Into town today to do a few things, and as usual took all day and only got some of them
done. Gradually the weather is looking better, and we're spending more time working in the
garden. It's amazing how little we seem to be doing.
More work around the house. Started assembling a water bed for Yvonne, and she went to pick up some mulch which we spread in the garden.
Also took the opportunity to bring over the remaining plants which had been waiting at Chris'
place for over two months:
Last month it hardly rained at all. We started measuring our local rainfall on 8 August.
Since then we have had 19.3 mm of rain, and there's still no significant rain in sight, and
the Bureau of Meteorology predicts less than average rainfall for our part of Victoria. So
we're thinking of installing a ground water pump (“bore”, as it's called in
Australia), especially since we're right next door to the Dereel “Lagoon” (also,
more accurately, called “swamp”), and Chris Yeardley brought by an analysis made
of her bore water which shows that the quality compares favourably with that of German mains
water: you could probably brew with it. On the other hand, the property we looked at in
Swansons Road a few months back had a bore with water obviously high in iron:
Look at the colour of the water tank on the left. Clearly there's a wide range of
Off to take a look at the community bore round the corner, with intent to get some water
from there, but it's not clear that passers-by are meant to start the pump, which looks like
it's been there for ever:
It's quite pretty, but there's just too much, and it was completely overgrown. Took the
mess over to Chris' place, where she intends to plant it round her house; I expect that she
won't have any trouble.
In the afternoon, more plans for the immediate future. The grass is maturing far too
early, and there's every chance that we'll have to mow hay before the end of the month. Where
do we put it? In the shed:
That again means that we need to put in the planned container or second shed where the
pigsties are currently, so they need demolition. Got started, but despite the flimsy
structure, pulling them apart wasn't that easy:
Summer is here! Suddenly, almost without warning, it's warm, and we were almost at the
point where we had to turn the air conditioners to “cool”. And, of course, we
have problems with water. There was supposed to be a 4 day rain period at the end of last
week; in fact, we got nearly 2 mm of rain, not enough to make any significant difference.
Roll on the bore.
Summer seems to be here already! I currently don't have an outside thermometer, but the
temperatures must have been in the high 20s, and for once I was able to use the air
conditioner in earnest.
Didn't do too much all day. As a result of the heat, had to collect a lot of water from
Chris—when will these bore diggers finally establish contact? We could really do
with them now. Also a bit of pruning; it looks as if, despite all wind, it's more comfortable
in the garden than it was in Wantadilla.
Yesterday was warm enough, but today the temperatures went up over 30°—summer
already seems to be here, and the garden isn't liking it at all. Instead of rain, our
rainfall measurement beaker contained something more reminiscent of biblical plagues:
The Bureau of Meteorology seems to be more accurate
with its forecasts for Victoria than for South Australia, but today they made a big mistake:
instead of the hot, dry weather they predicted, we got 2.5 mm of rain, which nowadays looks
like a lot. I can live with that, but I fear it's going to be too little, too late to save
our hay crop.
In the afternoon, finally got over my laziness and continued to demolish the pigsty. With
the exception of one corner, where we need to remove a dropper, it's all on the ground now.
Time to call the scrap metal people.
When we bought it, the house had a surprising number of mainly dilapidated sheds. I've
already mentioned the “garage” and the now dismantled pigsties; there were also
some others to the north-east of the house, visible in the exterior photos that I try to take every Saturday:
There's also another shed behind that one; Yvonne originally wanted
to use both as horse stables, which would have meant a lot of work. A couple of months ago we converted the right-hand
side of the shed into a tack room; now we've decided that the rest would conveniently house
the garden equipment. The horses won't need any particular shelter until autumn, at least 5
months away, so we can cross that bridge when we come to it. Spent some time removing the
interior of the shed, which had previously been used for the dogs.
Paul, the hay mower, came along to look at our pitiful excuse for hay; he thinks that
yesterday's rain might help. So might today's; we had quite a bit in the evening, possibly
more than yesterday, in the process discovering a leak in the roof which came down through
one of the light fittings in the hallway. When it finally stops raining we're going to have
to get up on the flat part of the roof and find out why there are bricks and chicken wire up
Woke at 2:47 this morning to discover that the power had failed again, and that the UPS
for the HiFi system had already failed. There's not much I can do about that without a
generator, so went back to sleep. At 8:00 there was still no power, so called Powercor on 13 24 12 to hear a message telling me that
there were no incidents reported in the area, and that I would have a wait of 15 minutes
before I could speak to anybody. Gave up on that and had breakfast, then out to look at the
rainfall. The measuring beaker hadn't overflowed, but the scale conveniently stops at 33
Took it in and measured the volume and the surface area—for reference, the beaker
has an opening 78.5 mm wide, corresponding to 48.4 cm². Based on that, the 257 ml in the
beaker correspond to a rainfall of 53.1 mm, more than in the whole of September and October.
Now why couldn't it have fallen more uniformly? From being dried up, the paddocks are now
overflowing with water:
There was a funny noise coming from the other side of the lagoon most of today, sounding
something like machinery running, so I went down there to the hall to take a look. Nothing.
In fact, the noise was fainter than from home. Back home, went down to the lagoon and
discovered that the noise was coming from the lagoon: now that it has rained, there are
thousands, possibly millions of frogs and insects making a concerted noise. I suppose we'll
have to get used to that.
Into town today to look after the rest of the equipment for the bore. That stuff is
expensive! There are apparently only two companies in Ballarat who install bore pumps. The
first quoted us a complete price of $2715, and the other $2900. After some discussion, went
with the more expensive variety: the pump is more durable, especially where the bores can
contain a lot of sand, and in addition they can do it next week, while the other company
would not be able to do it for 2 to 3 weeks.
Delivery times and prices seem to be the order of the day. We need two tanks: a header
tank to take the water pumped out of the bore, which wasn't included in the quote, and a tank
to replace the rusted-out tanks behind the shed:
They have got a lot more expensive since we installed the 11500 litre tank in Wantadilla, and the delivery times can be up to 6 months. Found a
couple in stock at Landmark, and they promised to deliver on Friday.
In the afternoon, took another look at the pump that had seized up a couple of months ago, and with information given
me by Lyndon of Ballarat Pumps, was able to get the thing going and pump out the remaining
1500 litres or so of the water we collected the weekend
before last. What a waste! We calculated, while deciding on the size of the tank to put
there, that we probably collected 7500 litres on the shed over that weekend.
