Sentinels In The Distance

Things That Attract My Eye! – 2

One of the types of subjects that I have always enjoyed photographing since I took up Photography in 1982 is the ‘everyday things’ that we come into contact with.

Prior to taking up photography, I certainly was not aware how beautiful mundane subjects were. Photography created a new awareness within me and since I took up sketching and painting, this awareness of my surroundings has deepened.

It really is amazing at just how many beautiful subjects there are if we only would take the time to notice.

I’ve included some images below that I hope you will find as interesting and as beautiful as I do. All were taken in 2022.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

3 August 2022

to tweeze or not to tweeze – yes, tweeze!

As mentioned previously on this Blog, I am a Cactus and Succulent enthusiast but certainly not an expert in this area. I was given a Euphorbia Succulent by my Aunt Beryl in 1977, when I was 14 and, if you’ll pardon the pun, my interest grew from there.

A few years back I had a 35square metre Cacti and Succulent garden. Currently, all my plants are in pots as we live in a different place, though when we move in the next two years I feel sure I will have a combination of a garden and pots.

One of the challenges regardless of where they are planted is weeds. Some Cacti (particularly) are harder to weed than others which gives rise to another problem i.e. the enthusiast getting stabbed (usually more than once) with Cacti spines. These spines can range from less than a millimetre or two to over three centimetres long, and regardless of the size, they are all quite painful. Sometimes, you cannot see them with the naked eye.

So, what is the solution or workaround?

Gloves are the obvious thought, however, trust me, they offer little protection against the stronger spines i.e. the spine will go straight through them. Maybe a pair of flexible Kevlar gloves would be good…

I often weed in and around Cacti bare-handed and work slowly, methodically and carefully as I can though even then I still get stabbed and sometimes you cannot see the spine or it may have broken off inside your skin…but you can certainly feel it…

In the event of getting stabbed by a smaller spine, and particularly ones not visible to the naked eye, I have a bottle of Ichthammol 25% w/w Drawing Ointment at the ready. As it says on the bottle, it is a ‘Drawing Ointment’ meaning you apply a small amount to the area where the spine went in and it draws it out overnight. Just pop a bandaid loosely over the affected area and next morning the spine is magically gone!

Not surprisingly, I get a lot of use out of this product…maybe too much!

I have also tried using a pair of Long-Nosed Pliers with varying degrees of success.

This Christmas, my Wife Susan surprised me with an additional mini-present within my actual present and it was a set of unusually long pair of straight and angle ‘Tweezers’ for pulling out weeds around Cacti that she had stumbled across online. There are 27cm in length and made of steel.

I road-tested these last weekend and must say that I am delighted with them. One of the Cacti I have the most trouble weeding is from the Echinopsis family, pictured below. The weeds seem to come up between the ‘Balls’ of Cacti and can be most difficult to remove. Today it was relatively easy.

Obviously, the goal is not to let the weeds get as bad as this but as usual, life gets in the way sometimes or it rains for long periods or we get so busy etc.

Now that I am armed with these tools I just need to ‘get onto the weeds’ before they get too big and unwieldy. At least now, I can look forward to my hands getting punctured less. That is, in itself a great way to start a New Year!

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

For The Love of Cacti & Succulents!

I’ve commented a couple of times on this Blog about my love for Cacti and Succulents. It was an interest that started when I was 14 years of age when my Aunt Beryl gave me a Succulent on one of the family visits to our place. It was (as I later found out) from the Euphorbia family.

My original pot.

Over the years my liking for Cacti and Succulents increased to the point where I had a small, shallow pot with about 5-6 small Cacti plants in it. I used to dream of the day when I would have a big garden. That came when I got married and moved onto an acre and a quarter of land. I built a 35square metre garden. All up, I had 120 plants in it and in pots around the yard.

Part of my original 35square metre garden.

Sadly, we don’t live there any more, we moved after 16 years there and are currently on a residential block. What happened to the plants? I brought them all with me didn’t I! They are currently all in pots of various sizes which is not quite the same but it will have to do until we make our next move.

This week, I was accepted as a member into the Cactus and Succulent Society of Australia which is the oldest Cacti Society in Australia. My first meeting (this week) was on Zoom. They usually meet face-to-face in another State (Victoria) but even then have a ‘Zoom-room’ for people that are too far away. There are lots of benefits for being a member of the Society, including a 32 page quarterly magazine which I’m quite looking forward to receiving. They have a Facebook group, library etc so I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge of this wondrous species of flora that captured my imagination at the age of 14, some 44 years ago.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Society, I’ve included some links below to their website and Facebook page and also some other links if you feel you are in any way curious about this species of plant.

Written by David Johnson

30 September 2021

Cactus and Succulent Society of Australia:

Other useful links:

Cacti & Succulents – Gone Potty!

In a blog article I did back in September 2018, I explained where my love of Cacti and Succulents came from…a gift from one of my Aunts at the age of 14. I fell in love with their uniqueness and beauty and started off with just a few plants in a low, Terracotta pot whilst living at my parents home to a 35 square metre garden when my wife and I lived at our first location.

We live in a different location now on a much smaller block so currently, all my Cacti and Succulents are in pots. When we move in the future, I’m sure I will have a garden for them as well as keeping some in pots.

With some recent additions early in the year, I now have 133 plants of all different shapes and sizes. Some of the species include: Cereus, Lobivia, Echinopsis, Cleistocactus, Astrophytum, Parodia, Mammillaria, Echinocereus, Corypantha, Cotyledon, Crassula, Agave and more.

Three things that I am looking forward to are:

  1. Growing Cacti from seed.
  2. Sketching/Painting my Cacti and Succulents.
  3. Growing my collection.

This love affair with these unique and beautiful plants has now been running for 44 years and will continue long into the future!

Written by David Johnson

20 June 2021

Cacti and Succulents – A Love That Blossomed!

It suddenly occurred to me this weekend whilst visiting the Succulent Garden at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens again, that I had never written any articles on this Blog in relation to my interests in Succulents.

My interest in Succulents blossomed out of a gift from my Aunt Beryl when I was 14, back in 1977. It was a Euphorbia, which sadly passed on some time ago, not being as hardy as Aunt Beryl who is still going at 92 years of age.

From then on, Succulents were around in one form or another at home. I started to group them together in large, flat pots when I was in my late teens and imagined one day of having a sprawling Cacti and Succulent Garden.

It would be a good time to point out that Cacti are Succulents, but not all Succulents are Cacti – but that is another article for another time. I particular favour Cacti but love all Succulents.

When I married in 1997, we bought a property that was 5,609 square metres (1 1/4 acres) about 100km (62 miles)  South West of Sydney, Australia.

I ended up with a 35 square metre (42 square yard) Cacti & Succulent Garden with up to 120 plants in it. It was a labour of love to construct and I tinkered with it over the 16 years we lived there.

Currently, I have approx. 80-100 plants which are currently in pots, where we currently reside. When we buy our next place, I feel sure that David’s Cacti and Succulent Garden 2.0 will become a reality and I am surely looking forward to that!

Written by David Johnson
16 September 2018