Tag Archives: backyard

Who Was the Diggingest Dog?

This is what we woke up to this morning… a monumental crater in our backyard. A crater so big, you could almost park a Mini inside it, and we weren’t happy!

Well, you might think we’d been struck by a meteorite. Indeed, given the smattering of holes around the backyard, a meteorite shower.  However, this particular hole is much larger and deeper than the rest and might even be considered impressive. Meanwhile, thanks to all these holes and the grey, sandy soil, our backyard resembles a moonscape and there’s barely a blade of grass in sight.  It looks pretty desolate to be honest and I don’t really go out there unless I have to.

As soon as you step foot in our backyard, the cause of these holes is obvious. It’s our three dogs… Lady and the “pups” Rosie and Zac. However, this hole was most likely the work of one dog, and the other two are innocent. However, how do we find out who done it when we don’t have the forensic resources of the FBI, Scotland Yard or NSW Police at our disposal? We obviously won’t get far by interrogating the dogs. Moreover, each dog is very good at feigning innocence. So, I guess this all means the guilty dog has got away with it. Committed the perfect crime.

Above: Lady is adamant it wasn’t her…”I’m an absolute angel.”

Pity that, because I really would like to have a backyard, which hasn’t literally gone to the dogs. Last night, this question raised it’s ugly head again when I had the chance to nip over to London via the blog and was able to check out  Geoff Le Pard’s backyard. His garden not only has flowers. It also has that lush green expanse otherwise known as “a lawn”. A lawn is a luxury. Yet, Geoff also has has a dog.

“Get close to grass and you’ll see a star.”

― Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

How does this man manage to have a perfect backyard and an incredible almost glowing green lawn when he also has a dog? How is it so? Does Geoff have direct access to Flora, the Roman goddess associated with flowers and Spring? Or, is it just a case that God has blessed the gardens of England and cursed the gardens of Australia, or even the backyard of this Australian in particular? It’s not that I feel like I have a target painted on my back. However, sometimes I do feel the man upstairs has made my journey that bit more difficult than most, and I could well throw “gratitude” to the wind. Indeed,  I could walk straight up to God and ask him straight out: “Please explain”.

Many of you won’t understand what I mean by “please explain”. It’s a phrase made famous here in Australia by our controversial Federal politician Pauline Hanson. While I might not like Pauline Hanson or her politics, the phrase has stuck moving into common usage, often with comic effect.

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Our Family

Mind you, I can’t really blame God for the state of our backyard and in many ways, the dogs aren’t to blame either. Having the perfect backyard, the perfect house aren’t achievable at the moment with two kids, three dogs, sailing and dance activities, work and chronic health. It’s relationships which matter, although I will confess that’s not as easy as it sounds and fueling relationships over the longer term isn’t easy. There’s a big difference I guess between where we aspire to be and where we’re at. That’s what it means to be human.

How is your garden going? Do you manage to have dogs and a decent garden? What’s your magic secret?

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I found this beautiful quotes which related so well to our battles to grow grass in our backyard of beach sand:

“The children had had an argument once about whether there was more grass in the world or more sand, and Roger said that of course there must be more sand because of under the sea; in every ocean all over the world there would be sand, if you looked deep down. But there could be grass too, argued Deborah, a waving grass, a grass that nobody had ever seen, and the colour of that ocean grass would be darker than any grass on the surface of the world, in fields or prairies or people’s gardens in America. It would be taller than tress and it would move like corn in the wind. (“The Pool”
― Daphne du Maurier, Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories

Making the Grass Greener.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A few short weeks ago, we looked out over our backyard the same way Moses saw the Promised Land. However, all we saw was a dust bowl with three dogs standing somewhere in it and a few holes dug in for good measure. Indeed, if I hadn’t seen the three dogs, I might’ve wondered whether a wombat had taken up residence in our backyard. Some of these holes were huge.

Needless to say, the grass wasn’t happy.

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

Walt Whitman

Moreover, just to add to it’s struggles, we’re in the throws of a serious drought and just because we’re not farming out on the land, doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected by the lack of rain. It might not be affecting our livelihood but our backyard was a dust bowl.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–   Henry Miller

So we have digging dogs, dry drought and then there’s the sandy soil. We live metres away from the beach and while this very same sandy beach might be a thing of beauty, our sandy soil is largely infertile could go a few rounds of IVF. Indeed, even the weeds had given up trying to grow in our backyard. There was just bare sand.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing green grass out the back, let alone anything approaching a lawn. I’d more or less assumed that my husband had also given up. After all, it had been awhile and there wasn’t exactly a lot of activity out there.