Summer is here, and the rains of two weeks ago are a distant memory. The bird bath was
full after the rains, but now it's nearly dry again from evaporation. The thermometer hit 38°
in the shade, and though this proved to be inaccurate, the real temperature was still round
Another warm day spent mainly inside, though we did get a few drops of rain.
Did a bit of work in the garden in the afternoon. Judy, our neighbour from across the
road, has given us about 50 Hebes, which desperately need to be
planted. As soon as we have water (hopefully Tuesday) we'll be able to plant them, and today
we started clearing the way: they'll go to the north of the house, just in front of the fence
to the paddock.
Simon from Landmark turned up today with the water tanks we ordered last Wednesday, and
without the fittings I needed. Damn!
That wasn't the only thing that went wrong today. It didn't help that the temperatures
were in the mid-30s, and that thousands of tiny wasp-like insects were swarming all round the
house. I suppose it's better than the flies we had in Wantadilla,
but they're still irritating.
Yvonne off to town in the afternoon to buy the remaining fittings,
while I tried to reconnect the down pipes from the shed, helped by Yvonne on her return:
That went surprisingly quickly, and two hours after he had arrived the header tank was
full and I was filling up a bath tub (which Matthew had kindly helped me move—it's cast
iron and must weigh 100 kg) with water for the horses.
If the Lord won't send us water, oh, we'll get it from the devil;
Almost as if to make a point, I had barely started heavily watering the garden when it
started to rain, the first time in days. Over to Chris' place with a couple of litres of
still rather cloudy water to look for some soap—we only use liquid forms, which I
believe don't have a problem with hard water—and discovered that our bore water is as
soft as they come. That's a pleasant discovery; assuming that it doesn't create too much
scale, we could use it in the washing machine. More analysis to come; started boiling down 3
litres to see how much dissolved solids there are.
It's still raining! We've had over 15 mm of rain in the past 24 hours, and the weather is
about 20° cooler. It's such a relief to know that when it dries out again, we'll still have
enough water, but there's also quite a bit of work to do laying pipes and setting up the
garden beds we can now populate.
More work on the “analysis” of my first water sample. 3 litres boiled dry gave
800 mg of solids, or about 260 ppm. That's not too bad for normal tap water in some parts of
the world, but in this case a large proportion was obviously the suspended solids in the
water, which will gradually go away. About 10% was soluble in hydrochloric acid, but not in
acetic acid, and gave a brown colour which suggested iron. How much? That would be about 25
ppm iron, still more than we would like. But a lot of that could still be from the suspended
solids, so I need another clean sample to compare.
In the meantime, spent some time relocating the compost heap, which had been in the middle
of the covered sitting area. To our surprise, the lower half had already composted
nicely—it was still a child's sand pit when we arrived in July this year. Left it behind to wait for the
arrival of the soil for the plant beds, after which we can mix it in.
Next time I went past the heap, I saw something slimy, which we think is the Thing that
came out of the Swamp:
Hay making time is always nerve-wracking. This year the weather has been exceptionally
dry, but of course once we cut the hay, we have rain predicted for the day it's supposed to
be baled. We're planning to put the hay in the left side of the old garage, which currently
has the contents of the old Mike Smith Memorial Room. And they need
to go into the shipping container which hasn't been delivered yet because Alan, the scrap
metal man who is removing the remains of the pigsty, needs to fix the head gasket on his
truck. We can't wait for that any longer, so agreed to have it delivered on Wednesday, the
day they're expecting not just rain but also possible thunderstorms. Hopefully they'll be as
accurate as even in their forecast.
Out into a stinking hot garden this morning to finally transplant some seedlings, now that
we have enough water to keep them alive. While I was working there, the rubbish truck came
by—as on every Tuesday—but this time the driver got out and came into the garden.
On closer examination, discovered that it wasn't the rubbish truck, but Mick from Dial-a-box
come to deliver our shipping container:
That went surprisingly well and accurately, and he couldn't have been there for more than
20 minutes. Not a moment too soon, either, since Paul Ludovici was due to come and bale the
hay before the threatened storm, and we needed to put it into the garage as quickly as
Shortly later Yvonne turned up with Chris Yeardley and Pam Hay, but
there wasn't really much to do; first we needed to clear out the left side of the shed:
That was a job for few people. Grabbed both sack trollies and discovered that they had
flat tyres, so grabbed my terribly bad foot pump and discovered that it was worse than
useless: it actually deflated the tyres that were still inflated. Threw that away in disgust,
and then started carrying out larger objects, but didn't get very far before the rain
It was some of the heaviest rain we've had since we arrived here, accompanied by hail and
thunder. We had 15 mm of rain in two hours. What we didn't have was Paul bloody Ludovici, who
thus managed to completely ruin our entire hay crop. Yvonne sent me off to tell call him and
tell him that his services were no longer needed: she was too angry. That's about $2000 of
In the evening, just after dinner, Paul Ludovici arrived, unannounced, and expressed his
intention of pressing our sodden hay. I told him that it was too wet, and that he should have
been there yesterday. He claimed that a bit of wetness wouldn't make any difference—no
matter that Yvonne had impressed on him the importance of keeping the
hay dry, and that she placed utmost importance on him being available at the right time.
Instead, he said “I won't be coming back”. Under the circumstances, that sounded
the best thing. I said “Look, mate, you left us in the lurch yesterday. Piss
off”. And he did. Somehow I have the feeling we haven't seen the last of this. I wish I
had been more on the ball—several cleverer things occurred to me after his left, for
example “I breed horses, not mushrooms”.
Summer's here! In fact, it seems that it's been here for a while, and the temperatures are
still what you'd expect in midsummer. The Ballarat
Courier confirmed the concerns with the main headline “Hot days, little
That was the least of our concerns today, though: we still don't have anybody to bale our
hay, and more rain is forecast for tomorrow. Yvonne spent most of the
day telephoning around and getting rejection after rejection. Finally, round evening, Damian
showed up and told us that he could do it—on Tuesday. It seems that some minor part of
his tractor has failed, and he won't get a replacement until then. Oh well, it's been rained
on once, and that heavily. Hopefully the rains tomorrow, if they eventuate, won't be as
Watering the garden is still a bit of a kludge, and I somehow managed to get myself
thoroughly wet a couple of times. Yvonne took Pam Hay to the station today, and also did some
shopping, bringing a hose fitting with taps, but we really need proper pipes.
