another perfect day

Normally I leave the island on Monday mornings to head back to Australia. Unfortunately I had to head back a day early.  I was going to write that this is my favourite time of the year when the days are mild and evenings cool, but then when summer comes and I spend time in the water, that’s my favourite time of the year.  Living in Queensland we really are spoiled with perfect weather.

  

Nasturtium mayhem

At one end of the garden I have a small forest of Nasturtiums.  I had no idea what these flowers were when I planted the tiny seedling but after a few months they took off and spread across the garden.

I did a bit of research on the plant and was surprised to find that everything can be eaten.  I was talking to a lady recently who has a business producing edible flowers and she uses all of the plant.  She makes pesto from the leaves, puts the flowers in salads and the seed pods are used as an altentative to capers.

   
The bees find the flowers very attractive.  You can pinch the tip of the flower and suck a sweet nectar from them.  They are pretty tasty.

 
These are the little capers.  They have an unusual flavour and are very peppery.  Apparently they are an excellent companion plant because their peppery flavour keeps pests away.  They are also dead easy to grow and like everything else in my garden, grow like crazy.

   
I put this choko in the ground a few weeks ago and it’s taken off and started to climb up the post.  People have laughed at me when I told them I planted a choko vine, but I love them.  I remember eating them as a kid with pumpkin.  Call me crazy but I’m looking forward to some chokos.

 
The mini Roma tomatoes are also coming along.  Maybe a couple more weeks ripening before they are ready to eat.

  

Winter Garden

Compared to other climates, Brisbane’s winters are fairly mild.  We’ve had a few nights of below 10 degrees Celsius, but for most of the days the temperature is close enough to a pleasant 20 degrees.

The garden isn’t out of control like it is in summer but everything is doing well. I’m a total amateur but with the island soil my garden is the envy of some far more skilled gardeners.

The beetroot is looking ready to harvest.  

   
I pulled a couple out to prepare for dinner tonight.

 
This is a different variety to the regular crimson beetroot.  It has rings of white and crimson flesh.

   
I love how simple the food growing process is.  I literally cut the top off the beetroot and stick it back in the ground for another harvest.  The leaves go into the mulch pile and it’s a perfect self sufficient cycle.

 
I haven’t tried this variety of beetroot but I’m sure it beats store bought chemically enhanced plants.

   
My broccoli is also coming on well.  The heads are beginning to form nicely.

 
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to let the leaves get that big but it seems to be working.

   
Below is a different variety of broccoli also coming along nicely.

 
The chilli plant below was planted by accident.  I must have thrown some chillies into the mulch and when I saw a bunch of plants sprouting I thought I’d let them grow to see what they were.  I’m glad I did.

   
As usual the bees are busy in the garden.  The flowers below are Bok Choy which I’ve let grow to seed.  Notice the little black native bee sharing the plant with a European honey bee. I’ve had trouble trying to get a good photo of these native bees as they tend to be fast moving and camera shy. 

 
The great thing about these native bees is that they are stingless, easy to keep and even produce honey.  I read recently that globally bees are disappearing and if that happens we are in serious trouble since they are the main source of polination for plants.  It’s good to see the bees are in plentiful supply here on the island.

   
  

A little bit of work & a little bit of relax

I spent this weekend working on the guest cottage.  I had to completely demolish the laundry and was considering gutting the bathroom as well but that will have to wait and it’s not really too bad. 

The previous occupants of the guest cottage had let water sit on the floor for a long time and the floor was rotted and steel frame badly rusted.  I ripped out the rotted floors and took to the steel frame with a wire brush.  This exercise of restoring and preserving steel is one I did on the big Bedford truck, so it’s nothing new for me.

   

Hit it with rust converter 

 
Cold gal primer, then epoxy.  I chose Brunswick green since I had a tin left over from an engine resto.  Not that it’s going to be seen anyway.

   
After some dirty work it was time to do some gardening.  The temperature has been pretty chilly and last night was down to around 5 degrees Celsius.  During the day though the sun is out and it’s one of those glorious Queensland winter days.  The bees are out and stocking up.  This little guy is carrying a full load.

 
That must make flying difficult. I’d eventually like to get some bees here.  
Down by the water the day looks even better.  Our winter is mild compared to colder climates, but still too cold for a swim.

 
At the northern end of the island there is a little track that runs down to the very northern tip.

   
At low tide it’s possible to walk though this part of the beach to reach a smaller section of beach about 100 metres long.  Great spot for fishing.

 
The photo below is looking north to Peel Island.  We don’t have white sandy beaches on the island but these volcanic pebbles instead.  

  

More work

I came back to the island yesterday after picking up some plumbing supplies. It was time to finish the trenches.  I installed the new pipes and got the trench sorted.  It’s not a particularly rewarding job since it’s a whole lot of dirty work but since it’s all underground, there is nothing to see for it.  Well except for the one little inspection port I left popping up from the ground. 

   
While I had the excavator back I had some post holes bored for a new fence. Every time I see the quality of this soil I’m amazed.  This should be farming land, not lots for houses.

 
When I finished up with the trenches I took a walk down to a little rainforest area near the cottage.  There was something I wanted to look at that I’d seen there about a year ago.  It’s an eerie but beautiful spot. The trees tower 50 feet above where I’m walking and the canopy of green  is so thick the sky is barely visible.

  
I’m told by locals that this used to be a dumping spot back in the very early days of the island.  There are all sorts of things here from old 1950 car bodies old bottles and even this vintage concrete tub.  It’s obviously been here for a long time because the roots have grown around it.  The large root in the middle actually feeds from the water accumulated in the tub.     
What brought me here was this old Lister stationary engine.  It was in a really difficult place to access and appeared to be in bad shape.  It must have been sitting here for decades and was probably one of the original farm engines.  I’ve restored an old engine before but nothing as bad as this.  

 
After a serious mission trying to extricate it from decades of forest growth, dodging an angry snake and almost being squashed by this several hundred kilo chunk of steel, I got it back home for a closer inspection and to determine whether its restorable.  It looks well rusted.

   
I soaked the head bolts and nuts with lanolin and took to them with a spanner.  Note these are decent 1 &1/8″ nuts.

 
With a little force they came undone.  I couldn’t believe how easy that was and I didn’t even need to apply heat.  I’ll let the rest of the engine soak for a few days before I get too carried away.

   

While I was walking through the mangrove forest I also found some other old things. This “Queensland Country Traders Ltd” bottle dates back to the 1950’s. I’m pretty happy with that since it’s a bit of local history.

 I also came across this old galvanised tin jug. I’m surprised it’s not completely rusted through but it still holds water.  It was almost as fun as visiting an antique store.

 

A Vision

So work continues on the island.  It’s a big project but I have a very clear vision of what I’m wanting to achieve here.  As usual I’m juggling 2 lives, the one I want to create long term and the one that pays the bills.  I came across this clip of a bloke in the U.S. who has created something similar to what I want.  It’s a small self sufficient micro farm. It took him 10 years to get to the point where it is now but it looks fantastic and has given me some inspiration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4AcmaGbldU

Being self sufficient requires having my own infrastructure for electricity, water and waste.  I was in the process of digging out some old tree roots when I discovered that the waste water pipes and trenches were blocked.  So a relatively small job turned into a much larger one.  I’ve had to dig out the old pipes and put new pipes underground. 

  

Some of the curious locals stop by to see what’s going on. 

  

There is a lot of rubbish to remove after a big clean up, but it’s all part of the transformation.