Country life lessons

Hi all,

When you live in the country, there are several lessons that you have to learn. The first one is “Don’t whizz on the electric fence” (a theory that HAS been proven by Mythbusters guys so believe it!), the second and more pertinent to our situation, is make sure that in spring, you clear out all of the weedy growth and space out your potplants so that native critters don’t set up camp next to your door. We don’t mind most native critters. I love to listen to the frogs that live in the coprosma that has spread all over the rocks just out the back door. I don’t mind the potaroo who digs twenty times his body mass a night in the hunt for roots and littering the lawn with teeny holes (lucky I don’t wear stilettos when I am gardening…), I don’t even mind the wallabies and possums that we have a truce with now. You don’t eat our plants, I will give you fruit every night. Simple deal that has arrived at a good result. We give the native birds the fat cooked out of the feral cats food mixed with seed over winter when there isnt much around to keep them happy. We give the Cuckoo shrikes that have been coming for years for mince that my father fed to them, tiny cubes of cheese. I know that cheese is not something that you would think that a native bird would like. I must admit, we only give it to them as mince is too expensive and Steve is addicted to cheese so we always have a very good quantity in the fridge at any given time. I had some mince the other day and offered it to the shrikes, but they were not interested. They wanted their cheese. I had a think about it and realised that cheese has calcium for the egg shells, it has lots of protein, it also has something that lean mince hasnt, a good proportion of fat which in bird terms means less times flying about hunting for bugs. We only supplement them at the beginning of the season when insect levels are low and they are breeding and its hard to find anything around. Each year they come back and you can tell those that are local and those that have been assimilated into the cuckoo shrike population as they are so very timid, where the locals know who is the boss and call us out with their shreeking to ‘bring forth the cheese humans!” The same goes for the feral cats. You don’t eat the native birds, we will give you food every night. One of the 3 ferals that comes on a regular basis has decided that this is his home. He hangs around the house, lays in the dirt (sorry James and Nick SOIL…) with the hens when they are dirt bathing and we have noticed that he is actually earning his keep, hanging about the chicken roost and Steve’s shed controlling the local rat and mouse population. If you cant (or in our case, don’t want to…) get rid of them, you just have to learn to live with them. I need to segue now to the real point of this post, our tiger snake. Last year we noticed Emo Dog watching something most intently. Emo Dog isn’t known for racing into things and usually just has a bit of a sit and a watch before approaching something ‘interesting’ and he seemed most interested in something in the drain outside the back door. On inspection we noticed a tail sticking out of the drain…A TAIL IS STICKING OUT OF THE DRAIN AND ITS REPTILIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, we had a snake. According to our neighbour Glad, my father had known of this snake for many years. It came back every year and he never once mentioned it to me. Cheers dad!

Emo dog had alerted us to the reptilian invader, but what could we do now? You can’t kill native species. We can’t kill ANYTHING so that was out of the question. Next, we needed to make sure that the snake didnt come into the compound that we have built around the house as Emo Dog is cautious, but caution doesnt last long and soon he would be wanting to investigate said reptilian invader and that was when our problems would occur. If it was just us here, we would have left it. We tend to leave things alone and try to share whenever we can, its a good creed to live by to be honest, but Emo Dogs presence makes it a bit more difficult to adhere to. Now that we have added El Chupacabra, who if he LIVES to see a snake it will be miraculous because the few plants that we have left inside the compound he decided to ‘prune’ judiciously this morning…and who is most animated and interested in anything that moves, let alone something reptilian and slithering, we really need to deal with this problem. We have removed the profusion of rampant honeysuckle vines that were growing wild over the rocks out the back of the house and cleared up the area, removing all of the debris that a snake could live in. We stuffed the guttering with black plastic bird netting to disuade the snake from taking up residence in his summer home. Yesterday we pulled all of our potted plants out of their temporary home to whipper snip the weeds and grasses that were growing incredibly complacent in amongst the pots and were becomming altogether too comfortable with their anonymity. We soon remedied that and once Steve had whipper snipped them down I spent some time reducing an enormous overgrown Chinese gooseberry bush that had taken over the entire area. The chickens have been eating the gooseberries and love it when I pick them from the top and toss them to the girls. I have stopped being the enemy and have started to be useful to them. I know that Big Yin has a rudimentary brain stem under his comb somewhere and those little beady eyes that watch me intently are hatching some sort of plot to take over, but until he makes his move, we have a comfortable truce going the chickens and I.