The phone rang early this morning, and we didn't get it before it rang out. Whoever called
also didn't bother to leave a message. Later I got a call on my office phone, but it stopped
after 2 rings.
None of this would be unusual, except today was the day that Damien was supposed to be
coming to bale the hay. He didn't. Yvonne spent all day trying to find
somebody, to no avail. It looks as if the hay will be left to rot.
Didn't do much work, apart from a bit of pruning in the garden. I wish I understood this
What is it? On the face of it, it's an Agaricus Campestris,
which we also had in Wantadilla, and this is a particularly good
specimen. But is it maybe Agaricus
Xanthodermus, which is poisonous? They look pretty much the same except for the yellow
coloration they get when damaged; and look at that yellow spot. Chopped the stem off and it
didn't really go yellow:
We've finally given up on having our hay baled, and Yvonne and
Chris brought 6 horses over to eat up what's left, with another 6 scheduled to come tomorrow.
Over to pick up some watering containers until we can move a spectacularly heavy cast-iron
In the evening, ate an omelet with the Agaricus Campestris
that I picked a few days ago. I've had this
suspicion that they're not as harmless as is claimed—in particular, they give me loose
bowels. That's not exactly dangerous—sauerkraut does the same—but certainly
something to consider. They don't taste so spectacular that it's worth the trouble.
..., then off to buy some tyre valves: I have had an
idea to use the new tyre pump to pressurize the garden sprayer, which uses a manual piston
pump to generate the pressure. All I needed was a tyre valve.
Finally back home and put the valve in the sprayer:
We still need more attention to the garden. In particular, we're planning wooden framed
elevated garden beds. Over to Chris' place and borrowed a circular saw, then cut some old
fence posts (about 2m long) into two lengthways; two sets of them will give us a square bed
of 4 m². Lots of sawdust.
Despite the availability of sufficient water, some of our plants are not looking very
happy, notably a couple of the hebes. Decided that it was time to plant them into the ground,
prepared or not, and started a hedge to the north of the house. Getting them out of the
plastic pots was difficult: the roots had penetrated all the drain holes, and it was almost
impossible to disentangle them. These are small ones; the bigger ones were much worse:
That looks pretty much like some fungal infection; hopefully the new environment will
solve that problem by itself.
Spent some time working on the frames for the garden beds; they're a surprising amount of
work, and by evening I had only done half of them. Well, it's not as if we could just put the
soil straight in them anyway. Looks like being plenty of fun for days to come.
After ripping out the purple daisies from the
flower bed at the south of the house, we were left with not very much of anything. Gradually
some plants came through; one was obviously capeweed, another shoots of the purple daisies,
and a third one looked like weeds, but there was also a fourth one which I decided to let
grow before making a decision. A good thing too: it proved to be heartsease (wild pansies, or
as the French call them, savage thoughts (pensées sauvages)):
It rained all day—more like a European November day than an Australian midsummer's
day. Yana left for Bendigo to visit my mother, and I found another agaricus campestris, which
Yana didn't want to take with her. That may have been as well; when I looked at it later in
the day, it had changed colour:
That's a decided yellow tinge, something that agaricus campestris should never
have. But it smelt OK, and it doesn't show the typical bruising of agaricus xanthodermus;
it heightens my suspicion that it's another related species; certainly the Wikipedia page shows enough of them. So I
think we'll give up eating any agaricus out of the garden.
There's still plenty of work to do in the garden, but the weather is getting hot again;
today it hit 35°, and the forecast is for continuing hot weather until the New Year. As a
result, spent most of the day indoors.
The bottlebrush that I pruned so radically 3 weeks ago seems to have decided to survive.
About a week ago the first suggestion of shoots came out, and already that suggestion has
become a real shoot, and many more are coming:
The old year certainly went out with a bang, not a whimper: at 8:30 this morning the
temperature was already 26°, and it climbed through the morning at 4° per hour, trailing off
in the afternoon to finally hit 40° in late afternoon.
One effect of the hot weather was to attract birds to the bird bath:
Got a number of photos, though as this one shows (taken with a 210 mm telephoto,
corresponding to 420 mm on a 35 mm camera), I need a much longer focal length. Spent some
time looking at what's on offer—there's a 650-1300 zoom on the market, but I need to
convince myself I can afford it.
The bottlebrush that I pruned so radically last month is coming back surprisingly
strongly. The first photos was taken on 23 December, and the second one today; in the
meantime I've pruned away the stuff in the background, but it's clear how much things have
grown in that time.
And suddenly there's nothing pressing to do! Spent most of the day in the garden, mainly
pruning trees. I'm gradually getting to understand bottlebrushes better. The problem is that
when the flowers die, they don't fall off:
The spheres with holes in them are the remains of individual stamens. If you don't do
anything, new growth occurs on the other side. This one shows a stem grown through the
remains of two years' flowers:
They're Mandevillas, and the one I
saw today is called “Crimson Fantasy”
While there, also bought some seeds for Chinese cabbage. No mention of the fantasy name wombok on the package, just like in the same company
there's no mention of Chinese cabbage on the “wombok”s in the food department.
Isn't that a good way to avoid confusion?
Put them in the garden in the hope that it would save me some work, but it looks as if the
devices are designed for higher pressure than the pump can push down the hose, and from time
to time they just stopped rotating, making more work, not less.
We eat nectarines for breakfast, so it sounds like an ideal match. It isn't: the tree
needs incredible amounts of water to stop it from dumping its fruit and leaves. I water it
for 20 minutes most days. Even then, the easiest way to tell when the fruit are ripe is when
the birds start eating them. The result is a lot of rotten fruit:
What can I do? Cover the whole tree in netting? That's too much work. Get rid of the
birds? But we like them, at least the ones that eat the fruit. On the whole I think we should
continue to buy the fruit and chop down the tree to give (some of) the other plants room to
Another day with little to show for itself. Spent some time considering the garden, which
we're planning to change radically over the next couple of months. Some of the flowers we
have are growing like fury, noticeably this aster which has been self-seeding all summer, and
now even some of the new plants are flowering:
According to our bird book, it's a Western Ringneck, and it doesn't
occur east of the Flinders Ranges.
Did some digging around on the web and discovered other reports of them in Victoria (
Sunbury). The general feeling was that it had escaped from an aviary.
