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review 2018-06-17 09:35
Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (The Penguin English Library) - Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this - I think I first heard about it from a mention by Themis-Athena, but had to await its publication here before reading it.  It's a slim tome, but packed; at 104 pages, what I originally thought would be a fast read instead took me a couple of days, despite my being absorbed in it.


Mostly, it's a celebration of gardens, the outdoors, and nature, as written by one new to all of it.  But buried in the narrative, structured loosely like a diary, are moments of scathing wit, social commentary, and on the part of her husband, not a little misogyny.  Elizabeth and her German Garden was originally published in 1898 and though its language is of the time, Elizabeth is refreshingly modern.  Her thoughts, attitude, and personality are in almost all ways indistinguishable from the average 21st century woman's voice.  I loved her and her scathing, dry wit.


My only complaint about the book is it was slightly too short.  After lamenting two years of summer droughts that kept her in suspense of her garden's potential, the book ends at the very start of April and spring; I desperately want to know if she finally got to see her garden in all its glory!  Did the yellow border work out?  Enquiring minds are left hanging!

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text 2018-06-15 07:35

As some of you may remember, I got a beehive for a Christmas present this year - it's a beekeeping service really: they park a beehive in our garden, come every couple of weeks to check on it and maintain it and once a year, in early summer, we get the first 9kgs of honey produced.  Unless the bees have had a particularly productive year, in which case we get a bonus delivery.


We got a bonus delivery today!  AND one of our new chickens, Auburn, laid her first egg - it's a party here at the menagerie!  :D



4 Kilos of honey, plus a big, thick slab of honeycomb.  Now, I'm biased, of course, but I will admit to massive amounts of trepidation regarding what honey from our garden would taste like - especially given the number of eucalyptus tress in our area, which produce a honey I'm not at all fond of (think dark, smokey, sharp flavours).  But I'm happy to report our honey is delicious - light, floral, sweet.  And can I just say thank god?  Because I have no idea what I'd do with 4kgs of honey that didn't taste good!

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review 2018-06-08 19:04
Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History - William Woys Weaver

An excellent, and extensive book of heirloom vegetables (almost 500 pages!). The author has been saving old vegetable varieties his entire life, with some of the seeds from his grandfather from the 1930's! He also includes a very comprehensive history of people saving seeds. The list of plants is very extensive, from artichokes to yams. Each vegetable gets a thorough discussion.
This is the kind of book that you want to read over and over again, especially when one is stuck inside on a cold winter day, and are dreaming of what to plant in the spring.

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text 2018-05-31 08:36
So not book related ... garden updates and new additions to the menagerie.

Note: This is a LONG and picture-heavy post that has nothing to do with books, and everything to do with gardening and critters.  If neither interests you, please do skip right over this post.  Thanks!


Updates and pics were requested for the newest additions to our menagerie - Aubry and Molly, our newest chickens, and our very newest members at Casa de los locos amantes de los animales - fish!  It turned out today was a reasonable sunny day, and I was out in the garden setting up some new pond plants, so I snapped some pics.


First the fish ... there's a story here.  Really, two stories that merged.  First, for my birthday MT 'bought' me a fountain for the garden.  The quotes are there because we had to a.) find one, that b.) we both agreed on.  That only took 3 months ... in the mean time, I found our old fire pit sitting disused; I hate stuff lying around the garden, but it's a pretty terracotta pit, and I had a water pump still in its box in the shed (the wrong pump was sent to me ages ago, but they didn't want it back when they sent the new one). I thought: why not make this into a tiny water garden?  In my enthusiasm I set it up straight away:



I was so pleased with myself ... zero dollar outlay, less crap sitting unused... WIN!  And then I went out and bought some fish for it, which I named Edith and Archie.  (pics are coming).  


