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No More Assignments For Twiglet

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I have been working on my assignment. Obviously, that is why I’m on my blog right now. This was my final assignment for my final paper for this course. So, my last assignment ever, unless I nutheadedly decide to do more study some time in the future. This final paper has seen me procrastinating like nobody’s business. It just doesn’t seem as relevant as looking at plants, holding chickens or watching videos with The Little Fulla of himself being himself. I found myself doing almost anything to avoid doing my assignment. Folding washing. Tidying up random things. Rearranging a kitchen cupboard. Cleaning the chicken coop. ‘Accidentally’ going on Facebook. Doing the dishes. Dishes! Doing the dishes hovers around the bottom of my ‘Things I Ought to do’ list. I would much rather clean the chicken coop. Anyway, I finished my assignment last night so now I am freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Now, I am playing the game of What Shall I do First? My options range from catching up on housework to catching up on garden tasks to getting some of my 10 million projects started to sitting around like a blob watching presentations on this week’s 2017 Home Grown Food Summit. The results are inclining towards a crazed combination of all of the above.

We were at the Auckland Botanic Gardens last weekend: a happy place that always gives me inspiration, especially when it comes to native plants.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

I could spend so many hours loitering around Auckland Botanic Gardens, but a small child on foot means everything is now done in fast-forward.

The Chickens

I have whittled my flock down to what seems like a rather small number: 8. It probably still sounds like a lot to some people but I feel like I’ve offloaded a lot of chickens in a short space of time! I sold my second black Orpington pullet last week. Now I’m back to two breeds or part-breeds: Australorps and Wyandottes. And Mr Bingley is still hanging around.

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Hello, Mr Bingley! Yup, he’s still here. Behind him are Lizzie, Georgiana and Kitty. PB is hiding behind the tree.

I celebrated my selling efforts by letting the chickens back into The Orchard Pen, which has grown back some grass and had a nice rest from chickens. Kitty celebrated by going broody and my “Look, it’s a new pen to explore!” plan didn’t prove a good enough distraction to keep her from a stint in the broody breaker. Frodo celebrated by starting to go broody too and ended up in the broody breaker straight after Kitty. I got Frodo in there early before she got too far into the broodiness to stop laying. She hasn’t missed a day of laying yet in 22 days. Wow! This is a new record for her and I don’t know how she’s managing such production in winter! I’m wondering what happens if I manage to break her broodiness before it interrupts her egg-laying hormones. I legitimately asked The Husband, “Will she explode?” I’m happy for her to miss a day of egg laying, I just don’t know how that will fit into her current system of laying every day before having a big broody break. She’s currently in a weird, quiet, trance-like, half broody state but still laid early this evening.

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The chickens are back in The Orchard Pen: Lizzie (front) and Georgiana. The parts that had hay spread around when the chickens were last in there have grown some nice grass. I think I shall spread some hay in the empty Cedar Pen.

I got a good, sunny day to do a full coop clean and spray this week, which always makes me feel satisfied. Then Georgiana gave me a nice assignment-finishing present today: her first little egg. Yay! On one hand, I wasn’t expecting her to start laying in winter but on the other hand it’s about time! She is 32 weeks old today. Words like ‘slacker’ were starting to come to mind, so I am very pleased that she has joined the layers club.

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Georgiana’s sweet little egg.

PB is getting a proper name. It has been so long that it’s hard to stop calling her PB, but I’m going with something not too much different: Jane B. She is still getting bigger and is currently being super-scared of me when I’m in the pen. Partly, I blame her nutty ‘brother’, Mr Collins, but I think it’s also because I keep taking her friends away, first, Mr Collins, and then the black Orpington. Georgiana was the same when I took some of her buddies away around the same age. Hopefully Jane B will settle down now that I’ll have a bit more time to just hang out with the chickens. She still sits in my arms nicely and eats from my hand when I get her out at night but she’s scared of me during the day.

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PB shall henceforth be known as Jane B. She is almost 15 weeks now.

