Monday, 31 December 2012

A tour of my back yard!

As I'm wandering around in Blogland I see glimpses of peoples backyard and wonder what other fascinating things they have or do. Some of you are on suburban blocks and grow the most amazing quantities of food, others are on rural properties living in sheds, some in big houses, some in small - I'm curious to see what others have crammed into their yards, what projects are on the go, what green and frugal things happen on your back door step. So I thought I'd take you on a tour of my back yard and talk you through our hopes, dreams, failures and success and invite you to create a post of your back yard and pop a link in the comments so we can all come and have a look around.

And so, please, follow me as we step out the back door (watch out for chook poo) and come wander with me!

Bit of a mud map to guide you - bigger one at the end of the post!

First stop is the top chook pen with all the new chooks in it. The husband has built the U-Beaut Chook house (thats Australian for very good!) especially for our tropical conditions. It big and breezy inside and has waterproof space underneath for them to scratch around in on those weeks that it rains and rains and rains. The feeders are made from drainage pipes and have covers so we can stop the possums and rats from feasting on the chook food all night. The nesting boxes are at the side and are accessible from outside the pen and high enough to not hurt your back getting  the eggs. The new native bee hive of Trigona Hockingsii are in the white box above the nesting box under cover and facing east.
The isolation pen has been moved close to the big chooks so wee Autumn isn't lonely but not so close she cant pass on any bugs or diseases that she may have arrived with.
This all sits beside the pergola so that we can have all the fun of watching the chooks while eating our dinner (scraps just get thrown over the top) or reading a book.

Near the house, we also have our citrus trees. In that clump is a lemon, grapefruit, kumquat  and kaffier lime leaf bush. In hindsight, they are way too close together. We have been battling a stinkbug problem (link to solution here) for a few years and this year there is actually new green growth on the trees. The lemons aren't the best - on my to do list is to see what the citrus's need and to give it to them. The lime leaves are the only real thing we harvest off here in any quantity. The grey water from the shower comes out onto these plants or the lawn if its really brown...

See the neighbours? We are so lucky to have such fantastic people living next door. We are definitely in suburbia and on a main road although these pictures dont show that very well.

From the pergola looking down the garden is this view. Living in Sunny Queensland means that we can hang washing on the line at any time of the night or day and have it dried in 15 - 20 minutes! We have two lines that go the length of the yard that can be put up or taken down depending on the amount of washing or the activities taking place in the garden. Its the area that gets the most "discussion" as I want to have as much "no mow" as possible and he wants to have a glorious green vista (a hangover from his English heritage).

Further down the garden is this arch. Its just out of shot in the above picture. We have just finished killing off the huge bourganvillia that grew over the arch and through the macadamia on the right. It was going to take over the canopy of trees and even though in full flower it was spectacular, it had to go as no one could prune anything due to the thorns. The hole in the ground in this photo is from the hangi. I'm going to get the husband to put the picnic table top over the top of this and I will practice my yoga on it and we still have the hole for the next Hangi. This area I want to plant out in edible shrubs this year to make it low maintenance but to still give us some return.

Behind the lattice that you can just see in the above photo is the gates into our two of the neighbours back yards. We have five neighbours and get on so well with four of them that we have gates between all the back yards. One neighbour brings her grandchildren over to feed the chooks, another as a shortcut to visit our other neighbour instead of shouting across our yard. Its a wonderful feeling of community! Neighbours often arrive at the pergola and not the front door!

When you pop out of that lattice tunnel that leads to the neighbours, you enter the vege garden - currently draped in various palm fronds to protect the seedlings from the harsh midday sun. Not attractive but practical. Any one invited here is definitely a friend as this is not the part of the garden that impresses people; not with its aesthetics nor its productivity! This year I'm aiming for salad greens rather than every night veges. Its not big enough to produce the variety and quanity required and I have spent about $300 on possum proofing and don't want to extend the garden and the cost - as my husband has pointed out, How many nights veges could I have bought with $300??

Just up from the veges in the shade of a huge apple gum is the bottom chook pen (through the gate), compost heaps and worm farm. This was a smart move. You read over and over to put these things together near your garden and when it finally happens, it works! It really, really works. For years it was more about how it looked rather than if it were practical and since I have been drawn away from "Home and Garden" decor towards "Earth Garden and Permaculture" principals, what it looks like matters less. We have decided that we probably need three compost heaps. One to fill, one to mature and one to use... So soon, we shall relocate the ginger and put in another compost bay.

With the worms, chooks and compost right next to each other its easy to throw the greens to the chooks, the slops to the worms and the citrus, onions and potatoes to the compost. Also great for when the compost is ready as the garden is only a hop skip and jump away. Chookies LOVE the compost heap when its being emptied!

Ten years ago we wanted to open our garden in the "Open Garden" scheme and so made all these wonderful "rooms" in our garden. The swing seat is great fun to sit in (right at the back of the vista almost hidden by the tree in the pot) and the arches lovely - but these days I'm trying to grow beans and other practical things on them rather than exotic flowering vines, and fill the beds with fruit trees or food for the bees.

Looking back up the yard from the hangi hole is the back of the house and the pergola that we spend a huge amount of time in.We have put in a kitchen sink, power, lights and a sound system as we almost live in it for three seasons a year. In high summer we tend to hide inside with the air con on snap freeze as the Husband's English blood cant handle the heat and humidity of an Australian heat wave.

We have a high set wooden house on the edges of suburban Brisbane that is about fifty years old. The house is set to the front of a 1/3 of an acre giving us a huge back yard in suburbia. We don't use it as well as we know we could. We have room to grow more food but because we are in transition from a display garden mentality to a more practical and productive one, the changes are slow. Its hard to take out a pretty flowering bush and replace it with an apple tree - if you could get it to live through a drought. But as things succumb to the weather and father time, we are making decisions that will lead to a more productive garden in the long term.

Our main produce from our garden is eggs, a bit of salad, some herbs, the odd lemon, water (harvested from the roof) great relationships with the neighbours and a place to relax. We are pretty much chemical free, have plenty of wildlife visiting and enjoy our time spent in and around our backyard.

Over to you! Can we come and visit?


Kathryn Ray said...

Your garden is lovely... so lush.

We've only been in our place for a few years so we've mostly just been fixing things... not too many improvements yet... aside from 2 veggie gardens and 3 corrals, and a few, still very small fruit trees. ;-)

Practical Frog said...

And Its all covered in Snow at the moment! Still I'd like to see..? - K xx

livingsimplyfree said...

I had no idea you had neighbors so close! Everything here is buried in snow,so you will have to wait for warm weather before I can show more of my outdoors. I've only been here a year and a half, so there's plenty left on my wish list.

Care homes in Kent said...

Lovely garden!! Everything is present in your garden. I love hens..

Practical Frog said...

We have a reasonably large block by most people suburban standards and we are definatly in suburbia - like you though, so much to do still. Our plans are always changing! - K xx

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