Sometimes I wonder if I grow herbs for myself, or for the birds.
The House Sparrows, (and Fairy-wrens), are particularly fond of Mint, especially the young leaves.
(excuse the soft focus in some of the images below, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the fast-moving little birds as they jump from pot to pot in search of tasty titbits. Other times, after a long ‘photoshoot’ my arms ache and I find it hard to hold the heavy long telephoto lens still enough).
I’d clean the lounge windows for some clearer shots too, but the forecast is for rain this afternoon so no point cleaning them today.
Check out the tiny buds on the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony. They’ve actually been there about 2 weeks……..waiting, waiting (and more waiting).
It’ll be like New Year Firework displays when they do open.
It’s almost like they’re on Standby at the moment………waiting for Mother Nature to ignite their little ‘buds’ and throw a colourful Spring party.
The water-logged soil in the plastic pots in my apartment balcony garden is warming up too.
The Cherry Blossom trees near the carpark of the local supermarket have more than buds. Some of those trees have very tiny flowers on them already (I noticed last week).
One of the Broccoli ‘Bambino’ seedlings I bought last Autumn, and took nearly the whole Winter to start growing, is DEFINITELY a cabbage of some sort (not a Broccoli). I mentioned this in another post. I also mentioned this incorrect plant labelling to the sales staff at the local plant nursery last week.
I wonder if I can cut off the outer leaves right now and cook them (like I do Spinach and Kale)?
I think the Superb Fairy-wren in the shots below is ‘a new kid on the block’. It was late afternoon and overcast when I made the 2 photos.
Or maybe the soft downy feathers being ruffled in the strong wind, just make it look like a juvenile and different to my ‘regulars’.
The other seedling is obviously a real Broccoli (below).
All my herbs and my blueberry bush now have either new leaves and branches, or 3-4″ growth on their current branch tips.
What a joy Spring is.
The Blueberry bush I had bought last year and pruned back at the end of Summer is looking very healthy despite the fact that it’s ‘pot-bound’.
I’ll have to buy a larger pot next outing.
I took out the soil PH test kit I’d bought last year and finally read the instructions. Actually I think I bought this small soil testing kit 18 months ago and never opened the box. LOL
I discovered, of the 4 pots of soil I tested over last Weekend, 2 were very acidic and 2 were far too alkaline (for best herb growing conditions). Of course I’ll have to test all the herb pots now. Since prices on the bottles of soil conditioners at the local plant nursery almost equalled the cost of 3-4 large bags of organic potting soil, I have decided to replace the soil in many pots and buy some replacement fresh seedlings.
Starting over again is always fun.
My Oregano, Lemon Thyme and perennial Basil were looking rather sad anyway, so instead of giving them another ‘haircut’, or prune, which certainly would have rejuvenated them, they and their soil were thrown out. I’ll buy some new plants and being early Spring in a couple of weeks, I can bet they’ll be bursting with new growth within days.
I’ll water in some liquid fertiliser for a few hardy herbs that I’m keeping and hope that will suffice.
Young tomato plants had just arrived at the local Plant nursery last Thursday, but it’s still a bit too cold to be buying young Tomato plants and settling them into new homes (aka pots) and I’ll wait another 2 weeks before I make my veggie seedling purchases I think.
Well, that’s what I’m telling you blog followers. I think you and I both know I can’t wait to buy new seedlings for my Spring garden and I’ll be lucky to wait just one week to make my next visit to the local plant nursery (let alone two weeks when Spring will really be here) 😀
On the computer front……..
Last Thursday I got fed up with running out of internet allowance, so I did some research and decided to stick with my current internet service provider and sign up to a 50GB ‘casual’ internet plan (since my old 15GB wasn’t enough for the new 27″ iMac). I only had to pay out $22.38 to end the contract early (before the 30th August, 2019, end date).
The previous weekend, 2 days after the start of my new billing month and next internet allowance, I used up 85% of the whole month’s allowance in 2 days (playing with the old laptop computer) and mostly had to stay off the computer for several days.
Things had taken a sudden turn for the worse due to my computer play and I started rationing my online time.
Still have problems with my Photo section on the new iMac but hopefully that will disappear when Apple release the next new software update in Spring. I know many Apple users don’t have the same problems as me.
The GOOD NEWS is……. it finally occurred to me that I have many of my old ‘lost’ images in the WordPress ‘Media Library’ (that I lost in the Apple photo libraries as part of my computer crash and ongoing problems etc).
Duh! Now, why didn’t I think of that before?
I tried to export my WordPress Media libraries back to my Computer twice on Monday……….. through the option on the WordPress dashboard, but the ‘export’ kept crashing. Too big a file I assume. So I’ll have to put my problem solving hat on again and see if I can work out a way to transfer the WordPress media library back to my Applecomputer library a few images at a time.
I don’t mind if I end up with 2 copies of a few images.
I think the option on the Dashboard was ‘copy All Media Library’, so maybe I can’t use this method. It all sounded so incredibly simple.
Any suggestions gratefully received.
Unfortunately, they (the WordPress Media Library) are all re-sized to a smaller size for uploading on my blog page, so I won’t be able to recover their original size (I presume).
I think this will be the only way I can re-gain some of my good ‘lost’ images.
Apparently there’s a plug-in that can do this, but reading the instructions was too much for my Brain Fog to cope with on Monday. My brain was occupied with shopping and cooking for an overseas guest yesterday.
I’ll read the WordPress Dashboard again this coming weekend.
Anyway, with outdoor Spring gardening work to be done and a host of other non-computer tasks this coming week, I’ve been too busy to upload a new post this past week.
Last week I mentioned being able to distinguish 3 Superb Fairy-wrens now.
One of which was the male with the eclipse (non-breeding) feather pattern and colouring. If you look at the face and the breast below (31st July), you’ll see what I mean. Those tufts of white/fawn/greyish colour are quite noticeable, almost like a moustache and clipped beard or ‘beard’ of one feather.
2 days ago, either this male has gone into full breeding plumage, OR it’s a different bird.
