Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writing workshop update

Writing is something I think I have always done.  Ok, not every day, but most of my life I have had a book in the back of my mind and work on it occasionally.   I did live a very interesting life sailing around the world, and so this was a type of memoir/instruction book.  It would change from time to time, and I did at times submit it in various forms for publication.  On occasion to get some money into the bank, I would write articles and some of those were purchased and published in magazines, but always my dream was to publish a book.  Always the same book.
Now with this writing workshop I am writing something totally different.  A work of fiction.  The instructions were to write a series of short stories, but they have been following the outline submitted, and are integrating and building a life of their own.   I do like the idea of using google docs, and initially formed a document for each deadline, that was a great place to keep my work, easily accesible where ever I was as long as I had access to the internet.   I liked the idea that my work was to to be kept that - just for my eyes.  I havnt done so well at keeping up with posting about the exercises, although I have been writing pretty consistently, maybe even more than I had first scheduled although I realise that might slow down as I will be going travelling soon. 
My stories have evolved and changed slightly - one of the protaganists actually moves to another country and continues on with the story there.  Another one turned out to be a man!   Since this is a work of fiction, and is my story, I have allowed that to happen.  In the past I think my writing has maybe been too restrictive.  I like what I am writing.  Even though there is supposed to be one story a week, I have ventured into each of the other two stories in this section, simply to write down ideas and notes as to where they will intertwine and connect.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mushroom compost as a mulch

One thing on my list when we went into the city this weekend was to get some mulch.  The garden bed outside the bedroom window has been sprouting weeds like crazy since I dug up the sweet potatoes and started planting flowers there. 

 My idea was if I mulched it that would stop the weeds growing.   Of course the first place I always stop is the clearance trolley and I stocked up there on flats of flowering annuals for .50 and 1.00.  My plan changed....  a womans perogative.  Instead of lots of mulch I would have lots of flowers. In between the flowers I have dressed the soil with mushroom compost which is reccomended as a mulch, but then also is a fantastic fertilizer (and organic) as it breaks down.  By then the bed should be well covered in flowers.  I have found that weeds like open spaces, so my plan is just to crowd out the weeds, and what better way than with flowers.  At that price I didnt really care what flowers they were, but I got a six pack of yellow snapdragons, a 10 pack of verbena a four pack of purple daisies.   I talked myself out of the mulch because
1. Wood chips are 3 times the price of mushroom compost
 2. We have a lot of ants and I am suspecting that wood chips might not be a good thing to have around when there are ants looking for a home.
During the week I saw a  photo of the bleeding heart vine which is flowering now in Florida USA, which means it will flower here during our wet season.  What a beautiful vine, and when I saw one in the clearance bin as well I snapped it up.   Is it serendipity that makes you read about something one week and then see it on clearance that weekend?  Obviously I am meant to have one of these creepers, and it is going to love living in my garden.  I tidied up that part of the garden and it is looking quite nice - just need those creepers to start covering it all up.  I realise this photo does not look much different to the last photos of this area, but there was losts of hot weeding, and tying up those supports that went on in between the two photos.
I had planned to spend the morning in the garden and the afternoon cleaning the house, but it was 4pm by the time I came inside.   (I never try to do it the other way around, but I am sure  I wouldnt have been cleaning the house until 4 if gardening awaited!)  I did get a lot of things done - cutting back, and spreading a bit of my favourite pick me up on the plants.  It is called 5 in 1 and consists of mushroom compost, manure, and blood and bone.
I have put in a few fresh seeds, tied back the tomato plants onto stakes and generally cleared out the vegetable patch to allow more light and air in.  Everyone is complaining about the amount of bugs this year, maybe because the wet season went on for so long, but I am hoping the next seeds that sprout will have a better chance.
As I was cutting back some pigeon pea sprouts I came across this little guy, and moved him onto an amaryllis leaf, where he seems quite happy.

We normally get the ones with smooth skin - I have never seen one with bumpy skin like this.  Isnt he cute?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Now the sun is shining, we need to filter some of it!

