Hugelkultur

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.13 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.04 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.13.46 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.19 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.12.48 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.11.44 pmThis past week I’ve been working on an epically large project.  The ground has been dug up to about two feet to be lined with logs and fallen timber in a process of soil regeneration called hugelkultur.

It’s a simple concept.  You’re taking carbon life forms and placing them into the soil to slowly decompose beneath your garden bed.  The results can have a lasting effect for up to 20 years!

The bed I’ve created was lined with logs then filled with jade cuttings and branches from around the house yard.  The next layer was compost.  Topping that was a huge layer of seaweed which we collected from Greenhead.  The seaweed took three trips to cover the entire bed.  The last few steps involve topping the green matter with the soil that was dug out, then adding a final layer of compost and hay or mulch.

My body has pulled me through this process – surprisingly with little soreness.  Overall exhaustion though was at an all-time high after I singlehandedly dug out the pit!  This is definitely a job for multiple people.

Wesley has particularly taken to the pit.  He’s also found great joy in all the mounds he can push his little dump truck over.

Only time will tell if the soil retains moisture – we’re going to let it settle and get some more decent rains on it before moving to the stage of planting.

All in all – this has been a thrilling project.  I really can’t wait to see how the veggies grow!

Maratus Spider – Western Australia

Maratus Jumping Spiders Western AustraliaMaratus Jumping Spiders Western AustraliaMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.36 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.48 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.59 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.35.12 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.35.28 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.29 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.36.40 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.37.18 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.37.33 am

These are some of the exquisite spiders and insects that we’ve found around the home over the past couple of weeks.  The Maratus spiders shown are both male and female (the first 9 images).  What’s interesting about them is right now they are out an about in the natural world – where as many of the species are untraceable at this time of year.

We ask ourselves – why is this particular species active?   I’ve spent the past few weeks observing the yard at all times of day and found something of a patterned emerging.  Only after the sun began to lower, and the time beyond 3.30pm would I ever spot the Maratus.

The large orange wasp, stings her prey and creates a tomb like space for the creature to lay dormant and become host to her offspring.  Many jumping spiders become entombed and it’s no wonder they are hard to find when it is warm and the wasps most active.

Mike helped me out with spotting and found the female Maratus which is so small that when you take a photo and blink – if she’s moved it’s quite challenging to locate her again.

Lucky for us all – the temperatures here have been mild (mid to low 30’s) and the breeze cool.  Summer so far has been wonderfully warm.

Do you have spiders in your yard? 

I’ve read recently that jumping spiders are the most common across the planet.

New Spider Discovered – Tharpyna (Crab Spider) Western Australia

Tharpyna Spider Western AustraliaTharpyna Spider Western Australia Crab SpiderNew Species Tharpyna Spider Western AustraliaYesterday I sent off a brief email detailing the behaviours of this unusual red and black spider.  It was found about a month ago at the front of our home here in Warradarge.  I first noticed it as it was scrambling in the sand (quite frantically) as soon as the sun started to dip toward the horizon.  It was new to me at the time.  Initially I thought it was an orb spider as I’d been referencing an Australian spider field guide and it was the only image that seemed to match my red and deep black spider.  Being the curious person that I am, I decided to contact the author to see if he knew what it might be.

The author (Robert Whyte) confirmed with me this morning that “It is an as yet unknown, at least as far as live photos are concerned, species of Tharpyna, you are the discoverer! It looks like it is a mature male, so it may have been frantically out and about for a quick shag before bedtime. Many crab spiders are daytime spiders, but Tharpyna are often under bark and may be night hunters. It is one of the prettiest Tharpyna I have seen. ”

So my first question to Robert was a little egotistical: Could I name it?  He wrote me back saying that technically I could but it would need to be scientifically named and also peer reviewed.  I let him know that I’m no scientist – and he was able to share with me the details of another expert based in Poland who might be able to help.

I also asked how he was able to distinguish that it was a crab spider and not the orb I’d originally guessed at.  He informed me that there were several identifying features that clued him into the species.  You see, I am a literal amateur.

“The eye tubercles, eye arrangement, general flatness and shape, shape of male palpal (sex) organs, arrangement of legs (laterigrade).”

I’m quite thrilled to share this news with you all.  It is a really great to know that there are new species out there for discovery, and that there are resources out there to help novices like myself.

I’ll update you if this little beauty gets a name.

