Our New Year Plymouth Rocks

We have been wanting to add to our Plymouth Rock chicken family and so a few days ago, just after the business of Christmas ended, Colin and I took off in the old ute to collect our four new additions. We had to travel two hours to Elmore and City Chicks who had just what we were looking for.

20130101-222059.jpg After taking a wrong turn we arrived at City Chicks.

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Gorgeous wide open space just out of Bendigo.
There were hundreds to lovey chicks to choose from including a platinum Sussex, very special. But we had our eyes in some dark or light barred Plymouth Rocks and Jane, who runs City Chicks was more than helpful in our endeavour.

20130101-222350.jpg I wanted one of each!

20130101-222447.jpg The platinum Sussex.

20130101-222530.jpg Our four new additions are twelve weeks old and still a little too young to join the big girls.

20130101-222652.jpg Very cute!

20130101-222754.jpg The new chicken house has been introduced to the old girls but this will have to wait for another post after we lay some new hay!

20130101-223119.jpg Meanwhile our little chickens (two boys and two girls) have been kept separate in their new hutch and little run. The weather has been superb, warm days and cool nights. They have been eating lots of kitchen scraps as well as their special gritty meal. We can see them growing right before our very eyes. Happy New Year everyone!

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Pecker’s Christmas Present

With Christmas well and truly out of the way, it’s back to the garden and the chicken house. Our Christmas was wonderful with family and friends gathered together. Daughter Number One came down from the sub- tropics to join us and brought with her a delightful bronze rooster. We consumed too much lunch and lots of sweets.

20121226-155139.jpg I tried my hand at gingerbread stars!

20121226-155238.jpg A selection of sweets – I have such a “sweet tooth” – Mango and Passionfruit Pavlova, Summer Pudding, Chocolate Pear Tart, fresh fruit and a delicious Plum Pudding with Brandy Custard were served. The chickens didn’t have too many of these leftovers!
One of my early gifts this Christmas was from Daughter Number Two (I am not much into gifts really) but this was a garden rooster in memory of Pecker who died six weeks ago – a Sad Day post. He is made of tin and shows off fancy tail feathers. He came wrapped in a hessian blanket – just like the one we placed over Pecker to keep him warm.

20121226-160216.jpg He now sits on my winter wood heater.

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I guess the most enjoyable part of Christmas is in the giving. I loved giving goodies from my kitchen to my neighbours…

20121226-161459.jpg I made these to celebrate each of our little houses in the bush.
I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. It can bring out the best and the worst in people but it really is a time to stop and take stock of those who are with us and those who have gone before us. This year many of us have been touched in one way or another by loss – for us it was our beloved rooster Pecker. But we cannot be untouched by the unspeakable losses in Connecticut just before Christmas. We must mourn for these poor souls and for their families. Additionally, we must also care for our animals, our elderly, our earth and our selves. Above all else let us try to reflect on what is most important to us as humans, as stewards of our earth.

20121226-164126.jpg May we use the tools of our hands to benefit others and bring joy and warmth. Pecker’s Christmas Present is for all those who commemorate the simple life and for those who have left our lives but whom we remember with much joy.

Love / Hate Relationship

It’s been a gruelling few days. My arms ache, my legs ache and when I close my eyes I see WEEDS, WEEDS and more weeds. Our garden is quite large and the recent heavy rain and heat has encouraged everything to grow a trillion times over. But what has really made my job arduous is the ivy.
I HATE IVY. Now you will never, ever read that I hate anything – I am quite accepting, especially when it comes to nature. However, over the last ten days since I returned from the sub tropics I have given myself the task of working the garden for at least two hours a day. As I can never stop myself I often spend five or six hours out there with the cats and chickens and, yes of course, the ivy. Here is what I have to contend with…..

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A little climbing ivy!

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A variegated variety!

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Some pretty ivy…

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And then there’s the ground cover ivy….

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So, it’s this type of ground covering ivy that I am tackling – and really, to no avail. So, I have decided to not despise it but look at ways go admire and embrace its potential. Just like many things in life which are beyond our control, the ivy now for me represents steadfastness, determination and survival. It is more than just an out of control aspect of the garden. Delving into historical representations of ivy I found that it was a symbol of royalty, often woven as crowns for gods in Greek and Roman mythology. Bacchus wore a crown of ivy and of course Yuletide decorations included English Ivy in and around country households – fireplaces, candles, wreaths and, of course, to decorate the Yule log itself. In matters of love, ivy is symbolic of fidelity and constancy.

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I guess then I am looking at ivy for its potential – what it can give back to us. Yesterday, while we attended a Christmas function at the historic 1850’s homestead in Eynesbury, I couldn’t help but notice the controlled ivy feature…

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Yes, now I see its beauty and potential – sometimes we have to look at challenges in other ways. In the greater scheme of things, the ivy is part of the garden – tame it or tolerate it – but I now choose to turn it into an asset – with a little guiding hand, of course. Do I now love ivy? Let’s say, I have chosen to use it to my advantage. Have you ever had to look at challenges in creative ways? Enjoy the Yuletide preparations.

