Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hard rain gonna fall

The hard rain did fall in Perth this past week -and it was very welcome! It has soaked into the dry soil, washed the dust off the leaves and the roof, filled up the water tank and generally refreshed everything. After such a dry and long autumn, the rain is such a blessing.

It has been very dark and gloomy on most days, and we are wrapping up in warm jumpers and scarves and hats. I have a new-to-me coat which I found in an op shop -it is wool and cashmere and so, so warm. I also found a new red knitted beanie. Both of these items are getting some use as we have been out and about, especially in the evening. One of these events was a very special one -we were invited to celebrate an Iftar meal (for the breaking of the fast during Ramadan) with some Muslim people and a church group.

My quilts are back in service as snuggle rugs in the evening, and I have one in my sewing room on the chair, ready to pull over my legs when it is a bit cold. DH is often called upon to share, though.

Our menu has changed with the seasons -we are once again enjoying warming soups and casseroles. This is one of the lovely things about the weather -it brings back into our lives those practices and foods we left behind when the summer came along. Let's face it, we have summer for such a long time here in Perth, and our winters are quite short and sharp, so it is quite a novelty, really- something to be indulged, to be celebrated.

I found this book in a second hand shop: a classic from a classic cook. Such great ideas to keep us bringing in the changes -we like to try new combinations and flavours.

On Friday there was a small clear window, so DH and I took advantage of the break to go down to our favourite beach for a walk. You can see Rottnest Island on the horizon, and the showers were still over there. Unlike the strong blues of summer, the winter beach is full of grey and steel and deep purple.

We also had strong winds, and thunder and lightning...which sent poor Dora in search of any cubby hole which felt safe to her. She has since emerged!

I took advantage of the weather to get back into the sewing room. I actually tidied it up a bit, and in celebration have got back to sewing again. My "leader and ender" project ( inspired by Bonnie Hunter, but as usual doing my own thing) is a bunch of yellow and blue 9 patches, which I thought would create a good quilt for the community quilters group to donate to someone who loved one of our local footy teams, which has the same colours. 

I am using up scraps to make something new. Not sure where this is going -thinking I might try to make some string blocks to go in between the 9 patches, to soak up even more scraps.

You will notice that the first block of the yellow below is wrong...I didn't notice until I took this picture! I will get out my quick unpick and fix it in a minute though.

I was glad to be able to get out of the house this morning to do some weeding in the garden. The daisies and nasturtiums are springing up after the rain, and the couch grass only needs to be left alone for a minute and it thinks it can take over the whole place.  We actually don't have any lawn any more but the couch is a 'forever friend'.  It is time to refresh some of the wicking beds, and even to move the smaller ones out of shade and into  the sun. We picked our first eggplant -they didn't start to fruit until very late in the autumn this year and now I don't know if I should leave the plant a bit longer or pull it out for winter veggies. 

DH's orchids are doing so well this year -now a second racime has 15 blooms! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

This beautiful, fragile space we inhabit

This post is being written on World Environment Day, 5 June 2018.

This past weekend we were able to go to a friend's birthday party, which was being held 'down south' in a coastal town near Cape Leeuwin, on that bit of the West Australian continent that sticks out and forms the south west corner of the continent. 

We were very fortunate to have good weather for sight seeing -it was very cold (to us Perth people) but no rain to speak of and so the scenery was spectacular, looking out to the Southern Ocean.

I don't know how long it has been since we were here -maybe a decade I would guess.

It was spectacularly beautiful. 

One enormous thrill for us was that we found a small group of whales in the bay, just lolling around, blowing water from their spouts and generally having a great time. These Southern Right Whales like to travel up from Antarctica to the warm waters near Ningaloo for breeding, before heading back down the coast again for the southern summer.

The whales stayed for some time, and we just stood and watched them, and it felt quite magical and special and almost holy.

This is a popular tourist destination, and we noticed that the delight in seeing the whales was shared by people from all over the world, who had come to visit the lighthouse and see the sights. Children sat and watched, people called their friends to the viewing platform, people spoke to strangers to make sure they didn't miss out.

That little puff of steam in the middle of the picture is the whale spout. 

"If you can't re-use it, refuse it". 

I can't bear to think that whales are being washed up with kilos of plastic in their stomachs.

This beautiful, fragile planet we share with species who form the web of life we depend upon, is now dependent upon our ability to curb our excessive need for convenience and instead to learn to do things in ways which will not cause harm.

It is quite easy to reduce single use plastic, but harder, I find to eliminate it. I can refuse plastic straws, drink out of china coffee cups sitting down in a restaurant or cafe, and put a plate on top of a dish of leftovers in the fridge. I have re-usable shopping bags, some of which I made from recycled or re-used materials. The harder thing is to avoid the plastic wrapped tomatoes in the supermarket, because they are the cheaper ones, or to make your own pasta every time you need to eat some, because you don't want the plastic bag the dried pasta comes in.

