birds, Uncategorized

My Aussie Backyard Bird Count

Because I am interested in, and care about, birds, I decided last month that I was going to do this Aussie Backyard Bird Count this year. This event is held every October, all around Australia, and is a great way for researchers to gather information about birds in the built up environment.

Or of course, some people live in a house with not much built up areas at all, and those statistics are also important too. The Aussie Bird Count requires those taking part to record the different bird seen, and the numbers of that bird seen. (I should have read up better, for my first count, I neglected to report how many of the different birds seen, so it was recorded as the basic 1 only.)

I’m going to do another bird count later on today, and I expect to see some of the birds not there for this first count. I really like this chance to get involved in something like this – helping the researchers who are working on a variety of different ways to help all of the wonderful birds we have in Australia!

Apparently thousands of Australians get involved in this event every year. It happens in October, which is the middle of Spring when many birds are out and about, for their breeding season.

muAH7rk(1)(not my photo, obtained online, creative commons)

The bird in the photo is actually one I commonly see at my place, but not today, for my first count. It is a New Holland Honeyeater, and I hope I see one or more when/if I do another count later on in the day. I did my first count at noon, but I know I will see different birds later on in the day. If I remember, and have time, I will go outside into the backyard again at around 5pm, I think I should see one or more of them then.

If you are Australian, why not take a look at the website of Birdlife Australia, and do your own bird counts! Birdlife Australia does good work in conservation, with a focus, not surprisingly on birds. But of course, birds need habitat, so the organisation uses these stats to view the state/health of the environment. If there is a healthy environment, there will be plenty of birds!

The seven different kinds of birds I saw today were Swallow, Sparrow, Willie Wagtail, Spotted Turtledove, Starling, Noisy Miner and Blackbird. As I said, I know there are other different birds around my place, and if you know what birds you have, I would love to hear about it – leave a message telling us, if you want to!

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garden, Uncategorized

Purslane – Weed or Wonder?

I have a new favourite herb/plant, one which I again have growing at my place. It’s called a weed  by some, a valuable and useful (and tasty) herb/food by others. Purslane or Portulaca oleracea is its scientific name, is a plant that grows in many parts of the world. It is an annual plant, that arrives in Spring. It is a low growing plant, with succulent, tear shaped leaves, and a small yellow flower. The stems of the plant can be reddish in colour.

It can grow in quite poor soil, not needing a lot of water. Because it has few ‘rich’ needs to grow, it can pop up all over the garden, in cracks in pavements, and almost anywhere else. Because of this, it is disposed of by many people, in favour of more attractive and showy plants. But when you learn of the medical benefits of this plant, you won’t be inclined to dispose of it, if it shows up, you will welcome it instead, as I do.

Purslane has vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids. In fact this inconspicuous little plant has more Omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant. It therefore is an invaluable source of it for people who don’t eat any fish, which is a common source of this nutrient. It is also an antioxidant, and has the minerals, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium. With all of these good things, it really should be welcomed instead of shunned if it shows up in your garden!

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The small plants in the photograph are the ones that suddenly popped up unexpectedly in that container, where I had actually been trying to grow some that I found in the pavement in my closest town, in winter this year. I was unsuccessful at growing that particular plant, but I am confident I will have more luck with these two. Because, as I have now learnt, the plant is an annual, I had been trying to grow it at the very end of its growth period. Now that I’m growing it at the optimal time, I am looking forward to a burst in growth!

This plant has many culinary uses. It can be eaten raw, or cooked, and can find a place in many different cooking methods, and meal courses. The leaves, flower buds, and stems are both edible, and apparently the Pliny the Elder, advised the plant be worn as an amulet ‘to expel all evil’. It is also said that purslane was Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite food, and he recommended it to others as a good food to eat.

I am hoping I can have plentiful amounts of this plant growing in my garden very soon, and I also recommend it to others as a good food to eat. If anyone else has knowledge of this plant I would love to hear of it!

