Goat moths and jungle and whiskers on kittens…

Hi All,

It’s too hot to do anything but lay around on the bathroom tiles gasping for a breath of cool air. I may be slightly exaggerating there, but it’s hot! On Friday it was hot but when we walked the dogs we got soaked by constant rain that disappeared and left humidity to be our slimy friend. Mum sent me an email with pictures showing me how her tree ferns had been damaged by the extreme heat and her planter box of pansies had turned into potpourri while she was away. At least she didn’t have to dry her planter box of oregano in the oven as it was crispy crunchy and ready to strip from the stem straight from the planter box… I guess we all know that summer is a bummer (:o)) in Australia. That’s what they sell us to the rest of the world on, “Lovely blue skies and plenty of sunshine”. What they don’t tell the envious Northerner’s is that with sunshine comes extreme heat. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and my daughters are planning to abscond to Iceland to get away from our current heated situation. I can’t say that I blame them. I wonder if they have any need for a horticulturalist on the next trip down to Antarctica? I would imagine that the job would be pretty easy as bugger all grows down there…

I have been taking The River Cottage Handbooks out of the library and have lots of them to get recipes out of. I have been known to spend days on end tapping away at copying out recipes and making word documents of the bits of books that I want to keep. I have his bread book to get the good bits from before January 4th so I might just have to spend this hot day tapping away, drinking cold juice and accomplishing something that doesn’t actively involve setting foot outside in any way, shape or form.  There is something eminently satisfying about setting yourself a task and accomplishing that task. My task, albeit a pretty simple one, was to clean out our built in wardrobe in our bedroom of at least half of its contents and remove them to a charity shop collection bin and do the washing. I have accomplished most of this task and am just waiting for the second load to finish before pegging it out on the line to dry in the sunshine. The silver lining to the heat that we are having is that you’re washing dries in 10 seconds flat; some of it is dry before you have finished pegging your load out. My task was made all the more satisfying by tipping up a pair of Steve’s jeans and finding $4.85 in change and then another $4.05c in change in the bottom of the washing machine after the first load. That is halfway to a large box of Favourites chocolates and all the way to getting me to do the washing whenever Steve’s jeans need cleaning. Whenever I go outside, it’s a bit like when we go to town now. I don’t want to have to do it again anytime soon so I make sure to get EVERYTHING that I could possibly need/want from out there in the one visit. I pegged out the first load of washing, I collected a bag of frozen dog steak for their meal tonight from the freezer in the shed, I threw some grain to the hens to check how Pingu was going and picked her up and gave her a cuddle and I checked the chooks water to make sure that they had nice clean cold water for the day. I also stared at the large container of Neapolitan ice-cream in the freezer and decided that should I EVER want to fit into the few clothes still remaining in my wardrobe that it is just about time to curb my Christmas indulgences (indeed my “December indulgences” :o)). It’s a difficult time of year for those of us horizontally challenged people when there are delicious fattening leftovers all over the place that need to be used up. That’s our excuse “they need to be used up you know” we say with sanctimonious eye rolling at the person who is challenging us popping the leftovers into our mouths whilst looking at our ever expanding derrieres. I am not going to be dieting for my New Year’s resolution this year. That would be the first year since I was about 14 that I haven’t made that New Year’s resolution. I guess it has only taken me 34 years to learn that lesson and now it’s time to just settle down into eating healthy food rather than all of my meals centred on cream, rum balls and pastry.

We just spent the morning working in the garden to reduce the honeysuckle problem. We got up at 5.30am (a feat in itself!) and walked the dogs nice and early. After a quick cup of tea we hurled ourselves into the task at hand and made a dent in the area next to the eucalyptus tree with 4 trunks. At some time in the past this tree has been cut down and the 4 trunks have regrown from the base which means that they are not very stable. At the moment they are staying put and we worked steadily in the area removing honeysuckle, muehlenbeckia and all sorts of dead branches and other debris that had been congregating in this area for years.  The worst bit about deforesting this garden is that the weeds that have grown over everything are mostly of the vine persuasion and tangle in and out of whatever they are growing on, inevitably killing it and forming thick ropes all through the dead plant and making it incredibly hard to remove anything until all of their viny bits are removed from the base. Neither Steve nor I are very patient people and yanking on large branches that are covered with vines and years of debris releasing clouds of ancient dust surrounded by excited chickens must be a most amusing sight from a distance but should you ever happen upon us in this sort of condition, make sure that you keep said distance for your own safety, we are impatient AND bad tempered. Consider yourselves warned! For 2 newly ordained horticultural giants (ha-HA!) who have had a bit of a soft year when it comes to getting stuck in physically in the garden and who have run to seed over Christmas and who’s callouses are now baby soft along with their muscles, we didn’t do a bad job. The good thing about 2 of us getting stuck in is that we do the job in less time and don’t have to work as long. It’s hot today so we didn’t want to be stuck in the garden much after 10.30am when it starts to heat up. We got back in and the net was still down from last night so after a nice cold drink and blowing half of Sidmouth out of our noses (I KNOW you didn’t need to read that but if you want to ride with the penniless aging hippies on Serendipity Farm you have to take the good with the bad…) Steve had to get on the phone and sort it out. It is all sorted out now and we are back to being able to post so you might have this a bit late but at least you got it. Here are some pictures of what we did today…

