31 October 2014

Weekend reading

I haven't had much time for online reading lately but here are a few scratchings from the past couple of weeks.  I hope everything is going well for you and that you have time to relax and unwind this weekend.  Thanks for your visits and to the people who comment, a special thank you. I do appreciate the time you take to connect to me.  See you next week! 


Where have the working class actors gone?
Uncovering America's food waste
Useful inventions
Pie, from scratch  This link is fixed now. It's my favourite one of the week. :- )
Professor Pincushion's guide to taking measurements
Little girl's peasant dress, free pattern and tutorial
Tea etiquette
The Shady Baker blog - outback Australia, a lovely family blog.
Look at Karen's wonderful peg apron!
Writers' sheds

29 October 2014

Seizing the days

Our garden changes are almost complete and I'm looking forward to working in this smaller but still productive garden. The major changes we made were to remove two entire garden beds. One has gone but we still have the remants of the second bed there because we have some onions to harvest and the parsley is flowering so I want to save the seeds. When that garden goes, we'll move a table and chairs into the cleared space so we can sit IN the garden and enjoy the view from a different angle. For most of the years here, I've looked out from the house to the garden. Now I want to challenge myself and change that. Who knows what thoughts will brew when I look in instead of out.  It reminds me of that wonderful Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society, when Mr Keating, the Williams character, encouraged the students to stand on their desks.  He says: I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. Finally, I'm seizing the day.

The garden will still be a productive one. I use a lot of herbs and I know it would send me haywire if I had to buy them all the time. Herbs are so expensive now. In the next day or so we'll plant two heritage raspberries alongside the six month old passionfruit. We have a good stand of curly kale in the first garden which we'll keep for occasional meals for ourselves, and frequent scratchings for the chooks.  In the second bed we have just planted beetroot and there are bok choy, various lettuces, ruby chard and Swiss chard. All those leaves are ready for harvest. 

 This is Tricia. No, not my sister, one of the frizzles.  ;- )  (I'll get into trouble for that.)

Our silver laced, rose combed Wyandotte, Miss Tammy, with Bluebelle, one of the blue Australorps. They've been sitting on those nests for a few weeks now. We just let them sit there, as long as we see them out to feed and water themselves. This broodiness gives them a natural break from constant egg production.

 Free ranging girls in the late afternoon sunshine.

The chickens are a big part of our backyard production too. We have 12 pure breed chickens that give us eggs all through the year.  Three of them are broody at the moment but with no rooster no chicks will hatch; they sit there in vain.

This beautiful purple flowering plant is culinary sage. I think all plants have the potential for beauty and I am certainly planting for beauty as well as nutrition.

This is a purple and white granny's bonnet, the yellow flower is a small Dahlia. On the other side of the grate are three cherry tomatoes, all volunteers, that I know will easily survive our hot and humid summer.

In the other two beds we have nasturtiums, three Lebanese cucumbers, garlic, Jalapeno chilli, five capsicum/pepper bushes, borage, cosmos, Dahlias, granny's bonnets (aquilegia), flowering purple daisy, flat leaf parsley and white flowering sage. And in the last bed we have one curly parsley and four flat leaf parsley, three cherry tomatoes, more granny's bonnets, more white flowering sage, two stocks, culinary sage, cos lettuce, rosemary, Welsh onions, Swiss chard.  On the side of the gardens we have potted lemon thyme, regular thyme, Buddleia (butterfly bush) and lavendars. On the edge of the compost, comfrey is growing and at the door of the bushhouse, I have a large pot of mint and another of oregano. We have four large potted blueberry bushes and two blueberry seedlings, a potted bay tree and two potted avocados  - a Reed and a Hass, both grown from seed.

In almost every bed there are seedling cherry tomatoes and calendulas growing. If I could pass on one good gardening tip for you that you'll never see in a gardening book, it would be to learn to identify the leaves of every plant you grow. Not only will that help you when you're weeding and save you pulling out seedlings that you should let grow, it will also allow you to nurture those volunteers and maybe transfer them to a more suitable growing position.  That will save you both time and money.

On a trellis just beyond the garden area there is a green grape vine and two new passionfruits. In the chook run there are two lemon trees, a native fig and a pecan. The pecan is currently alive with bees pollinating the nut tassles. Further over near our large water tank, we have bananas, oranges, loquat, youngberries, cumquat and mandarin. And of course we have our old friend the elder tree which is currently bearing and holding onto a good quantity of berries that I'll pick today, along with some flowers for elder flower cordial.

