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It’s Winter, But The Garden is Alive

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The shortest day of the year is almost upon us and although most of the winter is still to come, I’m feeling fantastic! There is so much happening around here and I’m enjoying seeing the progress in our yard and thinking about the opportunities to come.

I got my garlic planted. I didn’t get to plant it as early as I was intending to, but I still got it in before the shortest day and well before I usually do. I am really hoping to survive the rust this season. Starting from scratch with store-bought seed garlic is not fun when you’ve worked to grow bigger cloves of your own! I didn’t buy as much seed garlic this time, just in case. I planted 20 or 21 cloves of Printanor garlic in the vege garden and 2 cloves in The Herb Garden, as a small measure to avoid the rust. It’s better to get something than nothing. Then I planted my giant cloves of elephant garlic: 4 in the vege garden and 1 in The Herb Garden. This is the first time I’ve grown elephant garlic so I’m excited to see how it grows. And tastes. We all know I’m a fan of giant veges

I watered the garlic in with some compost tea. I forgot to tell y’all about my compost tea. When the comfrey was growing like bonkers last season I chucked a lot of it into a barrel and filled it with water. Some time later I added some chicken poop in there for some extra goodness. The barrel has a lid that is weighed down by a brick. And boy, does it need a lid! It doesn’t smell quite as bad now, after brewing for many months. I didn’t use it as much as I should have last season as I kept forgetting about it. That’s what happens sometimes when you put things in a far away corner. I dilute it to about 1 part nutritious, stinky tea to 10 parts water in a watering can and water stuff with it. I am going to make a point of using it a lot more and would like to experiment with some different kinds of compost tea if I have the time.

Who remembers my mushroom-growing adventure? Well, after doing all the required bits and pieces to get my oyster mushroom kit going, which wasn’t quite as ‘easy as growing grass’, I was left with the waiting period. While I got busy with my assignment I forgot to check on the mushrooms and then BOOM! The mushrooms appeared! This is what I found when I finally remembered to check them:

 

I grew mushrooms! Now we just have to wait until they get big enough to eat. Nom nom nom.

On Saturday, The Husband worked on his lumberjack skills. The doomed, unproductive, yellow-fleshed plum tree met it’s fate. I convinced The Husband to cut off more of the top branches before felling the rest of the tree, while The Little Fulla and I carted them off the the pruning mountain. Then, The Husband set to work on the tree with his chainsaw. There is always something to be nervous about when it comes to felling a tree and this time it was the fact that the part of the tree coming down wasn’t a straight trunk, it was leaning towards the paddock fence with the neighbour’s place and had a previously cut bit lower down on the trunk. But, The Husband is honing his tree-felling skills, and is rightly quite pleased about it. He secured the tree to the corner post on the deck with a rope and ratchet, cut a good wedge, made a straight cut from behind, then hauled on the rope, pulling the tree over in the right direction, avoiding the fence, the potting shed, the blackcurrants in the planter, any beings and even all my young plants in the garden bed. He then cut most of the tree up into firewood. We sure are supplying ourselves well with our tree felling at the moment! Don’t worry, we’re not going to fell ALL the trees.

I decided I’m going to keep our second Billington plum tree that is in the planter. I was going to sell it because I thought one tree was prolific enough, but we really like the Indian plum chutney I made and I’m a total fan of the frozen sliced fruit in the less fruity seasons of the year, and the plums just taste so good, even if they all come in a short space of time. So, the potted Billington is going to join its old Billington plum tree buddy in replacement of the felled tree. “But didn’t you buy an almond tree to plant there?” I hear you say… Yes. But, that is going to be planted in the new chicken pen, The Cedar Pen.

Plum Tree Garden

The Plum Tree Garden. The potted Billington plum tree is going to be planted somewhere around where it is sitting here. The mature Billington is on the left.

When I set up The Cedar Pen for the chickens I cleared out a lot of shrubbery because it was weedy, overgrown or needed to be trimmed out of repelling-the-chickens-over-the-fence height. I have been thinking about what I could plant in there, as it is not going to remain so bare. First, the ‘All In One’ almond got allocated a spot in there. Then, I thought, hey, there’s actually space for another fruit tree in here without cutting out too much sun. So, I consulted my Fruit Plan to see where there were harvest time gaps that I could help to fill. I spent some time graphing my fruit plan to get a better visual of which months had low harvesting possibilities, but my two graphs somehow disappeared while The husband was working on computer backup things.

