Monday, July 31, 2006

It's Never Too Early ...

... to learn to sew. My five and a half year old grandaughter, Shay, spent the day with me today. I promised her that after lunch we would do some sewing and she could use one of my machines.
We had bought her a toy electric sewing machine for her birthday earlier this year but she has since graduated to using her mother's expensive machine. As
ShellyC began using my machine at the age of seven I had no qualms about allowing Shay to do the same.

Lunch over, I set up a low table on top of 4 old Encyclopedia Britannica (first time they've been used in years) and Shay had brought a low chair with her just for the occasion. Now, what will we make? How about we make Mummy a new oven mitt since her's is wearing out? Good idea.

Sometimes having too much material to choose from creates its own problems, nevertheless Shay made her choice and I cut out the mitt. I did any curved sewing on a different machine - I wasn't getting down to use one on a table only 18 inches from the floor - but Shay did all the quilting of the fabrics. Her mastery and control of a machine is quite amazing for one so young.

Alas, I cut the first mitt too small and by the time it was finished and turned right side out, it was a good size for Shay herself. It will certainly come in handy as she loves cooking even more than sewing. I then found that an apron pattern also included one for an oven mitt, so the whole process was repeated, and one pretty mitt was finished and gift wrapped before Shelly came with Zoe and Luca to have dinner before they all went back to their place.

We had pork spareribs for dinner, and as I was putting them in to marinate, Shay asked what we were going to have for dinner. I told her "Bones." She wasn't very impressed

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Home Sweet Home.

I know I'm a bit late with these photos, suggested by BooMama, but it's still Friday in some parts of the world.

Okay, I admit it, it took me this long to make the place halfway presentable, so I'd better post these while I can.

Front door with Bluewrens in the glass panels, and the essential security/screen door. Grandson Luca was fascinated with the blue wrens when he was about two and would spend ages just looking at them. I guess he thought they were real birds and was surprised to find two exactly the same that didn't fly away.

Kitchen with view to the deck.

Don't anyone steal my cup of tea! I like the kitchen and family room much better now that they are green, white and purple instead of the dark brown and orange that they were for about 27 years.

Family room/meals area. The table is our original dining table and teak doesn't really go with the colour scheme here, but the table extends to 7' 6" long, which is invaluable when all the family visit or for cutting out fabric.

One spare bedroom ... (carpet in this room used to be purple, exact shade of the bed ruffle. Carpet's changed but I haven't gottten around to making a new ruffle.)

... and one not-so-spare bedroom. I posted this photo a few weeks ago showing where most of Russ and Shannon's stuff is while they are overseas for 12 months.

Blogging spot, back when it was new and tidy. The printer is about to be replaced with one that also scans, and I would NEVER buy a black keyboard again, especially when it has to sit down there in the dark.

Dining room. I'm happy that I can actually find this table now that Richard has retired and stopped covering it in schoolwork.

Lounge room. Including R&S's lounge suite and TV unit on the right. Would you believe that Richard now sits on the couch where that pink cushion is and watches both TVs at the same time - sometimes on different channels and with audible commentary.

Both of the above.

The most important little room in the house. The toilet, bathroom and laundry were never meant to be this horrible pink colour - the 4 litre can of paint was meant to be an apricot shade. Too late once it's mixed! That was 10 years ago and it's still waiting for me to repaint it. Can't rush these things, you know.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How It All Began

Posted by Picasa

Having set a precedent by posting one of my stories last week, I thought I would post another which gives a hint as to how I came to develop my love of gardening. This story was also written a couple of years ago, long before I began blogging, and it was from this story that I took the title for my blog.

A Growing Delight

I would like to be able to say that the garden of my childhood was akin to the delightful displays of flowers, shrubs and trees to be seen in glossy magazines in newsagents and bookshops. But it wasn’t like that at all. Although possibly its very unkemptness held more delights for a child than manicured lawns, flowers in profusion and stately, shady trees. Certainly, I remember it well, from the straggly geraniums to the overgrown hedges, from the tiniest of violets to the row of massive cherry plum trees in full blossom. It was a garden that I could play in, work in, eventually help transform, and ultimately build my own garden from many of those self-same plants, several of which I still have half a century later. (see Photo above.)

The house and garden, with a small orchard on either side, were set on a hilltop at the end of the Strezlecki Ranges in Gippsland, Victoria – a small State in the southeast of Australia. From the front veranda one could see for many miles across the Yannathan Flats and the Kooweerup Swamp to the blue Dandenong Ranges on the horizon. Of course, such a magnificent and uninterrupted view to the north had its downside in the form of hot northwesterly winds in the summertime. Soon after moving to the farm, Dad planted a windbreak of cypress trees down the north and west sides of the larger orchard. These grew quickly and provided wonderful wind protection as well as an impressive backdrop to the ornamental gardens he created years later. Down the south side of this orchard was a row of 10 huge cherry plum trees, already 60 years old. Both orchards contained a motley collection of apple, pear, apricot, plum, quince and fig trees. Some of the varieties are now heritage-listed such as Five Crown, Northern Spy, Rennet and Snow apples. Dad was neither gardener nor orchardist but he managed to prune the trees after a fashion and they produced good quantities of fruit for many years.

