Saturday, April 25, 2009

Composting Dogs

Generally a compost bin works like this; organic matter-weeds, food scraps, etc go in compost bin, leave for awhile, everything starts to break down, turn occasionally, and voila! Nice rich compost.

Compost bins at my place works like this; organic matter-weeds, food scraps, etc go in compost bin, leave awhile, Spot the 'always starving, bottomless pit stomach cattle dog' smells something rotten, compost bin gets turned over, rotting food gets eaten and I get angry.

Paul kept assuring me he'd pin the compost bin down. It never happened so after the 7th raid of the compost bin in 4 days, I took things into my own hands...

This is the outcome of a twenty minute break in the rain, a pile of unused bricks and a determined Rachel to outwit her dog:

The bricks holds the bin on the ground, so it has also solved the problems of the bin lifting off the ground when the lid is taken off, as well as hopefully stopping Spot scoffing rotten food!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rain...Its Finally Here!

I couldn't believe it when I looked at BOM and saw that rain was on its way. A whole week of it for that matter...but the fact I am sitting here damp with my jumper hanging up to dry inside and our gravel car parking area turned to mud. And that its been raining almost non-stop for 24 hours, I can safely say the rain has come!!

The dogs are less than impressed. While I'm out pottering in my veggie patch which is slowly taking shape, they are curled up in their beds or on the couch. Spot braved it outside for awhile-when it wasn't raining to see what I was doing...

In the few breaks between rain showers, I was out digging manure into another section of the veggie patch. He decided to help me by sniffing through the manure and digging through it.

Being the wussy defective cattle dog he is, he had to sit on the only dry bit in the backyard...the soil I was digging over! Bloody mongrel doesn't like getting wet!!

The only sad thing about the tried drowning my seedling raiser. Oh well, lesson learnt. A fish tank with no drainage holes does not go well with 36mm of rain in 24 hours... So currently in the breaks of rain, I am moving all the seedlings that can be moved out and either into the new part of the veggie patch or into toilet rolls filled with soil.

Drowned potting mix

More drowned potting mix and some peas

My peas ready to be planted

And now with another big lot of rain just falling, time to join my dogs who are still both curled up on the couch!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bed Building

For as long as I have been with Paul, we haven't had a proper bed. We sleep on a queen sized piece of high density foam as a mattress on the floor. As one can expect with two dogs and a dustbowl for a yard, it gets pretty dirty...

I am now officially sick of having a dirty bed as of...two months ago. As a uni student, I was entitled to one of the Centrelink education bonuses and while all my uni friends were out spending it on laptops, ipods and getting pissed, I was down in a Lonsdale scrap metal yard with Paul, measuring and cutting up suitable lengths of metal for a bed frame. Fifty bucks later, I have the materials for the making of a bed frame in the back of the Commodore.

Now Paul's brother has his own welder, and for a labour fee [of two pizzas and corresponding bottles of soft drinks] offered to weld up the bed for us. He did a really good job of the welding, and ground back the welds so they were smooth.

Using right angle magnets to get the legs straight and at a perfect right angle

Grinding back the welds

Phase 1: Complete.

The plan wasnt as fool proof as we first thought. First thing that went wrong was the fact we forgot to get a third long piece to run length wise down the centre of the bed for support. Two, we forgot about what we were going to do about slats. After much debate, we went with the idea of welded in metal slats. And three [it always seems to happen in threes!], we needed a way to stop the corners of the mattress squashing down under the frame.

Beacuse the shed has two cars parked in it usually, the bed ended up in our bedroom for the night because we couldn't leave it in the shed or outside. It was put in place and then had the mattress dropped inside it. Spot thought it was a marvellous idea and proceeded to set himself up in what looked like a giant dog bed!!

The next day dawned and it was off to the scrap metal place for me again, this time by myself...