I have decided on a ‘Royal Rosa’ apricot tree. Harvest time is November to December (late spring and early summer) and it is supposed to be good in warmer areas. We already have one very young apricot tree, the dwarf ‘Aprigold’ in The Herb Garden, but we could do with more apricots, especially in November when citrus is the only big fruit available in our garden.

Yesterday, The Husband and I worked on curtains for the woodshed. That makes a quirky mental image! No, we weren’t making it look pretty, we were making it more functional. The woodshed had gotten covered in a hotch-potch of more and more chicken wire and plastic netting in attempts to keep the chickens out of there and it was getting rather awkward to get firewood out. I cut a curtain, or screen, for each bay of the woodshed, nailed them on at the top with fence staples then put three nails down the wooden posts on each side for hooking the screens onto. The Husband fitted plastic grommets over the holes to hook over the nails. We just need a few things to finish this project: a couple more grommets, something to weight the screen down at the bottom and some sort of string system that The Husband wants to do so the screens can easily be hoisted up for accessing the woodshed. It sure looks a lot more tidy now.

Speaking of tidiness, I did some tidying up around the back door, which had been gathering more and more stuff. The back door often acts as the front door so the area does need some work to make it better. The wooden box that was sitting just outside the door was holding paper and cardboard for the fire, but didn’t have much left in it and I had sized it up for another purpose. I emptied it out and moved it into the garage to store The Little Fulla’s outdoor toys in, which is a great improvement on the cardboard boxes that they were sitting in. Removing the box means there is more space for walking around the outdoor table and chairs and that the shoes can be lined up nicely instead of being a major trip hazard. I also chucked out one of The Husband’s pairs of old work boots, since they were falling apart and there are two pairs outside. Unfortunately, he found them in the bin and retrieved them. What does a man want two pairs of old work boots for? This is not the last word on that matter. I would like to build a small, narrow shelf to store shoes and things on up against the wall. One day…

What’s next? Hopefully, tree planting, more wood chopping and woodpile tidying, more weed control, spreading hay in the chicken pen and dealing with the compost heaps.

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.

Jane B

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.

Homestead Update

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Well, things have been certifiably nuts around here of late. I have been sick and fatigued off and on as I try to figure out what food or foods are causing me issues. That is making it difficult to get things done and it seems time is whizzing by while I’m scrambling to get a grip. On top of that, I am looking to go back to the workforce soon, which is not something I was planning to do just yet. And as a last kick in the pants our only car suddenly became in need of major work, which isn’t worth it, so we have been trying to get our heads and pockets around acquiring a new car. Here are some updates on different things going on at Twiglet Homestead.

The Chickens

The first thing of note is that Lydia is no longer with us. She was my second egg eater. I tried to retrain her and had some success while she was in the big cage, but as soon as I put her back with the main flock, she went feral with her laying and wouldn’t lay in the coop. She laid under the shelter, ate her egg then alerted everyone else, including me, to what was going on. When I ran over some other hens were pecking around in Lydia’s hole, but, fortunately, Lydia appeared to have eaten the whole egg, as she was wont to do, so the others didn’t cotton on. But that was it. No more time and effort trying to win a losing battle with this determined egg eater. No more endangering my other hens with that habit. I could not keep her somewhere all alone. A couple of people offered to re-home her but they were too far away. There was no place for her here. I had to get The Husband to do the deed. I just couldn’t face culling Lydia. I did, however, manage to add one more chicken to our freezer collection… It is sad. Lydia was my good little layer, full of character, loud announcements and cheekiness. I had been through a lot with her: bumblefoot ops, making foam shoes, doing many, many foot dressings, watching her get demoted from top hen spot for being over-dramatic and having her pout at my feet, seeing how nutty her offspring could be (ahem, Mr Collins…). She was the only hen I’ve taken to the vet, where I learned some excellent information. She recovered so well. She was great entertainment. She was my most consistent layer. Unfortunately, she just became consistent with egg eating too. She will be missed.

Lydia

Farewell, Lydia, you crazy, cheeky chicken.

I’d like to say onward and upward, but, with our above issues, the flock is going to see some more changes. I need to cut costs and there are tough decisions going on, especially if I am to hatch some eggs in spring. Who will stay and who will go? It is a harsh decision-making process. We shall have to wait and see.

Chickens at the fence

Don’t look at me like that, chickies, I have tough decisions to make.

