Paper Aeroplanes

Last Friday I went to a Ben Fold’s concert with my partner. It’s the fourth or fifth one we’ve been to together, and it was a wonderful experience as always. I am always so charmed by how Ben engages with his audience, loves that we love the songs, loves that we want to sing along, and gives us opportunities to do so. It’s a real joy.

One of the songs he sung was ‘You don’t know me’ and the crowd sung the Regina Spektor portion. It was an incredible feeling, especially as someone who has a poor singing voice and avoids singing in public. It was the last song before intermission and I walked out on a true high.

The show is called the ‘Paper Aeroplane tour’ because at intermission paper and pens were handed out so people could write song requests and fold them into paper planes. We were then given a cue and the planes were flung at the stage (with mixed success). It was a real sight to see and I teared up as I realised that every single plane flying through the air contained a song that was important to someone. One of the requests was ‘One Angry Dwarf’ which was the first Ben Folds Five song I ever heard and it made me think about how these songs have been with me through so many life events, through so many versions of myself. A wonderful, joyous, melancholy feeling.

Apparently I’d have to upgrade to a premium plan to include video in this post so instead here’s a link to the video I posted to instagram of the planes being flung. I’m not paying $10 a month to upload this crappy video are you kidding me?


Party like it’s 2005

Five days ago I deactivated my Facebook, and deleted Instagram and Snapchat off my phone.

I want to be clear – I’m not against social media. I LOVE social media. It has brought me many new friends and deepens existing connections and I’m so grateful for those things. That said, I was definitely stuck in unhealthy habits where every spare second was spend flicking through apps where no one had published anything since ten minutes ago when I last flicked through. I was using it as displacement, and while that started out as a genuinely useful coping mechanism when I was exhausted and depressed in winter, now it was holding me back from relearning how to be in my own head.

So it’s only been four days but it feels way longer. The thing I wasn’t expecting is how many times a day I run things through the ‘should I post about this’ filter. Would what I’m seeing now make a good snap, a good Instagram post, a status message on Facebook? Who should I tell about this? The right answer for me, almost always, is ‘no one’. But I was still running that filter. It’s incredible how much brain time I’ve freed up by not running it.

I was thinking I’d be back on Instagram next week but I think I’m gonna leave it longer. It had started to stress me out and feel like an obligation, which is just ridiculous. But I can tell I’ll start to miss seeing what’s going on in my friends lives, so I will be back. Not sure about Snapchat. I really only miss updates from one or two people and I’m not sure it’s worth the brain load. And I am going to try to work out a way to use Facebook purely as a node for event invitations and messages. Mute everyone I guess. I have to make it annoying to casually look at stuff otherwise I know I’ll go back even though I know it stresses me out. Work with my poor impulse control rather than against it.

In the meantime I’ll slowly going through and deleting games and apps from my phone, too. To be honest I miss the days when my music and podcast device only did that, and my phone and games devices were separate. So I’m trying to replicate that a bit. Go back to 2005 when I got my first iPod and started listening to podcasts, when hey were fresh and new and almost all about tech. How times have changed! (Mostly for the better).

The struggle I’m finding is that there are REASONS I use social media like this. I have a long commute. My work is hectic but with short lulls in it where an Instagram break is honestly genuinely refreshing. I am struggling to find other behaviours to replace my phone use in those periods. We’ll see if I come up with something while the hiatus continues – if not I might have to set up rules for myself like ‘do whatever you like on the train but no checking when at home’ which I used to do, mostly successfully, but had fallen by the wayside. Bad habits.

Have any of you had social media breaks, or quit entirely? Why did you do it? How do you manage your use of your phone so it works with your life instead of against it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Time off in August

August is traditionally quite hard for me – it’s cold and dark and I struggle. By September things turn a corner but in August I have to work quite hard to notice the little beautiful things that make life rich and good. Luckily there were a tonne of glorious sunsets like this one to help with that.


