Monday, January 25, 2010

Balcony Garden 3 months on

OK, so three months after 'the planting' at Dornoch Balcony and this is where we're at. It is amazing what lots of prior planning can do - by that I primarily mean the issue of water. Had it not been for the auto-timer attached to the watering system Scarlett recommended, my attempt at being a high-rise horticulturalist would have failed pretty much within a week. Here I was saying to myself, "oh yes, now it's there, I'll be out there ALL the time, it will flourish with my love & attention"... well, it's nice to have good intentions and all, but with my lifestyle it just hasn't turned out that way. The other surprising thing for me to cope with was my secret intention to get Robert (an ex-farmer) enthusiastic about growing our own, but alas, he has managed a couple of disinterested glances, preferring to soak up the mountainous view to the south over a beer & cheese platter! (actually, I lie - he did check the water system a few times for me when I thought it was playing up ;-)

Produce successfully gleaned to date:
  • About 1kg of beans (our biggest success so far)... although Scarlett says they look like they might like a sprinkle of dolomite - "a bit pale, looks like they might be being eaten by white fly, which preys on magnesium deficient plants"
  • half a kg of strawberries
  • endless handfuls of basil and pinches of oregano, thyme, sage leaves, garlic grass
  • pinches of asian greens and english spinach and other small leafy lettucey things
  • tall strands of dill
  • Tumeric (albeit wind-whipped)
  • Chilli Tree (prolifically happy)
RIP Rosemary (neglect), Cucumber (just didn't like me), mint (hard to please) and other things I can't remember planting.

So the credit should all go to Scarlett - I have literally done NOTHING apart from throwing encouraging glances through the glass kitchen windows.... Perhaps the new season's planting will mean a new chapter for me as a reluctant, but hopeful balcony gardener... with a little bit more help from Scarlett, who has already suggested some ideas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Car-free holidays

Car-free holidays are pretty easy if you have a couple of cargo bikes. School holidays are always a challenge for us with three very active boys, and we wanted to keep it local & minimise the travel. Our boys love camping and there are plenty of options in South-East Queensland, but with such hot weather, the beach was beckoning. Peace and tranquility was another important ingredient for us parents, so a packed caravan park or beachside campground wasn't appealing. We've been to North Stradbroke before during the holidays and it was a little nightmarish with raucous neighbours and the lack of consideration for the environment. Redland Shire Council is yet to provide bins for recycling and composting, which we would have thought essential on an island. So we came across Coomera Houseboat Holidays, and seeing it was a slow week for them, we had no trouble in making a last minute booking at half-price rates!

We packed the cargo bikes up, complete with a Quiver Caddy loaded with surfboards and life jackets. An easy downhill ride to South Bank station, via the Lucky Duck cafe, and then we caught the express Gold Coast train to Coomera. A comfortable and air-conditioned trip, we were off again on our bikes in less than an hour. The Gold Coast City Marina was an easy four kilometre ride from the station where the Houseboat crew met us with astonished looks - apparently we were the first family to ever turn up without a car!

It was lovely to get reacquainted with the beauty of the islands and broadwater up through to Moreton Bay - getting stuck on a few sandbars contributed to the fun and gave us some forced relaxation time while waiting for the tide to lift us off again. The dugongs, bird life, bats, fish life and loggerhead turtles connected us with the wonders of the natural world, and made it hard to believe that we were so close to hustle and bustle of Brisbane.

Our trip home was a copy of our trip down - trouble free (apart from Joseph getting a flat on a steep hill) and most-importantly stress-free! While waiting at Coomera station for the Brisbane train, we could see the 'Tower of Terror' at Dreamworld in the distance, taking people up, leaving them hanging for a while, then dropping them at great speed. It caused me to reflect a bit on society and why us westerners need theme parks to provide us with adrenalin rushes in order to 'feel' something. Robert reckons that none of that 'dreamworld pseudo-thrill' stuff compares with getting the downhill speed wobbles with 80kilos on the trailer pushing a 200kg loaded-up cargo bike! That, combined with the lower environmental impact and savings by not owning a car makes it even more common sense. A great car-free holiday, definitely worth repeating.