Ok, enough bad news already! One good thing is that the hens are still laying, some of them just a tad less frequently as the daylight hours decrease. They’ve laid 5-7 eggs in the last week. Some people’s hens are off the lay for winter so I’m totally stoked to still have some eggs! Lizzie has become almost as a good a layer as Lydia and her eggs are bigger. Kitty is a good, sensible layer, Mary has become a sensible layer too and Frodo is an awesome layer when she’s not being broody. Also, PB is doing well. He is 13 weeks old now and hasn’t succumbed to Mareks as yet, so things are looking good. The thing is, although he is big, I’m really not sure about his maleness once again. If he is a boy he has an extremely pale and small comb and wattles for his age. I have been watching him a lot and I really don’t know what to think right now! Maybe in another week I’ll know. Georgiana is PB’s buddy but PB sometimes gets to hang out with the others too. The new girls are doing well and getting handled while they’re easier to catch in their temp ‘quarantine’ pen, which has now been moved right next to the main pen so everyone can get to know each other before the great integration. The little silver-laced Wyandotte is my favourite, with a chilled out, friendly nature and lively foraging abilities. At first I was a little worried about how she would cope being the smallest, but she is a goer! She is actually the dominant one. It is funny to watch the wee thing dominate a big Orpington, however, I’m now concerned that she may be a boy. Blagh. Not another mind-battle! My suspicions are due to curly tail feathers, slow-developing rear-end feathers and upright posture. If she is a he I can swap her for another pullet but that would be a shame and it would mean more quarantine. Since Wyandottes are a new breed for me I will just have to wait and see.

Getting to know each other

“Stop digging, the human’s looking!” “No, human, we are definitely not digging a tunnel to the other side… La la la…”

New girls looking

Hello, other chickens!

 

The Garden

Much of the vege garden has been put to bed for the winter. I have been putting used chicken bedding on top of the empty beds to help suppress the weeds, protect the soil and add some organic matter for next season’s crops. There are still some crops slowly chugging along. Growth has slowed down a lot as the cold finally hit and the wet weather has continued to give little time for the soil to dry out. Just when things get sunny, the rain bounds back in again with complete disregard for my gardening needs.

Vege garden 1

The parts of the vege garden not containing crops have had used chicken bedding (wood shavings and poop) tipped on top. I will see how this works out.

Vege garden 2

There is actually still some green stuff in there! The kale is getting rather stripped as I keep feeding it to the chickens – they love it. We still have kale in the freezer from the season before when I whizzed and froze HEAPS. I put kale flakes in my scrambled eggs and we chuck it in mince dishes, rice, curries and fritters, among other things.

So, what’s still growing? There are a few carrots left. There is beetroot, which I have grown for the first time. I’ve never been a beetroot fan but in the last couple of years I’ve tasted some nice dishes with fresh beetroot in them. There are leeks. Huge leeks. A leek can go a long way so we’ve been putting them into all sorts of things: fritters, patties, various meat dishes, soup… There are still spring onions and lettuces. There is still a swathe of parsley. And there are the brassicas: bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. Annoying critters are still eating some holes in them so we obviously haven’t had enough cold weather yet. The first few frosts took down my capsicums though. And guess what? I bought my seed garlic early this year! I got some Printanor, the main good culinary variety grown here and some elephant garlic, which I haven’t grown before. It is bigger and milder than normal garlic and is actually a different species. I need to figure out when to plant them. After last season’s rust disaster I’ve been thinking an earlier planting might give them more time to get growing well, but I can’t plant them if the ground is too soggy.

I have been slowly picking away at the weeding around the garden but haven’t had much time for more exciting things like planting. The Plum Tree Garden has been weeded and is looking tidy, if a little plant-bare. The Maple Garden has a downright terrible population of weeds. It looks pretty good at a glance, thanks to the ridiculously well-growing native sedges and other plants in there, but a closer look reveals swathes of weeds lurking underneath and swamping the ground covers in there. I have started picking away at it, even though I’d rather walk past with a hand shielding my eyes saying, “La, la, la…”

Plum Tree Garden

The Plum Tree garden looks tidy, because I’ve just finished weeding it. It just needs more plants. And we need to finish chopping down the unproductive yellow-fleshed plum tree on the right. And plant the almond tree. After we dig out the blackcurrant planter box which has become rooted into the soil. Oops!

