Thursday, December 10, 2009

RIP Bob St Lawrence, WA drag-racing legend.

Wow, some families get along together. This is a story about family and being community minded. Though this isn't a permaculture story it is a story of how a group of like-minded people can make great things happen in a short amount of time.
In the last few weeks we have met some new people. They are members of the local drag-racing fraternity. Many of them drive or have driven or worked on some very fast cars over many years in the Perth racing scene. The binding factor among these people was their friendship with an old man called Bob St Lawrence, a drag-racing innovator and legend in Perth. He was dying of prostate cancer and wanted to see his engine that he had hand built be put together into its chassis and watch it go down the track at Kwinana one last time. So what did everyone do? Well, they spent many sleepless nights, donated parts and fuel and food and put together Bob's machine. Normally this takes months and thousands of dollars, so it was incredible to see it happen in a few short weeks, powered by love and respect and generosity.
My man used to work on engines, had in fact met a few of the guys already in engine workshops, and so he helped out on a few days getting the dragster together. Bob was even there helping out, despite the fact he was so sick and none of us knew if he'd make the end of the week. His "eye" was still in to see the minute measurements involved in getting the engine parts to work best and he was telling the guys what to do to get the best out of his dragster.
I didn't do much at all, admittedly. I found out who Bob was after I found out a uni friend was his daughter. She'd spoken of him before, as he's been sick a long time, but I never realised that the car he was spending all his money on was a drag car.
It was an honour to see how hard they all worked, hearing of the long hours and late nights they all put in to fulfilling Bob's dying wish. It was a huge effort on many people's parts, from people who had been involved with Bob and his dragsters over the years, many of them inspired and educated by Bob's incredible intelligence about engines and how to make them go really fast.
The car did indeed get put together in time for the drag racing meet on the weekend. It was tested and licensed on the Wednesday prior to race day, driven by local Top Fuel driver Martin Stamatis, who also went on to win the weekend's round of the championship. After Friday nights qualifying the Saint Train was run down the track in front of Bob, still propped up in his wheel chair. Everybody cheered to see this legend of Western Australian motorsport happy that his home made self-designed engine had made one more high-speed trip down the track.
The prospect of seeing his dragster go down the track one more time certainly had given him something to live for. Two days after we all got together to celebrate his life and the fulfillment of his dying wish, Bob finally succumbed to the disease that took him away much too young.
He didn't give up on his dreams ... there's something in that for all of us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Someone's been building a little home for their babies out of the spinach leaves.
I picked some spinach before to make pie later and among the little beasites I rescued from the rinsing bowl were a brown lacewing (one of my favourite little beneficial beasties), a cute little yellow spider (he got put back out with the aphids) and these leaves that show a leaf-cutter bee (Megachile spp) has been workig hard to make a nest for the next lot of youngsters. Native bees are quite happy to hang out in your garden if you provide the right habitat for them. Grow blue, violet or purple flowers for them as these can be more easily seen by insects, and provide homes by drilling holes (about 4-6 mm) in wood for them to nest in. Free pollination and increased biodiversity are the result.
Leafcutter bees at work.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What is this pretty purple pea-flowered tree?

Any suggestions would be gladly accepted. Saw one at the Perth Zoo and then a piece got bought into my work. I'd love to identify it and am stubborn enough to keep looking until I find out.

According to one of the clever folks at the id this plant section of gardenweb, it seems I have an answer.
Bolusanthus speciosus - tree-wisteria

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nothing to do with permaculture but personal health.