Yesterday, after I’d arrived home from my morning errand, the sun was out and I decided to spend some time in my balcony garden preparing for Spring planting. After re-arranging my potted plants and cleaning up all the winter leaf litter in the corners (and tipping out a few totally pot-bound withered plants and depleted soil), I came indoors to turn the computer on and out of the corner of my eye saw what appeared to be 6-7 wrens in the garden.
It was almost like a party.
Obviously stirring up all the soil and pruning back some herbs to 1″stubble, must have opened up some tasty food for my avian friends.
I noticed that male in full breeding plumage was back again but could see no signs of the fluffy feathers between the blue, SO I think it is my one and only male……. ready to breed.
In one week, he’s ‘changed his clothes’ and put on his best head and chest colours to ‘attract the ladies’.
The sun was a bit too bright, but I managed to get a couple of shots in reasonable focus to share.
This second shot is a bit clearer, but the brilliant sunlight, reflecting off the rain clouds, spoilt the shot a bit and over-exposed the breast feathers.
After all that physical work and heavy pot moving, my right elbow and lower back is extremely sore this morning and it hurts to type, so a couple of days rest is required methinks.
Spring is only 3 weeks away now, so my list for new plant seedlings is getting longer by the day, but I only have room for ‘x’ number of pots and only have the time and energy to carry ‘x’ number of heavy watering cans once the seedlings are planted, so I’ll have to ‘prune’ down my Seedling Shopping List a bit.
After all the weeks of watching and waiting for last year’s experiment in growing Capsicums and ending up with only 6-7 fruit and broken branches from the nightly possum (?) visits, I think I’ll concentrate on tomatoes, baby spinach, more parsley (English curly & Italian flatleaf) and some fast-growing leafy greens – they seem to grow the best on this hot west-facing balcony garden of mine.
Some images from the last 2 Summers below………
Bunnings Hardware Warehouse plant nursery
Plenty of herb and veggie seedlings to choose from.
I’ve tried so many different species, but ultimately have to replant each Spring.
Last year’s acquisition of a net to deter the bugs and birds from my new seedlings.
Now you can see how close my desk is to my garden.
Female Superb Fairy-wren after snacking on my spinach.
I need enough plants to make a salad each day in Summer.
female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN snacking on my Blueberry Bush
The cotton netting failed to deter the wrens poking their beaks between the cotton threads and eating the blueberry leaf tips.
The first few blueberries
Lettuces or not? Hmmmmmm.
Lettuces were successful, but they looked too good to eat.
The 2 parsley plants on the fence rail pot thrived despite the wren’s grazing.
Chives or not? Another hmmmmmmm
Sorrel is virtually indestructible
Always good to see the wrens having fun in the rain.
Last year’s zucchini experiment started off well, but eventually failed – not enough room I suspect
The result of the previous apartment’s balcony was better for some of these leafy greens.
I found 3 Harlequin bugs over-wintering in the Lemon Thyme yesterday, so I REALLYmust find a solution to their infestation this year.
I’ve been offline a lot lately, partly because I’ve been keeping a low profile with health issues getting in the way, but also because of my limited internet with the new computer (gobbling up my limited internet allowance). Hopefully that will change after the 30th August when my current internet plan ends and I seek out an affordable larger internet package.
I’ve also been spending more time observing the tiny Superb Fairy-wrens each morning on my balcony in the hope of recognising the individuals.
Like all tiny wrens, they rarely stand still.
I got the stepladder out on Thursday and FINALLY cleaned the full height of the exterior window surface (which usually bring on a few days of rain LOL) and yesterday, washed the interior surfaces of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows. I do this nearly every week in summer, but not much in winter when the fierce gusty wind drives the rain straight against my lounge windows.
Most of the bird images below were made earlier in the week, before I cleaned the windows.
While we’ve had less rain this past week, its still a bit too cold to leave the sliding glass door wide open during the day. I’ve also been a little reluctant to leave the door open because a Superb Fairy-wren was about to hop indoors the other day.
I raced to the sliding door, which was open about 6 inches for some fresh air, and promptly shut it.
I might have been able to catch that New Holland Honeyeater who stepped inside (image on the left) and onto the window sill, but there’s no way I could catch the fast-moving little wrens if they came into my lounge room.
I’ve had up to 6-7 wrens grazing on the soil I’ve been turning over ready for my Spring herb/veggie planting and now………I can finally recognise 3 ‘regulars’. I never tire of watching them.
These 3 are my main visitors at the moment.
There’s that ever-present tiny female with her beautiful reddish-brown eye ring which I’m pretty sure is the same wren I’ve seen for many days now. She doesn’t seem to have grown much. She looks like a juvenile to me, but her orange eye-ring and orange beak are quite clear (so maybe not a juvenile, but an adult?).
I was reading some more about these regular avian visitors and it seems that the young males and young females can look very similar with their uniformly brown bodies and pale fawn underneath. Their beaks may look more of a slate grey when young.
Sometimes the tail is more blue and a bit shorter – apparently this denotes a juvenile male.
Before reading up on them, I had thought the tails were all the same length.
One second the male stands still……..
…….and the next second, it’s gone
They love Mint leaves, and if you know the size of a mint leaf, you will understand how tiny these juveniles are.
The third easily recognisable fairy-wren is this adult male (below) with its distinctive eclipse, (or non-breeding), blue plumage. The adult male changes its upper feathers to bright blue when breeding.
It took me over a hundred shots to get these few images in reasonable focus over 2 seperate days. I can’t claim these are my best bird shots since I took up photography in early 2010, but they’re pretty good having been made through dirty glass windows.
There’s no consideration of background or composition on my part when photographing these fairy-wrens in my balcony garden. They move too fast. I just try to get the bird in focus, before they fly, (or jump), to the next potted plant. Most shots are soft in focus.
I haven’t given you a balcony garden update for a while as I haven’t been out to clean and tidy up the faded winter leaves or disappointing lack of growth in my winter leafy green veggies. There’s clusters of spent herb leaves and many dead Japanese Maple leaves blown in from the young tree located in front of my balcony.
