Our Nunzio, Cassie

The past few days have been full of puppy: fetching, feeding, herding, stressing about and playing with our new puppy. It’s been a busy time – and both T and I have had very fractured sleep. Despite this, finally bringing MissMolly’s Nunzio home was a delight. It’s the culmination of months of debate, weeks of dithering, and days of shopping for puppy-related gear and ‘baby proofing’ the pool fence, house and garden.

We headed out to the airport on Thursday evening to pick her up. She’d spent all day in  a crate, having left the breeder in Quamby Brook (Tasmania) for Launceston mid-morning for a flight to Perth, via Melbourne – where there was an hour and half stop over. A long day of being cooped up for a not-quite nine-week-old puppy. Fortunately one of her siblings (Holly) was flying over to Perth as well, so she had company in the crate – but they were both very happy to be freed.

Holly and Cassie arrive in Perth

Adding a puppy to a family unit – especially when there’s already another dog – is in some ways more stressful than adding a second child. You can’t simply pop a puppy in a pram/cot  and put out of harms way in the nursery. Puppies can get around on their own by the time they come home with you. So, unless you stash your new addition in a crate (or other secure area) for part of the time, keeping an eye on ‘sibling interaction’ is a lot trickier and more time consuming than it is with children.

I remember the day I brought Boychilde home. We’d spent his first week together at the maternity hospital and I had missed DaughterDearest enormously. I couldn’t wait to see her and to introduce her baby brother. But bringing home a new baby turned  out to be less exciting for her than bringing home a new puppy might have been. DD just waved hello from the kitchen and told me she was making jelly with Gran. For his part, the baby also showed no interest and stayed fast asleep in his carrycot.


MissMolly, however, was all over the puppy. She was super excited that we’d come home, very curious about the new addition and keen to share my lap with her. She was also perfectly happy to get fed a second dinner when we fed the very hungry and slightly dehydrated pup. From day one, Molly’s actually been remarkably tolerant of having her tail chewed, her mouth licked and our attention shared. To our surprise (and amusement) she’s taken to bringing Cassie toys to entice her to play – and was even prepared to share her bone.

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That’s the upside. The downside is that puppies don’t wear nappies – and they do wake up and need to go outside for ablutions at oh-my-goodness-o’clock (several times). After a few nights of this, T and I are both operating on spoon deficit and could do with a solid snooze to catch up on our sleep debt.

My solution this afternoon was to trot out my time honoured technique of child sleep management: curl up on the bed with both ‘kids’ for a cuddle – and see if this lulls us all into nodding off.

Success! (only for an hour or so, but such a good hour!)

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My ears woke up before the rest of me yesterday, filled with the sounds of rain splatting on the tin roof. Big juicy drops bouncing and rolling, rushing down into the overflowing gutters, gushing out to form gullies in the dry sand. It was still to dark to see, but I heard it all. It was the best sound in the world to wake up to at the end of a hot, dry summer.

Cocooned inside my sleeping bag I wriggled back down, smiling in the silvery predawn. I’m spending the Easter break at Gallifrey, house-cat-fowl-and-plant sitting for Daughter Dearest. Although I knew I might have to trudge down to feed the chickens and guinea fowl in the drizzle later on, it’d only be a minor inconvenience. I couldn’t help feeling a bit like it was my birthday – with the rain an unexpected and glorious gift. The plants were being watered without any help from me and, even more importantly, at least some of the water I’ve used while I’ve been resident has been replaced.


Over the past few years I’ve come to realise how easy it is to take water for granted in our first-world city life. The simplest daily actions, such as washing one’s hands or rinsing a cup or flushing the toilet, are all done on the assumption that there’s a plentiful supply of water. But not just any water. We naively assume that it will be clean and bug free, i.e. potable water,  and that it will be piped into our homes without fail. And it’s these assumptions that lead us to be blasé about our water use and to waste litres upon litres of this diminishing and most precious resource.

T and I try to be water-smart at home, using low flow shower heads, limiting the sprinkler time, keeping showers brief and checking for leaky taps regularly. So I was surprised to find Australians at the top of the list of per capita water consumers in the world, with a quarter of our daily water use (26%) literally  going down the toilet.

Although modern water efficient toilets are required to use no more than 5.5 litres of water per flush, a standard flush toilet uses 12 litres (!) – every time it’s flushed. With an average of four flushes per person per day, that’s about 10,000 litres of water each of us is flushing away every year. That’s a whole lot of water, particularly (but not exclusively) if you rely on rainwater for all your water needs.

Knowing this is not the same as living it. I’ve found that as a (temporary) resident at Gallifrey I’ve become hyper-conscious about water use. I’m suddenly personally aware of the fact that there’s no scheme water on the property, that the house and garden are dependant on the water in the tanks and, when that runs low and rain doesn’t come, the remaining option is to purchase water and have it trucked in to fill them. An expensive undertaking.

Every time I turn a tap on, I think about the water tank levels. Every time I use the composting toilet, I’m conscious of the water that’s being saved. For a two-person household, this system is saving about 20,000 litres a year. That’s water that can then be used in the house and for the animals and orchard instead. A real, practical step to water management.

As water becomes scarcer, this system is becoming more mainstream. Instead of being seen as another ‘hippy-eco fringe’ idea, it’s gaining traction with the broader public. According to a recent ABC report, more people are looking at it as an option for new homes – and I know I certainly would.

Listening to the rain as I fell asleep last night, surrounded by the smells of rain and soaked earth, I was content.


