Perpetual gardening

This garden bed may look like one big mess, when in fact it is a cornucopia of gifts that ensure I will have ongoing vegetables and herbs to pick and eat.

All I have to do is allow the plants to live their full life span, to get long and leggy, flower and go to seed. Like the beautiful blue borage, ringed by new plants, like toddlers around their mother’s skirts. These I will dig up and plant as a border elsewhere.

My favourite salad green is rocket, (left) so I depend on these tall and healthy plants providing next summer’s crop. 

Last summer’s lettuce (right) was allowed to be so straggly it fell over, but not before scattering its tiny seeds. So here are its progeny, to be picked as thinnings as they grow.

I could not eat enough of the Asian greens I planted, so most will have to be dug in as green manure, but a few will grace the garden with their yellow posies until I am sure of the next crop being bestowed on my garden, wherever their seeds choose to fall.

The Cos lettuce flowers are not showy, but the sole surviving plant, a veritable Leaning Tower of Cos, is cherished for its anticipated contribution to my table.

And this mass of Continental Parsley is the result of just one seeding plant last year. I should have thinned them, but instead I revel in the lushness, harvest them in great handfuls and treat them as a green vegetable. You can’t have enough parsley!

At least I can’t.

And all free… you just have to not mind a lack of order, of straight rows of plants.

Saving Bimblebox

I’m writing this post wearing my hat as a longtime member of The Bimblebox Alliance Inc., whose mission is to save the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in Central Queensland from coal. As you all know, I lived in a remote dedicated Wildlife Refuge for decades, so I am especially appalled at the idea of Coal instead of Nature.

The threat to Bimblebox is now imminent, as Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal Company has applied for two of the last QLD government requirements for its huge Galilee Coal Project.

The Bimblebox Alliance Inc. will fight these applications in the QLD Land Court, alongside Youth Verdict, standing up for their human rights. The Environmental Defenders Office will provide legal services.

We have now had our first day in Court, at the Directions Hearing on 19th June. The battle begins in earnest.

But we need your help to carry it through. Please visit our Chuffed campaign, watch my video, read our story, find out what we need these funds for right now, give what you can – and share!

As well as the global warming impact of its approved 40mtpa of coal, this mine would destroy the almost 8000ha of Bimblebox, a living green woodland ark in a largely cleared region.

Paola Cassoni, Bimblebox Alliance President, and co-owner of Bimblebox, has been in lockdown in northern Italy, caught while visiting her elderly parents in February. So Bimblebox Alliance members like me have had to act here. Having seen too many places destroyed for coal, I cannot contemplate the rich natural treasures of Bimblebox becoming another wasteland.

Our wildlife need all the habitat they have left. Our grandchildren need all the help we can give to stop warming their planet!

Please help us do this: visit and share our Chuffed campaign.

Many thanks,

Sharyn

Bereft Butterfly

As the ornamental grape has lost all its lovely pink leaves, I tackled the pruning of its woody infrastructure, always a little trepidatiously, but knowing from experience that it will shoot even more vigorously if I prune it hard.

And besides, the best cuttings are good for striking more plants, and the bulk of them dry to make good kindling for the fire.

But not everyone was pleased by the removal. A few grasshoppers lost their hiding places, and this lone butterfly seemed quite upset as more and more of the thin twiggy veil was cut away.

Then it landed on the railing and stayed so still for so long I worried it was stunned somehow.

It has the unfortunate name of the Common Eggfly. Most unfair for such a pretty and dainty creature. And if it’s common in general, being found from the Torres Strait and Northern Australia all the way to Sydney, it’s the only one here! 

When it did fly off, it seemed agitated, fluttering in and out of the remaining vine. Had it laid eggs there?

Winter’s Autumn

Autumn didn’t quite get its act together here before the end of May. But come the first really cold days (relatively, in this  climate at least) the season got the signal and the grapevine leaves really came into their colours. It’s not called ‘Glory Vine’ for nothing.

I relish the changes in deciduous vines like this, more spectacularly bright when backlit, but the external deeper reds and burgundies of the living curtain are also a visual pleasure.

Then came wintry cold winds and most of the glory ended up on the verandah, swept into the garden as a pink carpet.

But now the Crepe Myrtles have the idea and are colouring up for me in turn. These are almost as pretty as a Persimmon tree in Autumn … and given I don’t like Persimmons, smarter for me to plant.

The two varieties (white and mauve flowering) are offering me different tones and variegations, as well as rates of colouring. Position, perhaps?

