11 November 2010

Spring cleaning in Doonan

After many months of mainly pleasurable slogging, interrupted by a two-week trip to NSW, I can finally claim that the garden is (more or less) under control. Oh dear. That sounds too much like a statement from the anal-retentive school of gardening! Let's say, instead, that these days walking around my undulating 1.3 acres of greenery gives me pleasure, not pain – and that certainly wasn't the case a few months ago, where every tour of the garden left me feeling I would never be able to claw back the mountain of weeds that had overwhelmed so many garden areas.

First, the stairway down to the so-called 'camping platform' is relatively weed-free, and the weeping lilly pilly hedge, the planting of which was Allen's last big pre-operative effort, is now well mulched. Admittedly, that nice little bit of level ground near the pond that we refer to as the camping platform has only ever seen tents twice, when the guest-rooms overflowed on two Christmases. But I live in hope that one day grandchildren or other young visitors will set up their tents down there to enjoy some peaceful sunsets. Meanwhile, we ought to refer to it as 'the badminton court', as that's what we mostly use it for in summertime.


The pool surrounds, too, are all weeded, and the annual springtime show has begun. At the moment, it's bougainvillea. But the humble abelia (bottom right in the photo) and showier gardenias will do their thing a bit later in the season.


Just in case, dear reader, you don't appreciate the amount of toil and bother this has all required, here's a peak at how the above area looked before the big spring clean-up! And that's not just any old weed in this shameful photo. Most of what obliterated all the plants around the pool is a dreadful vine with barb-like seedpods. The most I could do in any day's weeding was about two metres of garden! And each day before coming indoors, I'd have to unpick hundreds of the sticky weed seeds off all my clothes and gloves. That's subtropical gardening for you!

Some of the less showy corners haven't been overlooked either. This little pathway leads from the vegetable garden below, up alongside a small watertank the contents of which are used to top up the pool, to an area alongside my studio where we keep our wastebins etc. It's a route I often take, but until now it's been a slippery bank of muddy grass, and more than once I've nearly tumbled in my rush to get from one place to another. So I decided to use pieces of preserved pine and some of the gravel that was left over from the new drains that handyman Neville installed under my raised vegie bed, to make myself a set of secure little steps here – part of my ongoing 'make the garden safer and easier for old age' program!

When we finished draining and raising that vegie bed, to take away the water that pours down onto this area from the hillside above during tropical downpours, this is what the vegie garden looked like.

The next photo shows what it looked like this morning. So it seems those drains are working well. The 40 sugarbags of mushroom compost that I mixed in probably helped, too.


Incidentally, the white chair in these photos is one of four that I picked up at the tip shop for a few dollars. I've placed them in strategic locations around the garden where Allen might need a short rest while taking his exercise. He can pretty much walk around the whole block now, thanks to four different sets of railings installed for us by Maroochy Home Assist.

The Home Assist Secure service is a State Government program that helps people who have disabilities continue to live in their own homes. Allen became eligible for this assistance when an Aged Care Assessment Team determined that his post-operative problems entitled him to 'high care' status. That ACAT assessment was intended to convince me that Allen should be placed in a nursing home. Luckily, it failed to do so, but it has proven to be a useful label for other reasons. 

So far Maroochy Home Assist has built us access ramps over door sills (when Allen was first home and needed to use a wheelchair), adapted our shower so that I could roll Allen in and out using a shower chair (that's also when he was first home – now he walks in and out on his own steam) and installed numerous 'grab rails' in the bathroom and toilet. They also send someone to clean out my rain gutters whenever I request it, and a plumber came to give me advice about our sewage drains. If there are materials needed for any job (e.g. the timber and cement for the various railings and support posts), we pay for the materials. But the labour is free. Unfortunately, they don't do big repairs or general gardening and weeding. But it's a great service, and we couldn't easily have managed without this help, especially in the difficult first months after Allen came home from rehab. A lifetime of our tax dollars coming home – that's how I see it!

The very first area I worked on when I began the Big Spring Clean was the garden alongside the driveway parking area. And I finished that just in time for our own little annual azalea show. In fact, this photo is now more than a month old, so the azaleas are almost ready for their post-flowering trim. But that's not nearly as photogenic a stage as bloom-time. So I'm showing you that slightly older photo here.


Luckily, my garden doesn't usually get as much out of hand as it did this year. But it was a difficult winter for both Allen and me, thanks in part to his fractured shoulder injury. Suddenly Allen again needed assistance with just about every one of the basic tasks he had relearned to do for himself over the previous year (like showering and even cutting up his food). So for four months during his slow recovery from the fracture, we focused mainly on indoor pursuits and twice weekly visits to the rehab hospital. And of course, we also spent a lot of time preparing for Allen's Sydney presentation. But things are getting back to normal now, so I hope that not only will it be easier to keep the garden in shape this summer, there'll also be more time for blogging.

Rose-coloured leaves on lilly pilly trees and azure flowers on jacarandas mean Spring has arrived in Queensland.

About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.