It’s completely leafless now, although I detect some faint little nobs on the spindly branches which might denote potential Spring growth?
I really need to get out there and move the pots around and clean up. I’ve discovered over many years of living in rental apartments, (which have a mandatory clause in the lease demanding ‘clean & tidy’ interior and exterior), that’s it better to clean the balcony tiles on a regular basis so the seepage stains from the pots don’t build up to the stage where one has to use harsh chemicals to clean the large tiled surface.
In winter I have saucers under the pots, but in summer I remover the plastic saucers so they can drain more freely. Herbs do not like wet soggy feet.
A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called BroccoliBambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.
I’ve never grown this variety of miniature broccoli before and although it does take 12-14 weeks until harvest according to the plant label, it seems like months since I planted these 2 seedlings. Despite the same plant label in both pots, the leaves on one plant look different to the other broccoli plant to me.
The plant label says to remove the first floret from the plant centre when it is the size of a ten cent piece along with the two leaves just below. Side shoots will mature 6 weeks later. (see below). I did this on the plant below, but no sign of this early floret on the plant above.
In some ways the leaves of the plant above look a bit like outer cabbage leaves?
I have limited knowledge when it comes to vegetable gardening.
The Sorrel is still growing like wildfire (despite me continually chopping the leaves off).
I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.
Now that leafy vegetable grows much faster and despite regular harvesting of the outer leaves, 4 small plants grew enough for many months. I ate the last of that crop 3 months ago.
…..and my Asian climbing spinach (below) only provided a couple of meals before it went brown and seemed to get some kind of disease and died.
That pot is now empty.
It had looked so promising and tasted absolutely delicious – the texture almost like velvet.
Oh well, better luck with some new varieties.
I must admit I get just as much fun trialling new veggie varieties for my balcony garden, buying seedlings and watching them grow (as eating them).
I have two other pots of Mint, (beside the long low trough which the wrens love grazing on), and they have been doing ‘just fine’.
The new Rosemary seedling I planted a few months ago, in which I have been cutting the tips off for cooking, has also suddenly started growing new leaves.
Has the soil suddenly got a bit warmer a month before Spring? The day and night temperatures are still cold. Being an amateur gardener and fairly new to vegetable growing, I can’t help but ask myself “why this sudden growth spurt”?
My herbs usually perk up closer to September.
………and my eyes have been drawn to the construction site opposite too. The construction crew have picked up the pace and are now working on a Saturday (as well as longer hours on weekdays), although they’re not on site today. I’m used to the noise, but not the loud cursing which I’m sure they don’t realise drifts straight across to my building.
Still, they have a long way to go before finishing the 3 story apartment block on that very steep, weirdly-shaped site.
I took the photo (below) at dusk last night, hence the limited light and street lights being on. As I live lower down on the hill you can only really see the ground floor of this new building, but it is against a 30 foot high cliff and the building will eventually be 3 stories high and completely block my view of the sunset colours.
This new building will completely block that blue sky/cloud you can see in the image below (if you can imagine triple the height of that ground level partly constructed apartment floor you can see in the image). Due to the steep sloping hill, my 1st floor apartment is much lower than the new construction site.
They say Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, but my day, which revolves around my computer in the mornings, seems to have been one long thunderstorm of niggling, annoying ‘flashes of lightening’.
A couple of weeks ago I vowed I wasn’t going to upload another post that didn’t have new photos or positive affirmations of some kind.
Well, I haven’t got any new good photos or positive things to say about my (new) iMac so I thought I’d better upload something…..well…..anything, to let you know I’m still here.
The only joy in my day has been observing the avian visitors to my balcony garden and even they have been few and far between and hard to photograph on the dark wintery days in the poor light.
Note: Having just typed that sentence, the clouds have now cleared and the sun has put in a cheerful appearance LOL
The weather has been very cold, wet and filled with gusty strong winds in recent days, so even my potted garden has been neglected. The wind-blown dead Maple leaves are starting to collect up against the balcony fence making for good spider habitats.
My new baby Broccolini and Tuscan Kale seedlings have been very slow to mature. At the rate they’re growing, Winter will be over before I see the fruit of my plantings. At least my Blueberry has had lots of flowers. So that’s a ‘positive’.
I suspect most of the Fairy-Wrens are hunkering down in the thick green hedges (3) across the road. The workmen on the apartment building construction crew next to the hedges have even been working through the rain and on Saturdays, but I doubt they’ll finish before the end of this year.
I wonder if they’ve got room to put in some new green landscaping. Now THAT, would be a bonus 🙂
If my photo library screens didn’t keep freezing (resulting in me having to log off to reboot the computer) so many times each morning, I would have had my new photo library finished by now.
But it’s not.
Having to re-log onto WordPress every time I want to type a comment on my favourite blogs and other ‘hiccups’ have made blog reading less fun than it used to be too. So if you haven’t seen me around your blog much, I DO still read your posts, just too weary to think of a suitable comment, or unable to press the LIKE button due to some glitch. At the moment there are 14 WordPress blogs I can’t LIKE (or COMMENT) on.
So I’m thinking I’ll go into hibernation mode for the rest of Winter in the hope that Apple release the next software update in a few months time which might work miracles and ‘set my computer free’
I figure if I stay off the computer most of the time, then I can at least get some other tasks done on the TO DO list.
Since most of the images (above) were shot through dirty dusty windows, here’s a better shot of the female Superb Fairy-wren from the 10th April (below) to remind you of what they look like on a sunny day through the open sliding door.
I love photographing dew or raindrops on flowers (or grass). I always think it adds another dimension to an ordinary flower image.
The Pelargonium in this post is not in flower in my balcony garden at the moment, but it was such a cheerful sight as I looked through my archives this morning (for something to post other than computer problems), I couldn’t resist sharing the image again.
……and for those interested in flower photography, brightly coloured flowers photograph much better early early in the morning, late in the day or on an overcast day. Slightly under-exposing the image helps too.
The dying Autumn leaves have mostly drifted down to the ground now and the Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is revealing the tiny birds – House Sparrows and Superb Fairy-wrens that visit me each day.
