Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heat Effects and Death to the Lawn!

Apart from a short post about kamikaze insects I’ve neglected this blog for a while. With a couple of weeks of extreme heat, gardening hasn’t been very appealing and a as result the garden itself has taken on a neglected look.

It’s been hard to keep things in order when the temperature made it too uncomfortable to spend time outside. And there was just no way I could keep dehydration of the plants at bay with the hose. Now, most of the roses have crashed and my potatoes are very bedraggled after a very promising and healthy looking start.

With the lack of recent gardening inspiration I have been spending time starting up my new “literary” blog: Out of Shadows and I’ve tried to catch up on some of the books I’d been neglecting. But my garden was not completely abandoned.

On some of the cooler evenings I did venture out to reclaim some of the lawn area by creating two new garden beds. The first of these was next to the new water tank (which is now half empty again). We had three cubic metres of garden soil delivered and only half was needed for the tank area, so I used the rest to extend an existing garden.

To create the first bed I put layers of newspaper over the grass, piled a good thickness of the soil on top and added a covering of sugar cane mulch. Towards the back of this garden I planted a fuchsia that is supposed to grow up to two metres tall. If that height estimation is correct it will make quite an unusual looking plant because its flowers are tiny. Unfortunately I’m not very confident of its future, it seems to be struggling. Planting during an extended period of extreme heat perhaps didn’t give it the best start – although it is in one of the more shaded areas of the garden.

The second garden bed will be left for a while. I approached this one differently. Firstly I marked its borders by digging up the grass around the edges. I then placed the clumps onto the garden area grass side down and covered them with thick biscuits from a bale of “lucerne” straw. [I put the lucerne in quotes because there seemed to be more oats than lucerne in the bale – with an occasional hint of “Riverina bluebell”!]. I covered all of this with a good thickness of newspaper and topped it all off with the rest of the delivery of soil. I won’t plant anything here until the various layers have settled down significantly giving the area a bit more stability. I also used the last bit of my sugar cane mulch to cover half of the bare soil.

Looking at the back yard now I can see it taking the shape I’ve been looking for. After more than three years of planning and replanning, I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere. There were two clear turning points that started to move things out of my head and onto the ground. Firstly was the relocation of the old Hill’s hoist clothesline which had been right in the middle of the garden, limiting access and mobility. We replaced that with a removable clothesline to the side of the house which opened up many more possibilities. It also improved the view from the windows in our family/dining room.
The second turning point was the installation of the water tank. Now that the tank is in place we can attend to the area that was needed for access for the tank delivery.

Eventually I will reclaim all of the lawn at the back. Most will be converted to garden beds, with a small open paved/gravelled area in the middle. We’ll need to shade that area in some way, but the means of doing that will be considered later.

I’ve written quite a lot here without including any photos to illustrate the things I’ve been writing about. I haven’t taken any photos recently because the decline of the garden (after such a promising start in early spring) has been a bit discouraging. But now the weather seems to have cooled off a little, and after a decent rainfall yesterday, I might take the camera out again in the next couple of days to take a few more photos to post at a later date.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Insect Conspiracy

What’s going on in the insect world? Is there a conspiracy against me?

Yesterday I was digging in the garden making the most of the cooling evening temperatures when a bug flew half way down my throat. I was able to cough it up and saw it was a green stink bug (also known as a shield bug – but the “stink” version was definitely more appropriate for this one). It was bad enough knowing I’d almost swallowed the thing – but the aftertaste of it being in my mouth!!!!! (And no, considering the experience, the use of so many!!!!! is not excessive).
I couldn’t get into the house quick enough to get to the mouthwash.

But you may say that one unpleasant insect experience does not make a conspiracy – but how about a second?

This morning at work I went to the water cooler to fill a mug to take to my desk. An ant was wandering around the top of the water cooler. As I started to fill the mug the ant actually RAN to the edge of the cooler and launched itself into the air towards my drink

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tax, Zucchinis and the Effects of Rain.

This afternoon I have an appointment to do my tax return. My last return was wonderful. Having been unemployed for most of the year I got all of my tax back. It was the best tax refund I’ve ever received.

Things will be different this time. For part of the year I was working two jobs, and one employer wasn’t deducting the correct amount of tax out of each pay, so I’m not looking forward to the outcome. I’ll certainly have to pay the Tax office instead of having them pay me.

If only our bills could be paid in produce rather than $$$. With the Zucchini season starting I can imagine that I could more than pay any pending tax bill with a suitable quantity of zucchini. They’ll be growing quicker than I can pick them in a week or two.
We’ve already picked the first small ones. They were barely 5cm in length but I thought I’d grab them before they shrivelled up. Last year we lost a lot of the first ones to appear. I’m not sure whether it was because they weren’t fertilised. At the moment we don’t have many male flowers on the plants to do their job

The last week has seen some significant growth in many of the veggies, which is probably due to the massive downpour we had one day last week. We had 46mm of rain in around an hour and parts of the town temporarily flooded. The rain has also given life to the lawn. Over the past few months I’ve used the lawnmower more times than in the previous three years and I’ll have to mow again this weekend if I get the chance. Two weekends in a row is a bit excessive in my opinion, so it’s time I moved onto the next stage of lawn replacement by extending the garden beds again

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Having spent my childhood in Derbyshire, England I look out for anything with links to that county. Over the years holidaying family members have given me books, glassware and porcelain with Derbyshire connections. One of the things eluding me was music.