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garden, Uncategorized

Hooray for Rain!

Yes, finally we have had a reasonable amount of rain, so hooray for that. But of course, living where we live, with rain will come caltrop, a much disliked weed indeed. We have had many caltrop plants popping up all over the place after rain. And of course, nobody wants to tread on the prickle from a caltrop weed, ouch!

If you don’t know what this dastardly prickle is, there is much information here: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture The plant is a beautiful one, with fern-like leaves and a lovely delicate little yellow flower. It grows low on the ground and can be easy to miss, amongst taller plants. But the seed is a vicious one, similar to the three corner jack, with a painfully sharp prickle. After rain, I know these plants will be popping up all over our property again.

Every caltrop plant pulled up is many thousands of these horrible prickles that won’t end up in the bottom of shoes, or in the soles of feet – a very good thing indeed. I hate finding caltrop seeds with the bottom of my feet, when someone’s shoes have brought them inside, and they’ve settled in the carpet!

I began this blog post yesterday, when we got a reasonable amount of rain, 6mm apparently.  But the wind has still been there, in the morning any, not so much rain though. The wind is bring up lots of dust from the paddocks and such all around, blowing the dust toward Adelaide, where the suburbanites and city folk will complain about it, when it lands on their washing hanging out.

If we’d had a lot more rain, this may not have happened, but it would probably be bad for the hay that is still in paddocks around where I am (Mallala region South Australia). As I’ve often said, I’m glad I’m not a farmer – having to rely on the weather for your profit is a huge gamble, and if you get it wrong, there goes your money …

But I’m not a farmer, although there are farms all around where I live. I am a gardener though. Today, my husband and I went into our back yard, and picked up some of our plants which were blown over by the winds last night or this morning … One plant had a broken branch, which I’ve neatened up and put into one of the vegetable plots, in the hope of the cutting growing roots.

We’ll see, it’s up to Nature of course, these things are always up to Nature doing her thing, and the people doing their thing, all for the betterment of our plants! I’m going to go outside later today or maybe tomorrow and check some of our yard, to see if those nasty caltrop seeds have popped up. Apparently the seed can remain, in the ground and viable for seven years. And after every rain, more and more pop up.

If we don’t keep on top of the caltrop weeds, it will be dangerous times for feet!

 

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growing lemons, growing your own, Uncategorized

My Citrus Issues

I’m very happy that for the first time, this year/season we had a crop of mandarins grow on our quite young mandarin tree. The tree I think is three years old. Last year we had blossom but not fruit, so we watched it anxiously to see what would happen this year.

Well fortunately, our watching must have worked, because this year we had lovely  mandarins to eat for a month or so. There weren’t enough mandies to quench all of our mandarin wants, but it was good anyway, to be able to go outside and pick a mandarin or two for eating!

The mandarins for this season are all gone now, the last one eaten late-ish last month. Now, the mandarin tree has brand new blossoms just popped up, all over the tree. This bodes well, I hope for an even bigger crop of mandarins coming along at the correct time! The tree is well watered, and has been fertilised appropriately, I think (this is Graham’s task, and I’m lucky I get to enjoy the benefits after his hard work – I love my husband!).

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We don’t have ‘issues’ with our mandarin tree, it is growing well and as it should. The citrus that has the ‘issues’ is our lemon tree. I don’t really know how old our lemon tree is. I can’t remember whether we planted it, or if it has always been here. We’ve lived at our place since late 1988, and it seems like this lemon tree has always been here, way down the back of our place, growing there, but only very little, with lemon tree smelling leaves and nothing else.

We’ve not really done anything much with this tree, apart from put in a dripper in the irrigation hose that we have put in years ago for some of our trees and bushes around the place. So when the tape is switched on, the lemon tree gets watered along with all of the other plants. We didn’t care about growing our own lemons, so never thought any more about it, nor questioned why there were never any fruit.

