Archive for the ‘home maintenance’ Category

I have finished the backyard gardening course put on by our local council. The webinar series featured a gardening expert, Paul, teaching basic tenets and techniques for backyard gardeners like myself who want to grow more vegetables. The course has been educational. I have learned more than I expected.
The first vital tenet for the home gardener is to develop your ground. The message our tutor Paul repeated most often was to feed the soil and use organic matter to improve it. The organic matter can come from worm bins or compost heaps and needs digging in. Alternatively, it is easy to buy compost by the bagful, which Paul advocated spreading on top of the beds. Fertilizers come in hard (pellet form), liquid, or soft (powdered). Pellets need to be dug through beds and left for two weeks before use, preferably three to four weeks.

I usually buy a bag of sheep pellets once a year and sprinkle it around the garden. I did not realize that I was at risk of “burning” the plants if the pellets ended up against the stems or trunks. Fertilizer powders like blood & bone or powdered seaweed work faster and are safe to use. Always dig them in on a rainy day to save yourself and your house wearing the powder. These products should be dug through first and left to settle for a week or two before planting.
The buzzword these days is tea, especially the homemade kind. In the first post on this subject, Backyard Gardeners, I shared how to make worm tea. If you don’t have a worm farm, or even if you do, you can also make other fertilizing teas, like sheep pellet tea and compost tea. It is best to vary the kinds of products you feed your garden. Just as we need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong, so do our plants.

Sheep pellet and compost teas are both made the same way. Quarter fill a bucket with pellets/compost, then fill the bucket preferably with rainwater. Again leave for three to four weeks. Then you have fertilizer tea to put in your garden. Typically, the tea is strong, so make sure to dilute it 50/50. Throw the remains of the pellets and compost back onto the compost heap and start your buckets again. And though you might feel tempted to feed your ground more often, once a fortnight is plenty.
As to pests, I was surprised that when it came to controlling the critters munching on our vegetables, the first thing Paul said was, “Don’t worry too much. Most plants will outgrow the pests.” Then, after half an hour of dispensing advice about the various insecticides available, he said the easiest, cheapest way of dealing with pests eating our vegetables was to spray them with a homemade mixture: mostly water with a bit of detergent. Yay! Love it.

An advocate of natural pest control, Paul recommended encouraging birds (who predate on snails and caterpillars) into the garden by providing water and feeders. He suggested employing companion planting, where certain plants are grown together because they repel pests. He also told us about a company in NZ called Bioforce that supplies predatory insects to consume the bugs bothering your plants. There are all sorts of natural, simple ways of dealing with issues in the garden.
My advice? Throw yourself into it. That’s what I did fourteen years ago, and I am obsessed with my garden and growing our fruit and vegetables. The main thing every gardener must remember to do is to love your plants! (My advice, not Paul’s). I believe plants respond to attention and love. I talk to my plants, even sing to them. Why not? You’ll be happier either way.
More another day, green thumbs.
Why not have a go and get gardening!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Gardening is active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

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One of the changes I made to the backyard here last year was to take out the old fishpond. It was a feature my ex-husband put in about twenty-five years ago. For the last twelve years, I have been responsible for the pond he left behind, feeding the fish, replacing dead ones, and doing the stinking job of cleaning it out every six months. With the warmer temperatures and a much warmer winter in 2021, the pond needed cleaning more often, and frankly, I tired of doing it. In the interest of “doing less” in 2022, (one of my New Year’s resolutions), I decided to remove it.

I gave the goldfish away and emptied the pond. Underneath the plastic liner, I found the edging was made from native hardwood and was still sound. Naturally, I kept the edging, thinking I could turn it into a raised bed.
As November and December went by the deep cavity left by the pond slowly became filled with clay (debris from other garden projects). A small clay mountain in my backyard was not the replacement for the fishpond I had been anticipating. Time to start the process of transforming the clay into friable soil suitable for growing vegetables.