On Wednesday I had a hemi-thyroidectomy, the left half of my thyroid gland removed. It was lumpy and had been bothering my breathing sometimes by choking me. Luckily it was the first time I'd had to attend hospital for any surgery or other overnight stay, so I've been lucky so far. Even better, I had a room by myself and with a great view of Fremantle oval and the markets.
I have been getting looked after since I came home by my lovely 'husband'/boyfriend and his aunty, who came from the eastern states for the purpose.
I think the worst thing about the whole event has been the drugs I was put on. The pain relief is doing my head in and the stronger analgesic is just too horrible to take more than at bedtime. Fortunately I am a quick healer and am managing to lie about a LOT and nap a LOT so the wound is already looking better, although invisible stitches leave it looking fairly open and a bit nasty. I'm hoping to scare some kids with it at Halloween.
Generally I have a fairly healthy diet, largely organic and biodynamic with plenty of vegetables. The drugs and antibiotics are knocking my system about. Last night, and again now I am awake at a ridiculous hour, having relaxed and snoozed all day I am now wide awake at the wrong part of the day. The pain drugs seem to be making me have bad dreams, too, rather disturbing. They seem like a highly addictive substance so I'm not very keen to take them much if I can help it. The paracetamol are mostly doing their job during the day.
So here I am at 1 am typing and having a snack before hopefully sleeping the rest of the night.
Its difficult doing nothing and asking for help so I do get to heal quickly. We have been eating lots of fresh foods and vegetable juices, healing from the inside.
One thing that made me happy this morning was discovering that our frogs have made a big batch of tadpoles so I will soon be able to ring some of the backlog of tadpole wanting folk I that have been in contact with me over the last few months.
Cute little squiggles and plenty of them. ...can I go to sleep yet??

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hydroponic buckets of herbs at home.

Hydroponic basil

More and more food plants are being grown using water as a medium. It allows intensive growing, providing a lot of food in a small space.

What you'll need:
A large plastic pot
Chunky coconut fibre/mulch block (pref. no added nutrients)
A bucket or deep plant tray
Basil (or other herb) seedling
Coco specific hydroponic nutrients (hardware or hydroponics shop)

Soak the coconut fibre block in water. Once it is expanded it may be a good idea to rinse it a couple of times to remove some of the tannin. Don't let it drip on pale paving, it may stain for a while.
Simply pot the seedling into the coco mulch as you would any other plant, it will have lots of spaces in it but that's okay.
Give it a water in with the nutrients. Only make up how much nutrient you want to use.
Remember to give it a drink every couple of days, more often when it's hot and as the plant gets bigger. It's best not to let the plant sit in deep water for too long, but again, once it warms up, you may need extra watering anyway and it can use a bit up in a day.
It will need a few hours sun a day to keep it happy. We started ours a bit early this year but it should be okay once it warms up.

I also am trying out a little window box Roma tomato in a hydro bucket too and so far it looks good.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Molluscs..slimy slugs and snails.

At this time of year the garden starts to get seriously munched by snails. They take one night to destroy many hours worth of seedling growing and planting. My preferred method of ridding the garden of these greedy destroyers is by simply collecting them. Around dawn or dusk is when they are most likely to be out and about. I go out there with a container of soapy water and just drop them in it. The detergent breaks the surface tension and they can't get back out.
It may seem daunting but I have seriously knocked back the number of slimy beasts in my vegies in 2 years. There are more slugs this year because less were collected last year but I keep a spoon with the soapy water so now they are easy to get too.

I have become a little obsessive with it at times but it is kind of a satisfying feeling to know your vegetable growing efforts have a better chance of succeeding.
Oh, yeah, and the snails and their icky water can just go in the compost pile or a hole in the ground.

Happy hunting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's been a sad week.

Coastal sword-sedge: Lepidosperma gladiatum.
On Sunday an old friend died. He wasn't old, I'd known him a long time. Not as well as I could have but he was a very kind and intelligent man who knew more than anyone about Perth's local species.
Greg was a former boss of mine at the revegetation nursery in North Fremantle. He was the friendlier face of the two managers, though still seemed a little intimidating at first meeting, tall and seemingly surly at times. He did however have a very dry sense of humour and had some interesting stories of growing up around Fremantle.

Making thousands of cutting of sticky Scaevola crassifolia was much more fun when Greg was in the room. Any question about local plants you could ask and he could tell you. Some of my favourite local species remind me of him because we made many many cuttings of them or he tested me on their names while out looking for cutting material. For a boss he was an excellent guy.

We'd been waiting for Verticordia season to come and were going to go and visit him and his family in the country where they moved to a few years ago. He'd told us that there were lots of different species and he knew a great spot to show them to us.
I'm glad he got to move out to the country for a while; to the heart of the beautiful wildflower country.