I have been asking members of a Wyandotte group about my SLW pullet, Lorelai, aka Slow Feather Butt, and opinions are still divided as to whether she is a boy or girl, so I will have to wait some more…

The Garden

The garden has been getting scarce attention lately owing to sickness, winter weather and that assignment. It is due for so many things and I’m looking forward to getting some quality time in my garden. The Little Fulla and I did a little bit of weeding today and the other day we had a family leaf raking session out the front, as the walnut tree has suddenly decided to dump copious amounts of leaves on the drive and thereabouts. So far, some of the leaves have been put on the compost heap and some have been dumped on top of the weeds in front of the compost heap. More raking will be needed to keep the leaves clear of the gate. I am hoping to plant my garlic tomorrow and am finalising my Vege Plan, which is a lot less orange than I thought it might be. I have been eyeing up the space out the front in front of my corokia and flax hedge as a place to plant Atlantic Giant pumpkins as well as another variety or two. I just need to deal with the weeds.

I have so many plans for things I want to do outside. I have been giving a lot of thought to shelter plant options, as we are getting a lot of wind through the backyard since a) we cleared out some shrubs/trees that were giving shelter on the west side and b) the neighbours cut down some good shelter shrubs. I am also thinking about trellis ideas along the paddock fence on the east side of the vege garden. The Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan still has stages that need to be done and I have a lot of plants that need to be planted in various places. I need to hack away at stumpy in The Herb Garden.

The Husband keeps throwing a rope up into the doomed plum tree and I keep telling him that we need to cut more off the top before any felling attempts. It doesn’t look like there’s much of it left but it is actually quite tall. The Husband has also been working on tidying up the ‘firewood storage area’ at the side of the deck. In a bid to dry out the wood that keeps getting pounded by the rain, he knocked up a quick shelter with lengths of timber and some black plastic. I am trying to bite my tongue because I know that the wood needs to dry out, but a) the black plastic is cutting out some light from the lounge, b) it doesn’t look very good, c) it keeps falling apart and d) I have longer term plans of paving the area and putting clear or white corrugated roofing above it to turn it into a BBQ and tidy firewood shelf area. We have almost used all the firewood in one bay of the woodshed in the chicken pen, so we could just move all the wet firewood there…

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Stumpy needs to be evicted from The Herb Garden. He just keeps getting wet feet.

The doomed plum tree

The rest of the yellow-fleshed plum tree still needs to be removed. Just not in one foul, misaligned swoop.

Firewood area

The Husband’s firewood area at the side of the deck. In the high winds yesterday one of the wooden supports between the black fence and the deck roof fell down and the black plastic that was covering them blew off. It’s a work in progress. Of sorts.

Tree Business

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I have been taking care of a lot of tree business around here lately. Trees have been pruned, trees have been given final notice and trees have been bought. We decided that the yellow-fleshed plum tree was going to get the chop due to its pollination-related performance issues. I haven’t been able to ascertain what cultivar it is, only that it is similar to a Santa Rosa or Fortune, but it is not quite either of those. Not knowing exactly what it is means I wouldn’t know exactly which other plum cultivars would pollinate it, and since we don’t want to end up with three plum trees anyway, its days are numbered. What use is a fruit tree that doesn’t fruit? It’s a bit like people, really. We may look good and seem like we’re going somewhere, but without the right input our efforts amount to nothing. However, if we get alongside someone else who has a vision, passion or skills compatible with our own, then we bear fruit abundantly, and that makes a difference to the world around us.

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The yellow-fleshed plum tree (right) is going to go bye-byes when I’ve finished working on the second chicken pen. I need to finish pruning the Billington plum tree (left).

To replace the plum tree I have bought an ‘All in One’ almond tree, which is rated highly for home gardens, especially in warmer areas. It will just have to wait until we’ve chopped down the plum tree to find a spot in there somewhere. Meanwhile, the Billington plum tree put on heaps of growth after its big pruning last year and I have started pruning it into some semblance of control.

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The ‘All in One’ almond tree awaits the removal of its predecessor. It has a few good branch options, so I have to decide at what height I want the main structural branches coming out of the trunk.

