Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fan Palm and More

Now we are off work for a month and it is time for some much needed catching up in the garden. Today I bought four fan plams (Licuala ramsayi) and four giant spear lillies (Doryanthes palmerii). The Fan Palms are emergent growers, in that they survive the darkness and lack of light in the understory of the rainforest whilst they grow up to fifteen metres to emerge in the full sunlight above the canopy. The Spear Lilly is not a rainforest plant, more a local plant and will form a thicket with heavy perndulous red flower spikes as it matures.
Whilst they are small now, over the years they will provide great architectural structure and depth to the garden and of course they are natives.
The fan palm loves deep shade a moist conditions, so I have a great spot on a watercourse for it.
More soon...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Garden Ideas Australia

I apologise for the break in transmission, but as they say in the classics, life had other plans.
Here are some images I took today of the garden and the chickens - early summer, everything in full growth mode, it is a pleasure to out amongst it.  Interestingly, I took down the leaf blower I was given as a Christmas present in 2011.  Today was only the second time I have used it (I hate the bloody noise and sweeping is far more meditative) and it blew all the leaf litter off the gravel paths so it looks amazingly neat.

mini dinosaur chickens australia
Our friendly mini-dinosaurs
 The chickens are maintaining the firebreak from the bush reserve diligently, and supplying us with an abundance of eggs.  Just have to find the new hidey hole they pick every now and then before the eggs go funny - and in this heat it isn't long.
Australian Red Cedar
 I have planted nineteen or so Australian Red Cedar, and they are emerging as leggy elegant canopy builders that will offer that rainforest sun blockout over the coming years. 
They have such delicate leaf arrays and it is simply peaceful to watch them bending and bowing with the breeze.
The Backyard Platform
 The backyard platform was a new addition over the last year or so and is made from wood recycled from the front fence, so the floor has a 25 year old patina that is lovely for soft children's feet to walk on. 

More importantly, the raised element of the design spontaneously inspires children to perform "shows" - and I have spent many a weekday afternoon idly watching one of my daughters singing at the top of her voice and twirling on her toes.
Succulent Groundcover
I sourced this groundcover from the beach regeneration sites along the Merewether to Bar Beach stretch.  It is apparently a native (more on this later) and is planted along steeper erosion prone sections of the garden.  It has a spiky purple/pink flower in the sun, but just the deep green of the leaves is a welcome change to leaf litter and bare earth.

Crucially, the succulent is not palatable for the mini-dinosaurs, so they leave it alone and let it performs it's role stabilising the verges and exposed earth.

The dinosaurs at work

Thanks for staying with me, we have been busy doing other things unfortunately, but I have everything back in order and we are ready to share with you the progress in the garden.  Here's to more sharing our adventure...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cold Snap in Spring

We have experienced an unexpected cold snap and for the last week have have lower than usual temperatures. Plus a little rain.

All makes for an unusual spring and a slight reprieve for the rainforest from the full blown heat of the other week. Chickens are going fine - we have "lent" the wyandottes to a generous family friend who is looking after them until they reach a size and age where they will not be overly pecked by the established flock.

Confidently, I have been letting the birds free range everyday for the last few weeks, and they have rewarded us with brilliant yolks and generally maintaining the block.

Not to say that last week I woke after a late night shift to hear the dreaded buzz of whipper sippers and chainsaws. I ran down to the garden at merewether life and met a half dozen council employees who were clearing a seven meter fire zone between the houses and the bushland. Fine.

We have maintained the zone independently for the last seven years and it would save the council the effort. Plus we have replanted exclusively natives, and managed weed regrowth very successfully.

Keep you posted, and good luck with your gardening...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gold Laced Wyandottes

The Gold Laced Wyandotte - beautiful birds with natural camouflage
Since getting the twelve hybrid pullets in March, we have had great success in managing them and have been rewarded with dozens of eggs.

And hooking up with a local chef we have been sharing five dozen eggs with another grateful family each week.  It makes such a difference to have some help with buying feed.

Even though we have had a couple of incidents with the free rangers being attacked by dogs, things are going well and it appears the chickens themselves have adapted their foraging behaviour to make themselves less vulnerable. What they do is forage on the side of the hill so that they have greater visibility of approaching threats and are able to move to cover more quickly.

Also, my management of the lantana undergrowth offers less cover for the predators – the line of sight is improved for the chickens.

So, full of confidence and wanting to add to the flock, I was searching online for a local breeder of some of the more attractive varieties of birds.

After visiting Maitland Show earlier in the year, I identified Wyandottes as a particularly beautiful bird.

But the trouble is most breeders offer day old chicks for around $5 -$10 and the logistics of raising the birds up to the age where they can mix with the existing flock is just not realistic. I didn’t want to have to keep the chicks separately for almost four moths whilst they grew up in size.

Then I found a local breeder who had a couple of ten week old pullets and after a few calls the deal was done.

The Gold Laced Wyandotte is promoted as a great family bird with an easygoing temperament and good egg production. Plus, most importantly, it has a delicate lace effect on it’s feather edges which gives it a painted appearance.

I can’t wait to see the birds mixing with the flock and bringing some more colour. There is plenty of information about adding new chickens to and existing flock. I will give the new girls a brief introduction with the other birds, but then let the existing flock out to free range whilst the new birds can stay behind in the enclosed pen to acclimatise to their surroundings.

My main worry is that the new girls might be bullied once they go inside the night hen house and I’m not really sure what to do to protect them whilst inside. I have added extra perches and some bricks so there are plenty of roosting places, and I will restock the hay bedding so that there is as much distraction as possible.

But I have noticed in the last few weeks that the birds are showing signs of pecking each other, with bald patches and stripped quills on the nape of the necks.

Again, my inexperience shows and I am not sure whether this is entirely normal as the birds get older or if it is something more sinister.

Let’s hope again that it is all ‘just what happens’.

Photos coming soon – camera still not working.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spring in the Backyard

The first days fo spring have brought all the emerging buds out and we can't wait for the new growth to come and freshen up the bareness left from the winter.
Unfortunately, my camera is experiencing technical difficulties so I will have some images for the next post.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Winter 2012

Welcome back! We have been busy (which isn't much of an excuse) but things have been evolving at a great rate since the last post (I can't believe it's been so long!). First of all, we have lost chickens through fox attacks and to be honest, a bit of mis-management on my part. It was so simple to have free ranging birds picking through the bush that it became a bit of a routine and sure enough I was letting the chooks out everyday. But to be honest it was too easy to be letting the chooks outside and expecting them to feed themselves. And with the busy Christmas season at our business, my attention was totally elsewhere when in early December first two, then three and finally the other three went missing over a week or so. Devastated, I abandoned the whole backyard sustainability project over the summer break. I didn't even water or plant any new plants or pull weeds. It all fell into disrepair. But I did rush out and but a half dozen laying hens at top dollar ($25) and, sure enough, much to my total embarrassment, the birds were taken too. Maybe by dogs, maybe by the fox again. Anyway, things hit a sort of rock bottom and it was a real turning point. I looked out the back and saw how overgrown and how it was such a waste of land to have the whole space just feeding weeds. So we bought another dozen pullets. Young egg laying hens at 16 weeks for $14 each. I told my wife we would get 8 but I brought home a dozen. It was like things were back to normal. God they are beautiful animals to watch... Now, about ten weeks after they have settled into living at Merewether we are enjoying their fruit. We are getting 8 or more eggs everyday and the landscape is completely devoid of weeds, insects and other things. The girls are confident walking around without shoes on! So let's share some more images and daily life...
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