They bring so much joy into my day now that I’m more housebound.
I put some seed on the balcony fence rail to tempt them this morning and was quickly rewarded by a number of House Sparrows peck-pecking and spitting out the husks. The bag of canary seed I’m using up, isn’t much use to the tiny Fairy-wrens though.
One of my veggie troughs is almost bare and I ran a stick through its surface to allow more of the Winter rain to soak into the roots of the last baby Spinach plant in that container and to my surprise, the Fairy-wrens seem to find something tasty to graze on. I can’t see what they’re eating, but they do seem to enjoy whatever it is.
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (female)
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (male)
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (female)
I’ve resolved 3 problems on my new iMac, including the main one whereby my gmail and web browsing sites keep opening to a window I don’t want. I might add this particular issue should have been easily resolved by the AppleCare Helpdesk who screen-shared with me last week. Hmmmmm……….
The saga continues with the new computer gobbling up my limited internet allowance each month so I am continuing to keep off the internet for the most part. Today, I’m making an exception, although I continue to monitor my internet data usage each morning to keep within my limits this month. It cost an extra $40 last month and I fail to see why as I was mainly working offline on my Photo Library.
On Saturday I went to Apple Store with some photos I’d taken of my issues to explain my problems more fully and I was fortunate to have an exceptionally good staff member who gave me some answers, although I do await the home visit of a technician in the coming week (?) who has been booked by AppleCare Helpdesk over the phone.
While the Apple Store staff member did say photos take up more internet due to the exceptionally high resolution screen of the 2019 27″ iMac, I really can’t believe they take 2 1/2 months worth of extra internet each month.
I also went to the Telstra (my internet service provider) store in the same shopping centre and sought some advice on what affordable larger internet packages I might sign up with. Unfortunately my current contract doesn’t end until the 30th August, 2019, so other than paying extra $$$ for every GB I go over my limit for the next couple of months, I can’t do much about that. I will continue to reserve my internet use to mostly banking, checking emails and bill paying online with the occasional visit to a few blogs I follow.
I had a quick look at a few blogs I follow in WordPress this morning, but can’t press the LIKE button on some sites. This is an old problem I had years ago and I can’t remember how I fixed it. I also have to keep logging on to WordPress each day……and 500px……and National Geographic Shot of the Day (which I occasionally submit images to).
I have to admit this new computer is testing my patience, but with brilliant winter sun and glorious blue skies filling my view out my lounge window, methinks I should turn off that pesky computer and attempt a walk to the local pond.
I noticed the flowers are starting to form on my Blueberry bush last week. Seems so odd for the start of the 3rd month of Autumn.
Somehow I always associate new buds and flowers with Spring.
I now have (most) of my images exported to my new iMac, but they are in one large folder, so I hope you’ll be patient while I sent up my whole image filing system again. Seems to be about 10,000+ and while you may think this a large task, I know I’ll get it done sooner (rather than later) as I deleted 2154 in just a few hours on Monday.
The speed of this new computer is amazing!
I can’t find the Bird images I wanted to share today, so for the time being, I hope the Bird Lovers following my blog will have lots and lots of patience.
If you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t have to wait to enjoy.
I never seem to get tired of watching these Wrens. They keep me entertained for hours and when they’re visiting, I never seem to get any household chores or cooking done.
I counted 6 in my balcony garden the other day, but as I’ve mentioned before, they move so quickly, some days they’re impossible to photograph with the heavy long 150-500mm lens and DLSR.
All this week I can hear the wrens cheeping in the Japanese Maple growing next to my balcony fence and they are becoming more common than the House Sparrows 🙂 I don’t remember seeing any of these tiny wrens drinking from the bird bath though – only the Sparrows.
There’s been far less sound from the jack-hammer-like ‘rock splitter’ coming from the construction site over the road this week. On Tuesday, the construction crew seemed to be pouring concrete most of the morning and were almost………. as ‘quiet as mice’. 😀
When I go out to pick up my new glasses which have arrived in-store, I’ll have a look at the top of the cliff and see how progress is going on the site.
On another note, all, or at least most, of the Harlequin bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars seem to have left the area. I didn’t get so many this past Summer. I have pruned all the herbs of their ‘nibbled’ leaves for the umpteenth time and the new growth is starting to flesh out the bushes. I feel as though I can finally leave the pest control hutch off the smaller plants and they can get some more sun. After the previous year’s devastation of every single leaf on nearly every potted plant, I think the purchase of this pest control netted ‘hutch’ was well worth the money.
But I do have to be vigilant though. I picked a whole lot of mint to use in cooking last Sunday and was just about to start chopping when I saw one leaf looked a bit curly. I turned it over and what did I see – a lot of fine spun fibres and a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly.
I wonder what fresh caterpillar might taste like 😀
I don’t know who said that, but after the taxi dropped me home at 9.30am this morning, (after an overnight stay away), I couldn’t help but be struck by the silence.
It’s Saturday here in Melbourne and the usual weekend shoppers, zooming up my short steep road in their cars, were completely absent.
No walkers, joggers, cyclists or runners.
No mothers pushing prams or pushers up the steep footpath.
The unique sound of what I thought might be Currawongs filled the background. (I have yet to share a photo of an Australian Currawong – I have a couple, but they’re not very good).
The wind had dropped and the forecast showers were absent. It was sooooooo quiet, almost like the end of the earth, and I couldn’t help but be overjoyed at the absence of human sound. If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I caught the lift upstairs to my apartment and after dropping my overnight bag on the floor, flung the sliding door open on to the balcony to let air into the stuffy room.
I heard tweets, chattering, birdsong and then a gentle whisper as a slight breeze sprung up.
The Fairy Wrens were back.
The birdsong was reminiscent of the lovely country sounds I first heard when I moved to the area in October, 2016.
Then one female Superb Fairy-wren dropped from the balcony fence down to the potted herbs and jumped from pot to pot and over to the bird/pest control netted hutch looking for seeds or some other tasty morsel. She walked over the fine netting and I frantically looked for the camera case as I’d put all the cameras away yesterday and stored them in a different place (other than under my desk or beside my desk chair).