My other option for replacing the doomed plum tree was another apple tree. Not to be pushed aside, the ideas rattled around in my brain and I found a place for one too! While we were in Auckland, we found, bought and manoeuvered into the car a Cox’s Orange Pippin on a semi-dwarf MM106 rootstock. Knowing what the rootstock is is an essential point when buying fruit trees. The future site for the apple tree is in the future triangle garden outside one of our lounge windows, a garden which I have been thinking about for ages, which has been waiting for me to move my pallets of potted plants, which have been waiting for me to clear the plant-growing alcove, which has been waiting for me to move the pruning mountain, which I did, but now there’s an even bigger pruning mountain. Everything in the garden moves in ridiculously complicated triangles and circles at the moment. Anyway, the apple tree is going to provide shade to the sunniest and hottest window during summer, then will return some of the light when it drops its leaves in the winter. Plus, it will give us tasty apples. We had a Cox’s Orange Pippin in my childhood garden and it is well-known as one of the best heritage apples. The advantages of the MM106 rootstock are that the tree will grow to about 4.5m tall; not too tall but tall enough to provide good shade, and resistance to woolly aphid, which the other apple tree in the chicken run is currently having issues with. Here is a handy chart I found featuring the main apple rootstocks available in New Zealand.

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The ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apple tree awaits the removal of two pallets of potted plants so that I can form a triangle-ish garden between the black fence on the left and the corner of the house. This lounge window is in much need of shade during the summer.

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The pruning mountain in my future plant alcove. At least it’s a nice shape. Can you tell that I formed this one?

The other main tree business that has been underway is the pruning of the cedar tree. It has had most of the branches within reach of the telescopic pruning saw cut off, mostly by me, and a little by The Husband. These branches are massive. Cedar trees can reach 12m wide and our tree is no exception. The branches are heavy as well as very long and had to be taken off in sections so as not to damage anything as they fell. The lowest branches stretching over the chicken run, the neighbours’ place and the garage have been dealt with.

Now I can really see how the cedar tree has affected the growth and fruiting of the apple tree: it is on a distinct lean towards the paddock and most of the branches and apples are hanging over the paddock since the cedar has been crowding it out and shading it for probably quite some time. The whole area is looking better with more light coming through. When The Youngest Brother-in-law was here last night he commented that the backyard was looking nice and open. It’s nice when people notice the difference that a lot of hard work has made. Swathes of ivy have also been hacked down from the cedar tree and the small, insanely twisted Pittosporum crassifolium (Karo) behind it that was splurging over the fence into the chicken run has been cut down too. There is another young Karo still in there so I will leave that one.

After the last session of hacking, which may have gotten a little too vigourous, I developed some bad ivy rash, despite wearing longs, so I will not be hacking ivy above ground again. My eagerness to get things done makes me cycle between going full guns blazing at the ivy and being extremely scared of it. I think we have gotten rid of most of what we can cut down anyway, aside from what The Husband may like to prise off the trunk for me… Now all that remains is for the rest of the tree to be dismantled, which, unfortunately is really not a job we can do ourselves. While we await an option that won’t make our pockets explode, I am getting a move on with chicken-wiring the fence around the Cedar Tree Garden. I am trying to convince The Husband to help dig and pull out the rest of the ivy from the ground so it doesn’t attack me while I’m crouching down, stapling the chicken wire. Well, I was, but now The Husband has a back injury so I’m on ivy ground-clearing duty again.

I have also spent a lot of time raking up all the pinecone scales and cedar needles from the second chicken pen area. The Little Fulla has been helping, which mostly entails wheelbarrow rides, stopping him from putting all manner of things in his mouth, stopping him from climbing up the fort ladder, regular snuggles and stopping him from putting more things in his mouth. The purpose of all this raking is to get the sharp pinecone scales out of the future chicken area to minimise injury and potential subsequent infection to the chickens’ feet. It is also making things look a lot more tidy. Another great side effect is that I have gained barrow-loads of mulch to put onto the Plum Tree Garden. This is making the garden look good and helping to suppress the weeds. Re-purposing for the win!

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The Plum Tree Garden is looking a whole heap better with heaps of cedar mulch.

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I am currently feeling very pleased with the clean, sweeping line. I just need to put a bit more mulch at the back.

I haven’t been much of a mulch afficionado in the past, basically because I wouldn’t spend money on mulch. I knew it was good, but it was just an extra expense, however, my eyes have been opened to the great benefits of mulch. Ok, so I’m thinking about my free mulch, but still… The pinecone/pine needle/sticks mulch is really helping to keep the weeds down, which means: a) I don’t have to spend so much time weeding or b) I don’t have to spend time and money with a side of guilty feelings spraying the weeds. And less weeds in one garden bed means less weeds to spread to other parts of the garden. Another free mulch, the used chicken bedding of wood shavings and poop, is helping to suppress the weeds in the Herb Garden and elsewhere, albeit not quite as effectively. Both these mulches are also helping to retain water, which has been hard to come by these last few months. In the Vege Garden, I was surprised to see the vast difference that mulch can make in water retention. Since the potatoes were harvested from The Corner Bed, I have been piling used chicken wood shavings and hay on top of it, and when I went to plant some brassicas in there, the soil underneath was still moist, even though it hadn’t been watered for quite a while. In contrast, The Long Bed opposite it was very dry and had to be watered. Yes please, I am getting on the mulch train. Especially if it’s a free ride. But I might even pay for a ride to Mulchtown.