Where I live the area is quite well known for being built on clay. The topsoil was stripped when the land was developed back in the 60s and it generally takes a lot of work to create viable vegetable plots. In the past, I have simply bought in topsoil and compost. But, since I created my compost heap last year, I wanted to employ that resource for this bed and endeavour to work with the clay. I began by moving the hardwood edging I had saved into place.

Under ordinary circumstances, if you aim to turn the dense ground into soil good enough for growing things, you would start working compost and organic matter into the dirt, and within a few years, you would reach the objective. However, there is a quicker way. The magic world of mycelium. This is a type of underground fungi that holds soil together and integrates all landscapes. Mycelium is known as the great molecular soil disassembler of mother nature. It was the first life on the planet billions of years ago, preceding soil and plants, a ‘microbial universe that gives rise to a plurality of other organisms.’

You can transform clay into ‘the good oil’ using compost alone, but if you add mycelium then you accelerate the process exponentially. Mycelium can even convert stone into soil. The oxalic acids and enzymes it produces grab calcium and other minerals, forming calcium oxalates, which are the first step in forming soil. *If you want to know more about mycelium, check out the work of Paul Edward Stamets, an American mycologist, and entrepreneur who sells various mushroom products through his company. He is an author and advocate of medicinal fungi and mycoremediation.
To find mycelium for your garden projects, all you need is a small amount of tissue, which can be found in the ground of old-growth forests. Or you can contact the Stamets website for purchase details.

The first step for my bed was to sprinkle lime over the clay. This is known to break down heavy ground into the soil eventually. I watered this in well. Then I lay on top of the lime old partly-rotted branches and sticks from elsewhere on our property. I watered this in also. For mycelium, I didn’t want to go digging in the public forests because it’s illegal. Instead, I went to my lovely compost heap. Now, as it happens, I’ve been lax and have failed to keep turning the contents regularly and what this has done, unbeknownst to me, is allow the mycelium to grow. The sign of the presence of these fungi in the ground is when the dirt is spongy. I used a spade to get down through the layers of compost and discovered spongy ground. Then I dug out my very own mycelium. Score!

I spread this precious network of cellular architecture on top of my partly-rotted branches on the clay and covered it with some of the lighter material from the compost heap. Again, I watered it carefully. The mycelium should now produce the oxalic acids and enzymes and form the calcium oxalates that will accelerate the desired changes. I set bricks beneath the hardwood edging to give the raised bed more stability and strength.

Last but not least, I laid some old palm fronds over the top to give the contents some much-needed shade from the intense heat of our summer sun. Now, all that is needed is daily watering to keep the mycelium and compost damp, so that it can do its good work. I’m excited to see what takes place and shall be keeping an eye on my soil experiment. Once, I have established friable rich ground in this bed, then the planting can begin. Yay!
If you have kids who are gamers, they will likely already know about the benefits of mycelium. My sixteen-year-old said, ‘Mycelium, oh yeah, I use that sometimes playing Minecraft.’ Gotta love that. Happy gardening.

What sort of soil do you have? If clay is an issue, what have you tried to change the condition? I’m open to further tips.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius


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The other day, upon entering our garage, a bee zoomed towards me. It circled, flying towards me again and again. I thought, what odd behaviour. Two days later, we caught three bees inside the house. Odd. Then, I was weeding when I heard buzzing and looked up. There were hundreds of bees flying in and out of our chimney!
It turns out, I learned later, that the first oddly-acting bee was the “scout,” sent to find a new location for the swarm.
The bees’ new home was in our chimney stack.

Cue the frantic Google search. The first beekeeper I spoke to expressed dismay. “Chimneys are particularly difficult,” she said. “We may not be able to remove the bees from there. You may have to call the exterminator.” I said, “I don’t want to harm the bees.” She asked, in all seriousness, “Could you live with them?” I didn’t have to think about it. I quickly replied, “NO.”
I love bees. But if there is such a thing as too many, then this was that situation.
The beekeeper recommended The Bee Club. I contacted their website. The next day, a nice older gentleman arrived. It was like seeing the cavalry coming in. I was so pleased to see him, let’s call him Don.