I took a couple of weeks off work at the start of the month. I spent a lot of it resting because I needed to deal with some of the stress that I’d accreted from the last nine months or so of work which have just been stupidly busy and understaffed. But I also did some things like making marmalade and lemon curd with lemons from a friend’s tree.


Remind me to post my favourite lemon curd recipe some time.


I also spent some quality time just being, sitting in the garden and soaking it in. It’s nesting time for the crows so there’s lots of territory shenanigans going on which are a delight to watch.


I also uncovered our water meter which had completely been taken over by Kikuyu grass. Then we mulched the front yard but I didn’t manage to take any photos of that apparently. So now we officially have no lawn, unless you count the nature strip which I don’t vacate mowing it is S’s job. I’m so thrilled to have no grass.

And I spent a lot of time at the beach. Still too cold to get my toes wet but it’s never too cold to find interesting rocks and soak up the sea air. This included going to Glenelg for gluten free fish and chips, which we ate by the sea. To be honest, I find the suburb a bit creepy in a stepford wives kind of way – while we were waiting for our meal I witnessed someone sweeping their street parking spot free of leaves. But hey, I’m there for the hipster gluten free cafe so really I can’t be complaining about the tone of things, can I? Steven fed his chips to the seagulls by holding them in the air and letting them grab them from his fingers, which he loves to do (I hate it). We were then mobbed by them which vindicated my hatred of this activity. He’s now agreed to only do this as we are leaving a location.


And I found many cool rocks at my own beach, including this hag stone. The story goes, if you find a stone with a hole in it, and you look through it, you can see past glamour, and spy any fae folk who may be hanging around. I have yet to spot any, but this hagstone is a rock with fossils in it so surely it will be extra effective.






August through september


Last weekend was the first few days of spring. We spent the Sunday in a traditional spring ritual of being rained on at the Adelaide show. Typically, for show weather, the Saturday was absolutely glorious – sunny and warm and bright. I got a burst of energy and spent some time in the garden, tidying up.


I pulled out out weeds and spent plants, although I forgot to take before photos. Trust me when I say this is an impressive after.


I tied up the broad beans that are falling over in the wind. I draped drooping peas over their trellises – once again I have not had success with peas. Too windy I think. Maybe when my trees are more grown. And I pruned the parsley and the yarrow right down to nothing. They’ll spring back.


I sewed seeds for greens of all sorts in the newly blank spots, and snuck a few potatoes in too.


I soent some some time admiring the lush growth of winter, and trying to capture the first blossom on the nectarine tree with limited, fuzzy success.


I pulled some weed nettles and hung them to dry, for tea.


I went nuts on the golden passion fruit. Last summer it got water stressed with the result that it’s suckering like crazy and, once it got enough water again, grew all anyhow. So I pulled it back so I could train it properly. It’s been troublesome so I’m not sure it will make it but we’ll see.


I worked on a long term project of clearing out the stones around the citrus. When we moved in this bed was canna lillies and white stones for mulch.


We’ve recently pulled the lillies out for good as they were crowding the citrus. I only left them as long as I did because he native nectar eating birds loved them. Now I’m working on moving the stones to somewhere more useful, where they won’t choke the shallow roots of the citrus trees.


And most importantly of all, I spent some time just being, admiring the colours of the dill and the silverbeet, listening to the crowd squabble over territory and resting my fingers gently on the dirt. What a joy is a garden!


Winter morning

This morning everything was crisp and beautiful after a rainshower, and I couldn’t resist dawdling in the garden. The raindrops on the washing line looked like fairy lights.


The self seeded buckwheat seedlings looked like love hearts.DSC_0471.JPG


And the yarrow was bright and inviting.


May we all have many more mornings like this one.


Changing season

Technically it’s the last month of autumn and winter is just around the corner, but I feel like autumn has only just started gaining momentum in the last few weeks. We’re drifting slowly from mild days to crisp mornings, and the leaves are turning.


