Chook, chook, chook, chookie!

I’m very excited tonight as the local Mens Shed crew have been and installed the new  chook house. I saw a curved coop somewhere almost 3 years ago, printed a picture and couldn’t find anyone to make it for me. We cleared out a lot of  ‘stuff’ from our shed when we moved and donated it to the local Men’s Shed thinking it would get put to good use. By chance I asked if they did commission work, gave them the picture and a few weeks later they came back to me with a price and said they were very keen to do something so different.  I am really pleased with the end result and everyone of the guys said they had a great time putting it all together. They had to work out how they would build the arches, make them and then all sections were made, put together and then deconstructed for transferring here. The following photos show start to finish. I have yet to take a photo of the dropping tray made with sheet metal and set off with some stylish ‘D’ handles. Someone’s sense of humour coming out there!

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Righto boys, bring it in!
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Sections to be re-assembled. This is the rear wall with nesting boxes.
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Chief holder-up-er-er.
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Getting really excited now!
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Still holding!
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Did hear the comment “Don’t bust your pooper”
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Nesting boxes, perches, dropping catcher, lift up access lid. No running water or power though!
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Very happy with that!

I think the girls will really enjoy their new grand abode. I am really pleased I thought to ask the Mens Shed about this project as its been a real two-way win. It was great to see today that the ‘quite experienced in life’ members also had a couple of kids from the high school in tow. They looked equally chuffed! Thanks Boys!IMG_0331

Unfortunately I couldn’t get all deck hands to join in the photo shoot!

Worms, poo & other stuff.

With the huge amounts of leaves I have collected to break down and with 4 large compost bins, chicken coop clearings and as well also collecting kitchen scraps and coffee grinds from work and a few local businesses, I needed to expand my workforce. Worms, worms, worms, can’t get enough! I find the packs of compost worms sold at the local hardware to be very expensive and  I don’t really trust how long they have been sitting on the shelves so viability may be compromised. I have a really good healthy worm farm stocked up  and was a little hesitant to split it as it is so effective. Enter the worm bomb! I found this concept when surfing about worms and thought it worth a shot. The results are great, quick mass stock up of baby wrigglers that I have divided up into the four compost bins, put a layer of cow poo on the top and I hope within a few weeks there will be great increase of activity in all the different systems.

Worm bomb
A couple of mature worms surrounded by the newly hatched babies from the worm bomb.
Cow poo in compost
Collected a few bags of cow poo from our Fish Creek Property and have put a layer of it on surface and added babies from the ‘worm bomb’ into the compost bins.

New capers?

About 5 or 6 years ago I bought two caperberry plants, first year they were in the garden (no joy) so I put them into the same wine barrel the apple tree I moved a few weeks ago was in and basically said ‘Do or Die’. I presumed they were dead (actually I hadn’t presumed anything, more assumed) but when I moved the apple I noticed some healthy roots in the soil attached to the rather dead looking twigs above the soil. One last-ditch effort, planted it into a pot, stuck it into the greenhouse and I did not expect to see any positive result……….

Caperberry sprouting

Well I’ll be danged! Let’s hope it keeps going.

One step closer to the new chook palace!

I had a call from the Men’s Shed earlier this week and we are expecting our new project will be delivered/erected on Monday. Little bit of a grey area here, my species for construction were 3m X 1.8m and I’m a little nervous as someone rang to say dimensions were 3m X 3m….. Oh well, we will just have to work with what appears. I have no doubt it will be sensational. Drainage behind shed in place, site levelled and the girls are helping to clear the area.

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Tomorrow I hope to plant the last of the roses I purchased, find a spot for some rhubarb to go in, and get over to Fish Creek to take photos of all the things we need to put up for sale now we have a buyer. Most of all the household stuff will just go to the op-shop, but the tractor and a few other big things need to be managed a bit differently.

Ah the list keeps going, and going, and going……………………….

Drained!

For some reason we both feel incredibly physically and emotionally drained this weekend. Although I would argue that I didn’t do much, on reflection quite a lot was achieved. I had a lovely time on Saturday with my daughter accompanying me to my cello lesson and we then went on a nursery hop through the Dandenong’s looking for those ‘just perfect plants’. Unfortunately the bad weather forced us to concede defeat earlier than hoped but we both made a few purchases, in particular some roses and came home keen to get into planting mode.

We got a call from the agent handling the sale of our property at Fish Creek and finally after 3 years on the market we may have a buyer. I think this has knocked us a bit as we both love the place but it is just not viable to continue managing running another property when we have so much to do here.

Outside

The new garage/shed is coming along nicely with the cladding and weather boards fitted. I had a bit of an ethical dilemma with this as the cladding is a James Hardie product and I would prefer not so support their business due to their disgusting handling and cover up of known issues with asbestos but we could not find a suitable alternative. I just hope some of our purchase funds ends up in the victim support account.

