Grass roots gardening…

Saturday

Today was a fairly easy day. I planted up the seedlings and broad beans seeds in the veggie beds. We have tomatoes, golden beetroot, two types of kale (Tuscan and Scarlet), broccoli, coriander, cos lettuce and pak choy. We’ll also plant silver beet (chard), rocket and basil. It’s late in the season to plant basil, but the netting should protect against the weather and keep the temperature a couple of degrees warmer than outside. We have lots of self-sown rocket coming up around the chillis that we moved from the veggie beds. We also have self-sown basil. I’ll transplant these once the seedlings have grown enough to move.

Planted veggie beds

Planted veggie beds

Stephen planted several thymes around the chilli hill. There are a variety of flavours in addition to regular thyme, including lemon, caraway, bush bbq, pizza,bergamot and Jekka’s thyme.

Chillis and thyme

Chillis and thyme

Our timing was perfect, it started to rain just as we finished planting.

Sunday

Today we started the day working to clear the grass from one end of the front verge. This corner has always been a bit of a problem due, in the first few years to the next door neighbour’s gardener scattering grass seeds our way when he mowed the lawn, and in recent years to our current neighbour’s lack of care of their front yard. We’ve tried to keep up with pulling out the grass, but the groundcover we planted there was a bit sparse and straggly and wasn’t helping. The grass was out of control.

Starting work on the verge

Starting work on the verge

The overnight rain ensured that the job would be as easy as it could be – not very easy. We had to pull out the groundcovers that were planted there and then pull out the grass. We both worked at it for a few hours and finally got it  done mid- afternoon.

First we removed the groundcovers, leaving a pretty dense layer of grass

First we removed the groundcovers, leaving a pretty dense layer of grass

There was a huge amount of grass to pull out. The roots were deep and strong. We know that, while we managed to pull out all of the visible grass and as many of the roots as possible, there are still plenty of roots in there.

We pulled out all the grass

We pulled out all the grass

We’ve planted several new plants, mostly groundcovers and low growing grevilleas.

New groundcover plantings

New groundcover plantings

We have a  groundcover that we really like, Myoporum parvifolium (Creeping Boobialla), growing at the other end of the verge. It grows in a dense mat and it should be the perfect thing to grow and cover the ground between the other plants. We’ll put in several plants of that and then  put down weed matting before we mulch.

New plants in the cleared area

New plants in the cleared area

A netted garden…

The garden netting arrived yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised. We still had the horizontal length of poly tubing to put up so we’ll have something to clip the netting to when we want to access the garden, so we took care of that yesterday afternoon. We had exactly the right length of tube left to fit around the whole garden, we just needed to buy a joiner.

The horizontal line

The horizontal line

This morning Stephen taped the tops of the start pickets so the sharp corners wouldn’t tear the net.

Taping the tops of the star pickets

Taping the tops of the star pickets

Then we draped the net over the framework. The size is just right, so that’s a bit of a relief. We found that the ends of the cable ties that we used to secure the poly tube to the pickets were catching on the net, so they all had to be taped as well.

The netting is held in place by clips that can be easily moved.

Clipping the net in place

Clipping the net in place

The net is pretty secure, though we do need a few more clips. I’m really happy with the way it’s all come together.

The netted garden

The netted garden

The sides of the net lift and clip to the top bar and allow for really easy access to the beds.

The net opened down one side for easy access

The net opened down one side for easy access

Once everything was done I prepped the bed that we have decided to plant broad beans in by raking in some lime.

Prepping a bed for broad beans

Prepping a bed for broad beans

We went shopping and bought veggie seedlings, we’ll plant them tomorrow. While we were at Bunnings I noticed that they do sell similar netting, just not in the size that we needed.

Veggie seedlings waiting to be planted

Veggie seedlings waiting to be planted

Netting the veggie bed is something I’ve wanted to do since we first put the planters in. I feel like we’ve finally achieved a major goal. Only time will tell how well it all works.

We’re gonna need a bigger pot…

I woke up this morning, worrying that I hadn’t ordered enough soil for the veggie beds. I thought about changing the order from three cubic metres to five cubic metres, but decided to leave it as is. Which is definitely a good thing…

Delivered soil for the veggie beds

Delivered soil for the veggie beds

The delivery of beautiful rich garden compost was made by Gardener’s Direct just before lunch time. After we’d eaten lunch we got stuck into moving it into the beds.