Unlike the agaricus varieties that we've had in the past, they grow in dry
conditions and stay in much better condition until they dry out. Spent some time
investigating them; the best guess seems to be that they're something like Macrolepiota
procera, also known as “parasol mushroom”, or Macrolepiota
rhacoides, both eminently edible. But the danger exists that they might be chlorophyllum
molybdites, which are poisonous. As the name might suggest, that mushroom goes
greenish in old age and has a greenish spore print. Grabbed an old mushroom for a spore
print. The gills certainly weren't greenish, but it was obviously too old for a spore
First Nature Multimedia Guide to Fungi There is a lot more about this species and hundreds
of other beautiful and fascinating mushrooms and toadstools on our CD-ROM for PCs with
Why do people do that? They're asking £20 for it, more than I'm prepared to pay, but why
do they deliberately reduce their clientele to users of Microsoft “Internet
Explorer” (which, incidentally, figures at number 10 at Dreckstool)?
The real problem with all these sites (and apparently the “Internet Explorer”
specific CD) is that the photos are so lacking in detail. The photo of macrolepiota
procera on one web site was tiny, and the largest
resolution was 518x389. Others are no better. The CD screen shots suggest that the images
there might be even smaller.
As if that weren't enough, the descriptions don't agree from one place to another. On the
page quoted above, the juvenile macrolepiota rhacoides have pointed hats which
later flatten out, while the macrolepiota procera don't, but become much flatter in
maturity. Another site has photos of macrolepiota
procera that look different again. On the other hand, my old German book set shows (a
much better image of) macrolepiota procera which looks more like the macrolepiota
rhacoides on the web site. Ours look more like the web version of macrolepiota
rhacoides, but they don't have the domed juvenile form. My guess is ours are a slightly
different variety from either of these. Are they edible? Who knows?
Also more research into the mushrooms. The descriptions are really quite a mess, and they
keep contradicting each other. Probably the most interesting thing is that gene analysis has
resulted in a reclassification of many mushrooms, and now macrolepiota rhacodes has
been renamed chlorophyllum rhacodes on account of its similarity with the poisonous
chlorophyllum molybdites. After some investigation, including a quite interesting paper from UCB, decided that my mushrooms could be chlorophyllum
brunneum , or just possibly chlorophyllum nothorhacodes, a variety only reported
from Australia in that paper with the obvious misspelling chlorophyllum nothorachodes.
I'm still not sure, and Peter Jeremy pointed me at the Australian National Botanical Garden site; maybe they can
Spent most of the day in the garden, planting bulbs. I'm wondering if it wasn't too early;
the info on the packages suggested planting from February to June, and some (the hyacinths)
are supposed to bloom as early as June (though presumably not if only planted in June). But
the weather's still pretty warm, and today it went over 30°. Still, most of these bulbs can
be left in the ground year round, so it's probably not very critical when you plant them.
Also to Big W to complain about some of the
bulbs I had bought last week, which were completely dried
out—7 out of 30 bulbs. I suppose it's typical of companies like Woolworths that they
replaced exactly 7 bulbs, by opening a pack of 16, rather than just give me the bag. No
apology, no recognition of the fact that their failure had caused me problems, and I'm sure
they'll just throw away the rest (of course, maybe the personnel will get them, which would
at least make some sense).
No idea what it is, but it was growing where I hadn't even expected flowers and where I
hadn't watered. Clearly a survivor.
Peter Jeremy later sent me mail saying that this is a gazania
While weeding another bed, managed to break off part of a similar flower. I had been
planning to try cuttings of all this kind of flower once the weather got cooler, but it was
there now, so decided to plant a few anyway and see how they turned out:
The weather has been stinking hot for over a week, and it's showing no signs of letting
up. Today it wasn't just hot—in the high 30s—but there was a very strong,
unabating wind from north and west which made it all the more unpleasant and dried out the
plants, not to mention the bushfire danger. And that in the middle of March! Hopefully it'll
cool down soon.
That was certainly not too early: we had found lots of kangaroo droppings in the garden
earlier in the day, made up for by the disappearance of our last Grevillea Thelmannia brought
from Wantadilla; they had had a go at them some months ago, and
eaten most of them, but today they ate the last one. It's fun having kangaroos around, but I
hope they now stay the other side of the fence.
David Yeardley came over today with his Ditch Witch, a trench digger, to dig the trenches
for the garden irrigation system. That went well, despite a number of strange things we found
in the ground, including pipes, mounting brackets, bolts and a horse shoe. It's amazing that
this land has only been settled for about 150 years, and already there's so much human débris
in the ground.
Finally finished my planning for the irrigation system, not helped much by the discovery
that the spec sheets I had for the microsprays didn't match the description in the planning
guide (the one I couldn't find in the Philmac technical
library, but which showed up under the obvious heading of Single Piece and
2-Piece Jets and Sprays, a page that first displays the list properly, then shrinks it to
the upper half of the page, puts in a scroll bar which uses incredible CPU resources, so much
that scrolling takes several seconds. It doesn't link to any spec sheet for the single piece
jets I was planning to use.
Then decided to print out a list of distributors for Philmac products. I had already
noticed that Midland Irrigation wasn't on
the list for Ballarat, so looked again. This time I put in my post code, though it's clear
that there are no distributors out in the sticks. Who cropped up? All the people I know on La
Trobe St, Ballarat, including Midland Irrigation. But if I entered “Ballarat”,
they didn't show up. This appears to be a problem in the search engine which relates to
specific post codes, and Ballarat has a different one. What a crock!
When I got to Midland Irrigation I discovered that this didn't really matter: they had
different, correct spec sheets (some of which even included mm rainfall/hour columns) and the
components to match them. I'm more and more amazed that a new web site can so completely miss
Finally got most things I was looking for, with the exception of low density
poly(propylene) pipe and pipe saddles (not in stock), some solenoids (too expensive at
Midland). Off to the Ballarat Pump Shop, where they didn't really have too much, and on to
Celsius (or is that Indoor and Outdoor Trends? Or just Outdoor Trends? They use all three
names, but it's the last that shows up on the invoice). There they were in the process of
changing the sales software, and it took a little longer. They had the 19mm LD poly pipe in
stock, at about $137 for 200 metres. By contrast, the price at Midland Irrigation would have
been about $65, and even the rural grade 25mm poly pipe at Ballarat Pumps cost only $109. I
can only imagine some database problem. They finally sold it to me for $70. Also picked up
the remaining components.
