Climbers

The idea with the chicken run is that it’s covered in green leaves, providing a nice shady arbor for the chickens to live under. We’ve noticed that when it’s hot they prefer to go down to the bottom of the run, where the tall grasses and the orange tree provide some shade, rather than going into or under the coop.

We have Happy Wanderer and passionfruit on the west-facing side. The Happy Wanderer found the wire a few weeks back, and is now powering up the face. Two out of the five passionfruit have just found the wire and latched on.

passionfruit-latched-on

The kaffir lime has got some new leaves after being shredded by hail back in September. At the top of the rise here, next to the coop, jalapeño chillies.

Now that we’ve got some plants, we’re also mulching this summer to keep the moisture in over the hot months of January and February.

Seedling table

So the 168 spinach plant experiment went poorly. Those little plants popped up some leaves and were eaten straight away. Don’t know what it was that got them, but must be airborne because there’s nothing with legs that could get up on to the top of the wood hut.

So it’s time to go into lock-down. We’ll be building a seed raising table that brings the little babies up off the ground and surrounds them with an insect and heavy rain-protecting mesh screen.

Step 1 is the table bit. We got a nice cypress post for legs, and a bit of tassie oak to complete the framework. Christmas day and Boxing day provided an opportunity to do some sawing, drilling and linseed-oiling. We got 3 bits of 900mm x 600mm mesh to sit the plants on.

seedling-table-1

New chickens

new-chickens

We swapped our three boys for three girls. The breeder didn’t have any of the blue, so we have black ones. After a few days in the run they’re starting to settle down, and Popples is starting to socialise a bit more. She was lonely there for a while.

These chickens aren’t laying yet, but they’re not crowing either. They’re clearly a bit older than Popples, so maybe we’ll get eggs in a couple of weeks.

Rotten luck

This week we were woken by a strange sound. An odd cry, sounding a bit like a child. But it wasn’t a child, it was Captain Cluckwash, chief chicken of the run.

Oh no, the Captain is a boy.

Then, a couple of days later, more cries. Going down to investigate, there they were, three of them, singing hello to the new day. Singing in that strangled, just learning how to crow kind of way.

Oh no, three out of four are boys.

bye-bye-boys

That’s not going to wash, so these guys are going to have to go. The breeder has agreed to take them back, so we’re off today to swap them for girls.

Goodbye Captain Cluckwash.

captain-cluckwash

Goodbye Sefuffle (or should we say Sir Fuffle).

sefuffle

Goodbye Flashy (or should we say Flash Gordon).

flashy

We’ve had our suspicions for a few weeks. Once the comb and wattles come in they look very different from Popples, the only true girl of the bunch:

popples

Southern fall

One of the things about Australia that dismayed the English settlers was the fact that the trees shed their bark instead of their leaves.

In December, the big Victorian ash trees squeeze out of their old bark shells and litter the ground with great sheets of discarded skin. We make it into nice fire-starting bundles.

The bark just hangs until a strong wind arises. It was good and windy today, and bark and sticks rained down on the house and garden.

long-bark

This is all one piece. Chopped up, it makes enough fire starter for a week or so.

bark-cut

Late spring – early summer flowering

The garden is still making lovely flowers. The weather hasn’t been too harsh yet.

Everyone asks what this hot pink flower is when they see it. It’s Seline coronaria, also called Lychnis coronaria, although they were recently re-classified. The grey leaves are like suede. They’ve been in the spot next to the pear tree for some time growing. They were just seedlings this time last year and didn’t make any flowers. I didn’t know what they were – they’re a bit taller than what I’d wanted to have around the pear, but they’re really happy growing in a clump like this.

silene-coronaria

Fuchsias are still going strong:

fuschia-flowering

Hydrangeas, also planted around about a year ago, also coming into flower. They make a welcome “bushy” bit amongst the tall spindly birches and the low flowers. We managed to get two of the ten or so cuttings we took to strike this time around.

hydrangea

The Hydrangea Macrophylla “Veitchii” came from the George Tindale Gardens sale. It’s a bit special-looking, with its two-size flower head. It’s one of the lace cap species, which come from the mountains in Japan (called “Ajisai” there).