It’s our third autumn in this house and I was delighted this morning to see my favourite autumn colour pallette on the way to the train. This sight always stops me in my tracks, the dusty blue green of the pigface against the scattered orange leaves.


I went in to work a bit later than usual, too, and got the best of the morning, me and the birds. Perfect weather for listening to the magpies sitting on the top of the lamps and practicing their territory warbles. The crows were in fine form, mucking about in the trees and getting back at the Noisy Miner birds who harrass them. And the Rosellas were all over, just charmingly chirping to each other in the treetops as they ate nectar from the native trees. The call of Rosellas makes me think so forcibly of autumn, because they loved the apple trees we had in my childhood home and would feast on them. The apples were self seeded and very bitter so if all we got was a crop of Rosellas, we were very happy!


The trees at the station are turning too. I think these are Black Locusts, and quite weedy, but they are very charming in the morning light.


I’m not at all reconciled to the idea of winter, and I’m not looking forward to the bare trees. But I’m enjoying the turning season while it lasts.

IMG_1358.JPGWhat do the changing seasons look like where you are?


Autumn flush

The biggest problem I have in my garden is heat. Too much of it! That makes this time of year the best time for the garden. It’s finally cool enough and wet enough for things to thrive. Unfortunately it’s also the time of year when I start having less access to the garden – it’s dark when I get home and I have limited daylight on the weekends to do things in. Plus I’ve been on and off sick for a month because of winter germs. And so I accidentally grew a bunch of ‘microgreens’.

Please excuse the shitty iPhone snaps  I took these this morning as I was pottering around making myself late for work. If I hold out for proper photos it’ll never happen. These are all self sewn silverbeet from summer’s crop that went to seed. Interestingly it looks like only the red ones are growing – the seed packet is ‘five colour silverbeet’ and are meant to be red, orange, yellow, pink or white. The first generation I seem to get mostly red, some yellow, and a few stray white and orange. Second generation appears to be mostly red with the occasional yellow. Third generation almost all red. I wonder why? Any silverbeet experts out there have theories about what properties go with what colours?


I put pea straw down about a month ago and accidentally grew a crop of peashoots. I’ve been meaning to harvest them to have in stir fries or anywhere you would use baby spinach, which is my favourite thing to do with them. But if you leave them too long the get tough – and you can see I’ve left them too long. So this morning I pulled them and laid them down as extra mulch


The most annoying thing is that I tried growing tomatoes this summer and they didn’t do great  it was just too hot and they lingered on and never produced much. Enough though to self seed! These tiny toms have no future because it’s too cold but they are so perfect and healthy I can’t bring myself to pull them yet.


There’s also a circurbit of some kind growing in the middle of the garden path from a stray seed that I forgot to take a snap of and I think those are eggplants in the corner?

I also have plenty of self seeded brassicas I’m not sure what these are. What I planted last year was sprouting broccoli – but from seeds a friend had given me some years ago. To be honest I think they might be a hybrid broccoli/kale effort. Certainly we found the leaves to be delicious (sweeter than the kale I grew next to it!) and ate both leaves and stalks. Here they are in October 2015:

I like this versatile vegetable and would be happy to have more of it but who knows what these seeds will grow into. The ones in my garden now are from summers sad crop which didn’t do too much because it was too hot, so we’ll see.


I also have a seed tray of deliberately planted seedlings that will need to be transplanted soon, so I’d better clear some space! I think these will end up in salads and stir fries as ‘micro greens’ – I hate that term  it sounds like some trendy person thinks they invented eating surplus seedlings when it’s just how gardeners and peasants have done things since forever. Well, whatever you call them, they are delicious!