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Inside The New Chicken House

Today we are close to completing the interior of the little blue, chicken house. I can now stand inside and look out of the three little windows which are lined with fly screening. The chicken house is nestled under large trees and therefore is really cool inside given that today’s temperature has just reached 36 degrees! The little house is what I imagine a Virginian cabin in the woods would seem like – will have to revisit “The Waltons”!

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Colin decided to create multi storied levels for the girls including an attic. They really love to climb upwards. The orange chicken tubs are secured in place on a ledge. Houdini chicken has already tried them out – maybe she likes the colour! We still have a few more things to do like lay some rubberised matting on the wood floor and some straw for the nesting boxes and find a way for them to climb up to the attic – maybe a walkway to the roosting area. I welcome you thoughts and any ideas we might be able to incorporate. Let’s hope we can finish it for Christmas!

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The Peony Farm

Having just arrived back from the sub-tropics, I was reminded that some plants are unique to the colder climates. One such beautiful specimen is the peony. No sooner had I got back last weekend that I recalled I promised to go to the peony farm with our neighbour, Alex. We packed our baskets, secateurs and hats and headed for Spring Hill Peony Farm Open Day. Colin was our patient and appropriately attired driver – the pink shirt was a fluke!

Peonies really are a most superb flower and indeed an ancient one. They are revered in China and I have recently read on a site call “Peony Passions” that peonies are the traditional flower for a 12th wedding anniversary and also the floral emblem of Indiana! They come in various shades of pink and white. Our garden has two little plants, one of which has only flowered once- a stunning yellow specimen but it resides under the shade of large overhanging trees which might explain why it hasn’t flowered the last few years.

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The growing conditions for peonies require cold and an open sunny position. As you can see by this field it is in an exposed, open area and quite rough really but the peonies are very happy indeed.

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20121201-095011.jpg We came away with twenty stems for twenty dollars and they after a delight to behold.

The farm also boasted an old church which could be used for small weddings. Here’s the pink shirt followed by the delights of picking peonies!

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20121201-231413.jpg I arranged my collection in vases on the back deck. I guess I will have to move the two little plants which I have in the garden into a sunny spot if I am to achieve anything as brilliant as this.

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Happy gardening and dreaming – if you are on the other side of the world, remember that winter brings its own joys and treasures. For me, it will be back into the garden for lots more weeding, raking and burning off prior to the fire season. Isn’t nature remarkable. Enjoy every day in your garden.

Mango Trees and Monkees

It is always with mixed feelings that I return to my hometown in the sub-tropics. Queensland is a vast and varied State. The length of its coastline is nearly 7000 km and it is a place of great contrasts. From the densely populated South East corner to the Outback and the Tropical North, it can be both beautiful and treacherous. Growing up in the decade which spanned the end of 1960’s and start of the 1970’s was like this too – filled with exciting new music coupled with the treachery of so many lives sacrificed to a war in another tropical place. For me, the twelve year old, it was indeed time spent swinging from the mango tree listening to The Monkees (pardon the pun) – not for any deep and meaningful reason but simply to be swept up in the mass hysteria that new wave American music was to produce.

Now, forty years later the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel “My Little Town” resonate with me when I come back here. I really did grow up “believing God kept his eye on us all” or was it simply “daydream believing”. The mango tree is gone and so too is Davey Jones but the heat, humidity, bougainvilleas, frangipanis and the little house on the hilly road are still going strong.

20121122-220017.jpg Imagine walking up this hill to school! It’s not called Red Hill for nothing. Check out the handrail!

20121124-171204.jpg My week here has been very pleasant indeed catching up with family and friends and experiencing some cathartic moments – which will be best kept for another time and place. But you know what – there really is “no place like home”. For me that place is now – a mountain home – I can feel a John Denver song coming on! I hope you will forgive me the clichés.

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20121124-171756.jpg An unexpected heliconia.

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Today’s front yard view comes to you from deep suburbia. See you back home.

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New Chicken House Update

Chickens all around the world will be green with envy when they spot this blue and yellow chicken house on stumps. Thanks to our fantastic neighbours, family and friends, the roof finally went on with much shoving and pushing. Despite the fact that we had to unexpectedly chainsaw a large overhanging tree, the house went into place quite readily.

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20121119-173516.jpg In fact, it looks like it’s always been there nestled under the trees. It was commented that it looked like a gingerbread house in the woods; someone else said we should decorate it for Christmas – no, let’s keep it simple, please.