Shovelling garden compost

Shovelling garden compost

It didn’t go as easily as it might have. The star pickets at the corners of some of the beds prevented us from being able to tip the wheelbarrow at the right angle to get the composted soil into the beds. This meant we had to fill beds and then shovel soil from one bed to another for three of the beds.

Emptying the wheelbarrow

Emptying the wheelbarrow

It was a lot of double handling but we  developed a good system with Stephen barrowing the soil into the beds and me shovelling from one to another.

Shovelling from one bed to another

Shovelling from one bed to another

Anzac and Jet did their best to help, keeping an eye on  all the work done.

Anzac and Jet supervising the work

Anzac and Jet supervising the work

Jet chased flies and jumped around in the beds.

Jet likes jumping in the beds

Jet likes jumping in the beds

They are called beds so she had to test them for comfort.

Jet testing the beds for comfort

Jet testing the beds for comfort

And spent plenty of time posing for photos.

Jet loves the camera

Jet loves the camera

Anzac checked out the quality of the compost.

checking the quality of the compost

checking the quality of the compost

And spent plenty of time getting in the way of the wheelbarrow.

Helping dad in the garden

Helping dad in the garden

Finally, the planters were all filled and ready for planting.

Planters filled any ready for planting

Planters filled any ready for planting

Did we have enough soil to fill the beds? Oh, I think so!

The soil that's leftover after filling the planters.

The soil that’s leftover after filling the planters.

The loose soil in the planters will settle a bit, so we might want to top them up – a little bit. We’ll also fill all our spare pots, ready for planting herbs, citrus trees, and anything else we want in pots. I somehow think we’re going to have a bit leftover even then!

More than enough leftover soil

More than enough leftover soil

The netting is on it’s way. On Tuesday I received a notification from The VeggiePatch to say my order was posted and it normally takes up to 3 working days to arrive. Theoretically, that means it could be delivered tomorrow, after all it’s only coming from down south. But anyone living in the Perth suburbs knows proximity is no guarantee of a prompt delivery.

Revitalising the veggie garden

We’ve decided to spend our Easter break renovating the veggie garden. It’s been a bit of a mess lately, and not as productive as we’d like.

The garden before

The garden before

A year or two ago we planted passionfruit to grow up and over the veggie beds to shade them in the hotter weather. The plants grew prolifically but they didn’t fruit. They did, however, send out feral runners from the rootstock that have been coming up all over the place – in the various beds and also in the rose garden, even reaching into the native beds. The passionfruit plants did do the job of shading the beds, but they were very messy. We decided they had to go.

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

The garden before showing the growth of the passionfruit

We’ve also had a big problem with insects and caterpillars devouring our leafy greens. We’ve made the decision to net the beds to protect them. We’ll also make sure to include some shade net as well. That’s going to take some design time. The first thing to do is to clean out the beds.

The passionfruit plants came out first. This was a big job on it’s own. Stephen took care of this over the past couple of weeks.

The first passionfruit plants have gone

The first passionfruit plants have gone

Then we pulled out almost all of the overgrown herbs from the herb spiral. We’re going to plant our herbs in pots.

Work on the chilli spiral begins

Work on the chilli spiral begins

The spiral has now been planted up with transplanted chilli plants.

The chilli spiral

The chilli spiral

We have a lot planned to get done in our garden over the four day break.

Day 1

Next step, I decided that the five raised bed planters needed to be turned so they were all in line and moved over slightly to allow easy access with the wheelbarrow. This involved removing all of the soil from the planters, pulling them up, and moving them.

It also involved digging out most of the star pickets that held the reo mesh that the passionfruit was growing on.

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

At the beginning of work on Good Friday

I shovelled the soil out of the first 2 planters.

Moving soil out of the first two planters

Moving soil out of the first two planters

This was the hardest part of the job, the soil had to be wheelbarrowed out and dumped on a plastic sheet until the planters were moved.

Temporary storage of the garden soil

Temporary storage of the garden soil

While Jet kept an eye out for flies on the soil, and kept the ball close, I moved the planters.

Resituating the first two planters

Resituating the first two planters

Once I’d lined up the first two beds in their new positions I barrowed and shovelled the soil back in.