I was also so enthusiastic that it didn't occur to me that terracotta needs to be sealed first.  Oops.  Researching, it turns out they're super easy to seal, but it takes 7 days to cure before it can be wet again.  Seriously, oops.  I lived with it awhile; it only lost about 1cm of water every few days, but I began to worry the thing would disintegrate out from under Edith and Archie.  So, they needed a temporary home while the pit cured.  I'm dedicated to not buying plastic if I can avoid it, so I found another bowl, which I was prepared to swear was the same size (it's not, it's about 50% bigger), and set it up.



Archie and Edith were relocated, and settled in.

Crap, fuzzy photo, because ... fish on the move. Edith in the yellow one.


Meanwhile I got the fire pit sealed, and set it back up but didn't have the heart to move poor Edith and Archie again, so MT and I went out and bought two more fish*, Smokey and Stimpy:


Stimpy is the top one with the giant black eyes; Smokey is a calico gold fish.


* Really, we bought 4 fish.  The Bandit and Ren both went MIA on separate occasions, leaving not a trace of their fates.  It's a touchy subject with all of us, but there's now more greenery in the bowl, thus more hiding places.  (We suspect a neighbourhood Pied Currawong, but lack proof.)


Meanwhile our fountain was found, agreed upon and ordered - that birthday present that indirectly started all this - and we needed to rip out and redo part of our garden for it, creating a path and laying down foundation stones for the fountain.  This was at the time MT started having health issues and couldn't do any manual labor... Ace!  As it turns out, I have muscles, who knew? and better, I can still use them!


The fountain:

And yes, there will be more fish for this pond at some point soon; I wanted to get the plants established first and make sure everything was running well before we added fishy residents.


And the new path:



The path is made of bluestone we found buried in the property when we bought it; each weighs about 15kg/30lbs - ish;  I don't have that many muscles, so a lot of rolling of the bluestones was going on for a week or so.  :)


The path at the top of the pic on the right is made of thin slate slabs, which I also laid myself, years ago, but they weigh hardly anything.


Finally, the chooks - er, chickens.  The good news is that Aubry is getting feathered boots, and Molly isn't - now we have a way to tell them apart.  The less great news is they are getting HUGE!  They were supposed to be 'medium' sized; they're well on their way to super-sized.


Aubry (you can just see her boots):

Their feathers are so gorgeous - this photo doesn't do them justice.  (Henrietta is the white chicken behind her.)


And this is Eggy, Molly and Aubry:


Am I the only one that thinks this would make a great album cover?


I'm pretty sure that's it for our menagerie, but I've learned to never say never.  I can't think of any other animals we could add that wouldn't turn me into a full-time zoo keeper (the chickens are surprisingly self-sufficient and fish are ... fish; the ponds are set up with plants that make them self-regulating/feeding/cleaning/oxygenating) so I'd like to think we've reached a place of stasis.  But I won't bet on it.  ;-)

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review 2018-04-21 10:06
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search the World's Rarest Species
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species - Carlos Magdalena

This book is mostly what it says on the tin, anecdotes about Magdalena's travels seeking out the world's most endangered plants, and his subsequent conservation efforts to stave off their extinction.


It starts off a little rocky, as my first impression of Magdalena was more evangelical than messianic, and the mini-biography at the start sometimes ventured into very self-satisfied prose.  The biographical information was helpful, though probably could have been edited a bit.


Once chapter 2 begins though, all of that is quickly forgotten.  As someone who is deeply interested in conservation of both plants and animals (except roaches), I was enthralled as I read about efforts to save species plants on Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands, in Bolivia, and Australia (water lilies!).  As the daughter of an orchid grower who very often had to MacGyver solutions for tricky breeding problems, I genuinely enjoyed the parts where he had to think on his feet, or think outside the box to overcome perceived roadblocks to cultivation.


There's no denying his enthusiasm and his passion for his work; neither is there any denying the need for it, in a world where 2000 unknown plants can be identified in a given year, only to have many of them go extinct before they can even be named.  I learned a great deal reading this, and hesitated to put it down, always wanting to know where he was going next and what he'd find when he got there.

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