Then I spotted a male Superb Fairy-Wren scrambling around the pots under the bird control netted hutch.
So much for bird control 😀
I went out to lift the netting so it could get away as it seemed to have forgotten its entry point, then grabbed the plastic watering jug to give some of the potted plants a drink. I hadn’t watered them before I left home late yesterday morning as it was supposed to rain this morning.
When I came back outdoors with the full watering pot, I heard frantic cheeping and a very frightened little wren.
It had jumped off the Marigold pot and got caught between the line of plastic pots and the glass fence. It could obviously see the male wren on the Japanese Maple enjoying the sunshine through the glass, but couldn’t work out how to get through this clear (aka dirty) glass fence barrier.
I think this might have been the first time I had seen a distressed Fairy-wren outdoors at my current home. I pulled all the plastic pots out so there was more room, but for some reason the tiny bird couldn’t work out what to do.
You hopeless little thing I thought to myself and very slowly bent down and tried to carefully catch it in my cupped hands. This frightened it all the more.
I stood right back and silently waited.
Nope, it just could not work out why it couldn’t ‘walk through glass’ 😀
Human intervention was obviously needed before the frantic little bird keeled over in exhaustion.
Finally, I managed to catch the distressed little wren and slowly bring it up to the fence rail and release it.
It quickly flew to the male on the Maple tree and then the couple flew off to the other side of the road where they could rest in the thick hedge in the warm Autumn sunshine.
I feel like I’m in Heaven with the absence of construction workers and machinery noise.
The gentle warmth of the sun was so pleasant after the long hot Summer, that I couldn’t help but think…..Thank God for Silence.
………..and the distant caw-caw of the local Ravens and the chatter of the nearby House Sparrows spread the beautiful sound of Autumn.
It’s only after incessant jarring noise (of the construction workers all week) that you truly appreciate the Silence in this unique apartment location.
I was back to my positive happy self and all was well with the world…..or at least my world.
……and so I asked Mr Google who had first said this phrase.
What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Silence is golden’?
As with many proverbs, the origin of this phrase is obscured by the mists of time. There are reports of versions of it dating back to Ancient Egypt. The first example of it in English is from the poet Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:
That fuller version – ‘speech is silver; silence is golden’, is still sometimes used, although the shorter form is now more common.
I thought to post these House Swallow images from my archives today. They were made mid November 2018.
I wish I could bury my head and ears in my ‘feathers’.
The Townhouse Construction site across the road is not only working overtime with the jackhammer-like attachment on their excavator til late in the afternoon on weekdays, they even worked last Saturday (to spoil my weekend bliss).
I suppose I’d better get used to it, but hopefully, the actual building construction will be less noisy than the excavation of the enormous bluestone rocks from the cliff face directly opposite my apartment.
When they were working at the top of the cliff, the sound seemed to float over the top of my building, but now, they seemed to have turned up the volume on the (orange excavator) rock-splitting task at the base of the cliff…..directly opposite my apartment balcony.
Oh well, I’m trying to think positive and just hope the actual building construction work might be a bit less noisy than the clearing & preparation. I noticed when I went out this past Monday and Tuesday, there is a concrete ‘slab’ at the top and workmen are busy constructing a concrete block wall for the front of the building already.
How strange to build the apartment block at the same time as they are excavating. You can see the ‘wall’ at the top left quadrant of the 1st construction image above.
At the risk of boring some of you, I had to take some more photos of my Zucchini ‘babies’.
Trying to part the large leaves with one hand and hold the camera up close was quite a challenge yesterday.
I’ve changed the ‘picture style’ setting on my DSLR back to Standard, which is why the close-ups taken with my DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens are rather pale (but more like their natural colour).
The images made with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera,, (while seated at my desk chair) at the end of this post, are made with the camera on Vivid picture style and are much brighter.
Of course the sun and light at the time of shooting also influences the overall image.
I now have SIX zucchini babies and this morning when I turned on my computer and sat down I noticed a couple of Harlequin bugs sitting on the flower/fruit (one close to the centre of the image below). The zucchini on the right seems to have quite a curve in its growth pattern (below). Perhaps it couldn’t get through the tangle of leaves and stems? Since I’ve never grown zucchini before I can only guess.
Harlequin bugs are the pest that decimated my crops of nearly every single leaf last Summer. They even outshone the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars with their voracious appetites. So far, they haven’t sucked the sap out of any Zucchini leaves, but as I type this post, I’m anxiously watching one Harlequin bug sitting on one of my smallest zucchinis.
Am I supposed to cut off some of these large leaves? Or is the curved zucchini merely growing crookedly because the plants are growing in such a small pot and it’s ‘stunted’? I’m also wondering if the zucchini will grow to a decent size at all?
If you’re a vegetable gardener, please let me know in the comments section. Otherwise I’ll ask Mr Google later in the day when the household chores are done.
……..and here are the shots made a few days ago with the Sony a6000 on ‘vivid’ picture style (below).
As most of the longtime followers know I’m an amateur photographer first and a gardener second. but you have to admit there’s something really intriguing/fascinating when you look at vegetable plant details up this close. It’s almost like there’s a whole miniature world to visit and admire.
Actually Spring onions are one of the best vegetables to observe. Mine usually grow about 2-3 inches every day. I’ve just pulled the last one out to make room for another herb seedling friends gave me.
I went for a short walk (15 minutes for normal people, 2 hours for me) down to the nearest pond on Saturday, so when I’ve got time to review the afternoon’s photos and put together a post, I have some bird images to share.
I have to admit that the pain in my right hip was so severe (despite an extra dose of painkillers), I vowed to never go for a nature walk again after I got home. Sometimes I think nature walks will be permanently off the agenda now that my total hip replacement surgery has had to be cancelled and I’m limping around like a little old lady. Other times, I think …..just one more tiny walk and I’ll happily retire from nature photography (and I push the pain limits), but I suspect I’m doing more damage to my hip by walking. It’s a ‘wear and tear’ injury osteoarthritis, so the Orthopaedic surgeon said, not an ‘old age’ degenerative problem.
