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Moving, spawning and digging in the garden

16 May

I’ve not had a lot of time to write over the past few months, as we have been busily at work with multiple projects. The major one (my latest pet project) being the growing of the second addition to our collection of offspring. Yes indeed, I have been with child, working, chasing Monkey (our first creation, now two and a half), packing and moving house, unpacking (which still remains an incomplete task) and finally bearing our second child (two weeks ago) who has been dubbed Puddleduck due to her affinity for peeing on mummy. Usually in the middle of the night. On my sheets.
Despite all these interesting life events, I have still managed to break out a few light tools and get to creating a few things, for as you know, a life without creating is a life not enjoyed.

Our new house is a proper house, not a two bedroom second floor apartment as we were living in before. My son is so grateful for a BACKYARD! Albeit, an unorthodox backyard featuring the “Cliff of Death”, a 2m drop encrusted with boulders which my son actually navigates quite gracefully. Might have to do something with this cliff.
We have had a challenging start despite the cliff, since the backyard as well as the rest of the house was slightly neglected by the former occupants. This has meant digging old pieces of plastic, metal and rope out of the very clayish soil before anything can really be done. But I am getting there, and started my backyard overhaul by building a few raised bed planters out of wood I recycled from around the property. The first of the three I am currently building is now at home outside the back door and houses my culinary herbs: basil, flat leaf and curly parsley, rosemary, mint and oregano. The second and largest is also complete and will house my winter crop of snowpeas, garlic and spinach. It’s a special bed for me, as I was still finishing it off when in labour with Puddleduck. The last bed which I am now finishing will be a garden dedicated specifically to chillies, something I’ve always wanted.

I am very excited to see the yard evolve over the next few months as I continue to build up a transformation plan! Can’t wait to post photos of the progression too!

Palette planter box

11 Jun

Time has been tight lately, so there’s nothing like a bit of child labour in a kindergarten if you’re going to palm it off as an educational experience. Wink.
You may need to know that I work in a kindergarten (do not rock up at a local kindy and ask if you can use the services of their little workmen) and the kids had a blast.

I started with six old posts, a stack of palettes I had collected from the side of the road and no real carpentry skills except for the ability to make things up and use my imagination.

We began by hammering out the old nails. In our case it wasn’t too hard, but I’ve heard that some palettes are almost impossible to extract nails from. This left us with a good stack of boards. I did all the sawing, but my 3-4 year olds helped me pre-drill little holes (press the trigger on the drill) and then hammer nails into them. What troopers. We put together a whole planter box over the week!

The kind people at Bunnings donated their soil, mulch and seedlings, which we’ll be digging in today. And look what we have!

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Illness and a happy garden

19 May

Our whole household has recently been down for the count, brought to our knees by our familiar winter time foe, the cold bug. Last year my small son was generous enough to carry home every stray virus he happened to come across. Unfortunately I thought that we would go unscathed this year, but evidently I was being a little optimistic.
While sickness is highly unpleasant for the regular person, for the tragically creative it seems it can be one of our greatest nemeses. So for me, being too beaten up by the cold to lift a hand to housework, ideas of crafts have been left swimming around in my head like distorted little pond fish. Let’s just say not all of my delusional craft ideas have been feasible, ie. getting root hormone gel on your hands doesn’t mean your index might start to sprout roots and that you can produce a cute little finger garden.
I’ve also taken to reading a LOT of Lucy Maud Montgomery, which is something that can really affect someone’s writing and normal patterns of speech. For reals… as LM Montgomery might not say.

I have been taking time to go out (between chapters in ‘Anne of Avonlea’) and tend to my balcony garden. It’s a nice little “outing”, just far enough outside to shake the feeling that my body may actually be fusing with the walls of my apartment.

My little plants seem to be doing well. Broccoli, carrot, lettuce, garlic and onions are all sprouting. Snow pea seedlings are looking fairly happy, as are the new strawberry plants. One thing that looks decidedly unhappy is the poor tiny little rose bush that I took from my Oma’s garden after she passed. I do not know much about rose bushes and so I hope the thing revives.
But as far as food producing things? They revive me and help me feel that to dream something into being isn’t too much of a hard task.

Life is better with a garden

27 Apr

On April the 7th, a sad thing happened. Our large European family had to say goodbye to our Oma. Having migrated to Australia in the late 50’s, she is a symbol to me of endurance, perseverance and resourcefulness. This woman truly was resourceful. She could probably coax a garden to thrive from the cracks in her pavement. Sometimes she had nothing. Not nothing. Less than nothing, because there were times (with 8 kids and a struggling husband traumatised by life and the war) that she was really hard up. She had her dark phases but still she thrived; she was robust, as put by her GP when at 80 years old she walked the 5 kms into town for a checkup appointment. In her latter years she seemed to bloom into a bright spring flower.

My cousin and I visited her house after the funeral. It was nothing like it had been when she was living there, just an empty shell like her body had become. But we saw evidence of her life that comforted us. Cheerful paintings of the Mediterranean. A ceramic pie dish ready for a pie. Herbs and seeds drying out on the bench for future use. And a prolific garden which she clearly tended with dedication and care, despite being 81 and in need of an oxygen tank (which she called “her little doggie”, as it followed her around everywhere on a lead). Her positivity and warm approach to life regardless of her struggles encourages me to face her departure with thankfulness and a bright heart. We used to joke that the Grim Reaper would never dare knock on her door, as she’d most likely tell him off and reprimand him for having “dirty shoes when I just swept the porch”. Yet she met this Challenge with the same peaceful embrace that she had met many other of life’s challenges. So I am proud to be her kin. I just had to write in that little tribute to my roots before proceeding.

Since Oma’s passing, I have turned into some kind of jam making, olive curing, herb drying, garden dwelling machine. Not machine as in robotic and unfeeling. As in… I just don’t know from where I’ve developed this never ending enthusiasm for homely tasks. Not that I wasn’t this way before, but it now seems all I can do to fight my urge to plant broccoli. The only slight challenge in the face of my desire to grow things (on the cusp of winter of all seasons) is that I live in an apartment. It’s not a huge dilemma, I’ve been growing the odd citrus tree and occasional herb in pots for years. But now that I’m tempted to bury my fingers further in the dirt, I’m flirting with an interesting challenge (one I am sure my Oma would wholeheartedly endorse). How much can I actually grow on my balcony?

It’s a question I asked myself after my husband passed me some inspiration (after seeing the renewal of my enthusiasm) in the form of a segment by Peak Moment. It’s well worth a watch, as the measures this gardener has taken in order to become more self-sufficient is remarkable. While not everyone can implement all of her measures (such as myself, an apartment renter), even adopting some changes would change a person’s lifestyle.

So let’s see! The broccoli, garlic, onions and peas go in this weekend. I’m interested to see how many pots the Body Corporate will let me get away with before they come a-knockin’. Since my curiosity currently stands as a flirt and hasn’t proceeded to become the all out serious deal (which it may yet become), I’m keen to see what will come of my extreme challenge. Either way, there is one truth we could probably all take as a lesson from my Oma. Life is better with a garden.

Or, more philosophically; When you are challenged, hard up, overcome and pressed, secure your roots deep into the ground for nourishment and warmth and turn your leaves to the sun.
Thanks Oma.

xxx