A Story of a Tree

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Once upon a time, there was a poorly-positioned, ugly, ivy-covered tree. And then The Husband busted a move on it. After peering at the tall, narrow conifer in the back corner with squinty eyes and murmering things about how we could get it down without paying for an arborist, and certain members of the household having watched too much Alaskan Bush People, The Husband took it on. In the beginning, he pruned off the branches and ivy from one side using the telescopic pruning saw so that he had a bare surface. He saw that it was good. Then he borrowed a pole ladder and harness from work, which he uses when doing power pole work, and continued to work his way up the side until he got as high as he could. And he saw that it was good. Next came the important and don’t-try-this-at-home part.

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The tall, narrow, yellowy conifer before.

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The Husband pruned the branches and ivy off one side of the tree so he could lean the ladder against the trunk nicely and see where to cut the trunk.

I somehow ended up standing on the ground with a rope in my hands with the top part of the tree attached to the other end of it. The Husband cut the top section of the tree as high as he could with the pruning saw in short-handled mode and I helped to encourage it to fall in the right direction by pulling hard on the rope. We saw that it was good. So, we did the same thing with another section of the tree. This time a little piece of wood got knocked off the raised garden edging, so we decided the rest of the sections of tree needed to fall on the raised garden rather than off it or off/on it. By this stage The Husband had tired of cutting slowly through the trunk with the pruning saw and the chainsaw suddenly appeared. Before I could say, “Not at this time of night…” The Husband had fired it up. Fortunately, it was out of petrol so it puttered out, allowing me to explain to The Husband that it was almost 9pm and too late for extremely loud chainsaw noises right next to the neighbours’ fence. The rest of the tree would keep until tomorrow. The Husband tied it to the fort just in case.

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It’s kind of like working on a power pole…

The next evening The Husband was at the tree again straight after work. Such outdoor eagerness is a rare sight and not to be sniffed at. Now the chainsaw came out and the sections of tree cut got bigger. The Husband strapped each section tightly to the fort as it was felled so that it fell within the raised bed and didn’t break or endanger anything. He made a wedge cut in the direction the tree was to fall then a straight cut from the back. This worked superbly and The Husband earned a trophy of respect by felling the rest of the tree in the perfect place. I think I found me a lumberjack! Now the pruning mountain has been reinstigated to a definite mountain and we have a bit more firewood to add to the collection. It is a great feeling having that tree felled and the view looks better too. And now we rest while we plot what to do about the cedar tree with its similar ivy problem and sharp, chicken foot injury-causing pinecone scales. Hmm…

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The first chainsawed section has come down and the last section remains.

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Timber! The last section of tree falls nicely on top of the raised garden, guided by the blue straps tied to the old fort.

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Now we can enjoy the shape of the neighbours’ tree without the awkward spike of strangled conifer poking through it. But the landscape will be drastically altered if we cut down the cedar tree on the right.

More Hacking and Slashing

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With life back to business as usual at Twiglet Homestead, well aside from those chickens, there has been more garden progress going on. Another stump was removed, the tall one along the paddock side of the house, this time thanks to the efforts of myself and The Husband. A quick investigation to confirm my suspicions that the stump was rather dead and starting to rot turned into probably an hour of digging and ramming around the stump. I could have done it all myself, but The Husband turned up and spent about 10 minutes whacking the stump, pushing it over and chainsawing the bottom off so he could move both heavy bits away. That’s why I like it when he helps with the manly things. He’s stronger than me. Then again, it helps when you have a good woman to do the groundwork. Now the hefty stump is out of the way of the fence strainer post, so we can figure out how to install the big gate and various bits of fence across that side of the house.

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The Husband finishes off the hefty stump.