Washing the tamarillo

I’ve been a bit stymied since moving all my gardening posts over here. I’ve been feeling the need to do a big catchup post and not having the energy or the oomph for it. Besides, those big update posts are boring both to read and write, and don’t really convey what a garden IS, in the end. I’ve also been feeling the need to explain and justify this blog – but who cares? It’s a blog, it’s my blog, it can be whatever it is.  Maybe, like a garden, I have to just start, and see how it grows.


So instead I’m going to tell you about how tonight it was such a lovely evening that I couldn’t bear to stay inside, so I went out and I washed the tamarillo.

The above photo, and the next few, shows the tamarillo in mid January.


It’s planted between a mango and an avocado, and to be honest it’s a bit of a sacrificial tree. The idea is that it would grow fast and provide a bit of shelter to the other trees. The avo as you can see is still shrouded in its shadecloth and only starting to find its feet – but that’s a story for another time. This time is about the tamarillo.

You can see above it’s leaning and we’ve had to prop it up – with a very professional rig. We only do things professionally and neatly around here (ha!). This happened to the last tamarillo I had, in my last house – which tree we tried to brace with stakes and ties, but eventually collapsed totally.  This appears to be the only photo I have of it, before it started leaning:

My diagnosis of this is that they are a large-crowned plant with a comparatively small root ball. In both cases I didn’t water enough in the months after planting, so I suspect neither of them developed a large enough root system. This time I decided to give in and prop it up, despite it sprouting a bunch of leaves at the base, I suspect so that it could grow upright again after it collapsed.


Probably I should clip those off, but they just look so happy to be there that I can’t quite bring myself to do it.

I’m not expecting it to live long, so it doesn’t matter if it’s totally dependent on the prop. About five years is the average, I hear. By that time I hope that the avo and the mango will have mostly filled that space, but perhaps I’ll get another tamarillo to be understory, if we like the fruit enough.


In January it was just starting to fruit. And it was also starting to get aphids.


Just a few. Not many. I sprayed it with a detergent solution a couple of times and it seemed to do the trick. Cut to a month later when I’ve not been paying much attention to it, and it was pretty infested. I didn’t get any closeups of it (I didn’t know I was going to blog today) but you can see the difference even from a distance:


Much barer, much yellower. I think that it gets heat and water stressed pretty easily. After all, it’s an understory rainforest plant, and here it’s hot and dry and gets baking afternoon sun and salt spray. Not very kind to the poor tree, and it’s doing a very good job considering. I do try to water it often but it’s on the same watering system as the other fruit trees so I sort of have to average out their needs. And the tamarillo is the lowest priority for care, poor thing.

Anyhow, I’ve given it a couple more goings over with soap and water in the spray bottle but it’s got aphids on basically every leaf so it’s hard to get them all. Besides, there are ladybugs starting to be attracted to it and I didn’t want to get them too.

So tonight, I came home from work and watered the garden. It was a hot day and it’s going to be even hotter tomorrow – high of 37C this whole week in fact. But it was lovely in the garden with the hose out, and I just couldn’t bear to go back inside. I put the sprinkler on the jasmine up the back behind the tamarillo, and I remembered that  I’d read somewhere, some time, that an effective treatment for aphids is just to blast them off with water. And so, I turned the hose up real high, and I washed the tamarillo.



It was lovely. I got splashed, and cooled, and my feet in my thongs got wet, and my head got dripped on as I bent down to turn the leaves below. I touched almost every leaf as I blasted the aphids off, and spent some quality time with the tree, and I got the feeling it liked it. Almost like being at home in the rainforest!

I think this would be a fun activity to do with a kid. Very sensory and tactile. I know a water-loving 5 year old that would be ALL about this gardening job, although he might be sad that we’re ‘making the aphids dead’.


I didn’t get every leaf. The long hose was plugged in to the sprinkler, and the short hose didn’t reach the very back. That’s ok, that’s where the ladybugs are. I counted three. I’d be ok with some aphids always if it also meant some ladybugs always.

Unfortunately I think some of the fruit is burnt – at least, I think that’s what it is. The position seems about right. Anyone more expert than me know what it is and if I should be doing something about it?


