Scarlet Robin

A male Scarlet Robin
A male Scarlet Robin, (Petroica boodang), July 2013

TB and I were pruning fruit trees in a friend’s garden when we spotted this handsome fellow, a male Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang).

He didn’t appear to be particularly worried about being close to us. In winter, according to Wikipedia,  Scarlet Robins will move from eucalyptus woodlands into more open areas including back yards. As the garden we were in backs on to wooded parkland its no surprise that this chap was taking advantage of any food in the yard.

A male Scarlet Robin, Canberra
A male scarlet robin showing the white spot on his head

I took a few more shots of him sitting in the prunus and was also pleasantly surprised that my phone camera managed to get this action shot.

A shot of the wing markings of a male Scarlet Robin
A shot of the wing markings of a male Scarlet Robin

Small signs

As I look around the garden I’m starting to see small signs of movement towards spring. The first new shoots on the raspberry canes and my Purple-podded peas finally starting to twine up their supports.

Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013
Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013

We have also seen the first signs of pardalote’s checking out our newest compost pile for a nesting site. Oh well another year without being able to access the compost. We’ll just have to start a second heap as the pardalote’s are just too precious to evict.

A Pardalote's test hole for a nesting site
A Pardalote’s test hole for a nesting site

I’ve even indulged in that most arcane of gardening activities, pruning the dead leaves off my strawberry plants – it does help remove potential sources of viral infection. I even discovered that in spite of a week of below zero minimum temperatures some of my strawberry plants are trying to set fruit! A bit too early for success I suspect.

Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.
Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.

A Winter’s Day

The sun is shining and I’m out in the backgarden despite a wind off the snow that is of a nails scraping on a blackboard chill*. After a week of more than 50 millimetres of rain, worries about termites and being stuck in the house I’ll take any chance to get out.

I figure the chooks could also do with a leg stretch so they are out in their annex digging through to another continent. Their main yard is a quagmire.

The 'girls' out in their annex
The ‘girls’ out in their annex

I’ve put the veggie scraps in the compost bin and spend a bracing 5 minutes scrubbing the compost bucket out. I still need to let the wind blast the stale air out of the house so I go into the polyhouse to check on how our plants are surviving.

chillies drying from the roof, some borage in need of a feed with some minerals and our native plants waiting to get into that garden I can't dig.
chillies drying from the roof, some borage in need of a feed with some minerals and our native plants waiting to get into that garden I can’t dig.

It’s looking pretty good and the sun is warming in the slight protection of the plastic sheeting. TB is working really hard to get some of our tender plants through the Canberra winter. He’s succeeding. Some of our chillies, the Vietnamese mint and lemongrass are alive and doing quite well.

Looking through the lemongrass to the Vietnamese mint and chilli plant
Looking through the lemongrass to the Vietnamese mint and chilli plant

His most daring experiment are a bunch of eggplants that are still outside in a large pot, which is carefully covered every night against the frost. His goal is to get the plants safely through winter so he can re-plant them once the frost has passed to get fruit earlier than we can from younger plants. We’ll see.

*PS on the weather report tonight I heard that our ‘apparent’ daytime maximum today was 1.3 degrees celsius.

Swings and roundabouts

It’s been a week of mixed blessings at Chez Fork. Today we received a totally unexpected package from one of TB’s family in Adelaide. It is a wonderful selection of cured meat products, metwursts, bacon and fritz (or devon if you’re from NSW), which came from Linke’s Butchery, in Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. All these items are made on the premises and we know from past forays they taste very good.

A 'care package' of Linke's cured meat products.
A ‘care package’ of Linke’s cured meat products.

We were really thrilled and got straight into eating the fritz with our lunch. There could be bacon on the menu this Sunday morning I think.

On the not so good side we have just found out that we have a termite infestation in our house. The treatment to get ride of the termites will start next week. Thankfully the treatment is by baits in closed containers so our land will not run the risk of contamination which was a problem when spraying was the standard treatment, not all that long ago.

One unexpected result of this discovery is that we cannot continue with the regeneration of our front garden bed which was started just two weeks ago. It turns out that if we disturb the termites they may retreat to their home nest and that will nullify the baiting process.

Garden work with local magpies
Garden work with local magpies

The termite-chewed woodwork (the posts and planks in the photo above) went before we found out we had a problem with an active termite nest.

Our 20 year old Lomandra half way through pruning before it was moved to another part of the garden.
Our 20 year old Lomandra half way through pruning before it was moved to another part of the garden.

It will take at least a month, possibly two before we will know whether the termite treatment has worked. Until then we’ll just have to stick to working in the back garden well away from the house.

Re-eggnition!

At last. After a wait of nearly 4 months another one of our hens has finally decided to start laying again. Of course for reasons known only in their chooky minds the girls decided to lay in the box they generally ignore, rather than the one with the nesting material.

Re-start of the egg laying! 16 July 2013
Re-start of the egg laying! 16 July 2013

I’m sure Dotty, our Australorpe, who is the only hen to have laid any eggs since the start of April, will be relieved to be getting some help at last.

Everybody’s doin’ it

Our local coffee shop has been providing us with coffee grounds, to use in our garden, for several years now. But things are changing. Such is the current demand for coffee grounds we have to leave our bucket, along with everyone else’s, so the grounds can be evenly distributed to all comers.

Coffee, enjoyable for me and the grounds are good for my garden
Coffee, enjoyable for me and the grounds are good for my garden

On Gardening Australia last week they were using coffee grounds around blueberries to lower the soil acidity. Another use for them.

At least the demand for the grounds tells us that lots more people are working on their gardens and that must be a good thing.