However, I don’t know what happened, but my husband sent up the backyard sprinkler system again. That was step one. Then, he built a very clever lawn growing contraption of the likes I’ve never seen before. Just like Australia has the rabbit proof fence, my husband built the dog proof lawn protector by simply nailing four planks of wood together and covering it with chicken wire. Just like the Parable of the Sower, my husband sowed out the lawn seed, covered it with the protector and then it was on with the sprinklers every night.

Then, miracle of miracles, we now have lawn. Indeed, the dog proof lawn protector has been moved onto its second location and much of the grass in the first plot is still alive.

Sometimes, I think we can settle where we are believing that things can’t get any better. That this is as good as it gets and we can forget to prepare the soil, sow the seed and water our dreams or just even our basic needs. It’s too easy then to fall into an engulfing sense of despair where there is not point lifting a finger or even trying to get up off the ground and pick up our mats.

I also want to say that I’m proud of my husband for coming up with our dog proof lawn protector. He commutes to Sydney puts in a long day’s work and is my carer 24/7 as well as being a father to our kids and the three crazy mutts. In so many ways, that’s life. We’re all busy. We each have our lot. Our hardships and our blessings. Last weekend, he started a sailing course. So, now he’s not only enjoying some green grass, he’s also experiencing some smooth sailing. Well, perhaps in time.

Is there something that’s changed recently in your life that’s made a difference? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Australian Magpie.

I photographed this magpie or “Maggie” at my friend’s place today. While they can become territorial and aggressive during Spring, they’re found  throughout most backyards, at least around here, and are mostly very tame. It’s quite clear that they’re worked out humans are a great source of food and they make themselves part of the family. Our elderly neighbours were being eaten out of house and home by their baby magpie who’d also make quite a lot of noise demanding to be fed. My friend volunteers for an animal rescue service and the magpie has discovered the puppies food bowl and helped itself. I guess you could call it “fast food”. Apparently, we have a family of maggies living in our jacaranda tree out the back. Geoff tells me that they’re “resprayed” our Morris Minor.

What types of birds do you have in your backyard? Please share in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

Flowers: When You Can’t Grow Your Own……

Hope you’re enjoying your virtual experience of the Royal Sydney Easter Show. So far, we’ve boarded the rollercoaster, battled it out on the dodgems, toured the dog pavillion where we checked out the Best in Show and went on to see a sheep dog round up some sheep. How we’ve managed to jam so much into one day, I don’t know but it isn’t over yet.
Now, we’re off to the flowers. They were absolutely stunning and I can assure you that nothing like this is growing in our desiccated garden.
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What an incredible orchid just begging to be photographed!

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.”

Gerard De Nerval

 

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What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (2.2.45-7)

 

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 “If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?”

Khalil Gibran
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“But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud;

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

 Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,

Or on the wealth of globed peonies;

Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,

And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.”

John Keats: Ode To Melancholy

 

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”
John Lennon
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“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”
D. H. Lawrence

“By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
Rabindranath Tagore
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“When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.”
William Makepeace Thackeray
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“The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.”
Auguste Rodin
So, I hope you enjoyed our journey through the Flower Exhibit at the show. It really was beautiful!
xx  Rowena

Creating Space to Grow Up.

Until recently, I’d never consciously considered how much space my kids needed to grow up and truly reach their potential band and that without this, their growth could be stunted.

After all, we all need space to grow…just like a tree. An acorn could never become an oak if it had nowhere to stretch out its extensive branches.

However, in the expediency of getting by, it’s easy for the jungle to take over both physically and metaphorically and our growth is stifled.

veggie patch beginnings

veggie patch beginnings

In many ways, our kids have a lot of space. We have a backyard where they can explore a myriad of possibilities. Indeed, after the weekend, we even have the makings of our very own veggie patch. They also have our two dogs, Bilbo and Lady, to play with. There is seemingly plenty of room to move. Moreover, there’s also the beach just down the road where they can gaze out to the horizon and let their imaginations wonder far across the sea. That’s if we actually get there.

Indeed, there’s plenty of space for their minds, bodies and spirits to expand for growth.

However, while there’s all that space out there, their bedrooms are another story.

To be frank, they’re absolutely stuffed. Stuff keeps going in but little goes out. You could say it’s been the result of too much love, a soaring imagination and my obsession with op shops where I keep finding the most incredible things very cheap. It’s not uncommon for me to have piles of things waiting for them when they get home from school and despite my enthusiasm, they’re usually so ho-hum about them all. I’m lucky if they even look up from Minecraft long enough to roll their eyes!!