At the end of work on Good Friday

At the end of work on Good Friday

Day 2

Next I cleaned out and moved the other three planters. This was a bit easier because I was able to just shovel the soil from one planter to the next, and then shovel it back once the planters were lined up. The mulch around the outside of the planters had gradually built up over the years, effectively making the raised beds not quite so raised. This has resulted in the newly moved beds being only about half full of soil. After Easter I’ll order a load of organic garden soil and top them up.

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

On Easter Saturday after the beds have been moved

My final job for the day was to work out how to make the existing irrigation system work with the realigned beds. It took several attempts to realign the poly tube with the flexipipe and sprayers attached, but I think I finally got it all worked out. We won’t know for sure how things will work until the beds are filled and planted. And it may have been easier and faster to redo the irrigation from scratch.

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

At the end of work on Easter Saturday

Jet had fun helping today. She spent the afternoon running around the garden beds and snapping at flies.

Jet watching for flies

Jet watching for flies

While we wait for delivery of the soil we’ll have to put the star pickets back in around the end beds and put the mesh back on top; then do the same over the middle bed. These will act as good support for the netting that we want to put up. We need to make sure the net can be easily opened for access. We also need to be able to give access to pollinators when we grow flowering crops like tomatoes and broad beans, while keeping out the insects like the cabbage moth butterflies. And we want to incorporate shade cloth for summer, though that might need to be an additional layer of net just for the summer.

I’m so glad that we put in a spa bath when we did the bathroom reno. It’s lovely to soak in the tub with some epsom salts and with the jets going. Especially after a day of digging and shovelling in the garden. It might only be regular bath size, but oh what a difference those spa jets make!

Day 3

I woke up this morning thinking about the irrigation and decided to simplify the whole thing. The current arrangement is a mess. We have two irrigation lines going into the veggie garden and because I tried to just reuse what we already had we can’t be sure which line is watering which bed until we give it a try, and chances are they will all be mixed up. We also have lines wrapping back and forth between the beds, with flexipipe coming up and into the beds all along the way. This is going to make walking between the beds a nightmare. The beds are already pretty close together, we don’t need to be tripping over sprinkler lines.

We started the day with a shopping trip for star pickets, another reo panel, and a few irrigation system fixings. We also checked out what’s available in the way of netting. We want something that’s going to stand up to the weather and last for a few years. It looks like we’ll have to go with 50% sun block shademesh. That’s a bit heavier than I wanted but it seems to be the lightest we can get – from Bunnings anyway. There’s no point doing anything about the netting until we have the support framework up and the beds topped up with soil. I know the sizes that it comes in so I can work on a design that will be workable and easy to use. I can also look around for something strong but lighter weight and lower sunblock.

I spent the afternoon reworking the irrigation to the beds – cutting pipe, putting in t-joiners and elbows, and adding flexipipe and sprayers where needed. This is much harder work than it sounds – lots of bending down and trying to force poly tube onto fittings. There was plenty of hot water used to try to soften the tube and make things fit together more easily. It took a few hours but I finally got another part of the job finished and working to our satisfaction.

Finished irrigation

Finished irrigation

Each bed has it’s own line coming off one of the two main lines into the area – the back three beds off one line, the front two beds and the chilli spiral off the other line. The bed lines can easily be swung out of the beds when we need to add soil, or dig the bed over. The main lines across the ground will be covered by mulch and we won’t have to worry about standing on and damaging any fittings.

Day 4

Our day in the garden today started with us ramming in ten star pickets. With the existing two these will make the upright support framework for our netting.

Star pickets to support the netting

Star pickets to support the netting

I did some research on the ‘net last night and found The Veggie Patch. They are based in Western Australia and sell insect netting for veggie gardens online. This is definitely preferable to shadecloth because it’s much lighter and won’t cut out much light through winter, so we’re going with this option. We also discussed our options for the top of our support framework. We were going to go with a flat ‘roof’ supported by three reo panels. We’ve decided against that idea and instead we bought some 25mm poly tube and made a hooped ‘roof’

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

Poly tube hoops fitted to support the insect netting

I’ve ordered the netting. I’ll order the soil for the beds tomorrow. Hopefully the soil will arrive in the next couple of days and we can fill the beds and maybe get some planting done over the three day Anzac Day weekend, next weekend. It would also be great if the netting arrived but it’s only a three day week. I don’t think Australia Post will get it here, even if the seller gets it in the mail tomorrow.