Here’s what it looked like yesterday…

And here’s what it looks like today…

Here’s what the view looked like yesterday up to the house…

And despite this photo being taken further back in the garden and off to the side where only yesterday I couldn’t stand because it was full of old dead tree branches and a huge mass of tangled vines and boneseed, you can see that we did some work today.

And here is what it looks like from the deck with a cold beer in our hands. Note the piles of debris and branches that we now have to deal with. Every time we get stuck in and do something on Serendipity Farm, it generates a mass of debris that we then have to work out what to do with. We have the 1st paddock covered in piles of crown lifted tree branches and near the boat shed we have heaped up large piles of tree branches waiting for their leaves to drop so that we can cut off the trunks to use for fires, any of the larger branches (also for fires) and the rest gets burned and used for baked potato production.

Now that we have gotten back into doing what we need to do in the garden we are starting to create an interesting space and finding things out about Serendipity Farm that we didn’t know. I found a most interesting insect casing inserted into a wattle log that Steve had cut down and left lying on a heap of logs down in the garden. I was lifting it up to toss it over onto another pile of wood and noticed the casing and the most interesting little circle of wood that the insect had cut out of the wattle. On closer inspection we noticed that the insect had gained access to the log by chewing its way into the bottom of the log. Bezial does the most curious and hilarious thing whenever confronted with these pupal cases, he shakes his head from side to side and snorts and runs away. I think they must smell like aliens or something because he hates them!  I did a bit of research to see if I couldn’t find out what this pupa was and came up with the most likely candidate being…

Here’s what I saw when I picked up this wattle branch after I removed vines from over the top of it

Here’s the amazing hole that this moth caterpillar  made and it’s little trapdoor held closed with webbing

Here is the pupal casing that I removed from inside the hole to show you what it looked like

And here is some perspective to show you just how big this sucker is. I was tempted to show it to Bezial but as it must have only just hatched and still contained some of the hatching liquid (ech) he may have ended up catatonic for days…

“Cossid type these are characterised by large excavations of the phloem-cambium leading to a hole, which penetrates the sapwood or heartwood in either an upward or downward direction. Xyleutes encalypti, the wattle goat moth, attacks Acacia spp. and constructs its pupation channel in an upward direction to prevent water entering and drowning it while in the pupal stage.”

I got that information from this site…

http://www.pestcontrol.org.au/Borers.html

We are going to burn a lot of what we pulled out of this area this afternoon. It’s the season where you need a “fire permit” to burn. In our case a permit means you phone up the fire brigade and tell them that you are having a fire, where you are having it and they give you permission to do so. No actual permit exchanges hands but they know you are burning off and for how long. It’s very different in town where you simply can’t burn off. Out here, they know that you are going to do it with or without their permission so they just ask that you tell them and everything is fine. Living in the country does have its benefits. It looks like we might get some baked potatoes done in alfoil in the fire tonight. Nothing tastes as good as a baked spud done in a fire that consists of acres of blackberries and dead vines that took you ages to remove. It’s a most satisfying feeling to eat something that you didn’t have to pay for the energy to cook and that you cooked by burning a bollocky swine of a pest plant to accomplish. A job most well done and that rewards your hard work (and it WAS hard work…) with something. As Steve just said “what we did isn’t “gardening” it’s deforestation!”  This massive great pile of debris, overgrown weeds and years of neglect is promising to make us fit and even more stubborn then we already are.  I guess you learn by simply getting stuck in and “Doing” the job that you have to do and not letting it beat you. Even if you have to take your time doing it over a period of days, months or years, if you keep chipping away at the task it will eventually get done. We are learning more on Serendipity Farm through day to day living then we have probably learned in years!