So many things remind me of him because I love so much of the vegetation he did. I'm going to be a complete blubbering mess at his funeral. I think there will be a lot of us there the same way. He will be missed by many people.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spring is coming. Plant some vegies.

The little vegie patch has been doing well. It's quite crowded and there are some candidates for removal and replacement by slightly warmer season crops. It is so much easier to grow food at this time of year. Watering is such a chore and is really my downfall with food gardening. It has been great to get enough greens for a couple of vege pies and there's been quite a few peas, though none have managed to get into the kitchen.
So far there's been no pests to speak of. I'm considering putting some Eco_oil on to see if it really does keep cabbage white butterflies off my garden.
Something I am a bit excited about is that the white shatoot mulberry has little fruit forming and so does the cherry guava.
The shatoot mulberry is possibly the tastiest fruit I know, it is sweet, like an apricot flavour. I managed to get one from Wandilla nursery in Maida Vale.

Now, back to homework.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So much reading, so little write.

This semester I am doing two units towards my BSc in Environmental Restoration. One is Environmental Policy and Law, which has a lot of reading and a rather scary essay which is worth 20%, which I am having trouble getting my head around (and it's only week 3).
The other is Environmental Technology for Sustainable Development. I am hoping this will be 'easier' as it is something I have an interest in. University tends to have a knack of making things that you are interested seem much more difficult than originally thought, though.
So, I have been trying to keep up with reading the various bits n bobs.

Last night I went to a talk by local media 'Perthonality", Josh Byrne, Murdoch alumini and Gardening Australia presenter. It was very interesting. It was also funny that he was talking about some of the very technologies I had been hearing about in the Env Tech lecture earlier that day (much earlier, blinkin' 8.30 am).
Giles Pickard from the City of Fremantle also spoke; largely about green roof systems and other ways of increasing green space in cities to reduce the 'heat island effect'.
Ben, of Growing Free, is the new head of the Next Gen section of the Nursery and Garden Industry of WA and did a great job of introducing the speakers.
Just quietly, I think we should clone the three of them. The world needs more passionate, environmentally conscious men who are keen to green the local and international environment. And passionate, environmentally conscious women, of course..
It's great to hear people talk about how to make the world better through planting appropriate species while taking into account sustainable use of water and other resources.
There are good things going on in the world, it's just that we never hear about them.

Bloody marvellous.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ooh. They're growing.

The potatoes had a slow start but now they are powering along. I've topped up under the leaves a couple of times in the last week or so and they need a bit more soon. Hopefully they are doing as well below soil level too.
The vege garden is looking great. We have had a fair few greens from it already and today I planted some bean seedlings I rescued from work.

Ringneck parrot near our birdbath.

This parrot has visited us a couple of times lately and he bought a friend with him this time. They have been eating the seeds of the Acacia cyclops in the garden. They blend in well in the tree. A local parrot species in a local tree species.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Growing potatoes in a bag.

Permaculture is largely about growing food and using resources wisely. I don't grow as much food as I should but we have recently got the little vege patch going again and the season allows parsley and other herbs to grow unaided. I don't really like to have to water the garden; it is meant to be winter after all, despite the lack of rain so far.
They've grown since last week.

This year I am trying spuds in a tree bag as a method to grow in a small yet sunny space in the garden. Last year the potatoes were in too much shade and died a slow drawn out death. I am also using it as an experiment in reusing/composting some old cocopeat mulch and leaves. The tree bag was rescued from work. I went thirds in a bag of White Star seed potatoes. I've never heard of them or seen them for sale but they sound like a good versatile variety, having checked out their credentials on the Potato Marketing Corporation site.
Not very interesting so far.

This morning I put a layer of coco mulch and some cow and sheep poo in the bottom of the 45 litre tree bag, then some leaves from the honey locust and placed the spuds on top of that, about 15 cm apart. I then had to get a big pot out and do that one with layers too as there were too many spuds for one container.
Then I layered a bit more mulch and poo on top of that and now we wait. It's important to not let them dry out and also not to drown them. It is cool during the day at the moment so they won't dry out too fast.