I sat on the lower step down where the path leading to/past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve starts, for a while after my short walk. At that minute, 3 Superb Fairy-wrens came to the dried out remains of an old withered wild Fennel(?) bush and kept me entertained for another 30-40 minutes. Just goes to show, you don’t have to go far to catch a glimpse of the local bird life in my area.
These wrens were so preoccupied with eating the dried up seeds they didn’t notice me sitting on the step about 7-8 feet away.
It’s all a matter of opening your eyes and truly seeing the small details around you when you live in an urban area.
I think I will grow Zucchini as a permanent part of my balcony garden. The flowers are so interesting the way they open and close . Some are gnarled and knotted (the females with the fruit). Others, (the males), are picture postcard perfect with their golden petals splayed out in a beautiful umbrella shape.
Well, I think I can safely say…….Summer is finally over in Melbourne, Australia.
No it’s not.
Yes, it is.
No it’s not…… and so on.
Every time I (and my Balcony Garden) heave a sigh of relief at the cool morning breeze wafting over the area, the sun starts heating up again.
This morning, it’s blissfully cool sitting at my desk in the morning shade (as the hot western sun hasn’t crept over my apartment building yet). I’ve been more attentive to the thirsty plants and especially attentive to the daily task of looking for those pesky little Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and Harlequin bugs.
I HAVE noticed the Kale and baby Spinach grow much, much slower under the pest ‘cage’.
Obviously the netting diffuses the hot sun quite a lot.
I found one large plump caterpillar on a half-eaten leaf of one baby Tuscan Kale plant under the new ‘pest net’ a couple of days ago and sighed one of those frustrating sounds yet again.
How in the hell can those pesky Cabbage Moth Butterflies have got under the pest net and laid more eggs?
I’m beginning to wonder if ‘pest eggs’ are in the potting soil I bought from the local Plant Nursery Warehouse a couple of weeks ago. I still haven’t potted up all the seedlings my friends brought me several weeks ago and a few yellowed and died.
I have the tiny Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) above, sitting on my desk (still in its seedling pot) with one (of two) Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilica) and my French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in the hope that keeping them indoors will escape the ravenous appetites of the pests.
On the bookcase near the opposite side of the sliding door is the other Sweet Basil, one small pot of Mint (Mentha spicata) and the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).
I bought the Peace Lily about 2 months ago to clear and detoxify the air in the lounge. It grew so fast, I had to re-pot it in a larger pot 2 weeks after purchase. Now it’s growing so fast – about 3-4 leaves EVERY day – I need a larger pot again!
It’s staggering how fast most plants grow either indoors in this light-filled modern apartment, OR in my west-facing balcony garden.
Just goes to show what a lot of light and some TLC will do 🙂
Sure, I’ve had quite a few failures (incl. 2 baby zucchini above), in the blistering heat of our recent ‘record-breaking’ Summer, or attack by Harlequin bugs and Caterpillars, but on the whole, my gardening efforts since I moved to this western suburb of Melbourne 2 1/2 years ago, have been mind-boggling.
Now it’s cooler and I’ve moved the Zucchini to in front of the window near my desk so I can watch it growing, I now have 4 new zucchini babies. In fact, one of those babies, is growing about 1 cm (1/2″) EVERY day at the moment!
I am not exaggerating. At this rate I should have a zucchini to cut in about 7-10 days.
I looked Zucchini up in the new Organic Gardening book my brother gave me at Christmas and apparently the flowering stems with fruit are the females and the long thin stems (and no fruit) the male flowers! I still can’t quite believe these vegetables have grown in such a shallow small trough. Quite the opposite to what my new gardening book says. I’ve never grown zucchini in my potted garden before.
I planted the Climbing Spinach (Basella alba ruba) seeds a few weeks ago and 6 out of the 10 seeds have sprouted. The other 4 seeds must have been ‘duds’. Can’t wait for it to start climbing the trellis I made out of 4 bamboo garden stakes tied together at the top.
So far, no half-eaten leaves.
Hopefully the caterpillars will leave this pot alone as I have no netting to put over it.
The weather is gorgeous today and barely a breath of wind.
Blue sky and sunshine with a couple of overnight rain showers have been blessed by cooler breezes in the last week.
I’m still having to water every night at dusk, but that’s a ‘given’ when you have a garden made of potted plants. The strong gusty wind in this area dries out every pot almost every day.
I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to try making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) after my brother kindly bottled some leaves from his farm (for me). They look a bit ‘fiddly’, but I’m determined to give it a try.
My Balcony Garden is in a state of constant change as something dies, or is eaten by the pests, OR I decide to try growing a different plant/vegetable.
Life is just one big experiment at the moment, but at least with the cooler weather I can find some Joy in my Day (instead of wilting in the heat). My apartment has air-conditioning, but once the hot sun hits the floor-to-ceiling windows, my desk area still gets very hot in the mid-to-late afternoons in Summer.
I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.
I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).
The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.
So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.
It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens. It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.
They never stood a chance in the last few days of Summer heat and while I moved them to the right hand side of my balcony, which goes into shade earlier in the afternoon, their sad yellow pallor spoke volumes in my attempt to nurture them to fruition.
This morning, it’s cool, overcast and looking promising for some cooler temperatures in the coming week, so I moved the trough over to where I can see the plants over my computer screen, for, on this morning’s inspection, 2 Harlequin bugs had landed on their large gently scalloped leaves and looked very much like they had found a new home.
Hopefully, closer scrutiny throughout the day time I am home will lead to some new fruit and NO Harlequin bugs (which decimated my leafy crops last Summer 2017/18).
For those new to my nature blog, this is how close I can move a plant if I want to look at it regularly without leaving my desk chair.
By the way, excuse the dirty windows in these images, but the overnight rain a few days ago brought with it an astonishing amount of dust and while I’ve dusted indoors, I haven’t had a chance to clean the lounge windows yet.
Keep your fingers crossed the current new flowers bear some fruit.
