Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Magnesium

Looking at the soil test results, I forgive myself for concentrating on the elements that are missing entirely from our soil. The fact that we have any magnesium at all lead me to mentally put it aside in favour of the trace elements of molybdenum, boron and selenium. Magnesium isn't a trace mineral, although you could argue that 0.043% is only a trace amount, and yes, that's how little magnesium our soils contain.

 

The bean symptoms were the easiest to search for online. Yellow between the veins on older leaves, brown spots, eventually dropping off completely. Unsurprisingly, their season is shorter than it should be. The comfrey leaves look similar, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the magnesium makes its way into the soil.

I don't want to use Epsom salts though, because we have an excess of sulphur in the soil already, so I purchased some magnesium oxide, although it will take a while to become available to the plants in this form.

I've also noticed a massive difference in my own health since Marty and I began spraying each other with magnesium "oil" and taking oral supplements. The "oil" is very relaxing, and pain is eased when sprayed on body parts that hurt (this can be all over at times). After supplementing with magnesium for a few months now, I'm beginning to notice a new found strength in my muscles, and my "energy bucket" is a little larger and re-fills quicker. Even Marty is noticing he has more energy at work and is less tired during the day. 

I plan on offering magnesium freely to the chooks, along side both their shell grit (for calcium) and the Livamol (for trace minerals) already available. They take the supplements if they want them, and I don't have to worry about mixing them into food and getting the correct ratios. I trust that they know what they need.

Fine ground magnesium will be added to the garden beds as they are readied for new plants, and I'm happy to spread the love around the whole garden once the cooler and wetter weather comes back.

I really like this quite from Mary Reynolds in The Garden Awakening: "By healing the land, we heal ourselves; and by healing ourselves we can see more clearly what the land needs to return to health."

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Wet day timetable

Yes! We're getting some wonderful rain finally, so I stopped gardening in the shade house and instead took a walk around the "wood lot" to see if any of the trees we planted are still alive.


We planted some wattles and yellow box and river red gum trees last winter. Given how dry the winter was, and how harsh the frost was too, I'm really surprised to discover that we've hardly lost any trees at all. Some are even thriving! It's so hard to make them out given the mess the area is in. If I wasn't a complete tree-hugging hippy, I'd say this area was especially weedy and in need of "a few sheep".


But just look what "a few sheep" can do! At best, anyone else might say the land on the right is well managed for fire. No weeds, no grass, no snakes. I guess it's "safe"..?
The visible trees on the left were planted a couple of years ago. We could have planted a lot more by now, but we're taking it slowly, making sure not to suffer huge losses from one poor season, or an incorrect tree choice. We plant in autumn, to give the trees as long as possible to establish before the next summer, and their first watering is their last from us. I'm starting to feel confident though.. I think I'm going to plant a lot more this year. :)
Oh, and we don't spray anything or weed around the trees. Sounds like a complete waste of energy, time and money to me! I have a very limited supply of all those things. We used second hand tree guards, and old fencing wire as protection. I did buy the bamboo stakes and the trees (although there are a few home propagated wattles in there too), and I guess I did use a tractor to mow the long stuff down a little before planting. I do love the tractor, but as you can see, it doesn't get much use here.


I turned around for this photo of the Murray Pine trees. The young trees take SO long to grow up. The young trees on our side of the fence have been there longer than we have! To make matters worse, they're apparently tasty to sheep, and ripped apart by wallabies and kangaroos on a whim. We've had to cage a few from wildlife on our side of the fence, but they don't stand a chance on the other side. The same amount of wildlife pressure I assume, but on the left in the photo above, far too many sheep.

Actually, I think he only has about 35 sheep on probably about 15 acres if you include the grain silo land that your seeing here. That land has only degraded further over the years, while ours gets more diverse, at least in weeds. :)

But I love the weeds! Maybe I need a new sign for the front gate.. "Weeds Welcome!"
(That might upset the locals though)

Not that I've got anything against sheep! We'll probably get a few some day. Maybe after a few of the trees have grown up enough to provide some shelter, and after we set up water troughs, and fencing for rotational grazing, etc. There won't be any cute lamb photos for a while yet though.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

weather and stuff .. pictures of the garden .. another boring blog post?

Well, weather does play a huge part in our lives. Yesterday was just cool enough under the verandah to make some cages to go over the planting trays. That's to give them protection from mice, which enjoy eating the sunflower seeds and new sprouts.


Mice are a fact of life, as are the snakes that eat them. The butcher bird found the Willy Wagtail nest and took one of the babies back to theirs for dinner, the second chick died too but the third one survived and is being cared for by the parents around the garden. That's their second clutch for the season, with four little chicks surviving to adulthood last time. I love living here and watching the interactions of nature around me. Some of the best parts have been creating habitat. The shadehouse has been a bug catcher for generations of Willy Wagtails so far, and it's only getting better, albeit slowly.



 

The tomato stakes were great perches for Willy to wait for a big juicy bug to go past, but now the tomatoes are taller than their stakes. Written on the description for the seeds I saved in Stawell, the yellow pear tomatoes (left hand side in the photo) get to 1.5m tall (and even there, they didn't grow that tall). They've well and truly topped 2 metres tall now, with green fruits and more flowers coming along. I hear the buzz of the blue banded bee, who are still nesting in our wall, but I'm so glad they're around. Those, and the huge orange and black wasps that drag large hairy spiders back to their nests in the ground (although one has made a mud nest in the bathroom, as have many other types of mud wasps!). Sure, we'll get the odd spider, especially the orb weavers that make their web across the walkways and sit right in the middle, waiting for dinner, or someone careless enough not to be wearing a headlamp! But I'll take that any day over spraying termiticide that lasts 10 years around the house every year (the local man doing this had never seen the big spider catching wasps).