I first came to know of Derbyshire singer and fiddle player Bella Hardy through an article in “The Living Tradition” (a traditional music magazine) and was able to buy her albums via her website.

The albums have not only added to my collection of Derbyshire “memorabilia”, they are a quality addition to my music collection. There is something about the traditional music of Britain and Ireland that I find much more appealing than more “popular” genres. It has a timeless depth of story telling missing from the commercial stuff we hear all the time via the mass media.

Samples of Bella’s songs can be heard on her website. Her strong rich vocals and traditional English fiddle style are given prominence in the recordings and are not overwhelmed by unnecessarily lavish production. Her songs and her talent are allowed to shine on their own merits.

Night Visiting
In the Shadows of Mountains

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Autobiographical Musings: Ambition, the Arts and Literary Leanings.

When I started this blog it was intended to be an outlet for my thoughts and experiences relating to artistic matters, yet because of changed personal circumstances it has evolved into something entirely different

Most of my spare time over the past few years has revolved around our move from Sydney to the country and the very slow establishment of the garden. I enjoy the productive side of gardening: seeing things come to life and being able to harvest fresh food from the backyard, but I miss some of my other interests that have been put on hold and pushed aside

Some times it’s necessary to step back and take stock; to re-evaluate where I am and where I want to go.

I suppose when I moved to the country it seemed like the perfect escape from a stress and work-dominated life in Sydney. And the emphasis was on the “escape FROM” instead of an escaping TO. What would happen once we left the city and how we would create a viable lifestyle was not given enough consideration. We were caught up in the romanticism of the move, trusting in many impractical ways of supporting ourselves.

After an almost idyllic first year, reality returned and I now find myself working full time hours in yet another admin job, not too different from others I’ve done. No matter how many times I’ve tried to change direction I eventually end up back where I started.

Have you ever had those interviews and performance reviews in which you are questioned about your ambitions and where you see yourself in five years time? I always thought that my presence in those interviews was a sign of my LACK OF ambition. I wouldn’t have remained in those admin/clerical positions if I was driven by the desire to climb the corporate ladder. My sense of purpose has NEVER been connected to career and employment. Spending most of your life working in an unfulfilling job merely to support a barely existent “life-style” doesn’t seem like a very good investment of time, but what could I do about it?

Part of my most recent attempt to escape this rut has been documented on this blog, but this is not the first failed attempt.

In the early 90s I left full time employment to study at University. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Creative arts course to study creative writing.
Earlier I touched on my lack of ambition – but that lack has only related to the business world in which I’d become trapped. Looking back throughout my life I started to remember my childhood desire to be a writer and realised that writing was the only ambition I could recall having.

Throughout primary and early high school years I would write stories and especially plays. For a time I had some very encouraging and tolerant teachers who made way for my creativity, allowing performances of my plays in class. Often these little dramas would be nothing more than a rewriting of recently seen movies or TV shows, but occasionally I’d come up with an original story and have the thrill of having a work of my own imagination performed in class.

I suspect things changed when my family moved from England to a new life in Australia. I was thrown into a very different educational system with very different people. With all of that came a loss of confidence as I tried to adjust to so many new things at the same time as I was entering puberty. My creative output became limited to set school assignments and writing for pleasure became a rare activity.

Fast forward 10 years.
In my mid twenties I decided to put pen to paper again. I started writing a mixture of articles and stories and submitted several to magazines and newspapers. While nothing was accepted I received enough positive feedback to keep me going. I also attended a couple of writing courses held by local colleges. Eventually all of this led to the gamble I took when I gave up my job of ten years to enter the academic world.

Within the first weeks of the course I changed my focus from Creative Arts to a normal Arts degree, majoring in English Literature. I was still able to do all of the writing subjects I wanted, but was no longer under any obligation to include art subjects that didn’t seem relevant. In their place I had more opportunity to study the literary topics that took my interest.

After three years I graduated with very pleasing results and I spent a year applying for work in fields that would utilise my writing skills – with no success.
One employer replied to my application with the suggestion that I seek employment in heavy industry and manufacturing because that was more suited to my previous work experience.

Again my writing started to take a back seat – or more accurately it was banished to another vehicle entirely, until I discovered the internet world of the forum and the blog. And perhaps that brings me back to the present.

My writing in its current stage has been focused on two main areas of interest divided between two blogs. This blog in recent years has been mostly about my garden and the move to the country. The other blog “The Onesimus Files” has been an outlet for thoughts on theological topics.

I am now considering a third blog that may put me back on the literary path. The seed of this idea perhaps started to germinate when I came across the website of one of my former lecturers. He is now a successful full time author and his site contains interesting and useful information and links that have helped to rekindle my desire to explore some literary possibilities.

I will probably stick with “blogger”. It is a familiar format and I don’t have the time or the will to play around with something else. I can also keep all of my blogs connected and easily accessible by sticking with what I know.

After making this decision I have already run into the first obstacle – what do I call it? Coming up with suitable names is not something I find easy – as can be seen from the name I gave THIS blog.

The first two names that I came up with have already been taken – either the world is far smaller than I realised, or my talent for original thought is severely lacking. Clearly that is not a good omen at the start of a new creative journey…