Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘reflections’

And Breathe…

I am not a big one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do feel reflective as one year ends and another one begins. 2011 has been an odd year for me and this is going to be quite a personal post.

Bodium Castle in England

Our trip to the UK (and a little bit) of Germany and France was an absolute highlight, but coming home from the much anticipated trip saw me land smack bang in a big puddle of ‘the blues’. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but now it seems to have been necessary to come to terms with the need for change and to eventually find the courage to start to make change.

The Lakes District

Despite knowing the life should be in balance I had been oblivious to the fact that mine was completely out of balance. Despite telling myself that work wasn’t the centre of my life it had become exactly that and it was consuming everything. Time with family, time in the garden, time to reflect and re-balance. I’ve always been someone who pursues work that is meaningful and have been fortunate to find it. But working in community services can exact a high price if you are not mindful of keeping things in balance.

Australian Yellow Admiral butterfly

The impact was to spend my time giving up what was dear to me for work. This spilled into always trying to fit in too many things in and to do things in a constant rush. No taking time. No mindfulness. No thinking things through. No time to enjoy. Just get it done and keep going.

I was becoming resentful of the intrusion but didn’t think there was a way out. To change jobs would mean only a relative change of scene. I felt I could only do similar to what I was already doing and I’d still be there with me making the same mistakes. I lost my passion and work was becoming just the place to go and earn the mortgage payments.

Funny though, as the end of the year started to approach I started to catch my breath, just enough. Just enough to see that it was time to stop seeing life pass by in a blur. Time to stop watching the garden growing over and my daughter growing up without having time to appreciate any of it.

Pot Marigold

Then a little glimmering possibility caught my eye. A possible change of career, with a gentler change of pace. A return to study yes, but with a whole new career possibly spanning out in front of me. And one that would be interesting, but not overwhelming. There is no guarantee that the opportunity will be given to me, but it is worth a try and a bit of persistence if the first opportunity does not work out.

But along with possibility has come the realisation that if I can make this change it might also mean that the house (and of course the Gippy Garden) has to be sold. Up until now I haven’t wanted to even contemplate that because to sell the Gippy Garden would be to sell my sanctuary. But I’m coming to realise that the Gippy Garden can, in essence, come with me even if I have only a small patch of dirt. While I’ve been miserable I’ve forgotten that this is still the lucky country in so many ways and even if I should have to move somewhere cheaper, it will still have a garden of sorts I can make my own and have some more time to enjoy it. It won’t be the end of the world. And who knows, it might not even come to that.

Sunflower and bee greeting the New Year on January 1st 2012

So here’s to a big leap into the unknown in 2012. I might fall flat on my face, but at least I feel alive again!

A very ”Happy New Year” to you all and all the best with any leaps into the unknown for you in 2012!



Gardens, what gardens?

I’ve recently returned from my trip to the UK (and the tiniest of peeks at France and Germany) and I’m left wondering if I’ve got the eye of a gardener at all.

Why? Well, I did expect to come home with lots of photos to share of quintessential English gardens, but what I came home with was this…

A seven spot ladybird

and this…

Still trying to find out exactly who we have here, anyone know?

My daughter and I spent one morning in Scotland on a wooded hillside doing nothing but hunting for beetles and butterflies. We had no luck finding the local rare butterfly, but we had great fun searching and we sure found plenty of beetles and bugs. There is nothing like looking for something small and delicate to make you really look at your surroundings and I think that morning will stay etched very deeply in both our memories.

oh and there was this one…

A bumblebee in Hyde Park...we've got LOTS of bumblebee photos!

and this too (look it’s got flowers in it!)…

Travelling as I was with my family, there was only ever going to be a certain tolerance for visiting stately gardens, but I surprised myself by not even being particularly motivated to find a couple of hours here or there to take off to visit one. Which I acknowledge was a bit of a shame on reflection. But what captured my imagination was the wildlife, from the tiniest little creature to the…well, there were no particularly big creatures to be found, unless you count those at  the Natural History Museum or the spider in the bedroom at our accommodation in Bath.

Oh and there were these, but I’m not sure if they are quite the point either.