That’s ok. There’s plenty that’s still fine, and fruit isn’t the primary job of this tree anyway, they’re a side benefit.


As I turned over every leaf I was reminded of a conversation with my aunt where she complained about her tamarillo being similarly infested. ‘But why’ she lamented ‘do they have to all be on the backside? They’re so hard to get to!’ Nature is wily and mysterious that way…


I think washing the tamarillo might go on my regular roster of garden tasks, even if there are no aphids. Even if it’s just for fun.

Wicking beds, stained

The other day I decided now was the time to stain the garden beds. There’s nothing edible growing in them (The zucchini has all but had it) and they were looking a bit grey and sad. I decided I’d stain them with linseed oil. I bought the pre-mixed ‘anti mould’ stuff that is 65% turps. You have to mix it with turps anyway, to get it to sink it. Boy did it stink! But the beds look great. It’s subtle but they are much richer in colour, and feel smoother.

Here is the bed before:


And after:


Stained bed in foreground, unstained behind.

I did two coats on all of them, and I think the ends of the logs and the sides that get the most weather could probably do with another. You could practically hear the wood soaking in the oil.







I’d like to get in and do one more coat before winter sets in, because they’re still a bit dry. I really enjoyed spending some time out there, getting up close and personal with the beds. It’s a good opportunity to check in and find any issues with them. I think an annual stain will have to go on the calendar!

Stand alone drip irrigation system

As I’ve mentioned before, the beds with the trees in them are a good way from any tap, and basically all the surrounding areas are walkways. I wanted to put in a watering system but I didn’t want to do too much digging, as all those areas are still in flux. Maybe one day I’ll put a more permanent one in. For now, I decided I’d pop in a stand alone system that I could connect up to that regular garden hose. The downside of this is it’s pretty susceptible to getting dirt in the system – I don’t expect this to last more than a couple of years, for that reason.

This post is mostly for my own reference on what bits I used, but it might be useful to someone else, who knows? Please don’t use this as a how to run irrigation if you’ve never done it before. There are HEAPS of good resources on the net for understanding the requirements of irrigation, and the hows and whys, and you should get across that stuff first. Here’s a good example, and here. But maybe it will give someone an idea of what’s possible for a simple system. You don’t have to have a complex, multi-tiered system to benefit from irrigation. This whole set up cost me just over $50 – well ok that’s cheating, I already had some of the bits. Let’s say $100 for two duplicate systems, watering six trees total. And it’s going to let me water my trees deeply and thoroughly while saving me effort and water. It’ll probably pay for itself within the year. I bought everything at Bunnings, and it’s all really standard stuff.

If you are creating a system like this, as well as the parts specified you will also need something to cut the pipe (I just used regular scissors but it’s probably worth buying a proper cutter because the scissors give dodgy edges), poly pipe clamps to keep the connections secure, a hole punch for connecting in the 4mm bits (you can do without but it’s a pain, just buy the three dollar thingo) and probably some cable ties. You should probably just stock up on cable ties anyway. They are handy as. It’s also not a bad idea to have these repairers for if you make a mistake or want to move where your watering bits are.

The photos aren’t really very descriptive, unfortunately, because it all just looks like a black tube with another black tube. So I drew this very precise and professional outline:


Here is the start of the system. In order to limit dirt entering the system, I bought a hose to 19mm connector. I connected it to a bit of 19mm poly pipe and clamped it off with a cable tie. I could have used an end cap but I didn’t. Cable ties work fine, especially since no actual water will be going through this bit. I’ve used cable ties to end off a system and they’re fine but you do have to check them regularly to make sure they haven’t atrophied and slipped off and you’re pouring water onto the garden and the first time you know about it is when you get a water bill that’s 5 times what it usually is. Ask me how I know.

Anyway, this goes on the end of the system when the hose is elsewhere, closing it off. It’s on the right in the next photo, sorry it’s not very clear.



