Friday, September 26, 2008

Spring is definately here!

Well my seedlings are coming along nicely, even the latest ones are starting to emerge, there is a couple of the tomatoes that are starting to poke their head through and the kale and nasturtiums look like they are going well. Its good to have come back from a week away with work and see them all still going well and just look at those spaghetti squash, I cant wait to try some of them.

Top row: Satsuma Plum, Almond, Apricot Bottom Row: Apple, Peach, Lemonade
The fruit trees are starting to look good, and the weeds seem to like the watering they are getting as well. Even the Lemonade tree looks like it might end up looking like a tree again rather than a bunch of sticks after last years harsh summer

This (left) is a Lucerne plant from those seeds I tried to grow earlier in the year but got munched by a visitor of some sort. And my pea plants from the peastraw have now got peas of their own, and the cycle starts again!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More seeds to grow

Well the seeds I planted a week and a half ago, are doing well the Red Stem Welsh onions are just starting to emerge and I think I can see movement of the potting mix in the Spaghetti Squash, the lettuces are coming along nicely too now I just have to get my butt into gear and get some beds ready for them, I cant see them lasting too long in those pots. Oh and I have to remember they are there when I let the chooks out, I'm sure they once they found them there wouldn't be too much left.

Seeing that my order from Cornucopia Seeds arrived last week, very promptly I might add too, I will definitely be keeping them on my list.

So my second lot of planting involves:
  • Tomato - San Marzano (x2)
  • Tomato - Principe Borghese (x2)
  • Tomato Rouge - DeMarmande (x2)
  • Capsicum - Californian Wonder (x2)
  • Chilli - Thai Hot (x2)
  • Chilli - Long Thin Red Hot (x2)
  • Lemon Balm (x4)
  • Strawberry Spinach (x4)
  • Kale - Red Russian (x4)
  • Rosella (x4)
  • Nasturtium (x4)

Sqweek Whistles for us!!

Yesterday it was a rather warm and windy day, so not the best of days for doing things outside, especially trying to hang out washing (including bed sheets) and get it to stay on the line. We did however with all the windy noise get blessed with hearing Squeek whistle. We had not heard him whistle since that day in the shop and we were starting to think that maybe we had been mistaken and that it was another bird that we had heard. DP had said during the week that he had heard someone whistling but when he went to look whoever it was stopped.

We think that it was mostly because it was a noisy day with all the wind around and seeing that where he had come from was quite noisy it might have been a bit too quiet for him.

I thought I would share his whistles with you. The whistle he does in the last clip I think is from an Indian ringneck parrot, which was in the aviary next to him in the shop, he has lots of whistles that he has obviously picked up from there because we haven't heard them before.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cockatiels are putting on wieght!

Saturday has become "weigh day" here for the cockatiels. Since losing our Chicken I have been reading a lot about illnesses and how to see the first signs, because as prey animals they will hide any signs that they are sick because this would cause them to be an easy target. One of the best ways is to take note of their weight and if they start losing weight, 10% is something to worry about, then it is a good indication that something is wrong.
30th August (the day after we got Squeek)
Spooki: 79g Squeek: 64g

13th September
Spooki: 86g Squeek: 67g

According to what I have been able to find out the average weight of a cockatiel is 80g to 100g so I hope that Squeek is still growing and will get closer to the 80g mark, although maybe he might just be a little bird.

Squeek seems to be settling in nicely, he's getting to be a little fiesty the last few days but that may be because he has discovered his mirror (I have taken that out of his cage to see how that goes) or it might just be becays he is starting to come out of his shell, he was even thinking about whistling yesterday afternoon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wicking Boxes

This is the start of my wicking beds. I first saw the idea on Scarecrows Garden

The gerneral idea is that the bottom acts as a reservior and the water is "wicked" up to the root zone for the plants to use

Ok today I dropped in at the local IGA to pick up a few pieces and thought "ahh, they have broccoli on special and it is all nicely displayed on the shelf, what would broccoli come in......broccoli boxes......wicking beds...." so I asked the young guy who was stacking the banana shelf if they had any empty ones. so home I went with three broccoli boxes to turn into wicking beds, inspired.

I had looked into doing it last year and asked at the fruit and veg shop (where better to get broccoli boxes) and they would sell them to me for $2 each (empty that is too) surely word hasn't got out that fast and every one wants broccoli boxes for their wicking beds and the demand for them is overwhelming?