Bluebells by a woodland pathway in Cornwall

A wooded pathway just out of Cerne Abbas

Along with the tiny creatures it was the beauty of the hedgerows, the naturalised bluebell forests and quiet woodlands that really captured my imagination, not the formal gardens. I’m quite disappointed that I arrived home to discover that I hadn’t actually taken a picture of a hedgerow. A beetle on a flower in a hedgerow perhaps, but not an actual hedgerow. Which is a terrible shame as we were there just at the right time to be going past hedgerows absolutely bursting with wildflowers and all the birds and little creatures that make their homes amongst them. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

Oh dear, I’m making myself  feel terribly wistful, I best be off and see what can be done with my mid-winter garden!

Happy gardening,


Barely back and gone again!

Just a quick note to say that I’m off on a very exciting trip to the UK (and a tiny peek at France and Germany!)  with my little family in a couple of days, so I won’t be about the blogosphere for a few weeks.

My favourite camellia, Early Pearly. My photography does not do her delicacy justice!

Also an apology that I haven’t been keeping up with visiting everyone’s blogs (or posting on mine of late). Between trip preparations, work and family…well, most of you already know the story! It is a shame though as I love visiting everyone’s gardening blogs and I will just have to think about adding it in to the balance of life better when I get back.

A tiny little Veronica that I thought I'd lost.

I’ll  let you in on a little secret too. This trip is such a big thing for us that I’m quite nervous now. I’ve been to the UK some years ago on my own, but didn’t have my little family then and am hoping the trip lives up to everyone’s expectations. Not only that, the whole big-deal quality of the trip is already making me feel a little wistful about being away from the simple pleasures of my home and garden. Still, that gives me lots to look forward to on my return doesn’t it?!

My first pumpkin harvest getting ready for storage. Hopefully those we don't give away will keep well for our return!

I hope you all have a lovely time in the garden while I’m away!




At this time of year, as I feel the seasons turn I  seem to give way to a bit of melancholy.

I think I’ll just go with it this year knowing it won’t last long.  By the time Autumn has fully settled over the last drifts of summer I’ll start to cheer up again.

It’s just a couple of weeks of listening to those sad little crickets chirruping after all. Soon autumn will move out of transition and I’ll embrace her full seasonal beauty.

McLoughlin's Beach - 90 Mile Beach Gippsland

But right  now these images of days not that long departed  seem just right.

Feeling Seedy

‘Feeling Seedy’ is probably not quite the right expression for how I’m feeling, as in my part of the world when you say ‘I’m feeling a bit seedy’ it usually means you’ve had too much to drink the night before. Or, if you are referring to something as ‘A bit seedy’ you might mean something is of ill repute. I haven’t been out drinking and my repute is intact, I think. But I do feel yuck.

Tiny little Spring Onions getting underway.

I’m referring to seeds only because I’m grasping for a gardening link to feeling run down so I can feel ok about moaning about feeling miserable on a gardening blog. After all, I haven’t been doing much in the garden lately apart from the occasional bit of mooching around and sneezing at the ladybirds. I’ve also sat and stared at a Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) that came and laid eggs on my rocket seedlings that are barely as big as she is. Cheeky, but intriguing.

The first time I get to see a butterfly laying eggs and it's on my poor little rocket seedlings! Figures!

Just when I thought I was getting over a run of coughs and colds I’ve ended up with a sinus infection that has blown up one side of my face to the point where I look like I’ve been punched in the eye. My face is even slightly bruised. It is every bit as attractive as you are imagining!

The expression ‘I’m feeling under the weather’ is probably more  appropriate to how I feel. But that’s another weird expression, considering we’re all under the weather wherever we are and however we feel. You never hear anyone saying they feel ‘On top of the weather’ do you?

OK, so I am a little feverish and slightly delirious. Sorry.

Sweet Pea and Hollyhocks. Thanks to Barbara at her blog 'Gardening in Mannheim, Germany' for the transplantable toilet roll tip!

