……AND THEN THERE WERE 3

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.

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.

This image is pretty good considering the dirty rain droplets on the glass.
But they turn around so quickly I end up with dozens of shots of their rear ends.

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’m pretty sure this is the same tiny juvenile male. All birds visit this trough of Mint as the leaves seems to be a bit tastier and it hasn’t grown much over the winter. In fact, I nearly threw this mint plant out in the rubbish as despite it’s many stems, it’s failed to produce enough decent green leaves for culinary use.
I moved this mint plant to the south end of the balcony in the hope the winter sun might give it a burst of growth – I think I can see more new green leaves (than tiny brownish ones) now.

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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.

I’ve got 2 Tuscan kale (Tuscano Nero) but they have been slow to grow this winter and only started growing in the above image about 7-10 days ago.

A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called Broccoli Bambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.

This broccoli seedling has lots of leaves, but no centre “10 cent sized floret” ??????

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).

This image was made in Summer, but it still looks like this in Autumn, Winter & Spring.

I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.

Image from my ‘Baby Bunting’ variety of spinach last year.

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.

ASIAN CLIMBING SPINACH

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.

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………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.

Sigh!

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.

I think I will have to close down my Sunrise, Sunset (& clouds that come in between) blog.

These wonderful sunsets from my balcony will no longer be visible.

At least I still get a small view of the sunset to the right of that apartment building (on the main road) for the time being.

BUT, there is a planning permit submitted to the local council to build a large housing/apartment estate on that enormous open field between the row of trees and my building.

Sigh!

(I seem to do a lot of sighing lately).

Life is impermanent.

Life is ever-changing, hour by hour, day by day and year by year, as I grow older.

BUT I will miss some of that wonderful view.   I can’t deny it now that the reality is sinking in.

 

ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

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.

SUNSET LAST NIGHT ON THE CLIFF TOP OPPOSITE MY APARTMENT BLOCK. YOU’LL NOTICE THE EXCAVATOR SITTING ON THE TOP OF THE HILL. IT’S BEEN RATHER NOISY AGAIN SINCE JUST AFTER CHRISTMAS. THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS SEEMED TO HAVE HAD 6 MONTHS OFF AS I HADN’T SEEN THEM SINCE 26TH OF JUNE LAST YEAR. BUT THEY’RE BACK ON TRACK THIS YEAR ‘EATING’ AWAY AT THE CLIFF FACE TO READY THE SITE FOR A NEW APARTMENT BLOCK.