So after last years disappointing efforts of trying to produce food in the middle of summer on sandy soil, with water restrictions I thought maybe I would try something a bit different. Ohh and also being very disappointed with "Woolworths, the not so fresh people"s limp and overpriced lettuce, bok choy and the like, when I have seeds here that should grow perfectly with the right conditions.

I dont think I am ready to jump in to the inground systems, or should I say my diary and back are not ready. So I am thinking of something simple, using things I have around the house, buying as little as possible. Also I have come to think that there is a lot of "junk" around the place, so surely some of that would have to be useful, why else would I have kept it so its a bit of a challenge to myself.

Heres what I'm thinking so far, hole up the side to create the reservior, 10mm gravel in the bottom, cut PET bottle or milk container as the watering tubes, maybe a margarine container with the bottom cut out for the feeding station, so a lid can be used to give the worms "privacy". Then fill it with some potting mix I have in the shed. Should be pretty much FREE.

I have to think about what plants to use, I am thinking the ones that just wont make it in the beds, the high feed/water needing plants (the things that wilt the first in the garden) and also things that I can continuously harvest, like lettuce, bok choy, kale, herbs and other greens....hmmm thats the end of my list, surely there must be more?

Seedings Showing Growth

Some of the seedlings that I planted last week have started pop out of the potting mix maybe it is just a coincidence but these were planted in the leafy moon pase and that is generally what has popped up. Coincidence or proof that moon planting works??

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Birdy Bathing Time

Spooki and Squeak having a shower in the rain

We had a little bit of rain this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to let the birds have a shower the way nature intended. Not really captured in this photo but they loved it, Squeak was walking around on the botom of the cage and and was almost rolling around, head right down on the bottom of the cage wings up.

It was just wonderful to watch, I had taken Spooki in the shower with me but she didnt seem to enjoy it just sat there, so to see them both fluttering around and turning themselves inside out was bilss.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The first harvest of carrots and beetroot. I sould have had something in the picture for a size comparison but for an idea the beetroots are about the size of golf balls. The carrots are supposed to be "baby" Carrots but I think that is just a little bit too baby, maybe another order of seeds might be comming up :0)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Blossoms begin

The Almond tree is starting to blossom and there are little green shoots of leaves starting to appear too. Spring is definitely here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Weekend Jobs

Well that's another week over, so now its time to think about the weekend and what needs to be done, but most importantly what do I want to do. So yet again it is time for the lists to begin.

  • Sweep/vacuum floors
  • Tidy up kitchen table and kitchen benches
  • Sort out HECS money I owe to the tax dept, put in separate account and set up reminder to pay in March.
Outside, Frontyard:
  • Pull up weeds
  • Decide on locations for the plants from Arid Lands to go (some of the larger ones may go along the front fence, creating a screen/backdrop for other plants)
  • Sort through seeds and see if there are any flower seeds that can be planted
Outside, Backyard:
  • Clean poop from chooks house
  • Give fruit trees a water
  • Plant lucerne, red clover and nasturtiums under Fruit Trees, under the pea straw that is there (after they have been watered and the ground is nice and wet)
  • Sort through plants under Carob tree and discard any dead ones and store pots
  • Clean up under Carob tree throw out rubbish, and rake up leaves, just make things look tidy.
  • Clean gutters, using our newly purchased ladder.
I'm sure there is lots of other things to do around the place but that's what comes to mind now, how much actually gets done is another matter.

My money, My interest

After Spending 5 years at uni I have a HECS (now called HELP) debt that I have to pay back.

Now most people in this circumstance just tick the box on the tax form when they start work that says "I have a HECS debt" which means that payroll takes an extra amount of tax to cover the amount you will have to pay, which is what I did when I started working.

What I didn't realise until I got my statement after I started working (no more fees added) and the amount I owed hadn't gone down at all even though I had been getting money taken out of my pay for it.

After talking to the ATO I discovered what actually happens. I had thought it would be like a normal loan and when you made a payment then that amount came off the total, but what actually happens is that that money is collected by the ATO and put in a holding account then at the end of the financial year when they have your complete taxable income (from your tax return) they then work out how much you owe and then take that out of the holding account, returning the left over to you as a tax return.

So after finding this out I decided that if its not coming off my debt then I would rather stick it in my own "holding account" and earn interest on it while it is sitting there. Now as I have been told by my accountant this is fine to do as long as you realise that you will get a bill at the end of the year and you have to be disciplined to put that money away and not touch it.