The house garden originally contained an assortment of trees and plants, long-neglected and growing wild. Close to the house were two huge Cypresses. They provided shade for the children’s sandpit and cubby house, and the White Leghorn chooks (hens) would try to roost in the branches each night. Their sleep was short-lived however as someone, usually me, would have to dislodge them with a long stick, or climb the tree and shake the branches wildly so that they would fly screeching to the ground and scuttle into the hen house for the night, safe from foxes. The cool ground underneath the trees kept the milk, butter and cheese cool in the summers when we had neither ice-chest nor refrigerator. Two wide stone jars were sunk into the ground under the trees and the perishable foods stayed cool all day. The nearest large plum tree provided similar shade for the meat and Coolgardie safes, where other foods were kept cool.

A row of Lucerne trees bordered the house yard. They were quite pretty with small grey-green leaves and white flowers followed by black seedpods, which split and fell to the ground with an audible snap during the hot weather. The ground was inches deep in seedpods fallen over the years. A very tall, spreading black wattle (Acacia) grew between the outside toilet and the hen house. So large was this tree that when covered in golden blossom in spring it could be seen from nearly a mile away. The trunk produced lots of lovely chewy sap. The cherry plum trees, covered in white blossom, could also be seen from a great distance. My sister commented recently that she has very vivid memories of seeing this long line of plum trees in blossom against a clear blue sky and the almost deafening drone of the millions of bees. She felt at the time that “heaven couldn’t be any better”. I had to agree with her. We loved those trees in blossom and enjoyed the early fruit, but the trees were so big that only the lowest of the plums could be picked and the rest eventually fell to the ground only to be squashed by people, cars and animals. By the end of summer we were very glad when they had all fallen and could be raked up and carted away. However, Mum managed to preserve enough for the following year and also made gallons of jam in the laundry copper, bottling it in brown beer bottles with the necks cut off. I’m not sure where the bottles originally came from; certainly not from Dad as he never touched alcohol, at least not until the children had grown up, and then it was only a light beer shandy at Christmas.

Two fern trees outside the back door had little round curled buds, which unfurled into beautiful long fronds. Grey thrushes sat in the trees in the morning and whistled. How I would love to hear a grey thrush now. There were two large rose bushes in the back garden, both with masses of small white flowers. One bush had really become an overgrown hedge, all intertwined with honeysuckle and wild passionfruit. Many years later one of our dogs died under this hedge from snakebite. I think Flossie was actually bitten elsewhere and crawled under the rose bush to die. In any case, Dad wasn’t taking any chances and he pulled the hedge and a lot of other things out of the garden and thus began its re-creation.

There were fuchsias with swollen red buds just waiting for a child to pop them prematurely, a chrysanthemum with masses of tiny yellow/brown flowers like buttons, and long-legged geraniums with big red flowers. Even as a small child I was allowed to dig in the garden beds and plant whatever I liked. There was one garden bed that I dug and raked so often that the soil resembled talcum powder. It was totally useless for growing plants but the hens loved it for dust baths. Beneath one rose bush grew such pretty tiny violets. It seemed a pity to leave them there unseen so I pulled them out of the ground and planted them somewhere else. Some grew and some didn’t, but my passion for propagating plants was born at the age of seven. Grandma added to this by telling me to “Plant anything. You never know, it might grow”. She would take cut flowers from a vase, bend the stems back about an inch from the end, and stick them in the ground. Sometimes the most unlikely things grew

We didn’t have a lawn, just rough grass at the back, which was tough to mow with a push mower, and the front yard was 90% oxalis. At least the clover-like leaves and little pink flowers were pretty. One plant that I hated was the big, overgrown echium, with long grey felty leaves and big spikes of bright blue flowers. It seemed to be always dry and dusty around this plant, emphasising the general neglect of the garden, and I vowed I would never grow them. Guess what I’ve now planted in my garden? Beautiful, striking, drought-tolerant echiums.

At the bottom end of the smaller orchard was a row of huge sugar gums whose smooth white bark sometimes took on the colours of the setting sun, which we appreciated as a lovely diversion for a few minutes whilst milking the cows in the evening. The washing was hung on long lines in this orchard and sometimes the cows would have to walk under the washing on their way to the cowshed, occasionally carrying away a piece of clothing on their horns.

The lucerne and cypress trees, and all the fruit trees not only provided fruit and shade, but their branches became whatever a child’s fantasy could make of them, and many hours were spent daydreaming in some favourite perches, hidden from the world.