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

Admiring our garden renovations of the past four days

We’ve realised that we also need to add a horizontal line of poly tube down each side along the top of the star pickets. This will give us something to secure the netting to when we want to lift it for access or to just have the beds open. Another job for next weekend.

The needle and the damage (un)done…

Yesterday I had an ultrasound-guided injection of local anaesthetic and steroid into my right glenohumeral joint (in my shoulder). Last night when I went to bed I realised how much I must have accepted the pain; it was so weird to have none.

A couple of months ago I had a similar injection into the swollen bursa. It had absolutely no effect at all.  Some time later I realised that the reason it didn’t work at all is because the pain was in a different location. The anaesthetic didn’t even make a difference – I should have at least had a couple of days pain-free if the injection was in the right area.

This time I’m pain free for now. I should know by about Friday whether this injection has worked. The doctor still isn’t certain, not a lot has shown up on the MRI’s or x-rays. He’s hoping and so am I.

It’s great to be able to lift my arm above my head, to pull off a top over my head, to take off a shirt, without the action causing pain in my shoulder. I’m not allowed to use my arm for a couple of days. I have to remember that for now I’m free of pain because of the anaesthetic, not because the problem has gone away.

Her intentions fall to the floor…

Well, I’m at the end of my 12WBT challenge and the weekly blog updates, that I fully intended to post, just didn’t happen. It’s been a busy 12 weeks and things didn’t go quite as planned. I went progressed well for the first 6 weeks. I stuck to the program, was amazed at the amount and quality of the food on the vegetarian nutrition plan, and lost weight. The last 6 weeks haven’t been quite so good.

  • I went to Melbourne for 10 days for a dog training workshop for the course I’m doing (Cert III in Dog Behaviour and Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation). For the most part I ate well, shopped carefully and planned my meals, but I succumbed to the vending machine in the training room on most afternoons.
  • The weekend after I got home I attended a four day tai chi instructor’s workshop in Perth. Morning and afternoon tea were provided  and for some weak-willed reason I just had to partake of the cake more than the fruit. I did take my own lunch, so didn’t fall into the trap of ordering from the menu at the cafe.
  • A couple of days after that workshop I came down with the worst case of the flu I think I’ve ever had. I was pretty much out of action for 2 weeks, but only off my food for the first few days. After that I craved comfort foods: chocolate, toast with butter and jam (Maggie Beer’s Burnt Fig Jam), chocolate, toast with butter and vegemite, chocolate…you get the idea.
  • Since recovering from the flu I’ve tried (and mostly succeeded) to cut back on the toast with not-so-good toppings, but I’m still eating too much chocolate; or more specifically, too many snickers bars – they are a current weakness. I do also have a fondness for Green & Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate 100g which I tell myself isn’t so bad because I only eat small amounts.

 

So I might not have had as much success on 12WBT as I could have but I’m not too disappointed with my results. I lost 4.6kg (that’s 7% weight loss) and nearly 6kg since the end of March. I haven’t taken new measurements or an after photo. I may do those things later today. The photos won’t be published on the blog, though.

The dog training course is going along fairly well. The first couple of days at the Melbourne workshop were a disaster. I really thought I was wasting my time and (not a small amount of) money. The trainer was terrible and she not only gave us incorrect information, but she failed to set us up properly for training we had to complete as a group through the week. She was more interested in telling us about her family and her life with dogs than training us properly. The poor dog she had with her was terrified of putting a paw out of place. The trainer was proud of the fact that she shows her dogs no affection. Luckily things improved from there on with some really exceptional trainers who made the whole experience really worthwhile.

Skatergirl Jet

Skatergirl Jet

I’ve been having a great time training Anzac and Jet. I have some training I have to complete (and video) for a couple of the units in the course, but the dogs are loving training so much that I’m throwing a few other tricks in as well. Truth be told, I’m loving the training as well so I’m much more focussed on doing that part of the course than completing the theory components and working on the reports and assignments. I do need to find a dog to train in targeting. That’s the first practical (videoed) task that I’ll have to submit. We’re supposed to train a dog that hasn’t been taught to target before, though I could train a different type of targeting than what my dogs know. I must admit I haven’t done much targeting at all with Jet so I could probably work with her for that one.

Princess Jet

Princess Jet

I’m keeping a dog training diary over at Walking With Dogs if you’re interested in reading what I’m up to or seeing some video of our training sessions.