So far so good, earlier this week I got the ATO letter, which usually comes with a cheque attached, but this year it was a bill (which I was expecting), but the amount that is in the account is more than the bill is which means I effectively still get a tax return.

Because I'm on a salary I set up a automatic transfer for each pay, but lately I have been fortunate enough to do some overtime, meaning that each pay is different. More pay means more you have to pay off your HECS debt. What I have been doing is looking up the tables and adding the extra amount to my HECS account. But I have now found that the ATO has a HECS calculator for working out how much you need to pay as a compulsory payment. Its much the same as the tables but you can be a bit lazier and just put in some figures and out come the figures you need, well almost, it only works on yearly figures, but that's just a matter of multiplying my fortnight;y pay by 26 then dividing the amount it spits out by 26.

The bank account I put the money into is an online account with high interest but low accessibility (perfect for what I need it for) and it also has the added bonus that within the one account you can set up sub-accounts so I have one for "emergency/big bills" and one for HECS, but now that I don't have to pay last financial years HECS until March next year I am going to set up another one so I have two HECS accounts, one for last financial year one for this financial year, and leave the money sitting there until March next year earning me more interest.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cornucopia Seeds

Well I couldn't help myself, today I had to go and have a look at the Cornucopia website and have put in an order for
  • Capsicum - California Wonder
  • Tree Lucerne
  • Kale - Red Russian
  • Spinach - Strawberry
  • Borage
  • Lemon Balm
  • Gypsophila - Convent Garden Market
  • Native Iris
Not bad for telling myself I really didn't need any more seeds, I really need to sort out what I have at home, well at least I controlled myself enough to only by the things that I know I don't have at home and that will (well most of them) go into the garden shortly after I receive them. So now it is that anxious time waiting for them to arrive

Planning to .........

Well I have planted some seeds now but I still want to plant more. The problem that I seem to have is I seem to have great ideas when I am in the middle of something, or just don't have time to write it down (or do write it down then loose what I wrote it down on) so I thought I would jot down a list of things I want to plant (and do) which I can come back to and say "ah yes that was what I was going to do with that"

OK here goes:
  • Plant some Pigeon Pea between the fence and the chook yard (maybe interspaced with some Tagasaste if I can get hold of some seeds), hopefully this will end up being a perennial rather than just a summer growing annual, and grow into a nice bushy tree which will provide shade for the chooks in summer and also can be used as fodder for them and be cut for mulch, and will also do the soil good, being a legume.
  • Get the "Chook Patch" up and going. The plan is for this to be a smallish bed (2m x 1m , behind the BBQ) which is by the door of the chook cage, and I can just grab a few things here and there from the bed when the scraps are getting low, and feed it to the chooks. Things like Silverbeet, lucerne, clover, parsley, garlic, mint, grain crops.
  • Set up a "Cockatiel Patch". I have been giving the cockatiels millet sprays, but now that they know what they are they are only lasting a couple of hours before they are completely stripped, so I want to grow some of my own, a) because I don't want to buy it all the time, and b) so that I can know that there isn't any chemicals used on it. This will probably be a handful of bird seed thrown around (and covered to stop the wild birds from eating it before it grows). I also want to grow some greens for them, things like silverbeet, kale (is supposed to be really good for them) herbs like mint, parsley. I could combine this with the Chook Patch but I sort of want to keep it separate and have it purely for "Cockatiel Safe" food.
  • Plant living mulches under the fruit trees and have them growing well by the time summer comes. I have lucerne, red clover, woolly pod vetch, which I had thought about sowing in a bit of a mix, but I'm not too sure about woolly pod vetch as a living mulch crop, might have to grow some and see how it grows, oh and nasturtiums, I did plant some last year but they didn't transplant well so this year I think straight into the ground.
  • Sow some "good bug" plants in amongst the veggies, I'll have to go through my seed collection and see what I have bit I am sure I have some marigolds and cosmos, and I know I have some alyssum, red clover and lucerne

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spring Planting

Ok, well September is here and that means it is now officially spring, so before it disappears I thought I'd better start to get some things growing.

So last night I found a bag of potting mix that was hiding in the shed and some tube pots that I acquired from somewhere around the tracks (I think they might have been use for trees for life seedlings or something).

