No Time to Paws

Work is dominating my life at the moment and I have little time for anything else, yet we are fortunate that our kangaroo paws are leading the way in a thriving summer garden.

I’ve detailed my attempts at growing Australian plants from seed. While most failed, the kangaroo paw, the ones I really wanted most to survive, are flourishing now. I’ve even managed to give away a few to neighbors, which was really awesome! I hope to be able to spread the joy even further. All this is even better as I thought that I had killed my original kangaroo paw last year, but one of them remained alive!

And so is the hardenbergia, the native Australian wisteria. I’ve separated this into pots placed at various points along the fence at Kangaeroo Corner and the exposure to extra light has seen the rapidly winding their way around the fence posts.

A delightful surprise also came with the re-sprouting of a dwarf wattle, one of the many that had thrived in the growth pods only to succumb to the elements almost immediately upon moving outside.

Other delightful news from the garden include the thriving jacaranda, feared dead over the winter, but looking very healthy now, even though it did not flower this year. Maybe in autumn?

And there is the grevillea! We used to call it the stick because it lost all its leaves and we had given it up for dead. It is now thriving! We have three doing well and a cutting that looks like it might also make it, too. The most successfully flowering grevillea, which I had also feared was struggling over the cold months, continues to sprout flower after flower, which is magnificent.

And the silver banksia is showing signs that it may even flower.

Kangaeroo Corner is bringing great joy in the fleeting moments that I can get to spend there, mostly in the early mornings. The lawn could do better with the rainy season affecting it and the pigeons (well, Oriental turtledoves to be precise) are loving my futile attempts at re-seeding, which equates to a free feed for them if I can’t catch them pecking away and shooing them off.

Also starting to get blueberries! Go well with a morning yogurt.

Cycling remains a mainstay of well-being, but arthritis in my hands makes it too painful to ride for too long, so I am limited to fairly short rides.

Today, I’ll head off to a gathering of Brompton riders, which should be great fun and will be my first time to join this gathering since the pandemic.

Even the tea tree is flowering!

Another One Bites the Dust…

It’s no longer possible for me to trust my own mind because I know how utterly unreliable it is, but I got greater affirmation of why I’m so uneasy in my workplace when I learned last night that we have lost yet another very decent person from our working team.

My boss is toxic. So am I, though. I’m not a positive, constructive workplace presence; at least in terms of what my employer would like.

Nobody can work with my boss. She has chewed up and spat out everyone she works with, mainly through being excessively demanding and relentlessly uncompromising.

I’m moaning, but not merely whining. I’ve in the 10th year of employment with my current employer. From 2014 to 2017, we had no changes in the team of seven. From 2017 to the end of 2018, we lost six people, three of whom were replaced. Then, at the start of 2019, three of the then team of six left at once and were replaced by five people, one of whom was the toxic boss, who was given that position upon recruitment because they are a Japanese national and was the oldest of the new hires. Up until that stage, it was a fairly average turnover rate for a Japanese small- and medium-sized enterprise. Within weeks, one talented member had quit (citing the toxic boss), another team member filed a complaint of harassment and within months another team member had gone on long-term sick leave as a result of being subjected to constant harassment. Then came COVID and the boss was given effectively total authority over the division as we were sent to work from home. It has been mayhem, all sanctioned by the employer, either directly or indirectly. Nobody hired to work directly with the boss has lasted more than one year–even while working remotely. We have lost seven employees, all very good people, in just three years; all of them citing the boss, though perhaps not officially. (I have been told personally in each case except for two.)

I suspect my company plans to have one last crack at a money-making summer, then put an end to the business when the contracts of most existing employees at the end of September. The employee on the way out said they had been instructed to keep their impending departure a secret from the rest of the staff until their employment actually finishes at the end of July.

Twice I have asked the company president to establish a (legally mandated) harassment hotline, but the president has promised only to handle the matter personally and will not abide by the law. It’s Japan. The company is fully aware of the person they have appointed, and seem to have continued the appointment anyway, even though the cost of retraining and rehiring undoubtedly outweigh anything this toxic boss has brought to the table.

Anyway, as an old man with no transferrable skills, I’m really scared. I fear losing my livelihood and the lifestyle that makes it possible. I’ve never handled fear well.

How am I handling it now? Or trying to handle it? Well, I acknowledge that it’s happening and remind myself that it will be easier in the long run if I address it now instead of running away, allowing it to mount and then overwhelming me.

