The Gardens of Chiconia 23: hidden treasures

Today I have been mooching around the garden again with my camera.

Yesterday it was birds and frogs. Today it’s the turn of the plants. Time for some pictures:

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.33.49 PM

An orchid, casually being fabulous on a palm tree….

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.34.07 PM

Mandarin blossom

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.34.19 PM

I have no idea what this is, with its weird lilac spidery flowers and orangey red globular fruits. Any ideas, anyone?

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.34.46 PM

White silk pompoms….

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.34.59 PM

Pink silk pompoms. That’s a bud on the left, which will shortly explode into something like the thing on the right!

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.35.13 PM

Mulberries ripening. I wonder if I’ll get to them before the birds…

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.35.27 PM

The mulberry tree, a little tottery but still willing

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.36.04 PM

The poinciana. It needs a lot of dead wood cut out of it.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.36.43 PM

Chookonia. In need of a little renovation, but I don’t believe the Girls will be too fussed about how it looks.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.37.01 PM

The free range area, left side

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.37.13 PM

The free range area, right side. It’s about a quarter acre.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.37.32 PM

Froglet Heaven. There’s water in there somewhere…

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.37.52 PM

… and in case you thought I was exaggerating, those are green ant nests in just part of just one of the mango trees. Seriously, that one closest in the shot is the size of my head and the tree is swarming with the little buggers.

I haven’t managed to get a great deal done; there was a visit to the doctor, an x-ray and an ultrasound on my sore hip. Results tomorrow; it’s either the arthritis spreading, or bursitis. Both are painful, and I’m grateful for the tasty new drugs I’ve been prescribed. On the plus side of the balance sheet, I did laundry, put up a blind to keep the morning sun out of our eyes in bed, gave the huge gas oven a test run (full marks on the splendid roast chicken), and unpacked three boxes of baking equipment in readiness for my next GF order.

Time to go and deal with the vegetables, which won’t steam themselves – even in this climate!


The other kind of Frogging…

The sewers, knitters and crocheters among you are probably sadly familiar with the term Frogging.

For the others, it’s the act of unravelling, unpicking or undoing your work – rippit, geddit?

Being currently sadly without any handwork that doesn’t involve a cordless drill and a box cutter, I was wandering around the garden this morning with the Dowager, planning my forthcoming pruning and slashing programme, coffee in hand, and keeping a sharp lookout for green ants, which have invaded in a serious way. We were inspecting the jungly tangle of foliage next to the patio, consisting of Monstera, giant Taro and a lot of ferns. I heard a little trill, and took a sharper look. There were tiny green tree frogs everywhere, the size of my thumbnail and smaller.

Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.40.05 PM Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.40.18 PM Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.41.03 PM Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.41.18 PM

Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.40.32 PM Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 1.40.48 PMThis garden has much more wildlife than my former one. There are koels, rosellas, willy wagtails, magpies (who are getting very territorial at this time of year, almost time to bring out the big hat), bee eaters, honey eaters, wattle birds, collared doves – and that’s just for starters. My bird book is still packed, but I’ll be trying to keep a record, in writing if not in pictures. Who ever has their camera handy, turned on and at the right focal length when something exotic flies past…?

I’d like to encourage the frogs. They eat insects, which can only be good. The Husband isn’t keen, as he feels that the water the frogs would need to be comfortable would in turn encourage mosquitos to breed. I’d like to give it a go and see who wins! At least I shall have some trickling water, which the mozzies won’t breed in, since they need it still. A little bit of water will encourage all sorts of useful creatures who will eat the less useful creatures that are eating my garden.

Back to work. I have doors to install in my new pantry cupboard and a trip to make to the storage unit to pick up my baking supplies.

What did I do with…?

I’m very, very tired. But also jubilant.

Tonight we’re sleeping in our new home for the first time. We’re in, and we did the whole move ourselves. No big burly men in singlets with trolleys. No making endless cups of tea and handing round the chocolate bickies. I’ve been packing boxes for what seemed like forever, and now the entire process reverses.