I’m not sure how seeds came to be linked with poor health or reputation at all, given they are such a symbol of potential. But maybe my reference to seeds is not so far off track on this occasion. One thing I have managed to do over the last few weeks is sow a few autumn/winter/I hope it will grow regardless seeds.

When the sun comes out I go and sit next to them to marvel at new life as the seedings emerge and mentally note their daily changes. Watching them grow makes me feel content and that all will be well again soon.

That’s assuming that I don’t wake up tomorrow looking like someone has punched me it the other eye.

Beautiful little Beets went in a little on the late side, but I'm still hoping all will be well

Gippy Garden Project List 2010

This is going to be a post where I am declaring my intentions publicly to keep myself honest. It’s not going to be very interesting though.  Now’s your chance to go get that cup of tea you’ve been meaning to get for the last half an hour that you’ve been spending catching up on blogs!

Some of my projects are starting to leak out of my brain, so I’m writing them down so a) I don’t forget what I’m supposed to be doing and b) I can hold myself to account as the year progresses c) I can give the illusion of being organised.

I don’t expect to have it all done by years end…but it will be interesting (for me anyway) to see how far I get.

The List

Forgive me for including in the list jobs that I have already done. I had to give myself a little pat on the back to help keep myself motivated!

  • Re-start worm ‘farm’ . Done. Producing lots of lovely worm tea!
  • Re-start compost bin. Bin has been re-located and re-started, but still slowly filling it. Now of course I want three compost heaps.
  • Remove English ivy and Blackberry. In progress. One of those ongoing jobs complicated by major blackberry roots coming up under the fence on both sides of the property.

Ivy (and - oops - fence) removal Jan 2010

  • Develop Butterfly and Bee garden to the north side of the house. In progress. I will continue to research  larval and nectar plants over winter and plant them in late winter/spring.

Starting to organise space for the Butterfly and Bee Garden Jan 2010

  • Catalogue and monitor flowering and condition of roses. In progress. I have too many roses.
  • Move roses that are in incorrect locations. Just starting, waiting for them to get a move on and finish their Autumn flush.
  • Learn about pests in garden, understand how to help keep pests and beneficial species in balance, learn about some organic controls where the balance tips. In progress. But the aphids have redoubled their efforts and the parasitic wasps can’t keep up, so I’m spending a lot of time squishing aphids. Squished aphids are truly icky.
  • Re-develop ‘Elder’ rose’ bed.  In progress. It is very pretty in my mind’s eye.

  • Re-develop ‘shed bed’ into cottage garden. In progress, re-building garden edging with recycled bricks.
  • Experiment with veges in containers. In progress, some successes, some failures, but at least I’m learning!
  • Remove four old and neglected plum trees at rear of garden. In progress (and it’s not me doing the hard yards here!)

Um, the plum looks kind of nice and healthy in this shot. But it is still going!

  • Plant garden of native Australian plants where plums used to be. Itching to get started, but one plum still to go and lots of cleaning up to do in this part of the garden!
  • Learn about soil and plant nutrition. I don’t know my Ks from my Ns or even my Ps.
  • Improve soil organically. Mulching, mulching, mulching.
  • Build a raised vege garden. I’ve got some ‘colourbond’  roofing sheets that will be perfect to recycle for this. But I’m not allowed to start this until most of the ‘clean up’ jobs are done. It’s OK, it’s me who isn’t allowing me to.
  • Construct large trellis on back wall and move “Mermaid” rose to scramble up it. Underplant with….I don’t know what yet…lavender perhaps. You know, WordPress seems to think I mean to say ‘underpants’ every time I type ‘underplant’. Still underpants with lavender would smell nice, but they may itch a little.

Mermaid Rose...a good choice if you like monster climbers!

  • Reduce lawn area and increase garden area. Gradually remove couch grass. Loooooong term project.
  • Maybe start keeping chooks. Need to get everything else well underway first and learn more about the responsibilities of keeping chooks. We have ducks, but they are comparatively low maintenance.

Cripes. Now I’m exhausted and I have a headache. Where’s that cup of tea?


