Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Lunch Time Hiding Spot

The Sweet Peas our out in full force and the spring warmth has sent the rainbow chard bolting. 
My old (roadside rubbish) wicker chair has a little hidey spot next to the Sweet Peas. 


Lunch times in this spot are warm and sweet smelling. 

Gardener's note: Sowing Sweet Alyssum (the white flowers along the raised bed edge) is a tip I read in a permaculture book to encourage pollinators and beneficial bugs to the garden. I have certainly found that the white flowers are the best and I have so many bees in the garden, that things get pollinated as soon as they open! The seed was sown directly around the edges and germinated very quickly and flowered within a few weeks. Its a fabulous plant! Highly recommended in the veggie garden! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Practically Green Sustainability Award!

Last weekend my local council ran the 'Practically Green Sustainability Festival' which is an annual festival celebrating sustainable living and everything green.

As part of the festival Nillumbik Shire Council presents awards on a dedicated night to individuals, businesses, school and community groups for their contribution to 'improving the environmental, economic and social sustainability of Nillumbik'.

One of those awards was the 'Sustainable Home Award' and I'm so excited to say that Ballynoe Cottage won it!!!


Our category was judged on how home owners used innovative ways to 'reduce energy, water and waste, renewable energy, use of recycled and eco-friendly materials, sustainable transport, garden design, water wise gardening, composting, food production, protecting biodiversity or anything else the resident or landlord has done to model sustainable behaviours or to spread the sustainability message.' 


When I saw the competition slideshow on the awards night I was certain that out little cottage wouldn't have the slightest chance of winning, but lo-an-behold, Joel's and my name were called as the winners!

The Judges said: "This young couple had put a great deal of effort into making their first home sustainable. On a tight budget, their efforts required some creative solutions that cover building efficiency, energy and water use, a permaculture garden, indigenous plantings and recycling or up-cycling of materials."


We feel so honoured to have received this award from our local council and it has really encouraged us to keep on going making the most of what we have and being conscious of the effect we have on the environment.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to start a veggie garden or a compost bin (there's even a compost bin for apartment dwellers!), or make sure you take short showers and carefully consider what you are throwing away. Even if you don't get recognition for it there is satisfaction knowing that you did your best to respect the earth and the gifts she has given humanity.

Thank you to Nillumbik Shire Council for organising the fantastic festival and awards. Thanks also go to the judges, Linda Parlane, Greener Houses Project Manager, North East Neighbourhood House Project and Charlie Evans, Director of Urbaneco in Eltham.

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! I still can't wipe the smile off my face!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Assorted Flowers & Colours

This weekend's humid and warm weather has seen many flowers open up. Believe it or not I actually started out with a very restrained colour pallet, however mixed seed packets don't always play by the rules! 
The original intention around the back and veggie garden was red, orange and purple together, but alas twas not to be. So many flowers, so little space and the pretty tags at the nursery are sometimes too hard to resist!

Climbing 'Black Boy' in the teepee. The flowers are more red than this photo.
My newest obsession - Opium Poppies.
A Mr Lincoln rose in the background. 

Shame about the pinkness...


A new dark blue / purple sweet pea has opened. Its more purple in reality.
The Callistemons are flowering, much to the delight of the Lorikeets! The dark green
and burgundy foliage colour works quite well with the purple Cotinus (Smoke Bush)
in the foreground...
The Echeverias are finally flowering!
Its so nice at this time of year with the garden changing so rapidly. There are so many flowers in the house now that I have run out of vases and am using jars! Oh happy Spring!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's for Dinner? Almost 100%!

Hows this for Spring pickings?


Apart from the blue Sweet Peas (which smell divine next to my bed) the whole lot will be going to be a green stir fry for my dinner! That's going to be a near 100% meal - that is nearly 100% of my meal's contents has been home grown. Thanks HAZEL for this useful meal scaling system!

I've picked the first of my broad beans and they taste FANTASTIC, no double shelling required! I've been waiting quite a long time for this moment and  have to say it is indeed sweet. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Garden Inspiration: Heide 1 Garden.

For the non Melbournites, Heide Museum of Modern Art  is a combination of interesting buildings, gardens and sculpture park not far from Melbourne's CBD. The land was purchased by John and Sunday Reed in 1934 and they developed it as a self sustaining artist's haven before it later became a museum.

I visited on a warm spring afternoon and spent my time walking through the garden at Heide 1, the original victorian farmhouse, walled and kitchen garden. The garden at Heide 1 is just a smidge of the whole 16 acres that slopes down to the Yarra River and its wooded floodplain. 

I particularly like this part of the garden, It has a slight melancholy romance to it, with wild, shady enclosed paths and exposed bright spaces. It is in desperate need of some love and attention, with many weeds and overgrown parts, but there are plant gems hidden through the brambles that speak of a considered design and passion for the garden. 
I try and imagine Sunday Reed walking through the garden, tending to her flowers and vegetables as her therapy and creative expression. 

The original farmhouse with the English lavender
hedge & fruit trees framing the driveway.
The side of the house and the spring border.

The spring border , backed by the walled garden has a profusion of
wisteria and beautiful, fragrant lilacs as well as many salvias, helibores and
other pretty plants.
The garden walled garden on the other side of the spring border is slightly wild.


An old, beautifully scented rose hidden away.


To the outer edge of the Heide 1 garden is the rather large veggie garden. It supplies veg, leaves and flowers for the cafe and makes me green with envy every time I walk through it. Imagine having that much space!! Herbs are used to edge the paths which contributes a sense of prettiness to the otherwise very formal and geometric arrangement of the beds. Many of the crops were going to seed and beds were being prepared for tomatoes and other summer veg. There was lots of borage everywhere. Does anyone grow borage? What does it do? 