Speaking of help, The Father came around one day and helped me to remove the entire pruning mountain. He brought a caged trailer and, with a little help from The Little Fulla, we chopped, loaded and flattened two trailer loads of branches, plus some ivy, which is the cherry on top. He made two trips to the organic centre to dispose of it all, where it will be made into compost. It’s amazing what you can do in one day when you have help. It sounds like a small thing, but that pruning mountain was a mountain, which kept growing thanks to all my hacking and slashing, and it would have taken me forever to get rid of it by some low-cost method or another. Now we have a much nicer view and no pruning mountains to speak of on the property. Woohoo! The Husband does still have a small chopping-up-for-the-fire mountain though. The alcove where the pruning mountain was is going to be my plant-growing area. There’s a little more clearing of things to do yet and the tall, narrow conifer still needs to be felled before I move my plants over there, but I’m on another mission right now.

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The big brown patch is where the pruning mountain was. Farewell, pruning mountain. Also, guess who’s been mowing the lawn?

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Yup, it was a big pruning mountain. The alcove is a good spot for my future plant-growing area.

Before The Father came out I pruned some of the big fig tree branches that were low down, too long or otherwise awkward. I also hacked out an awkwardly self-seeded, small fig tree next to the main one, as it is not needed and was on a bad lean. There is another small one in there that I will try to dig out and give to someone. More hacking and slashing was done in the mess under there, most notably caused by ivy. I am slowly starting to win against the ivy in this area as its line recedes further towards the fence line. There is a great mass of it climbing up and cascading down a camellia tree next to the fig tree though. The question is whether to try and remove the ivy from the camellia or cut both down.

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The taming of the fig tree has begun, but with its long, lanky branches I’m going to have to keep at it.

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The fig tree is next to a camellia, then some sort of currant-like bush, then a totara in the foreground. The brown line on the ground is where the ivy, weeds and shrubs used to come out to. I’ve been slowly chipping away at it.

With a clean slate and with the chickens needing their second chicken pen to get done, I have commenced more hacking and slashing in the back corner. I cut down the camellia bush on the edge of the raised bed because it could have bouyed the chickens over the fence or into the trees, and also, it was in a stupid place right at the edge of the bed. Of course, the dense camellia ‘bush’ was a re-sprouted stump and sprouting roots. I’ve cut the branches down for the mean time but don’t want to put woody weedkiller on them since the chickens will need to be in there soon. The removal of this bush actually gives a much nicer outloook from the house, as it was blocking the eyeline to the trees at the back, making the eye focus on the brown wooden edging. For now, you just need to pretend that you can’t see the weeds and ivy. I am also trimming back the multi-legged shrub that I think is some kind of small quince and the bay tree is re-sprouting again so I will have another crack at that when I’ve cleared the ivy. I have been clearing the ivy in there. I don’t want to, but I have to get it done very soon so I can chicken-wire the holey wooden perimeter fence, so I have been donning pants and long sleeves and carefully but mercilessly pulling out every bit of ivy in my path. Well, on the non-stinkin’ hot days. I won’t attack the ivy on the trees though, however tempting, as the possibility of rash-inducing ivy bits falling on me from above is too great.

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The brown space behind the ex-camellia bush is where I’ve been trimming the leggy, quince-like shrub and clearing ivy.

The Husband has just commenced hacking some of the ivy and intermingled branches off the tall, narrow, yellow conifer using the telescopic pruning saw. This is the tree that needs to come down. This is very good. Except that he started a new pruning mountain. Ah well, by the time we get that corner sorted out we’ll probably have enough green waste to necessitate a trailer disposal trip anyway. I think I was in denial: we’re doomed to have a pruning mountain until I’ve gotten around to all the garden areas with my hacking, slashing and pruning. Now we are pondering whether we can use the ladder and telescopic pruning saw to carefully fell the tree by taking off small bits  at a time. I have wound up the old, broken washing line, leaving the concreted metal post that needs to be dug out at some point.

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My clearing work doesn’t look as great with the pruning mountain that The Husband has started looming in front of it. But now that it’s there, we might as well make it bigger, right? I don’t think any more is going to fit in the wheelbarrow.

 

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We’ve had some little spectators watching the hacking and slashing and wondering why the small human keeps stuffing dandelion flowers into their pen. They are the bachelor boys, Leggyleft and Leggyright. Leggyleft is the insatiably curious one. 