I am working on these new habits -not trying to let the failures get in the way of the small achievements, because we all need to do what we can, and help each other do more when we can.

How are you reducing your single use plastics?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The land we live on

As it is NAIDOC week, I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which I am writing: the Wadjuk Noongar people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
Predominately, NAIDOC Week is held in the first week (a Sunday to Sunday) of July that incorporates the second Friday - which historically was celebrated as 'National Aboriginal Day'. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and society.
I went along to Sorry Day in Yagan Square, here in Perth on Saturday. It is always part of my concept of my own little suburban block, that this land is the traditional home of the Wadjuk Noongar people.

This is our block -just 700s metres. In this precious space, we can fit a lot of fruit and vegetable gardens, a slim line water tank, and a three bedroom two bathroom home.
I have had a lovely couple of weeks, with lots of activities both in the garden and the kitchen, and also outside it. 

We found some cheap pears at the market, so DH did some preserving. 

It was great to be able to harvest our first decent mandarin crop...this tree is about 7 years old. It struggled for years, but seems to have found its way at last.

Pretty Mother's Day flowers. I had a great couple of days -and am now the proud owner of a copy of David Holmgren's book Retrosuburbia.   This is a fantastic resource. I have read it all the way through, and am now going back to read more slowly. David explains more completely than I can, what I am hoping to do here on our little block and why we are doing it. 

RetroSuburbia is part manual and part manifesto. The book shows how Australian suburbs can be transformed to become productive and resilient in an energy decent future. It focuses on what can be done by an individual at the household level (rather than community or government levels).
RetroSuburbia is a source of inspiration, introducing concepts and outlining patterns and practical solutions. It empowers people to make positive changes in their lives. As with David’s previous work, it is thought provoking and provocative.
If you are already on the path of downshifting and living simply, exploring RetroSuburbia will be a confirmation and celebration that you are on the right track and guide you on the next steps forward. If you are just beginning this journey, it provides a guide to the diversity of options and helps work out priorities for action.  For people concerned about making ends meet in more challenging times, RetroSuburbia provides a new lens for creatively sidestepping the obstacles.

We had an extended autumn with mild temperatures, so we were able to enjoy some more beach walks. How wonderful it is to have this just a few minutes away from home! The weather all changed last weekend though, and at last the rain has arrived. The garden is really enjoying it. I am taking advantage of the softened moist soil to get some weeding done, and have also done a light prune and tidy up. The council had a green rubbish clean up and I am proud to say, my pile was the highest in the street! We just took out some tall branches, because we want the fruit trees to be easy to reach, and I also removed some self-seeded daisy bushes.

I had a very special find in an op shop -two lovely cornucopia vases for my collection. 

Autumn always means banksia flowers in this part of the world.

Our smart new shadecloth blinds are installed, and helping to make our patio useful for more months of the year. They keep out insects and some wind and rain, although I pull them up in stormy situations.  I am doing a lot of thinking about how we can maximise the use of this valuable real estate- for example, it could be a food preparation area for harvest time. 

Speaking of harvest time, the citrus season is truly here. DH and I are enjoying grapefruit and orange juice freshly squeezed for breakfast, and he has made some tangelo and some lemon marmalade. The picture above is of some lemon chutney I am making. This bowl smells amazing! Tomorrow I will cook it up whilst making some lemon cordial. I think if I make a recipe a day for the next fortnight, we might just get through the lemons! I have already given lots away, but there are lots more still on the tree. 

Some people will look at our lives and only see the 'work' we do What they can't see are the feelings of achievement and quiet satisfaction in a job well done. They can't smell the lemons when picked warm from the tree. They can't know what it is like to take the lemon marmalade your DH has made, and spread it on the fresh sourdough you have baked. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Out and about in autumn in Perth

From the beach to the bush, there have been some great outings this week. Autumn mild weather has been perfect for walking. We are so lucky to be 15 minutes from the beach and 30 minutes from Walyunga National Park. 

On the Slow Home podcast, Brooke recently encouraged us all to go outside for an hour a day -and you know, we all should! It is so good for our mental and physical health. 

In between these two visits, I have done a LOT of work in the garden -most mornings about 2 hours has been spent tidying and light pruning in anticipation of winter -if it ever gets here.  There is a huge pile of prunings and weeds ready to take to the tranfer station, where they shred it and turn it into mulch, which we can then bring home for the garden.

Only problem -our trailer is in Albany -300k south of here. DH and I cannot find two days in a row when we could go down and pick it up. In a way it would be a real shame to hurry that trip anyway -we love Albany and it has been too long since we were there.

We have also done some preserving of pears -which a shop was selling at $2 per kilo near us. That is the price signal for DH to start bottling. 