I don’t remember ever seeing blooms growing on that small tree, just wondered a little about why it’s so tiny still, and noticed the quite vicious looking spikes that grow along the branches. If there were any lemons growing there, you’d certainly need to be careful of those nasty looking spikes, that’s for sure.

Anyway this is all leading up to the point of this post – today I went and looked at the mandarin tree, marvelling at all of those promising blooms, and drooling (in my head) at the thought of lots and lots of scrumptious mandarins when we get to that season. Then I continued further north-east, to look in the shed to see if the Boobook Owl was there – it wasn’t, then I walked south and looked at the lemon tree. I’m not sure why, I just did.

The tree has some dead looking branches, with those vicious spikes, but also other branches with lots of leaves, and there were also something that surprised me. The branches with leaves also had tiny little white dots, similar to the mandarin tree. The mandarin trees (admittedly bigger) dots are actually blossoms. So that means the lemon tree is getting ready to put out blossoms then!

Hooray! I don’t remember ever seeing this before. Has it ever happened before? I just don’t know. It may have happened but I wasn’t looking for anything, so didn’t see anything. I’ve certainly never ever seen lemons growing on that tree. I don’t know if it has ever happened. But now that I know the tiny white dots are there, I’m sure going to keep an eye on the situation.

This lemon tree is smaller than the mandarin tree, which is in the photo above, which was taken when the mandarins weren’t quite ripe yet.. I would love it if we could grow our own lemons as well as our own mandarins! If anyone out there knows more about growing lemons that I do, feel free to leave some information, or thoughts of encouragement (or even brutal nay-saying honesty if appropriate).

 

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garden

The Edible Garden

I live on a reasonably big piece of land, one and three quarter acres. We have a house, with a lawn in the front yard , and another one at the back yard. There are lots of trees (over 45, not entirely sure how many in total), and there is a lot of land with nothing much planned by us, more by planned by Nature.

I wouldn’t want to live in a totally landscaped place, and given that we moved out to Redbanks, in the northern Adelaide Plains, to breed dogs, it was never important. We don’t do the dog breeding anymore, we just have Missy, who was a show dog when she was a baby puppy, and never since. Missy is a pet dog, and she is happy with that role. She is the queen of the dog sofa, and rules her world while reclining regally there.

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Missy has two areas where she can run – the backyard, with its yummy grass which she likes to eat sometimes, and the ‘dog run’ with kennels, where supposedly dogs were supposed to live. That project never really happened, our dogs have always been pets first, show dogs second. The kennels aren’t used now at all, but we’ve begun planting in the dog run, and it’s turning into a pleasant area.

We have a mandarin tree there, and this year we had our first crop of mandarins, which were far better than I’ve ever had from a store! (I may be a little biased on this subject) We also have a vegetable patch where at the moment we have garlic, chocolate mint, coriander, spring onions, baby spinach, and lettuce growing.

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There may be something else, oh yes, parsley.  These are growing in two garden beds, set up higher than the ground, and are in an area where Missy can’t eat them. Missy likes her vegetables, but we grow them for the people of the house, not the dog!

We also have two almond trees, which were already there when we moved in, back in 1988. These almond trees are a little bit higher than is useful – if they were pruned, it would be easier to get bird netting in place, and maybe then we’d be able to eat our own almonds again. I don’t mind the cockatoos getting a good feed of nuts though, not really, I suppose …

What else is edible here? Well, there’s the weeds of course. Weeds are simply plants that Nature grows for us. Some of what Nature grows is wanted, but some things not so much. But if we learn to use the good things from Nature, we can learn to appreciate these plants rather than hate and destroy them.