Sleeping after a hard doggy day

Sleeping after a hard doggy day

The next workshop for the course will be held in October so I’ll be back in Melbourne for that, and will probably spend a few days in Geelong as well.

The tai chi worksop was great. It was actually two workshops, each two days long, run one after the other. One of Dr Paul Lam’s Master Trainers came over from Melbourne to teach the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Osteoporosis instructor courses. I’m going to be teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis for Arthritis & Osteoporosis W.A. I’m all booked to start a class in the marquee at Leapfrogs Cafe in Wanneroo in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll get the numbers I need to make a go of it. I’m hoping there’ll be an article in the local community newspaper this week.

The Master Trainer who conducted the Perth workshops is holding a Tai Chi for Diabetes workshop in Melbourne the weekend before my next dog training workshop so I’ll go over a week early to attend that. I’ll also have time to do friend and family catch-ups in the few days between the workshops while I’m over there.

In other news I’m on a continuing quest to find out why I have so much pain in my right shoulder. An injection into the swollen bursa did nothing to alleviate the pain, so I’ve been to see an orthopedic surgeon who has sent me for x-rays and two MRIs and has now ordered another ultrasound-guided steroid injection – this time into the glenohumeral joint. He’s still uncertain about the cause of the pain, so this is a bit of a trial. I have to keep a pain diary after this injection. I also have an appointment with a rheumatologist to investigate the cause of my various arthritis’ (in the words of my G.P.), particularly the pain I have on waking. The shoulder pain may or may not be related.

Run rabbit run…

We’re seriously considering moving the dogs to a BARF (bones and raw food) diet. I’m currently reading Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life by Dr Ian Billinghurst.

Give your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst

Our dogs get quite a few raw meaty bones already, though not as many as recommended. They are fed primarily dry, kibble type dog food with some pre-packaged meatballs and some veggies and fruit – oh, they do love their fruit.

I went out and bought some of Dr B’s patties and some chicken wings today. I also thought I might see if the butcher had any rabbits. Boy, was I in for a shock! When did rabbits become gourmet game meat? $32 for a rabbit! Am I really showing my age by remembering when you couldn’t even find rabbits because the butchers couldn’t give them away? I think the pups can skip the rabbit for now.

For more info on Dr Billinghurst and the BARF diet: BARF Australia

Walking with dogs…

This morning we had a great walk along the Burns Beach track. Anzac, Jet and I always enjoy the walk but today was extra special. We left home a bit later (after we dropped Stephen at the station) so we weren’t under any time pressure and could walk further than usual. For the first half of our walk there was good cloud cover so that helped as well.

Jet was especially good this morning. Because we were later there were none of her normal little antagonists – those pups who make snuffly noises as they walk and try to rush towards her, which literally gets her hackles up (you should see that; I must try to get a photo). She reacts badly to dogs who approach her too enthusiastically and has a specific couple she’s really developed a dislike for. She ignored all dogs this morning and just enjoyed her walk. I was careful not to put pressure on her lead and, by doing that, give her a signal that she might need to be worried about an approaching dog. I’m afraid I might have been sending her the wrong signals with some dogs.

Jet was also particularly good with the bikes this morning. She really dislike bikes, or should I say spinning bike wheels, which she knows are coming when she sees a bike approaching. It’s only the moving ones that need to be snapped at and need rounding up. I’ve been noticing a positive improvement with bikes coming from behind for a while now, ‘specially those whose riders ring their warning bell. On Friday Jet ignored all bikes from behind. Today, while she didn’t ignore them, she also left all oncoming bikes to go past without being snapped at. With each bike she saw she moved off the path beside me and looked up at me, waiting. I’ve been rewarding her with a treat after the bike goes past and it seems she’s finally put two and two together.

Thanks go to the Haltie collar (which has given me so much more control and made our walks pleasant again), Kim at DoggieWould Training for her great training tips and advice and to the obviously yummy ZiwiPeak Good Dog Treats from AYM Pet Supplies and More that were in our prize bags from the DoggieWould Christmas party. I’ll definitely be getting more of those!

Now, if only I could stop Anzac from wanting to sniff every post, bush and mark on the path along the way! And where did he get the idea that it’s acceptable to lift his leg on so many of those posts and bushes? I know he doesn’t need to wee that often. Boy dogs! Hrmph!

Anzac and Jet resting

Anzac and Jet resting after this morning’s walk