QUOTE OF THE WEEK

You cannot forever hide your true face in the shade; it will eventually be caught by the light! 

Mehmet Murat ildan

FIRST BIG HARVEST THIS SPRING

It was very windy and quite cold when I got up this morning but decided to step outdoors to check on the Balcony Garden and make my first really large harvest for the season.   I do cut herbs regularly, but it was about time I cut some more leafy vegetables (including the lettuces).

So out came the baby veggie ‘shoot’ clippers (about 2 1/2 – 3 inches long) which I use to cut my pea and bean shoots I sprout, and a big plastic bowl to gather in the harvest.

(Gosh, it sounds like I’m a real farmer LOL).   I have pretty vivid imagination 😀

I’d been meaning to cut the lettuces for over a week as they weren’t doing as well under the hot, gale-force winds that plagued Melbourne (and the whole eastern seaboard of Australia) for so many days in this last month.

I hope they taste OK.

In fact, my harvest has been pretty ‘ordinary’ compared to Spring last year.  Even the lettuces last Spring fared pretty well and they made such good photos that I couldn’t bear to harvest them (below).

SPING 2018

By the way, I can see the Purple Coral Pea over the road is in flower at the moment.  The images (below) are from when I lived on the north-east side of Melbourne, not here in the western suburbs where I live now.

Purple Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea syn. H. monophylla) is a species of flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, native to Australia from Queensland to Tasmania. It is known in Australia by the common names false sarsaparilla, purple coral pea, happy wanderer, native lilac and waraburra. Wikipedia

I might add, the flowers really are this bright purple at the height of flowering, especially in the blue hour – late afternoon.

Last Spring (2018), the Harlequin Bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars ate nearly every leaf in the Garden except for the lettuces which I’d already harvested.

My trial of growing Capsicums was a failure in the sense that I got about 6-7 ripe red Capsicums at the end of a 13-week wait and only one was ripe at any one time.   I think the Possums might have jumped down off the apartment roof and broken 2 of the main branches also.

ROASTED RED CAPSICUM SALAD – one of my favourites in mid-summer

I need at least 6 large red Capsicums to make my favourite roasted Capsicum salad.

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Even the pest control hatch/net I bought last year didn’t keep the birds off the seedlings. One tiny Superb Fairy-wren crept under a loose corner and squeaked pitifully until I went outdoors and lifted the netted hatch up to release it.

So today, first up were the French beans and I gathered enough for one meal.   They were still relatively small compared to the supermarket ‘offerings’, but I could see many more 1 – 2″  sized babies and they will be ready to harvest in another 2-3 days at the rate they are growing.   The Plant Nursery label DID say they’d come ‘thick & fast’ as soon as they were large enough for the first harvest.

French Beans were a trial on this west-facing hot balcony this year.  Actually, I’m always trialling different vegetables these days, but French beans seedlings will be on the Plant Nursery shopping list for 2020.   If Melbourne is going to exposed to these severe gusty winds permanently, I’ll have to trial quite a few more vegetable varieties I think.

Then some English Curly Parsley and lots of Mint to make some Tabbouleh this afternoon.   I had bought a big bunch of Italian Flat-leaf parsley from the supermarket this week as I still haven’t got around to buying another potted plant for the Balcony Garden to replace the one that went to seed.  I was going to go earlier this week but other issues took up some time.

(I make my Tabbouleh with Quinoa, not Bulgar Wheat, by the way).

I’ve had Chick Peas soaking overnight to make a batch of Humus this afternoon.

I clipped a few Beetroot leaves to add to my salad bowl, which together with 3 different lettuces and lots of herbs splashed with home-made French oil & lemon dressing will do for lunch tomorrow.

I had a heaped tablespoon of finely chopped Sweet Basil from my garden with light olive oil on my Buckwheat Pasta a couple of days ago.

Divinely Delicious (is all I can say).

The Sweet Basil, planted at the base of my 3 Heirloom Tomato plants as Companion Plants, has grown a wee bit more than the last Balcony Garden update, but nothing like my usual Summer harvest.