Shed making progress Workshop window

Now waiting for the roof plumber to come back and finish the capping, spouting and downpipes, on with a coat of paint, wire up the power and it will be, dare I say it-Finished!

In the garden

Nothing better than on a cold bleak day, spending some time in the greenhouse! It was just lovely having the sun on my back as I worked away planting seed. I have been getting staff at work to keep their take away coffee cups for me as I thought they would make good planting containers. We’ll see how they shape up over the next few weeks. I have made my own seed raising mix this year using coconut fibre, worm castings and sifted potting mix. I’ve made about 60 litres for the cost of 2 bags of commercial seed raising mix (approx 4 litres). Put mix into an old rubbish bin, on with the lid and rolled it around to mix it all together. Mix was lovely to work with and the flower seed I started last week are looking quite happy!

Seed raising mix

Seed Raising Mix in recycled coffee cup ready for planting

Poppy Seeds

California Poppy seed peeping out. I just love it when seeds come to life!
Potted Coffee cups

I’ve sown a few different varieties of tomato seed, hope the coffee cups hold up! So far I’ve planted black krim, san marzano, grosse lisse, black cherry, roma, mini yellow roma and another I can’t remember! I try and plant quite a few to sell at a community day in October and for staff at work.

There were a few old desks being cleared out at school so I grabbed one and have set it up as a work/potting bench in the greenhouse. So far it is great, room for all sorts of goodies under the desktop, good height (adjustable) and room for bins of potting mix etc underneath.

Potting bench

Harvests

I’ve managed to pick some asian greens, parsley, coriander (from the hydro one I planted out), the first picking from the oregano I transplanted from the old place and some absolutely delicious oranges. The first year we owned this place there was no sign of fruit at all on the orange tree. A good prune, a couple of very big feeds and we have a bumper crop. I sectioned the orange, drizzled with a small amount of honey, a pinch of cinnamon and let it soak for a while. Most delicious indeed!

Orange

Chicken Cacciatori…..ish

Good old slow cooker to the rescue yet again. I managed to remember to take some chicken fillets out of the freezer before going to bed Sat night and thought it had been a while since we had cacciatore so before hitting the yard I literally threw everything into the slow cooker. Couple of improvisations were made but the end result was very satisfying and tasty. Didn’t have any olives, so capers were substituted, didn’t have any white wine so used red. I also added a ‘Rocoto’ Chilli,

Rocoto

these were given to my husband by a colleague and apparently are a perennial. Taste was great in the dinner, not too much but enough to notice. We have been given a seedling of one so I am keen to see how it goes.Could have been cooked a little longer to thicken more but wasn’t really an issue. Soul food served with mash, just great after a busy day out in the cold.

Chicken Cacciatori...ish

A mixed bag.

I have had so many different jobs on the boil over the last couple of weeks I can’t decide which to focus on so I’ll do a brief overview of the main ones.

Insulation of future main bedroom.

With the plaster removed it is the perfect opportunity to install insulation to all of the wall cavities. Being on a highway means we are subjected to high levels of noise from both traffic and the train line that runs parallel to the highway. It’s not really that bad inside but if you forget and become focussed  on the noise it can get to you. I did a lot of research on which insulation to use and decided on the Bradford New Generation Acoustic Rockwool Batts. There seemed to be for’s and against’s for each product so the final decision was based on the following-they are locally made, have high fire resistance and high acoustic blocking (so they say!). Although they have a high embodied energy rate in production it seemed a better way to go.

Insulation chimney recess

The chimney cavity was interesting! I squeezed myself into the cavity and managed to cover the walls of the adjoining room at the same time. Because there is no backing I had to run strings between framing so the batts will stay in place.

Insulation bedroom

A bloody good job if I say so myself!

We cannot believe the difference this has made already. Every batt that went in reduced the echo and noise bit by bit and now that the majority are in it is really cosy and inviting. Can’t wait to see the difference once the plaster is on and the ceiling and under-floor is insulated too.

The Shed

Work has commenced on cladding the frame of the new shed. We felt it would be much more sympathetic to the heritage house to integrate a cladding style that matched the former dentist/x-ray room. So far it’s looking like it’s going to be a great result. Of course there’s no job that can be done unless the girls are on hand to help!

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In the Greenhouse.

How good is this greenhouse! No regrets at all choosing Sproutwell as my supplier.  I have not utilised it as much as I should have yet but I did manage to get some seeds sown in the Sproutwell Seedling Tray Stand, I found the trays great to use, great height and a good size overall. I made my own seed raising mix using coconut fibre, worm castings and blended a bag of seed raising mix in. Cost factor was so much cheaper than just using  seed raising mix. Must make up some labels for the trays!

