Tag: garden

Mean and Green

Getting greener again

After a few months of being jealous of my neighbors for enabling their lawns to evade the effects of the blistering hot summer, I woke this morning to find myself transforming from being green with envy to being verdant with chlorophyll!

Kangaeroo Corner’s lawn, which started May in a generally strong state albeit being slightly patchy, took a drastic turn for the worst in early June.

Fingers crossed

At what should have been the onset of the rainy season, I made the mistake of heavily fertilizing the warn to boost its strength for what I expected would be a hot and wet period ahead.

I was only half right: we got the heat, but not the precipitation.

Seeds starting to germinate, but still pretty patchy

I gave the lawn too much of a boost and the sweltering summer left it with a case of fertilizer burn.

Our lovely patch of vermillion turned into a strip of ugly brown muck.

Tree fern reviving after a tough summer

And nothing I did would change it.

Bolstered by knowledge gleaned from watching dozens of YouTube videos from lawn experts (in totally different climates), books, advice from friends, powerful seeds, sprinklers, watering, not watering, lawn boosting formulas, fertilizers and more. Nothing worked.

The dwarf wattle was a pleasant and unexpected success

I was ready to give up, particularly as our kangaroo paws had thrived in the heat and looked ready for a shift to being planted rather than being raised in pots. Other plants had also done well, the hardenbergia, jacaranda and dwarf wattle being the notable successes. I was keen on planting these and giving up on the onerous and, well, fruitless, endeavors of the lawn.

But Mrs. Kangaeroo insisted we keep trying. I pledged to do so until the end of September, by which time I vowed to replace the lawn space with plants.

Kangaroo paws have, delightfully, been one of the success stories of this summer in Kangaeroo Corner

That deadline arrived and there was not much sign of grass growing. Ironically, the neighbors on both sides who had praised me at various times for the flourishing lawn at Kangaeroo Corner had healthy patches of lawn while we struggled.

I’ve had difficulties coping over the past couple of years and my always fragile self-esteem has been particularly vulnerable. The thriving garden, including the lawn, had been a confidence booster. The withered lawn, then, was having too much of an effect on my well-being. Not good, but the reality.

The jacaranda feared fallen in May is now towering over the neighborhood

Entering October, I decided to give the lawn one last chance. I tilled the ground, applied a layer of seed, scarifying, added topsoil, pounded the seeds intro the earth, spread fertilizer and then religiously watered the seeds to keep them moist, praying all the time that they would finally root an spread. Not much happened.

Then, late Sunday afternoon, it started spitting just as forecast. As always, I retired early, noticing that rain was falling steadily. It would keep falling throughout the whole day on Monday, and the garden was so bereft of crucial watering I was glad to see a national holiday go to waste.

The hardenbergia is growing wonderfully and raising hopes of a purple bounty next spring

When I woke this morning, I was delighted to see the lawn looking greener than it has in months.

Growth is still highly patchy and there are areas that will need more work.

But it was a lovely sign of hope when I am otherwise feeling down and struggling.

Stop that Pigeon!

Lots of serious stuff is going down at the moment, yet the biggest gripe in my mind is how to deal with a bloody pigeon.

One of my escapes has been the garden at Kangaeroo Corner, and one of the areas of which I had been proudest was the flourishing lawn.

Except, it’s no longer flourishing.

In May, I went heavy-handed on the fertilizer in the expectation of warm, dry weather followed by the rain and warmth of June and July. The rain barely came and the heat was dry and blistering.

I didn’t realize that I needed to compensate by drenching the lawn.

It dried up and became a dustbowl, almost overnight. I stupidly tried to rectify the situation with more fertilizer, which exacerbated the problem as the fertilizer scorched the grass roots.

Now the garden is a patch of dirt.

I went through all the YouTube solutions I could and have tried to rectify the situation. Lack of patience is proving a terrible foe.