We have a large backyard but the land under fruit and vegetable cultivation is small in comparison. It just goes to show that even a small garden is a valuable asset to any backyard. The trick is to grow what you eat and if you eat almost all vegetables, grow what is difficult to find, or expensive.  This year, Hanno and I will be out there, planted in with the vegetables, sitting at our cast iron table on chairs under the shade of an umbrella and the neighbouring trees. I'll enjoy looking at the house from that angle. I wonder what thoughts that will bring.

Looking out to the chicken yard with its pecan, native fig and two lemons. 

How is your garden going now? I'm sure our northern friends have put their gardens to bed, or are in the process of doing it.  Here in Australian our seasons just roll into each other so we don't lift and protect but it's always intrigued me that cold weather climate gardeners do.  Here, our southern gardeners will have their salad vegetables planted, or close to it, and the tropical gardeners will be looking to provide more shade and water after the last two days of very high temperatures. What will you be doing in your garden this weekend?  Happy gardening everyone!

27 October 2014

Ageing and the art of slowing down

Wandering around our backyard, sitting under the elder tree, watching the birds fly and admiring the vegetables in the straight rigid lines of first planting, it's easy to feel the contentment of living here. I notice the minutiae of life out there, or life as I know it. Out in that backyard I do a lot of thinking about the changes were going through now; the changes that age brings. Like everyone, Hanno and I are ageing, although the older we get, the faster that seems to happen. I consider us to be lucky because so many people who were born at the same time as us died too soon; cut down in their prime before they knew a full life of human experience - the good and the not so good. One thing is for sure, these changes need careful thought and planning just like all the others we've implemented.

We're classified as young/old and even when we're old/old, we both want to be here, living an independent and engaged life, possibly assisted occasionally by our family, friends and the community. There is so little written about proactive ageing. We have a lot of information about disease in old age, how to manage illness, where to get help, where to socialise. There are also, increasingly, articles such as this one on loneliness and disengaging from community life as we age and as partners and friends die.

We are lucky, we two. We've established ourselves here, we have work to do every day, we have family and friends dropping in and phoning, and because we've voluntarily rejected the glitz and glamour of what modern life has become, we don't worry about money. We're productive, providing for ourselves and sometimes for our family, so our days are full and we enjoy what we do. But it's not one hundred percent comfy-cosy. There are days when we're not feeling the best or have pain, but on those days we look after each other and know it will pass. I can truthfully say that most of the time, life's good.

Over the years we've always adjusted our routines and chores according to our needs and the time we had available. Now we do the same thing but everything takes longer to do now and we've had to make major adjustments to help us along. One of those changes has been our vegetable garden. We took out two garden beds in the past month or so. We still have the wonderful opportunity to grow some of our own food, but we've made it easier for ourselves after many years of sowing and harvesting as much as we could. Another big change is that we're looking after Jamie three days a week now so on those days, we don't plan much except to provide meals, snacks and drinks and to show him, by example, the appeal of living this way.

We also have a handy man who comes in when we need him. He does the roof work and the hard physical chores Hanno used to do. Hanno loved fixing everything that needed fixing, and took pride in knowing he had those skills, but Mark the handyman does the potentially dangerous work for us now, while Hanno still does the garden and lawns and most of the outside work.

There will come a time when you too will start to slow down and scale back on what you do. What you can do will depend on your physical capabilities when you're older, but I think the key to this is to keep doing what you can and stay interested.  I guess my main concern is that one of us will die well before the other and our motivation and some opportunities might fly out the window. I'm not scared of death but I'm aware that it's one of the few things we face totally alone. Sure, you may have someone sitting beside you, but they don't experience it with you, they simply watch. Death is not something either of us expect to visit soon, but the thoughts are there and like every stage of life we go through, we have to be as prepared as we can be. 

Have you changed how you work and live as you age?

23 October 2014

Setting up your sewing bits and pieces

I love hand sewing much more than machine sewing.

Next month, I'm taking a trip to the Blue Mountains to visit my sister. I have no doubt that we'll do a lot of sitting around while we talk, knit and sew. We have plans for two outings - to visit my nephews, Johnathan and baby Alanna, and to the Brett Whiteley exhibition in Katoomba. We'll probably go out for lunch and morning tea a couple of times too. The rest of the time we'll be alone, together, at Tricia's beautiful little 1930s cottage, sewing and knitting like two grannies.  :- ) 

I've just made a little gift to take. A pin cushion jar for Tricia, the same as the one I have, full of bits and pieces to keep close at hand when sewing. There is nothing more annoying that having to go searching for a safety pin or tape measure when you're in the middle of a project.

 This is Tricia's pin cushion jar.