The venue for the gardening group last weekend was about 6 times the size of my yard, where we last met.  An acre and a half around the house planted with tropical fruit trees on one side, then a section for tropical flowers and another for vegetables.  A lovely creek runs behind the house, and beyond that they have converted the rest of the property back to rainforest - it was a sugar cane farm at one time. 
I was a slight bit envious at all the fruit she is growing, that I just do not have room for, but I love my garden just the way it is and would never want to change it.  Well, of course I do have dreams.......  one of the dreams was to create some sort of pond but the conversation on Saturday made me once again aware of how much work a pond can be.  Then again - they always seem to attract cane toads, so in fact I came away most pleasantly fulfilled and happy with my own little corner of paradise.  I also came away with armloads of cuttings and small plants.  I got a little waylaid and excited when I discovered my new heleconia that I posted about on Monday surprise heleconia. and while in that same area I also discovered a new pawpaw tree. 

 I hope it is the red variety I have been trying to grow, and I hope it is a female.  I met someone on Saturday who had been told you could change the sex of a pawpaw tree by cutting the male flowers off - has anyone heard about that?
Now I have to think about where all my new plants will go.  I have started some bougainvillea cuttings, and we decided to grow bougainvillea against the fence next to the carport.  Since we took the shade cloth down we  have realised that we really do need some shade, and maybe that will be the answer - they don't mind intense sun, will provide shade year round and colour for much of the time. Yes, you are right - the rain seems to have stopped and we have sunshine!  Now I just have to get those cuttings to strike....   I do have one bougainvillea that I grew from a cutting, but I must admit it is the more common cerise one. It has taken off and is already reaching for the sky. 

 These that I got on Saturday are white and orange.

I also got some foxtail palms, (you can see one behind the bougainvillea in the previous photo) so I might plant a few out in the common area near the pool, and maybe give some to friends with more space.  I have been toying with the front area, and trying to make it more defined as an entrance, along with providing the much needed shade. The costus is just lovely at the entrance, with its variegated leaves, and they are so fluffy to touch!

 I had always been thinking of further back against the fence, and then thought I might put in a  little bed where the brickwork ends.  It is the perfect spot to move my cordelines, which have no colour when in the shady part of the back garden.   A few cuttings of  coleus should fill in the lower part of the bed and add colour.  Also a perfect spot to plant that mock orange that was given to me a while back.  The scent wafting over toward the front door should be very pleasant, and another reason to make that entrance more inviting. Voila, another little garden, and I think it might help define the entrance as well as filter some of the harsh morning sun.
The cordelines are looking quite sick and straggly, not sure if I should cut back some of the lower leaves, or just leave them be until they have settled in.  This one was a bright pink when I first got it, and now it just has pink edges to the leaves. 
Hopefully they will all perk up soon, but in the meantime I think the front entrance is looking quite good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creative writing - being observant

I am not so sure that I am a very good student!   We got three photos this week and were told to think of words that these images brought up.  My first thought was, gosh what a waste of time, I want to be writing, not thinking up words and images that have nothing to do with this wonderful story I am creating.  I kept being drawn back to those images and would jot down words as they appeared, rather lacksadasically I must add.
Then a strange thing happened.... my weekly story began to flow, gosh, one day I spent a whole three hours writing (even went on to the next one).  Merillee do you know something I dont? (Of course you do, that is why you are the teacher!)  Were you right to send us those images to get words floating around?  How can totally unassociated images make my stories flow better?  (suffice to say, I bow to the process and will continue to do the exercises put forward, whether I think they are silly or not! )
I once read a statement "If you want to"  If you are reading, I thought, you wont be writing, but I can see the logic  now.  Busier people actually achieve more, and the more we are exposing our brains to different images and words and thoughts, they are going to start to flow, like a waterfall, straight onto the page! I have been sent a book to read and review - I am lucky to get these very so often from one of the Australian publishing companies.  Gosh I dont have time for this right now I thought, (although it looks like a very interesting book)  and then that statement came to my mind.  I will make time for reading and observing, as the more we writers expose ourselves to ideas and other words, the richer our own writing will be.
I bow to you Merrillee.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The ever changing sweet potato bed, then rose garden, now amaryllis