I’ve sourced grass seed that can be planted year-round, even in the extreme heat of summer, and I spread it in the hope of recovering the garden’s greenery. Some patches have emerged, but for the most part, I have been feeding an oriental turtledove, which is basically a fancy name for a bloody pigeon with markings, that enjoys tucking into the seed.

To be honest, having spent the vast majority of time since the start of the pandemic with only a bird as a companion, I am not averse to avian friends.

But the neighbors complained in the most passive-aggressive manner possible when I was feeding birds with daily handouts of seeds that I felt compelled to stop, and I have upheld my promise not to deliberately feed them.

But the lawn seed has drawn this one bird in particular and I am having nightmares about trying to keep her away and restore the delightful green carpet that once adorned the garden.

Unfortunately, in the great Australian tradition of futile wars on birds, I’m losing.

We recently had a long weekend and I spent the bulk of it keeping watch over the lawn to allow the seed time to root and grow.

Calling out the big guns: A sprinkler is the latest weapon in the so-far futile attempt to revive the devastated lawn at Kanageroo Corner

As long as I remained vigilant, it was OK. Every time I noticed the bird coming into the garden, I could leap up and throw a sandal at it or spray it with the hose and it would fly off. All good, except it would return. And the process was repeated.

I can’t maintain a 24-hour watch, though, so I have been heartbroken to wake and see the patches where the seed has been gobbled up overnight.

It’s gotten me infuriated and disheartened, but I am also pleased in a way that the bird has found a source of food in the heat of the summer. And the oriental turtledove is, after all, a symbol of the city in which we live, so I am performing a civic duty of sorts, I guess.

Bested by Busyness

Little things in life have kept me scrambling and stumbling in such a way it’s hard to get much else done.

Work is always much busier in the warmer months.

This year has been particularly demanding as our tyrant boss drove more staff out of the door and their tasks were often imposed on me.

Early morning starts have been the norm and I’m often exhausted by the time the sun sets.

Health hasn’t been great and the teeth I neglected for decades have come back to haunt me with a vengeance, which will result in two more of them being pulled out later this week.

My garden is a tale of two parts: trees and bushes are generally thriving, even the grevillea and jacaranda feared dead over the winter, though the large tree fern is showing some slightly alarming signs now that we have had weeks of unbroken 30-degree-plus days and next to no rain.

That same dryness tells the other part of the garden story.

The lawn that had been a source of great pride last year has been obliterated and largely turned to dust.

I over-fertilized, which burned the lawn, and this was exacerbated by the lack of water and excessively low cutting.

Worries over the lawn are keeping me awake at night (among myriad other mindless worries), but I hope I will be able to work through it.

The kangaroo paw and hardenbergia grown from seed are thriving. Even the only dwarf wattle that survived is doing well.

All in all, though, I’m feeling a little out of sorts (as usual). Not sure what it is. But I was blessed this morning with Biblical skies, and being able to get some shots I didn’t want wasted led to a blog entry.

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Brown-eared bulbul

One of the highlights of Kangaeroo Corner is the Fountain of Strewth, which I placed with the hope of attracting birds to the garden, but the role has been served so well, I’m now drawn to the idiom used in the headline (which stems from a passage of Aesop’s fables that says “We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified,” according to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations Sixteenth Edition and as I learned today).

Sweltering heat and fierce sunshine has made the Fountain of Strewth a popular part of the neighborhood’s avian residents.

And I’ve been delighted by this, sitting in the living room and watching as the birds have enjoyed bathing and drinking in the fountain.

Even though Japan gets nothing like the delightful array of birdlife in Australia, it is still a great joy to have our feathered friends frolic in the garden.

Among the visitors are the brown-eared bulbul, ヒヨドリ, with a couple making frequently daily visits over the past few weeks.

Japanese tit

Japanese tits, シジュウカラ, are less frequent guests (despite being magnificent clickbait by virtue of their name), but we usually get one or two pairs come in a day.

