Saturday, August 31, 2013

Native Anthem

Yesterday afternoon I ventured down to Stirling North, just outside of Port Augusta and around 30km from where I live, to visit a 90-year-old gentleman who propagates and sells native Australian plants.
It was a true adventure of new-found knowledge and discovery. In the past I have been reluctant to grow many Australian native plants for fear they would make the garden look untidy and dull. Yesterday's adventure made me realise just how fantastic a native Australian garden can look with a bit of planning and attention. I discovered that the key to having a fabulous native garden is in the pruning: Leave them to grow wild and they will split, look shabby, produce few blooms and won't live as long. And as it turns out, they are not hard to manicure at all: From about their second year (when they reach about 1.5m in height) they should be pruned back by a third once they have finished flowering in spring. This will ensure the bush stays "tight" and bursts with flowers every year.
And it's the flowers that I am most keen to see plenty of in my garden. Whilst manicured looks splendid, a garden isn't all that fun without splashes of colour and the regular visits from the native bees and honey-eaters (birds). We lost a number of shurbs preferred by the honey-eaters last summer and I am keen to ensure their return.
Last spring I planted two "test" eremophilas - a groundcover and a silver shrub - to see whether they would survive the summer heat and how well they would grow in our hard, clay soil (which manages to annihilate even the hardiest lavender, a popular garden plant in Australia). As it turns out, they are thriving. Eremophilas only need to be watered until they are established, after which they should be left to their own devices (unless, of course, they are looking a little "thirsty"). They make the perfect water-wise garden for arid and desert conditions. Seeing my test plants grow so well over winter (which has seen them treble in size), I made the decision that a native garden might be just what we need to achieve the manicured, evergreen and colourful garden we want.
So, after learning how to grow and prune native plants perfect for our climate from the expert (the gentleman in question pioneered the world-renowned and one-of-a-kind Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta), I came home with a selection of eremophilas (trees, shrubs and groundcovers) and a purple lantana, which will go in-ground next weekend. With prices ranging from $2 - $4.50 per tube, a mere $30 spent and I came home with 11 plants. Now I just need to decide where to put them!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hello, Blossom.

I am so pleased to see our apricot tree in bloom again this year, especially after the hard prune it had earlier this winter. It had a bit of gummosis and was looking a little scraggly, so we cut it back to half its size, removing the branches suffering the gummosis in the process.
It will be this tree's third season in our garden, and hopefully it has endured the last of its hard prunes. All signs of gummosis are gone. It's also great to see the blossoms on the remaining branches and new growth from the stems. I'll be absolutely delighted if we happen to get fruit again this summer.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris is the thirteenth - and final - novel in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series. The naïve, small-town Sookie Stackhouse introduced in book one (Dead Until Dark) is a very different person to the cynical, hardened Sookie found in Dead Ever After. Over the course of thirteen books (and a selection of short stories), Sookie has grown and adapted to the world around her as she's had to face many life-threatening and life-changing events involving Vampires, Weres and other Supes.

In Dead Ever After Sookie must once again enlist the help of her supernatural friends in order to defeat a supernatural foe, whilst attempting to prove herself innocent of the murder of a fellow Bon Temps resident.

As the last book in the series, I expected a lot. I expected action, romance, mystery and an explosive ending - the kind of finale that Sookie deserved; one that was truly satisfying and would make up for the relatively unexciting events of the more recent novels in the series. However, that didn't happen. The ending did not surprise me: The turn that Sookie's love-life takes has been somewhat expected since book one. However, what did surprise me was the return of old lovers, friends and foes, whilst the more central and significant characters of the previous twelve books were frustratingly absent. The plot itself wasn't terrible, it just wasn't delivered in a particularly dramatic, satisfying manner, and in the end it felt as though not a lot actually happened in the story at all.

The Sookie Stackhouse series ceased being really good by book 7. Books 8 - 12 felt very much as if Sookie's story was being deliberately drawn out and milked for all it was worth, which probably put a lot of additional pressure on the final novel to be something truly amazing. In the end, however, Dead Ever After lacked the excitement and intrigue of the earlier novels in the series and overall, was rather disappointing.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Weeks 43, 44 & 45

Six weeks to go.
217 pieces of mail art yet to make and send out.
Can I do it?
One of the biggest challenges, aside from finding the time to make the mail art, has been finding people to send it to. I have just started a new batch of mail art to go out to the final few people who have emailed me requesting to be a part of the project.
I will happily accept more requests from people over the coming weeks, so if you think finding a piece of mail art in your letterbox might be kind of awesome, please do not hesitate to drop me an email! I'll be happy to oblige. At present, I'm about 50 recipients shy of 365.
I would especially love to send out some more pieces to fellow Australians, so if you're from Australia you should definitely email me. Like, NOW.
Weeks 43 & 44:
I was busy writing an 80-page letter to my BFF that I totally forgot to finish the mail art I started, so the pieces took two weekends to complete: Made the envelopes the first weekend, added the addresses the second. Why rush these things?
Using my own photos of the beach (I miss the ocean), I made the following envelopes:
#143 of 365:
Early morning, exposed reef for Astrid in Germany...