No matter how much I love our native plants, I am also allowed to love these introduced showoffs, even if they are somewhat confused by the seasons. After all, in this warming world, the seasons themselves are confused. 

So are humans, given what and who are masquerading as leaders in too many countries.

It’s wise for me to focus on the natural world instead…

Autumn ‘B’ treats

As the days remain cool and the nights even more so, I am beginning to trust that Autumn is here to stay. No more bursts of  summer heat to wilt or scorch seedlings with unexpected ferocity.

It also means I can justify lighting my Thermalux wood heater/stove… and I can bake bread the way I used to at the Mountain. My loaves are heavy with oats and rye, maize and spelt flours, mixed and kneaded Tassajara-style, crunchy with millet, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds. They are satisfying on so many levels, including the visual, so Bread is my first Autumn photographic treat to share.

The next has to be Birds.

Apart from my Frogmouth couple, I have an indoor trio that give me pleasure every day, especially of an afternoon when they are sunlit. This is a particularly Autumn treat because only now is the sunshine welcome rather than to be shunned, curtained out.

The biggest is a perfectly balanced rocking bird from a woodworker’s gallery in Fish Creek, Victoria; its small adoring friend is a piece of driftwood I have had for decades, and the gay little lead light wren perched in an antique wick surround was made by my clever and creative sister Colleen.

Not that I have forgotten the outside Birds; I visit daily to see how they are, but as the nights have grown colder they huddle so closely and fluff up their feathers so fatly and fully that their heads are hidden. Their tree sways in these Autumn winds but they remain unmoved, asleep and snugly side-by-side.

The third B was a surprise. As the Buddleia and most of the salvias are finishing their flowering, I see less butterflies. But after visiting the Frogmouths I spotted this sole Butterfly on the Geisha Girl blossoms. It was fluttering and flitting too fast and frequently to photograph it, but then it flew onto the verandah and simply settled on the leaves. Unmoving. Resting?

I think it is an Australian Gull (Cepra perimale scyllara) although I fail to see the gull likeness that may have caused it to be so named. Can you?

Cool couple

It’s no secret that I love Tawny Frogmouths. Every day now I go out to look up into the bottlebrush tree and and see if my two new visitors are still there. They have been sitting well apart, and are mostly just visible as two blobs amongst the branches. Only one can really be seen in the dense foliage.

And he/she can see me, as this rather annoyed look shows. ‘So what you gawping at?!’

Or is it ‘Can’t a bird get some decent sleep around here?’

Most of the time they seem to take up the same separate positions on the branch each day, and sleep the warm days away.

I have seen them described as ‘grotesque’ but to me they are beautiful in a unique and characterful way.

Who could resist those softly patterned feathers, such clever camouflage that they can simply nap in view all day, unlike other night birds like owls?

Or that prominent tuft above the beak, which always impresses me as long eyelashes, although unromantically described as ‘bristles’ in my bird book

Then, after one especially cold night, early next morning when I went to check, I found them snuggled up together, feathers fatly fluffed. And so they stayed all day. My very cool couple, keeping warm.

Corona purple

I have been consciously searching for my alternative Corona time colour, given we do not seem to be having Autumn. I have decided the colour will be purple, as more plants are flaunting that than any other colour. As ‘Corona’ means crown, it is quite fitting that the royal colour of purple be the symbolic colour of this time.

But purple is a borderline colour: when does it cross the line to blue, as many of my bee-buzzed Salvias do?

And how nuanced must the purple shade be, as in these beautiful Acacia baileyana purpurea trees, with each branch of sage green leaves ending in a pale purplish haze?

But while I was searching for my colour, I noticed two dark blobs high up in the densely leaved bottlebrush tree out front — nests?

To my great delight, the blobs are two Tawny Frogmouths! Almost impossible to get a clear photo as the leaves and branches criss-cross most successfully to hide them.

Not colourful, but the kind of unique beauty I can never have enough of.

I am seldom out in this part of the garden as it is next to the road, so were I not looking so hard for my Corona colour emblem, I may not have seen these hidden gems.

Corona colours

As we are well into Autumn, I’d expect to be celebrating those ‘autumnal’ tones, but really only scattered parts of the Virginia Creeper are showing them. The warm weather is keeping most of it green.

It is the same with the Glory Vine that has given me such wonderful green summer shade… and still is, although I no longer want or need it.

While I wait for real Autumn, in my Corona home isolation I have been harvesting, using and preserving Summer. These colours are more in the autumn palette…

The last of my non-acidic yellow tomatoes slowly ripen on my kitchen window sill, while below them my sauerkraut quietly ferments.

