Saturday, September 15, 2018

Spring things

We have been very busy in the garden since we got home from our holiday. The winter weeds were knee high, so we did a quick sweep of the triffid-like nasturtiums and what I call "winter grass" and made a huge pile on a tarpaulin. Then we spread mulch which had been sitting in the trailer since before we went away -for exactly this moment. We call mulch "makeup for gardens" because everything looks so much neater and nicer under a thick layer of mulch. I  have probably spent two hours nearly every day since we got home, in the garden.

With that done, I am now more into the productive side of gardening - making sure everything is ready for the growth spurt which Spring brings. We have had a lot of rain this winter, which means that the citrus are continuing to produce heavy, juicy fruit as well as having a huge production of blossoms. The blueberries are setting fruit now,. My deciduous fruit are coming into leaf: mulberry, pomegranate, quince, grapes. I am feeding things, pruning and training things, planting things: tomatoes, lettuce in particular. I have been working on the styrofoam wicking beds, which I use to extend the veggie gardens and which are very useful for tomatoes. We can't replant tomatoes in the same soil for about 3 years or more here, because of problems with nematodes. I therefore plant tomatoes in wicking beds in new potting mix each year. This is the fence in the front of the house, near the carport. We squeeze as much productivity as we can in this 700sm plot!

DH took the pile of weeds to the tip and came back with another load of mulch, as we haven't finished the garden entirely yet. It will help to preserve the soil moisture as the summer comes. Our summers are usually dry from about November through to April or May.

There is only so much gardening I can do in a day, though. A couple of hours has me ready for more gentle pursuits. This is the quilt top I have made for my DGD1, featuring the Lorax panel I found when looking for something else in my stash. I have cobbled together a backing, and sewn pieces of leftover batting for it, so today or tomorrow I plan to be down on the floor pinning it together.

DH and I took a day off on Wednesday to go up to Walyunga National Park again. We expected that the river would be spectacular after all the rains, and it certainly was!

These two kangaroos were looking very well fed and relaxed as we walked up to Syd's Rapids. It is always a thrill to see them in the wild. The walk took us about two hours -it was 6 km there and back but we went fairly slowly, just enjoying everything and stopping to take pictures when something caught our eye.

The wildflowers were abundant again this year. I have decided I really need to have a Field Guide to the flowers and plants of the Swan Coastal Plain, because I am often stumped to know what they are called. Hmm: maybe I should add that to the Christmas List? I have started one on my phone so I can remember my good ideas. 

I am aware of just how lovely and precious this place is. It is under threat from so many things, but climate change is already putting our environment under stress. This area is a biodiversity hot spot- we have large numbers of plant and animals which are found nowhere else in the world but this tiny south-west corner of Australia.  I went along to the Rise for Climate rally in Perth last weekend, and have joined a group of people working with to try to get our city council to divest from investments in carbon producing industries.

We could be a Clean State -we have abundant sunshine for much of the year, and lots of wind and tides too -with some storage capacity we could power this state with renewable, clean energy entirely. It is a bit of a dream, but without a dream, almost nothing will get done. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Planes, buses and trains

When you have travelled from Perth to Melbourne by air, you might as well keep going, to enjoy what we West Australians call "The Eastern States", before coming home again. This picture is of the new Silo art in the town of Rochester in Victoria. We travelled by both train and bus to Rochester on this trip. Rochy is where our family are living. 

We sandwiched two important family stays in country Victoria with a lot of journeys on trains and buses through New South Wales and Victoria -almost 3,000 km of journeys which took us to Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Orange (because it is on the other side of the Blue Mountains!)  Choosing train travel meant that we could relax and enjoy the day. I spent most of the time just staring out the window, unwilling to miss any scenery.For people at our stage of life, public transport is often much cheaper with our Seniors discounts than hiring a car would be. 

This picture is from Flagstaff Hill in Melbourne. We had arranged our public transport concessions in both Melbourne and Sydney and found that it was very easy to get around in both places.

The other consideration is that the use of public transport cuts down carbon emissions per person who is on the bus or train! This is slow living at its best.


We hadn't visited the Old Cathedral church in Melbourne until this trip, but found both a lovely set of stained glass windows and some CDs of choir music which we have greatly enjoyed on our return home. 

Melbourne was our home for 13 years, and we still have friends and family who live there. It was great to be able to catch up with them. This picture is taken from Southbank. 

From Melbourne we caught the XPT to Sydney and then the next morning went off through the Blue Mountains to Orange. Each train trip was comfortable and convenient. The staff were cheerful and helpful.

In Orange we stayed at Duntryleague Guest House, which is situated in a lovely golf range. We took our first ever wine tour of vineyards in the Orange region, and had a lovely time. There was snow in Orange just before we arrived, and it snowed a few days after we left, but the days were were in town were sunny. My puffer jacket, thermals, hat and gloves got a real workout, however. 