The start of the system is an adapter piece which was about $2:


This attaches to the water filter/pressure regulator. You can buy these all in one, just make sure you get the right size – 19mm or 13mm. My system is 19mm because I already had that size poly pipe but really it only needs 13mm, because it’s short and simple. If you’ve got a more complex system with different levels or lots of things coming off it, you’ll need 19mm to get enough pressure. Again, do your reading.

The filter/pressure regulators are sold with the bit at the top of a size to screw on to a regular tap fitting, but it’s actually got a sort of double head – you can screw the tap fitting bit off and then you’ve got a bit that fits around smaller pieces, like this clip on bit. Test this out when you’re buying stuff, before you walk away from the aisle check that everything you need to connect does actually connect. If it doesn’t I guarantee you you’ll be able to buy a $2 adapter to make them fit – its just much less annoying to figure this out the first trip.


So, so far we have: hose clip bit (idk what that’s called?) is attached to the filter/pressure regulator. All systems should have the pressure regulator/filter on them. They’re about $12. The other end of the filter has a bit to fit into poly pipe, so it goes in that. Don’t forget to put the clamp around the poly before you shove it in there – without the clamp the first time you turn the system on it’s going to shoot apart. I just used the plastic clamps, they’re fine. I used them in my old system and they lasted five years, no worries. You’ll note that I forgot the clamp on this one and it did in fact go shooting off. Popped a clamp on and it was fine.

Then you lay the pipe the length of the system, and you pop an end cap in, with a clamp around it. That’s the basis of your super basic system. You’ve got a water delivery pipeline running the length of your bed that you can attach things into.


You can’t really see the end cap cos it’s in shadow but it’s there. Promise.

Next bit is to actually put the watering bits in!


My watering bits are these spectrum jets. I chose them because they distribute water over a large area (you can screw the cap on tighter or looser to adjust how much) and I want to establish a good root zone for my trees so I figure that’ll do it better than a dripper. I am not an expert so maybe this is the wrong choice. It’s the one I went with. These jets come with an attachment piece provided, so if you’re using them you don’t need to buy any connectors, you’ll just need the tube to connect the poly to where you want the watering action. Cut a generous length, connect it to the jet, connect the other end to the attachment provided, pop that in the poly pipe, you’re done. You can also, of course, buy drippers and sprinklers that come straight off the poly pipe, but I like being able to place them precisely where I want without wrestling with the poly pipe, which I find never sits in place. Give yourself more length than you think you need with the 4mm tube, better to have more give than not enough.

I ALSO have dripper tube on some of my trees. I had this on hand and I put it in and then it wasn’t dripping well. I figured it was maybe clogged up with dirt, being about 7 years old and having lain on the ground for most of that. So I replaced it with the spectrum jets but since it’s a short system and I don’t have to worry about pressure, I left it in.


But then the spectrum jets also weren’t working very well! With a bit of mucking around and to-ing and fro-ing and exchanging of parts, I worked out that the issue was the pressure regulator. If I turned the tap up high enough to give enough pressure to the drippers, the pressure regulator was spitting out a fountain of water. I neglected to get a photo of this but it was pretty impressive. So I went back to Bunnos and got a stand-alone pressure regulator. They come in 100kPa and 300kPa – the one that comes with the filter is 200kPa. Not being totally across all of that, I went for 300kPa, and that seems to be doing the job just fine. Now everything works as it’s supposed to. I have had that experience with a pressure regulator in that past, and didn’t realise it was a problem with the regulator and not something I’d done wrong. It leads me to suspect it is not an uncommon problem. I wish I’d kept the receipt, I’d have taken it back.


All in one filter and regulator, and the replacement in front


All the bits come apart. Filter on the right, the pressure regulator that comes with it top left, new one bottom left.

And that’s it! A simple system, and my trees are not finally getting enough water. They look very pleased about it, too.