Here’s a few photos of some of our pot plants, you begin to see why we have been procrastinating about planting them out and about repotting them…

This photo was taken from the deck and doesn’t quite give you the right perspective of pots so here’s one from the ground…

We have so very many pots that even El Chupacabra and his extreme bonsai methods cant make the amount mangeable. We have collected so many over the last 3 years and have propagated a fair few within this period. I just gave our neighbour one of the ginkgo’s that we grew from seed that we collected in Launceston. Amazing trees, but even more amazing that we are able to collect, stratify, strike, etc. our way into free new plants with a bit of ingenuity. My undying admiration to past gardeners who through their generosity and curiosity have made these methods of propagation free knowledge to us all.

Its funny how a place can sometimes get under your skin and make you feel like its part of you. We are very slowly starting to feel like Serendipity belongs to us. Today we spent a good part of the day moving plant pots and realising that we have almost enough to start our own nursery should we go bonkers and suddenly stop loving plants/trees. We have about 900 of them in various sizes from huge pots down to tubestocks and all of them need either planting out, or repotting. El Chupacabra has done his best to minimise the plant population with his bonsai pruning and his new desire to urinate on the most expensive pots, but still we have more than we could ever plant out here. We have almost enough to start our own nursery! We did have ideas to do this and perhaps one day we will. We are very interested in rare and unusual plants. Things that are not your common garden plants and that have a lot of visual interest. I am not a flowery person. Not interested in too much gaudy colour and petunias make me feel ill! Sorry all you nana’s out there, but annuals are not really of interest. I love perenials, but again, too much like hard work for what your getting (there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule…that should head Nat off at the pass for when she next sees us and wants to dress me down about that comment :o) We love trees and shrubs and my creed especially, is that it needs to give a couple of things back before it can be planted in our garden (or indeed before I buy/propagate it in the first place!). I have been doing a lot of research lately about xeriscape gardening using all sorts of very waterwise plants. You would be amazed at how colourful a garden you can get by planting xeriscape plants. People who lament having to minimise their watering should use the internet to check out just how amazing xeriscape plants can be. Think outside the box people. think wicking your garden beds (look it up, its interesting!), think vertical planting (again, heaps online), think about using natural methods to grow things and making your soil an amazing suite of organisms (there you go James you have to give me a point for that one :o) so that you get the magic of gardening right down to a fine art. Its not rocket science but if you delve into it you will find plenty of people who will tell you just how hard it is to do anyting. They will make everything that you want to do as difficult as possible and will try to put you off doing anything without having a degree, or intensive (and expensive) training. They are taking over the food industry, they are taking over house renovation, gardening, the entire leisure industry, wine, beer anything that they can elevate to some sort of level where they can make some money out of it by making it ‘wanky’. Those people also tend to be ‘unavailable’ whenever its time to get stuck in and do anything so take their advise with a pinch of salt!

We had a power outage for about 2 hours yesterday which is partly why you didnt get a post and we decided that rather than sit here pathetically being too aware of just how much we rely on our technology to amuse us, that we would wander around the garden. Its a great time of year to be wandering around in the garden isn’t it? We have asparagus growing everywhere. I gave some away to my neighbour Glad the other day and she told me that her adult children had been trying to grow asparagus locally for years and had given it up as futile. I guess the birds have taken it and spread it around this place through the years of the original plants being allowed to grow and seed. The seeds are bright red attractive looking things and obviously tasty by the proffusion of asparagus plants all over the grounds in the most unusual places, including in a large potted philodendron that managed to survive total neglect on the deck for many years.

