There is a lightness in the air finally – mostly wattle pollen from western Victoria if the strength of the wind gusts is to be believed. Some hardy blooms are pushing through, which is encouraging after the frosts we’ve had. I’m thinking of starting a hashtag #isthisdead? and taking photos of all the sticks that remain after everything froze a few times, including my lovely blue hydrangeas. I’m hoping they’ll return, but right now the bush looks pretty dead. Same with nearly all the succulents in the cat run, although given these are all plants that came with the place, I’m trusting they’ve survived frosts here before and will return from their burned brownness in spring. So the daffodils, wattle and jonquils are gratefully received!
There have been a few weekend projects going on at the moment – weeding garden beds (seems the weeds don’t mind frost), cleaning out pony paddocks (Hugo very neatly leaves it all in piles to be collected), pruning fruit trees and trying to protect the birdlife from our cats.
On this last point – I would have thought the cat run was a reasonably good defence for the native birdlife. Best of both worlds – the cats still get to spend time outside pretending to be panthers, but don’t have the run of the place to actually get near any prey. I did however underestimate the size of birds’ brains. We covered the cat run in chicken wire, which is what we had plenty of, and is obviously plenty small enough gauge to keep the cats in, but not, as it turns out, to keep teeny finches out. Dot has been averaging a kill every couple of weeks of these lovely teeny green-black birds, with red masks (bird watchers, feel free to enlighten me!), that are tiny enough to flit through the wire, and then become panicked and trapped once they realise the mistake they’ve made. Dot brings them inside, chirruping proudly and always bewildered at the horrified reaction she garners.
So I decided to set up a bird deterrent inside the cat run (since the cats themselves apparently aren’t deterrent enough). Bird tape is basically shiny holographic wrapping paper and given that we (like most Gen Xers) have spindles and spindles of blank CDs, for all the mix discs we suddenly didn’t make when digital music swept all before it, I decided to use their shiny properties instead. I made a daisy chain of blank discs that will hopefully sparkle in a threatening manner and keep the birds out of the run – or confuse them enough to stay away. Two weeks in and Dot is nought from nought, so obviously these are millenial birds.
We also have had a go at pruning our wild and woolly fruit trees. The apple tree was at least 15 foot tall and leaned over the bungalow, cheerfully dropping apple bombs onto the roof in the middle of the night. This required a chainsaw prune as it is a very established big tree, so it was really more of a chopdown rather than a trim.
The stone fruit trees were not as tall, but were leggy and out of control and had suffered in the wind storms. We considered getting in a professional to do it for the first time and then following their lead (like getting your eyebrows waxed professionally and then just copying their lines over and over), however we thought this might be overcapitalising in this first year. It’s obvious they all had been pruned properly at some point, but now branches shot out from the old stumps at all angles, branches criss-crossed each other in all directions, including directly down. A bit of research reassured us that we couldn’t hurt them too much, after wading through all the technicalities of laterals and feathers and terminal buds. (A good resource we found was on the Flemings website.)
The basic principles are – winter pruning is to promote growth, summer pruning inhibits it. Open up the interior of the tree so that sunlight can penetrate into all branches, and keep the tree at a height where you can reach the fruit (seems obvious!). Remove branches that cross others, that are broken or drooping, and take everything back to a couple of buds. Given the state of our trees, this first year was a bit of an experiment in what damage we can inflict on the trees without hurting them, and it will take us a few seasons to get them right, but they’re greatly improved already. Toolswise, I can definitely recommend borrowing the good secateurs and trimmers from Mum (she uses Fiskars – they make short work of the sinewy branches!).
And now we wait for the blossoms!
For those following at home, my last post about Glen Mist (my brother’s cantankerous spirit animal apparently) garnered a flurry of reminiscences and a social media success story. After posting a link to the previous blog post on the Halvorsen Club’s Facebook page, in a matter of mere hours, Glen Mist was located – renovated and much loved on the Gippsland Lakes. The new owners were delighted to find out more about her history and a summertime reunion is on the cards!