Our daughter's impressive three-storey doll's house is on the move.

Our daughter’s impressive three-storey doll’s house is on the move.

Anyway, just like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, all that stuff couldn’t possibly stay in there forever and the big regurgitation process has begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhbHTjMLN5c

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids' bedrooms.

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids’ bedrooms.

Yes, stuff is literally spewing out.

Much of this is hastily dispatched into the boot and off to the op shop before anyone can change their minds.

However, there are also the left overs, which of course, none of those annoying decluttering “experts” never discuss.

Yes, indeed they never mentioned “no man’s land”.

Anyway, what all the cluttering experts conveniently forget to tell you is that the clutter gets incredibly worse before it starts to get better. That’s because most of your cupboards are packed like a loaded spring and once you start releasing the pressure, the stuff explodes all directions just like an exploding dandelion. The upon release, your clutter plants itself in some fertile corner of your house, grows roots and re-establishes itself somewhere else. These self-sown cultivates are then often joined by those hapless homeless items which keep moving round and round your house from the kitchen table, into the bathroom, the bedroom and perhaps even packed into storage.

Consequently, as a result of this “declutter” process, we have our son’s car bed and our daughter’s huge doll’s house sitting in our lounge room. That’s in addition to the sofa bed we brought back from Palm Beach which is perched in front of the piano, which I’ve been trying to give away for at least a year to a Mum who can’t seem to collect it. We also have a procession of tables and an old sofa bed to move on out the back. Our overcrowded house is indeed starting to look like a departure lounge for a gang of furniture allsorts.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting the doll's house out, it's hard to part with these personal touches.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting the doll’s house out, it’s hard to part with these personal touches.

While the decluttering Nazis can seemingly throw anything out without even a drop of sentimentality, I personally find all this change and transition quite stressful. While I’m delighted that my kids are growing up and becoming more independent and developing their own personalities, I just don’t know how much to let go. There are so many memories etched into their precious things and yet there’s way too much to keep. Indeed, I’m starting to feel like I’ve swallowed a push-me pull-you and I’m paralyzed between going forward and moving back, which should, at least in theory, place me in the present but I’m not so sure!!

Yesterday, for example, I came across a toy rainbow lorrikeet which sings when you press its tummy. Of course, you’d say to keep that. However, when I tell you that it’s beak and eyes are missing, you’ll say: “broken…toss!!” but when I tell you that Bilbo chewed it’s face off when he was a puppy and he’s now approaching old age, then that poor damaged lorrikeet tells more of a story that something brand new and pristine.It tells a story of growing up, growing old and ultimately moving on to that great blue doggie heaven in the sky.

Needless to say, the lorrikeet stays.

Yet, I’m fed up with having no space, wading through the mess on the floor and the arguments over cleaning their rooms. There’s so much stuff that we’re all feeling completely overwhelmed and quite frankly, I just want the lot to disappear. Poof!

Anyway, as I said, the kids are growing up and they can’t grow up without anywhere to move. Childhood slowly but surely needs to give way to … drum roll…the teenage years.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

While this might be a period of dread for many parents, it feels less daunting for me than facing the terrible twos, although we’re not there yet. Although our 9 year old daughter thinks she’s already there, our 11 year old son, at least, seems blissfully unaware of what lies just around the corner when he starts high school next year.

It turns out that Minecraft does have some virtues, after all!!

So instead of simply writing about sorting that mess out and procrasinating

    , I’d better get back to it.

    Time and the tide of clutter waits for no one.

    xx Rowena

Getting Unstuck…the Greenhouse We Built.

Forget The House that Jack Built. The house our daughter built was stuck together with bits of sticky tape…an absolute engineering marvel! With its flimsy walls teetering precariously, it was one of the great wonders of the modern world before it was condemned and rebuilt.

Although our daughter is only 8, Miss usually shows more of an aptitude for engineering than this. She enjoys things like mechanics and working on the car with her Dad and usually asks me how things work and likes to put things together properly, unlike her “creative” mother. The sticky tape is my bad influence. I’m the sort of person who cuts corners and used to have staples or safety pins holding my school uniform together…even at a “posh” school. I couldn’t give a damn about how something works. Near enough is good enough. I am more interested in people and what makes them tick.