Bean pods dry to brown and rattle with seeds for next summer’s crop.

My crop of about 60 Butternut Pumpkins was always within the colour range but my choko vine has produced its vivid green fruits in abundance, despite the season.

I make do with these indoor colours in a time of Corona and queer seasons. I will look for other colours outdoors to symbolise this time… 

Domestic Ups & Downs

Being confined to home doesn’t mean life is less interesting. You just have to look more.

Remember to go outside before dinner to see is there’s a sunset; autumn is a great time for sky spectacles!

And in the mornings, check out what the spiders have been up to overnight. This major engineering feat on my deck looked even more impressive when only half-lit; how was it hanging there?!

And look down.

Amongst the dull leaf litter this vibrant little Stinkhorn fungus ventures up to see what the weather is doing.  It’s one of the stinkhorn family and apparently smells like rotting meat or sewage.

Often found as a solitary specimen, it is Phallus rubicundus. Can’t imagine why…

And while looking down, I was surprised to see this decorative pair remaining in place like statues, sunning themselves together even as I walked past several times, quite close. 

Eastern Water Skinks, they are cherished residents here in town. Burnished bronze and gold and chocolate, with such delicate fingers and toes I fear for them — I’d like to think they know they are safe here. No need to bolt for cover when I appear…

Hopovers

I know nothing about grasshoppers or locusts and really had only seen the small green ones on vegetables sometimes. But at present I have several sorts inhabiting my larger plants.

These gorgeous green ones do not have wings, so they must be at nymph stage, and they have eaten large holes in plants like arrowroot.

This one on a small citrus tree has the beginnings of wings. It appears to be resting there rather than eating the leaves.

But this small yellow and brown hopper has clearly been busy munching up strength for whatever comes next.

And then I notice more in a casuarina tree, whose needle leaves do not seem like a good food source, nor even camouflage for this bright lime green hopper.

As my eyes adjust, I see several very different and much larger members  of the hopper family in the casuarina. Much better camouflage, even for such bold patterning as this fellow has.

I will need to be on guard for what this group of hopovers turn into next. I wish I knew more or had time to make more sense of this family’s lives.

So far I can afford the bits they take from my plants. I cannot yet say I have a biblical plague of locusts.

Covid-19 is quite enough.

The beautiful and the bold

I planted this lilac Buddleia (aka Butterfly Bush) for obvious reasons – its flowers are beautiful and butterflies love them.

 It is attracting at least four varieties that I have seen, the most stunning being the Blue Triangle (Graphium sarpedon choredon).

One of the Swallowtail family (Papilionidae), it keeps its wings up and continually vibrates them when feeding on the flowers. This habit, plus the fact that it also flits fast and frequently from one branch of blossoms to another branch, makes it very hard to capture by photograph.

Like the White-headed Pigeons, these butterflies have adapted to favour the introduced and extremely rampant Camphor Laurel trees.

The butterflies visit singly but the fungi have not got the social distancing message yet. Dozens of tiny brown ones have boldly squeezed up in clusters this morning. I know they will turn black and ‘dissolve’ by tomorrow. 

I can relate to that: pop up, take a look at the crazy world we are in, and say ‘No thanks!’

And speaking of bold overcrowding and defiance of restrictions for their own good, those small cinnamon-dusted drumsticks of last week are now full-blown.

As they fight for space, they push into and on top of each other, breaking bits off and distorting their smooth umbrella tops.

When they too disappear, what new surprises will await me on my morning garden forays?

Rain lovers

Apart from a rare slime mould visit, other denizens of my yard are taking full advantage of the almost daily shower and the warm days.

The feral Cadaghi tree (Corymbia torreliana), an escapee from Queensland’s Atherton Tableland, has shed thousands of small seed pods. On my deck they act like lethal ball bearings underfoot.

Each contains hundreds of minute seeds, smaller than grains of sand. These blow through my fly screens and onto my desk, where they are mere nuisance and a threat to my keyboard.

But outside, on the ground, with the constant moisture, they germinate. En masse.

These join the silky oak seedlings on my list of perpetual pull-outs. I can imagine the speed at which the yard would become a forest of these two trees were I not here.

It was a very large and inappropriately self-sown silky oak that loomed over my deck and had to be cut off to a stump when I first came. 

Now its large feet/roots are home to several varieties of bright fungi.

The vegie garden and the grass are hosting less flamboyant members of the always fascinating fungi family. Every day I walk around to see what new wonders have popped up.