Don walked in armed with a bee suit, handheld smoker, a ladder, and believe it or not, a vacuum cleaner which he had attached to a clear plastic box.
I told him about the lady asking if we could live with the swarm. Don said, “That’s not a good idea. The honey and the wax attract vermin. The hive will grow until it’s too big for the chimney. After the swarm departs the hive will die, attracting more vermin. And once you’ve had wax in your chimney, it attracts more scouts because the bees smell the wax.”
Happy days. Not.
Don took one look up and said, “I don’t know if I can do it. That’s a tall chimney, and I have to be able to see down into it.”
Oh boy! I was “thinking the right thoughts” over that one.

Don looked up again. He said if I had a ladder, he could climb onto the roof then put his ladder against the upper stack. I brought ours out of the garage. Gamely, he went up to our rickety old ladder. From the roof, Don set up his collapsible one against the stack and was able to get high enough to look inside. Lifting the metal plate that sealed the stack, he peeked underneath. “Okay, this might be possible.”
Thank you!
We handed him all his equipment under strict instructions to only hold the smoker by the bellows as it is hot. Then we stood back to watch the show.
First, Don used his smoker, burning a mixture of humus material and pine needles. He puffed under the lid and around the chimney top. He lifted the lid slowly. “This hasn’t been here long. Maybe two days at most. They haven’t made any wax.”
Whew. What a relief.

Don lifted the lid, and hanging beneath it was a cluster of bees, somehow hanging together. I imagine they were surrounding the queen, keeping her safe. We onlookers gasped. By holding the plate above his plastic box, Don gave it a sudden bang on the side of the box, and all the bees fell in as one. He put the lid over the top, and he had bagged the queen and most of the workers. It was amazing.
Then Don switched on his magic vacuum and started vacuuming bees out of our chimney to join the others in the plastic box. After five or so minutes, he said, “I could keep on vacuuming two hundred more bees, but if I do, the ones in the box will asphyxiate.” So he sprayed fly spray inside to kill the bees remaining and laid a concrete block over the hole.

Don had rescued most of the swarm, even the queen. He had rid our chimney of bees. Thank goodness. And all of this is voluntary work for a man in his golden years. Wow.
What was he going to do with our bees? Don told me he was taking them to a new beekeeper who lived nearby.
I got an email from him yesterday, and he said our bee swarm is settling in nicely to their warm hive. We should expect a jar of honey in our mailbox soon. Happy days.
When I put this story on Facebook, I got quite a few responses from friends who had had similar dramas happen with bees and wasps on their properties. Have you ever had trouble with beehives or wasp nests? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop


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Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

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When I moved back to “the old homestead,” the house my father built in 1962, I had grand designs for a large vegetable garden. The plot would cover the whole right corner of this quarter acre section. It still hasn’t happened. I pictured it in that spot because growing up, I remember my parents tending vegetables there. They had rows of raised beds with a path down the middle. If mum and dad were not at work, they were tending the garden and they produced a lot of fruit and vegetables from this small property. I aspired to do the same.

That was before I had my two youngest boys. A sunken trampoline took up residence in my designated vegetable plot. Life became crazy busy and somehow eighteen years went by. Our only vegetable patch has been a narrow strip of earth in the front yard. And we spend a small fortune at the greengrocers every week. My two teenage boys eat enough fruit and vegetables each day for a small rhinoceros. I thought, I have to find a way of creating a vegetable patch. After some research and conversations with knowledgeable types, (friends and family members), I came up with a plan. I built my own raised bed and you can do it too.

Here’s how:

Start by choosing where the plot is going to be, and how you want it to look. It seems obvious, but if you’re not clear, you will waste valuable time later when the builder arrives. It will cost more and make the process a lot less enjoyable.

I chose an area close to the kitchen.