Sproutwell seed trays

The silverbeet I transplanted from the garden bed I took apart is going beautifully as is the lemongrass.

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I had to buy some coriander for the Thai Beef Salad I made yesterday so chose the one that had been grown in a hydroponic system rather than just a cut bunch with the idea that I could plant what I didn’t use. I have done this before with basil and it worked well. Let’s see how it goes! Salad was great thanks to the lovely rump I bought from Trafalgar Butcher Shop.

Coriander packet Coriander

The bulbs I retrieved from the old home and planted all appear to be making a move. Great to know I may have some flowers in the near future!

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Plastic Free July- I’ve failed big time!

I picked the wrong week to register support and commitment to the Plastic Free July campaign! With both the weather boards and insulation being delivered I was appalled at the amount of single use plastic they were both packaged in. The insulation in particular was terrible, each pack of batts was in a plastic bag, 6 bags were in another plastic wrapper and then that was wrapped in layers of cling wrap that was obviously used to  compress the overall size. I felt terribly guilty and have started wracking my brain for ways to make recommendations to the relevant companies. Have to just keep chipping away!

Insulation Plastic Wrap Timber Plastic wrap

Oh dear, back to work tomorrow. So many unfinished jobs to do.

Thinking/Planning/Planting

I love the garden in winter, there is a special sense of expectant energy, colours  often seem far more vibrant and I always seem to have a tendency to try to achieve far more than is necessary to be ready for when spring comes. I almost feel quite ‘squirrelly’, storing all the leaves that have fallen to make leaf mould, building compost heaps and making sure any plants that do well as bare rooted stock are sourced and planted.

With some fairly ordinary weather over the last couple of weeks as well as juggling final design concepts with consultant, removing plaster from walls, organising electricians, insulation supply and having the end of financial year workload it has been a struggle getting out into the garden. Not this week though, boy have I had a great few days!

About five years ago, in my ‘squirrelling state’ I bought a dwarf ‘snow apple’ from Diggers, came home and ‘heeled’ it into one of the half wine barrels, it has done quite nicely and I’m glad I didn’t get around to planting it out because we would have left it at the old house when we moved. I decided now was the time to plant it into the garden, as well as upsize the pots the blueberry bushes are in, start training a bay tree into a ball shape, upsize the fig in a pot I have tagged for espaliering, plant some roses, start planning a design for the front yard, put together a small garden shed and start some seeds. Phew, I also had to make sure our property at Fish Creek which is for sale was up to scratch so there was chain-sawing, mowing, weeding and pruning to be done over there. I really wish I could cut back at work and keep doing all of this ‘stuff’ which I just love.

About to go into garden!

Apple root ball

Trimmed a few roots off,

Apple tree root ball trimmed, ready to transplant

moved to garden

With the help of the girls, all done! It was quite big hole I had to dig too. Prunings from apple trees make great additions for adding flavour when smoking food. These will be kept for the next weber smoke up.

Onto the espaliers-

Pear 2nd season training

This pear ‘Sensation’ is taking shape nicely. The orange has been wired to a temporary frame which I will remove as soon as possible. At least I have started the process!

Orange framework

At our old home I had a magnificent bay tree which I had trained into a feature tree with a ball top. I miss having access to picking bay leaves whenever I need to, so it was a priority to get one going again. I decided to go with the feature style again as it is manageable size wise, bay trees can get quite large!

Planted into larger pot, strip stem of leave and buds leaving a few at top. The goal is that stem will continue to grow and once at height I want i will ‘pinch’ out the top and side shoots will be allowed to grow and shaping can commence. You need to select a young plant with a single trunk for this to work. The photo above with the apple before removing from pot, shows the baby bay before I attacked it.

Bay tree formative shaping

Inside we are preparing to have plaster replaced in the room that will become the master bedroom. A decision had to be made about keeping or replacing the old horse hair plaster that was in pretty good shape, but in order to insulate this drafty old home it is easier to replace it. Walls have been stripped exposing some sensational craftsmanship in the chimney brickwork. Almost curves its way up through the walls. Respect to whoever built this! Notice the weather boards on walls? Who else would strip the guts from a room at the coldest time of year?

Plaster off Brickwork chimney Fireplace undressed

Waiting on insulation to turn up so we can make it all snug as a bug!

Last week I was at our Fish Creek property and the highlight after two VERY busy days of refreshing the property was a magnificent sunset. Armed with my camera and a glass of wine I set off  to the bottom paddock and waited for the colour show-I wasn’t disappointed. I will so miss that place (if it ever sells) as I truly enjoy everything about the kaleidoscope of nature’s wonders it offers. Sunset shots (not in sequential order).

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