The Plum Tree Garden is decidedly weedy at the moment and I haven’t finished digging up the lawn bit yet, but I’ve halted work on it while I get the second chicken pen area sorted. We’re harvesting Billington plums now. They were a bit slower this season, probably because spring wasn’t particularly sunny, but I am glad to have a decent crop despite my hard pruning earlier in the year. My potted Billington, which I’ve moved off the deck and into that area, only has one plum left on it after the many strong winds we’ve had blew off the other flowers and fruit. The yellow-fleshed plum tree isn’t showing many signs of fruit yet, as in, I can see one. I know it had plenty of flowers so I am once again suspecting a pollination issue. But is it lack of a compatible pollinator tree or lack of bee pollination? After a second season of bombing out, I’m still leaning towards lack of a simultaneously-flowering plum tree to cross-pollinate it. The Billington is self-fertile. Hmm.

Now I have to decide if we should get another pollinator plum tree to plant somewhere, which would require some guesswork and possible failure since I don’t know what cultivar this one is, or just chop the yellow-fleshed plum tree down. Although we don’t really need three plum trees, that might be the better option. But wait, option three is that we chop it down and plant the potted Billington, which I would otherwise sell, in that area instead. That would cost nothing and allow us to have two well-fruiting plum trees, but the downside is that they would be two Billingtons fruiting at the same time. Do we want to have a massive preserving session in January or should I do option four and buy something else to replace the yellow-fleshed plum that fruits at a different time? Oh, the possibilities. The Husband and I have consulted and decided on option four. That plum has had two seasons to prove itself and it has failed. There is no room for sub-par fruit trees around here. So, what to plant instead? The front runners at the moment are another apple tree, which I need to do more research on, or another almond tree. Currently we have an apple tree in the chicken run that fruits from March/April to May and a young Granny Smith behind the garage for cooking apples. Since apples are one of the fruits we eat year-round it would be good to have one fruiting at a different time. We also have a dwarf almond, Garden Prince, and it would be good to have another variety, which could be bigger, so that I can have a better supply to make almond milk. I think I want both of these options. Maybe an apple could go out the front or in the second chicken pen area…

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The Plum Tree Garden. The fruitful Billington is on the left and the doomed yellow-fleshed plum is on the right. It’s fairly tall (off screen) but we can cut the taller branches down in bits with the telescopic pruning saw.

I have been mowing the lawns more than The Husband lately, as the garden looks so much better when the lawns are kept under control. Also, I can be particular about the lawn-mowing pattern when I do it. You have to think about the lines you’re making: what suits each piece of lawn and where the lines will lead the eye. Yes, my lawn is full of weeds and various grass varieties and brown patches, but at least I can get one aspect of it right! As I mow the lawn I tend to get an annoying small child-related song stuck in my head. Have you heard of Farmer in the Dell? Well, I don’t know who wrote it or if they were of sound mind, but mowing round and round a large lawn whilst repeating “the cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, heigh-ho the merry-o, the cheese stands alone…” is almost insanity-inducing. Never mind. I can always remove the song from my head with another annoying song…

 

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The Herb Garden looks especially good when the lawn has been mowed with the curves.

Bits And Pieces

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Christmas is coming and, as usual, things have gotten busy. Well, more busy than usual. There are lots of things to go to, things I have to say, “No” to and heaps of things that need to be done around the house and outside. “Everything’s going to be just fine”, I hear myself telling myself. But I don’t think myself is listening. If only time grew on trees. Especially if they were Christmas trees. “I’ll take one Christmas time tree, please. No, make it three! Oh, all right. Ten then.”

I haven’t made much of a dent in the cleanup of the wood and rubbish dumped in the second chicken pen area yet., but I have started chipping away at it. The pruning mountain is still looming nearby like a great brown shadow. The Husband started to burn some of it in the metal drum we moved from behind the garage but the drum is in pretty poor condition, crumbling at the bottom, so we are in a stalemate. I’m keeping my eye out for a non-munted metal drum that we can burn stuff in. Hiring a mulcher to chop up the pruning mountain was not going to be very cost-effective.

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The Maple Garden is the beauty before the mess. The pruning mountain is still looming in the corner and the metal drum for burning is falling apart.