I’ve not been around for long when it comes to blogging or ‘Blotanicaling’. I don’t take the best pictures, write the most inspired words or, to be frank, have anything like the best garden. In fact, I don’t know all that much about plants. So why do I have a garden blog and love hanging out with other garden bloggers at Blotanical? Let’s cut a long story…long (sorry!)

I started my blog referring to myself as a lazy and ignorant gardener. I don’t mind admitting either of those things, as they are quite true, but there is a little bit more to it than that.

Part of the garden in January 2010, one each of live lemon and lime trees. Lots of weeds. And one departed lime.

Last year was a year from hell for me, I won’t go into the gory details too much, but basically I took on a job that was beyond my skills, or more accurately, my emotional endurance. After months of living in a totally stressed out state which was horrific for both me and my long suffering little family I finally realised I was drowning and didn’t have to be. I finished up. I was utterly exhausted and an emotional train wreck, but I was free!

A fairy contemplating what to do about the oxalis

I’m happy to say from a point several months down the track (now working part time in a job I love) that no permanent damage was done. But it would also be fair to say that my garden reflected my emotional state at the time. It wasn’t a pretty picture. My roses were buried in weeds. My fig tree was dying. One of the limes was dead. Couch grass was an arresting feature of the garden and the blackberry was making itself very much at home.

By Christmas time 2009 I was starting to return to my old self and looked around at the state of things. It was pretty overwhelming. It was very hard to know where to start. But I did finally start and wondered how to keep myself motivated with the hard work to come.

I should take some photos of my progress I thought. Hmmm. But they’ll all end up in a random jumble on the computer I thought. Hmmm. Ah, I know, a blog – that can be like a visual diary to keep me motivated and my record a little ordered.

So I was quite content to talk to myself on my little blog and in some ways, I still am. There is something about blogging that makes me think about trying to represent one aspect of myself truly and not worry too much if it is not terribly fascinating for anyone else. Which is possibly not the point of blogging, but there you go!

Anyway, it wasn’t long before I started to look around and discovered that there was a world of very interesting gardening blogs out there, but I was a bit intimidated by them. Luckily, I soon stumbled upon Blotanical.

Gratuitous clematis shot from 2007

Most of the bloggers I have ‘met’ have been directly through Blotanical. I didn’t really think of it as a gardener’s social network site at first, but more as a library. It has turned out to be both. It is certainly a wonderful reference point where I can find answers to my gardening questions and learn about things I’d never imagined. But it is also a place to meet incredibly generous and kind gardeners from all over the world.

And the generosity of other Blotanical Members is truly amazing. From the moment I appeared as a ‘Blotanist’ on Blotanical I had people popping in to my Plot (home page if you like) saying hello and/or inviting me to have a look at their blog and make a comment (this was surprisingly important to me in a way, as I was hesitant as a novice to comment on the blog of an experienced blogger/gardener in case they thought I was some upstart!)

Work in progress

It wasn’t long before I was collecting ‘favourite blogs’ like a magpie and trying to stash them all on my Blotanical list (my blogroll doesn’t let me keep up to date with the blogs I like). Ah, but there I discovered that there was a trick to it all!  To keep collecting sparkly new jewels I needed more points. So I learnt about ‘picking’…and that is a whole other hot topic I will leave to others in the Blotanical community for now.


A little viola peeking

Anyway, some Blotanical bloggers also took the time to pop in and leave comments on my blog, which I just loved and still do. I am still surprised that some experienced gardeners not only visit my blog, but make lovely comments. I am truly delighted when another gardener offers helpful advice or warm words of encouragement. It keeps me motivated.

Our resident male model 'helping' with some pruning

Even though I haven’t been around long I feel part of the Blotancial gardening community. There is little I would change* and will roll with whatever eventuates. If I can find and keep in touch with other gardening bloggers I’m happy; it’s all I really need.  So thank you Stuart for building this wonderful community. And thank you to all the lovely Blotanists that have made me feel part of the community.

Anyway, getting back to the point for a moment, the garden is still a mess, but it is getting there and there is nothing I love more than immersing myself in it!

(* if there is one thing I would like at Blotanical it would be a library cataloguing system to track down those posts I’d like to read on blogs I haven’t discovered yet!)