My brother tells me “it’s the weather, its The Weather – so don’t get too disappointed with the slow growth rate of your crops”.

I think he may be right.

There weren’t enough ripe Truss Tomatoes (Heirloom Tomato #1) to harvest so had to rely on supermarket produce yet again.

The whole idea of my Balcony Garden is to be a new hobby (now I can’t do much in the way of Nature Walks), handy to cut a few herbs for dinner each night (as opposed to buying a whole bunch which means I waste half of it being just one person in this household) AND well………….. just for the fun of it 😀

I must admit Bird Watching does come into play as a reason for a Balcony Garden too  🙂

TO EDIT (or not to Edit)

To Edit (or not to Edit your photos)?

Interesting question.   I don’t have the eyesight to do much editing now I’m back to wearing thick glasses.   I wore contact lenses for 40 years with the last few years being bi-focal contact lenses. (don’t ask me how bi-focal contact lenses work – they just do – surprisingly).

 

I don’t like over-saturated colour or over-edited images, but as I can’t really get perfect images outdoors, or even indoors, now, most of my photos need a tiny bit of ‘tweaking’.

  1. BEFORE……..

2. ………AFTER

I don’t have the time, or the interest, in photo editing.

Most of my early images are a bit dark – probably from living in an old dark un-renovated 1960s apartment for many years.   I probably didn’t lighten my poorly exposed images enough.

  1.  BEFORE……..
Pacific Black Duck

2.  ………AFTER (and on reviewing this image this morning,  I decided it was too light, but can’t seem to edit this very old photo and darken the shadows a bit more again).

Pacific Black Duck

It’s only now that I live in a modern apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows with superb light that I can see how dark my old images are.     I used to be able to ‘fix’ my old images after I updated computers or software, but for some reason, since I got the new iMac in May this year when my old laptop crashed, I can’t seem to revert my old images back to the original to fix some over-editing errors.   (of course, all you professional, or serious amateur photographers are going to say I should have shot in ‘raw’, or ‘raw’ and ‘jpeg’, NOT just ‘jpeg’).

  1. BEFORE……
Australian Pelican

2.   ……….AFTER

Australian Pelican

(And if you can’t see the difference in the 2 Australian Pelican images you’ve got worse eyesight than me  😀  ).

I used to shoot hundreds and hundreds of images in the one afternoon back in the early years of my photography hobby – 2010 to 2015 – and I found shooting in RAW took up too much room on my memory card and secondly, I wasn’t interested in photo editing anyway.

So I just shot in jpeg as they were quicker to review.

Since I love photography (more than gardening 🙂 ), I do actually used my Apple Mac’s photo-editing software.   I don’t proclaim to be a great photographer, but if you’re new to photography and would like to improve your images a wee bit without learning Lightroom, Photoshop and all the zillion other photo editing software packages out there these days, check out your computer’s in-house software.

……..and if you DO have an Apple Mac (for example), just go to the main editing screen and press the AUTO exposure button and the AUTO definition button and you’ll find just those 2 corrections in your basic Apple photo software, might be all you need to improve your images to your satifaction. (Note: I find the AUTO ‘ sharpening’ button can make your images too sharp, but you can always move the sharpening slider manually).

If you think the AUTO button is making your image too light, you can always go to the ‘slider’ under the AUTO button and slide the exposure back a wee bit manually.

In the tree/path image below, I thought the end of the visible path looked a bit crooked so I straightened the image a tiny bit.   Just a fraction.   Just enough to please my overall vision of a balanced image.   The AUTO definition button also made the tree look to be in better focus.   (Of course, you can also use the AUTO sharpening button, but I quite like the ‘definition‘ auto button better than the ‘sharpen‘ auto button).

  1.   BEFORE…….

2.     …………AFTER

That is, apart from learning to hold the camera perfectly still  😀  (or learning how to use a tripod, monopod, fence, tree or some other object to help you reduce camera movement).

I sometimes crop off a 1/4″, (or more as in the image below), or even a couple of sides.   I sometimes touch up or erase some rubbish in the water (with a duck swimming in a pond).  I sometimes erase a leaf, or tiny cloud in the sky, if I don’t like it.