So now the trick is to gradually keep putting more layers of dry materials around the stems of the potatoes as they grow. In this way the stems will produce tubers from the sides all the way along and you get a good crop of spuds. Every now and again add some more manure or feed with some fish emulsion. You must ensure that the potatoes are kept buried as they form, so keep on adding mulch or straw around the stems.
After a couple of months the leaves at the top will die back and you can harvest your potatoes. Store them in a dark dry cool place.
We shall see how mine go...

Black cockatoo.

Beautiful black cockatoos in an urban almond tree.
This is not my photo, it was taken by a work collegue, Merrilyn. It's just such a great picture that I wanted to put it here for others to look at.
Enlarge for full view.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Winter sun angles.

In the southern hemisphere this is a good time to be checking out where the sun manages to reach in your garden in midwinter. With only a couple of weeks until equinox the shadows are at their maximum on the cold side of the house. This is important to know as there are not a lot of plants will grow in that much shade. Deciduous plants can be a good choice for deep shade on the south side. Ideally you will remember to look at those same areas around summer equinox and see what goes on then too with sun and shade.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Break time.

Did my only exam for the semester yesterday. I'm not feeling too good about it, as there were two rather nasty questions on stuff we barely touched which therefore I had no idea how to answer. Even the parts I thought I knew I don't feel so good about. Hopefully I will somehow manage to squeeze a pass out of it, but I won't be holding my breath.

If it's like last years exam for the same subject one of the questions was too hard for everybody and so the marks were scaled up. I can only hope. It's an interesting unit and I understand it all in theory, but the maths has gotten the better of me, and I have also discovered I don't seem to be good at writing reports. Next time, I will have to get someone else to read my draughts so I can try and fix some of the stupid mistakes where marks get lost.

Not sure how long until exam results come through. I'd hate to have to repeat it because I understand it and that would make it really boring to do again.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Finger lime time.

Not a finger lime. It's a Sunrise lime, a hybrid between the finger lime and a calamondin.
I was very excited this morning to finally get my hands on some finger lime fruit. It's very tasty, the little vesicles of juice are crunchy and pop in your mouth to release a little lemony burst.
The fruit and some other products were being sold at the Western Farmers Market at FERN at one of the stalls there.
I was also happy to recognise the man selling them was a fellow I met a few years ago at TAFE doing a bit of a bush regeneration course. It had been his intention back then to get a bush food business going, so I was extremely happy to see it had come to fruition.
Also exciting is that they will be selling the trees in about 18 months time. They had some quandong trees for sale and jars of bush fruit marmalade and relish. Fantastic.
This is their website...marvick native farms.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another go at some vegetable growing.

Happy little seedlings.
The time of year is encouraging. It is meant to be early winter but it has only rained once so far, really. Still it is a little cooler (though plenty of people are still in shorts during the day) and so seedlings don't seem like they will get burnt or dry out so easily.
I planted a bunch of little things into the super-duper improved charcoal soil patch. So far the rats have ignored them. That is good.

In a few days it will be uni break again. My one exam is this week coming. I'm half confident, half not. I really hope I pull through the unit.

There will be time for blogging, gardening and eating properly again when the exam is done.

I just really hope we get some autumn soon before spring sneaks up on winter.

Interesting news at work today. Two crop failures have affected stock availability. Hot weather in Victoria stopped some trees we were expecting and a batch of seed spuds were destroyed in another case. Oh, but there's no climate change...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Making use of free resources.

At my work there are two 15 year old plane trees above the car park. At this time of year they lose their leaves and make a big mess and blow into the shop.
I was extremely pleased the other day to see that there was someone collecting them up for her compost. She had big empty bags and was doing a fine job of clearing the edge of the car park. Good on her, I say. It saves us having to pick them up. I have taken bags of leaves home before and probably will again. We don't get much opportunity to get large amounts of soft leaves for mulching and composting here. Last year I inadvertently transported some big wolf spiders to my house among the leaves, which was fine with me, but not so good for BF when one was running around in the car.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Temperature controlled aphids.

