Chain Gang, day 2

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.12 PM The heavy lifting’s all done. There are three pods out there waiting for seedlings. I’m SO excited I can hardly breathe. Vegetables at last!

First stop was the animal feed store for lucerne (alfalfa) hay, small bales. Seven of those, two for each pod and one spare for stuffing into the gaps. Next was the planting medium: 2/3 garden soil to 1/3 organic compost, 80 litres of mix per pod (approximately 5 gallons), well blended.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.26 PMScreen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.58 PMScreen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.10 PMYesterday, we put 4 barrowloads of rocks into the bottom of each pod to give good drainage, about 20cm deep (8″). On top of that went two bales of lucerne, the gaps round them well stuffed with extra hay. That lot was well watered until water came out of the tap at the bottom of the pod, so I knew it was well soaked. On top of that went the planting medium, well mixed and with the lumps bashed out. It’s been raked smooth, ready for planting. On top of that, I top dressed with liquid feed consisting of Seasol (seaweed, etc) and a big slug of worm tea, topped up with 10 litres of water (approx. 20 pints). That got shared out between the three pods, a little extra nutrition to give the vegies a good start.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.56 PMNow we’re ready to go. Tomorrow I shall go and select my seedlings and plant them. The pods don’t yet have their frames and netting completed, but the plants can be getting established until it’s done and the mozzie netting and shade cloth go up. I’m really pleased with how it’s looking out there. The little fruit trees are enjoying the milder weather and putting on lots of growth, instead of hanging on for grim death. The avocado was looking very poorly for a little while, but is coming back strongly, so long as I check it daily for caterpillars, which seem to find the new leaves irresistible.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.34 PMI’m very happy now with how things are coming together. It’s starting to be a pleasant place to work, instead of a slightly grim, weed infested dead zone. There are pleasantly scented wood chips under foot, I don’t have to bend over to tend my plants, I’ve taken measures to prevent everything from drowning in the Wet, and now I have hopes of actually being able to pick something soon, instead of delivering it all up to the grasshoppers, aphids, caterpillars, fruit bats and possums. I’ll keep you informed, and yes, there will be brag photos when I have everything planted, and probably more once I get the netting and frames up properly!

And now it’s time for a big cold drink, a shower and an attempt to dig out the large quantities of soil which have lodged under my fingernails. I could probably grow cabbages under there…

On the chain gang

I’m very tired.

Between us, the Husband and I have shifted a cubic metre of fist-sized river stone, and a cubic metre of hardwood wood chips, dug up about 7 square metres of turf, laid weed matting and got all three garden pods ready for their planting medium. It’s been warm, sunny weather, and we’ve laboured hard.

So, no gleeful exposition of finished quilts. In between times, while the Husband is getting his afternoon sleep before night shift, I get a little sewing done. But I’m usually tired, achey and my hands are sore, so I’m not making much progress.

I haven’t been entirely lacking in creativity, though:

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Egglantine has now joined her earlier sisters Eggatha and Eggnes.  And that will be quite enough of that. As my friend Cath over at Wombat Quilts ( says, perhaps it’s time for an intervention…?  They are, after all, just egg cosies.

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And I’ve made a nice heat pad from the two spare Broken Bottles blocks. Maybe I’ll send it to Yvonne with her quilt. Or maybe I’ll keep it for myself. I’ll see how generous I feel when the quilt’s ready. And speaking of Broken Bottles, the quilting is about 2/3 done. There’s one bit I have to unpick, it’s looking a bit bulgy, but it’s just a small line. For the rest, I’m pleased with how it’s going.

Off to rest my weary bones. Tomorrow is the day for getting the lucerne hay and compost for the pods, and then, finally, I can plant!

I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend.

Broken Bottles #7: Turning the Corner

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Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 4.40.43 PMThe first border is on. I had some pale green strips left over, and have pieced together the first border from those. It’s not elegant, but it is in keeping. I just didn’t have enough to do beautiful broad mitred corners with these fabrics, so I’m saving that for the white border, which I’ll do next. I didn’t much enjoy this bit, trying to squeeze something out of insufficient fabric. There’s no margin for safety, and I can’t just go and get some more, the fabrics came from the UK. But however inelegant, it’s done. I think the white border will be twice as wide, and then the narrow dark green binding, once it’s quilted.

Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 4.48.14 PMMy sister sent me a photo she took of the forest floor in the rainforest in northern NSW a couple of years ago. She says it reminds her of Broken Bottles. I can see what she means, but perhaps her bottles are brown rather than green! I’d love a print based on this colour scheme and layout, perhaps with a little more contrast and some flashes of gold and orange, too. Which is weird, because normally I’m not much of a brown person…

I spent the morning on non-quilty activities. The second vegie garden pod is ready for its filling. We have one more to go, and perhaps a 4th if I can summon enough energy. I’ve stripped a load of turf, laid weedmatting and bark chips, we’ve decapitated another IBC and erected the frame over it. I must go and dig out my seed catalogue to think about what I want to grow. It’s too late to sow now, I’ll have to buy seedlings, but I’ll get ideas for later. Meanwhile, my back is yelling at me and I feel a cup of tea and a piece of gingerbread coming on…

Sorry, not a very exciting post today, but the progress is mostly invisible!

The Gardens of Chiconia 14

It’s beautiful autumn weather, much cooler, and we’ve spent most of the day in the back yard getting sweaty.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m planning three or four metre-square raised beds, to make sure my vegies don’t rot with their feet in too much water during the Wet. We’re basing the raised beds on IBCs, those white plastic cubes with an aluminium cage around them. They have a tap in the bottom to let out excess water, they’re lightweight, and will keep out excess water if the back yard should flood.

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This is what we started with at 10am today. A riot of lush, sappy vegetation and weedy grass surrounding the three pods we’ve acquired (for free, I might add!).

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.07.54 PMHaving shifted the first pod out of the way, we had a fairly tedious hour or so of chipping up the grass, roots and weeds and disposing of them, since I don’t yet have a composting system. Down went firstly weed retardant, then weed matting, and then a layer of bark chips. Of course, the wind picked up and the weed matting started to fight back, hence the stones in corners.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.07.37 PMThen we decapitated the first pod with an angle grinder and an old saw. The angle grinder dealt with the aluminium frame and the saw with the plastic. The top of the metal cage is also being kept to form a frame for shade cloth and insect netting. If I’m going to spend time and energy cultivating vegies, I don’t want my efforts to be reaped by the grasshoppers before I get a look in. The pod is now waist high, perfect for working in. I’ll have to make the edge safe, as there’s a lot of sharp metal points and edges, but I think some high density foam insulating tubing will do the job.

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Here’s how it’ll work. The bamboo canes in the corners are 1.80m (about 6ft) tall. Visualise that top frame draped in insect netting with a roof of shade cloth. I can lift the netting aside to work in the raised bed. The top of the frame is high enough that I can grow quite tall things, like broccoli, if I want to. The two rear stakes are cable tied to the fence to give more stability. The crossbars of the plastic top fit over the top of the frame and the top can be fixed in place if necessary to protect the vegies from torrential rain. A sort of vegiebrella… We have the pods slightly sloping downhill on one side, towards the drain tap, in case we need to let excess water out.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.08.42 PMWe spent a bit of time to-ing and fro-ing this afternoon, since cutting the frame chewed up the angle grinder disks at an alarming rate and we had to get more. And we couldn’t get all the bark chips we wanted in one go, so a bit of time was wasted. But we’ll be back out there tomorrow. Ideally we’ll get both the other pods done, but even if it’s only one, it’s a good start.

Once they’re in position, we need some fist-sized stones to put in the bottom for drainage. On top of that will go tightly packed flakes of lucerne (alfalfa) hay, which will rot down over time and provide good nitrogen. On top of that, a layer of blood and bone, and then organic compost/soil mix. This will bring the planting level up to about a handswidth from the top edge. This year, it’s going to be seedlings. I haven’t got any seeds going because we were never sure when we were going to be able to get this done. And of course, I still need to organise the planting medium. So I’ll bite the bullet and pay the extra. Next year, though…

And then finally, finally, I can get my vegies going…

**Just a final thought. If you’re in a cold climate, these pods will keep the soil warmer than the ground in a frost, and you can drape the frame in clear plastic and/or horticultural fleece to create a warmer microclimate for an extended growing period.**