  1.   BEFORE……..

2.    …………AFTER (I really just wanted to show the beetroot starting to grow, so the rest of the image was superfluous).

Like a painter, or other artist (which I was for a while), I half-close my eyes and stand back from the 27″ screen and if anything stands out too much I might even erase anything that distracts what I want to say with my image.

Admittedly, most of the images on my Nature blog are merely to illustrate a story, not win a photo competition.

But no amount of editing will improve a really bad photo, OR where you chopped a bird’s head off (as you couldn’t see because the sun was in your eyes, below).

In the image(s) below, I was concentrating so hard on getting the duck’s eye in focus, I didn’t realise until I got home and downloaded the day’s shooting, that I’d chopped the bird’s feet off the bottom.

…..and another one of ‘missing feet’

Since I’ve been photographing the Fairy-wrens on my balcony, with my elbows on my desk to steady the heavy long 150-500mm lens, I just aim to catch the little b$%#! within the frame.   Forget composition.   Forget light.  Mostly, I just have to pick the camera up and catch the wren before it flies away.   Even changing the camera setting to continuous shooting doesn’t help catch those fast little wrens.

I have deleted dozens/hundreds of shots like the one below.  Sometimes, the photo is completely empty of bird-life because I had the shutter speed too slow, or I was too slow in holding the camera still.

Don’t aim for perfection.   Aim for an image you like.   You don’t always have to have your subject in sharp focus either.   Sometimes soft focus is kind of nice too.

If after lots of practice, practice & more practice, reading tutorials or books and studying the work of great Photographers, you still can’t take a photo you like, move on.

You can probably play football or bake a cake better than take a photo.

We all have something we’re good at.

I wish I’d taken up photography as a hobby 45 years ago, but then, I guess I wouldn’t have had the spare time or patience I have today.

I’m a great lover of uplifting (or inspirational) quotes and I read these ones by Steve Jobs  & Anna Quindlen recently……

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma,
which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions
drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.

~ Steve Jobs ~

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

~ Anna Quindlen ~

 

I still like Black & White photography the best…… 😀

This shot may not have the sharpest focus, but I love the balance of black, white and grey. I love the light feathers against the dark background AND the dark feathers against the light background.  I like the DOF (Depth of Focus).

 

A BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE

#1 HEIRLOOM TOMATO PLANT IS CLOSE TO HARVEST

My Balcony Garden looked almost like a jungle yesterday, so what with the day bursting with sunshine and brilliant blue sky, I got straight down to work after lunch and pruned, groomed, re-potted and…….scrubbed the seepage stains off the large concrete tiles – well, most of them, (and dare I say I ended up so stiff that I could barely get out of bed this morning 😀 ).

The baby spinach has ‘bolted’ (just like the rocket did the first week after it was planted in early September).   See the upper half of the image below.

I transferred the Perennial Basil to a larger pot which I’d been meaning to do for a couple of months but hadn’t a large plastic pot free back then.   (I’ve got so many potted plants this year, I really don’t want to waste money on more plastic pots, so I just waited for natural attrition, if that’s the right word).  Herbs don’t usually like being moved once they’ve got established, but I’ve found in the past, that as long as you don’t disturb the roots too much and keep the water up, they survive and thrive upon transplanting……well, they do for me.

I’ve got several empty pots at the moment as plants have keeled over and died in the heat and wild weather.  Many of my herbs are not looking too good at the moment, but with the weekend and early next week almost back to winter temperatures and rain forecast, some plant growth should get a boost.   Did I say cold and rain (for the first week of Summer here in Melbourne)? 

Heirloom Tomato #2 (below) has got so many green tomatoes, I feared the branch would break, so did a lot of re-staking and re-tying to my bamboo canes yesterday also.  One of the other branches has more new flowers so that heirloom tomato variety is definitely a ‘winner’.

I wish they’d ripen though.   I’m getting impatient and I usually have all the patience in the world.    Perhaps I’m impatient as the 3 new Tomato plants are all new Heirloom varieties and I can’t wait to taste them.

