways, but we’ve also out-grown it rapidly and its very much a natural transition for us. It would have been just right with the Two Little Fellas, but with the addition of Gran and her various requirements we’ve definitely overstayed.

Refuge

Ultimately we need to recognise that while humans continue to build urban landscapes, we share these spaces with other species.

                                                                                                                          – David Suzuki

With the renovation of Tillellan and the clearing of the back of the block we have taken over stewardship of a part of the family history and a piece of urban land that despite its urban-ness, prior to the clearing of the block, was a real refuge and welcome habitat for local animal species.

Gradually these have started to return despite the fact that the earth is still relatively ‘bare’ to my standards. We have nearly accomplished a temporary  ‘skin’ over the ground of various edible plants, weeds, groundcovers and of course kikuyu. This will hold the sand in place until the next phase of development – hopefully to come early next year. In  the meantime the creatures have begun to return. Insects and birds were some of the first, although the birds are still moving through the garden area rather than living in it as such.

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The King Skinks never really departed. They took shelter under the house during the extensive renovations and eventually set up residence in the various piles of salvaged timber and rocks. They are increasing in numbers which did occur as a curious thing. We only really had a few living under the house previously, but talking to one of the neighbours he revealed that he used to catch them and relocate them to the golf course down the road. He quit doing that some years back, so it now makes sense that the local population in the backyard has grown and we are actually seeing young skinks around the place.

As the vegetable garden grew and created a small jungle I started to notice a Western Green Tree Frog had also taken up residence. Probably after being kicked out of a previous home during a bit of clearing near the neighbour’s boundary. Also known as the Motorbike Frog due to the male’s mating call sounding much like a motorcycle changing up gears in the distance.

Next came the bobtail or Blue-tongued Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) It also took up residence amidst the rockery where the morning sun hits early and there is plenty of nooks to hide in.

The current bird list for the block can be found here.

Over time we will no doubt see more and more life return to the garden as specialised pockets of land begin to take form and attract specific species.

Rabbit Welfare

petitparadis kit outing

Today the rabbit kits are thirteen days of age. Their eyes had now opened and they are moving about.

One of the kits was making its first outing into the hutch from the nest. Prodding Blackberry for a bit of milk, though Blackberry was not willing to allow such a treat without the other two kits partaking as well. Good mother! She has done better this time around and has taught us that intervention is possible and that kits can be handled if done sensibly.

Part of our success appears to be the very early handling of the kits by Mrs PP and getting our scent on the kits so that Blackberry had some sort of reference and familiarity. When Mrs PP attends the hutch to check the kits she allows Blackberry to greet her and smell her hand first, then she can handle the kits easily without Blackberry fretting. 

It was a good thing that we managed to do this because one of the kits was not getting fed adequately. Possibly due to its size, though it certainly wasn’t the runt, which sadly did not survive. To save losing any more kits we would regularly move this smaller kit to the ‘top of the pile’ in their nest so that it was closer to Blackberry when she came to feed them. This approach has apparently worked due to a healthy three remaining kits and would not have been possible without the early intervention and ‘marking’ of our scent on the kits as soon as practicable. There may be something further to this approach, but that is our explanation.

Some of our recent dealings with the rabbits have gone against the information that we have found on-line. We can inform ourselves to some extent but there is also still much to be learned from real life observation and thinking things through.

 

 

Nothing but Flowers . . .

This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town?
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we’d start over
But I guess I was wrong

Talking Heads (Nothing but) Flowers

 

petitparadis backyard

I’ve been looking at our greater backyard through the eyes of a tourist.

Mr DIG’s stay has meant the occasional trip out and about. Happy little forays into nature to escape the troubles and pressures and stresses around us presently. I’ve enjoyed the moments of serenity and poise rather immensely and have found myself with not only a renewed interest to get out into the further reaches of Nature more often, but also with a deeper gratitude for the incredible beauty close to home, or within reach.

“There is so much about modern agriculture that I do not like, but scenes of hay bales in open fields with trees or rolling hills is quite therapeutic for me to look at.” I told Mr DIG.

We have meandered through lake, beach, forest, farmland, river and urban environments. Had long chats with tea, coffee or chai over random and varied subject matter.

After such a long time away from some of the things I have enjoyed in the past it feels as though there is an approaching opportunity to bring them back home and discover them again.

Beyond the backyard is a natural world of inspiration that can be used to create a magical backyard at home. As the song (Nothing but) Flowers addresses, we are not likely to free ourselves of urban settings too easily despite our love of Nature, but I think we can make them something special and worthwhile and nourishing. The infrastructure and community is there, we can benefit from modifying it to suit our new needs and desires.

 

Further Reading:

The Great Southern Region

Southern Forests

Remembrance Day 2017

petitparadis remembrance wreath

This year, Remembrance Day fell on the same weekend as the Albany Agricultural Society Show. Mrs PP was one of a few asked to make a wreath for the Horticultural Society to help mark the occasion.

The roses were donated by legendary local gardener Bella Swainston who produces some stunning blooms for presenting at the show each year. These were centre stage on our dining table tonight and were a reminder to me that a well kept rose is a thing of beauty.

As it happens my first place Petty French had a wonderful rose garden and I made the effort to remove some of them and keep them safe in the garden at Tillellan. This was a good thing as the rest were cleared when the house got demolished. They sat safely at Tillellan until just over a year ago when I dug them up once more and put them into large containers in preparation for the renovation.

I am still undecided where they will be planted for their next place of rest. Possibly the front of the house where they can be admired and won’t get in the way with their thorns.