There are some issues. This house is astonishingly short of power points. The downstairs loo has a leaky cistern. There’s no pantry. Light switches are in the wrong place. But it’s a great house. Our bedroom is palatial (even if the aircon does make a persistent rattling noise). I can fit in my 3.1m long dining table (roll on Christmas at Chiconia…). My sewing room is half as large again as the previous one, and the window faces northeast, so I get great morning light in there. There’s a bath – a small one, but still a bath – which I have missed so badly for the last three years of living in houses with just showers.

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 8.53.04 PMIt’s time for one of my favourite activities. Writing a List. My worst problem is deciding what to do next.  I want to prune, mark out vegie beds, prepare Chookonia for the New Girls. I also want to get the house fully unpacked and comfortable. I want to get my sewing room up and running. I want it all NOW! That’s not going to happen, so a spot of planning is called for. My family have been known to mock me for producing spreadsheets when planning complex activities. The laugh’s on them when I come in on time and on budget with renovations… I’ll have to find the camera and take some photos.

Now, where did I put my notebook?

Thank you

Today is my first anniversary of blogging with WordPress.

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 2.43.23 PMI’ve enjoyed every moment hugely, and I want to say thank you to all of you out there who follow, take an interest, comment, encourage and get involved in the doings in Chiconia.

If I were not so deeply involved in packing up my house, surrounded by boxes, tape, newspaper, dust and forgotten items from the back of cupboards, I’d find a way to celebrate the occasion a bit better. That will have to wait until my next anniversary now, but I wanted to acknowledge the day, and the friendship and support I have received from so many of you. It has been a fascinating and enriching experience to connect with so many people of different ages, on different paths, in different lands and continents and hemispheres!

So, here goes:

thank you, merci, dankie, danke schön, děkuji, dank je wel, köszönöm, terima kasih, grazie, gracias, arigatō, multumesc, tack, diolch i chi, sas efcharistó, dhan’yavāda, go raibh maith agat, whakawhetai ki a koutou

If you don’t find your language there, I’m so sorry; Google Translate has its limits, and I’ve rather lost track of all the different countries my readers come from.

Stay with me for the next stage of my gentle roller coaster ride through life. I can’t wait for it to start!



The Gardens of Chiconia 22: the last spring

4 days to go. I’m wandering around the garden seeing what’s going on.

As if to console me for the horrible passionfruit shock, all over the garden spring is making itself felt. I’ll show the pictures; they tell the story so much better than the words…

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.47.03 PM

Buds on the potted Murraya. That’s going to smell divine.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.46.49 PM

A year earlier than expected, the Flame Tree is producing flower buds. I hope they survive the 7km move in a trailer…

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.47.16 PM

Delicate salmon pink bells on the Kalanchoe.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.47.32 PM

A real screaming pink contrasting beautifully with the rich green waxy leaves on the Desert Rose

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.47.46 PM

New leaves on the Kalanchoe, in pastel Tupperware colours. They do almost look like plastic, don’t they, with a slight translucency.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.48.00 PM

The Angel Trumpet has come back triumphantly from its severe haircut. I cut it right back to keep the caterpillars off, but the tree’s away again!

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.48.21 PM

The Lime tree is making up for lost ground and is producing flower buds all over now. They’re much smaller and daintier than the lemon, but don’t have such a strong and fabulous perfume.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.48.33 PM

That’s 8 baby lemons on just one small branch. I’ll have to pinch some of them out when it’s clear which ones are going to do best.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 2.48.52 PM

… and I suspect we’ll be getting some nice Long Red capsicums soon, too. This one is getting dug up and potted to come with us.

I’m looking forward to see how spring is arriving in the New Gardens of Chiconia. I hope there’ll be something showing its pretty face, not just a lot of tatty old palms and half dead unpruned trees…. We have bought ourselves a second hand reconditioned ride on mower, which will be useful not just for keeping the grass manageable, but also for making mulch: just pile up the loose stuff and ride the mower over it! It’s not a pretty machine, but it is very durable and was a very good machine when new. The Husband is rather disappointed at the lack of drink holders on it – all the new mowers have one! I’m getting myself a nice pair of long arm loppers to add to my pruning collection, to help deal with the high up branches.

We’re on the long downhill slope now. I have a day or two’s grace to remove my plants from the garden, as there’s going to be work done on the house before tenants go in. But I have to get everything inside packed, and despite my best efforts, I think there’s going to be a mad last-minute scramble. I will, in addition, have a gluten free baking order to produce and deliver early next week before I can pack away all that stuff.