Past 9 or 10 in the morning, though, and the heat becomes too much for me, and too much for many of the critters around. Cicadas call, lizards run and hide in the dry straw or dead plants as I walk past. If the wind is up, everything looks terrible, even in the shadehouse. The sprinklers turn on every 4 hours for 5 minutes at the moment. I'm still trying to work out what is best, but that helps keep the humidity up a little and the plants wilting slightly less during the day. I water everything in pots every morning. Almost everything in pots has a drip tray of some description, or it simply dries out too quickly. It's been over 47°C (116.6°F) under the verandah, the house slowly rising in temperature, but hovering around 32°C (91.4°F). The mud brick walls don't cool down easily, and the indoor temperature doesn't fluctuate much. That's really lovely at any other time of the year! There are still things we can do to improve conditions, they're on my To Do list, ok? :p



Something we did get done was to attach some reo-mesh to the side of the structure. I did want to grow some passionfruit along there, and I have two vines waiting for more favourable weather before planting them out. The soil will also need work before I do.. But the mesh is finally up! I took a photo of one of the better welds that I did. They're not all that good! So, we moved the tractors, moved the strawbales from one side to the other, got Michael's metal detector out and looked, once again, for Marty's wedding ring. It must have been over a year ago since he lost it. I've used the metal detector everywhere from where the strawbales were (he was getting some fresh straw for a chicken nest), all the way up to where the chooks were housed around the almond tree in "the orchard". We've found so much scrap, bits of fence and even melted metal, plenty of screws and washers too. Well, that day we found a slightly dusty titanium ring resting in the straw! :)

Marty's been working hard in town every day for the last 6 months, putting us on the exciting road to becoming debt free in just 6 more months time. Hopefully then he won't have to work so hard in the near future and can spend some more time at home.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mantid in the morning sun, and a relaxing long weekend.

I've been struggling with life since Marty started working. Initially, I tried to do everything all at once to keep the house going, and of course, that trick never works for very long. I wore myself out fast. I've never been very good at pacing myself, and routine has always been a struggle. This last weekend was an extra long one, because Marty has been sick from work since Thursday and after a trip to the Doctor, he's been resting at home for 4 days straight. It's been awesome having him home! I feel like we both got a break, a proper rest and some quality sleep.
We ate breakfast in the morning sun, taking our time and relaxing. I found a little mantid that we've never seen before, and probably never will, unless it explores the pink shopping bag again!

Spot the mantid

This mantid!
It rained all night last night and is still raining this morning. It's the most wonderful gentle consistent rainfall we've had in a very very long time. My gauge says 30mm, but I honestly haven't checked it for months now. A combination of forgetfulness, having other things (far too many other things!) on my mind, and any rain we did get has been too light to be excited by.

As for me, I'll keep trying my best to get things done, and even though I get frustrated and angry with myself, constantly loosing focus, forgetting why I came into a room or what I was doing, I guess I have to keep in mind that everything I do get done is "better than it was", and as long as I keep plodding along, we'll get there eventually. It's a very long and winding road, in a thick fog, a severe lack of signage and my GPS seems to be wonky! Then again, it seems like I spend more time off-road in the rocky dirt and sticky mud, than on it.

Marty is feeling better and back at work this week and I miss him already.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The weird and the wonderful

Lace Monitor
Lace Monitor tracks
I don't even know what to say about this. All I could say at the time was "WOW!" I heard it walking around the cottage just as I was eating lunch. Needless to say, it was a cold lunch by the time I got back to it.

It was a beautiful lace monitor. Or goanna if you like. Of course, you can click on the pictures to make them larger. Around here, goannas have a yellow band on the tail, and it seemed to be searching for something good to eat. The Noisy Miners made sure everyone around knew exactly where it was, and our rooster alerted in a hushed tone. It didn't have any problems going under the electric chook fence, but luckily that fence doesn't have anything living in there (and the fence isn't "live" either). It didn't find the main flock with the day's eggs and two broodies with the single little chick they're mothering. Either that, or it wasn't worth the trouble.


The chimney has been pointed a bit, well, the biggest holes have been filled by a lime mortar mix. I think it was only a mud mix used previously, so I guess it's an upgrade. More mud has gone on the walls to help fill some of the holes left over from the concrete plaster falling off. The incidence of blowfly getting into the kitchen has dramatically reduced as a result. Well worth the effort. There's more to do, of course, but there's always more!

Mid October 2017

Fungus on the strawbale
Calendula
with native bee and spider
After a fairly dry winter, there isn't a lot of green growth on the plants, but lots of flowers none the less. A lot of grass pollen, which is causing our hayfever, the purple flowers from the wild Salvation Jane, yellow from the Cats Ear and plenty of white flowers on the radish we grew.

Willy Wagtail egg splat!

Grapevine moth
(Phalaenoides glycinae)
An odd thing happened this morning. Two Willy Wagtail's were singing while sitting on the fairy lights under the veranda, when I heard the splat of a little egg hitting the step. There are no nests or anything above.. Nature is just weird sometimes.