arboreal abscission

Being surrounded by forest makes for a wonderful peaceful setting, with verdant vistas and myriad birdlife. However, having these larger tree species within the garden can pose a bit of a problem. Like any living being, they have a life span and some had been shedding bark and limbs at an increasing rate with the potential to damage outbuildings. We called in the Tree Doctor to diagnose diseased, dying and dangerous specimens. A huge Eucalypt was deemed to be failing (I don’t miss cleaning up the frequent sheets of bark on the driveway).

A second Eucalypt, with a distinct lean away from the prevailing westerlies, was displaying the same symptoms and awarded the same fate.

A healthy Tasmanian blackwood just needed an amputation of a rather large limb overhanging the studio

but another blackwood we thought in need of a trim was actually slowly dying.

A few weeks later the team arrived and wasted no time tackling the first blackwood.

The smaller branches were picked up and fed into the chipper

which was then emptied into an ever increasing mulch pile.

Before long, only a stump remained and a substantial stack of timber for future firewood.

The razing of the leaning Eucalypt was a little more involved. A precise landing was in order to prevent damage to buildings, fences and established plants in the garden beneath. With ropes attached to guide the downward trajectory,

a hefty chainsaw took care of the rest and the giant was felled.

I was pleased to see the rhododendrons still upright on either side of the enormous trunk.

The mulch pile continued to grow, along with the firewood supply for the next few years.

A quick trim of a wayward branch from a pine tree on the neighbouring property

and the final Eucalypt was tackled.

Proximity to the fence was problematic but the skill of the experienced team overcame the hurdles for another successful outcome.

Now, where is that chainsaw……..

Charles Darwin National Park

On the outskirts of the city named after the great scientist and naturalist, Charles Darwin National Park is full of surprises. Created in 1997, the five square miles provide a natural recreation area as well as protection for significant vegetation, Aboriginal and World War II history. Developed as an Explosive Ordnance Storage Area during World War II, eleven of the bunkers that housed the explosives during the war are still standing. Nine were set into the contours of the hills, the barrel vault constructions are covered with vegetated earth.

There is a display of memorabilia in one of the bunkers and a fascinating insight into Darwin’s role in the Pacific War.

Bomb trolleys were used to move bombs weighing up to 1,000 lb (that’s about 450kg) to be loaded into aircraft and were common at bomber bases in the 1940s.

There are two free-standing storage sheds, one of which is now adorned with a magnificent work of art.

One of Australia’s most important wetlands is also protected by the park. The Port Darwin wetland comprises undisturbed mangrove forests, with 36 of the Northern Territory’s 51 mangrove species within its system of inlets, islands and bays. The vista from Charles Darwin Lookout is spectacular.

neighbourly Notechis

We weren’t sure whether we would be hosting a slithering summer squatter this year, considering the absence in 2021. Our question was answered one evening in early December when we spied the familiar form from the kitchen window.

The Tasmanian tiger snake (Notechis scutatus humphreysi) has an unfounded reputation for being aggressive. Although one of the world’s most venomous snakes, they are actually very shy creatures and would rather retreat than attack, saving their venom for important things like their next meal. This may not be the same snake as previous years but she certainly had the same habits and was very comfortable with our presence. Mornings were spent warming up on the eastern side of the pond,

seeking shade when too hot

and stretching out when cool ,

then back to shelter.

Tasmanian climate isn’t the easiest for temperature regulation, even for humans. Sometimes a little creativity is needed to warm up,

but usually a good stretch against the rocks is the best way.

There were some mornings we couldn’t see Snakey (as she is affectionately known) and assumed she had gone off hunting for the day. Complacency is not recommended as she can turn up where least expected.

I much prefer her presence to be obvious.

In the afternoon, she would often be lounging on the rocks above the pond

or returning from adventures for refreshment

before relaxing in contented contemplation.

I like to think there is a subliminal connection between the tiger snake and tiger lilies, they seem to complement each other.

swallow summer

Over the years, there have been a few attempts by swallows to set up home on our cedar cladding. We resorted to inventive ways to deter them with success. In early January, a determined pair began construction in a cosy corner of the back deck.

We decided to allow them to share our space and made allowances for the anticipated mess that would ensue. The little birds worked tirelessly, collecting mud and grass

and three days later, the nest was complete.

Welcome Swallow couples stay together for life, they both build the nest and feed the young, although the female alone incubates the eggs. Two and a half weeks went by and the parents seemed to be spending a lot of time away from the nest, so Michael reached up and took a photo.

Another three weeks went by and we hadn’t heard any baby bird noises or calling for food, although the parents were still attentive. Time for another photo, there was no mistaking two tiny heads.

Of course, I became obsessed with trying to capture some special moments and three days later, two little heads popped up.

A third soon joined them

and within a couple of days they were starting to explore beyond their comfort zone.

I was surprised by the lack of chirping, even when food was approaching.

They gradually ventured further each day and after a couple of weeks, no longer returned to the nest at night. We haven’t seen them for a few days now, hopefully they will return next year.

veggie patch revamp

When we created our veggie patch, we used reclaimed hardwood roof trusses to make the raised beds, thinking they would outlast our time here. Eleven years of Tasmanian weather proved us wrong and the timber was starting to rot, the screws were no longer holding and the boxes developed all sorts of twists and turns.

After weeks of mulling over possible solutions, we came up with the idea of reinforcing each box using metal sheeting on the inside. Our local Colorbond supplier was very helpful. We gave them the measurements of each piece required and they cut them from ends of rolls that would otherwise have been discarded (at a reasonable price). After digging away the soil at the edges,

the strips of steel were screwed to the timber with pond liner at the corners to avoid water seepage.

We were happy with the tidy result.

The rhubarb box was a bit of a challenge, just as well it needed thinning out.

We had a truck load of loam/ compost mix delivered and topped up all the beds

just in time for spring planting.

The fruit salad tree box had to be completely demolished and rebuilt (I was too distracted to take photos of the process).

Our unpredictable spring weather meant I was constantly chasing sunlight and warmth for the seedlings

but I finally had success and planted out in summer.

I threw some marigold seeds in for the first time, they supposedly deter pests as well as looking pretty.

By the end of January, there was no stopping the flow of produce.

Thankfully, we found some willing recipients for the monster zucchini.