Friday, July 25, 2014

Cassowary's in the Far North.



UP here in the far north there are some beautiful sights and some very beautiful animals and birds. At the moment it is the season where the Cassowary's are looking for a mate. Cassowary's are large black flightless birds which live up here in the rainforest.  Yvonne Cunningham writes a really interesting blog and here is a link with some great photos of Cassowary's strutting their stuff. http://coquettepointinnisfail.blogspot.com.au/ The photos are great, enjoy!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Finally Winter is Here!


"Are you crazy" I hear you cry! Well not really, because Winter in Cairns means Sunny days, no rain, few mozzies and clear crisp nights.
Sorry to rub it in Melbourne!!
After what seemed like an eternity of rain, rain and more rain, our days are true to form sunny Qld days. The garden is finally starting to dry out and the plants will grow.
The sea has cooled down too so we can go for a swim without worrying about jelly fish and other nasties.Apparently the cooler night mean the reptile population like to sun themselves more.
On the way to Port Douglas passing over the Mowbray river  last week we spied  a large snoozing crocodile, about 4 metres long, this was our first sighting of a wild croc since coming to Qld, and I'm happy to say he was down on the riverbank and we were up on the bridge in the car!
Photo of crocs on the Mowbray river courtesy of the Port Douglas Gazette.
It suddenly hit home that we do live in the tropics and there are some quite scary predators up here. My son Sam took a video of him as he sat there snoozing but we didnt want to stop on the bridge so its kind of blurred. They are big , and will eat you if you go near them, but they are still quite neat.  When we returned about 3 hours later he was still there,  I've since read that the Mowbray is a bit like Bondi for Crocs !People do some stupid things up here and will swim where there is signage not to etc, but me, when i see something wild like that, I'm quite happy to stay in the car or at a respectable distance anyway. These guys can move fast when they want to and swim even faster, but from a distance are really quite cool.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Climate Change and Gardening in the Tropics





In the tropics we have a wet season and a dry season, this year we actually had a cyclone come through in April, so our wet season was running a little late!
In fact it rained right through to mid June, which is very rare. Seems Climate change is definitely having an effect and as a result we will have to learn to deal with it. Accordingly being more aware and planting out our gardens to cope with the changes and extremes in climate which we here in Australia will face is just plane common sense.
Where we live now we are on a flood plane and our home has actually been flooded on 2 occasions. During the wet seasons I have noticed how and where the water pools in the garden and am working on building the garden to prevent that happening quite so much. Although I'm sure the frogs and the cane toads enjoy all the puddles, walking in ankle deep water to get to the front door is not my idea of fun!
Originally our garden was lawn with some golden canes around the fences . The golden canes are still there as they provide quite a good screen from the road, but I have also now planted more shrubs , a couple of trees and some grasses and ground covers. I 'm of the opinion that the more plants we have the more water will get soaked up and this will also allow the soil to build up as plant debri falls and breaks down.
First the soil needs to be improved so the plants can grow, and the water drains away more.  I have already  put down 6cubic metres of mulch late last year. This would have lasted a year in Victoria but in the tropics with all the rain has already broken down and now i am planning on mulching again.
With all the rain then the heat things break down quickly, this time last year I had two mounds of garden debris on both lawns which have completely disappeared not because i moved them!
 Masked Owl in the making!
Trying to build up the level of the soil is hard work but that is my goal, and also to build a path from the driveway to the front door so you don't get wet feet in the rainy season. Many plants which I have planted have grown from cuttings, so the plan is to keep recycling plants I already have in the garden so I have a nice blend and some mass plantings as this is easier on the eye.
I have just gotten myself a garden plot at the local community garden too, this will be for veggies and fruit as my garden is very shady and not great for growing produce.
Sunrise

Moonrise
Mosaic is something which will also be incorporated into the garden. and around the house. Its a beautiful artform which introduces colour and design while incorporating the ability to use  recycled materials, whether they are ceramics (which i used here) or glass or broken bottles , bottle caps, seashells and many many other mediums.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Progress in the garden.

HI to all my readers who are still reading!! Merry Christmas and happy happy New Year!!!

 I know I've been very slack since coming up here but so much has been happening. So here we are it's Christmas again!!! OMG! I cant believe it was over a year ago that I came up to Cairns to look at properties. It just doesn't seem that long. I've done a lot in the garden since coming up here and I must say its a real joy to work in a garden where things grow so beautifully and so fast. When I bought this little house there was virtually no garden just lawn and palm trees all around the fence line. So it was pretty much a clean slate. Over the months I have had some wonderful WWOOFers come and stay and they really have helped so much . My first big change was to cut back many of the palms and I used the dead fronds for mulch. We pruned them back quite a bit and ended up with two huge mounds of waste one on either side of the garden. These where then covered with plastic and allowed to rot down. Every now and then I would add lawn clippings or compost to help them break down. It looked pretty bad but gardening takes time and patience!

One of my Facebook friends asked if i was after the "mass grave" or "air disaster" look! I must confess he's got a point.
We had lots and lots of boxes left from moving up here so we dismantled all of them and laid them down where I wanted to widen the garden area and stop the weeds.  Then I bought a truck load of soil and with the help of our WWOOFer managed to cover most of the cardboard boxes. Every time we mowed the lawn I would put the clippings on there also. We also started collecting compost so that went down too. The mounds with their blue plastic over them sat there for most of the year just breaking down while i added to them. My aim was to create larger garden beds & kill off the lawn underneath without too much hard work! Nobody likes digging when they dont have too!



