Petit Paradis in Collage


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.


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.


petitparadis hollyhock

The unfamiliar weed in our garden had a different presence about it. So it was left to develop.

From experience, I’m a true believer in resources and teachers appearing when required. Another real-life example of this is the gradual growth of a plant in our backyard that was a little different to the mallow plants that often pop up. I let it continue to grow as there was not much else growing whilst transitioning over to the new garden site.

Eventually it started to bud up with flowers and I suspected it was a Hollyhock (Alcea rosea). I did have some seeds given to me a year or two ago but none grew successfully. It may well have been a seed that found its way into the garden from a failed pot and managed to grow. Eventually it flowered and dazzled us with its incredibly bright pink flowers.

We began to utilise the flowers for using in our kombucha mixes and as a tea for the Little Fellas to assist with persistent coughs. It’s incredible versatility has assured it a place in the garden at Tillellan. Once it has set its seeds I will propagate plants for further planting. The Hollyhock has proven itself to be hardy in our summer garden as the chickens have scratched away mulch and removed soil from the base of the plant. It has endured and thrived. Not surprising given it is a relation of the Marshmallow plant which is growing quite abundantly at the Tillellan garden.

We have made use of the flowers as mentioned though we have not tried the leaves yet given it is a single plant and I am wishing to save its seeds.

I recall seeing similar plants in my first garden, petty french. I enjoyed those flowers back then too, but little did I realise that Hollyhocks have some very versatile uses.

So, I have found a new plant to carry over to the new garden at Tillellen.

Further Reading:

Five Uses for Hollyhocks

Health Benefits of Hollyhock

Further Health Benefits of Hollyhock


The benefits of stooping low

petitparadis paddock

6:45 am Early Morning Training

One hour and ten minutes of squats – while picking up horse manure and hauling feed bags of the stuff to the ute. Then off-loading at the house garden.

It wasn’t as much of a marathon effort at last time as I was limited as to how long I could stay. But I wanted to fit it into the day because, I like to keep the paddock relatively clear for the owner so that I keep getting invited back. I prioritise the areas where the vehicles have to pass over so that at least they are not squishing into cow pats and horse dung unnecessarily. 

This time around there were some further observations. Most of the dung was already starting to break down and was quite crumbly. I wasn’t so surprised after the recent rain over the last few weeks. There were also dung beetles, which I’d seen evidence of before but not as active and prevalent as they were today.

It was great to get out and get some air while the day was just starting. A bit of peace and some bird song. Just before it was time to leave the sun was getting quite warm and the flies were starting to come out. A good time to depart.

This lot of manure is likely to be for the next crop of corn. The pop corn is just starting to look like flowering and I have another corn variety I’d like to squeeze into the growing season to keep the seed fresh.

Damage Control

petitparadis recycleWith an available morning to tend to the Tillellan garden I drove over to the house and was there by 5am to do some maintenance. The early rise was to beat the heat and the first job was to fix the hose which had a couple of pin hole leaks in it due to the extra high pressure of the water. The garden then needed a decent watering.

One of the main jobs was to do a bit of ‘dumpster diving’ and clear out all the cardboard from the skip bin. This I have done whenever I get the chance and have amassed a small stockpile of cardboard in the backyard for keeping sand down. With the eventual arrival of Mrs PP and The Little Fellas we also rescued a large wooden pallet with a decent sheet of MDF which will be perfect for projects.

With the skip bin now only 3/4’s full there was room to put some of the real rubbish from the backyard and a large piece of rusty tin which I uncovered when planting out the Wormwood hedge. Over the last couple of months in particular there has been a lot of cardboard in the skip bin due to the high number of items being fitted out in the house. Light shades, plumbing fixtures, water filter, glass panels and such things. If I have the time, I pull it out to retain this cardboard as it will be consumed by the garden easily. Plus we are not paying for something to be taken away that is quite useful. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Already some of our paths are lined with cardboard to make it easy to walk across the sand and to encourage the soil life underneath into activity. Even in the heat of the early southern hemisphere summer the dirt is cooler and retains more moisture, allowing worms and other soil life to come to the sub-surface and do their good work.

Fat Hen Chenopodium sp. is rampant and prolific in the garden at the moment and I have pruned most of it down to add as a mulch to the gardens and paths. It’s not a pretty garden at the moment, at least not close up, but highly practical in order to build soil and get us through the hot summer ahead without losing too much water and sand with the wind.

This damage control will allow us to make the most of our water supply and maintain some vegetables through the summer whilst also providing bountiful feed for the rabbits, guinea pigs, quail and chickens when they are re-located.

There is still a decent bit of earthworks to be done with the backyard, but this will occur at a later date once we have taken the time to observe more closely what changes occur on the block with sunlight, winds and how the grey water system operates. And definitely much easier once we are residing in the house, to keep an eye on things.

In anticipation of the next phase of earthworks the tagasaste seedlings have been repotted into individual pots and I am nurturing a mass planting of tamarillo seeds which have emerged from the soil recently. These are from seeds collected from outstanding fruit from one of our trees. I have also taken cuttings to propagate and these appear to be going ok, but are yet to develop new leaves.

Despite the wilder nature of the garden as it is now, it has supplied us with a decent haul of potatoes and some chard for us and the neighbours. In clearing the chard I have discovered several squash and melons forming. Happy with that.

The other main job was to move the potted roses, daisy bush and apricot tree from the front yard and give them a spot up the back where hopefully they can recover, get a little more water, and not be in the way. The apricot was grown from seed from a fruit given to Mrs PP and myself when we were dating. We’ve had some wonderful fruit from it in previous years but the last couple of years its had it rough. We’re going to have to nurse it back a bit and we’re both looking forward to actually planting it in the ground at some point next year.


The Throwing of the Seed

petitparadis garden bed

The new garden is bolting.

Seeds are ripening and reaching for the sky. It is coming to a close, the initial burst of vigor. Underneath this cloak of leaves and seeding pods are pumpkins and melons. Growing, engorging themselves towards mature fruit.

Mrs PP and the Littlest Fella took delight in scattering marigold seed around the garden beds on Monday. Sowing the seed in the simplest of ways with the most rewarding effort.

Despite light showers it is still requiring regular watering and this is the crucial time to get regular water to it so that fruits develop. 

The tradies are amazed at how quickly the garden has ‘shot up’. Now seed sowing is required so that we get a good crop of greens and vegetables during summer.