hydrangea-veitchii

Flanders poppies, self-seeded from last year, are providing a nice patch of colour up by the road. There’s a seniors’ walking group that goes down the road on occasion (all toting ski poles), and they stop here to enjoy the view and pass comment on the garden. S heard one conversation go like wife: “Oh, I wish my poppies were like that”, husband: “they would be if you planted them, dear”.

flanders-poppies

Also up by the road, the two little carpet roses have flowered. They’re in little hollows to catch the water (it’s very dry here over summer), and they’re loving it. Very snug and happy. Will probably get some more when we can afford it. Of course, all I can see here are weeds, but they’re keeping the soil together and helping retain moisture so most of them will stay until the roses grow big enough to cover the ground properly.

roadside-roses

Last year we got one pale pink hollyhock out of the seeds that Mary provided. This year we’ve got 4 plants, which I’d kind of assumed had grown from that one. Nope. Just biding their time, it would seem.

maroon-hollyhock

Third Christmas

Christmas is upon us once more, and it’s time to get another conifer destined for the garden and go all bling in the lounge room.

This year’s tree is a Golden Deodar Cedar once more from the Conifer Nursery in Sassafras.

R and S get to decorating the tree. M punched holes in the gold cardboard for the lights to shine through
R and S get to decorating the tree. M punched holes in the gold cardboard for the lights to shine through

The big trees are quite expensive, and they’d be hard to justify if they weren’t going into the garden afterwards. The little Picea Glauca conica trees that are all over this time of year are too small to be a real Christmas tree, and the rarely-seen big ones are way too expensive. They do make a very nice, dense conical shape though, so ideas were had to raise little ones in pots to use in future years. Not to waste them, we’ve set them up as a little Christmas forest after spray-painting their pots gold (much to R’s delight). It will take about 5 good years for the big one on the right to grow enough to use.

tree-number-three
Golden Cedar. It looked more yellow at the shop, and has turned greener in the week or so it sat outside waiting to come in.

The journey to Christmas goodness isn’t without its bumps, though. One kind of expects the price of piceas to go up at this time of year, but in some cases it’s a bit ridiculous.

250% Christmas surcharge. Good one Garden Express.
250% Christmas surcharge. Good one Garden Express.

Maybe we should ask for one without the $15 “Merry Christmas” tag.

Continuing chicken waterer fail

So the automatic chicken watering thingy isn’t working as well as hoped (although, there’s still hope).

As mentioned earlier, the little drinking nipples are designed to come apart for easy cleaning. There are other types that are more “sealed” that contain a ball bearing, but the word is that these ones get clogged up.

dismantled-nipple
Dismantled watering nipple

The problem with these guys is that they come apart too easily. They’re very fiddly to work with, and it turns out the chickens can break them pretty easily. If they poke too hard on the bottom bit the weight pops out of its hole at the top. After that the bottom bit can be popped out of place pretty easily, too. The little pins then rattle around in the bottom of the tube, needing some disassembly to get back in place. Meanwhile, there’s nothing to stop all the water from leaking out the hole that is left.

Obviously this is not how they set things up down on the chicken farm. A bit of internet research throws up some images like this:

chicken-waterer-pro-setup

There’s something going on here apart from the professional hanging clamps and drip catchers and so on. That PVC tube is square. Who ever heard of such a thing? Also, there’s a tiny thickened bit at the top. What’s that for? They’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble with that tubing.

Then it dawned. It’s a stop. When the nipple is poked up, the weight rises and contacts against the stop. The stop prevents the weight from popping out.

Well, we can’t get square tubing and special clamps and all that blah, because we’re not rolling in money. No wonder eggs cost so much. What we can do though is make our own stops.

nipple-stop
A stop made on a test piece of 50mm PVC tubing

By using a long screw, we can adjust the depth of the stop to make it just right. Cool! Now we can wiggle this around as much as we like without worrying about it falling apart. We’ll probably want to swap that screw out for a stainless steel one so that it doesn’t rust into the drinking water.

Wasn’t expecting that

Tidying up a few weeds and … of course, a yabbie.

baby-yabbie

He’s tiny, as you can see from the clover leaf there on the right, but really, where did he come from? Aren’t they supposed to be water creatures?

And can I get excited and file this one under “Food forest”? Yes, I think I will. Tasty, tasty little creatures they are.