I got many strange looks from the guys at the scrap metal yard, might have had something to do with me being a chick and looking like I knew what I was doing. Which amazingly I did! Sometimes there is an advantage of being a woman...the guy who served me gave me the second lot of metal [which we'd calculated to cost me another $50] for only twenty-five bucks!

So phase two could finally start...

We solved the corner problem by welding small pieces at a 45 degree angle in each of the four corners. This will also support the corners of the MDF sheets we are putting down to help support the foam mattress.

The second lot of welding involved a lot of smaller pieces, so heaps of measuring, checking and double checking measurements and heaps more welds...not that it was a bad thing, until we ran out of welding wire!! We only had two more welds to do before it was complete!!

Paul checking the measurements for the cross slats

I trundled down the next day to a gas welding store and with more strange looks from guys, [Seriously, why is it so weird when a chick goes into a welding store and buys something??] bought more welding wire... And that evening the welding of the bed was finally finished!

Phase 2: Complete

Off to the powder coaters was the next step. My darling grandfather helped me take it down on Friday [17th] in his trailer and then helped me pick it up the following Wednesday [22nd]. We had it sprayed a nice matte black which came out really nicely. He also helped me to get it into the room today so it wouldn't get too wet in the rain.

I decided to see what it looked like with the mattress and bedding on it, so I put the dog beds under it and made up the bed. Because the bed frame is so high [it sits at 50cm from floor to top of frame, the dog beds are going under the bed to save the dogs like it under there!!

Bed with the dog beds underneath [Peggie exiting her's on the left]

Phase 3: Almost Complete

All I am waiting for now is the MDF sheets and I will have a proper bed finally!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dogs And Bones.

Every dog loves a bone and my two are no exception.

Me? I love feeding my dogs bones. They are a really good natural sound of food, vitamins, minerals and keeps the dogs teeth and breath clean. They make good boredom busters for the dogs too. And the really good thing about bones, they are cheap.

This bone however, I hate. I hate it so much I want to kill it. Burn it. Hang, draw and quarter it. Perform horrible Chinese torture on it. Anything to remove it from existence.

It was almost a very expensive bone. It nearly gave me a heart attack. It covered me with drool. It covered my clothes, my car, my bed and my floor with drool.

That drool came from this monster.

This monster is Spot. He is a two year old Cattle Dog X Dalmatian. Aptly named Spottus Botherus. For a very good reason. He revels in giving me heart attacks. He loves making my life one big fur covered, drool soaked nightmare.

Spot came inside earlier, crunching on something. I always check what he's crunching on because he loves to chomp on apricot stones. Apricot stones are poisonous for dogs because they contain cyanide. I open up is mouth and reach inside. I grab what seems to be a bone and tug. But it wasn't coming out. The bone was lodged on his back molar. I let go of him and he runs off. Thinking he'll just crunch down on it and break it up, dislodging himself, I don't worry.

Five minutes later he comes back. Cover in drool and looking at me forlornly. He was like "
mum, help me get this bone out". I have another look and go at removing the offending bone. No luck. By this stage he's in a bit of pain and drooling foot long guzzies out one side of his mouth. I ring Paul to say Spot needs to go to the vet. Bloody typical too. Day before payday. Ring grandmother and ask if I can borrow money for the vet bill. She says yes and comes around. Meanwhile Paul rang the vets, explained the situation and rang me back. The vet nurse had said if she could remove it, she wouldn't charge for it. That was good news.

So it was off to the vets with one dog freaking out and trying to dislodge a bone and another one trying to keep out his way and out the firing line of drool. Best part of the trip? When I was going around the big Flagstaff roundabout almost wearing a 22kg drooling panicking dog hat on my head!

Finally got there, covered in drool, got him inside. Got a bit suspicious at how excited he was to be there. Dismissed that. Gave Peggie to Nana to hold. Helped the vet nurse prise his mouth open. Big struggle ensued. Finally got his mouth open. Look inside.

