In many ways, not all of them based on science, our desire to return this little piece of the planet back to a self-contained ecosystem has been fulfilled. I looked out the kitchen window the other day, and there, sitting in the middle of the lawn, searching around for signs of danger, was a little golden stoat. I have heard them referred to as vicious pests. But when I saw this stoat, flushed out from under the sleepout in broad daylight, I was struck by it's beauty. And furthermore, it may have helped solve a conundrum.
Ever since we moved in, we've been host to tribes of wildlife, much of it outside, but some of it wanting to share our warm dry house. Of course, all these critters, big and small, could have been eradicated with poison. The house could have been spider proofed. The mice and rats blitzed.
Timothy was a natural for the role of mouse, rat and possum catcher, being a born hunter, but although he might have resorted to poison, Lucy and I wouldn't approve it. Despite kitty's best efforts, many of which meant a merciless terrorising on the kitchen floor, we were struck with a mouse plague last summer. Every time a mouse was caught, another cute pair of pink ears, cheeky set of beady eyes, and little pointy nose followed by a wiggly tail, would appear in its place. They were incredibly cute, but there wasn't room for them in the kitchen and they severely tested my ability to live in an organic fashion. Timothy spent several days specialising in mouse control, laying out the traditional mice traps, checking them several times a day.
One day I noticed the mice had gone, and as the months went by, it seemed they had gone for good. Having lived with that mice community for two-and-a-half years, I couldn't figure out what change in nature had so suddenly taken place. But being a great believer in the old saying, Ask and ye shall receive, I saw that creation had answered.
Seeing the stoat seemed to solve the riddle. "That's where the mice have gone", said Francis.
Well, I have to say that little guy is welcome, although, with Ruby sitting on eggs due to hatch any day, I'll have to make sure she and her babies are safe.
When I took Patrick outside to get a closer look at the stoat, I saw another newcomer sitting on the roof. A pigeon of the London variety. Being the only pigeon to be seen here by us, she/he is also welcome. It's a tame one, and has decided our laundry is the place to go in the rain, our roof a suitable perch for dry nights. I see it has a ring on its leg, so we will try and track down the owner.
I am having my first attempt at propagation, having taken several cuttings of a bush which I think is buxus, as well as a number of lavender cuttings and a few off our lemon bush. I used a home-made willow rooting hormone recipe and followed the normal procedure.
The would be lemon trees died within days while the hedgy cuttings which I picture as round topiaried balls on sticks, planted in terracotta pots, have fared much better. The lavender looked as if it would die, but then sprung back. They did not seem to have taken root, but lately I was beginning to think they were my best chance of success.
That is until I went out to check them the other day.
The tray holding all the cuttings spent the first several weeks in the Landrover glasshouse, before being shifted into the open air on the bonnet. When I went to water them I found that every single lavender has mysteriously disappeared, while the lemons and the some day topiary balls have not been touched.
The tray is too high for Patrick to reach, and the whole operation has been carried out too specifically for his mind. I'm picturing a rogue bird of some kind swooping down from the eucalyptus, presumably for a sweet-smelling and relaxing nest.
The fate of Tapanui Downs hangs in the balance. Someone has put in a bid for the house, but Timothy too, wants to stay here. If he bought the house, then the chooks could stay, and the garden will have an assured future (at least the tomatoes, strawberries and pumpkins would have). What's more, I'd be able to come and see it, and find out what happens in the garden next summer. It means Francis, Patrick and I will probably stay until this autumn.
At last we have a mulch - or two. As the ground got drier, I went out to buy some pea straw, but due to the drought over last summer and winter, there was none to buy. I didn't want to use bark or anything heavy, so I looked around at home to see what I could find. I tried using leaves one year, but they all blew off. I used dry grass clippings last year and that was okay, but in some places, they shed seeds, resulting in a lush growth of grass. On the whole, that doesn't seem to have created a big problem.
My first solution to the no peastraw situation was to use the dry grass clippings to mulch the vege garden, and now that it's done, I am relieved to know the moisture is not just flying up and evaporating any more. Every so often I go out and look under the mulch, and sure enough, it's nice and damp.
Then Timothy, who is back from his white-baiting expedition, arrived home with a truckload of seaweed, a little of which he let me have for the flowers.
Consequently, I think seaweed is definitely the way to go. I thought it would stink and that you had to wash it first, but Timothy says it doesn't need washing, and it hasn't been smelling either. But best of all, it is not only a slow-release fertiliser, but looks good as well. In fact, I had been to the beach only days before and bought home an armload to decorate the garden with. I have a little lime green, spiky plant which is lost on its own, but comes into focus against dry black seaweed. (PS. Now I realise seaweed goes limp and soggy in the rain and loses its structural charm, but never mind.
Waiting on Providence
Timothy has put in a bid for the house, and there are a number of interested people hovering at the gate, so to speak. We wait on Providence.
Back to the mulch. I was able to put several forkloads of it around one corner of the rockery which has so far thrown up piddly, depressed looking specimens, including a couple of spindly aquilegia's which are about six inches high, compared to one planted at the same time only a metre away, which is about three foot high, bushy and flowering profusely. The neglected corner of the garden got off to a bad start last year, suffering from a lack of compost, light and water.
The best garden for great flowers is the one against the north facing wall (Southern Hemisphere), leading from the side door, which gets the longest hours of sunshine. It got a good composting, not only last year but this year as well. One hollyhock, which looks like it has quite a bit of growing to do yet, is nearly two metres tall, while its next door neighbour, a Christmas lily, is 132cm tall, and has 18 buds on it.
One garden where growth is a struggle for just about everything that goes in there, got last year's dose of compost, but is always in the shade. It is also cased in a wooden box, preventing deep root systems from developing. The violets seem to thrive there however.
One of the first jobs Timothy did on arriving back from the bush was weed the vege garden, which reminded me I have to go with the flow when sharing the garden. Twice as much gets done, but not always the way you want it. Timothy for instance is very keen to chop a branch or two off the flowering cherries to let light into the grape vine vege garden, but for two years, we have managed to talk him out of it, usually by me and Lucy outvoting him.
I had to inspect the weeds he'd pulled out just in case some of the little self-seeded veges had been ditched. He'd decided that a seedling I wanted to let go for awhile (just in case, even by a long shot, it was a chilli or a green pepper) was just a weed, and so it had got the chop. Fortunately, I found some more which I persuaded him to keep in the interests of experimentation and because we had nothing to lose. They still don't look like any weed I've seen, but I'm not so sure they're an exotic vegetable either.
I had a new experience with the garden this morning. I woke up at 5am and instead of thinking I had to go back to sleep, and get a decent night's rest, I decided to get up - since I'm always thinking it would be nice to be so in tune with nature you got up at dawn and went to bed at dusk, or something like that.
I went out into the garden, which is lovely in soft light because the nicotiana blooms are all open wide, whereas they hide in the bright sunlight. At dusk, a lovely soft fragrance floats around them. A few bees were buzzing around and the birds had just begun to sing. It reminded me of being up at 4am a few weeks ago, me and Timothy. Between us we saw five meteors, two of them huge ones which from head to tail took up half the sky in the moment they flashed by.
By 7am I was out gardening. "Are you nuts or something?" asked Timothy, who I woke up while weeding around his door.
Discovery is meant for the beginner home gardener and advice contained here-in should not be used where more professional advice may be more appropriate.