 Then it was back to Sydney for a longer stay. DH hadn't had as much opportunity to explore the city as I had, during my working life, so I was glad to show him around. A trip on the Rivercat up to Paramatta must be one of the best value and most scenic public transport trips in Australia. You get a 90 minute trip up river for the price of a cup of coffee!

One of my favourite historical homes is Elizabeth Farm in Parramatta. 

Despite all our travels around, it was really all about visiting our family and supporting them with some grand-parenting, which were the real reasons for our trip. It is hard to bring up three children when you are far from family support. Our son and daughter in law do an amazing job, but when they have to go away together for work, we needed to come over and help.It was a lovely time, even though exhausting and busy! 

We are now home and recovering! DH came back with bronchitis but is getting better. I had a cold or some kind of sinusy-allergy thing which laid me low for a while but I am feeling better today. It may be something to do with being further away from the canola fields in flower!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Winter holiday

A winter holiday in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.

All the cold places!

We are from Perth, which has been having a good cool winter, but nothing like the weather we are experiencing whilst travelling in these states this month! On Tuesday it was 7 degrees C in Bendigo at lunchtime! Good thing we brought lots of warm clothes! There are plenty of rewards for travel in winter: first of all, we are doing important family things, and the weather is not getting in the way of those precious moments: see for example DGS1 and his water painting of the garage door. 

Secondly, the wattle blossom is coming out -and we are looking forward to seeing a lot of it over the next few weeks. We are travelling in some rural areas, where golden canola flowers add a spectacular view under dark cloudy skies.

Thirdly, the wineries and other attractions we are visiting are not at all crowded, and prices are cheaper in accommodation options too. 

We have planned a lot of train travel this holiday, because it is fun, relaxing, cheap, and saves on the  carbon debt of travel. We are not only visiting family, but catching up with friends too in Melbourne and Canberra, and also visiting Orange and Sydney. 

I don't know when I will be able to update you all with our travel stories, but you will find more updates on my Instagram account in the meantime.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Quilt finish! Doing a happy dance

I am doing a happy dance today.

I have hung the Life in the Garden quilt up -using a set of 5 tabs which I made -in the manner of tapestries hung in medieval banqueting halls. 

Can you see my cat figurine on the top shelf? 
What cat doesn't want to be near a quilt, now

Here it is, quilted and bound and hung in the spot I designed it for, just inside the front door. 

I did swirly swirls and stippling in diagonal rows to add texture and interest to the quilt. 

This quilt was fun to make -the whole way through. I really like the way it turned out. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mid way through Plastic Free July-getting expert advice

We visited the Good Fair at the University of WA last weekend. The market was a place to find  WA’s vibrant community of ethically conscious businesses and organisations. We could browse and shop ethical fashion, gifts, food, home wares and eco products.

The Rubbish Fairy from EarthWise in Subiaco was there, talking rubbish.  Earthwise is a community organisation which has a community garden, op shop and numerous activities for aspiring eco-activists. 

The Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) was there providing us with delicious Iraqi food, made by local refugees and asylum seekers.

We heard a number of good talks about the difficulty of plastics in the environment. One was about the amount of plastic which is in our clothes -and the packaging in which it comes -which then gets into our oceans. We should be washing our clothes less, and always using cold water when we wash. The best thing, however, is to seek out natural fibres where ever possible. Second hand clothes from Op shops help to make sure that clothes are kept out of the waste stream for longer.

This is Rebeccah, founder of Plastic Free July (which started in 2011 right here in Perth), telling her story and inspiring us to keep up the good work. 

My new Keep Cup, which I am taking with me on a holiday soon. I have a little back pack and it will go in there with a stainless steel water bottle. 

Our plastic free experiments have had mixed success:
  • Rinsing hair with cider vinegar instead of condition was not successful for DH or myself. 
  • the bin seems none the worse for not having a liner. Most of our food waste goes in the compost or worm farm, so wrapping up chop or chicken bones in the pages of the community newspaper seems to work well.
  • I picked up a free net curtain or three, which I will use to make produce bags and gift them back to the community.
  • I picked up a free tiny glass and metal table for the lounge room from our local Buy Nothing group. This enables us to extend the coffee table so the room is not so crowded. It is a big room but the chairs were all crowded around my too-small glass and metal coffee table. I only recently found this group, and I am impressed with the amount of community creating giving-it-away that goes on. Buy Nothing? Great idea to keep waste down. 
We have a new bulk eco-shop opening up soon in my suburb. Maybe the best thing we can do re the conditioner thing, will be to be able to take it to the bulk shop and refill the bottle there. 

I am also putting in our first order for Who Gives a Crap totally recycled toilet paper that builds toilets in the third world. It comes wrapped in paper in a cardboard box. I usually buy bulk toilet paper anyway -my family goes into melt down if we run out, so this has been my way of reducing unnecessary stress. 

