Sunday, June 3, 2007


My goodness work is hard work! After the bedtime routine and general tidying up it's all I can do to flop on the couch until Al chases me to bed at around 9pm. Weekends are a little different, what with the slight sleep in and time for bumbling and faffing, and today I felt positively bursting with energy. I didn't waste it either; Lu and I rushed out to the garden and set to work. Lu made flower hats for the birds, thinning the cabbage leaves for her millinary endeavours, and I finished my big job from last weekend: the new compost heap.

Compost has been a mystery to me. Every organic gardening book claims it is as easy as can be but so far in my gardening career every heap has been an abject failure, sitting brooding in the corner of the yard, defying my attempts to coax a transformation into something sweet smelling and worthy. Of course, past failures might be due in part to my disinterest in detailed instructions, particularly when they involve even the most rudimentary maths. My eyes always swept over those carbon: nitrogen ratios. Bu it turns out, there's something to them after all.

Last Sunday, after girding my loins for a good four months, I started the heap. I had gathered piles of autumn leaves and the sweepings from the chicken coop, plus a big load of horse manure. I've been engaging in brinkmanship with the weeds, letting them get big and bushy to up the nitrogen in the heap, without letting them set seed. I collected the grass clippings from the front yard and various scraps from around the place and then mixed them altogether in something approximating the right ratio. It looked lovely:

Still following instructions, today I pulled the whole mess out and tossed it back in. I've never actually taken this step before, on account of it sounding just so hard. And it is. Composting is a tiring business. The pile had settled down on itself and needed some serious pitch forking to loosen it up and send it out of the bay. But it was a pleasant place to be on a chilly Sunday morning. All those ratios work, and the pile was steaming and really quite cosy, if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind standing around in manure and muck (I find few things as satisfying). Now, it's all back in, and ready to rot down into something that will lure that cute Josh Byrne into the backyard for some down and dirty fun....

Heady with righteousness and the buzz of physical labour, I then planted some bushes to attract some birds to the yard. Sparrows flock to our place in huge numbers but recently I've noticed some shy little fellows bobbing about, and I have plans to make a home for some pretty little finches that hang around up the hill. I'm not a bird person, really, but there's something very satisfying knowing my home is a haven for those beyond my family; let's hope these kind feelings sustain me when the birds use the bushes as launching pads for their raids on the fruit trees this summer.

Until recently I had some pretty bad back problems that arose from two children in quick succession, and the general heavy lifting and juggling that is part of motherhood. The physio told me that with care and the right exercise things would evetually come good, but there's always a fear that the pain will become chronic. I'm very lucky and very thankful that it has not. Today, with the pitchfork and spade, I felt vigorous.

My own vim is echoed by that of the garden at the moment. I've always thought winter was a cold and flat time - our culture is filled with those images (which is so silly, given that so much of Australia doesn't even get frost). But my plantings are starting to look stocky and strong, pushing ahead despite - and sometimes because of - the dropping temperatures. The broad beans are up:

The cabbages are positively glowing:

These lupins, planted for green manure, are my favourite plant at the moment. Lucy broadcast them (and sneakily dumped them in some idiosyncratic spots) and they are thrusting forth all over the place.

The new plants push the seed up as they rise from the ground, so each is wearing a small helmet. They have the look of a company of soldiers, standing straight to attention, though their parade ground formations might get them some time scrubbing the latrines. A good thing they're with me, then - their lot is one of praise and admiration from their biggest and besotted fan.

Eating from the garden: some more walnuts, dropped down in the winds (next door's yard is covered with them; is it breaking and entering to hop the fence and liberate the nuts from their uncaring owners?); spinach andparsley snuck into some vegetable bread in an attempt to trick some veggies in Lucy's body; and rhubarb for breakfast.

1 comment:

VictoriaE said...

Cabbage leaves are always so beautiful to look at & yours are no exception. I hope you will be able to lure the finches into living in your backyard - I have never seen finches in the wild. The smell of compost is certainly invigorating and an unforgettable one (says she who's parents once owned a commercial worm farm and spent much time haging around the worm beds in childhood..).