Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brightening Wash Day Blues

I know this idea has come up before, but with so many of us consigned to a 1/4 acre or less suburban block these days, ideas for turning small spaces into productive spaces are necessary when we want to turn our hand to being a little more self-sufficient.

It is amazing what can be achieved by using wasted spaces, such as beneath the clothesline.With the growth of apartment living, and the suburban backyard shrinking, a lot of people find they no longer can use a clothesline to dry their clothes, but for those of us who still have the rotary hoist in the back, that space beneath it can be made useful.

I remember reading how in the past "ladies of the house" would grow lavender bushes next to the clothesline for draping handkerchiefs and "smalls" over to impart a lovely fragrance while they dried. Apparently it was also planted where the bed sheets could brush against the lavender while they were on the line, giving them a natural insect repellence during storage.

Mark a line about 1.5 metres out from the clothesline pole, giving you a garden diameter of 3 metres. Remember to leave an opening to walk through to get to your line! You can plant the lavender any way you like - if the soil is easy enough to dig, go straight in! If it's rocky or hard, you may want to raise a bed. Place the plants just in from your marked line. Unless your area is damp and shady, you should be able to find a lavender to suit almost any climate.

Directly around the pole, you can also add another bed about 50 centimetres out from the pole all the way around, to give a smaller bed with a diameter of 1 metre. This is a neat little bed that can be reached over easily, and it can be used to plant any number of different plants; I've seen both sweet peas and climbing beans trained up a climbing frame around the pole, with nasturtiums planted beneath. My neighbour at my old place had cherry tomatoes, but I decided to plant rosemary in mine.

I didn't think I would ever miss a clothesline! There ought to be enough distance between the two beds to walk between, and to hang long things, which will still brush against the plants in a breeze.If you're allergic to bees, it may pay you to choose plants that are not quite so attractive to them, or you could prune your lavender hedge more regularly so that it doesn't come into flower, but you can still enjoy the fragrant foliage.

There's also no reason to stick to just lavender either. Many of the scented-leaf pelargonium are suited, and they come in such scents as lemon, lime, citronella, rose, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple and violet! Curry plant is also wonderfully scented (Helichrysum italicum). If your clothesline is shaded, why not try some mint? Suitably restrained of course.

Don't feel limited to the hedging idea, either. Some of the magnificent groundcover thymes would be fabulous.Place an old table or bench near your garden "entrance" to hold a basket of laundry, and a painted terracotta pot to hold the pegs. Hanging the wash isn't anyone favourite task, but if it's got to be done - which it has :P - why not make it as pleasant as possible?

You may even want to sit a while, once the job is done :
Kerry Monteith

Thank you so much for this article Kerry and if anyone creates a garden such as this one we'd really love a photo please.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chicken Tonight!

Roosters crowing from 2 am on full moon nights don’t endear you to your neighbours. Our girls hatch out one clutch of fertile eggs each year and there are usually one or two boys in the bunch. This year’s biggest boy was a handsome Rhode Island Red crossbreed that we carefully avoided naming beyond ‘that bloody rooster.’

Him watching me

As we eat meat, it seems right that we should participate in the processes that bring it to our table. The full moon antics meant ‘the deed’ could not be put off any longer. The boys were caught as they roosted and placed in a secure box to calm down overnight. Come the morning, things didn’t go as planned. We were in a hurry, snappy with each other and just wanting the business over with. The first rooster turned out to be a laying hen, sadly discovered after the deed. Then I cut my finger due and had to rush off halfway through gutting for a band aid while wondering if I could catch chook flu.

Later, as I packed the birds into freezer bags I realised we had forgotten to honour them. It has been a tradition since we dispatched our first roosters that we talk to them, praise and thank them for giving us food. These poor creatures had been shown little respect in their final hours, becoming just an annoying chore in a busy day and one had died an unnecessary death due to our unawareness.

The following day, I prepared a full roast dinner from our big boy, laid the table and lit candles and we gave him a loving send off. The remaining white meat was made into risotto for dinner and the carcass boiled down for stock. Today we ate chicken soup and froze two extra serves.

Maybe I am too sentimental about my animals. It is my nature to be respectful towards all creatures and give thanks for my rich life and full belly. I knew that rooster, watched him hatch and grow what he ate and his personality. It didn’t stop me killing and eating him when necessary.

Happy girls

I believe that if more of us took the time to become more responsible for and aware of our food sources and show them respect, there would be less consumption of meat in faceless packages and we would waste less of what we do eat.