Then off to Middendorp Electrical, where I spent nearly $500 on very few items, nearly all
on 60 metres of power cable and 52 metres of conduit.
Spent most of the day today in the trenches in the garden. First we had to lay power
cables, which proved to be very difficult for one person and very easy for two. Somehow it
seemed to take up most of the day.
In the process, found one of the biggest ants I've ever seen. It measured 3 cm end to
Put it in the fridge to slow it down, but it was still fast enough to be difficult to
photograph. Put it in the freezer for what I thought was only a couple of minutes, but
unfortunately it was too much, and it literally curled up and died. I was rather unhappy
More work in the garden today. Finally got all the pipes connected up, so now I can at
least get water at various points round the garden. Next step is to connect up the solenoids
and decide how to lay out the sprinklers.
There are two issues here:
Controlling the solenoids. Three years ago I started
a project for a sprinkler controller based on an old laptop and a relay board. That had
ultimately died because I had burnt out the solenoids (put DC instead of AC through them),
but the equipment itself was still functional—and nowhere to be found. Before I go
crazy trying to find it, I think I'll buy a controller on eBay.
How many emitters should I put on each (pipe) circuit? That's actually quite a
complicated consideration. Ideally the pump should run all the time, which means that the
number of emitters should be matched to the flow rate of the pump at the desired pressure
(which seems to be in the 150 kPa range). And how do I find that out? And what if I change
a pump? I suppose the best way is to decide on a flow rate and just keep adding emitters
until the pressure is maintained. And if I change a pump, I may have to add or remove
emitters. What a pain!
More work in the garden today, setting up the second section of the sprinkler system. As I
had expected, that took longer than others might have expected: getting the positioning of
the sprinkler emitters is quite tricky, not helped by lack of adequate documentation. The
documentation on the Philmac web site doesn't seem
to relate to what they sell, and the only information on the wide sprinklers was that they
had a sprinkler radius of 3.5 m at 150 kPa.
What I found was different: the pump was cycling between cut-in pressure of 220 kPa and
cut-out pressure of 350 kPa, and the radius was closer to 2.5 m than 3.5 m. Do I have that
much head loss in the system? Maybe; a pressure gauge would be interesting. That would also
mean a maximum run for the 19 mm low pressure poly that I'm using.
Learnt a positive thing too: it's trivial to move sprinklers around, so did a fair amount
of that. Now, of course, I need more sprinklers. That'll have to wait until Monday.
Then I on to buy more fittings for the sprinkler system. Somehow the smallest details take
up the most time: one run of the pipe will go along the base boards around the outside of the
house, and I need to screw clamps to them. Simple enough, and I had no difficulty finding the
clamps ($0.25 each in metal, $0.35 each in plastic), but what screws do I use? The
salesperson at the hardware shop recommended screws 40 mm long, which would go right through
the board. That seems a little excessive to hold a 2 metre length of plastic pipe that will
weigh about 300 g per metre when full of water. And then there was the question of corrosion
protection: zinc plated, galvanized (yes, there appears to be a difference, probably the way
the zinc is applied) or “golden”? In the end, disregarded the advice of the
salesperson and bought some zinc-plated screws 12 mm long.
On to Midland Irrigation to discuss the throw length of the rotor sprinklers (supposed to
be 7 m, is 5 m). It seems that the rotors require a pressure of 300 kPa, while the jets
require 150 kPa. Why do they make different fittings with such drastically different pressure
requirements? They work at the estimated 200 kPa that I have in the system, but my distances
are all wrong.
Spent much of the day adding sprinklers to the system, and now I have everything set up
that I had planned for the first stage. There will be more when we know what we want to do
with the space to the south of the house, which currently looks like this:
More work in the garden, which kept us busy most of the day. At least we now have some things
planted, nearly all of them cuttings from existing plants in the garden (the only exception
was the bulbs that I had exchanged last month.
It's my guess that this is the day we planted
and Dianthus to the west of the garden
Despite multiple attacks with glyphosate, weeds still continue to come up, so put in a layer
of old packing cartons with only holes for the plants:
Some of the plants show remarkable ability to grow from cuttings. Last Friday we had to prune a number of bushes in the north bed, including
a succulent that blooms bright red in spring (and maybe longer if
it gets enough water):
I have no idea where the pipe running to the top of the photo comes from; it's the same
kind as the stuff I have been laying, but it was there already, and I wasn't aware of either
end. This will document it.
The grub is one of many I've found in the ground; they're about 3
cm long. I wonder if they're beneficial.
On the way home dropped in at Avalon Nursery in Haddon to look for a couple of Callistemons (or is that Callistema?).
Left after spending far too much money with two Grevilleas, a Kaffir Lime tree and a
strange-looking plant calling itself Sapphire Dragon, which proved to
be a Paulownia kawakami (or is
that Paulownia kawakamii? Googlefight seems to
think so), which on the photo looks something like an enormous jacaranda.
By the time I got my camera one of them had burrowed away.
I'm still trying to come to terms with the necessity of having to dig up the entire 300 m²
of garden to suppress the weeds. In the meantime, decided to clean up the ground cover under
our mystery yellow flowering tree. The immediate ground cover the “succulent
daisy” that we've planted in many places. One of the disadvantages is that old growth
dies and new growth comes up over it, getting weaker as time goes on. There were also a
couple of bearded irises in the area, so I decided to remove everything and start again:
Last month it was really warm, but things have changed. The following graph shows the
ambient temperature in the brewing shed over the last 2 months. The extremes are probably 5°
either side of this value, so the maximum on 16 March was round 40°, while the minimum today
was round 0°:
Did some work in the garden anyway, mainly digging. I'm wondering how many of the things
we had intended to transplant would actually survive at this time of year; we might be better
off preparing the soil and transplanting in early spring, when there are no more frosts.
The lens is interesting because it can focus as close as 0.96 m; this makes it interesting
for taking macro photos. Here my mystery tree with the yellow
flowers; the individual flowers are about 5 mm across:
Leaves are bright green, about 6 cm long, with roundtoothed edges and grow
opposite one another along the stem.
Flowers vary in colour from pale cream to yellow, white, pink, orange, red,
lilac and purple, about 2.5 cm in diameter.
Fruits are glossy, rounded, fleshy, purplish-black when ripe.
