AWOL Day 1

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and I am heading in to the girls place today. It is going to be 29C (the equivalent of about 37C anywhere else) in Launceston and the only word that I can think of to accompany my increasing dread of having to work outside tackling my mortal enemy “The Mother of all Blackberries” is “Sultry”. I guess it’s fitting for me to be slaving under a hot sun because we have left the back orchard area of the house in town for a long time now. The troll used to live in the unit right in front of this area and any efforts to attempt to exit our back door were greeted by some serious curtain twitching and personal space invasion. I didn’t go out the back door for 2 years until the troll moved out to live with his posse. After we celebrated by drinking cask wine on the back step and frolicking in what was left of the garden out the back we cleaned out the unit and did our best to remove the incessant smell of cigarettes that had pervaded everything. We then moved to Serendipity Farm and the unit and garden in town are neglected and untended. Steve and I are gardeners. The girls are not. I guess they have no reason to be gardeners and in these 2 days that I am going to spend taming this now overgrown and tangled space I hope to teach them a little bit about gardening and taking pride in their outside space. Glad next door gave us an ancient whipper snipper that goes well. We are thinking about giving it to the girls (we just have to work out how to put the whipper snipper cord on it as it’s so prehistoric it differs incredibly from modern whipper snippers). I will be taking the dreaded glyphosate with me to tackle the blackberry stumps. I hate using poison but if I don’t deal with this “mother” now, it is just going to become a rod for my back in future years. I am certain that the neighbours will breathe a sigh of relief when I start tackling this poor neglected space.

Here are a few more photos that we took on our “hot” walk (in opposition to today which is going to be a cold and rainy walk :o) to show you the weird beaches here. This little beach actually has a combination of red sand and black volcanic sand and the ubiquitous covering of rocks. Marion’s vineyard is in the background

Taken from the same area but using the zoom function to show the rivergrass bed and Marion’s vineyard’s interesting wine tasting facility

Again…the zoom function comes in handy and you get to see the other side of the river to a suburb called “Hillwood”. Hillwood produces a lot of fruit especially apples, stone fruit and berries (including a large strawberry farm) but at the moment it is looking pretty dry and brown on them thar hills…

Apart from the blackberries out the back we have some seriously overgrown fruit trees. As far as I can remember we have a large pear tree, a large apple tree with 2 grafts, 1 red and 1 a cooking green apple, a green gage plum, a Satsuma plum, a nectarine tree, a cherry tree (which is most probably a result of a sucker from a now dead flowering cherry as the fruit is hideous) and a huge apricot tree as well as a poor long suffering white peach that almost took out our town neighbours fence when the trunk split in 2. These trees haven’t been dealt with in well over 20 years so you can imagine what state they are in. I was thinking about removing them and starting over again but the girls want them still so we are going to have to do what we can with the poor things. The Satsuma and apricot are fine, as is the pear despite copping a thrashing from the pear and cherry slugs every year. The nectarine is totally covered by blackberries as is the Satsuma. We planted strawberries all over the place in the front garden as well as raspberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and josterberries. The block is small and there is an enormous liquidambar in the front garden that shelters everything but also sucks the soil dry of moisture in the summer. If we don’t water, it also causes subsidence and the bricks on the house start to crack. I want to get the girls interested in the garden and what it can do for them. They could have a couple of small raised vegetable beds that they could grow whatever they wanted in. We had quite a lot of garden beds at the side of the trolls unit. Now that we are troll free, we can use this area again for veggies. At the moment it is waist high grass and weeds. I can’t blame the girls for leaving it; I just wish that they would want to make it look nice like we did. The object of today and tomorrows efforts (as well as another sustained effort before our son turns up for a brief hiatus on his new apartment hunt in Melbourne with his new job) are to remove the blackberries from the Satsuma plum, tame the blackberries over the nectarine (perhaps even espalier them on a frame as the girls love blackberries) and prune the berries near the metre box so that the poor meter box reader won’t get aphids when he next needs to check the electricity usage. After that we are going to minimise the high maintenance plants in the garden and plant easy care shrubs so that all the girls have to do is occasionally water them. I planted lots of salvias in the garden and one in particular is going great guns. The remaining shrubs are feeling the pinch with a lack of water. They are mass planted and this is helping keep the soil moisture in as well as a very deep leaf litter cover over the entire garden, but we get 3 months of pretty much no rain in Launceston over the summer period so some watering has to occur (something else I am going to have to teach the girls…).