Measure the area so you know how much wood you’ll need. Research your timber, as most woods will need painting to help them resist water and soil. Some people line raised beds with thin rubber sheeting as well. *Tip: I ordered macrocarpa sleepers. They are more expensive than other timbers, but the macrocarpa doesn’t require painting or lining. The high resin content makes it resistant to rot, and being untreated with chemicals, the wood is not harmful for the vegetables. Originally I’d wanted the raised bed to be the height of two sleepers, but because my chosen wood was so expensive I made it the height of one sleeper instead. *Look for the native resinous timbers that are available in your area.

Next, dig out your patch of ground. Why dig? There are greeblies (official term) that live in the grass and upper topsoil that are harmful to vegetables. If you try to put your soil directly on top of your lawn, the vegetables will not thrive. You’ll need to dig down at least 5 -7 cm and remove the turfs. *Tip: Water the area of ground to be dug beforehand. It softens the soil and makes it easier to dig.

Take a rake and level the exposed soil. My chosen area was on a slope, so I levelled as best I could. Then hire someone to do the building if you can’t do it yourself so the structure will come together properly and stay straight.

Figure out how much soil you will need. *Tip: ask the builder. That’s what I did. I ordered a cubic metre of soil from a landscaping company, half a cubic metre of topsoil to give the bed density, and half a cubic metre of the lighter “garden mix” of composted soil. *Tip: topsoil will still have weeds in it, so it’s worth buying the expensive composted material for the top layer.

Lay the topsoil in the bed first then fill with the garden mixture soil heaping it up into a generous mound. *Tip: it needs to be extra high as it will settle with time.

Sprinkle handfuls of fertilizer (I used blood & bone) into the top layer of soil, mix it in with a garden fork, and then rake the surface smooth. Mix with compost if you have it.

Water the soil and cover the mound with bark mulch. The mulch keeps in moisture, deters birds, and it also retards the weeds.

Now, it’s time to plant the vegetables.

Last, but not least, you need to construct a netting tent to prevent birds from pecking your new plants out of the ground. The netting will act as a light frost cloth, protecting your plants from frost in the mornings, and do triple-duty, acting as a shade cloth to keep out some of the harsh sun.

I used sturdy bamboo stakes, bird netting, and twisty ties. It was easy to wedge the bamboo stakes into place with bricks in the corners and sides of the raised bed. Then I affixed the bird netting to the stakes using twisty ties.

What do you think?

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. ~Audrey Hepburn

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I inherited a fishpond with this property. My ex husband put the pond in during the ten-year period he was living here, and as usual it was one of his do-it-yourself creations. He’s always been a fish guy. When he left, I took over care of the pond and scores of fish.

Slowly, as the last eleven years have gone by, the fish stock has dwindled down to two survivors. I’m not a fish guy.

The pond admittedly was looking overgrown. I had cleaned it out a few times, but the plastic liner was getting old. Last year, with all the rain we had in winter, the pond filled up to the brim as it always does, but this time the water was brown. I didn’t know what to do. So I rang the ex husband. I said, “Isn’t the brown water going to kill the fish?” He said, “Well, it’s not good for them. You need to replace the liner every ten years.” I said, “Thanks for telling me.” Oh, dear! There was nothing I could do because the garden was a sea of mud the rest of winter.

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I hadn’t seen a sign of the goldfish since then and had assumed they were both dead. 

We’ve had a hotter than usual spring and summer in New Zealand and pond water evaporates fast in the heat. Instead of refilling, I thought I’d let the water mostly evaporate naturally, as the fish were dead. I was planning to fill in the hole in our lawn. This week, I poked around in the fetid water but there was no sign of anything living. So I started emptying the rest of the pool with a bucket. When I got down to the last inches, suddenly there was a flash of red. There was a survivor, just one, but, hey.

Suddenly, I was back in the fish business. I had to figure out how to recreate the ex husband’s D-I-Y pond and save the goldfish.

by Gary Cook

It wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it was fun. In the interests of sharing how easy and cheap it is to create your own fishpond in your backyard, I thought I’d share the steps with you.

Instructions

Start by digging a hole in the lawn. Don’t just dig a boring square or an oval, do something off-beat and interesting. Dig down in stepped levels. Think of fish as intelligent beings in need of mental stimulation (and water and food). Who wants bored fish, just hanging there? Give them something to do to keep them feisty for as long as possible.