Although I am usually the sticky tape queen, as the greenhouse was designed for kids, I thought we should be able to put it together properly and give the thing at least a reasonable chance of survival. As it stood, or should I say leaned, it would fly over the fence in pieces with the first gust of wind

The house my daughter built was actually Jamie’s Greenhouse, part of Woolworth’s Jamie Oliver’s Garden  promotion. This promotion is based around an informative sticker book for the kids which is literally bursting with all sorts of facts about fruit and veg, games, recipes and is super educational. You pay for $4.00 for the book and then get a pack of stickers for every $20.00 you spend, luring hapless parents and grandparents back into Woollies for fresh supplies. At $4.00 each, this book was an absolute gift and has kept the kids busy for hours doing something other than playing on some electronic life form. These books have spread like wildfire through the schools and the kids are all trading stickers, even if they’re still overlooking the healthy fruit and veg in their lunchboxes.

Swap Your Stickers

You can check out the campaign by clicking through here:http://www2.woolworthsonline.com.au/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver?hubID=11#url=/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver-Jamies-Garden

 

Well, we were frolicking around in fruit and veg sticker heaven until…

Our daughter asked me to buy Jamie’s Greenhouse, a seemingly innocuous sidekick to the whole campaign. I love gardening and when I saw the package, I was reminded of my previous intentions to start a veggie patch with the kids. This is more of a herb garden but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and preferable to buying yet another soft toy. You see, the campaign also includes a range of stuffed toy fruit and veg and yes I know I could have said no and bought our daughter nothing at all but we all know that’s not how it works.

Anyway, while Jamie’s Greenhouse came disguised in cute cardboard packaging covered with child-like drawings, it is what it is. It’s an Ikea flatpack in kiddies’ clothing…only this time it is your child who is supposed to do battle with the bits and pieces building an entire house…not just a bookshelf or a desk.

That’s right. They get to build an entire house out of a few flimsy bits of plastic.

Yeah…right!!

Actually, constructing this Greenhouse is making an Ikea project look very Simple Simon . After all, when you go to Ikea, you don’t buy an entire house in their trademark flat packs and have to put it together before you can get a good night’s sleep. Of course not! You just buy “bits”.

The only piece of furniture which I’ve ever been game enough to buy from Ikea was a humble desk. In other words, a single piece of furniture. My Dad was much more adventurous. He actually bought a table and 6 chairs and almost gave up his day job to put them all together. So much for running his business!

Ikea’s approach is so win-win. They reduce production costs and increase profits while we get to prove ourselves. Show that we mere mortals can slay the Ikea beast and actually build something. There’s real kudos in being able to put a few bits of wood together and turn an Allen key. It’s almost as good as being able to boast: “I made it myself!”

Of course, no one ever expects us to be a linguist and actually pronounce all those luxurious Swedish product names, which is where my skill set naturally lies. I find it much easier to speak convoluted Swedish than work out how A slots into B. I have no spacial skills or engineering capabilities whatsoever and still can’t find A or B when I bought that desk back in high school.

While Jamie Oliver’s Greenhouse doesn’t come with an Allen key or any other kind of doobywacker tool, as I said, it does come in a flatpack. There are plastic sheets, an instruction booklet, dirt and seeds and stickers to cover up your mistakes. While I did mention something about constructing a “house”, I must confess that we’re talking about a small greenhouse. Indeed, you could say it is the doll’s house of greenhouses. Indeed, it reminds me of the Fisher Price Doll’s house my daughter had as a two year old before her dolls moved into their grand 2 storey mansion along with a considerable amount of accumulated flotsam and jetsam. Those dolls can barely breathe in there, let alone stretch their legs.

Well, my daughter has never been to Ikea and she certainly knows nothing about Allen keys or impressing your friends with your impressive DIY prowess. She was being pragmatic and stuck it together with sticky tape instead of putting the slots together. It was now up to me, or should I say Geoff to save the day. I did have a go but I’m more of a sower than a builder. He had it knocked up in no time. This greenhouse was going to weather life’s storms.

Now, it was time to sow the seeds and once again our daughter took charge of HER project.

This was where Jamie’s Greenhouse really impressed me. It had this special dirt. She added water and the dirt swelled up to double, even quadruple its size. There were little packets of seeds with all those garden herbs we’ve always intended to plant but had always put off. Everything we needed to start a garden was in the box. We planted the seeds. Added water. Remembered to water them and experienced almost instant gratification.

Cress

Cress

Two days later, we have cress. Cress is the perfect seed to plant for kids who need instant gratification.

I’m impressed!

Cress

Cress

Last night we had some very strong winds and although the roof blew off, the house is still standing and it has made it through today’s winds unscathed. I’ve got to say that Jamie Oliver has more than just a pretty face and when he’s finished at Woollies, he should give Ikea a call. I’d love to get a real live chef thrown in with my next desk.

XX Rowena