Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Migratory butterflies

Butterfly in the rockmelon patch
It was difficult to catch a photograph of this butterfly, though at this time of year I feel I am being bombarded with them.  They are a non-native species, apparently introduced, I think from the US, in the late 19th century.  They are 'Wanderer' or 'Monarch' butterflies.  Big and spectacular, I feel a little bit uncertain about them,
a) because they are toxic, adult and caterpillar, and make animals who try to eat them sick, and
b) because the plant they breed on is a noxious weed and should be pulled out.
 But they are beautiful, and even the weed the caterpillars rely on is an interesting plant.  So, depending how vicious I am feeling, sometimes I leave the weed, and sometimes I pull it out.

New Tractor imminent

Daryl and I tried out the tractor over the long weekend.  Daryl rather sniffily complained that it 'was just as unstable feeling and uncomfortable as the old one'  I had a go at a bit of earth moving, practicing making a track near the blue house.  I dug out some limestone boulders, and filled in some hollows with dirt, and just about got the hang of using the bucket.  After John the neighbour finishes installing a few new parts, we'll take delivery and we'll be able to do some stake pulling - the stakes that were put in when the trees were planted should have been removed years ago.  Now the trees have embraced them, and they are -almost- impossilbe to get out.  But very satisfying, like popping blackheads ...

Friday, 25 January 2013

Tractors and guinea fowl

Things are moving this week at the grove.  Our neighbours - a semi retired diesel mechanic and his wife, John and Janice, have provided us with a bit of excitement.  On Monday Janice and I brought 12 Guinea fowl babies up from their place to our old pen. Janice's guinea fowl laid a lot of eggs, and she hatched them under a chook (Guinea fowl are useless mothers.  Probably forget where they have laid their eggs) One escaped during the transfer, but John and Janice cunningly caught him the next morning.)  I worry about foxes, and even my other neighbour's staffy, who might fancy a little gf for morning tea. Please God they make it through their compulsory incarceration.  The one surviving original guinea fowl we have is hanging around the pen.  I hope he will want to be a mentor, and not peck them to bits.  He has been so lonely since his 3 buddies disappeared a couple of months ago. Janice has offered to check the chicks daily re water and food, which is a great relief.  Tania, my usual helper, has gone off the radar a bit since her kids are on school holidays and her husband is incapacitated - he had a serious accident hitting a kangaroo on his quad bike, and is in a brace due to fractured vertibrae.
Part two of the excitement is the possibility of a new tractor.  John and Janice have a Kubota - a reputable brand- which they think might suit us. It is newer, and smaller than our old Same (which they are trying to sell for us, a difficult job when the tractor has a busted clutch and  replacements are impossible to source.) I had a drive yesterday.  It felt fine, though I couldn't manage smooth gear changes.  Anyway, we are being lent the tractor for the weekend to try out, so once our baby sitting duties are over, we'll head down to the grove and see if we can dig out rocks, pull out stakes and generally cope with something completely different.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Amazingly tough and hard working

No, I'm certainly not talking about myself.  Summer is tough at the grove.  Although it is fractionally cooler than where we live in the city, and being close to the coast always gets whatever sea breeze is going (sometimes that's a gale!) it looks very dry and barren.  The little grass dries up and blows away, grasshoppers eat anything green and my few poor fruit trees shrivel. BUT I have some ornamental plants which do amazingly well and look cheerful on no fertiliser and no water.  Here they are.
At this point I had intended to add some photos which I took yesterday.  But my blogger dashboard has changed and it wont allow me to 'browse' and load photos from my desktop!!! ARGH.  It is probably my fault and relates to something I have inadvertently clicked.  So I'll just give you a boring list.
To clarify, these are all exotics, and not native
  1. Bougainvillea.  I have five big plants, at the moment smothered in colour.  Real stand outs with hot cheerful colour.  Apart from the white one at the gate, which looks white and cool, not hot at all.
  2. Ground cover lantana.  This is a toughy.  It is isn't the noxious weed one which causes so much trouble in the eastern states.  It is bright yellow and ground hugging,and flowers for months.
  3. Oleander.  They get bad press because they are poisonous, but so are lots of plants, including daffodils and no one hates them.  I saw oleanders growing in Italy as spectacular features and resolved to resurrect their reputation a little bit. Mine are pink, and are looking very stylish.
  4. Rosemary.  What is not to like about rosemary?  It smells good, you can use it in cooking, the bees love it, and it is so tough
  5. Lavender.  Ditto for lavender, though I don't think it is terribly useful for cooking.  I have infused some olive oil with it, having plans to make some soothing ointment with oil and beeswax.
  6. Lagestroemia. 'Crepe Myrtle' is the common name, and it is easier to spell. When we originally planned the grove, it was suggested that we plant almond trees along the drive. I took a unilateral decision and planted crepe myrtle instead.  I thought this was the all round super ornamental shrub.  It flowers with a profusion of blossom in summer, the leaves develop autumn colour, and the trunks, as the plant matures, are gorgeously shiny and patterned.  To be honest, they have struggled a bit, and after 10 years are no where as tall as I had hoped, but they are starting to make the sort of display I had hoped for.
  7. Plumbago.  This one also hasn't been quite as tough as I had hoped.  It is an old fashioned plant that Nannas used to grow as a hedge.  I like it for its mass of blue flowers in summer.  One cultivar has amazing ink blue flowers.  I have put two near the blue house, but sadly something is eating them.  Either the kangaroos or rabbits like them, or it is the grasshoppers.  I'll try a tree guard, though that wont fix the grasshopper issue. 
Hooray.  The system has relented and is letting me put photos in!
Bi colour bouganivillaea

golden lantana

bougainvillaea, rosemary, lavender, plumbago


Crepe myrtle

White Bougainvillaea
I wish I could have shown you the photographs! (And now I can!)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Robbing the bees

Here we are at the beginning of a new year.  We spent a few days after Christmas with our son and daughter in law, down on the beautiful south coast, and had a look at their bees, which they had just moved from an apple orchard to sort of hippy commune.  It made me realise we really ought to check our bees.  When I robbed ( I dont like that expression - I'd prefer to say 'harvested' honey.  But to be honest, we do rob the bees of their honey, their hard work.  I believe every worker bee, in their short life time, only gathers about a teaspoon of honey.  And some die every time you open and check the hive, no matter how careful you are)  Any way, when I robbed the hive last time, I did it by myself, and it was very hard, so this time I prevailed upon my husband to help.  Our grove, where the bees live, is 100 kilometres south of home in the city.  Husband had a physio appointment to go to (bursitis in the knee) so didn't get there until lunch time.  It went quite smoothly.  It took about 3 !/2 hours to rob and then extract the honey, and clean up.  We got about 12.5 kilos of excellent flavoured honey, and each got stung only once.  Mine was minor, but poor husband got stung near the eye, and it swelled dreadfully. He doesn't look happy, does he?