Easily our most frequent visitors, though, are the city’s avian symbol: oriental turtle doves, キジバト. I like the birds, whose markings always remind me of yakuza tattoos, but the neighbors don’t. And that means that when I see them, I’ve got to race out and shoo them away. And that’s when I start to think that maybe trying to attract birds wasn’t such a great idea. More so when I realize all the time and effort I am putting into maintaining a lawn is struggling to bear fruit because the turtle doves are eating all the lawn seed I have been laying and trying in vain to coax into becoming grass.

But even then it would have been OK because I accept them as a nuisance. Today, the brown-eared bulbul, which I am proud to attract to the garden because the neighbors are OK with them, incurred my wrath as I realized it is also eating all our blueberries. Bloody nuisances! (Not really! They are welcome to race me to them.)

Watching the birds devour the blueberries reminded me to be grateful. And drew my attention to the dinosaur who is my near-constant mate. No bloody fruits, vegetables or warm fountain water to cool her down on a boiling summer’s day. For Dino, it’s an icy pole or nothing.

Rosy-faced lovebird (and icy pole!)

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.

南天は難点…Or, Farewell Heavenly Bamboo!

Kangaeroo Corner, our garden, is basically filled with Aussie native plants, but there were a few trees and plants there when we came to live here, and they have largely remained, including the nandina, also known as heavenly bamboo. Unfortunately, her presence in the garden proved far from heavenly.

The nandina, or nanten in Japanese, is a very popular plant in Japan, where it is native, as it is throughout east Asia.

Despite its name in English, it’s not a bamboo, but a shrub.

But it grows like a bamboo–fast and powerfully–and that’s why we’re saying good-bye to her.

Today we will call in an arborist and ask him to remove the nandina.

The nandina’s roots extended throughout the garden filled with Aussie plants.

One of them wrapped itself around the tree fern’s root ball, effectively killing it.

And the nandina roots were spreading toward other trees, too.

So there was no other option.

Out she goes. I feel a bit guilty. But less so after I learned that she is also toxic to creatures.

And, in her place, will be a new attempt at growing a tree fern.

And I’m adding this photo from the morning ride just because I love it, even though it has nothing else to do with the entry. Also got some great pheasant shots that I will add to yesterday’s post!

Postscript: The nandina is being removed as I write and the situation is much worse than I had imagined. Just as it had done with the tree fern, the nandina’s roots have strangled the root balls of at least the golden wattle and possibly the alpine cider gum, or both. I couldn’t look. Both threatened trees had appeared to be thriving. Removing the nandina may also kill these trees, or one of them, probably the golden wattle, based on proximity. It was heartbreaking. But, taking the troublesome tree out of the equation means the others may still have a chance. They would have been doomed otherwise.

Lots. And Nothing

All sorts of things have been happening, but also nothing at all. I hope that doesn’t seem too strange?

The “all sorts of things” are just day-to-day events that keep me busy.

And there was yet another clash with my boss, this time leading to her humiliation. I could have made it worse for her, but have decided to quit while ahead. I’m sure that will have repercussions down the track. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, though.

For the time being, I have another five months’ work, so I can hopefully make the most of it.

Kangaeroo Corner is looking OK for the most part, too, but me being me, my concern is over the plants I have failed.

My seedlings from Oz haven’t worked well at all. It will be interesting to see how the native wisteria goes. It has been outside for the past few days and yet to die, so it is as good as can be.

Tomorrow, I will meet my brother and sister-in-law at Tokyo Station on their way to Narita to fly home. It will be our first meeting in about seven years.

Thursday will then be my final day at work for a week. I need time away. And Golden Week has kindly arrived to provide that. I also need a regular job. If anybody reading this can help, please get in touch. (I pissed off a woman from work who tried to arrange a transfer to her team but I was unenthusiastic because it would have meant a 50% wage cut for longer working hours, so I need an attitude adjustment, too?)