If you are interested in reading about John, Sunday and the garden, I highly recommend the book 'The Heart Garden' Janine Burke. Its a beautiful, evocatively written book that brings the story of Heide and the garden to life. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Frida & Margarita

It's probably time to post an update about my little orphans Frida and Margarita. Well, yesterday I had a chick breakthrough!
I came home to find Margy in the backyard (the chicks can fly out of the run. I know I'm tempting fate but there is no way to keep the chicks in the coup whilst giving access for Dumpling and Julia to go between the coop and the run. - That's the next project) and she promptly ran away from me.
I then walked over to the run and squatted down to watch my little chicks. Margy tentatively came over to me and hoped up onto a stump next to me. I slowly held out my hand and she hopped up onto it. For some reason, I had the urge to put her on my shoulder (I have strange fantasies of being a pirate, and a chicken on the shoulder would just complete the look) and I slowly moved my hand to my shoulder and she proceeded to hop up and inspect her surroundings!  We walked around the garden together, I gave her some seeds and then popped her back with her sister!

Well I never!

I then managed to hand feed BOTH of them (Frida is more flighty) by hand! I don't know what has happened for them to all of a sudden to be less scared but I'm not complaining! It will be great if I can encourage them more and have them both on my shoulder!!! Woah, that would be awesome!





I'm quite in love with my little charges and love hearing them at night chirping away to the noise of the TV. I'll keep bringing them inside for the next week or so until their head feathers develop.

Hopefully I haven't jinxed them by posting a update on them (like I did in Chicken Days and then the next Sad Day post). Fingers crossed Foxy Loxy doest break my heart again.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Colourful Pickings

The Garden has exploded into life in the last few weeks and it has been so wonderful walking through it in the mornings before work. That quiet time before the rush is just so important that I don't know what I'd do without my garden now. My slippers are looking worse for it but look at the pretty thinks I have been picking.


Lots of beautiful deep red Ranunculus, my first rose of the season 'Black Boy', Telephone snow peas, lots of sweet sugar snaps and more Broccoli than my wok can handle!


Joel and his handy Dad spent a few afternoons laying gravel in the veggie garden. Its SO WONDERFUL! I did my bit by adding the old chimney pot. There is now an old wicker chair between the sweet pea tee-pee along the fence which is a lovely place to sit. Ollie likes to come visiting too. He's such a good poser.

In other news, the chicks are doing well. They sleep in their basket at night inside and out in the coop during the day. Julia likes to chase after them, but they are flighty enough to escape her beak. They have all their feathers now with only a few fluffy bits on their heads and are getting bigger by the day. I still feel sad when I go to the coop, but, cest la vie.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A sad day.

This morning I woke up to find only 2 of the 4 chicks.

Poor Melly / Mavroula/ MMoG was killed and her little chicks La Perla and Pox were taken by a fox. I found Melly next to the fence and under a tree, her warm body was starting to stiffen, still bleeding and her eyes closed.
I can hear her little orphans calling for her from my desk in my bedroom. I feel so sad. Why didn't I patch up the hole that they were getting out of? Why didn't I look out the window when I heard it happen?

Thank you Melly for your eggy gifts and the smiles you would bring to my face with your determined motherly antics. And to little Pox and La Perla, I will miss not getting to know you better.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chicken Days

The little chicks have been growing well these few weeks and they are all starting to get their feathers and used to their wings. Not only do they look scrappy and all gangly but they have worked out to fly over the run fence and hang out in the garden, but somehow they never manage to get back to mum in the run! This means I have to stalk them, corner them and then commando roll to try and catch the little buggers!  This may sound funny, but I can assure you its not! 
I didn't want to interfere with Melly / Mavroula / Mother Mary and her parenting ways so the only time I ever touched the chicks was when I slipped them under their mummy that dark night all those weeks ago! I'm now regretting this! They chicks are so scared of me when I come near, that I almost have to ninja pounce on them when I want a cuddle (this happened last night and was very traumatic for me and the chicks!). So what to do? Dunno. I'm thinking I'll let nature take its course and just practice my Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (but without the swords and murdering) moves.

We introduced them to the other girls earlier in the week and the big bossy boots have quickly established the pecking order! Any time the chicks come near, Julia chases them and pecks at them, same with Dumpling, who is also broody now! At least being so small and flighty they manage to escape unharmed. 

This morning I woke up hearing the feint cheeping of my little chicks and new strait away they were out in the garden, and much closer to the house then usual! I parted the curtains and saw this:

Excuse the collection of backyard fire places.
 I have a terrible addiction to hard rubbish .
There they were, foraging in my sorry excuse for a lawn, happily following MMoG around. They looked very cute, so I put on the off road slippers and headed outside with the camera to get some good pictures to share.


As soon as I came out the Back door, MMoG came over to me looking for food. 
So too came the little babes for their close up!



SOOOO CCUUUTTTEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

The two little Lavender Araucanas - Frida and Margarita are very spunky and quite independent, where as the two little Silver Laced Wyandottes - La Perla and Pox (undecided name) are a little more timid. Pox (undecided) seems to be the runt as it is a lot smaller than La Perla and hasn't got as many feathers as LP. However PU doesn't mind being picked up as much as the others and is MUCH easier to catch. Can you even have runt chickens? So I'm thinking Pox is going to be my favourite, because who doesn't love a chicken that likes a cuddle!?!

I can tell I'm going to be a bad mother already! Your're not supposed to have favourite children are you? 


 
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