#144 of 365:
Stormy sunset for Dora in New Zealand...

#145 of 365:
Shoreline for Maaike in the Netherlands...

#146 of 365:
Dusk by the water for Rusty in the USA.
Week 45:
Two tiny teapot envelopes!

#147 of 365:
Pot of tea for Karlee in the USA...

#148 of 365:
And a pot of tea for Kirby in Australia.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn

Silent Night (Lady Julia Mystery #5.5 Christmas Novella)
Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silent Night is a short and sweet Christmas novella belonging to the Lady Julia Grey mystery series by Deanna Raybourn.

In this instalment, Lady Julia and her investigator husband, Nicholas Brisbane, travel with their assortment of animals to the Grey family estate to celebrate the festive season with Julia's family. Julia is keen to show Brisbane how wonderful the Grey Christmas celebrations are, however upon their arrival Julia is shocked to find the Christmas décor lacking, the staff ill, her father sulking in his study, and valuable jewellery missing! Julia, true to form, is eager to get to the bottom of the problems plaguing the family estate so that she can treat her husband to a truly merry Christmas.

A wonderful holiday read, Silent Night is a great little teaser for dedicated Lady Grey fans, and the perfect introduction for the Lady Grey novice. The only downside to the story is that it was nowhere near long enough and left this reader craving more, more, MORE!

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Drive

August rarely fails to deliver beautiful days in this part of world. Anyone thinking of visiting our region should do so in August.
Knowing that rain was due to start falling again this evening, we decided to take a leisurely Sunday drive through the Ranges this morning. All the rain we've had over the past two months has made the everything wonderfully green, and now the wildflowers are starting to bloom, adding an extra splash of colour to the landscape.
Our drive took us well out of town, past farmhouses and old ruins, down into valleys and over hills, and through sleepy tiny townships with just a handful of buildings.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review: The Nelig Stones by Sharon Skinner

The Nelig StonesThe Nelig Stones by Sharon Skinner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Nelig Stones by Sharon Skinner is a fantasy novel for children set in the magical land of Anoria.

Stefani is a bit of a science geek who doesn't get along well with her mother, whilst Robbie likes to skateboard but is constantly picked on by bullies. They are accidentally transported from their hometown to Anoria after the two collide outside Hole-in-the-Rock in Arizona. Once in Anoria, they discover they must undertake a physically challenging and dangerous journey to locate the Nelig Stones, magical trinkets that when brought together will give them the power to return home. Along the way they engage the help of fairies, mages and glimmerings in their quest, and come face-to-face with strangling vines, quicksand, raging river rapids, fire worms and dragons. However, despite the trials they are forced to endure, Stefani and Robbie build a strong friendship based on mutual respect for the other's strengths and weaknesses. They also discover new confidence as their journey forces them to take on new responsibilities.

I thoroughly enjoyed this great little novel, even if it was specifically written for children. It's impossible not to be drawn into the magical world of Anoria and become invested in Stefani and Robbie as they attempt to achieve such a mammoth task. The Nelig Stones is not bogged down in too much detail so would be perfectly suitable for anyone aged 7 and up.

Many thanks to the publisher, Brick Cave Books, for inviting me to read and review this novel, and for providing me with a wonderful paperback copy in order to do so.

Friday, August 2, 2013


In Australia, the 2 August is Imbolc.
Imbolc falls midway between Yule (winter solstice) and Ostara (spring equinox), and marks the beginning of spring. 
Despite a few grey clouds passing overhead around mid-morning, today was mostly uninterrupted sunshine, and if it wasn't for a chilly southerly breeze blowing in over the Ranges, it would probably have felt very much like spring indeed.
I even started some spring cleaning.
This evening it rains again, and the rain is expected to continue in a very winter-like fashion for the remainder of the weekend. However, if there is one place that truly reveals the changing of the seasons it is the garden, and there are many early signs of spring in ours.
Although, I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for winter to be over just yet...

[Seed pod on the native hibiscus]

[New growth on the geraniums]

[Hardenbergia violacea - aka native wisteria]

[The first buds on the lemon tree]

[Delicate, tissue-like Rosemary blooms]