My daughter and I have grown up together. I had her fairly young and learned about being mum at pretty much the same rate she learned about being her. It seems to have all worked out okay: I’m still her mum and she’s definitely 100% her 🙂


Daughter-dearest left home after finishing her first uni degree, heading off to work overseas for a year, then travelling around South America and Europe for several months before heading back to home base. Having flexed her wings and found that they provided more than adequate lift, it wasn’t long before she moved into a share house with some friends.

At the time many of my friends asked whether our nest felt empty, whether I felt sad or even lonely with her gone again so soon. In short, the answer was a simple – but firm – no. I was both pleased and proud when she moved out of the family home to set up independently. I guess it’s a bit silly, but I had one of those ‘Yes!’ moments, a moment when I did a happy dance and thought, ‘Wow, she grew up – we made it – how good is that?!’

It was enormous fun to help her in small (and unobtrusive) ways: with the move, by buying some bits & pieces for her kitchen and by dropping off a banana loaf (or whatever baking I felt in the mood for) every now and then. Share houses being generally notoriously random in the pantry department, both she and her two housemates always received these deliveries with enthusiasm and rather raptor-like self-interest 😛

She moved house once or twice after that first share house – including going to the UK for a while, then to Melbourne – before settling back in Perth and putting down some more permanent roots with a partner. For the past few years they’ve been developing a small acreage about an hour out of the city, digging swales, planting trees, improving the soil, camping out occasionally and, finally, building a house.

This last element has been a stressful journey for them, with many building and bank complications along the way. For a variety of reasons they ended up moving in with us for a few months whilst the house was being completed. This meant that our house of two plus dog(1) & chickens(2), became a house of four plus dog(1), kittens(3), chickens(6) & quail(3) for most of 2015. Quite the little menagerie, really.

This weekend the move to their new house finally happened. They’d already spent a week or so unpacking all their furniture from storage and on Friday they hired a truck to move the many (many!) pot plants and assorted paraphernalia from our house to theirs. After a good night’s sleep (here) and some final packing, they loaded up the kittens (now almost full grown) and headed for home.

It was a great feeling to wave them goodbye, knowing that the next stage of their dream can finally start to take shape. There’ll be days of unpacking and settling in, followed by days of planting and building. But there’ll also be many evenings of simply sitting on their verandah and kicking back – just enjoying being at home in their own home at last.

As a mum, I couldn’t ask for more. But I must admit to a little lurch of my heart when daughter-dearest brought her adorable kittens in one by one to say goodbye to me. Our cat free, guest-free, quail and chicken-free life will seem just that little bit more ordinary and pale for a while. I’ll miss them – all of them… (well, perhaps not the very noisy chickens) … but I look forward to some ‘grandpets’ from SunChaser Ocicats in the not too distant future – and to joining them on their verandah from time to time to share some of that serenity.


The kittehs in their temp daytime run at our place

I was sitting outside the other day and I noticed just how many passionfruit are hanging on the vines. There are more than many – perhaps even many-many! I’m starting to think along the lines of passionfruit sorbet and pavlova and suchlike and really looking forward to harvesting some of the garden produce. Actually, come to think of it, the plum tree is also pretty laden down with fruit and so is the grapefruit tree and at least one of the olives trees. It’s only a matter of time before we’re knee deep in preserves, pies and chutneys – again.

Little did we know when we planted our first three fruit trees just over a decade ago that we’d end up with our own urban orchard. A quick count tells me that we have somewhere around 20 productive trees or vines: blood orange, calamondin, finger lime, three passionfruit vines, a bay tree (in a half wine barrel) and two grapevines (just planted) at the back. Then our original three: the ruby blood plum, Tahitian lime and pink grapefruit around the side of the house, along with an ornamental(ish) plum (which appears to fertilise the other plum), an olive tree and a blueberry bush. Moving to our (not very large) front garden, we have a black cherry, a lillipilly, two miniature apple trees, another olive and a cumquat. Oh, and a pear tree (also in a half wine barrel) and another bay tree (ditto).


What were we thinking? Or, more to the point, what was I thinking?! Every time we’ve done any serious work in the garden (redoing reticulation, putting in a small retaining wall, replacing the fish pond), I seem to have  had a rush of blood to the brain and headed off to the local nursery / purveyor of fine fruit trees. Sometimes I just wandered in there to  pick up some essential item relating to the current project… but the outcome is always fairly predictable: we suddenly need to find a space for yet another fruit tree!

Since we also have three raised garden beds for growing vegetables – and since I find seed propagation only intermittently successful, this also requires the occasional stop to select seedlings and, since I’m there…

I guess some people shop for yet another pair of natty high heels, others for that perfect piece of jewellery or technology… my weakness appears to be plants, specifically fruit trees. As long as I don’t go near the nursery section of the local hardware store or – even worse – happen to stop in at the more well stocked nursery, conveniently on my way home from work (if I take the long way home), then all is well.

So what is it about gardening, about planting a tree and watching it grow and, in time, become productive that has such appeal? Part of it is that work/home life tend to be busy, time is perennially at a premium and stress piggybacks all too easily on top of all that. So I find it relaxing to actively take time to potter around in the garden, to plant and trim, prune and mulch. The simple acts of watering the veggie garden and picking and eating a cherry tomato while I do so, of throwing the windfall fruit to the chickens and of noticing how much things grow day by day – these are amongst my meditative practices. They replenish my chi and make my world a better place.

Over the past six months or so I’ve become quite accustomed to the sights and sounds (and even the smells) associated with keeping a couple of backyard chickens. I’ve definitely grown used to the idea of fresh fresh eggs every day and feel quite the urban farmer when I present half a dozen of them to friends or family. There’s that odd little surge of happy as I hand them over, almost as though I (and not the backyard chooks) have laid them 🙂


Despite all of this, it’s taken me a while to get my head around some aspects of chicken-wrangling, specifically actually handling them. Birds have never been my thing – I’m more of a dogs person and have always viewed birds as best admired from a distance. They flap – and have beaks – and beady little eyes.

However, since I do want these chooks to have a happy-chicken-life, I generally let them out of their run every day. In theory, this means that they’ll sally forth and forage merrily in the garden, eating bugs and slugs and fertilising as they go. But, sadly, this is not the case. It turns out that chickens are not overburdened with intellect and ‘sally forth’ is not part of their avian mindset. This means that they need some encouragement in the sallying department and, as my methods tend to be forthright, this was initially along the lines of herding them with a garden broom. Not super successful, I must confess, as it resulted in panicked chickens making a run for their hutch and huddling in a corner muttering and clucking nervously to themselves.

Plan B was no more successful, as it was really a variation of Plan A: I trapped them OUTside their hutch and herded them with the broom. They ran in all directions and clucked like, well, panicked chickens, really.

On to Plan C. It turns out that the best way to get them to go where I want them is to don a pair of gardening gloves, manoeuvre the chickens into their hutch, then grab them (gently) – one at a time – and pop them down in the appropriate garden bed. This has to be done quite quickly, otherwise there is more of the wild clucking and running around in a panicky sort of way. By the chickens, not me – although there have been moments…

I’ve now done this  twice – and do feel rather proud of myself for having conquered this key component of chicken-wrangling successfully.

So it was slightly startling to look out of my study window this afternoon and find two sets of beady little eyes checking me out. It’s a bit creepy to realise that they know where I live… and hunted me down… and then lurked their making their ‘I’ve found something tasty to eat’ cooing noises. Backyard chooks… or backyard raptors…?