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.

Poulet Poulet

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Isn’t she lovely? Our little chick chooks are growing up fast and their typical Barnevelder plumage is just starting to creep in. They will be beside themselves when we move them to the new garden.

These little ladies will have an ample work load when they finally make it to Tillellan. In the meantime they have been scratching up a party in the backyard and really having a good bug hunt in the garden. The advantage of these chickens, so I am told by Mrs PP, is that the chicks are easily sexed at a young age. This being the case, the three tall standing Emu-like creatures among them are probably future roosters. It’s a heads up I guess.

The benefits of stooping low

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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.

In Praise of Honeysuckle

When I go out onto our raised deck I am hit with the perfume of Spring.

Honeysuckle has always been in this garden since we moved in. It was just a small evergreen vine with leaves. I even confused it with a native plant until it got more water and care and took off with carefree abandon. It lives a rich life in the edge world of our lower garden, west side of the house and the deck. 

The last two years it has reached new heights. The top of our deck. This past year I have encouraged it so that it provides a nice wind break from summer easterlies, an additional shelter and support for the grape vine and delights us with its perfume and when pruned – which is frequently – is a tasty treat for the rabbits and guinea pigs.

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After observing its growth and  experimenting with its uses I am also keen to get some propagated to use as a living mulch at Tillellen. I would rather a battle with Honeysuckle getting out of hand than the Madiera Vine which covered nearly the entire back half of the block before the  trees were cut down and mulched. Madiera Vine still has a strong presence in the garden, popping up in different spots. I know it is also an edible, though we have not had it in the kitchen yet. If I try it and like it, we may just eat it to extinction from our garden!

But given its usefulness, plants like Honeysuckle are pretty much kept in check. Especially when they are a handy addition to the diet of our animals. Plus we collect the blossoms from time to time and put them in salads, green tea or a herbal tisane.