Line the hole with plastic. Here’s a tip. Don’t go to the landscaping section of your hardware store, the pool liner they had there would have cost $150 for three meters. Go to the building supplies section. I bought a roll of black polythene, which says on the label is suitable for lining rock pools, 2 x 5 meters for $10.50. There might even be enough to re-line it again in another ten years.

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Place stones or bricks around the edges to hold the plastic down.

Go to your local pet store to pick up supplies. You’ll need a fish! I bought a mate for our poor survivor.

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Buy fish food and oxygen weed, water lilies and pond grass and so on, things for the fish to hide under and to eat. Fish will eat anything. My parents used to supply their ponds with aquatic snails but I don’t bother. They were fish guys, I’m not.

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When putting your pond together, try to create a few areas with rocks that provide shelters for the fish to hide under and that are also fun. I try to position rocks to make shelves they can swim around, and I put one of those sections of old ceramic pipe on the bottom to create a tunnel for them to swim through.

Once the rocks are in place, three quarter fill the pond to allow for rainfall, if you live in a dry area then fill higher, and add your pond weed. Next, sit the goldfish into the pond still in the bag (and bucket) to acclimatize them to the temperature of the water for an hour before you release them. Hey, maybe I am a bit of a fish guy.

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Plant grasses and ferns or flowering plants around the edges of the pond. Don’t forget to put wire or protective mesh over the water or birds and cats alike will dine, and hedgehogs will fall in, trying to drink the water.

I need to add more rocks around the edge of ours to cover the plastic but I think it looks good, and it only cost twenty-five dollars. Anyone can do it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. ~ William Shakespeare

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What’s been going on around here, lately? A whole lot of pruning of hedges and fruit trees. We usually try to get it done in autumn, but as I rely on the help of extended family, I must accord with their schedules. I like to keep as many of the big jobs as possible within our group. We work by a system of barter, goods or services given, in exchange for certain jobs done. We have some very useful people on board: with gardeners, a plumber, an electrician, and a budding architect.

This year, we didn’t get started on the tree pruning until the beginning of June, which means winter. Still, I couldn’t complain. I was just glad to see family with a ladder and a chainsaw.

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I think the idea of pruning in autumn, is that the trees are ‘sleeping’ (their sap isn’t running), and the weather is still mild. In winter, there is too much rain to make the job easy or pleasant for anyone.

Luckily, in the North Island of New Zealand, we have had a relatively dry autumn and winter, so far. And, we got the first part of the pruning successfully done. I have been dismantling the wood the rest of the week.

Outside at present, there are a number of big piles of branches down. I’m trying to get ahead of it. The other day, I offered my nephew forty dollars if he’d help dismantle one of the piles of branches. After three hours, he started looking into the cost of hiring a wood chipper machine.

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I took the job back again. Sometimes, when I’m working in the yard, I think of my parents. They were always out doing something in the garden. I don’t mind the effort. I find it therapeutic. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that related many health benefits of gardening. The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature

I have a fond memory of one time, when I walked up the path, and mum was weeding around the base of the plum tree in our front yard. She turned around and smiled, with white petals sprinkled in her hair. It was a moment so sweet it’s stayed with me ever since.

My father was famous for breaking the wood down into the smallest parts and not wasting any part of the tree.

The back garden clean up crew

I’m the same way. I dismantle the wood completely. I spend weeks breaking the branches down into leaves for compost, twigs for kindling, and short logs, which I load into cardboard boxes. This weekend, I’ll deliver another carload of wood to a family member, who has an open fire. For the rest of the wood, I’ll put it on the free site, Pay-it-forward, on Facebook. (To find your local group, put ‘Pay it Forward’ in the search bar at the top of the page on Facebook, and search for one in your area.) I simply advertise ‘free firewood’ and people come by to collect the wood.

The finished house

It used to be, we had a lovely open fireplace. However, my husband and I built a wall over it, because it was dangerous with two babies in the house. I miss having the open fire. I used to sit entranced by the flames through long, stormy nights.