Lo and Behold! No bone. Double check. Yup, no bone. Go to to car, look for said bone. Cant find it. Triple check. No bone at all. Come to the conclusion he'd probably dislodged it and proceeded to eat it again. Go back to car. Get dogs in car. Walk to drivers door. Notice a suspicious guzzie covered bone shape. Found said bone.

He'd managed to dislodge the bone when he jumped out the car and I hadn't noticed it on the ground as I tried putting leads on the two dogs.

Now I have a very content dog sleeping and furring up my couch at the same time. While I am still trying to soothe my almost exploded heart.

I think I need a drink. Or even better, some breakfast...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Veggie Patch Construction

Day four of Easter Gardening Long Weekend was a lot more fruitful than the rest...

About two months ago I pestered Paul about letting me have a space in the garden for a proper veggie patch because I was sick of growing plants in chicken crates. He gave me a patch out the back of the house which was 1m wide by 8m long. It had already been a garden bed before, bordered with treated pine edging and had two scraggly pine trees struggling to survive in it.

With the help of a crowbar and shovel, I removed the two trees from existence. Glad no one misses them... They burnt pretty well when they had dried out!

Now I started to dig enthusiastically, only to find under the 10-15cm layer of dirt there was rock hard clay! Joy. Out comes the crowbar... After a day of back breaking work-mainly on my behalf, there was now a good 15cm extra depth to the first 2 metres of the patch and pile of dirt and rocks big enough to bury a small city in! Only 6 more metres of that to go...but it can wait...

I had rescued the old compost bin from its old placement and dug up all the contents that had been in there. It was bone dry but soaked up water pretty quickly. I had a wheelbarrow of this compost and 2 bags of horse manure, which I mixed in with some the soil I dug out. I removed any large rocks or hard clay lumps, and ended up with a pretty nice, somewhat lumpy pile of dirt back in the area I dug out. Spot proceeded to come up and fossick in the newly enriched soil and ate a few lumps of horse manure. Typical dog.

My aim was to dig each section out at a time and just keep extending the bed as I grew the plants to fill it. That didn't last long at all...

The bed sat neglected for about 3 weeks...

Meanwhile, I'd picked up 6 freebie sleepers to replace the horrible treated pine. They sat around for two weeks before I oiled them and knocked out the old pine border this long weekend. The backyard was looking even messier at this stage, with the big pile of broken pine border strewn everywhere.

Now it was time to bring in the sleepers, which were oiled the day before and lay them out in place. One of the sleepers was cut in half to make two end borders. They also extended the garden bed width from 1m to 1.25m, but we also decided to shorten the bed from 8m to 6m, to give room for the new gate going up one end and to get the clothes line out of the garden at the other end.

While I was fine tuning the measurements and digging in the far end half sleeper, Paul was sharpening up more pins for me to hold the sleepers in place with. He decided to bring the grinder out and do them nearby, so I could grab the pins as I needed them. And he didn't do it in the safest manner either-the grinder was sitting up on a upturned milk crate! Luckily no major injuries ensued, just a few grazed knuckles. The grinding wheel was slightly too soft to grind the steel pins down properly, so the grinding wheel was ground down too-to the point it cant be used now...

I had managed to get the end half sleeper and first whole sleeper in line and pinned in place [with a bit of muscle power from Paul]. So far it looked good!!

While Paul pinned the rest of the long sleepers in place, I got the fun job of hacking through more rock hard clay to place the other end half sleeper in. It wasn't too bad...except for the point where we discovered I was digging too far over. That was easily rectified by handing Paul the shovel and getting him to fix my mistake! The crowbar was very handy for getting the hard clay out so it was done in no time

While Paul pinned down the last few pins, I went along and started backfilling the dirt against the sleepers where I could. The back filling stopped the slight wobble of the end sleepers and held the rest nicely against the pins.

Now the veggie bed is near complete, all the needs to be done now is for the rest of the clay to be removed and replaced with decent soil. But that can wait another day...