Here’s our haul for the day as well as the mornings eggs. Its amazing to have fresh asparagus any time that you like, and even more amazing to have to dangle upside down into a garden bed underneath a shrub where the asparagus has migrated to, to get your spears before they turn into feathery ferny leaves!

I love finding all of the plants that have managed to survive here. I am so proud of them for hanging on and want to reward them even if they dont ever flower, grow much or fruit. I just did a bit of online research to find out what my Pieris was as it has the most amazing new growth colour and discovered that its a Pieris japonica ‘Bert Chandler’. Good on you Bert for giving us this amazing site as we go up the driveway.

As mentioned earlier, I am not a great flower person, but flowering shrubs are acceptable as are the lovely shape and structure and various colours of foliage of conifers and maples and various other amazing trees. Theres a sad old apple tree over in the orchard that has been decimated by the possums for years. For those of you that don’t know about possums, they are destructive little sods that scoff any form of fruit tree but they are particularly partial to apples. This poor tree was barely hanging on. Steve and I pruned it about 3 weeks ago but its showing no signs of growing any leaves and is looking quite sad so once its totally dead (forget the snap test, this one will be the chainsaw test!) it will be removed and something else productive planted in its place. We give things a go here. I was laying in bed the other night when everything was quiet (except for the odd snort from Steve and El Chupacabra) and thinking about just how amazingly lucky we are. People often say what they would do if they won lotto. We dont need to win lotto, we have everything that we need here and the rest that we need can be gained through good hard graft, thinking outside the box and being open to all sorts of ideas and researching them so that we can integrate them and inplement these ideas into our lives and situation. How lucky are we? More than we will probably ever know, but at least we are aware of it. You can all win lotto if you like, I would rather be healthy and happy than have any amount of excess money so I guess what I am saying to you God, if you are listening, is you can give it (lotto) to someone else who needs it more than us as we are just so very grateful for our amazing lives. Simple, hard work, but I wouldnt trade it for anything :o)


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Oct 09, 2011 @ 16:25:35

    Very enjoyable reading Fran. I do love to hear your stories and miss the fact that you are not on Facebook more often. There is a book here you know!


    • narf77
      Oct 09, 2011 @ 18:44:53

      Thanks for that Roz, hopefully you will get some enjoyment from our messing about with sustainability and living frugally. Must admit I am enjoying myself immensely. We don’t go on Facebook much these days as its so very slow, but we check up occasionally. Feel free to comment whenever you like and if I am talking rubbish, I probably made the mistake of writing a post AFTER the home made wine rather than before ;o)


  2. athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 01:10:54

    From the picture I would think you are running a nursery business. Perhaps you are, as I have not gotten far enough in your blog yet. I wish we could grow asparagus like that. We have tried. I’m thinking our green thumbs may not take off until the next life. We have a lot of cats. Wynn (grandson) loved them.


    • narf77
      Apr 05, 2013 @ 04:20:01

      Steve and I studied horticulture for 4 years together and got totally addicted to it. We bought and grew so many plants it is unbelievable. What you see is about half of what we brought here with us when we moved to Serendipity Farm and we have given so many of them away because they are just completely unpractical for this area and our situation. We have been tailoring our wants and needs to our situation and thank goodness we did horticulture because without that background we would have NO idea what to plant where or what would grow well in our situation and more importantly, how to make what we want happen. We have 3 mango saplings growing that we will plant out eventually on the property. Mango’s don’t grow here in Tassie but I know how to give them the right conditions so that they will :). It’s all about making the plants happy and learning what is suitable and what isn’t and with the right conditions (a nice grove of other trees and shrubs) mango’s will thrive here along with the 6 avocado trees that I grew from seed. It’s all a learning curve and one that I love to throw myself into and the great thing is that Steve completely understands :). I like to grow mine myself so that they are used to our conditions from the get-go and that way they have a better chance of survival than imported trees. I grow my own stone fruit and graft onto the trees. You can graft lots of fruit onto a single tree. My mum used to plant 2 – 3 trees in the same hole to get a similar result for a smaller area. I would rather graft peach/plum/nectarines and even almonds onto the same tree for something amazing in a single spot :).


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