How can I address it? I can’t really. I have made my complaints to the company and they were refuted. So, I have to cooperate and fulfill my contractual obligations, which I am doing, even with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

And I am praying for the toxic boss. There is clearly something wrong there, and their behavior is abnormal. May whatever it is please be taken away and peace and calm be bestowed upon them.

And boy do I thank Mrs. Kangaeroo, my kids, the Dinosaur, my mates, cycling, my garden and the way of life I get to lead.

Of Banksia and Birdies

Bird’s eye view of Kangaeroo Corner

It’s the most glorious day of the year so far in terms of weather and I am sitting in my back office, stuffing myself full of chocolate and lollies and preoccupied with bloody banksia and birds.

I’m stuck here because I’m waiting on delivery of the newest member of Kangaeroo Corner, a hairpin banksia that I am positive is going to be worth the wait.

For me, no flower is more iconic of Australia than the banksia.

And it holds a place in Australian folklore, named after Sir Joseph Banks, an 18th-century British naturalist who accompanied Capt. James Cook on the navigation of the northeast coast of the country that led to European colonization (or invasion, as most Indigenous Australians view it). Banks would take the banksia, acacia and eucalyptus from Australia and spread it around the world.

Even more iconic for me, though, is an anthropomorphized version of the hairpin banksia called the Banksia Men terrorized my early childhood.

Big Bad Banksia Men

Banksia Men were the villains in the delightful tales composed by May Gibbs, an early 20th century Australian author who wrote stories for young children featuring native Australian flora and fauna, most notably The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Anyway, I digress…a little bit, at least.

While I was waiting, there wasn’t much else to do than clean the house and garden.

I was shocked yesterday to learn that I had, indeed, destroyed the mower during the May working bee even though I thought I’d fixed it.

Worse still, I discovered that while trying to mow the lawn, which was still sodden following a week of virtually unhalted rain.

But, I borrowed a weed whipper from the estate office and cut the grass. I initially put the clippings in the kangaroo paw pots I’ve set up, but thought they were perhaps creating too much humidity and it would harm the plants, which like the dry, light heat of their native western Australia.

Waiting with me is our bird, who continues to sit on her eggs and appears poised to add to their number.

She looks a little lethargic and she worries me sick with fear of binding. She won’t eat the calcium I leave for her.

And…the banksia finally arrived just after 3 p.m. It was boxed with tremendous care and meticulousness and looked to be a flourishing picture of health.

Dino came to life, too, with the box presenting her with a new opportunity to tear something to shreds and use it in her nest.

Originally my plan was to leave the banksia in its pot rather than plant it in the harsher weather conditions of the rainy season.

For the time being, she’s in her pot alongside the Fountain of Strewth.

It’s a hardy tree. I’m thinking now might be as good a time as any. Mrs. Kangaeroo will need to be consulted!

Welcoming the Hairpin Banksia

No Paws for Thought

Kangaroo paws, the big success story of my Aussie seeds saga, and the one that most mattered to me, reached a new stage in their progress from propagation.

Mrs. Kangaeroo noticed that they were crowding the large pot that I had planted them in, and if they weren’t moved they could end up choking each other.

Showing a turn of speed I’m not known for (unless there’s chocolate around), I was off to the local 100 yen store to fill up on pots and stones to put at the bottom of them.

Along the way, I put in an order online for Aussie native plant potting mix.

I spread out the individual pots, covered the bottoms with stones, then added a layer of a mix of sulphur, perlite and peat moss.

The dirt arrived and brought my fears with it.

I knew now that I would have to take action, and my record with transplanting seedlings is not good.

Not really keen on yet another failure….but, I got stuck into it anyway.

Despite my best intentions to be careful and gentle, I was a clumsy as ever in digging out the kangaroo paw plants, maintaining as much of the root ball as possible and inserting them in their new homes.

In the end, I left a couple of the smaller seedlings in the original large pot in the hope they may grow.

And I put the bigger seedlings into their own pots to give them space.

Being the middle of the rainy season, there are probably friendlier times for them to be put through transplant shock.

But I will keep my eye on them and hope for the best.

(Already, less than 24 hours after the transplant, I’ve had to lop off a few dead leaves that hadn’t existed before. I hope I won’t have to go through that process too often. We’re due a bit of sunshine later this week, and I hope it will be just what the plants need to thrive)

These are the kinds of flowers I’m hoping we’ll get…and we may even get them this year?

Paws to Reflect

The most successful seedlings from my Aussie natives planting experiments….a potful of kangaroo paw now awaiting transplanting

Having been gifted with the precious opportunity to maintain a garden filled with Australian native plants, one of the highlights of a trip back Down Under last year was bringing back loads of seeds that I hoped to grow and plant.

