A couple of years after arriving though we had a bit of a shock in the form of a huge rain storm that came through the region and turned our beautiful natural bushland back yard into a raging torrent through which the rain runoff for the entire hill was flowing at an alarming rate. Funny how the real estate agent neglected to mention that as a feature.
As it turned out, the house survived the deluge and we were left to think about how to stop it happening again. What resulted was a multi year project to completely redevelop the back garden, to lay pipes to divert the runoff channel into the storm water drains and hopefully create some beautiful flower beds.
So far we are two thirds of the way through the plan. The first year was taken up by mapping the water course, digging trenches and connecting it into the storm water pipes that run off our roof.
The second year was spent on the actual landscaping work. This involved a huge amount of digging up and breaking up large lumps of sandstone so as to define the path, garden terraces and retaining walls. Fortunately I didn’t need to buy anything as there was plenty of rock lying around. All in all, it was a huge effort but I’m tremendously happy with the results.
All that is left to do now is to finish off with some plants. We had planned to try to use as many edible plants as possible as we really want to grow our own food. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this that mean we have had to change plans.
What are those problems? Well, in short it’s the wildlife. First up, we have the spiders, then there are the wild bush turkeys and finally the possums. A combination that means there is something causing problems at all times, during planting, day and night there is always something trying to eat, destroy or watch out for.
It turns out we happen to live in prime Funnel web spider breeding territory. As one of the most aggressive and toxic spiders in the world they are definitely something to be respected.
All in all I managed to find around 10 of them when I was doing the landscaping. They grow to a fair size with a body length of up to 3.5cm / 1.5in. Fortunately, while they do get a bit mad when you dig them up(see the picture), they don’t jump so they are easy to catch with an empty jar.
In fact, I managed to catch about half a dozen of them and take them to the local reptile park where they are now enrolled in the milking program to produce anti venom. You can see more info on the park here http://www.reptilepark.com.au/
So, why will this stop us planting a veggie garden? Well, they tend to like to dig their burrows into damp soil about 30cm / 12in below the surface. In other words, garden beds are perfect.
Wild turkeys are native to our area and are a protected species. In fact there is a huge nest two houses up from ours. The Turkeys tend to come scratching around in the morning and evening. It means that we don’t have any issues with garden pests like slugs and snails but also means that any seedlings that get in their way are scratched or pecked out as well.
My least favorite of all the pests in the area, Possums are another protected species that we are not allowed to get rid of. Sure, they are a nice furry animal that impress the relatives from Europe when they come to visit but they are also ruthless eating machines.
They will go out of their way to deliberately eat any edible plant down to the ground leaving nothing left. Worse still is that they seem to work on some sort of 14 day schedule. They seem to visit the garden every night for a couple of weeks eating everything in sight. They then disappear for a couple of weeks before returning to finish off any plants with regrowth. Truly, they are one of the most painful creatures to have come to visit.
So, after taking all this into account we are trying to put together a list of plants that we can use that won’t be eaten and are scratch proof. Not easy, so far the only plant we have found that we like is Rosemary; I guess the smell turns them off.
Plants that weren’t successful include chives, lavender, garlic, parsley, a lemon tree and even chilli and I’m talking about the really hot Birdseye chillis here. That’s just the edible plants; there have also been any number of flowering plants knocked over too.
Still, it’s not all bad
Ok, garden pests aside, the project is progressing and has also provided the materials for a lot of other projects. The stone and trees I had to remove have not gone to waste. Below is a list of things I have made from them and there are pictures attached too.
Sandstone candle holders - Rustic sandstone tea light candle holders.
Sandstone table centerpiece - A carved sandstone bowl surrounded by a ring of tea light candles.
Coasters, Cross, Angle and Quarter cut - Hand cut wooden coaster sets cut across, at a 45 degree angle to and with the woods natural grain.
Salt and Pepper serving bowls - Small wooden bowls used to serve salt and ground pepper during meals.
Napkin rings - Circular rings used to shape the napkins on your dinner table.
Wooden Trinket Box - A small ornamental box used to store various trinkets.
Recycled Lamp - A broken lamp brought back to life with the addition of a new handmade base.
I have written up articles about how I made some of these projects on my site bymjh.com if you're interested. I will also try to put some of them up here eventually when I get time too.