20121119-175008.jpg If you are interested in Christmas thoughts and musings may I recommend
http://nittygrittydirtman.wordpress.com
and his marvellous writings on the subject along with thoughts of gardens, life, community and simplicity.

We have really lost the simple pleasures of life. Indeed this little house has given us so much delight in its rustic existence; in its basic tin-tacks symbolism of a simpler time. I know that it will house chickens and that in fact it is quite grand for that purpose but it has been salvaged and given a second life – isn’t that what recycling is all about? In fact, just today I bumped into the little house’s previous owner and proclaimed its salvation. She was so pleased that she told me it had actually been their cubby house when they were little kids. They would bring their dolls and tea sets and play for hours on its blue wooden floor. Such simple pleasures remembered and revered and now, hopefully, preserved. I hope kids today still do this – perhaps they do it in a virtual world. I hope they can balance these two worlds; I hope they can sit on earth, on grass, on leaves and feel the textures and look at the sky and imagine themselves as important and have picnics, real or imaginary. That’s what life is really about, I think – simple tasks, simple times.

20121120-204159.jpg Now that the door is on, all it needs is a little coat of paint. My next post will be from the sub- tropics as I visit family and friends – watch out for frangipanis, my own childhood memories and the house in which I grew up. Here is today’s back yard deck view. Ciao.

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The Lilac Tree

In deepest darkest winter I often look out of our back windows and try to remember the lilac tree in spring. Now that it is in full bloom, it is most certainly a place of great serenity. A garden, even though it is hard work, is a place to find that peace and tranquility which is often lacking in our busy lives. As school teachers, we find the garden conducive to thoughts and ideas as well as a place of welcoming for our neighbours.

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20121112-211447.jpg The back deck overlooks this great tree.

20121112-211839.jpg We had the great privilege of meeting the woman who planted this stunning specimen. Susan was a nurse with four little children and doing it on her own without any formal horticultural experience. It was her elaborate combination of colours, scents and shapes which we tend. We are then custodians of her vision and her carefully orchestrated plan to create a place of calm.

20121112-212458.jpg I truly believe that we must devote time to nature, admiring each and every change in the garden.

20121112-212833.jpg This afternoon I spent time admiring the lilac tree from beneath its arching branches. It gave me a different perspective from each angle; it engaged all senses – it’s wonderful colour, its delightful distinctive perfume, even the currawong flew in to sing its distinctive song among its flowers!

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20121112-214035.jpg I hope you can find your own place to contemplate, even for a short time, leaving the hectic pace and place, for a moment in a garden, whether it be your own or a communal one. I leave you with today’s warming back deck sunset!

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The New Chicken House

As we continue to feel sorry for our Pecker, the Plymouth Rock rooster, we have plunged ourselves into working on the new chicken house. For many years we admired our neighbour’s little cubby which was built for their young daughters’ guinea pigs. His girls are now in their twenties and the house now has a new owner with new ideas for his garden. It was with much delight that we were informed that he no longer wanted the little house.

20121106-201451.jpg A working team was assembled to remove and reconstruct.

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20121106-202749.jpg While the workers dismantled, it was clear that somebody – me – needed to provide food for these hungry builders. The day called for a hearty spinach lasagne, a large salad and perhaps a crisp white wine. The weather is warming up quite nicely but it is still cool enough at night for a substantial meal.

20121106-203357.jpg Now we have the walls and floor stacked up like dominoes and the tin roof nestled under the lilac tree. The remaining chickens scratch and scrape round it and this afternoon’s view from the back deck summons us to dinner after a hectic day’s work.

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A Sad Day

First thing this morning we checked on Pecker, picked him up and took him into the garden; sat with him and gave him his medication. His comb was still a little blue. There was a little shiver. We returned him back to the rabbit hutch; he stood up, looked around; his gurgling seemed a little less intense. I could see him from the kitchen while I prepared breakfast. We kept the lid open so he could look out. I even thought he seemed at ease listening to the morning household noises.

It was unusual to have rooster looking at me in the kitchen. The cats wandered around, quite in their own world. Remembering the vet’s instructions, we left him quietly and went about the day’s chores. We also had to go to the airport too pick up our daughter. In all, we were happy that he was standing; was comfortable and warm – he eve began to peck at some food and began making some faint crowing noises. He would sleep until we returned and then we would take him back into the garden for another look around.

Poor Pecker was not to see his beloved garden again. Poor Pecker didn’t make it – he left us while we were gone. I began to cry. Colin wrapped him up in the red blanket which had kept him so warm two nights ago. He found an old disused worm-farm box and gently placed him in it. He buried him at the bottom of the garden near the purple irises.

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20121104-165210.jpg He was the friendliest rooster – enjoy the garden, Pecker. Our backyard view today is basked in sunshine. It is a tribute to all the pets who bring sunshine into our lives; who love us unreservedly; who make our lives rich by their constant companionship.

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