Weeds we have that are edible include Marshmallow weed, nettles, dandelions, and who knows what else. The cockatoos like to eat the pine nuts from our stand of pine trees at the front of our place, and various birds like to visit our Bottlebrush trees,

newholland

and the Cape honeysuckle, when they are flowering.

cropped-cape-honeysuckle

 

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birds

Very, Very Noisy Miners …

At our place, we have a shed. The shed is quite open to the air, and at the moment, there is an owl, I think a Boobook Owl, living in there quietly during the day. Owls are nocturnal creatures, and I assume the owl is out and about in the night, and comes back to the shed, its resting place, to sleep during the day.

In the past few days though, a group of Noisy Miners have begun going into the shed, and loudly complaining about the bigger bird being there. It doesn’t seem to be actually bothered by the Noisy Miners, but more by me being there trying to get a decent photo of it, so I’ll leave off getting a better photo of the Owl and leave it alone. This photograph will have to do for now.

boobook owl

Photographing living creatures is always a bit of a hit and miss thing. I know that fine photographers spend a long time and money to be able to get their fine photographs, and I certainly know some fine photographers. I’m content with merely taking happy snaps, at this stage, but I may try to up my abilities in this realm at a later stage.

My husband and I have been keeping an eye on this particular bird. This is the first year we’ve ever seen a bird taking up residence in our shed, and we just like knowing it’s there, happily living in our largely unused shed. We just both go and take a look every few days, just to check whether ‘Owly’ is there. I’ve put the word out about this creature, on Facebook, and now I have a friend, who is a much better photographer than I am, coming around to see if he can get some good photos of our avian visitor, exciting times!

The Noisy Miners and the Boobook Owl both live at our place, which is obviously their place as well. I hope the Miners don’t chase away the Owl before the photo shoot, because I would love to be able to have a really good photograph of this bird, instead of my scrappy snaps …

 

 

 

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garden, Uncategorized

On Likin’ Lichen

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There are so many different kinds of life in our garden, some flying up high above, some creeping and crawling on the ground. And of course there are th plants, green grass, tree leaves in various shades of green also, or in Autumn a variety of shades of yellow, orange, red. Leaves that are on the tree and then when the time, the leaf, and the wind decide, down the leaf flutters.

The life in this photograph, that is a very different kind of thing. Lichen … I don’t really know much about lichen. I just know I love the look of it, when I see it. This lichen in the picture is on the fence in our backyard, on the northern side of the yard. It’s a wooden fence, made of red/brown pine paling. I’m loving that word ‘paling’. I’m not sure what the difference between a picket and a paling, but our wooden fence is horizontal, not vertical, so maybe that has something to do with it. I’m not the handy-person of the household …

Anyway, I like lichen. Old things can have lichen on them, like our fence. I remember a book I first read way back when I was a teenager, the book was written by a British author, John Wyndham, and this book was called “The Trouble with Lichen”. I loved it! I also loved other books by the same author, the most famous of them was a book called the Midwich Cuckoos. A fine tale indeed.

So, lichen … Another interesting thing about lichen is that it was the theme for one of the entries in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize for 2018.

 

Emma Kelly
This is the art work. It is by an emerging artist, Emma Kelly. My husband and I went to the museum and saw this piece and loved it. It is of a rock with lichen on it, and the image was used for the advertising of the Gallery exhibition for 2018. I just love the idea of the Natural Sciences being used to create art, and woohoo, lichen, I’m likin’ it!
So this little ‘thing’ lichen can inspire literature and scientific artworks, what a wonderful thing that is! Lichen is actually a fungus growing on algae, in a crust-like form. The fungus is unable to get a food source from the sun, in the way leaves of plants do, because it doesn’t have the ability to perform photosynthesis. So the fungus instead grows on the alga, which can get access to nourishment from the algae, which is able to perform photosynthesis. Isn’t that clever? So the fungus and the algae together forms the lichen.
Lichen can be used for all manner of interesting and useful things, medications being an important one for sure. Lichens have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. They have also been used as dyes, colouring clothing. Lichen is also a major food source for North American caribou. Amazing stuff, isn’t it?
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