We have gotten some important bits and pieces done. The Husband replaced the two metal gates we had across the driveway with one of the big, heavy wooden ones. The latch on the metal ones had broken and the gates weren’t opening and closing well. The Husband attached a wheel to the wooden gate and, although heavy, it is easier to move than the metal gates, it’s more secure and it was already covered with chicken wire so as to stop all manner of creatures from getting in and out. Yes, things can currently get through the fence but one day my hedge will be thick enough to have thwarting properties. And one day I’ll get around to painting the gate (and the fence) and I’ll move the chicken wire to the inside of the gate so it looks nicer from the road.

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The new wooden gate is very sturdy. Some day I’ll paint it and the fence a more appealing colour.

The Husband has also removed the rusty rain barrel in the compost area that was collecting rainwater from the potting shed guttering. This was long overdue, as the jolly thing was literally falling apart. Never, EVER use metal drums for collecting rainwater! It was replaced by the black plastic drum we had standing by. Now we have to get rid of what is left of the horrible rusty rain barrel. It looks like there’s going to be another trip to the dump. There is plenty of useless wood from the woodshed cleanup and The Place of Eternal Toil that needs to be gotten rid of anyway.

While we’re talking about how useful The Husband is, he has also cleaned the gutters on one side of the house. This was another long overdue task. By the looks of things I don’t think it had been done for years. There was a great hydroponic grass- and moss-growing system going on up there. Fortunately, The Husband disconnected the downpipe first so the icky water and goop didn’t go into our water tank. There’s just one side of the house left to do. And the back porch. And the garage. And the potting shed. But not the rear carport, as that is going to come down one day…

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The Husband is not tending the hydroponic grass system, he is removing the gutter guard to clean out the gutters.

Amidst the busyness of family time, Christmas preparations, getting a small child immunised, handling the chicks most evenings and inducing a chicken to vomit for multiple days in a row, gardening time has been scarce. I dug the blueberry out of the vege garden area and transplanted it next to the plum trees, so now the next stage of The Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan can move forward. Well, after I move the weedpost pile to some as yet unknown place out of the way and encourage The Husband to dig out the last concreted fence post. I have done a bit more work on the Plum Tree Garden and have done what I can for now in The Herb Garden in terms of planting and inserting stepping stones. There is one stump left to remove in there. I have even finished planting The Herb Garden border with native sedges by dividing the bigger ones. The sedge I have used is Carex albula, or white sedge. It is a native sedge that isn’t particularly well-known but it is a great choice for a small, buff-coloured grass effect. I have been squishing in weeding time here and there, trying to get things looking tidy before Christmas and reminding the weeds that they’re not going to win the war.

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The blueberry bush has been moved from the vege garden area…

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… to the Plum Tree Garden. It is on the right beside the stump. I need to move the blackcurrant planter, but I kind of need to plant the blackcurrants, which means I kind of need to get the blackcurrant bed built by the garage. Which means I kind of need to move the weedpost pile and make that last fence post disappear.

 

 

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Things are growing in the vege garden. Imagine that! I need to add ‘mound potatoes’ to my to-do list.

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The Maple Garden is a swathe of interesting colours. Most of the grasses and sedges are flowering at the moment, giving a soft, frothy look.

I don’t like it when I don’t get much gardening time. It makes me feel like I’m missing an arm or something. But it is just the nature of this time of year. Things will get done eventually. I make sure I calm my thoughts every now and then and think about what I am grateful for: the peaceful evenings breathing in the country air, the sounds of mooing cows down the road, the invigorating smell of the lemon thyme I am trimming into balls, the feel of soft chicks in my hands, watching the fur child race around the garden like a nutcase and the taste of a trio of salad greens from the garden, even though I’m having a lettuce fail: rocket, watercress and sorrel. These moments are precious and I am so happy that we get to live in the country and raise our wee boy out here. And at least I don’t have a time-sensitive Christmas knitting project this year, right? Ha. Haha. Hahaha oops. Wasn’t I supposed to be knitting The Little Fulla a Christmas stocking? Erm, yes. That notion may have gotten lost until recently in the maze that is my mind, but lo, it has begun. I just need to stop going outside in the evening, sit still and knit. It’s just that ‘sit’ and ‘still’ are two words that don’t seem to want to go together…

Irises of Red

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The Maple Garden is currently being graced by irises of red. Iris nelsonii, which is a Louisianna iris known as Abbeville Red, has grown like nuts in my garden. It isn’t red red, but a wine red, fading to pinky red as the flowers age.

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Iris nelsonii

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These spiders seem to have found their happy place.