Steve looks like he is some sort of Irish dancer with the dogs in this photo…old “nimble feet” himself to be sure…the boys, however, don’t care who/what is hanging on to their leads when it’s a hot day and they have just had a lovely cool splash…its game on!

I like this photo. It’s not often I get a good photo opportunity (even though I didn’t even recognise it as one and this is just a sheer fluke) and this just looked “nice”

This photo was taken from the same location as the last photo looking back towards Paper Beach where we often walk the dogs.

We put in an irrigation system before we moved out with a timer on a tap. It irrigates all of the areas that we planted out in the front of the house as well as next to the deck that we built. The girls just need to turn on the tap (as they don’t like the timer) occasionally when there is a prolonged dry spell to keep the garden really happy. I have a lot of Aeoniums that need to be planted out that will be great in the front garden. What we need are ornamental plants that need minimal pruning, that are hardy and that will stand up to the harsh conditions that Launceston tends to get over Summer and Winter. Thank goodness we have a modicum of knowledge about plants! Perhaps we can use our house in town for our Diploma in Landscape Design this year? Who knows, all I know right now is that when you read this I will be bums up in the blackberries covered in scratches and trying my hardest not to use every expletive that I know (a considerable repertoire I assure you…) while I systematically remove Madame Blackberry and her many and varied progeny. At least I will get fed well while I am at the girls. They are great cooks and verge on being foodie snobs with what they will and won’t eat. Now that I am merely “Vegetarian” and not “Vegan” it’s a whole lot easier to cater for me. Not that this would have been too much of a problem, Bethany was vegan for quite a few years so we know what to cook. I enjoy spending time with my daughters. I have a good relationship with them despite their incredibly unusual interests that tend to exclude me. I am very proud of them and always enjoy myself when I stay with them. I am off to have a nice cold drink. Mother Blackberry has surely been tamed by now (in the past tense) and loaded up in prickly order in the trailer to be taken to the tip (the council can have this green waste and good luck chipping it and getting anyone else to pay for them :o). See you tomorrow…

This garden “works”. It uses all sorts of arid and hardy plants to buffer the property from the relentless river wind and to keep the property looking fresh and alive even when it hasn’t rained since Christmas Day and everything is starting to reach permanent wilt point. Lots of conifers, shrubs and hardy perennials like salvia’s and a clever use of terracing and the ubiquitous “rocks” (that are EVERYWHERE around our area and are a scourge to anyone wanting to dig or disturb the surface of the soil deeper than about 0.25cm)

Another photo of the arid garden. This lady has built up a picture framing business (that my dad used to use on a regular basis) after her husband died of cancer. She had been a housewife up to this point and her husband was “the provider”. Sometimes you just have to carry on and do the best that you can to use what you are good at to your advantage. I can’t help thinking that this lady has a career in gardening that might be more profitable than her picture framing business…

The last 2 photos are of a driveway that I love. It is a lush little oasis of greenery that echo’s the plantings on Serendipity Farm. This over run and most neglected of gardens was planted in this vein. We have the same palm trees (about the same age as these) and the same agapanthus (which I now laud rather than attack with a mattock as hardy survivors…it’s amazing what moving to the country does to your tolerance for previously disliked plants…) and this driveway is right next door to the garden in the last picture.