How are you doing? Are you reducing any part of your plastic consumption? I would love to hear from you. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Life in the garden -a quilt top

I finished the quilt top which I am calling "Life in the garden" last night.

I am heart-skippy with delight over it! 
It was a LOT of fun to make. 

This post is about how I made it, and what I like about it.

It started with two things: a discounted pile of 15 precuts called "charm squares" which had  a bee theme: honeycomb, bees, and also butterflies. 

I had be re-reading Gwen Marsden's book "Liberated Quiltmaking II" on improvisational piecing. She spoke about using a toile piece in an improvised quilt -and used a Welsh vintage quilt as inspiration. I decided to make her instructions for square in a square blocks, and to use some old Debbie Munn fabric as the centres: time to use this up! This gave me quite a few squares. I also added some cats -as what is a garden without cats?

I used up all the charm squares by adding borders to them. As some of them were quite dark in background, I added some dark borders. 

I added a number of fabrics to the mix -toiles and soft patterns on white fabrics -everything with a garden theme. 

I played with the design quite a bit. I didn't want to have too regular a pattern of lights and darks, but instead let the movement of the tones encourage the eye to move around the piece. 

Then, as I pondered about the way to finish the quilt following the white stop border, I saw a small quilt on Instagram which Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville had completed this week -with a scrappy strip border. I had saved all the strips from cutting this quilt -so I started to make the outer border in a fairly random fashion. So long as no two fabrics were together that was it! Add some yellow corner stones and it was done.

I have a pretty black and white fabric which I found disguised as a couple of pillow cases and a doona cover, in a op shop, which will be the back. Add a thin piece of batting -you know the leftover bits you always have from a big quilt-and it will be done. 

I loved the playfulness of the quilt making - I didn't have a design in mind when I started. I liked the way I was able to incorporate things from my stash, including fabric which had been there far too long. I liked the scrappy strip border -again it used up tiny bits which might otherwise get tossed out.

There is a narrow space near my door, with a quilt hanger. When it is finished, this will go there. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Progess in Plastic Free July

“I pledge to avoid single-use plastic, to reuse or recycle the plastic that I do use, to educate others about plastic waste, and to take action to help the world #breakfreefromplastic.
Find out more 

Here we are again in Plastic Free July, and Chez Earthmotherwithin is doing it's bit. I can't remember how many years we have taken part, but each time we learn a new habit and go a bit deeper into the plastic free lifestyle.

Disclaimer: it is very very hard to be plastic free. We are surrounded by it. My keyboard is plastic, as is the handle of my shopping trolley, and I think the fabric of the same trolley is plastic too. Nevertheless my trolley saves me both the petrol which I might use if I went by car to the local shops, and it also means I don't need single use plastic bags. 

What we are trying to do is to reduce single use plastic at the very least. That means in particular, plastic bags given out by shops for a one-time trip home, water bottles and other soft drink bottles, plastic wraps used once in the kitchen, plastic which covers vegetables and fruits in the shops, so-called disposables like plastic straws and coffee cups with those plastic lids. 

These things are hard to avoid. I can't buy milk in anything other than a plastic bottle. My meat comes in plastic. Some fruit and vegetables can be found loose -and then I use my produce bags (below) but soft fruits like strawberries are not often found that way because they bruise so easily in transport. Some people have local butchers who will let you bring your own containers for the meat, but this is a pretty much localised phenomenon. I tried it once, but I was embarrassed by the response and haven't done it again since. 

I made these bags using left over curtains and some netting I had in my stash.

Last year we swapped body wash bottles for a simple bar of soap on a wooden rack. This works for both body washing and shampoo! This year I am experimenting with replacing the bottles of conditioner with a spray bottle of cider vinegar and water. So far it is great: it is easy to use in the shower and my hair is soft but not tangled. 

I have also replaced my plastic container of dental floss with a refillable glass one which uses an organic thread rather than a plastic filament.

My rechargeable razor keeps my legs fuzz free -I used to use 'disposable' razors but this will last longer. I use rechargeable batteries in it. 

In the kitchen we regularly use bulk shopping to assist in cutting down the plastic coming in to the house. One 5 litre container of dishwasher rinse aid is the equivalent of about 20 little bottles of rinse aid, as well as being impressively cheaper for example.

My DD covets the glass condiment bottles we buy, because they become the vessels for his jams and chutneys. We always need more, because these same things are given away to friends when they visit. It is therefore easy to pick the glass jar over the plastic container when shopping.

There are lots more ways in which we can improve our plastic free life -this month helps us concentrate on these, and move a bit closer to the ideal. 

"If personal preference for free, convenient plastic bags were to trump the prospect of curbing environmental damage, we can look to a really rubbish future."  Find more here