 I made pomegranate molasses.

I finished the charity quilt top I was working on, made from donated blocks and parts of blocks. Now working on the back and binding, but in between doing some voluntary work...wait...this quilt is voluntary work too.....

Anyway, we have had a full week indeed.

DGD turned 6 this week -and we have started earnestly planning our next trip to see them in Victoria at the end of July.

Much happiness.  

I hope your days are full and happy too -at least some of the time! 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Quilting, and more quilting and other sewing related stuff

This week I have done lots of sewing.

I hand sewed the binding to the "fly away home" quilt. Normally I don't hand sew anything, because it makes my hands hurt, but I was afraid of losing the points on the flying geese.

Memo to self: always put a border on a flying geese block near the edge of a quilt! 

I took it to the park for a 'beauty shot' hanging from one of the trees, when it was done. 

This one is going to the WAQA community quilts program- we give them away to shelters, rehab centres and other worthy causes. 

The Community Quilting group had a sewing day to make some progress on our Unfinished Objects. 

Someone had donated a stack of blocks and we played tessellations with them for a while.  

That brown fabric with blue flowers looks like a 1990s fabric to me...and I wonder what the original pattern was supposed to be? 

Nothing seemed to go with anything much, and there were not enough blocks for a whole quilt if we did some of the layouts -like the one below. 

I decided to sew some together in rows and see what I could do. 

Then I brought it home and this is the result, after I undid some setting triangles in order to add them to others so we could get a whole block. 

I am going to add some beige sashing strips to make it big enough -we usually have a minimum size of 50 by 70 inches for a single bed/comforter. 

For a while now I have been interested in adding an Elna sewing machine, if I could get one at the right price. I love well made sewing machines of a vintage era, but it has to actually work to join my herd. This one does work, and I got it for a tiny price this weekend.

I will be happy to get the power cord repaired and have this as a very portable sewing bee machine: there is a bit of broken insulation on the cord, and the plug has pulled away from the wire, exposing the wiring.

It needs a little clean and some oil  too. Yes, she is a bit scuffed on the sewing arm, but you would expect that in a well used machine. 

I think I learned to sew on a machine like this in high school! It is possibly an early 1970s machine, so it is probably more than 40 years old and still going strong. Lovely stitch, reverse, zig zag -all the mod cons. Drop In bobbin too. The metal case turns into quite a sizeable extension table, so it will be ideal for the sewing bees. I like the pinky beige lid! 

I feel like I have rescued this old girl from the tip...we must not throw out stuff we can keep using, if this planet is to have any future. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bye bye cafe blinds -and other developments

We have a south west facing patio. It gets a lot of sun and a lot of rain.

For years we had those plastic cafe blinds on four sides -but they quickly went cloudy, then dirty, then they stretched and buckled and the zips failed.  Time to get some new blinds! The first two were installed this week -they are mesh and have stronger framing and more user-friendly maintenance.

Can't wait for the others to be made so we can enjoy this patio for more weeks of the year. 

We took the chance to get rid of the last remaining vertical blinds in the house.  Hello insulated concertina blinds. These windows face north so we want to be able to keep the heat out on very hot days, but we also want to be able to see out and let winter sun in.

I will be purchasing filmy white drapes for this bedroom to go with the blinds. 

The quilting is finished on my latest quilt, which I am calling 'fly away home'. Need to get on to the binding, but I have been busy with a few events outside the home this week. 

One of the events was our community quilting sewing bee. I won these pretty fabrics in the door prize! I know I don't need any more fabrics but it is always nice to get new fabric. It often inspires new combinations with older fabric from the stash. I came home with some donated blocks which I want to wrangle into a community quilt. Someone donated them -perhaps they cut them the wrong was a bit of a puzzle but I have an idea to use them and make a nice quilt with them. 

It is pomegranate season -we have to process and use these soon. 

We also have olives to process. 

And the citrus is ripening fast too! We are soon going to need to process grapefruit, tangelos and meyer lemons, but I am hoping these mandarins will be edible without processing. 

I had better stop going out! There is work to do here at home! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Spiders in the kitchen! Scary ones!

I warned you it was scary! Just look at those teeth!
Every time the grandchildren come over from interstate, they like to decorate my kitchen with scary spiders which are here to scare Pa. He is scared, but DGS took his hand to make him brave when they went inside to make a cuppa.

We have had lots of fun riding the bikes to the park nearby. These bikes were bought at the tip store - DH did a good job of cleaning them up and they were worth every cent of the $10 we paid for both of them

We went on nature walks and collected things in a basket

DGS helped to make the best bread ever!

We had two birthdays whilst they were here: DS and DH both had birthdays. I made these chocolate muffins for DH and they went down a treat.

We played lots of games.

It was so lovely to have them here.

In a few months we are going to visit them where they live!