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.


petitparadisbuddleiaJust when I thought the garden was  smelling good with the abundant blossoms of the Honeysuckle, out comes the Buddleia for the beginning of Summer.

Buddleia davidii is to me, the perfume of English summers – along with Petunias and Sweet Peas. I recall seeing on my travels large ‘trees’ of buddleia in and around London. Sometimes even on building sites tucked in a neglected corner. Sometimes well up to a couple of metres in height.

In our garden, with the now limited water despite recent rainfall, the buddleia never gets too out of hand. It is considered a pest in some parts of Australia. Regular pruning keeps it bushy as it delivers its wonderful perfume across the pathway. Previous years it has lived up to its name of The Butterfly Bush and attracted Monarchs and native butterflies into our garden. I have managed to strike a couple of smaller plants from this parent plant just by pruning off new growth with a little old wood and sticking it in the ground. Spring and Autumn seem to be the best months to get some decent success.

I like Buddleia because of its perfume, appearance, it attractiveness to butterflies and the fact that it will grow in relatively poor soils. It also creates lots of woody mulch which is beneficial for the garden and will happily return, sometimes more eager than before, from a harsh pruning back.




Home Made Ant Poison

petit paradis ants

The annual migration of ants from outside our little paradise to inside our homely chaos, has begun. When I bought my first house the kind, elderly woman I bought it off also left me with some of her ant bait and the little recipe.

Scrawled on the bottle of liquid was her recipe potion.

1 Tablespoon Borax

3 Tablespoons White Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Honey

Water – Enough to make a syrupy liquid

The Borax you are after is the powder or crystal borax that should be 99% Borax on the label. Usually found in the laundry aisle at the shops. There are some brands that add perfumes and other chemicals. Avoid these. Get the cheap stuff. Its useful around the house for many other uses also. You DO NOT use Boric Acid for this recipe. It is quite a different chemical altogether. And dangerous. Plus its not part of the recipe I was left with, so I go with what I’ve had work.

Moving on…

It helps to portion out the quantities of borax, sugar and honey and then gently heat them through with a little water to create a syrup and dissolve the granules. It can be used dry but I’ve never tried it that way and I find that it works much better with the addition of honey as an attractant. At times when I’ve left it out it didn’t create as much interest. Also, as a liquid it is particularly attractive to ants in the drier summer months here as they’re need for moisture increases. If the formula is too thick it can quite often dry out and seal over and the ants are not all that attracted to it.

We usually put a quantity of this syrup into a bright lid (red, yellow, orange) from a bottle or jar and leave it near the ants trail. They come to it like budgies around a waterhole, drink and carry on doing their thing. After a day or two you may notice areas of dead ants in scattered congregations like an ant version of Jonestown. The idea is that the ants that feed also take it back to the nest and feed other ants and with any luck, the Queen.

We’ve never wiped out our ants completely, which I like. They do come in handy in the garden. I like this particular recipe as it is cheap and effective and we have all the ingredients at any point in time. A bottle of it lasts years for us and it just keeps the ants in check. It works well outside also but the feeding station needs to be well covered so other animals don’t disturb it. Other simple techniques which have worked for us are placing sugary liquid in areas outside to simply divert the ants away from the house.

Farmer Wants A Life

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
― Bill Mollison

This may not be a new observation, but it’s new to me.

As customers of our local farmers market we have noticed the phenomena of the natural transition.

An aging farming population are now wanting to scale down or sell out altogether. I can’t blame them. But who is going to step up and take over the running of the farm or primary produce operation? There doesn’t appear to be many takers.

In dinner table conversation the topic has come up a few times and I’m sure Mrs PP has mused over the notion of taking on some sort of enterprise with  the attraction of the lifestyle, the healthy living, the rural location. Frequently I hear ‘it’s such a wonderful lifestyle.’

I’m musing over the notion of working 7 days a week, continual maintenance of farm equipment, searching out new markets and maintaining current ones, managing the family & Gran whilst living out of town (potentially a significant distance), early starts on weekends to get to the farmers market (and trying to visualise who would be doing most of this)…



Free Hay on offer because of rain damage and flooding to the paddock.


I want to be more Dad than Taxi Driver. In regional Australia the travel distances can be Long & Far!


We are struggling at the moment with all that having a family involves. There is no time dedicated to the running of our garden and tending to the animals. It kind of happens in fits and starts. I feel like I have to battle to get things planted in time due to all the other distractions in our lives. To my mind farmers have the luxury of having time to do this. Afterall, it’s their job. But making hay while the sun shines or planting out the next crop TODAY often doesn’t happen, because LIFE is happening. If this our current situation – I cannot even imagine depending on our efforts on the land for an income – especially given we’d want to farm as naturally as possible.

The vision for Tillellan is quite adequate enough for the present time. Feed ourselves (and animals), family and others. This is still really in the pipe-dream stage, but we are gradually making progress on the first stage given that the second garden is providing some greens and starting to set a nice crop of pumpkins. Further establishment of new garden beds and some supplementary aquaponics set ups will enhance this.

We also wanted to position ourselves in town to lessen travel in the car, especially while the Little Fellas are going through school and doing extra curricular activities. I want to be more Dad than Taxi Driver. In regional Australia the travel distances can be Long & Far!

But the potential problem of valuable farming land already under good farming practice and management slipping away or falling back into ‘traditional farming’ is a concern. Our own solution at this stage is to take more responsibility for our own food production and to support these farmers where we can by utilising our local Farmers Markets or visiting the farm gate sales.


Further reading:

Farmers calling it quits

Tasmanian Farmer Numbers dropping



Mulch Production


I have a growing forest of tagasaste seedlings climbing to the sky. I’ve recently repotted them into individual pots to encourage quicker growth. They are doing well and will eventually be a key part of our Phases of Abundance scenario for the new garden.

As summer approaches in the southern hemisphere the garden is drying out quickly and we are still a couple of weeks out from moving to the house – which means sorting out some method of watering the garden that is going to do the job in the meantime.

Presently I’m using prunings, cardboard and grass clippings to mulch patches of exposed sand in order to keep sand and dust moving about with the coastal wind. I really need to be planting out further potted plants but that is proving difficult at the moment with making the time – uninterrupted.

Time is of the essence however. So given the tagasaste are proving quick growers I am at least giving them the time and care they need on our balcony at home to ensure I have healthy plants for the eventual planting out on the block.

The various acacia species that we planted at the top of the block are starting to put on good growth which is encouraging.

I’ve heard various reasons for choosing plants and trees for creating mulch. Some prefer to opt for large, slow to decompose leaves. In our situation I am looking for diversity so that I benefit from as many characteristics of mulch producing plants and trees as possible. For example the tagasaste have small leaves which will fall often and break down quickly given their size. I can also used branches or prunings to create mulch that will take longer to break down. The other benefit is that they will hold their leaves over the drier parts of the year to at least give some shade to areas of soil in the garden – plus create some privacy from the back road.

Other characteristics of mulch producing plants and trees are:

  • They are easily propagated by division, cutting or seed.
  • They don’t produce seed, so they have a very low invasive potential.
  • They grow quickly, acting as pioneer species, and changing the micro-climate of the area around them.
  • They are easy to ‘chop and drop’ because they are herbaceous.
  • They hold their leaves throughout the dry season which help shade the soil during the hottest months of the year.
  • Ability to produce volumes of green matter and recover quickly from pruning, even benefiting from pruning.
  • I also like ours to be capable of feeding our livestock so they are also a back-up for feed supply.