I've tidied up the punctuation somewhat, but there are a couple of differences here: the
stems of my plant have no prickles, and the plant has no fruit. But prickles in themselves
don't seem to be a very good indication of the genus, and elsewhere I read of
“sterile” Lantanas. That might sound like we're out of the woods, but then I
found an ASGAP article which
The Newsletter of the Environmental Weeds Management Group (EWMG) (Oct. 2001) notes
evidence of even so-called 'sterile' garden varieties of lantana producing pollen which may
cross-pollinate wild lantana and produce new varieties in the wild.
Did a bit of thinking about that. We don't seem to have any wild Lantana in the area, and
even if there were, wouldn't the chance of cross-pollination tend to produce more sterile
varieties? Thought about that for a while, without coming to much of a conclusion. Then read
Allan Seale's “Australian Gardening”, a book which dates back to 1985, and which
Lantana. Long-flowering and drought and heat-resisting shrubs for all but the coldest
regions—easily managed and should not be confused with the noxious wild L.
So what to do? While I was thinking of this, Callum came back with another suggestion: now
it's a Buddleia (or is that Buddleja?),
and indeed that looks likely. Here's a photo from Banwy Valley Nursery, which
describes it as a Buddleia ‘Sungold’, followed by one of the photos
I took yesterday:
More investigation of the Buddleia
issues today. Yes, there's a Buddleia Davidii that is considered a noxious weed, but
that appears to be quite different from the one I have, for which I still haven't found a
name. Mine is not on sale in Australia; I wonder if that is an indication that all Buddleias
are considered dangerous. I don't see any reason to believe that mine is. The June 2007
newsletter of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust
There's a lot of confusion about Buddleia. Ask for it at your local garden centre, and
they'll probably tell you “no, it's a weed”. But it is only the B. davidii that
is listed as a plant pest — and even there, only the mauve flowering version that
causes the damage as it multiplies in bright profusion.
B. davidii has been declared a danger to our primary industry, as it breeds
prolifically, creating problems in pine forests. But there are still several Buddleias that
are permissible and don't create problems (they don't seed, they are sterile). They are
great nectar plants.
In fact, the MBNZT has been entrusted to trial a new cultivar, B. Silver Anniversary, to
be released later this year; we have been asked to measure how successful it is providing
nectar for our butterflies — and bees too. “Silver Anniversary” has
clusters of white flowers with mustard coloured eyes and a sweet honey scent.
Of course, the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust has vested interests, but they can't be that far
off the mark.
Didn't do much else during the day. I've established that the irrigation system in the
garden does need two separate sections for the eastern part, as I had originally planned.
Annoyingly, the pressure drop in the system means that I can't use up the supply capacity of
the pump and still have adequate pressure, so it cycles anyway. I can't see a good solution
for that one. Maybe I should turn both solenoids on at the same time.
More work in the garden, in particular the slow and boring digging up of all the garden
soil. I can't make up my mind whether to spray the weeds and let them die first, or just dig
them up. One way or another, it looks as if we're going to be busy with the project for
Chris Yeardley left for the Gold Coast this morning, and we had been intending to go to
Melbourne for some time, so took her to the airport, then on to Palm Place Nursery, not far from the airport, to
buy a Bottle Tree:
The one we bought wasn't the one in the middle, nor even one of the little ones in front
of it, but an even smaller one on the other side of the display. In about 10 years it might
be interesting. Also bought a Cycad for Yvonne and a Bird of
Paradise flower for myself.
Did some inevitable work in the garden, including planting two of yesterday's plants (the
Bottle Tree and the Bird of Paradise flower). We're still
trying to work out where to put the Cycad.
Somehow, despite its size, our garden is filling up.
The kangaroos are back, and they've been chewing on our plants. For some reason they like
Heartsease (the remains of which are
shown above). They also like acacias, and
they've had several attempts at a couple that are still barely surviving. Decided to put some
old plastic drink bottles to good purpose:
Finally chopped down the fruit tree to the north-east of the house, the one that was
too cramped. It's a pity; the fruit must have tasted
wonderful, and it's sad to have to chop down something of that size, but it really didn't fit.
Now we have to decide what to do with the area.
Today was the day I was supposed to finish my draft for “Beautiful
Architecture”, but somehow I didn't even get started. Instead spent most of the day in
We've made some progress in identifying the plants in the garden. CJ's friend Sue
yesterday identified the orange flowers as marigolds, and also the blue daisy-like
flowers as everlasting
daisies. On examination of the evidence, I think she's mistaken on the latter, though the
stuff is tough as old boots. Last month I dragged out some
of them while reorganizing a garden bed, and left them lying in front of the bed:
The second tree (flower detail, then larger view) is covered in buds, and it has
been for almost as long as we have been here. I wonder if the flowers will get more
interesting when they all come into bloom.
Further discussion on IRC about the mystery plants we have. Came to the reasonably good
conclusion that our mystery daisies are Osteospermum, particularly since
I can find both the colours of the cultivars we have.
Up this morning to find some of the sprinklers dribbling, which they must have been doing
for 10 hours—I had set the system to sprinkle at 22:00 to keep the soil moist in case
of frost. Further investigation showed that the solenoid in question, the last I had
installed, had failed. Damn! I hope the others last longer.
The acacia is the tree at the left in the picture. In the process we found another plant,
probably a eucalypt, which had been completely hidden by the acacia. Many of the plants in
this garden were planted far too close to each other. We should trim the acacia back, but
it's full of buds, and I'd like to leave it to bloom first.
That, of course, reminded me that I've been meaning to write a mystery plant page with photos of what we have here. That took
a lot of work without being finished.
We have still more ! This time it's not difficult to identify
What is it? CJ's friend Sue thinks it's poisonous, but she doesn't know what it is. On the
face of it it looks pretty enough, and though there's some growing in the paddocks, the
horses don't go near it.
One thing that is becoming clear is that it can be worthwhile to procrastinate. I've taken
a bit of a pause from digging up the entire garden, and now I discover that it doesn't have
much effect on the amount of weeds. Left a dug up and planted area, right one nearby that I
had just sprayed a couple of times with glyphosate:
It's been a year since we first saw our house, a good time to compare what's happened in the
garden. I took a number of photos from the same
angles as a year ago, but this one shows the most difference:
Presumably the difference in the daisies is due to the irrigation we installed.