I’ve wanted to try out vertical gardening for ages, but it’s somehow never quite reached the top of the pile… until now. A couple of months ago some gear (a chicken house in kit form) was delivered to our house on a pallet. The build-your-own chicken run has long since gone up to Gallifrey Permaculture, where the chickens are enjoying the extra space. The pallet, however, continued to lurk in our front courtyard, pending action.

Every time I’ve walked past it I’ve thought about how to either use it or get rid of it, but without coming to any useful conclusions. Contemplating it again last weekend, I mentioned to Himself that it was now high on the ‘let’s do something about it’ list and asked whether he had any thoughts on what the ‘something’ might be… He said, ‘Well you’ve been talking about a vertical garden… couldn’t you use the pallet as a base for one?’OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good thinking, 99! … although this did mean that ’99’ then ended up having to hunt down various tools to reinforce the pallet. That done, he attached the pallet to the wall above one of the raised garden beds with a couple of brackets and declared it ready to start its new re-purposed life.

While he was busy with all that, I scrounged around in the shed to see if I had any suitable sized pots and checked to on how much compost/soil mix we have left over from the last garden epic. The plan we’d devised was to pop the pots into the frame in three rows, about six pots per row, and to encourage the plants to grow up and over the frame. This sounded a lot simpler than the alternative, which is to cover the back, bottom and sides of the pallet with weed mat or landscaping plastic, then fill it with sand and plant up. Our pallet would need more horizontal struts for that to work, so this time I’ll stick to using the pots and see how it goes.

For this fledgling vertical garden I need to take into account that it will be in full sun most of the day. In addition to this, the pots that fit into the pallet-frame are (recycled) 10cm plastic pots; these only have a capacity of about 0.5L, so the soil will dry out fairly quickly. This means I need to select plants that aren’t going to develop huge root systems and that can cope with full sun and sporadic watering.

Growing things makes me happy and it’s a bonus if we also get to eat them (in whatever format),  so I try to choose useful and/or edible plants whenever I make additions – which probably explains our mini orchard and the various vegetable/herb beds scattered around the property. For this experimental garden I’ve decided on a combination of easy-to-grow favourites: cherry tomatoes, rocket, Vietnamese mint, Thai coriander, lemon balm and parsley; perhaps even some strawberries.

I’d promised myself a visit to the Garden Centre and to the horticultural fair this week as a reward for the epic hours spent (successfully) weeding the verge garden. My mission was quite clear… but Garden Centres and Garden Shows appear to be my particular nemeses.

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I ended up coming home with a Brown Turkey Fig, a beautiful orange and yellow hibiscus (Hibiscus Bali Sunset), and a Mr Lincoln hybrid rose –  and only three of the 12 herbs I actually set off to get! Not quite the outcome I’d planned, but they made me smile all day – as did the prospect of a return trip for the missing plants 🙂



The weeded verge garden, also ready for planting when the weather cools a little.


Ragamuffin gardenThis week I found an all-but forgotten potted geranium had sprouted the most luscious pink blossoms. The totally unexpected flash of new colour in my ragamuffin garden made me laugh out loud – and then smile on and off for the rest of the day.

Geraniums do tend to look perky and pretty, particularly when in flower. But they were really just so much background scenery when I was growing up. Then I went to Europe, where I seemed to see window boxes full of bright red geraniums everywhere I went.

Seeing them in this new context, I realised that I’m actually rather fond of these hardy little plants. They’re great performers: water-wise, pest resistant, need minimal maintenance and can be relied on to flower regularly and brighten up pretty much any garden.

Forgotten geraniumOver the years I’ve added several varieties to our garden, including the vermillion ones that remind me of Europe, the cerise pink variety that always makes me smile, one with lime scented foliage and lavender flowers, and the stunning big red that I found a couple of years ago.

On Saturday, still full of enthusiasm from my mid-week geranium smiles, I decided to go hunting for some new varieties at the WA Geranium & Pelargonium Society Annual Sale Day. Daughter-dearest and I had great fun trawling through the stalls, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the pretties. It was like being in a candy store, rushing from display to display to admire the blossoms, smell the leaves and chat with other geranium enthusiasts.

One of the club members explained that the plants commonly called ‘geraniums’ are, in fact, pelargoniums. Confusion on this point is quite common, apparently, but affected our enthusiasm for plant-hunting not one whit! The sale day turned out to be a great opportunity to find varieties I’ve seldom (if ever) seen in suburban gardens.

Co-incidentally, Daughter-dearest has just recently taken up residence in her new home and it seemed like a good excuse to buy instead of just browse. She certainly wasn’t about to talk me out of shopping for pretties, so we ended up acquiring a couple at each stall until we ran out of hands. We then headed for home, armed with a veritable wealth of geraniums – ten different varieties in all.

Since they’re dead easy to propagate, we immediately set to work with secateurs and potting soil. The process is very simple. First step was to take a small cutting (approximately 10cm) from just above a leaf joint (node) on each of the new plants. We then trimmed each cutting so that there were only two or three leaves on it. This makes it easier for the cutting to thrive, because the plant doesn’t have to work too hard trying to keep lots of leaves alive. Next step was to pop each of the cuttings in a small tub of potting soil and water them lightly. Try it – the results are well worth the tiny amount of effort involved.

Propogating geraniums_Oct2015

I’ll continue to water the cuttings lightly every day and the first tiny roots should start to appear in about three days. After  about four weeks the new plants should be ready to transplant into slightly larger pots or, if I’m feeling brave, straight into the garden – both options have worked for me in the past. Either way, I’m looking forward to even more bright flashes of colour in my ragamuffin garden this summer.