……and on a sadder note, I’ve only seen a couple of House Sparrows visiting my garden in the last week – hope this doesn’t mean the avian visitors have moved on to greener pastures.
While the excavator on the building site across the road does make a lot of noise in the mornings, I was hoping the bird bath hanging from the balcony fence and a large ring of bird seed tied to the top of the fence would lure them back…..especially the Superb Fairy-wrens (shown below).
(it might be back to the archives for some bird images to share……..).
Just for the fun of it, I bought a small punnet of 4 zucchini seedlings about 3 weeks ago to see if they would grow in my hot, west-facing balcony garden.
I’ve never grown zucchini in any of my previous balcony gardens as the plants grow too big for such a small space.
The plant label said “A high yielding variety with dark-green skin and creamy-white flesh. Plant in settings of two.”
POSITION: Full sun
PLANT: 75cm apart
MATURITY 6-8 weeks
My plastic pots and troughs were way too shallow and nowhere near large enough to plant one, let alone 4, plant seedlings, but I stuck them in one trough and lo and behold…….they grew.
One did keel over and die on a particularly hot day towards the end of last week, so I just pulled it out and threw it in the bin.
They even had flowers within 10 days and today, when I went out to inspect the soil moisture, I noticed 2 tiny zucchini growing.
The plants did keel over yesterday and for one of the first times ever, I had to give the plants a drink mid-afternoon while the sun was still hot.
I try to never water plants during the day in the warmer months, as it can burn their fragile roots. I prefer to water my potted plants at dusk in the summer, so the plants can drink up the moisture over the cooler night-time.
If my plastic pots are very small, I sometimes need to water first thing in the morning when I get up, (while the balcony is in full shade), as well as at dusk. The sun moves over the apartment building and hits my balcony about 2.30pm DST (daylight savings time), so early morning watering on a hot day is not such an issue as it would be in an open sunny field.
I also bought a large pest deterrent cover.
They only had one size on the store shelf, and one packet left (in my nearby plant nursery store last Saturday). Initially, I had it spread over all the young seedlings and I thought it was working, but my Pak Choy and Mint is STILL getting eaten.
Where in the %$@&! do these little pests come from? Are they in the new potting soil I bought? Are they invisible and jump on the plants before I finish potting, ‘watering in’ the newly planted seedlings and put the netting cover over? I took the cover off this morning and decided to just let the seedlings have a little more sun.
Oh well, at least the established herbs seem to be insect-free this summer.
After a lovely cool change about 10 days ago, when I hoped Summer might finally be over, Melbourne is in the middle of another heat wave at the moment – not expected to end until next Tuesday evening.
It’s OFFICIAL – Melbourne (and the rest of Australia) has had the hottest summer on record!. Today, Friday the first day of Autumn, is hotter than ever.
Yesterday, Melbourne had the equivalent of the whole month of December’s rain………..all in one day. I woke in the early hours of Wednesday morning to the heavy patter of rain drops on a plastic bag I’d left on my apartment balcony and the sound didn’t seem to let up all day.
The rain was far too heavy to go out and rearrange the plastic bag (full of pots I’d emptied over recent weeks).
It was almost like mid-winter.
Today was not much better and there was flash flooding in Melbourne city and the inner suburbs.
Roads and lane ways were virtual little streams and I’m sure most shoppers and office workers would have done better to take shoes and socks off to walk across the flooded roads.
On the TV news tonight, rivers of water swept down long flights of stairs to the underground rail stations and I’m sure Christmas shoppers would have had a rather soggy trip home.
I’ve had a very busy week with family and health issues and trying to do a lot of organising of things I don’t normally have to deal with, so I didn’t get around to scanning my flower archives for some images to share. I thought we’d had enough on the subject of birds on my Nature Blog, but when I sat down mid-afternoon for a rest, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the most extraordinary sight.
It had been raining so heavily, the top of the balcony fence was literally covered in one long gigantic puddle.
Next thing……up flew a juvenile female Superb Fairy-wren and with a hop, skip and jump proceeded to dance along the fence rail like a small child in rubber boots jumping in puddles for the first time and skipping in sheer delight. Every 3rd or 4th step she would scoop up a drink with her beak, splash and kick up her feet to make a larger splash.
To say she was dancing would definitely be the best description.
Then the tiny Fairy-wren would turn, look around and ‘skip’ back along the fence.
Back and forth she went over and over, and of course, as is always the case with me, the cameras were put away as I was doing some Spring-cleaning and didn’t want to trip over camera gear on the floor.
The Canon DSLR and long telephoto lens case was the closest to where I was sitting, so I pulled the case to me and whipped out the long heavy lens (fortunately with the camera still set on Shutter Priority for bird photography) to try and capture some of the action (mostly unsuccessfully).
Still, I did manage to capture a few shots.
The Sony a6000 with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) on continuous shooting mode would have been far better.
Next minute a juvenile (?) male flew down behind her, looked left and right as though to check no one was looking, then briefly mounting the poor little female, had his way (ehrrr……unsuccessfully as far as I could see), jumped off and flew away.
It was so quick I nearly missed it.
The fluffy down-wrapped young female looked one way down the fence, then the other as though to say “that was fun, but it was so quick, I nearly missed it too 😀 ”
Then with another hop, skip, jump & splash, she flew off across the road.
Anyway, here’s the few shots I managed to get, with the fourth one being out of focus (except for the wet feathers), but I’m sure you can imagine the scene.
A few days ago, I was surprised to see the Fairy-wrens walking all over my net-covered blueberry bush, pecking here and there through the cotton threads, at what I assumed were young shoots, as I’m sure I ate all the ripe berries when I lifted the net and checked the bush each morning.
FEMALE SUPERB FAIRY-WREN WALKING OVER THE NETTING LOOKING FOR SOME TASTY SNACKS
The cotton netting failed to deter the wrens poking their beaks between the cotton threads and eating the blueberry leaf tips.