When I first moved back to this house as an adult, it was a little over twenty years ago. My niece and I used to come home on Friday nights, after salsa class in the city, and sit the rest of the night, with hot chocolates, toasting marshmallows and talking in front of the fire. You can’t do that in front of the air con.

I miss the way our home fire burned all the wood the property creates, and it saved us money on heating bills. Now that we no longer have a fireplace, I have to pay for the air con, and I have to figure out what to do with the wood.

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At present, my primary target is to reduce the stacks of branches into leaves for composting and the boxes of firewood. The clock is ticking, as the second half of the pruning still waits.

Hopefully, we’ll finish before the wet weather begins, and I can rest for winter knowing the year’s maintenance is done. As my nephew said the other day, ‘You’ve created your own secret garden.’ That’s exactly how I feel about this place, too.

Even a ‘Secret Garden’ takes a bit of effort and a bit of teamwork to bring to fruition.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” ― Percy Bysshe Shelley

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another. ~ Richard Garnet

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my nephew, a hardworking student doing his masters in architecture, had lost out on the summer job he’d been expecting. I wanted to support him. But I’m not going to just give him money. What does he gain from receiving something for nothing? Nothing. Far better, he moves and breaks a sweat, then gets the reward. In my home, my nephew, along with my three boys, and another nephew (who boards here), are all welcome to stay as long as they like. If they need money, they can have it, but, they have to earn it first.

I think a family, no matter what the shape or size, needs rules and to keep the rules simple. 

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I offered the nephew a few weeks work around here, as the old homestead was due for sprucing anyway. No problem. In fact, I realized it might even be preferable to put the effort in now, instead of waiting for the sweltering heat of the holidays.

It’s a win-win situation: I get help with the big work of summer, and he gets some income to pay his rent and eat, until he can find himself another part time job.

He and I have been working on the house maintenance the last two weeks, and we’ll most likely get finished next week. I feed him and pay him well, so I know he’s getting fed, he can pay his bills and in return, I’m getting all our jobs done early this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means that this year, I might actually relax during my break. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I think they call that a ‘win-win-win situation!’

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I really do want to support my nephew and help him. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him, and a social conscience as to how he can help people.

The proposal he recently submitted for his Master’s thesis – which he has to write next year – is about ‘the absence of the Maori voice, presence and culture in our present New Zealand society and in our design aesthetic.’

It was so poetic and poignant, I was struck by this boy’s mind and heart, his eloquent vision, and how much potential he has to do good in this world through his humanitarian approach to architecture.

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Sadly, my nephew’s mother died when he was only seven-years-old. I had been his “nanny” from the time he was three weeks old to the age of seven – as his parents were both busy professionals, working long hours – so we’ve always been close. But ever since his mother’s death, when his father remarried, I’ve felt like I was a standby, second mum for him.

I’ve watched him rise up through the ranks of college, choosing tech drawing and design classes the whole way through the school system.

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He always knew what he was interested in and what he was good at. I’ve seldom seen such singularity of purpose in a young child. So, I’m in awe of his trajectory, and I intend to continue to act as a support network behind him. As I’ve said to him many a time, if ever you need anything, you always know you can come here. Family should keep an open door for each other.

It’s difficult for young people coming up these days because everything’s so expensive.

Rental prices in this city are sky-high, so a lot of young people’s incomes are absorbed by the rent each week. It’s hardly good incentive for tertiary study.

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I know this particular nephew has a huge student loan already, and he’s still got his fifth year of University to go. He relies on paying work during summer, to put enough money away in the bank, to survive through the next school year. But, the company who had promised him work this summer went belly-up. The promised position had evaporated. Family can not only step in at this point, they can bang the tom-toms and send the message out to others. I can let my friends know there’s a willing young man looking for yard work. His father’s living down south at the moment so he’s not around, but I’m here, so that’s okay. No matter what, I’ll help get him through. That’s what family is for. I think it’s especially important to lend a hand to the up-and-coming next generation – they are, after all, our future.

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com