Earl tried to electrocute himself the other day. We heard a little yelp like a pup yelping. Neither of our dogs makes that sort of noise and we raced into the lounge room to find Earl standing next to the 10 metre extension lead that we plugged the Christmas tree lights (and the outdoor lights) into over Christmas, looking decidedly confused. He had been chewing the plug, even though we hid it well out of his sight, and must have gotten a boot of electricity. We waved the plug at him to confirm if our suspicions were right and he took off with his tail between his legs. On closer inspection we found Earl bites on the cord. Bezial rendered many an extension cord useless but never got a shock through his entire career as cord wrecker unlike Earl. I suppose he won’t mess with cords much so every cloud (in Earl’s case thunder cloud) has a silver lining. I was going to post the second group of photos that I took the other day to be honest about the true state of Serendipity Farm but I have some other photos to show you that are related to this post more so you can see the rest of the photos tomorrow (lucky you) in a massive great slideshow like the last one. I took 42 photos in all and separated them into 2 lots of 21 (see how good I am at maths now? :o)) to try to show you some of the extent of the amount of clearing that we are going to have to do before we can get stuck into designing anything at all to do with how we want to eventually get Serendipity Farm looking. At the moment we have jungle. Jungle is very scary and it’s not just a small jungle either, it’s a great big one that goes on for quite a bit. I might just post pictures of Steve’s spatula and spoon that he made the other day with this post as well because I will forget to do so otherwise and that would be a shame because they really are lovely. Ok, I think I am going to head off now and plan tomorrow’s onslaught into the garden. We still have some honeysuckle invaders to tame and some blackberry tangles to remove before we can deal with the large tree that fell down into this area of the garden last year. After we cut it up we can then take a good look at the area and get stuck into working further back into the jungle. One day we are going to head out there and there won’t be much jungle any more. The chooks are really happy about what we are doing and until Steve got out the whipper snipper and chain saw respectively (he is clever but ambidextrous whipper snipping AND chain sawing is too much to ask for and I doubt that it would be considered safe in anyone’s book…) the chooks were our constant companions, clucking about and scratching in the newly exposed soil. I would imagine that when we finish clearing the 20 odd years of overgrown shrubs, trees, weeds and debris that the chooks are going to be able to be seen all over Serendipity Farm. At the moment they are a bit scared to venture too far down into the garden (who can blame them…even I think that there might be tigers down there…) but when it opens up more and they can get a better view of what might be sneaking up on them, they are going to move out into the garden in a big way. I am off for a beer now; a most well deserved one at that. See you all tomorrow for another edition of “Garden Slavery 101”

Here’s the beginning of Steve’s Serendipity Spoon made from a piece of sheok from a dead tree on the property

And here is the side view of the roughly cut out chunk of sheok…

Here’s the finished spoon from the front…

and from the side…

And here is the spoon next to a ‘normal’ wooden spoon for comparison

And lastly, here it is with it’s new best friend “Serendipity Spatula”. Isn’t Steve a clever little vegemite? Serendipity Spatula is also made out of sheok.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mum
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 14:58:00

    I am WILD ! That’s twice now, I have had a long reply here, & it has been wiped bugger it! You have made quite a hole down in the jungle there love, must have been hot too. I find I might as well have something to sweat about when it’s hot, so I have been shifting everything around in my bedroom, putting my bed different,& surprisingly giving more space! That moth pupae must have had a wierd scent for Bezial to tear off. It would have been a hell of a sized moth too eh? I wonder if it was one of those big brown ones? I hope Earl is okay? Maybe he’ll think twice before trying that again. Wear a shady hat when you go outside in the sun l;ove, it isn’t now, it’s a few years time it might have caused damage. Keep the mouisturiser up too. Slap a wet teatowel around the back of neck,& that cools you off a bit with a slight breeze. Think about a fan if you haven’t one too. Steve, you have excelled yourself with those spoon & spatula, I do like the decent hanging hole in the handle too. I must find a spot to put my bug house too. Little Weed is still flapping, even though overcast. The sun is trying hard to come out, so the energy is there. He’s cute too.I sent the girls a few photo’s this morning as well.Now, I am going to piost this before ther swine of a gremlin wipes me off again.Till next post-or email

    Reply

  2. Pinky
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:03:16

    Ooohhhhh Fronkii do you think Steve would make me a set of those spoon and spatula? I will pay him in whatever way he likes. ?Beer, ?Wine, ?Bunnings gift card?
    I remember when I was young (oh lord) catching all manner of bugs etc to see what they did or grew into. Remember the “buggery”! I’d love to see the moth that grows out of that humungous grub!

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:39:20

      Steve is most amenable to people commissioning his spoon and other utensil making services, please leave an order after the tone…”Gleek”…I remember bug collecting and most prominent in my mind (what WOULD I do without being able to check google in another tab for spelling?) is when Madeline decided to collect some snails when we were living in Halifax street in a small lockable green lunch box. She put the snails and some lettuce pilfered from the fridge inside, closed the latch, stuck them under her bed and promptly forgot all about them. About 2 months later a poor unsuspecting me decided to clean up the girls rooms and discovered the lunch box and opened it up. Half a day of dry wretching later before I could find it in myself to tip the offending malodorous slime into the loo and flush and I still remember Madeline’s efforts at bug collecting with joint humour and terror. Your own daughters had fun collecting snails and then roasting them on the bbq… we did breed some interesting children didn’t we?

      Reply

  3. Kym
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 14:29:14

    “Gleek” Yes please to an order lol.

    Reply

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