Then I discovered a place that had horse poo for sale, not just your average 50 litre bags, more like 100 litres for 2.50....the guy works at the race track. So off I went and bought 5 bags of that.  It was great! With the help of another WWOOFer,  we tipped it all on the two mounds spread it out and covered them for about a month, that was just what was needed to help everything break down nicely. The weather was warming up and things were coming together.When I took the plastic wrapper of a month later after adding some lime and potash also during that time, I had two almost new garden beds. So I started planting things. Got some cuttings, moved a few things from other places in the garden and they started to resemble garden beds.



Then in late November we started to get a bit of rain and things just started growing, and growing and growing!! Then a dear friend of mine helped me get some mulch last week and then i had 6 cubic mtres of mulch to cover it all before the rains come. Thanks Graham!!! and its made such a huge difference! I also got a new client who runs a lawn mowing business. Steves Lawn Mowing.... so he mows the lawns and trims the edges now and I must say they look magnificent. Thanks Steve.

So getting back to the garden, someone I met up here gave me some cuttings earlier in the year and add to that the plants I have bought or others I have propagated from other plants in the garden and the garden is starting to fill up. I've also bought a few trees. A beautiful Crepe Myrtle which has its first flowers on it; and two Frangipanis, a Jacaranda (well 2 Jacarandas coz I managed to kill the first) and a couple of others.




So Finally here are some before and after shots!




Sunday, September 8, 2013

Home Made Orange Cordial


 
  Yesterday I made orange cordial. 4.5 litres of it!!
Here's the recipe.
Juice of 8 oranges
Rind from 2 of the oranges
2 litres of water 
2 kgs of white sugar
glass bottles which have been sterilised

Place the water and sugar in  a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. 
Allow to cool.
Mix the juice and rind from the oranges with the sugar syrup then pour the mixture into sterilised bottles. 







Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Round the bend: The creation, destruction by fire and recovery of Tambreet Gardens


Recently I received an email from the designer of this very beautiful book. It's the story of recovery after incredible trauma. 

Round the Bend is a book written by Esther Leahy with the help of her husband and Gardener Sean. Its a story of survival and recovery after the Black Saturday bush fires which devastated their property eighteen kilometers out of Traralgon in the La Trobe Valley.

It will humble you and bring tears to your eyes while also giving up vital information for garden lovers who live in bush fire or wild fire prone regions of the world.

The photos are lovely and the information is strangely rare as not much has been written about restoring a garden after such immense devastation. The book is called "Round the Bend:The creation, destruction by fire and recover of Tambreet Gardens" . 

Its available on Esther and Seans website here: http://www.tambreetretreat.com.au/ROUND-THE-BEND.aspx

Have a look, grab yourself a copy,  I guarantee you will be engrossed and humbled, and blown away by the beauty of this enchanting and often very harsh part of Australia. 
Round the bend the story of bushfire recovery at Tambreet Retreat
Greg Branson who helped Esther and Sean with the design of the book wrote:


...Across the four years as Esther documented the story of their returning garden she and Sean were astonished by tree and plant survival and regrowth.
Gardeners will value being made aware that much of a fire ravaged garden may be able to be rescued. The book has raised the debate about the significance of right choice plants and trees and well-planned gardens around homes.  Extending this debate, the book suggests that gardens correctly planned and planted can assist in protecting communities in fire-prone areas. 

The book is an intriguing read from beginning to end, for all book-lovers. Using the drama, whimsy and humour of her own diary entries the author has captured a tale of ugliness and heartbreak and turned it into a delightful story of plant, animal and community recovery.  The beautiful 264 page book, alive with photographs of nature, has aroused a great deal of interest within bushfire-at-risk communities and the wider reading public.
The book is available online: tambreetretreat.com.au.
Have a look, you wont be disappointed. 

 


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bees and Basics in FNQ

Hi everyone and thanks to all those folk who still have the enthusiasm to check back now and then. We are settling into our new home and its finally coming together  slowly but surely. I've been busy with my cleaning business "The Domestic Dragon" and we have a bunch of regular customers now which is nice.
Sam has settled into school and the new kittens Felix and Misty are definitely at home now! We have had a couple of WWOOFers staying with us and are now preparing the house for overseas students.
One of the Carpenter bees in amongst the perennial Basil
Its officially Spring in Cairns and I've got to say the weather is glorious! Not too hot but warm enough to be wearing short sleeves. The garden is coming along and I have dug a salad garden out the front and also put some herbs and tomatoes in. Bees seem to be in short supply so I have had a lot of success with plants that need polinating. So I think I might make a bee house for native bees. I have noticed some small native bees, along with these guys below which i suspect are a Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa nigrita)  although I am no bee expert. They look a bit like Bumble bees but not quite as furry. But they are definitely bees. They seem to love the perennial basil, which is great. I wish they'd come round the front and feed on the squash which seems to only have male flowers and no squash!
Since beginning this post I have had a chat with one of my clients, who is also an Apiarist, or beekeeper. He told me that we actually have a shortage of wild honey bees in FNQ due to a small hive beetle which is destroying bee hives. The beetle pupates in the ground over winter and thanks to our milder climate in recent years its population has grown considerably causing havoc in the world of bees.
Bees are essential to our food bowl, and our farmers rely on bees to help pollinate their plants. Sadly in Cairns the council doesn't allow beekeeping amongst the locals but perhaps we can all contribute by helping the native or solitary bees.  Try building a bee hotel to encourage them, many are quite tiny and relatively harmless. Here's a link to something about bee hotels!
http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2013/03/01/3701533.htm