EVEN THE SORREL PLANT IS GIVEN SOME SCRUTINY TO SEE IF ANY SEEDS ARE ON TOP OF THE SOIL
IN THE JAPANESE MAPLE NEXT TO THE GLASS BALCONY FENCE I COULD FAINTLY SEE ONE OF THE MALE SUPERB FAIRY-WRENS FLITTING AROUND IN THE SHADE
NEXT DAY, A YOUNG FEMALE LANDS ON THE EMPTY PLANT BOX ATTACHED TO THE FENCE RAILING
WHOOPS! NEARLY FELL OFF. LOL
AHHHH! THERE’S THE BLUEBERRY BUSH UNDER THE WHITE NETTING
THEN AFTER FAILING TO GET MUCH THROUGH THE NETTING HOLES…..
SHE FLEW UP TO THE FENCE RAILING….
LOOKED BEHIND HER AND THEN……
DOWN TO THE EMPTY PLANT BOX TO SEE WHAT THE BLUE-HEADED MALE WAS PECKING AT……
THEN UP TO THE NETTING AGAIN…
BACK TO THE FENCE FOR ANOTHER SURVEY OF THE SCENE
AFTER THE WRENS HAD GONE I WENT OUT TO SWEEP UP THE SCATTERED DRY GRASS WHICH SEEMED TO HAVE BLOWN EVERYWHERE OVER THE BALCONY IN THE STRONG WINDS AND FOUND…….THE REMAINS OF WHAT LOOKED LIKE A BIRD NEST AND A COUPLE OF FEATHERS. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A LARGE NEST I THINK.
NOTE: Most of these images were made though dirty windows. Where the birds are sharper in focus, no doubt that would have been when the sliding door was open and I was able to photograph the birds direct, and where the images were less sharp, the photos would have been made through the glass window/door.
…..and I REALLY will get around to choosing some flower images, but you know what its like when Life gets Busy.
I’ve just spent the last hour watching 3 Superb Fairy-wrens hopping through the shady branches of the Japanese Maple growing in front of my apartment balcony.
I have so many birds coming to my little bird bath (hanging from my balcony fence) which I can’t share online as the birds move so quickly, take a sip or two, then fly off to ‘greener pastures’ OR, my camera is out of reach OR, the lens cap still on. (I live in a windy, dusty area and I suspect the dust, continually appearing on my furniture each day, is from nearby building sites – hence the reason for leaving the camera lens cap on much of the time).
So……………. you’ll have to start using your imagination (for this post).
It was a fun and entertaining morning.
Here’s the scene……….(and this is a couple of female House Sparrows photographed last year of course). Even though the photo was made through 3 panes of glass, I managed to fiddle the contrast and exposure enough so you can see what I see (now the Maple has its full cloak of Summer foliage).
After a heavy (dust-filled) rain, it’s almost impossible to see the birds in this tree from my desk chair indoors.
……and here’s the male Superb Fairy-Wren below (so those new to my nature blog know what a tiny Fairy-wren looks like).
This image was made on the 2nd December. I’ve cropped it down a fair bit as the blur of the black window frame was caught in the photo.
In recent days, I’ve seen lots of juvenile House Sparrows land on the balcony, take a drink from the bird bath and fly into the Eucalyptus on the right hand side of the balcony (visible over my the top of my computer screen).
This young sapling’s height was lower than the balcony fence when I moved here 2 years ago. Today, it is about 3+ foot higher than the fence. If it grows at this rate, I’ll have a shady balcony garden, instead of a hot balcony garden in 2-3 years. There are 8 trees planted in front of this side of the building in this 5-year-old housing estate and my tree is the only one that has grown wider (and not taller as the other 7 trees).
Does Mother Nature know I need a shady tree for my Avian Photography subjects?
All the bright green leaves in the image (above) are this year’s growth and the tree has filled out with heavy thick foliage making it a haven for birds on the hot summer days, but quite hard to photograph through. Yesterday was 37C degrees in Melbourne (about 100F) and very hot and muggy right up til midnight, so when I got home from my appointment on the other side of the city, I could hear rustling of several birds in its depths.
Right now (11.20am Saturday), the air is filled with an amazing array of bird calls and you’d be forgiven for thinking I live in the country. Early evening I hear Frogs croaking (from Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my building). Soon, as the summer weather heats up, I expect to hear the nightly clicking and chirping of Cicadas calling to attract a mate
I refilled the bird-bath with cold water and a few tiny cubes of ice ‘for the little fellas’ to cool them down this morning. They seem to appreciate this cooler water on a hot day.
The light is dull, a little dreary and the skies heavily overcast as we’re expecting rain, but it’s still hot and muggy like yesterday – actually quite good photography weather.
The bushfire season has already started in my state, with a fire threatening houses on the outskirts of a large country town during the week. Fires were already ignited in another state the previous week.
……..and I ate another 6 ripe blueberries when I watered the garden last night. I fear there will be no blueberries for Christmas Day as I keep eating them every time I see a few ripening.
The (first) consultation with the Orthopaedic Surgeon yesterday confirmed what I already knew – I needed a total right hip replacement. I can only walk with considerable pain and even swivelling in my desk chair is starting to hurt (this past week). Operating days vacant were in February and in March – methinks I’ll ring back on Monday and book the earliest. In the meantime, I hope you’ll all continue to enjoy images from my archives.
I think we might have a flower week this week starting with some lovely Camellias from The Camellia Walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
When I photographed the various Camellia varieties over the years, I tried to photograph some of the name plaques at the base of the bushes, so I do have a few names for the gardeners and flower lovers among you.
If you’ve been following my nature blog and reading about my balcony garden exploits in the past, you’ll be pleased to hear…..
I saw a BLUE berry yesterday…….
Then I turned over leaves where I knew bundles of green berries had been hiding…….
Ate all the 6-7 berries straight off the bush……and then went to get the cotton bird netting to cover it. Only comment I can say is that I hope the rest ripen through the netting.
…..and I hope, what I suspect is……the plant is pot-bound and that doesn’t affect the future ripening. If the bush grows much larger, I’ll have to give it to my brother to plant in the ground up at his farm.
I suppose I should cut off a piece, but since it was a small roll of netting, I’ve just bundled the excess up with a rubber band and left it on the ground.