We’ve packed another trailer- and ute-load this morning, which is down at the storage unit. The laundry is done, the Husband is snoozing before his night shift and I have an appointment with my Kindle, a cold drink and one of the two remaining armchairs…

Time to put my feet up for a bit.


Stitch Along: a new project

It’s 4 days to the move, and my sewing life has shrunk down to what I can keep in a shoebox.

So it’s just as well I had planned a small embroidery project to keep my hands busy in the evenings when my packing day is over. It’s going pretty fast, being only 5 colours, and this is about half the finished size.

Screen shot 2014-09-19 at 9.10.01 PM

I’ll fill in the white areas right at the end so they don’t get grubby

I took the original photo of the Husband of Chiconia. I then converted it to black & white, added ‘noise’ to soften it, and ran it through this cross stitch pattern maker website to turn it into an embroidery project.

Originally I was using a finer count of Aida fabric for the project, but the stitching felt too dense and the image would have looked a bit jagged. So I stopped and restarted on different fabric. This is 13 count Aida, stitched with two strands split out of Anchor 6 strand embroidery cotton. I like the way it looks much better, it has a slightly fuzzy, pixelated newsprint look.

Between now and the next posting on 12th October, I’ll be just a mite busy, so it may not be finished by then. I do have another project the Husband has asked for that I can start if by some chance I get this one done in time. That’s if I can find it – I know it’s in one of my sewing room boxes….

Linking up with:




and Jule:

Do hop over and see what they’re working on, but remember they’re 8 hours or so behind me and their SAL posts may not be up yet. Expect some exciting final reveals!


Plans for Chookonia

I’m a woman on a mission.

I have made a startling discovery: it is impossible to buy point-of-lay Australorp or Isa Brown pullets in Mackay. Whaaaaa?! They’re only some of the most reliable layers, placid, easy to care for, friendly, undemanding and healthy chickens around. The Australorps were bred specifically for the Australian climate and Australian conditions.

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.

The Girls. Three black Australorps and three red Isa Browns. I miss them…

According to the feed store where you can buy day old chicks, there’s “no demand”. Everyone these days wants the fancy breeds, for prettiness and cuteness, as pets for the children. I could have as many Silkies, bantams of every kind, Indian Game Hens, quail, guinea fowl and other exotica as I wish. What I can’t get is reliable layers of the right age.

I love my Australorps. But I may have to substitute another good laying breed, and I’ll probably have to buy them further south and have them shipped up here. I want POL birds so I don’t spend months feeding them before they start laying, and so that they’re old enough that I know they’ve had their innoculations. No point in starting a flock with ailing birds.

But first, we have to construct their quarters. In my previous life, I had large and spacious chicken accommodation, a fenced yard under large old trees for shade, and a quarter acre paddock where they could roam freely. It was known as the Chook Mahal. We’re a bit more restricted in the new house, having no old trees in a suitable spot, we will need to construct the chook house, the enclosed yard and a fence for their free ranging area. I’m already planning to grow a passionfruit vine over the enclosed yard for the dual purpose of giving the Girls some good shade whilst at the same time ensuring the passionfruit gets plenty of chickeny goodness at its roots. I anticipate a regular supply of fruit!

The plan is that the chook house (to be known hereafter as Chookonia) will be fairly large and on a concrete slab so it drains well and can be hosed down. Apart from the nesting boxes it will be mostly open but roofed over, so that they have an outside area to scratch around in when the rain is torrential and they can’t spend much time in the yard. There’s no problem about keeping them cosy in this climate. The concrete floor and the ground in the enclosed yard will be thickly covered in straw or sugar cane trash so they can have a lovely scratch, poo over everything and eventually I get to cart it away and put it on the garden. Outside the yard, they can scratch and range in the orchard area and help clean up the fallen fruit.

But first we have to demolish the dilapidated and termite-ridden wreck of a shed that’s already there, lay a concrete slab and construct a carport, lockable store room, and the aforementioned chicken accommodation at one end. And we have to get a water tank to catch the rain off the roof, as there’s no water laid on at that end of the garden, and I don’t want to haul water all the way up there every day.

Just a little bit of work to do, then….