You know my sweet potato bed, that my hubby said he wanted to turn into a rose garden?  Well, it seems he didn't really want roses.  He just didn't want sweet potatoes!  I had planted a row of salvia (well the label said salvia, but they don't look like salvia to me) and strewn a few zinnia and nasturtiums seeds around.  The continual rain was a bit disheartening, and the entire bed was fast being overtaken by weeds.  My grandson had grabbed the rose bush on Saturday morning and it had "bitten" him, so I have really been cooling over the rose bush idea anyway.
What to do, what to do.
At the same time my helconias have been taking over and suffocating the amaryllis.  I do love those heleconias, so decided to give them free reign of that bed and move the amaryllis (called hippeastrum more commonly here) over to the sweet potato bed.
It was quite dark by the time I had finished and found the camera to take  a photo, but I am sure you get the idea.   Time for a nice glass of wine in the swing with my hard work visible alongside!

I am not really sure when the best time is to move amaryllis - I suspect it is just after they flower, and then you would probably cut the leaves right back.  well, I don't always do things exactly by the book all the time......  I do remember them flowering right around the time of my daughters wedding which is July 31st, so there was no way I was going to cut those leaves, so loosely tied them together with some string, then poked bits of sticks in around the area to support them.  Now if and when they do flower I will have an "avenue" of amaryllis.   The bed definitely looks much better than the weed bed it was on Friday, so I count that as a positive.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Surprise heleconia

Over the weekend I decided that I had to clear the pathway behind the back of the garden.  It started out with the visit to the gardening group on Saturday where I came back with a bunch of cuttings and small plants - yeah!
I got some growing galangal and ginger roots.  The ginger I tried to grow from the supermarket ginger always rots away.  This is the ginger, it grows up to about 2ft high and has very spindly leaves.

This is the galangal - it grows very tall, and I planted it just behind the costus, close to the lychee tree. 

While digging around there I discovered that the costus is flowering right at the base.  No-one can see the flowers there unless you go bundu-bashing, so if the glalangal takes off that costus will just have to go.   I have seen the costus that I want to grow there, it is lower with little orangy bud type flowers on the tips.  I guess when I pinched this plant, I must have got the plant next to the one I wanted!
Oh dear, but on  the other hand, when I eventually slashed my way clear right into the back corner of the garden I found that I must have done the exact same thing when digging up a pink lady heleconia from a friends house.  Expecting to one day see a pink hanging heleconia in that corner, I was startled to see a bit of red.....

wow, I rushed back to get the camera, click,


look at the details (cant wait to try out my new camera....)

and then out came the loppers. 

This gorgeous baby was going right into the house - on display where everyone could see it.  Gosh what a fantastic mothers day present!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pollinators need the sun

With lots of rain and lack of sunshine, most of the plants in my vegetable garden are not doing that great.  I am not sure that we are getting enough pollinators, but maybe they are also waiting for the sun to come out.  The eggplant that volunteered in the front garden is my most prolific, maybe because it has full sun when it does come out.  I pick the eggplant as soon as they are ready!
I do see lots of butterflies, and honeyeater birds around, but not so many bees.  I wish I could photograph a ulysses butterfly, but they are so fast, and the brilliant colour is only on the back side of their wings.  I am getting a new camera though so am pretty excited about the feature where you can take a series of photos very fast.  I am getting the Fujifilm S1500SD - I wonder if anyone else is using that same camera?  These butterflies sometimes sit and sip very slowly so are easier to capture on film.

This geisha girl normally attracts lots of bees, so maybe it is just the sunshine we are missing and soon the garden will be buzzing again.

