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Friday, 29 July 2016

What a winter!

Winter is winter, I know, and why anything surprises me is a good question! But this year the seasons have been extremely peculiar. Unlike South Africa's weather, sunny, warm, clear blue skies, even in winter. No. More like the rest of the world's weather!
25th July 2016
After the hectic heat waves we had this past summer, winter has brought in absolutely freezing temperatures and stuff like snow!, hail, floods and tornadoes! Tornadoes? In South Africa?! Well, there you have it. We actually had a few tornadoes.

As the hail started, I thought of running out and moving some of my succulents under cover, but it was already too fierce. 25th July 2016
And rain, In the middle of winter. Not Gauteng weather at all, we are a summer rainfall area. And hail, LOTS of hail, big hail! When it started, my mind was racing. What can I save? My plants are going to be
annihilated! What about my garden birds?!

I watched helplessly as the storm got worse and worse, pounding the trees, the plants and wreaking havoc. Luckily my chooks were already in their coop as I had suspected some foul play earlier in the morning and had left them inside.


The hailstorm lasted for about 20 minutes, followed by heavy rain the rest of the day and night. And it took my gardener a full day to clear all the leaves, broken branches and rubble. Mr. Brown, a stray rooster, was in the aviary at the back of the pic, hiding in the shelter provided and the sound of the hail on the tin roof must have been deafening, it certainly was in my house, we couldn't even hear one another talking.

My experience is that, if we have late-winter rain, then probably we are in for a good rainfall season, so that's one positive to look forward to!
An unusual sight - Aloes blooming in the snow! 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Winter - Fire and Ice

Aloe ferox in my garden

Mid-winter (July) in South Africa and the Aloes flower fiery-red against the white of frost. I've been dreading the frost, as some years it has killed all the flowers in the bud. I do have one aloe (the largest of the three, pictured below, which started flowering last) which doesn't seem to be doing so well, the flowers don't seem to have much colour, but hopefully the flowers will still reach maturity, as long as we don't have any more stints of heavy frost.

My chooks have left large, bare patches all over the garden, scrounging for any available greenery as the lawn is all but non-existent.

Lots of mist this morning, a sign that, albeit cold, the day is going to be bright and sunny!

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
~ One of Robert Frost’s most popular poems, published in December 1920 in Harper’s Magazine

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Staying inspired

I don't know about you, but it can be hard to stay inspired this time of the year. It's cold outside. It gets dark really early. And gets light really late. I'm an early riser and, as much as I love winter, the cold and long darkness can put a damper on creativity. Especially out in the garden.

 Image from Pinterest

So each day I spend a couple of hours searching for inspiration on the internet or scratching around in my store room, trying to find something that I can use in the garden. Isn't the image above absolutely adorable?! I've even gravitated towards my husband's workshop, looking for an old car body that I can utilise like this.

But one needs quite a bit of space to utilise an old car body like that, not very practical or so easy to execute, I mean, who is going to carry it to the garden for me? So in the meantime, all I've come up with is an old wooden wheelbarrow, which I can visualise filled with pansies,  and an old vintage seed planter, which is badly in need of some wood protection for the handles and a coat of paint on the metal parts.

 A wooden wheelbarrow I found now stands in a corner of my garden

I placed them in the garden and now contemplate the next move. Pansies first and then out with the paint. I can't wait to tackle these two (small) projects and maybe follow up on some other ideas I came across, like this old door and frame somewhere in a corner of the garden.

Or a whole lot of terracotta pots (I'm just MAD about terracotta pots!) placed on top of the wall surrounding my garden (like the example below). But who will be getting up the ladder to be watering them...?

But first, I'm going inside to warm up with a nice cup of hot coffee! Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Can you spot the fungus?

I presume these are Bracket Fungi even though they looked like mushrooms when starting out, almost indistinguishable from the rocks, but they are rock hard and sturdy, like most Brackets.

Like all fungi, bracket fungus likes a damp environment and tree bracket fungi attack the hardwood interior, and therefore, the structural integrity of the tree and are the cause of white or brown rot.

Luckily these appeared in a damp spot next to my garden path amongst some rocks and were not near any of my trees. Make sure the bases of trees don’t stand in water. As soon as the infection is noted, removal of the bracket fungus shelves will at least prevent the spore release that may infect other trees. The good news is that these fungi attack the old and the weak and often occur after a tree is damaged by man or nature and play an integral part in the decomposition of wood.

Standard English Name(s): bracket fungus, shelf fungus, tree fungus, conk

Scientific Name(s): various species of Fomes, Fomitopsis, Ganoderma, etc.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Coprinus comatus - Shaggy Mane

Suddenly appearing in people’s lawns (these two in my chicken enclosure) — in troops or lines or rings — this mushroom is well known and relatively easily recognized. Its distinguishing features include its shape and stature and the fact that the gills “deliquesce,” turning themselves into black ink as they mature. The flesh of the mushroom is white and has a mild taste. and this mushroom grows in groups and is sometimes found in unexpected places, like grassy areas in towns. The Shaggy ink-cap occurs widely in grasslands and meadows throughout South Africa.

Luckily,  there are only a handful of mushrooms in South Africa that are poisonous. So if you learn these first, the rest are all edible or inedible, but not poisonous. This leaves you open to a world of free food.

Shaggy manes are easy to identify with their conical to bell-shaped white caps (2-5 in / 5-12 cm in height) with big white scales, hence “shaggy mane”. The whole mushroom itself can reach over 12 in (30 cm), but normally grows to 8 in (20 cm). If you plan on frying up this delicious mushroom you must act fast. It is best to collect young specimen as their is no point in collecting mushrooms whose caps are already turning black. Once the mushroom has reached maturity, the cap with its crowded gills blackens quickly — the whole cap turns into a black ink-like liquid, stained by the black spores.
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