Heirloom Tomato #3 has yet to fruit, but this plant has lots of flowers as I mentioned in the last garden update (below) so ‘fruit babies’ are due very soon.

Even my Rosemary bush is looking a bit ‘ordinary’ and rather glum (well, glum was more a description of how I was feeling).   I might have got a bit over-zealous with the watering of this hardy Mediterranian Herb which should stay on the drier side.

For the first time in many years, I haven’t got any Harlequin Bugs or Cabbage Moth Caterpillars in the new burst of new Spring growth.   Amazing……. or Worrying…….. I don’t know how to interpret their absence.  The original post on caterpillers says it all (in the past).

Maybe, even they, are giving my garden a ‘wide berth‘ and snacking elsewhere (out of the wind).

But the funniest sight was the House Sparrows and male Superb Fairy-wren standing on the balcony fence looking here, there and everywhere, for the Parsley long trough I usually have attached to the balcony fence railing.   (sorry I haven’t a photo of the birds as I didn’t get the camera out of its soft pouch in time).

In the end, late yesterday afternoon, they flew down to the English Parsley seedlings I’d planted in other pots and had a nibble.

I hadn’t hidden the Parsley trough.   I’d merely put it on the balcony floor (above) in preparation for buying and planting a new Italian ‘flat-leaf’ parsley to fill in space previously occupied by one (in the other half of the English Parsley trough).

The Italian Parsley had gone to seed some weeks ago.

I pruned the Lemon Verbena back to half as it was nearly dying in the hot sun.   I’ve now moved it up the north (or right-hand side) of the balcony which gets less hot sun in the afternoons and it is starting to throw out new shoots.

It’s probably the weird and wild weather we’ve been having in Melbourne (and across the whole eastern side of the country) that’s changed so much of the growing habits of this small balcony garden.

I plucked off all the yellow and dying leaves of the other 2 Mint plants and given them more water and they’ve sprung back to the prime of health (below).

At least I have a nice handful of French Beans ready and waiting for dinner over the weekend.   It seems like only a week ago I had one bean about 1″ long.   Now they’re growing thick and fast and I’m pleased to say my first trial, with growing green beans on my hot west-facing balcony, seems to be a complete success.

ONE OF THE SMALL POTTED MINTS, THE TARRAGON AND THE VIOLETS (WHICH I’D PRUNED BACK AS IT NEARLY DIED), COME INDOORS FOR THEIR WEEKLY RESPITE FROM THE WIND.

I keep turning, moving & swapping plants around with 2-3 small pots coming indoors for a break from the sun & wind regularly, but moving the pots around yesterday revealed more of the sawdust blown over the road from the construction site in last week’s storm.

DESPITE SWEEPING THE BALCONY LAST WEEK, THERE’S STILL A LOT OF SAWDUST UNDER THE POTTED PLANTS AS I DISCOVERED WHEN I MOVED THEM AROUND YESTERDAY.

It’s all very well to grow plants on one’s balcony, but being a rented apartment does mean I have to keep it clean & tidy as per my lease agreement (just in case you wondered why I make so much effort to tidy up so often).

I hadn’t scrubbed the tile floor for some time and it was getting to be quite stained from both watering and watering with diluted seaweed fertilizer in the watering can.

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Just spotted a new couple of House Sparrows on the fence.   They’re so small, I assume they’re this Spring’s hatchlings.  I managed to catch one with the telephoto lens, but the light was behind it, so not necessarily as good a photo as those made on the southern end of the fence.

Almost all avian visitors in the last couple of days have been very small, so I assume they’re ‘newbies’ to my apartment balcony.   Once they explore a bit more and get used to the birdbath, I’m sure I’ll get some better photos.

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……and I also spotted 3-4 of the tiniest Fairy-wrens I’ve ever seen on the fence 20 minutes ago – both male and female – but they flew down into the thick foliage of the Japanese Maple.   I watched their shadows move around the tree for a while, but couldn’t get any photos.

Sorry about that – they were so cute and obviously recently hatched.