I put them in a 4L ice cream container, which will fit 16 of these little pots, nice and snugly, and that will catch the water in the bottom helping to keep the seedlings watered, now just to make sure I don't over water them and drown them. I am hoping that these pots which are bigger than a punnet but smaller than a proper pot will allow the seedlings to grow nice and strong and develop good roots before they are left to fend for themselves in the garden.

I have two ice cream containers of pots, so 32 pots in all (at the moment) which I have planted:
  • Luffa (ALS)
  • Spaghetti Squash (ALS)
  • Broccoli - green sprouting (DT brown)
  • Pak Choi (DT brown)
  • Purple Pak Choi (seed savers)
  • Cone Flower - Echinacea (ALS)
  • Cucumber - Lebanese (ALS)
  • Lettuce - Everlasting (Greenpatch - ALS)
  • Onion - Red Stem Welsh (Greenharvest)
  • Green Apple Cucumber (ALS)
  • Italian Parsley (self collected - Adelaide)
  • Unknown - I think it is Sweet Basil (self collected - Adelaide)
For labels I have recycled an empty milk bottle and cut it into strips about 1cm by 10cm long, which I have written on with a thin permanent marker (like the CD pens) and then stuck into the side of the pots, hopefully I will be able to reuse these when I go to plant more later, when these ones go into the garden. They're not all labelled because they are in rows, once they start to grow it should be obvious.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sad Times, but New Beginnings

On Tuesday last week (26th August) we sadly lost our cockatiel "Chicken". It was very unexpected and hit DP and I like a tonne of bricks. She was only just over 4 years old, and didn't show any signs of being sick, (although that is not uncommon with birds) but on Tuesday morning when I went to say good morning to them she was on the bottom of the cage, and had passed away.

It was a very teary Tuesday, and that afternoon we had a burial in the garden with a Grevillia (Flora Mason) planted on top of her, and more tears were shed, finding it hard to believe that she would not be around anymore with her funny little antics for us to laugh at and enjoy. Funny how such a small little animal could have such a big personality and leave such a big hole in our hearts and lives. Our other cockatiel, Spooki was definitely missing her, each time we took her out of her cage she would look around to where Chicken's cage was and screech out for her and not get any response, and kept looking around to try to fly to where she might be.

Slowly the teary moments got less and we started to think and talk about getting another cockatiel, although, we knew we could never find a replacement for Chicken, there would only ever be one Chicken.

On Friday at lunch time I decided to duck into the shop that I got Spooki from back in March to just see what they had, and they had two aviaries of cockatiels. I stood there and watched them for at least 20 minutes, just looking at the different colours of them and watching their antics. I moved to the other aviary and straight away a male started to tap the perch with his beak and do a little strutting walk and then started to whistle at me, he had me laughing at him with his strange whistle song. So I was thinking about taking him home but I really wanted the next cockatiel we got to be a joint decision between DP and I, so after work we went down to the store together and another one, which I hadn't even noticed when I was there, did a wolf whistle and then broke into other whistles, we watched them for a while and just fell in love with this little guy who sung to both of us, and seemed to have a very gentle nature to him. And so we took him home.

He is a whiteface cinnamon, meaning that he doesn't have the usual orange or yellow markings, and the parts that are grey are more of a fawn colour, being a whiteface he should have been $40 but the guy at the store said he would give him to us for $10 seeing as though he had been picked on and had some of his head feathers pulled out, so bargain. He also said that he is probably around 7 months old, so a bit older than what we had hoped for but with a bit of patience and persistence I'm sure he will become part of our family.

Getting weighed, 64g, see the bald patch on his head.

He is already letting us handle him without biting hard, and will most of the time step up onto your finger or hand, apart from when we have to play chasey around the kitchen floor, inlcuding under the kitcken table LOL. The first couple of days that he was home (over the weekend) he was very sleepy which is understandable after the trauma of being caught in the aviary, and taken to a new home, with new sounds and surroundings, I know I wouldn't have a restful sleep in those circumstances. But he is much more alert and active now.

Together with Spooki on the kitchen chair.

They both seem to like each other, although they have separate cages they will quite often find the corner nearest each others cage and sit there. When I take them outside if I don't take them out or bring them in together (not an easy task with two cages) they will screech for each other until they are back in the same room and then will squeak to each other. He hasnt whistled for us like he did in the shop but I am sure with time he will share his songs with us.