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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.

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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.

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.

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!