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When the Iris nelsonii had just started flowering. There are a lot more flowers out now.

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This photo was taken 11 months ago after the great planting. The irises are at the back on the left.

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Yup, things grow like nuts here! I haven’t fed them or done anything to the soil in this bed. The soil is very good.

I will have to take a photo of the whole Maple Garden, but in the mean time, here are some plants from the other end of the bed.

 

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Festuca actae, Festuca glauca, Heuchera ‘Amethyst Myst’, Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’ and Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispata’.

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To Tree or Not to Tree- That is The Question

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I have been eyeing up the large trees at the back of our property. I have been wanting to get rid of the tall, yellow, columnar conifer for a while. We got rid of its ailing sibling close to the garage a while back as it was small enough for The Husband to cut down. This one is much taller though, so we need a professional to fell it. It doesn’t look right standing right beside the neighbour’s fence in a raised garden bed, and even less so since ivy has started to take it over.

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I’ve never liked this tall, slim, yellow conifer, or where it’s planted, but now it’s just an ivy-laden mess. Don’t look at the lawn, that’s a mess too. The washing line is going to come down and I have actually started chopping up that pruning mountain… I’m also dismantling the second chicken pen so I can clean things up in the raised garden and set up a better pen.

In addition to felling the slim conifer, I was thinking about getting an arborist to prune some of the branches of the very large tree nearby. It is a cedar tree, Cedrus deodara or Himalayan Cedar I think. Why it was planted so close to the garage on a raised level I don’t know. Apparently they can get to over 20m high and up to 12m wide. I like this tree. I have a deep attraction to needle-leaved conifers and this is a pleasant-looking specimen. I also like the way it drops scented needles all over the ground underneath it. And it produces pine cones which can be burnt in the fire. A couple of the branches are overhanging the garage and it is those that I thought to get pruned. But there are also branches overhanging the chicken run and neighbour’s place that ought to be pruned too. The tree has very wide, slightly drooping branches. And then there is the ivy.

The Husband is going to be stuck with the job of getting rid of the ivy from the massive cedar tree. The ivy is smothering it too and sending forth little seedlings everywhere. I’m going to start having ivy nightmares soon. I wouldn’t have let it get so bad if it didn’t give me an allergic skin rash. I seem to be ok pulling out small bits of ivy with gloves on, wearing long sleeves and pants and trying not to touch the leaves, but I have to be careful as repeated exposure to it on my skin could make the reaction worse. And thus, I dare not clamber around in ivy or deal with it up high where it could swing around wildly and attack me. I am scared of it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I would actually like to climb the tree to rip the ivy down, I think it could be quite cathartic, but alas, I will have to convince The Husband that this is a fun activity he can try.

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The cedar tree is very large.

Or, the alternative, which just occurred to me yesterday as I gazed out the window. We could get the tree felled. One ivy-laden branch came down earlier this year and it made a big crash. Maybe we should just remove the potential danger. I have been weighing up the pros and cons. Let’s make a pro-con list!

Pros:

  • Removes danger of tree or branches falling on garage, fences, chickens, neighbour’s place, etc.
  • Won’t have to pay for regular pruning to keep branches under control.
  • Won’t have to convince The Husband to do horrible, procrastinatory job of ivy removal from all over tree.
  • Gives us big stash of firewood.
  • Big trunk could be cut into rounds to make stepping stones.
  • Could plant a smaller conifer tree (or a couple) to replace it.

Cons:

  • View wouldn’t be very nice with pretty tree gone.
  • No more scented, needle mulch on the ground near tree.
  • May make garden more exposed.
  • Could be very expensive.

I’m just going to stop right there as I think I have my answer. Most of the cons can be addressed by planting a new, smaller conifer tree or two. I was already planning to plant a couple of small ones on the ground in front of the big cedar for more of a forest-ey look, so I am well underway with the research anyway. The only problem is the cost. I know arborist jobs are expensive but I have no idea how much it would cost to remove both these trees. And maybe a few of the jolly stumps around here. Well, there’s only one thing for it: get a quote. There is a company that has been recommended by people in the area so I will start with them. To tree or not to tree? It’s a tricky question.

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The cedar tree is pretty, but then, it doesn’t really fit into the general eye level very well. A tree of this size really needs some open space. And not to be planted on a raised bed. Things are slowly getting more tidy. Except for the lawn. Look –  even the giant bag is gone from the carport!

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