AUGUST 2022: Settling in

The month of August has been a busy one at Greatrakes, with our focus predominantly set on two things – getting our working from home/commuting arrangements into a routine during the weekdays and using the weekends and the hour or so before work when we’re not commuting to prepare the garden for spring.

Sunrise over Mt Sugarloaf

Axedale Weather

The weather for August 2022 has been a fantastic mix of good rains and some crisp sunny days. The start of the month was actually fairly dry for the most part, although we had enough rain events to keep the back lawn waterlogged and maintain a good flow in the creek.

Axe Creek kept flowing throughout August

We had a Super Moon event in the middle of the month – something we used to dread up in the mountains because of the hoards of tourists it would bring. Thankfully we got to watch this one rise over the top of Mount Sugarloaf with just a chorus of frogs to keep us company.

Super Moon rising over Mt Sugarloaf.

Crisp, cold mornings with severe frosts predominated the early part of the month – one morning I measured the temperature inside the glasshouse at -5 degrees. Little wonder I failed at my first attempt to raise tomato seedlings in there – it was so cold that there was actually a frost forming inside the glasshouse itself!

Thermometer in the glasshouse showing -5 degrees Celsius

Thankfully, those cold mornings generally cleared to be beautiful, sunny days, although the temperatures for the most part still hung around the low teens. This allowed us to get plenty of washing done and hung on the line to dry – something we would never have dreamed of doing in August while living in the mountains.

The livestock in the side paddock enjoying the August sun

Sunny days generally give way to gorgeous sunsets, and they don’t come much better than those we get here in Axedale. We’re lucky to have a view to the west that is dominated by a line of treetops, including a large red gum, which gets silhouetted nicely against the fiery orange sky.

Sunset silhouettes

The end of August saw some significant rain events, with the last couple of evenings for the month producing almost 2 inches of rain. Temperatures overnight were generally warmer, and we had a couple of colossal thunderstorms. Even though a lot of the storm activity seemed to go around Axedale on either side, we did manage to cop a direct hit a few times, which dumped a significant amount of water in a short time. This brought the creek right up, cutting the road at the ford for the first time this year – it even managed to get some water flowing into our otherwise fairly useless dam.

A very wet end to August
Floodwaters rising in Axe Creek
Even the dam got some water

Of course all of this rain and sun meant that the grass has been growing quickly, so we’ve taken every opportunity we can to “make hay while the sun shines” as it were, and give the ride-on mower a good workout.

A perfect day for mowing the lawns

Around the garden

The lawns aren’t the only thing in the garden we’ve been giving our attention to though – we’ve been lucky enough to have been given the use of a friend’s trailer, which has allowed us to make regular trips to the garden supply centre in nearby Strathfieldsaye. This has meant we have been able to mulch the floor of the glasshouse, as well as filling in the rest of the raised vegetable gardens.

No more having to keep the glasshouse floor trimmed with a whipper snipper!

The glasshouse has been put through its paces, and we’ve been producing plenty of winter crops. Nothing beats being able to wander out and pick your own fresh salad leaves before dinner, especially with the soaring costs of lettuce this year.

A bed full of lettuce seedlings

In fact we’ve produced so many lettuce, cabbage and Brussels sprouts seedlings this year that we haven’t had room to plant them all out. Luckily we’re on friendly terms with some of the neighbours now, so we were able to find a home for all of the excess, with none of them going to waste.

Too many vegetables to fit in our garden!

It’s not just vegetables that we’ve been producing in the glasshouse though – we have plans for a spring/summer display of annuals in the driveway, so we’re growing several trays each of a few different varieties of marigolds and zinnias.

The glasshouse is getting a good workout

We’ve also managed to raise a bit over a hundred river red gums from seed that I collected from the big paddock tree last month. Being able to collect the pods, gather the seed and plant it out while still fresh has given me fantastic germination rates. These seedlings will be grown out in tubes over the spring and summer, and should go a long way towards starting our revegetation project down by the creek.

Tubes of river red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) raised from seed collected on our property

We’ve also been supplementing our own growing with supplies from The Seed Collection. This month we’ve planted out potato tubers, rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus (green and purple varieties), and we’ve started gathering up a bunch of Dahlia tubers ready to plant once the weather starts to warm up a bit.

Dahlia tubers ready to plant

There’s also a lot of preparation work going on to get the garden ready for our spring planting. With the cold overnight temperatures still preventing us from sowing seeds like tomatoes and capsicums in the glasshouse, we’ve shifted to raising a few plants in a tray of jiffy pots inside the house, to get a jump start on tomato production this year.

A tray of jiffy pots with tomato seeds

I’m also experimenting this year with raising tomatoes in bales of straw, so the preparation work on these is in full swing – lots of watering and fertilising in order to get the straw inside rotting down to a stage where plants will grow in it.

The start of our straw bale garden experiment
Lots of fertiliser and water needs to go into the bales before we start planting

Last but not least, each time we visit a nursery or garden centre we try to pick up a new variety of Grevillea for our Grevillea garden – this is proving to be a big hit with the local honeyeater population!

Local birds

Speaking of honeyeaters, we’ve noticed a stack of different species in the garden this month, including White-plumed, Brown, New Holland, Blue-faced and Yellow-faced varieties. They’re particularly drawn to all of the new Grevilleas, and at times some of the small bushes have been absolutely covered with birds, especially the Brown and New Holland Honeyeaters.

Brown Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater

There are a lot of birds that seem to be nesting at the moment as well, including pardalotes, thornbills and magpies – we’ve even managed to spot a family of white-winged choughs making a nest of mud and cow dung in the large red gum in the bottom paddock.

Spotted pardalote (male)
Yellow-rumped thornbill
Australian magpie
White-winged chough
White-winged chough on the nest

Other birds we’ve spotted lately include striped cuckoos, welcome swallows, sulphur-crested cockatoos, little corellas, and eastern rosellas. We were even visited by an owl one night, most likely the same barn owl I have seen a couple of times along the road when I’ve been returning home after dark – we didn’t see it this time around, but he left us a deposit – the back end of a baby rabbit, high on top of one of the timber posts near the sheep pen.

Eastern Rosella

Dining out

So much of our time has been taken up with the garden and the new house, but we have found the occasional few hours where we’ve been able to get away to try some of the local restaurants. The local pub here at Axedale always does a great meal, but this month we’ve also managed to journey a little further afield to Kyneton, where we had a fantastic lunch at French restaurant Midnight Starling, to Euroa for an excellent pub meal at Seven Creeks Hotel and a little closer to home in the nearby town of Heathcote, where we had an absolutely stunning lunch at French restaurant Chauncy.

A dish of artichoke hearts at Chauncy in Heathcote

All in all we are absolutely loving life here in Axedale, and we look forward to some warmer weather and longer hours of sunlight in the day as we head into spring.