The dogs liked the look of the new veggie patch...oh dear, it looks like I may need to train them to keep out of it!! Or maybe build a small fence to stop them getting in there and burying bones amongst my zucchinis...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sump Oil and Pony Poo

Day three of the Easter weekend and still not much has eventuated around the yard. Typical really... Paul decided he wanted to go to Willunga Bakery for breakfast [dog free] and I agreed, as long as we came home with some pony poo. Lo and behold, most people didn't have any out for sale the day I want some!! With a quick emergency stop in Meadows [we were running on empty for about 12ks and had no mobile with us], we headed towards Echunga, Hahndorf with no pony poo in sight, and then on through Cherry Gardens. Cherry Gardens was fruitful fortunately! I managed to find 6 bags of the delightful and delectable poo!! Four bags had already been composted, which is really handy. The dogs went nuts when we got home with a boot full of manure!! They jumped in and had a wonderful sniff. Spot had the biggest estatic grin on his face and kept sticking his head into the open bags.

Peggie [left] and Spot [right] with the poo Our poo stash.

Like all skiving, procrastinating men, Paul decided his car needed a the car wash, and thus disappeared for an hour or so doing that. Meanwhile, I was out the back removing the treated pine edging from the veggie patch. The veggie patch is being made wider and shorter, and is going to be edged with some hardwood sleepers that I picked up as freebies.

The back garden after edging was removed

Paul finally got home and set about doing something constructive...flushing out his engine oil. It does sound like he was procrastinating again...but for once, I needed that horrible horrible oil from his car for my next task. When I snaffled the sleepers, quite a few were in bad condition and had started to rot out in some spots. To stop the sleepers rotting further I painted the sleepers with the dirty sump oil to seal them and stop anything trying to eat them get inside. Nice messy job!!

Painting the sleepers with the oil
The finished sleepers

The oil gave the weathered sleepers are nice dark, rich colour and look. They are going to look striking once they are in place, the veggie garden is thriving and there is lawn growing out there.

Meanwhile Paul is cutting metal pins to anchor these sleepers in place. Cutting a larger metal rod into 40cm long sections, he sharpened one end to make it easier to penetrate the hard clay ground [and any stray pipes that might be in our way!!]. These pins will go in pre-drilled holes in each end and the centre of the sleepers and hammered into the ground until the pins sit flush with the top of the sleeper. This will ensure that the sleepers wont fall over from the pressure of the soil in the garden bed behind it.

Finished Pin

Peggie, Paul, his pin and Spot

Well now I think its time to go water my seeds and herbs, and maybe think about making dinner at some point. Hopefully tomorrow is a bit more productive...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Gardening Long Weekend

This Easter weekend I have decided to dedicate to gardening and yard maintenance. Both of which really need to be done!! Garden beds to fence off from the destructo dogs, plants to plant, garden beds to build, fences put up/taken down, hard rubbish piles to scavenge through... I think I need more than a four day weekend!!

Planted out three zucchini and seven radish seedlings from my seedling raiser into the vege patch. Hopefully the dogs won't eat them or something...

My seedling raiser is a four foot fish tank that Paul [my partner] broke the lid of by resting his feet on it! I promptly stole it and moved it outside with its stand and filled it with seedling mix.

I was quite disappointed with the amount of seeds that grew, I have a sneaking suspicion the birds may have helped themselves to them. A few peas and beans are struggling through, a lone cucumber and one measly carrot seedling did evade attack. So its back to square one with the seeds. Replanted all the seeds I previously planted. I hope these seeds go better than the first batch I put in.

Although the one thing I am very proud of in my [lack of] garden, is my herb barrel. I picked up half a wine barrel as a give-away from the DogzOnline Forum [namely DOL] in February and decided to use it to grow herbs in it. It is absolutely thriving now! There is basil, coriander, mint, thyme and chives growing. There was some dill, but it didnt survive unfortunately. I do believe the coriander is about to bolt and the basil is trying to flower...time to dry some of it I think!

Just after I planted the herbs [Feb 22nd]

Now, less that 2 months after planting [April 11th]