The branches are lying down on the grass, so saturated with rainwater that they have no energy left to lift themselves up.  The forecast for the weekend is sunshine, so I am ready, and so is the garden!  Hopefully the bees and other pollinators are waiting in the wings for curtain time!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Writing workshop - goals set

I think I have my outline/goals ready to go.

I am really out of my comfort zone..... but from what I understand I need to have some specific, measurable and achievable goals posted by today. Since I live in Australia, my deadline comes first! I have been wandering in and out of whether I really want to do this, but actually just sitting down and listing my goals is quite exciting. Mainly because I LOVE writing lists, and seeing things all organised. Then I do also like to tick things off the lists.. so without further ado, here is my list for the next 12 weeks.

Linking throughout all stories will be female protagnists, and race issues.

I dont know how much of the plots I am really meant to expose, but have to put down something so that I can see that I am on the right track.

I am essentially a non fiction writer, so it seems more comfortable to me to have a foundation in writing about some things I know. Such as places, race issues, and as a female writing to a female reader.

My stories in each set will be located in three different countries, Africa, Australia and America.

The first three stories in each set will involve a different women and a racial issue.

The fourth story in each set will be a chance meeting of all three.

I have a protaginist already picked out for each story and the meeting place, but not sure that I should post that information. It is of course only a rough ouline at this stage, and the characters will make themselves clearer as I "meet" them. From one of the other participants I saw a hint to use google docs, and this looks like a good place to work. I will be travelling for some of the time, and so not sure how much time I can commit, but am aiming for at least 30 minutes a day, with each story completed by Friday of that week. If I dont have computer time, I will make up time the following day or whenever I can. Missing days is not an excuse to stop the project!

OK - goals done - I can tick that one!

What is my Passionfruit telling me?

My passionfruit vine took off like greased lightening when I first planted it 14 months ago.  It has climbed about 60ft up a happy plant in one of the neighbours yard.  It has also wandered about 20ft in each direction along our own fence, and also over the arch, although that is not really its preffered route.  It definitely likes to climb up more than anything!
I estimate that we (and our neighbours who share the fences) must have had about 500 passionfruit off that vine so far, and it is not about to stop any time soon..  We wait until the fruit drops and then pick them up. Perfectly ripened, and they can stay in the refigerator for at least a couple of weeks until quite wrinkled, but are still very tasty.  I have frozen some pulp but cant imagine a time I will use it, as there is never a time I do not have fresh passionfruit.
The base of the vine has woody passionfruit virus, but it is still going strong, covering over the old dead wood with new branches.  What a tangle!  The roots grow deep into what was my neighbours chook pen, but they lost most of their chickens over the wet season, and just have one left.  Now they are using that area to build up a compost pile.  I noticed that suddenly all the new growth has yellowing leaves.

 It looks to me like a magnesium deficiency,and think I will give it a dose of epson salts tea - something that I think is lacking in the local soil, as everything perks up after epson salts.  Does anyone have any other ideas of what could be causing this? 

Dont you find it awesome that nutrients travel all the way from the roots to the very tips of these plants to provide its nourishment?  Most of the time too they do it without any help from us, but this time I think my plant is calling out to me for some help.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Orchid show

I wandered in to the local orchid show over the weekend, with my grandson.  It was hard keeping him in the stroller, and telling him the signs said "don't touch!" 
So beautiful, I just wonder how they get them all to flower at the same time?  How do these orchids know this is the time to be at their best?  I suspect orchid gardeners are different to me.  I like to give the plants  the control.  I try to make them as happy as they can be on natural soil building nutrients, certainly none of my plants get any chemical fertilizers.  Orchids are native to this climate and get their nutrients in the wild from fallen rotting leaves and so grow best in old bark, with lots of drainage, which means that if it doesn't rain they need a sprinkle over their leaves every couple of days.  they do like a foliar feed of seaweed tea.
This bat plant was first in the arrangements section at the show - I have just the spot to plant one of these - they do require deep shade - aren't those long tentacles lovely?
I also liked this one - it seems like something that you could even replicate out in the garden

I wasn't going to buy anything, but oh gosh there were so many lovely ones for sale.   I bought one with lots of tiny buds, so that I can still enjoy it for a long time. I thought I had bought one with a speck of purple in the center, but I do like this plain white one.
 I am not sure where it will live - I am toying with a piece of bamboo hanging on the garden fence filled with orchids and ferns...mmm I am liking the idea more and more, and I found the perfect piece of bamboo lying waiting for me on the beach the other day. 
 Hopefully my new orchid inherited the genes that say -" flower  profusely in April, in time for the orchid show!"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It is compost awareness week!