There seems to be a few aphids around at the moment. I think it's the milder temperature with no rain so far, encouraging the little beggers to breed. Luckily there are also plenty of ladybirds around so they will keep the aphids in check.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A change of seasons..eventually...we hope.

Perth isn't having an autumn this year. There's still been none, or barely any, rain. It's over halfway through autumn and today is the first below 30C we've had. Or nearly. There were a couple of overcast days, bringing the hope of not having to hand water the summer's surviving plants.
It is encouraging though as vege seedlings will survive much more easily at this time of year and there are lots of deciduous fruit trees for sale at the nurseries.

Given that I have a little more time free all of a sudden (having quit the stats unit) the garden may get a bit of attention from me.
P has been making charcoal lately. We found a website on how to make a simple charcoal retort, to produce your own carbon capturing soil addition.
Simple char. Two barrel charcoal retort.
The charcoal has carbon trapped in it that will stay in the soil for decades. It appears to harbour beneficial soil organisms and has a huge surface area so it can hang on to nutrients, increasing soil fertility.
Terra preta study at Cornell University.

In industry the byproducts of combustion can be used to power the charcoal factory. Any biomass can be used to produce the char so wastes can be used. Once the carbon is in the char in the ground it stays there for a long time, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
Done on a large scale this could make a big difference to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere while increasing fertility in the poor soils of Perth and elsewhere.
So we'll see how the garden that has had charcoal added to it does compared to the other beds.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Small trees for Perth gardens.

There are a few trees that I think could be used in small gardens.
Firstly a little definition of the difference between trees and shrubs. A tree is a generally single stemmed plant that reaches a height of say 4 metres upwards to the 100 odd metres of the world's tallest trees, mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and Coast sequioa (Sequoia sempervirens).
A shrub is a multistemmed plant that only gets to 3 or 4 metres.

Eucalyptus forrestiana: has gorgeous red gumnuts and pretty pink flowers. They are drought hardy and tolerant of lots of sun. They also attract small birds, providing much needed nectar for the little bird species.

Eucalyptus platypus is a mallee type tree that is almost wider than it is tall. The leaves are shiny and thick, the trunk is mottled and the flower buds are fused to make a space ship shaped gumnut after the fluffy yellow flowers.

Grevillea species that are in the 3-6 metre range can be pruned to shape to a central stem to create a tree shaped shrub. Honey Gem, Pink Surprise and others can be used as small trees. I have one of each of Honey Gem and Pink Surprise out the front of my house. I think the dog sat on one though because it isn't standing up, so maybe I should have staked it until it got a bit bigger.

Crepe myrtles are beautiful decorative deciduous trees that are pretty tough for hot and dry conditions. They do need some watering but they are small and pretty.

Lastly, while not a tree, the dragon fruit cactus can be grown into a tree shaped form that allows the stems to take up little room and the tops cascade over, producing enormous white flowers followed by delicious fruit.
The red dragon fruit is much tastier than the white. It has a sweet, scented flavour similar to rasberry and watermelon. That is where the white flower above is from.

..and this is the fruit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why am I doing this to myself?

I am having one of those mornings when I am questioning my decision to go to uni. I have no idea what is going on with the stats unit yet I completely love the water earth science one (so far, hydrology yet to come).
My feelings about the stats are making everything else fade as the stupid pressure, anger, despair, frustration that I feel are overwhelming my clarity so I don't want to read any of my other subject.
This one subject puts at risk all the other parts that make up a degree, it's a core unit, so there's no skipping it.
Maybe I have developed my procrastination skills to a new I am..moaning and dribbling on my blog. Woe is me, 'n' all, but, hey, I am trying to learn this stuff so I can hopefully make a difference in keeping this planet of ours habitable.
I get frustrated because its so important to me that I can understand and not have to repeat a semester doing the same boring thing again.
I have to learn to love the numbers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Uni blues.

I've got the "I have a stats test tomorrow and barely understand a thing" blues. Luckily we're allowed to take cheat notes in so I may at least get marks for the right formula...if I can figure out which is the right one.
Poooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I've tried to study but it makes me feel bad. Still I guess it's stopping me from thinking about the terrible state the planet is in.