After Flossie died from snakebite under the hedge, Dad cleared it and many other overgrown shrubs and trees, erected new fences, dug garden beds and planted new shrubs and trees. But he didn’t stop at the garden edge; he continued out into the main orchard, where he mowed the grass, removed a few old trees and replaced with them with elms, ashes, camellias and rhododendrons. With the backdrop of the dark green cypress windbreak and the cherry plum trees the whole area soon developed into a spectacular showplace, which we nicknamed “The Park”, and was much admired by visitors and greatly enjoyed by the whole family. Even I didn’t mind spending a whole day mowing and trimming all the new lawns. The new plants in the garden like photinia, viburnum, jacaranda, mint bush, Chinese lanterns, weigelas, fuchsias, hebes, roses and creepers were underplanted with a variety of annuals. These were bought from the nursery, either by the dozen and wrapped in newspaper, or you could buy ten dozen in a wooden tray, called a ‘flat’. By this time, my brother had his own business, carting cattle, and he used to sweep the straw and manure off the decks of his trucks about three times a week into a big heap. These sweepings became the most wonderful compost after a few months, and when spread on the garden several inches deep, produced pansies with stems nearly a foot long. It took me a while to work out why all the native plants died – the soil was too rich for them - but I didn’t like them much anyway, then. Most of the plants had to rely on the rain for water, although I watered the annuals with a bucket and jam tin with holes in the bottom. I must have mislaid many tins because I always seemed to be hammering nails through yet another one. They weren’t the only things I mislaid in the garden. After badgering Dad to lend me a saw to cut back a large fuchsia, he finally gave in and handed over a lovely little saw, saying “Now you will be sure to put it back, won’t you?” I assured him that I would, naturally. Three weeks later I found the saw out on the tankstand where I had left it. Mum and I scrubbed the rust off with steelwool, liberally coated and polished it with fat, and replaced it in the garage. I don’t THINK Dad was any the wiser.

Rarely a shopping trip went by without me bringing home yet more plants, mostly annuals, for the garden. A well-thumbed copy of Yates Garden Guide became my bible as I dreamed of all the flowers that I wanted to grow. The first lady I boarded with during my year in Melbourne gave me two tiny pieces of ivy geranium to take home. I looked at them and thought “They will never grow.” Not only did they grow but we had to keep cutting them back with hedge clippers and carting them away by the barrow load. Those two little cuttings began my love affair with pelargoniums, and ivy geraniums in particular. Today, when pruning my own plants, I vow that I will not plant any more cuttings, but by the end of the day I usually have a polystyrene box with a hundred or so cuttings.

Plants of all description began to multiply in the garden at home, especially anything that could be propagated by cuttings or division. One polyanthus would become six the next year and fifty the year after. I simply couldn’t bear to throw anything away that might grow.

My love of gardening began way back as a child when I was given the freedom to try growing things for myself. I am thrilled that my small grandchildren take such delight in establishing their gardens, encouraged very much by their mother who is a keen gardener and a qualified florist.

Whilst I have some reservations about the ‘garden makeover’ programmes on TV, I think any program that encourages people to think about plants and create an interest in gardening, is not only good for them, but good for the planet as a whole.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Russell

Just because you've gone overseas, Russ, it doesn't mean you escape the embarrassment of me posting photos for your birthday.

We hope you have a wonderful birthday, and a fantastic year in Belgium and wherever else you may travel.

Thank you for being the loving and caring son, brother, uncle and friend that you are.

We love you and wish you happiness always.

As SON .....

... BROTHER and UNCLE,...

... FRIEND and PARTNER.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Upmarket - Downunder

Remember this photo from a little while back, which showed the excavation under the deck in preparation for making an enclosed area to store garden equipment?

Posted by Picasa
Well, this is how it's looking now. Richard has been painting the house walls and under the deck and the difference it's made to the light down there is amazing. Pity the inside of the house wasn't painted so The two small doors lead to storage areas under the house (crawl space, I believe it's called in the USA), but I'm sorely tempted to purchase 'Ladies' and 'Gents' signs for each door!

Signs of Spring

Although we're still five weeks from the beginning of Spring, and not much appears to be happening above ground in the garden, there are definite signs of the change of seasons. Trees are starting to bud or even flower, bulbs are flowering and other bulbs and perennials are shooting. The bees are busy among those shrubs already in flower.

Claret Ash in flower.

Flower tassles on the Garryia Eliptica.

Grevillea budding and the odd flower.

New purple, pink and cream tulips shooting.

Native Correa. Can you see the bee in the bottom right corner?


Perennial wallflower (Autumn Joy) about to burst and flower for the next four months.

Afternoon sunshine on the Hop Bush.

Posted by Picasa
A green that we haven't seen for a few years.