Spr-inter

Yep sprinter is definitely here! I’m a firm believer in Tim Entwisle’s re-definition of Australian seasons. We are not quite finished with winter but the garden is well into spring, never mind the calendar.

I may not have heard the Bronze Cuckoos yet, but the Spotted Pardalote’s are actively inspecting our compost heap and drilling test nest burrows and the magpie’s are mating on our neighbour’s lawn (don’t look Gladys!).

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The female Spotted Pardalote sitting just above the nesting hole
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The male Spotted Pardalote waits near the nest

Elsewhere in the garden I am seeing the first flowering of the hellebore plant’s that our friend J and neighbour V, gave to me two year’s ago. Unfortunately my plan for a woodland vignette has descended into a replica of a miltary redoubt, surrounded by wire and posts to keep the marauding chickens out.

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Hellebore under siege

Never believe anyone who tells you that chickens and your garden can cohabit happily. For along with all those tasty insects, they will devour your favourite plants. Our chickens appear to have inherited the palates of dissipated Roman emperors. Nothing is beyond their capability to eat, should they desire it. So far they have demolished both the leaves of my waterlily and the known toxic Small Leafed Nardoo, (Marselia angustifolia), toxic to humans that is, but obviously not to chickens. I placed both of these plants in my stone water trough, thinking that they might help oxygenate the water, but once the chickens found them they were decimated in days.

Meanwhile in the front garden my Blue Veronica (Veronica perfoliata) has put on several flower shoots and the yellow-flowered Bulbine Lily (Bulbinopsis bulbine) is thrusting out of the ground bearing fattening buds.

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Veronica perfoliata with flower shoots
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Bulbinopsis bulbosa, the yellow flowering Bulbine Lily

The flowers of the only Australian ground orchid in my garden, the Blunt Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis curta), have pushed up above the rosettes of leaves filling their terracotta pot. I have also sunk a pot of these orchids into the front garden. I will soon plant them out properly as I see that they have managed to survive the winter frosts (so far).

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Buds of the Blunt Greenhood orchid, Pterostylis curta

We have taken advantage of this wonderfully sunny day to plant out lots of Native Bluebell’s (Wahlenbergia sp.) that my partner has a real knack for propagating. I’ve also committed three Eremophila and a Correa, grown from cuttings to the ‘mercies’ of the real garden, death by being ignored in a pot being the alternative.

Alas the weeds have also registered the upswing in the season. At least I can feed them to those marauding imperial chickens!

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Winter pulse

Much as I would like to be sitting in a warm room there are still tasks to be carried out in our winter garden. Soft winter grasses and fleshy weeds are taking advantage of the beds my partner prepared and planted out to garlic and onions. My task has been to weed the beds, which I have done over the past week.

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There is still a bit to complete, but the worst is over and the chooks have enjoyed scratching among the weeds for fresh green pick. While the garlic has grown vigorously the onions have been overwhelmed by the weeds. Today I spent an ‘envigorating’ half hour filling in the gaps where some of the onions failed. It seems that the brown onions have fared better than the red cipollini. The gaps have been filled with more brown onions on the basis that their seedlings were the strongest available at the nursery.
One of our local magpie pairs has started collecting sticks and vegetation for nest building. While we see this as the start of the coldest part of winter these birds are looking forward to their first hatchlings of the year. Oh, and I’d better warn the postman, the magpies love to swoop him when they have young in the nest!

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Random harvests

There is never a ‘right time’ to leave your garden over summer. We had taken two weeks off early in December to catch up with family and returned home to a garden that appeared definitely the worse for wear.

Because of the valiant efforts of friends and neighbours we still had something to return to. But several short very hot days had blasted  any lingering traces of November’s rains away.

The first task I chose was to start tidying up the yard. Those chick peas that I planted way too late last summer needed picking. You know what, they actually produced a crop. A whopping 23 seeds, each of which was a quarter of the size of your average bought chick pea.

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A massive chick pea harvest – not

Then there were the raspberries.They were set to be the largest crop we had ever harvested. Of course they would reach perfect ripeness the week after we went away. By the time we came back they were totally dessicated on their canes. I did not want to lose all that crop and cursed that there was no way to have picked them earlier. Then I looked at them again and realised that they had just been naturally super-dried. I tasted one, and another, they still retained that intense raspberry flavour.

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One bowl of very dried raspberries

I  picked the berries over and removed them from their stems. Thankfully this is as easy as releasing the moist ripe berries from the canes. A quick toss in a metal mesh sieve removed the remaining dry bits and the few pieces of left-behind stem. We plan to pulse them in the spice grinder and use them as a base to make raspberry ice-cream.

Next task will be harvesting the broad beans (fava beans). Most have dried in their pods and I think I’ll hang the remaining stems up to dry as well. At least we managed to harvest several bags of young beans earlier in the season and they are tucked away in the freezer.

Sadly the snails and slaters (wood lice) have once again decimated my new beans. I think I’ve planted at least 6 well-grown seedlings and a further 9 seeds after all but one plant got ring-barked at its base. I think I’ll try more seeds, but this time inter-plant them with my Golden bantam corn. The corn is in a slightly drier part of the garden. I can only hope that the new plants will have a better chance there.

On a more positive note some of our garden visitors have been enjoying themselves as we try and give our garden some much needed water. Here young magpies are playing in the front garden. I’m pleased that I decided to leave the white paper daisies to spread across the newly planted garden while the tube stock plants are still small.

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Everyone enjoys playing under the spinkler on a hot day!

 

Signs of Spring? #2

Here’s confirmation that spring is definitely on the way ..YES … the magpie has started attacking the postman again. Poor man, you can here the bird coming as he rides down the street.

Spring

This fits right in with the description from the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung and aboriginal communities of south-western Victoria (Gariwerd-Grampians) that this season is larneuk – the season of nesting birds and changeable weather.

In terms of D’harawal seasons (Sydney area) July and August is the season of Golden wattle blooms and Lyrebirds building their dancing mounds, while the days become longer and the cool south westerly blows.

More information of indigenous weather knowledge can be found at the Bureau of Meteorology website.

 

Signs of Spring?

I know its really cold in the mornings and friend M has just told me the water bottles in her greenhouse have frozen, but I think we are starting to see some early signs of spring stirring.

My sense of hope is being raised by observations our local birdlife. Mapies flying across our yard with bills full of nesting materials; aerial battles between groups of currawongs, including one Grey Currawong, for the nest space in our neighbours gum tree; and the swans with cygnets we saw near Lake Tuggeranong last Friday.

Swans

Ain’t nature grand!