I planted a new Grevillea out the front. Grevillea rhyolitica - it's endangered where it comes from but is available as a garden plant. It comes from near the coast over east so hopefully it will be a good replacement for the one that just died out the front.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney has made a bold move in council meetings by trying to make sustainable choices when it comes to food choice. She is going for more sustainable fish choices, not using chocolate that enslaves children in its production and organic over conventional produce from local farmers where possible. Brave move and highly controversial as far as all those gooses with their heads in the sand thinking there is nothing wrong with the way the human species behaves.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Community gardens network.

There is a community gardens group started recently to help people set up food gardens in suburban areas.
The website (what there is of it so far) is WA community gardens network.
There are some good workshops and forums on in the near future about how to implement more food growing in the city and surrounds. It's good that this sort of thing is going on as many people need to get help to grow fresh food.
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world, as far as distance from other populated places goes. We really need to reduce our reliance on carbon based transport systems. Growing more food locally will help with the transition.
They are closely working with this mob from over east, Community gardens, who have been supporting community gardening for some time and have a wealth of knowledge on their website.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'm back at uni, doing Statistics and Database stuff..that totally sucks and makes me depressed every time I go to class. I don't get it, the lecturer isn't much help and my tutor for it is scary and mean. A pox on stats.

The other subject, Water and Earth Science is much more interesting but I fear it will suffer due to more time spent on the thing I don't get. Ugh.

Just so you know!!

And it's stinkin' hot.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pygmy perch and minnows.

We finally got some little fish to eat the mosquito larvae that breed in our barrel size tubs. They have done a great job in a v ery short time. Upon release into the water they swam around stuffing their little faces with many mozzie larvae. Excellent.
I'll be able to be outside around sunset now without getting carried away by little bities.
The fish have little mouths so they won't be able to eat the frogspawn, if we get any more this year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Camping in the south-west.

A cute crab at Yallingup.

We spent a very relaxing 3 days in a few spots we'd not been to before. Spent a night at Yallingup Caravan Park, as it was the only place we could stay near the coast with a dog in tow. It was very noisy with a steady amount of traffic going past until just after midnight, then starting again at 5 am for the early surfers.
In the morning we went and wandered about on the rocks up the road from town, pretty amazing. Very good way to wake up.
From there, after a great beefburger at the Yallingup shop near the tav we went just up the road to Ngilgi Cave. I was amazingly relaxed about descending into the cave..thought I'd be more nervous but I think learning a bit about geology has made me well assured that the area we were in is very tectonically stable!! It was beautiful in there and about 21 degrees C, a pleasant coolness after the warmth of jumping around over rocks a little earlier. It has a very easy way around inside with handrails and lots of spots to stop.

Our next place along the way was to Conto's. Paul had visited a rocky coastal area there few years ago that he wanted to get a better look at. Our good ole car took us along the bumpy road out to Merchant Rock where we spent a good hour or more checking out some fascinating chunks. There were some intrusions (in the rocks) that were quite interesting. People have died there rock fishing so we stayed well clear of the slippery rocks near the edge.
I love rock pools so I did have a bit of a nose around some of those.
I was pretty impressed by seeing anemones in some of them - it's the first time I've seen them since I was 9.
One rocky pool we saw had hundreds of mosquito larvae but also plenty of crabs. That seemed odd.

Finally we made our way to Sue's Bridge, on Sue's Road (between Brockman and Vasse Highways) to spend the night. It was a well set-up campground, private car bays with fireplaces (not to be used in this extreme fire danger period), tables and nearby toilets. The river was quite close so we took our water-loving dog and ourselves down for a dip. Poor Gruntle had been in the car a lot as we weren't allowed to take him into any of the national parks so he was very pleased to get in and have a good swim around. The Blackwood River is still looking pretty good in this area. Some of the trees are very big, very tall and pretty amazing to look at.

Next day we slowly packed up and went to Busselton with the idea of going to the Busselton Jetty fish gallery at the end of the jetty but the timing was all wtong so we took the dog for another swim, this time in the ocean and headed for home.

