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Tomato Diary 1

8 May: Something’s happening . . .

The experiment: to grow tomatoes during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

So, you know how gardening has taken off in lockdown? (Along with baking and cooking, but I’m too lazy for that much effort.) I read or heard, I forget which, something about how to grow veg even if you are a total newbie. One of the comments was that you don’t need seeds: plant a potato, carrot tops, the seeds from a tomato or cucumber. So I scraped the seeds out of a medium sized tomato — all the seeds — into a small pot of soil, chucked more soil on top (and as you can see, we’re not talking specialist seedling soil here), watered them … and mere days later, much to my astonishment, green things began to appear.

9 May: More things are happening!

10 May: Uh oh, things are getting out of hand.

Oh dear, a LOT of green things! I never expected such a freakishly high germination rate! When I counted 30 seedlings, it was time for action.

I’ve pulled out a number of little noodle-y seedlings, and am down to about 15. It’s survival of the fittest now! I plan to get the number down to under ten. Then when they’re bigger, I’ll move them into their own small pots and see how they go. (note: the photos above are so awful because they’re from my phone)

19 May: A forest of tomato seedlings. Which will make the final count?

Will they actually produce tomatoes? I doubt it. It’s autumn now, winter is looming, and my balcony gets sun only from 7:30am to about 1pm. The sun is so low now that nearby trees cast shade as the sun no longer passes above them — while I’m working from home I can nip outside and move the pots, but I’m not sure how much that will help!

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 2.


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Monday morning ‘at work’

9:20am, Monday. Hard at work. 😉

Nadia from ‘A Photo a Week Challenge’ is asking us “to share a photo or two of a change you’ve experienced during the covid19 crisis”. I’ve actually been extraordinarily fortunate: no job loss or salary reduction, and the work I used to do in the office I now do at home. I’m not especially sociable at the best of times, so the absence of other people is no hardship at all.

I took this photo at 9.20am today — ordinarily, I’d be in the office by then, not exactly ecstatic at the prospect of another week of work surrounded by noisy (sometimes irritating) colleagues, just starting on my cup of coffee. But on sunny mornings while working at home, I cheekily postpone the start of the work day and enjoy my coffee outside. 🙂

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Floral Friday – Xygocactus

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

A plant with many names! To me it will always be Christmas Cactus, because when I was growing up in Canada we had a number of them in the house, and that’s when they bloomed. Here in Australia, though, mine is blooming right now; here, they’re known as xygocactus or Schlumbergera.

This particular plant has a sad history. It was quite small when I bought it years ago, with only a couple of flowers. There were other, bigger plants with more flowers, but I loved the colour of these flowers. It was doing well, getting bigger, more flowers each year — and then I dropped it. Eek! One-third of the plant broke off. Then I overwatered what was left, and the branches started wilting and falling off; another one-third gone. The wet soil was also infested with gnats. And it had terrible light indoors, a choice of blasting direct sun or dim curtained gloom.

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

The poor thing was not a happy plant!

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

So I hauled it out of the pot, removed as much soil as possible, repotted it into a larger pot with a more gravelly soil to increase drainage, and used the old cider/sugar/dishsoap traps to kill the gnats. And it began to improve, hurrah! What it liked best, though, was the move to an apartment with a balcony where it gets bright but not direct light.

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

Now it’s a very happy plant, as you can see in these photos.

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

xygocactus / christmas cactus / schlumbergera

It doesn’t normally get any direct sunlight, but I moved it so these photos wouldn’t be dull and flat.


If you can’t believe this plant was ever in the dire straits described above, have a look at it from 2018. Still bravely flowering, but just look at those pinched, wilted, wrinkled branches.

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Familiar but strange

This is a photo I never thought I would ever take! There is usually a mass of people walking here, with waiters dashing back and forth across the flow from the restaurants on the right to the outside seating beyond the pillars on the left.

On Sunday I ventured out of my immediate neighbourhood for the first time in weeks. I took the ferry from my local wharf (I’ve never seen more than a handful of people of that route, so social distancing was absurdly easy) to Circular Quay, where I stepped into an alternative universe: the buildings were all there, but the vast majority of people had been stripped away. My goal was the botanic garden (still open in the lockdown, although all its buildings and cafes are closed) and the easiest route is to walk along the quay and past the opera house. All so unthinkingly familiar — but this time, also so very strange.

I generally scurry along this stretch, dodging dawdlers and tourists. No need for that now.

Where are the hundreds of restaurant tables?

The next shock was the forlorn, stripped-down Opera Bar. This place I avoid like the plague — so noisy, so crowded!

Opera Bar — no tables, no chairs, no bar, certainly no people.

Looking back at Opera Bar from the other end. I’ve never taken a photo with all the people; the one on the right, below, is from https://www.sydney.com.au/images/circular-quay-restaurants1.jpg.

I then walked around the opera house, rather than crossing in front. At the harbour end, I encountered one other person; there are usually dozens here.

At the harbour end of the opera house.

It was time to head for the gardens. My ferry is only hourly, and this eerie ghost town with its memories of happier times was not somewhere I wanted to have to kill time if I carelessly missed my return. I took one look at the hordes on the main path that runs along the water and chose another route.

And indeed, away from the harbour, the gardens were fairly deserted, and as lovely as ever.

Bridge and birds of paradise.

Something bushy sticking through a fence.

Bonus points if you spotted the man up the tree!

This is the approach to the cafe. A lovely spot, with good food (and it’s licensed).

These chairs and tables are usually spread all over this area, full of people.

This looks like a painting, doesn’t it? The reflections give everything an undefined look.

More reflections.

Clumps of plants, backlit by the low autumn sun.

The various little buildings where you might sit with a group are closed.

But the benches are still open! I sat here for a while.

This protea caught my eye while I was sitting. Protea Cyanoides ‘Little Prince’, according to its sign.

Usually, after a stroll around the gardens I’d finish off with a glass of bubbly at Portside, another venue at the opera house but much quieter and more civilised than Opera Bar.

No bubbly at Portside this time, alas. Certainly quiet, however!

So it was back on the ferry and home again.

Heading home.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walk. (I see she has a cheese fest this week, oh yes!)


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