What those photos don't show is the amount of work we were doing exactly in that area: it
was far too densely planted—for example, I found a rose planted 30 cm from one of the
daisy bushes. Trimmed back the hibiscus and removed two sorry-looking roses; had to cut
through the roots, so they'll probably die, but replanted them anyway to give them a
chance. Yvonne tackled the lilac (the bare tree in the middle of the
photo), which really needs a lot of trimming back, but I'm not sure how best to do it. That
took us most of the day.
More work in the garden, transplanting more stuff. On investigation,
the “black lilies” appear to be a kind
of Dracunculus vulgaris.
They grow from a large tuber. Replanted a few to see how they'd deal with it; it's not
clear how much sun they like.
While looking for a cookbook, ended up buying “The foodies' guide to Melbourne”
and a book on pruning shrubs and trees; together they came to considerably more than I had
planned to spend on the cook book, but both fill a real need. The former, hopefully, will
lead us to better food supplies.
At Midland Irrigation finally found a sprinkler solenoid valve without difficulty, and not
significantly more expensive than Celsius would have asked.
More garden work. It's looking more like winter now, though the cannas are still blooming,
and the first daffodils are coming.
Leonne, surname unknown, has taken a look at
my mystery plants page and has a number of
comments. She writes:
The grub is commomly called a Bardi grub. They are the
larval stage of a moth. Good for fishing bait but not much else. It eats the feeder
roots of plant and often leaves dead patches in lawns. There is a spray you can get from
most gardening places to get rid of them.
The plants you have as asters are very
hardy drought tolerant plants. The two yellow ones are different types of Gazinias and
come in all shades from red to white. You often see them on the sides of roads and
suburban nature strips. The middle variety self seeds and can take over a neglected patch
It seems that Leonne didn't follow the link here. Also, I believe I'm correct in
guessing that all the flowers belong to the
Mystery 1 is a common english country garden plant
whose name escapes me at the moment. A nursery man should be instantly able to name it
Mystery 2 is a type of Arum Lily. Does
it smell really bad like rotting meat? Lilies of that colour often do.
Again, it seems that Leonne didn't follow the link here.
Mystery 3 is Sparixia (not sure on spelling) very old
fashioned hardy bulb that self seeds. very similar
to Ixias (again not sure on spelling) My
Grandmother had acres of them when I was a child and they never got watered and were mown
off when they finished flowering.
I'm quite happy with the book I bought a couple of days
ago, RHS Pruning &
Training, by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. It's the first book I've seen that
makes the distinction between pruning (normal maintenance of a bush) and renovation (making
good previous neglect). It's the latter that I want, and the book addresses it almost
In a newly acquired garden, neglected roses, particularly bush roses, often look as if they
are hardly worth keeping. ...
Today decided to apply the techniques—of which there are two: cut down 50% to 70%, and
cut down to the ground—to a couple of rose bushes in the north bed. These photos are
more obvious when enlarged (click on one of the photos):
The fire's still going! Most of the wood burnt out in the first hour yesterday midday, but
some of the larger trunks were still going this morning. It continued all day, and in the
evening there were still some remainders.
We've been trying to second-guess the
Bureau of Meteorology
for some time now, and today we decided that despite the forecast of rain, we could probably
go riding. Set off, and within about 500 metres it started to rain, so back again after one
of our shortest rides ever. And, of course, the few drops that came down were all for the
next several hours.
More work on the sprinklers, and finally installed the longest stretch yet, 73 metres at the
north of the house. Now I just have the south side to think about.
Up early this morning to head to Melbourne. Just out of the shower, heard the tell-tale
beeping of the UPSs. On further investigation, found that a circuit breaker had tripped on
the circuit that supplies all the computers—and it kept tripping. Spent a lot of time
turning off individual components, without finding anything, and then turned them all back
on again, even (accidentally) a 2 kW heater, and it carried on working.
Was just scratching my head about that when Yvonne came in and told
me that the dam water pump had stopped working, and that she had left it off. This is the
pump that I have been using to pump water from the tank into the horse trough, and which I
had been meaning to use for my new brewery. Confirmed that yes, indeed, it was that pump.
Damn, especially since we were due to leave for Melbourne, and Chris still needed to give
the horses enough to drink. Connected up another hose to the sprinkler system, which is
(currently) supplied only by the submersed pump in the bore.
In Melbourne, went to the
Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens. It's been over
11 years since I was last in the Botanical Gardens, and in those days I wasn't overly
interested in gardening. This time I was left a little disappointed: the place is clearly
in need of more funding. In particular, the signs are insufficient. It's difficult to find
your way around, and many plants are not identified.
That was particularly interesting and irritating for us. We found at least four plants that
we had been trying to identify. Here the comparisons of the ones that we identified:
We knew that this one is a salvia, but only now do we know that it's a Salvia microphylla It
looks quite like another
variety, Salvia elegans (“
pineapple sage”), but that bush has longer and more pronounced flowers with black
There seems to be a fair amount of difference of opinion on Salvia microphylla. Some
call it watermelon sage, others blackberry sage, and nothing I've found on the web mentions
the mint-like smell of the leaves, which the sample in the Botanical Gardnes also had. But then,
Salvia elegans is supposed to smell like pineapple, and I didn't smell that on the
sample I saw yesterday. There's also a variety of opinion on the size of the plant, though
all agree that it flowers almost continuously. There also seem to be different cultivars,
one of which has red and white flowers. None of
on the web look quite like ours.
This is Aloysia triphylla,
or “Lemon Verbena”. Yvonne was sure from the start that
this was some kind of Verbena, but I
hadn't been too sure: all the Verbena photos I had seen looked very different. That's
probably because this plant belongs to the relatively small
genus Aloysia. The leaves do smell of
Winter is making itself felt, at least in mood. Still no frost, but there was a surprising
amount of mist (called “fog” in Australia) which lifted only slowly, and the
whole atmosphere was as dreary as Germany in November. Perversely, spent a bit of time in
the garden, but not too much.
There was also a second one of a different kind, which bloomed yellow, but which looked old
and not very happy, so we pulled it out. That didn't stop it, of course, and recently a
number of shoots have been coming out of the bed, so today we transplanted them:
photo of where we planted them, but it really needs to be enlarged significantly to show
the stakes. The two stakes at the left and the one at the right are the yellow ones; the
other one is a white one which we transplanted a week or two ago.