Not a jot of gardening in site..heh.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Australia in shock.

The state of Victoria has had an incredibly tragic few days with nearly 200 people dying and hundreds of houses lost as large areas of the state were consumed in what amounted to a firestorm that swept through the mountains wiping out entire towns.
It's been a horrific few days for those involved and I feel it's affected Australians strongly. It's a similar feeling to watching 9/11 when it happened.
Large amounts of money have been donated to help those who have lost houses to get back on their feet. One town has lost 1 in 5 of its community. It's just unimaginable to be going through such an event.

The long drought had dried the forest, which combined with strong winds and no humidity to make the whole area tinder dry. Conditions were very much in favour of bushfires. Incredibly, many of the fires appear to have been set by arsonists. They will be done for multiple murder when they are caught, which I am sure they will be.

It has come in the same period of time that much of Queensland has been flooded. The climate seems to be misbehaving.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

News flash: Gruntle caught a rat!!

Amazingly the dog of his own decision caught and bit a fairly decent sized rat while we were sitting outside trying to cool down after a Perth's summer day. We congratulated him with a chunk of chicken frame and lots of praise.
I saw him whoosh past me and grab the rat. He bundled it up a bit, then it ran but got trapped by a bag of potting mix. Gruntle quickly lunged again and caught it again, quickly killing it.

Hmmm, this blog has little bits of gruesomeness in it, sorry folks. Sheesh, dead rats, dead 'roo's.
Well, you know, lief n death, they go together.

On a brighter note..
I have finally succumbed to rescuing a sad looking rose that would have been ditched otherwise. It is called Sir Donald Bradman, is a beautiful dark red and has many petals. It also has an excellent fragrance. Beautiful. I intend to experiment on it in terms of organically dealing with pests and diseases.
Roses are actually quite waterwise plants and they thrive on a fair amount of neglect as long as they are pruned regularly and have plenty of sun. They don't need much water and non-climbing varieties don't become weedy.
It's okay though, I am not going to become a collector of silly exotics..just the tough ones.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kangaroos can be clumsy.

The other day we went for our Sunday bushwalk (or bush stalk, depending how energetic we are). A little way along a track we found a dead kangaroo. There was no sign of blood or damage to it, and it didn't even have any flies or ants on or near it, so it must have died quite recently before we arrived. I suspected its neck was broken from the angle of it.
Upon further looking and thinking, we suspect that it must have come bounding down the hill along the track and messed up its footing as it tried to jump over a log, as it's bottom jaw was all exposed and the bush it was in was squashed down a bit. It was pretty skinny and old looking so I think it just got unlucky and bashed its head on the big long next to the track and broke its neck.
It was quite bizarre. P dragged it over to the other side of the big log so it could be a meal for the many little beasties that do that job in the bush. It was really odd to see a whole 'roo, no blood or obvious damage. Poor thing.

Letter to Aus government about the need to set a proper target to reduce emissions.

I am sending this to Rudd, Gillard, Garrett and Wong.

I am a student in Environmental Restoration (BSc) at Murdoch University.
While being a Labour and Greens supporter I am disturbed by the lack of action on this governments behalf in terms of climate change.

The recently set ‘goals’ for emissions restrictions were quite pathetic. To have any impact at all these targets need to be closer to 50% reduction by 2020 to try and mitigate the worst of what’s to come for the human race and all living creatures.

It is already too late to prevent a lot of the catastrophic events, according to the IPCC, but if we carry on using coal powered electricity we will have done nothing to reduce the CO2 and methane that this country produces.

There are many green jobs that can be created to replace blue collar jobs that will be lost in the transition to a cleaner future. Manufacturing and installation of renewable energy are just two areas that promise increased employment prospects.

I understand that the cost of electricity will rise through some of the emission reducing measures but I have noticed there is little talk of individuals reducing their consumption through more efficient use of products. Public education could be used to make people more aware of the simple measures we can take to reduce household consumption. Retrofitting homes to be more thermally efficient and solar panels being made cheaply available to rental homes would be two ways to reduce electricity use in lower income families. These two concepts could also create more jobs.