I have just discovered that this week is a very special week!  Compost awareness week!  How did I miss that?  How did I not anticipate its arrival - warn everyone, send out flyers, give all my friends little compost bins to perch on the side of their sinks...... 

I truly credit compost with  the turnaround in my garden soil.  I had never used  a bin before, and had heard that they were not so effective, and that the compost could get wet, or dry and difficult to manage etc. etc.  Looking back on past gardens, I have had more success with a bin than I ever did with an open compost heap.
Some pointers that I think really help:
1. Leaves. you need leaves, and if you can shred them, so much the better. 
2. Air.  I try to turn the compost at least once a week, and it doesn't matter if I don't get all the way down to the bottom, as that bottom layer can just sit there maturing, and if  the bin starts to get too full, I can empty some out of the bottom, introducing more air and taking out almost completed compost. 
3. Using the black gold. This can be turned over onto the ground and within a week or two will have attracted worms and be fully integrated into the soil.  Some people say don't  plant into it straight away but I find within a week or two it is fine. 
4. Grow accelerators.  I grow comfrey and lemongrass to add to the compost, and these two plants really get the heat up.  If you are near the beach and can pick up seaweed that does the same thing.
5. Plant fish  Yes you read that right.....I once read about planting a fish head underneath a tomato bush, and tried it and it worked.   Now any time I have fish bones, heads or prawn shells, I just dig a hole and tip it all out.  I do this a little away from growing plants, and I must note that I do not have a dog, as I suspect dogs might try to dig them up.  I don't compact the soil down too much, thinking to add some air to help the decomposition process.
6. More.  Get some more bins and use those for extra compost that you are not using right away so that it can sit and mature. Remember that needs to be stirred up a bit too every now and then.  I also have an extra bin for leaves, and they sit there for a year to create leaf mould.
I have thought of worms bins, but they seem very fiddly, and all our waste goes into the compost bin, with a fairly quick turnaround, so I am happy with my little system, really everyone should be composting - it is so easy and so effective! 
I wanted to take a photo, but that pesky rain is still about... theres another reason to have compost in a bin, an open compost heap would be drowned by now :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Starting a writing course.

I have been a little disinterested in writing my blog lately.  Disinterested in gardening too (it never stops raining!) and I have some new crafty projects on the way.  I am also packing up for a 4 week trip to see my daughters in the US. So exciting.
I have been wondering if my blog should also have some crafty posts.  I have been wondering if I should put recipes in here.  No, I wanted a gardening post, I tell myself.  Wait a minute who wrote the rules here.... right!

I have also been thinking my blog is so uninteresting, other peoples blogs are so well written and entertaining. so from all this introspection came a writing course - an online writing course, so I signed up.  Not great timing as I will be travelling and am very busy right now, but I realise this is my trend, I get overwhelmed too easily and then give up, so maybe this should be something I should be working on rather than shoving it under the mat again.
Now I see the first lesson has been posted,  OOps I had a busy weekend (not writing), so I guess one of my first goals must surely be
1. to be committed and do something every day. I tend to hit something new running full force and then slowly dwindle back into boredom.  I think I need this structure.
2. I have only written non-fiction and would like to try my hand at different genres as well.
3. I need to see this thing to the end, otherwise it will just be yet another unfiinished project.  I see the trend here.
I rushed through this post more than I would have liked, but I promise myself I will do better from now on.....
turning the corner.... right now.


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