Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random stuff

This is a bit of a random collection of photos and ramblings, in no particular order....

The Christmas tree looks a lot better than last year, thanks to the addition of some new decorations. Swapping a four-foot tree for a seven-foot tree and changing colour schemes meant we had a lot of empty space on the new tree.

Thanks to the trusty $2 Shop, I have these...

...and these...

...and these...

Plus these from K Mart...

...and these from the Reject Shop....

Add some coordinating wrapping (of course, because I'm a bit OCD), and it's looking almost perfect. Still room for some more bead garlands next year, plus more lights, I think.


Of COURSE, now that we've had our shade awning installed, ready for the blistering summer heat...there isn't any. It's done nothing but rain for the past few days and more rain is forecast pretty much for the rest of December. Great.


I bought this tower of gift boxes about five years ago from Target to use as a Christmas table centrepiece.

It came filled with different kinds of lollies, which of course were nought but a memory by the time New Year rolled around. I kept the boxes though, and after much nagging by The Baby, decided to refill them today.

I may have to do an audit each night to make sure they last more than a week.


Remember way back in winter, when I pruned the weeping mulberry and it looked like a stick? Here, I'll refresh your memory:

I'd never really grown a weeping tree before. Well, there was the cherry I put in at the old place, but we sold before I saw the result of my one and only pruning experiment there. So I was a bit terrified that it wouldn't grow back, or would turn out looking a bit mental. I needn't have worried:

Awesome gardening skills, or what?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Q & A

I had a comment on an old post that included a question. Replies can get lost when the post is from way back when, so I thought I'd answer it in a new post instead. Maybe it might even be helpful to someone else wondering the same thing. :)

Q: I do have a question about your mulch near the slab of your house. Do you find moisture a problem being in contact with the slab? And do you have direct sunlight to the front of your house? I love the vegetation in front of the house, but I'm getting advice from pavers not to put anything near the slab. ( due to the fact I have no direct sunlight to the facade either).

A: I've heard a few people say that their builder told them that they shouldn't construct garden beds directly against their house, but these are some of the points we took into account when making decisions:

- Our garden beds, including mulch, are below the damp course in our brickwork. Building anything or heaping up soil past that point, especially over the weepholes, is a big no-no.

- Termites aren't generally a problem in this area. If you're in a termite-prone region, you might want to get expert advice and/or install a reticulated termite barrier before doing any landscaping against the house. We never saw a termite in 22 years at our old house, and termite damage is pretty rare around here, so we're a bit blase about it.

- The soil here is extremely reactive (which means it expands and contracts a LOT depending on rainfall), but our slab has been engineered with that in mind. We paid a premium for the slab to be upgraded to Class-whatever, so it had better be damn well built to withstand a bit of moisture....

- If you use the right kind of mulch and you've prepared your soil well, the soil ought to stay damp, not the mulch. That's a whole other post though.

- What the hell else are you going to do around the edge of the house if you don't build garden beds? Circumnavigate the building with solid concrete? Over my dead body.

- Apart from said concrete, anything you put against the house will get damp in wet weather; soil topped with mulch, soil topped with pebbles, toppings or gravel, whatever... consistent rain will penetrate the top layers and it'll be wet underneath.

The house has been completed for two years now, and we've had very minor movement - probably as much from the frame timbers shrinking as the slab moving - resulting in some small gaps opening between walls and skirting boards and walls and cornices in a few places. All perfectly normal and nothing a bit of No More Gaps and paint can't fix.

I think that as long as you make sure your damp course is above the soil/mulch line and your weepholes are clear, you should be fine.

As for the direct sunlight thing, yes, the front of our house faces south-east, so it gets morning sun. Depending on climate, especially if you have high rainfall, a true south aspect might be a different story.

Of course, I'm not a builder or concreter or any other kind of expert, so taking my word for it may not be the smartest move you've ever made.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The blind man came!

Our folding arm awning was installed today. At last...some much-needed shade for the sliding door:

The frame comes in limited colours, so we've matched it to the stone beige window frames. The cassette is available in the full range of Colorbond colours, so we matched that to the spouting. I chose the dark blind fabric just because. :)

Because of the western aspect, we've had the awning angled downwards, right to the top of the fence, to block out maximum sun.

Apart from a couple of hours in the evening, the glass should be well shaded most of the day. You can see in the above photo that the sun angles in from the side - once my feijoas grow, that should be less of a drama though.

I'm sure it's going to be much more pleasant in here this summer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holy cow!

Look at this growth!

November 22nd:


In other news, I discovered that we have a community garden nearby - walking distance, in fact. I went on a fact-finding expedition this morning, only to be foiled by locked gates, so I'll be making a phone call Monday to find out if we can rent a garden bed to grow our own veggies.

We really don't have much room here, and we miss our old veggie garden. We used to grow tomatoes, several varieties of lettuce, cucumbers, snow peas, chillies, and various herbs, among other things. While I've managed to fit in a few fruit trees here, I'd love to have access to the orchard that's apparently been planted for neighbourhood use.

Stay tuned.

Curse this crazy weather!!

We've had weeks of completely nutty weather; not just Melbourne, but the entire east coast. Rain, storms and wind have been the order of the day. Rain is great, especially after a prolonged drought, but you can have too much of a good thing...

While the sub-tropical species I planted are loving the warm, wet conditions, some of my plants are not so happy. Remember this cactus from last year?

Well, this year it sprouted three flower buds. I noticed the tiny bumps early this week, and as usual they grew very quickly. All three decided to open fully at the same time - on the wettest day we've had so far; Thursday. I left work early to beat the combined horror of heavy rain and peak-hour traffic, and made it home just before the heavens opened.

I remembered my cactus, and wondered if it would maybe hold out till the next day to bloom. I pressed my face against the sliding door and peered out at them in the pelting rain, and discovered that nope, it was way too impatient to wait. The flowers were open, but soggy and droopy. The next morning, this was how it looked:

Very disappointing. :(

On the other hand, the feijoas are mighty happy:

Let's hope we get some fruit in autumn/winter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The test

The bar had its official first run last weekend, with two parties back-to-back and it stood up to the test very well.

Friday night was The Middle Child's 18th birthday party. We put on a BBQ and the bar was a huge hit with the young people. Saturday night was my 50th birthday party and we partied hard as fifty-odd people descended on the alfresco area for finger food, drinks and some live music. I crawled into bed around 3:00am (and I'm still recovering...)

In honour of the special occasion, I added some decorations, expanding on our Balinese theme with temple flags and decorative umbrellas:

The weather had been woeful all week, with heavy rain almost non-stop. So because more thunderstorms were predicted over the weekend, we rushed out and bought an emergency shelter thingy for the bar... which then wasn't needed, since the weather was perfect. Oh well, it was easy to assemble and no doubt it will come in handy for future outdoor parties.

Beats wrestling with poles and so on - this thing just unfolds and when you're finished with it, folds up and goes right back into a smallish bag for storage. Anaconda, people, if you need one....

Anyway, the outdoor area was perfect for both parties - all of the teenagers who were here on Friday night apparently want to move into our house, and the adults on Saturday were very complimentary too. :)

This area will be well used over the summer... I foresee plenty of BBQs and alfresco drinks over the next few weeks.