Please listen to the concerned citizens of this great country Australia. The public can try all we might to reduce our personal carbon footprints but unless the government and industry takes action to reduce emission through using less coal and becoming more energy efficient there will be little reduction in dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
There isn’t time to wait for other countries to act. We need to show the rest of the planet that we are serious about being the change we want to see in the world.


Monday, January 19, 2009

War on the pests in my garden and kitchen.

I've had enough of sharing my kitchen with yucky creatures..cockroaches, ants and even the odd mouse.
Two mice have been caught recently, quite a few cockroaches have been committing suicide into the dishwater overnight in the kitchen sink tubs, but the rats have been doing the tango in the roof and the coastal brown ants are constantly roaming about.
Last night we put some rat poison in the roof. The only type I ever use is Racumin which doesn't cause secondary death if the dying rat is consumed by another creature. Once their at numbers are reduced I will actually be able to grow a bit of food. With summer in full swing and rats eating anything tasty I am at the point where I am really totally unispired by doing anything to the garden.
Even getting some lettuce and leafy herbs going would be great. Anything. The parsley and rocket even seems to have been hammered this season so there are very little edibles apart from the good old tough Mediterranean herbs.
The late rain and cooler temperatures have allowed a lot more insect activity and more successful breeding of pest populations.
I have had a lot of white fly this year, which I've not seen before, and lots of green leaf hoppers. So most leafy greens have been speckled by the piercing mouthparts of those little pests.
I found a couple of long window box shaped pots the other day. I like to grow lettuce in them as they are narrow and can easily be replanted without disturbing nearby plants too much.
Hopefully soon I will get some greens from the garden. February is a very hot month usually so there may not be much going on until after then. The fig tree and the grapes are coming along well, so we should get plenty off of those, especially if we control the filthy rats.

Inspiration from other women bloggers.

I have lately been checking out some female bloggers in the sciences. They are mostly post-doctorate or doing some other academic job or even out working in the field. I will add my favourites to my blog list.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Summer all of a sudden.

Today has been hot. I used it as an excuse to go see a film I'd been waiting to see. Vicki Cristina Barcelona. Good film. Lots of laughs and some thinking moments, too.

Anyway, it was a diversion for a couple of hours. I am looking forward to getting back to uni. I'm not very good at using up spare time and am well aware that I should do anything I want while I have the chance coz when i get back to studying it will be flat out and I'll have no time for anything except reading those two hefty readers I picked up earlier this week and learning what the squiggly bits mean for statistics.
The subject matter looks interesting - lots about geology and soils, and the second half, hydrogeology looks quite hefty, with a fair bit of maths. But after having passed intro to chem, I'm feeling much confident that I can learn hard content if I try hard enough.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year.

Erm, has anyone noticed..?
I guess some people, if anyone else actually reads this that is, may have noticed there is actually very little talk here about growing veges in Fremantle.
A large reason for this is that rats eat any attempts at growing food here. We get a few strawberries and blueberries, so far undiscovered by the rodent pests.
Our simple basil hydroponic bucket continues to produce plenty of that leafy herb for us. Paul made his best batch of basil pesto last week and we ate some of it on the road to Cambray and Pemberton where we went last week.
Some of our shady trees have spread further than we thought and at this point of the year, summer, we prefer the shade to the bright drying sun. Too much water is needed to get a garden producing at this point, unless you have shadecloth over it during the peak sun hours of the day.
I do have quite a bit of silverbeet growing out there, but am not sure what to do with so much of it apart from spanakopita type things. Though, admittedly, I do not eat enough of those delicious spanakopita type things.

Trampoline rabbit hutch.
My cousin Jayne in Pemberton came up with a clever way to give her daughter's pet rabbit a shady, secure day hutch where it has plenty of room to run around. She simply wound chicken wire out and tied the wire to the legs of the round trampoline, placing bricks at the gaps at the base of each tramp' leg to prevent the rabbit squeezing out. We told her she'd accidentally invented a bunny tractor and that she can use it to mow some of the lawn for her.

So anyway, I shall continue to ramble on a little here and there about issues that are important to me. Some of those things happen in the garden, many need to happen on a global scale.