If you have a love for spiders, or want to look at some examples of them from across Australia this book is worth every penny.  I also want to thank Robert for being so kind and taking the time to help me with identification and steering this newbie in the right direction.

-Holly

New Species Maratus Jumping Spider Western Australia

New Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider New Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider New Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider New Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider New Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider femaleNew Species Lycidas Maratus Jumping Spider femaleScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.53.29 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.54.16 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.54.30 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.54.42 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.54.51 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 6.27.49 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 6.28.04 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.55.36 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.56.00 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 6.27.34 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.56.15 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.56.39 amScreen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.57.30 am

Wesley and I have had a busy few days this week.  We’ve travelled inland to see some friends and hang out in Coorow.  We’ve been gardening and digging up some plants in the yard.  One of us has learned that the pool is an amazing place on a hot sunny day (and is due to start swimming lessons tomorrow too!).

Yesterday we met with a fellow Canadian and her son for a nice walk and play in Greenhead.  There is a really beautiful park there that is basically enclosed by bushes and Wesley and his little friend were able to run amok within a safe space.  We were enjoying our coffees and the scenery.  The weather has run a bit cooler this week and last night it poured down on the farm… which was a nice change as two nights prior we had quite a bit of lightning and at least one fire on the horizon.  Its safe to say that I did not sleep very well that night.

Most days when Wesley is having a long nap I move around the yard and pull weeds and take a look at what’s moving about my feet.  Sometimes I see little movements that catch my eye.  With the jumping spider I actually didn’t take too much notice of him at first.  I thought I should try and get a photo but then as I was taking the image I saw the tips of his back legs stretch out to almost wave at something. It was then that I realised I’d found something very special.  At first I was so excited that it might be a new species, I called Mike and Tessa to tell them and send some images.  I then scoured some resources online and found that it’s common and closely related to the#peacockspider maratus species.

You know what, it’s still a huge find.  This little spider called#lycidaschrysomelas was so incredibly small I strained my eyes to keep track of it.  I’ve included a photo (it’s not the best quality) to show the size next to my index finger.  Note my hands are smallish.

He’s absolutely beautiful along with all the others.  I’ve been throughly impressed by nature this week, and can’t wait to see what else is out there.  Till next time… here is a list of what’s pictured above.

  1. maratus jumping spider male and female (she’s pale and creamy).  I was able to begin to identify them with this site.  It is the second new species possibly genus of spider that I’ve discovered on the property in the past week.  A variant of this new species will be featured in another post.
  2. Solid Black Christmas Spider (the first we’ve seen that looks like this, normally they are white and black with orange
  3. THARPYNA (CRAB SPIDER)
  4. Leaf Beetle #paropsisternadecolorata
  5. Oxyopidae – Lynx Spider
  6. A little flower segue – these are white verticorida commonly named lambs ear or wild cauliflower #verticordiaeriocephala
  7. An unidentified jumping spider – may be another female but it’s not clear at this stage.
  8. The bush caught between a cropped paddock on our way home from Coorow
  9. A slender skink found just in our car port called a #westcoastctnenotus

Pukaha Mount Bruce

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-43-48-pmWesley and I visited Pukaha Mount Bruce this afternoon whilst Mike was helping some friends on a farm nearby.  Mount Bruce is a wildlife restoration centre that focuses on reestablishing endangered and rare New Zealand birds.  The centre spans some 940 hectares of dense native forest and is a beautiful place to hike and enjoy a native forest.

We spent a few hours walking around taking in all the gorgeous colours and sounds.  At the moment the forest is absolutely teeming with cicada.  The sounds of summer calling in the humid air!

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-34-35-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-37-14-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-38-08-pm Conservation has been taking place within the park since the 1960’s and is maintained by international volunteers throughout the seasons.screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-38-43-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-38-55-pmHere you’ll find encounters with endangered (and rare white) kiwi, eels, and quite a few beautiful birds including: kokako, kaka, hihi, takahe, kakariki and whio.screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-34-18-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-27-at-9-56-55-amThe kaka particularly captivate me.  The dark wine colours of their feathers paired with their cheeky personalities make them irresistible to watch.  There are roughly 160 kaka in the forest that are all free to travel and are indeed quite wild.  They have an impressive range of calls…some almost gremlin like and others quite sweet.  screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-40-42-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-41-55-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-42-08-pm

If you are near Masterton, I highly recommend checking this place out.  It’s not to be missed!