Wood Projects

We bought a ‘new’ dining table a little while back and need to sell our old drop-leaf table. The top of it was really looking worse for wear so I have been resurfacing it, just casually, as if I’ve actually done anything like that before. It may not be perfect, but it’s been a good learning experience and it looks heaps better than it did before, which will hopefully be reflected in a better price when I sell it. I have a lot of other projects to do around the house but it’s one day at a time at the moment. I will post about some smaller projects later. Meanwhile, an exciting trailer load has appeared in our yard. The Parents’-in-law found a bunch of wood framing instead of the usual pallets, and I have great visions of using them for a chicken pen, perhaps even a chicken tractor…

Dining table

The old dining table has been getting some attention.

Crafts

I am working on The Little Fulla’s green knitted jersey at the moment. Progress is very slow due to lack of time sitting still. And the fact that I chose a cabled pattern, so knitting it requires concentration and peering at a chart. Concentration is not one of my strong points at this current point in time. Let’s just say there have been more than a few re-done rows. Meanwhile, the great knitting and crocheting women of The Husband’s family have been yarning up a storm with all sorts of lovely projects popping out.

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The Little Fulla’s snail-paced jersey. The colour in this photo really isn’t right but it shows the cabling pattern well. I may or may not be about to undo a row that I did slightly wrong…

Let’s hope the madness dies down soon. Tomorrow we go car hunting…

Easter at Twiglet Homestead

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Belated Happy Easter to one and all! Things have been all go here at Twiglet Homestead. Easter was a flurry of family time and catching up on housework, tasks and projects that had fallen behind in order to get the big Cedar Chicken Pen project completed; all wrapped up in a bundle of soggy ground. I managed to make hot cross buns. The first batch were what I like to call rock cross buns thanks to an overheated proving session in the oven, but the second batch were large and tasty. Somehow I even managed to make my own Easter eggs for the first time. They weren’t perfect specimens but they were tasty.

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The hot cross buns didn’t last long around here.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on around here. It rained A LOT. Ground got very soggy. The Father and The Little Brother-in-law helped out with outdoor tasks. Lots of family visits. I’ve been doing small projects and bits all around garden: weeding, cleaning up vege garden, pruning, selective mowing… Ground is still soggy in places but sun is shining. The Husband hurt his back again. I finally cut my hair after 4 months. Mr Bingley got sour crop. I was about to help Mr Bingley throw up when The Husband arrived home and threw up on lawn. Weirdness level: high. I’m not sure if PB, purebred chick, is a boy or girl now. His/her nutheaded hatch mate, Mr Collins, is surely a boy. Mary, daughter of Mr Bingley and the late Legolas, started laying. Even more of a difficult layer than Jane. Laid first egg in woodshed after sneaking around wire. Repeated attempts to fence/block off woodshed resulted in much hoo-ha and grand finale of Mary on garage roof. Mary finally went in coop to lay. Drama queen Lydia started singing egg song VERY loudly outside and inside coop in Mary’s face until she was removed from the scene. Must make compost bins so The Little Fulla stops pilfering rotten feijoas from the compost heap. Knitting slippers for The Little Fulla. Need to harvest more feijoas, figs and walnuts. Need to make Vege Plan for next season. Need to finish pruning fruit trees while sun is shining. Need to properly close off woodshed from chicken access. Need to write comprehensive list of all things that need doing…

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Mary is shy, subordinate and agile – all signs point to a nutty layer.

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Mr Collins (left) is a boy, or I’ll eat my hat, But PB doesn’t look as boyish anymore. What are you going to be, PB?

Also, The Husband got curious and bought some scales. My giant pumpkin weighed 42kg!

My ‘Busy Season’ in Pictures And Very Few Words

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Assignment: Finished. One more.

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Second chicken pen: Much work. Slow progress.

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Ivy on cedar: Ha! I’m winning.

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Donkey Farm.

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Chicks: Growing. Boys.

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Hens: Minor foot issues resurface.

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Kitty: Floofy character.

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Mr Bingley: Moulting.

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Second chicken pen: MUST FINISH.

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Jolly camellia: Get it out.

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Rain: Too much.

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Vege Garden: Soggy mess.

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Beans: Fun shelling.

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Pumpkins: Giant. Mini. More later…

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Walnuts: Harvesting time always soggy.

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Feijoas: One harvest. More now.

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Sludge = feijoa chutney. Hopefully.

 

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…

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