Most of the propagation worked, but once the seedlings were transplanted, the experiment turned into a mess.

Of all the seeds I brought back, though, the one I really wanted to succeed–kangaroo paw–worked astoundingly well!

I think it was because I planted the seedlings in a large pot as opposed to the smaller pots I’d used with all the other plants bar some hardenbergia componiana, or native wisteria.

Hardenbergia componiana, my first and so far most enduring success story when growing seeds

And they have grown well.

Too well, perhaps, because now I need to transplant them again into larger pots and I fear this may lead to their demise.

Anyway, I got the first of the transplants done this morning.

This was of perhaps the most surprising set of kangaroo paw seedlings, of which I tried three types.

The seedlings grown from the seed pod

The first was growing the seeds in a seed starter tray, keeping them under constant light and warmth from February through to May, when I transferred all the successful seedlings into the same pot, and where they continue to thrive.

The second experiment, the seedlings transplanted today, have not grown as strongly, but have been outside since February and grew from a seed pod placed in dirt in a small planter.

Another planter with no artificial assistance also sprouted weakly in April, but died off shortly and was a failure, though the planter soil was used in today’s transplant.

The newly transplanted seedlings

More soil is coming this week, so I hope to get the chance to transplant the remaining seedlings.

And I hope it works.

As I’ve mentioned before, if I can get some kangaroo paw flowers out of the seed experiment, it would make the whole thing a wonderful success.

Of course, growing from seed for the first time in my life has been a wonderful experience regardless of the outcome.

But seeing some sort of fruition would make it that little bit more special.

How the seeds look in their new pot…plenty of room for growth! Grow fellas, grow!

Forget Tiptoeing thru Tulips and Plod thru Paddies

Normally, we’d be smack-bang in the middle of the rainy season by now (and we are, officially), but the skies have held off for the past few days, providing great cycling weather which has made for some wonderful rides, including this morning’s through the rice paddies of outer suburban Tokyo.

May seemed a little cooler and damper than usual this year, and all sorts of appointments meant I wasn’t able to ride as much as I would have liked.

June is a hard month for cycling as there is so much rain.

I have pretty much given up on riding in the rain if possible, now, due to the rapid decline in my eyesight.

Rain is on the horizon from tomorrow onward, so I’m gonna try and get in as much riding before then as I can.

Without my regular morning meeting today, I could go the extra few kilometers involved in the old Noborito loop that used to be my morning staple until we moved a couple of years ago.

Glorious blue skies accompanied me on that trip.

And then I came home in time to prepare for the dreaded monthly trip to the dentist for periodontal treatment.

But I’d been looking forward to today’s ride, as I would get to go through a satoyama, a strip of untamed land, and knew the rice fields would be filled with water to grow the crop.

This is always a delightfully photogenic season and the best chance I would have to get out in the fields with a bike this season.

I regretted not taking a proper camera, but still got lots of decent shots.


The miraculous kangaroo paw given up for dead at the end of last summer

Today greeted me with the pitter-patter of raindrops (and a hefty dose of demotivation), so I spent the predawn hours vegging out with the idiot box on and gazing into the garden, appreciating the raindrops glistening on the leaves.

In days of yore, I wouldn’t have been deterred by the not-quite-drizzle level of the rain and just gotten on the bike.

I should have done it today, too.

The star performer of Kangaeroo Corner, the grevillea purchased at a Gyomu Super

But I am struggling to see and have lost my nerve, particularly when cornering or riding on potentially slippery surfaces.

It was enough to keep me sedimentary.

So was a demoralizing public shaming in the workplace yesterday.

So out of touch with reality is my sense of self-worth–sometimes I clearly over-estimate my value and others I am the polar opposite–I don’t know whether my problems stem from me or my tyrannical boss (who has terrible relationships with all employees).

Raindrops on the leaves of the tree fern…these tiny tinges of delight…小さな幸せ…are among the great joys of my life

I’m reacting in the only way I can by trying to control what I can, which means no angry outbursts and striving to be cooperative and constructive, while being grateful to my employer and generally respecting my situation by doing the best I can.

Raindrops on the petals of the leptospermum laevigatum look glorious

It’s not working particularly well, to be honest.

But the rest of the other shit is out of my control.

And I need to find a less toxic environment as it is having a severely detrimental effect on my well-being.

Thank God for Kangaeroo Corner, then, because it brings me so much joy.