I tend to take a widthwise and a “tall” shot of most of the gardens that I find interesting. As you can see, the widthwise shot gives you a whole lot more perspective about the depth of this dense undergrowth in this jungle of a driveway. I expect to see and hear monkeys whenever we walk the dogs past this area. I am happy that they have remained shtum until now because the good lord only knows what Earl would make of monkeys!

Just a very quick little addition to this post because it is being posted over a week after it was typed up. It rained steadily yesterday and we had almost gale force winds last night. I think that the Mother of all Blackberries has friends in high places! If she thinks that she is going to somehow stave off the worst of the prospective assault on her person she is WRONG! I am going to be armed with both Steve’s big Stihl whipper snipper for the grass (should it ever choose to dry out in the 2 days that I will be in town…) and Betsy. Betsy is my smaller Stihl that used to belong to my dad and that we inherited when he died along with the property. Betsy is steadfast, enduring and a powerful little uncompromising work horse. She has lost her snippity cord and has been decked out in her whipper snipper armour to turn her into a force of destruction for any and all blackberries whether wet or dry. Steve put a steel blade on Betsy so that she now cuts without me having to replace the cord (in other words, lazy old me is going to be attempting to cut the grass with this blade as well :o) the Mother of all Blackberries must be feeling that her place here on earth is becoming tenuous (as well she might). I have to wait until my daughters decide to get up (around 1pm?) and “harvest” the Mother of all Blackberries of her most delicious fruit (another one of her stalling ploys!) and THEN I get to attack with Betsy. I will take a camera to document the scope of the destruction so that you can gloat along with me at my ability to triumph against the odds. I also have to prune the currant bushes around next to the electricity metre so that they will read the metre this time rather than estimate. Ok, I am going to have my cuppa, get everything loaded into the back of the car (welding gloves, tarpaulins, hat, Betsy and “the other one” (Steve doesn’t name his tools…), the petrol hedge trimmer, the loppers, a few pairs of secateurs in the off chance that I can coerce the girls into getting out of bed and helping me prune…HA!.. and anything else that I need to facilitate “Change” in town). See you all when I get back…wish me the luck that I am most definately going to need to win the war against the blackberries in their last bastion stronghold in the Satsuma plum tree. I am certain that the neighbours are with me on this assault as the Mother of all Blackberries is starting to invade Poland (and its accompanying neighbours are next to fall!).

Just a very small aside again (that would be 2 small asides…thankyou for your willingness to read on…) that I wanted to share with you. I got Earl’s assessment notice for that library book and they were going to charge us $85. We didn’t want to pay $85 and firstly rang a local book store to enquire about how much it would cost us to get another copy. We are all for supporting our local businesses and trying to keep them alive. Firstly they didn’t have the book and would have to order it in and secondly they wanted to charge us $90! The library cost INCLUDED a handling, processing and putting back on the shelf fee so where is the bookshop buying their books from?! We went online. We found an online store in the U.K. that was selling brand spanking new copies (hard cover at that) of the very same book for $42 which included free postage…is there anyone else out there besides me who has any sort of an inkling why regular book stores are going to go broke? We will have our book within a couple of weeks at a 50% reduction to the “recommended Library Retail Price” and everyone wins (except for the local book store that is relying on the computer illiteracy of the general Tasmanian populace to remain in business).


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nat
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:41:48

    good luck with the battle. Should’t i be pruning your trees?


  2. Pinky
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:34:49

    And how is the pruning going Fronkii? I do hope the blackberry has given up the ghost nice and easy like. I used to want what Mum had and her lovely garden but after seeing what she had to do to get it to that state, i’m kind of ambivalent about it all now. I dont want to spend every waking hour of my spare time out in the garden so will have to design a multilayered and paved yard that allows me to dabble in a little bit of gardening whilst still allowing me to relax in it. That probably sounds unbearably lazy to you and the other gardeners that read your blog, but for someone who, at this point in her life, dosn’t have a lot of free time or inclination, it’ll have to do.


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