Have you seen the book Home Sewn? I bought it last month and have just looked through it. Home Sewn is beautifully presented with some excellent ideas, patterns and drawings for home projects.  If you look inside the front cover (below), the patterns have their own special envelope so they can always stay with the book.  Most of the projects are for the home - an apron, tablecloth, sheets, shower curtain, bath mat, bread bag, floor cushion, lavender hearts etc, and a few for outside the home - tote bag, sling tote and a travel bag. There is also some interesting information about finding and caring for vintage fabrics and notions, and creating a sewing basket.

This is the book cover (above) and the inside cover of the book. In the photo below you can see the patterns and drawings envelope on the left.

I don't have a sewing basket because I usually sew in my work room and my sewing supplies are all around me, but I find this little jar-pin cushion comes in handy. When I'm hand sewing in the lounge room I just take the jar with me and I have what I need for most small sewing projects.

If you're making up a jar or a sewing basket for someone else as a gift, think about the kind of sewer the person is who'll be receiving your lovely gift.  I am a general sewer, so in my jar, for instance, I have a tape measure, an unpicker, straight pins, safety pins, darning needles, plain sewing needles and a couple of thimbles.  Tricia is a quilter, so in her jar I've included a tape measure, quilting pins and needles, safety pins, an unpicker and a few buttons.  If you're making one up for an embroider, you'd add two or three shanks of embroidery cotton and embroidery needles as well.

This is one of those little projects that even the most inexperienced among us can carry out with confidence. All you need is a small preserving jar with a two piece lid, a small piece of fabric, wadding and some glue. Take the lid apart, fashion a small dome over the inner lid piece and glue it in. It's fiddly but straightforward. When you fill the jar, be sure to match the sewing needles, pins etc to the type of sewer you're giving it to. I think it would make a very sweet Christmas gift. And I for one like nothing better than receiving a practical gift.  Happy sewing everyone.  ♥︎

Added to include: I used spray glue. Make a neat edge around the outer fabric and glue it onto itself on the top of the inner circle. Don't use too much wadding and be tidy around the edges because if there is too much fabric and wadding under the ring, you'll have trouble closing the lid.

21 October 2014

RIP Gough, you really made a difference

I couldn't let this pass without commenting on it. One of my political heroes (I only have two), Gough Whitlam, died this morning, aged 98. Gough was prime minister of Australia when I was in my early 20s and did he shake things up! He brought Australia screaming and kicking into the modern world. He implemented indigenous land rights and established the Racial Discrimination Act. He gave us Medibank and universal health care, he abolished university fees (yes, there was a time when it didn't cost anything to go to university in Australia), he introduced environmental protection legislation, no fault divorce and established the Family Court. He stopped conscription and the death penalty. He supported the arts, established Triple J and helped strengthen the Australian film industry. The wonderful group The Whitlams were named for Gough and the campaign song for the 1972 election was the only campaign song to ever enter the pop charts.

All these initiatives sound quite commonplace today but when I was a young woman this new way of thinking and looking at the world was revolutionary. I think many people my age would look back at that time and think the same. Gough and his wife Margaret, who died in 2012, were intelligent, professional people who worked with the working class and the increasingly influential middle class and in doing so, made Australia a better place. I will always be grateful for the new freedoms they brought to me personally and to Australia in general. When I think of 1962 and 1972, that one decade brought about the most amazing changes to how ordinary Australians lived. Gough was a true leader and a great Australian.

RIP Gough. You really made a difference. Thank you.

17 October 2014

Local Green Hero Award

I'm pleased to tell you that I won the Green Lifestyle Magazine's Local Green Hero Award yesterday. Other winners in the People category were David Holmgren, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Ben Dessen, who won the Junior Local Hero Award. I applaud David and Ben for the fine work they are doing. They're both leaders in this field. There was also a large group of organisations and businesses recognised for their work as well. You can read all about it and see a list of the winners here.  Thanks to Green Lifestyle Magazine for recognising all of us.

My acceptance speech on You Tube.

Weekend reading

I'm busy here at the moment so there'll be fewer posts in the coming weeks. Be patient with me, I'll be back to a more regular schedule when I can be.  Thanks for your visits this week and if you commented, I appreciate the time you took to connect with me. It does make a difference to read those comments. It's like you're waving back to me from the great unknown.

After reading the comments yesterday I know that a lot of you are busy too but pleased take time out when you can over the weekend. It will take commitment from you to do it but the rewards will be there.  See you soon.

The benefits of living alone on a mountain
How instant purchases change the way we see the world.
I went a year without flying
Hooked on grocery shopping with glass jars
Easy to make stool
20 thrifty decorating ideas
Incredible cakes
When to leave the lights on
Stain removal database
Gen Y ditching the car?
The no shampoo experiment six months later
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