A little work in the garden, connecting the bore pump directly to the horse trough with a 1
inch pipe. To my surprise, the flow was so strong that it stalled the pump; we'll have to
avoid opening the valve fully until we have proper fittings at the end.
We're now into the second month of winter, which hasn't stopped things from flowering.
There's an unhappy Acacia
baileyana in the shade of the conifers in the driveway. Despite its unfortunate
situation, it's chosen now to bloom, though few other acacias are in bloom:
It seems that it was successful. There was no growth under the cardboard, though it had
been there since 23 April 2008, and we had sprayed and dug up the garden
to the right since then. The best choice appears to be to put down cardboard or newspaper
and then cover with lots of mulch.
Back into the office, pondering where we could get some mulch,
when Yvonne came in and said that there were some people trimming and
mulching trees down Rokewood Junction Road. Down there to talk to Mick, who promised me a
couple of truckloads (about 20 m²) for $80 in the next couple of days. Just what we need.
Also did some pruning, notably salvias. After all the trouble I
had to identify the Salvia microphylla that we have in several places in the garden,
it's amusing to find
that RHS Pruning
& Training, by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce, describes exactly two
officinalis (normal sage) and Salvia microphylla. Of the latter, they make
statements that don't at all match my experience; in particular, that they don't live long,
and that they're a bush with a single trunk, and they flower on the previous season's
growth. What I see with mine, at any rate, is that there are dozens of individual stems:
“Pruning & Training” recommend pruning, if at all, in spring. But then, it
also states that they only start flowering in late summer. In fact, they seem
to flower almost all the time, at least here in Australia, and the earliest photos that I
have taken of the garden, on 30 September 2007, show the bush already
blooming. Nine months later, they're still blooming. So the best time to prune seems to be
before they start flowering again, like now. Even then, they're still doing their best, as
this stem shows:
It comes from way inside the clump of bushes, where it was protected from wind and cold.
The things above and to the right of the flower are new buds which presumably would have
bloomed if I hadn't cut them off.
Decided that now would be about the only time to do it, so set to, removing a climbing rose
in the process. These bushes offer wonderful protection to clumps of grass, and though I
ripped out a lot, it's clear that it will come back, and I can't find any way to address the
issue except by continual weeding. The alternatives would require removing the salvias.
In view of the biological activity in our pile of mulch, set to today spreading mulch in the
garden, not overly helped by the wind. Got about 20% done before giving up for the while.
It's amazing how much difference even a little mulch makes, as a comparison of the area in
the middle right of last week's and today's exterior photos shows:
Back home, and Yvonne wanted to continue mulching, while I tried out
the new backpack spray unit that I bought last week. The instructions were typical: a
single piece of paper, normally enough for this kind of unit. But the means of attachment
of the back straps was completely non-intuitive, and the instructions barely mentioned them
(“place container on back securely using belt system”). It probably wouldn't
have helped anyway: the low-resolution drawing that accompanied it appears to show a
different kind of hook. The photographer who took the photo on the box must have been
confused too, because he left them off altogether. Clipped them together as best I could,
put the thing on my back—not the easiest thing at the best of times—and made it
about 10 metres before both straps came apart, dumping the thing on the ground:
Fortunately no damage was done, but I still couldn't work out how to attach the things, so I
ended up tying the ends together, which worked.
On the other hand, the unit works well, and it came with a whole lot of undocumented
accessories, including a number of O rings (always good), three alternative spray heads (one
of them double) and some other accessories of dubious purpose:
Some more mulch spreading in the garden. We're putting newspaper underneath in the
hope that it'll have the same weed-suppressing action as the cardboard I put down earlier.
It's surprising how much paper it uses.
More mulch spreading in the garden. I think we have the worst over and done with, where we
spread mulch between existing plants. The rest is mainly unplanted surface, and should be
much easier to mulch.
Cliff later told me that it was an old petrol pump, and that there was a petrol tank below.
He hadn't removed it because of the potential danger of explosion, and had instead tried to
train roses around it. That had obviously failed, and we've since removed the rose, so
there are only Salvia microphylla around
it, currently pruned and waiting for spring. Today I finally went at the remaining open
pipes with an angle grinder, but despite the fact that the tank hasn't been used in over 10
years, I was concerned about just removing the last pipe that way. Tried taking off the top
part by grinding off the heads of the bolts, but that just gave me access to the inside of
The pump still seemed to be sealing, and there was a vague smell of petrol about it, so
there's a real danger that there's a considerable amount of petrol below. With visions of a
tank of several thousand litres exploding and blowing myself and the house high into the
air, set to with a hacksaw instead. Didn't get far before the brand new blade broke. There
must be an easier way.
Another day with overnight frost—hopefully my chile pasillo will survive. I
grew it from the seeds in a dried chile a couple of years ago, and so far it hasn't
flowered, though it's looking relatively happy. But all chiles are frost-tender, so I've
been covering it with a sack at night:
Laurel Gordon from Tasmania is one of the participants in the clinic, and she's staying with
us. She brought some hellebores with her, which we planted in the garden. Gradually we're
running out of space.
In the evening through the garden with Laurel, who is an experienced gardener, and managed to
identify most of the remaining mystery plants. She
has a few ideas on the rest, and has promised to send me info when she gets back home.
A frost was forecast for tonight, and it came, so I covered up my chile plant
again—only Laurel tells me it's not a chile at all: it's an Agonis flexuosa,
native to Western Australia. No wonder it hasn't borne any chiles. But it's frost tender too,
at least when small, so I covered it over anyway. Later we'll have to move it—it can
get to be 10 m tall.
High time for garden work, and did some transplanting. We have a number of what we had
thought were Olearias until Laurel Gordon
put me right and confirmed that it's a Marguerite daisy. There were a number of these
bushes in far too cramped conditions in the north bed, so on transplanted two of them to a
border to the south-east paddock:
Also transplanted some Gazanias and
some Dianthus which we had
planted in inadequately prepared soil which is now so
overrun with weeds that we can't really do anything. Instead, we'll let them grow elsewhere
and plant something else where they were once we have done our weeding. It's amazing how
much root they have developed in a little over three months of autumn. Planted the Gazanias
at the north:
I'll be interested to see how they change in the course of time.
In the Spring we got a single piece
of Carpobrotus glaucescens, which we
pulled apart and planted in the succulent bed. The bed proved too small, and it just about
smothered everything else in it. Now we've pulled it out and planted some of it
along the east border of the big bed: