Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Winter garden

Whenever the rain is not too persistent, I get out in the garden and do a bit of work. It is winter, and there has been some pruning to do, and mulching, and of course weeding. I am a bit behind with sowing seeds though. 

This week I spread some compost over the rose bed near the patio, where the compost bin was located, and moved the bin to a spot under the Meyer lemon, to begin fertilising it after its awesome crop this year. I celebrated the end of the Meyer lemon harvest by making a whole lemon cake and drizzling it with lemon syrup. My freezers are full of lemon juice and lemon pieces! We continue to give away lemons and grapefruit to any who will take them. 

My garden  is a working, productive back garden, but I think it has it's own beauty. Passionfruit on the wooden trellis, fig in the brown container, lemons and limes in the background, celtuce and asparagus in the foreground. Snow peas and kale in the cream bed to the left. 

I love things that self-seed! My borage is in danger of taking over, but I do love the blue flowers! I have a lot of irises that I have spread myself in clumps around the garden, and they do look lovely at the moment. 

This week I had three wine barrel halves delivered. I had trialled two grafted fruit trees on the paving in between our freestanding carport and the house, by putting them in cheap plastic bins. I wasn't sure they would like the spot, but a year on and I was ready to make this a permanent installation. Two of the barrels are now properly potted on, and one is waiting for our COVID lockdown to end so I can get some more potting mix from the store. In gardening in a small space I really value raised garden beds and containers, because they turn brick paving into shady, green and growing spaces. 

When not in the garden, I am at my sewing machine. This free motion quilting will add texture and strength to my quilt. I put some music on, and sew away! 

Our COVID outbreak numbers are looking good so far -hopefully we can have visitors next week! 


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Happy Solstice (bring back the sun!)


Perth winters are quite short, but for those of us used to continual sunshine -we have an average of nearly 8 hours of sunshine per day- the short days of winter are a bit of a trial! We alternate a couple of days of rain with a day or more of sun before the rain fronts come back. Don't get me wrong -the lovely rainy weather we are having are quite lovely and so necessary in our dry climate, but I miss being outside in my garden.

On the days when working outside was possible, I finished my verge garden with a lovely load of free mulch spread thickly over everything, to keep weeds down, to insulate the soil from cold and heat, and to keep moisture in. Apart from that it makes the garden look better! 

DH made a very wonderful Makrut lime marmalade from our limes -both Tahitian and Makrut- this week. If you love marmalade, you will adore this one -it is a bit tart, and absolutely wonderful. It is up there with the cointreau and cumquat marmalade DH makes, and that is high praise indeed! 

I have now stripped the Meyer lemons from the tree and am processing the last of them. Meanwhile friends and family are enjoying our bountiful supply of Ruby grapefruit. I have so many we are now juicing them for breakfast! At $6 per kilo, that would be very expensive juice, and we feel luxuriously rich while we drink it while eating croissants and marmalade! When I have juiced them, sometimes I put the skins in the slow cooker and cook them overnight, then add sugar and make a citrus syrup which is amazing on a whole orange/grapefruit/tangelo cake. 

We always mark the Solstice as a bit of a celebration, because from today the days get longer. We had friends over for dinner and I made a lamb roast served with a potato bake and a salad made from greens from our garden. 

June 20 is also World Refugee Day. We always mark this important occasion, too. Learn more here

Saturday, May 22, 2021

New watertank and citrus -what we are doing this autumn


This is our new 1500 litre water tank, saved up for and installed just in time for the winter rains. We had to get an extra delivery person to help us get it off the truck and pushed into position down the side of the house. DH was feeling much better recently after being ill with another bronchial infection on top of the back surgery eight weeks ago, however, and was able to get the downpipe installed to send the rain into the tank, which saved us the cost of a plumber. 

It sits under the eaves near the other 3000 litre water tank and the garden bed on the west side of the house. It will solve a problem with water pooling on the paving in that site, because the downpipe did not have a soakwell to put the water into, from the roof. It will also provide extra storage of water for our garden. Perth is not getting wetter with climate change, but rapidly drying. My water tanks are used for extra watering for food plants. 

DH also helped me prune the grapevine on the northern side of the house so that more winter light can get in and warm the place up. It now has a pretty decent structure, and I hope to be able to manage it better when summer comes. 

I am pruning the citrus trees as I harvest the fruit. The mandarins were a bit overcome by the Mediterranean fruit fly this year -I got some nice ones, but I need to remember to bag the fruit on the tree next year I think. 

The Meyer lemon has been prolific. I have juiced some and frozen the juice in bags for recipes later on, but there are plenty to share. I have put 5 boxes full of lemons on the verge for neighbours, and there are more to come. I put a post up on our "Buy Nothing" page and a steady stream of people come by to get the lemons. 

The lemons are just a part of the citrus harvest - I am also processing limes and grapefruit and tangelos! I am pressing them onto anyone who comes near me: "Here, take some away before I drown in citrus juice!" 

We are drying chillis and herbs like oregano on the laundry rack I have in the laundry room. It is a good place for slow drying without power. 

Apart from all of this harvesting, I would like to be able to get more seeds in for the winter crops- I have some snow peas coming up already. I have a lot of self seeded celtuce for winter salads. 

I love my garden, and I enjoy the work I do in it. Sharing it  and saving it are part of the fun. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Choosing a value driven life

With so much going on in the world, I choose to hunker down here in my house and garden, trying to live a value driven life, rather than a life buffeted by fashions, advertising or even bad news. This is where I can provide those I know and love with my time and the results of my efforts and work. This is where I am nurtured and where I am content. I concentrate on the three big Permaculture values -care for the earth, care for people and Fair Share. The kind of values which most spiritual paths will identify with, too. 

I started this blog in 2008, when I was on the first couple of rungs of  the ladder of learning to live simply. I was in a stressful job, and I felt stuck. I needed a plan in which I could be kinder to myself and it wrote about it here

When I go back and read the first couple of years, I can see how much things have changed since then. I have added new skills such as making bread and quilting, along with new garden beds, new habits such as budgeting with YNAB along with a new garden shed. The blog was my way of both documenting and creating accountability for my determination to live a more value driven life. I wanted to be less busy but more happy, to work less and spend less but enjoy life more, and to be more creative and to live out my values. Eventually I was able to move to part time work, then finally to retire, having paid off our suburban home and ready to live more on less. 

This beautiful illustration is from Brenna Quinlan

We are all feeling a bit overwhelmed, I think, by the stresses and changes of living in 2021. Right now we are back in lockdown here in Perth. 

I try to concentrate on what is in our power -to do all the good we can do. Some of these things are remarkably easy to do! But they will 'leave a trace' for others to follow.

Brenna says "We're always talking about doing less bad, but why don't we shift the conversation to one about doing more good? Imagine if your ecological footprint was a measure of how much carbon you captured? Or if the goal wasn't just to achieve net zero, but to assist our ecosystems to thrive once more.  We can all kick start this way of thinking in our homes and communities. We can be a beacon in the dark, inspiring others to do the same, just like so many have inspired us."


We have moved our 'parked' savings to a bank which does not invest in fossil fuels or live animal exports or the weapons trade. They invest instead in projects which will be good for the earth and the community. We are very happy with Bank Australia. 

Find out if your bank is doing this by checking out or dontbankonthebomb.

We try to spend our money with local businesses and services. I firmly believe we can do good this way, keeping people in work and letting the money circulate in places where it can do the most good. In Australia large businesses swallow up small family owned businesses -especially in hardware, groceries, fruit and vegetables and butchery. I get better quality services and goods from small places and usually reduce the food miles by HEAPS as well. For example, here in Perth one grocery chain sells eggs from Queenslad -over 3000km away. I shop at an independent store where I can get them from either Harvey (a town a couple of hundred ks away) or Gingin (quite close to my northern suburb home). 

We try not to spend it all on ourselves! The past few months I have been using YNAB as the tool for managing our budget. I have no personal or business relationship with YNAB but I can heartily recommend it as a way of giving us power over our money. With the tools and tutorials it offers us, we have been able to feel more completely aware of each dollar and what it is for.  This then means that, because we are in a very fortunate position of having a bit more money coming in than we can justify in spending on ourselves, our charitable giving can be supported.  We also donate to a small number of regular charities. Our long term favourite is St Judes School in Tanzania The Pat Giles Centre for Non Violence , St Barth's homeless services  and CARAD -Centre for Refugees and Detainees.  

We try to invest ethically. In Australia, we have a superannuation arrangement which puts money into an investment fund during our working life, to use when we retire. DH and I arranged for our superannuation funds to only be invested in ecofriendly investments. No fossil fuels! No weapons! The superannuation manager was a bit surprised, to be honest, that we requested this, but they did have options for people like us-even if he had to go and look it up first! 

One thing I am interested in exploring, is using our money to invest in small, local, eco-friendly business ventures. I don't have much money to spare, but it could just make a big difference to someone starting out. 

These are just a few of the ways in which we can do good with our money. 

Next time I will write about how we are trying to do this sort of thing by living our values with regard to what we buy and how we take care of the things we own.

Here are some links for you to enjoy: 

The shearwaters are doing well this year 

We found some daisies! Check the story here 

A great inspirational book about gardening: 

Happy -when surrounded by nature and especially lots of it

How to keep cool -click here 

Farming productively using old methods here 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Simple days, getting simple things done

Our days have been going on in the usual way, with simple things taking up our lives. We are most grateful for our happy, quiet home.

 In the last few weeks a number of important milestones have been passed -DH and DS both had birthdays, and DH is through his hand and back surgery and well on the mend. We have both had our flu injections for this year -DH got one for pneumonia last year so probably doesn't need it to be done again this year. We are not yet on the list for the COVID vaccine but I will be lining up as soon as I am called. 

The tumbler quilt top I started some time ago has become a flimsy over the last couple of weeks. I will always remember this one for the way my 3 year old grandson enjoyed turning the handle on my Accuquilt Go as I cut the tumblers, and them put them up on the design wall. I am planning to use a collection of orphan blocks on the back. I am trying to think of a name for the quilt, but given the helper I had I am thinking of it as 'tumble tots'. 

It  has been school holidays and we have been having a 'sleepover' with the older grandchildren as a special treat. I took both Miss 8 and Mr 6 to the local pool and they had a wonderful time. The pool is geothermally heated at a constant 32C and it is quite wonderful. When DH is a bit more recovered we both will be using the pool again for our 'walking in water' exercise regime -it is good work but kind to arthritic joints. 

Miss 8 continues to progress in her scrunchy making skills with my sewing machine. I think we have made 3 so far, and each one requires less of my attention.

I took advantage of an early in the season rainfall to start putting plants in the verge garden. After the hot dry summer the earth was absolutely rock hard out there, so I bought an auger attachment for DH's drill to help me dig the holes. I had a couple of indigenous plants ready to go in, and have some more to plant this week. Once the rains fell the earth softened a bit and I hope that gradually we can turn this semi-desert into living soil again. In a couple of weeks I hope DH will be able to help me get a trailer load of mulch to protect the bed and feed the soil a bit. 

 We are eating the butternut pumpkins I grew under the citrus out the back, and just this weekend started harvesting the limes. The myer lemons are colouring up, and will be abundant very soon. I managed to get abut 7 good pomegranates from the tree this year -a smallish crop, but I have frozen some kernels for salads later in the year. I have some rocket now growing -it needs cooler weather -and some seedling celtuce coming up from one I let go to seed. I have prepared some of the raised garden beds in preparation for winter crops. 

The nasturtiums are returning to the front garden, and the autumn flowering daisies and salvias are in bloom again.  

Finally, here are a few good articles I found about simple living and growing things 

Simple living vs Minimalism

Why we should embrace regenerative gardening 

The self-sufficiency myth

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Delightful happenings to balance the rest!

 I hadn't meant to leave it so long to make a new post, but it has been a while. Nothing to hold me back excep the number of truly delightful things which we have been enjoying lately. Let me tell you about some of them.....

The most wonderful holiday

DH and I got away for a few days to our favourite holiday place -Kinjarling/ Albany on Western Australia's south coast.  We were between two bouts of surgery which DH had scheduled -he is getting both hands worked on to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome, and also surgery on his back to relieve pressure on his sciatic nerve. As he was not driving much, we took the opportunity to use a free bus ride there and back. I didn't want to drive all of the way. (DH has had his second surgery now, and is at home and recovering well). 

This free travel to our regions is provided by the WA state government to 'seniors' like us. We enjoyed the relaxed 6 hour journey very much, and hired a car in town. 

The weather is notoriously unpredictable on our south coast, but this year we got uninterrupted magnificent blue skies and warm temperatures (not hot like Perth has been). 

Albany has beautiful scenery, and is renowned for the colour of the waters inshore. We spent the time sight seeing, eating at cafes and restaurants, visiting art exhibitions and reading books. It was wonderful! 

A wonderful kid

DH and I have three wonderful grandchildren. Two of them are at school these days, but Mr 3 years old is in need of a babysitter day on Mondays. He comes to us and we have a whale of a time. At the moment he really likes to make cookies. I think we will work our way through most of the recipes in my Cookie Recipe Book -especially the ones with icing, cherries or lollies on top. 

A new mattress

It was playing with the grandchildren that brought us to the awareness that our mattress was in need of replacing. They were playing a game called "Veranda Santa", (from the show Bluey)  which involves lying on beds while one of the kids sneaks in and puts 'presents' under our pillows. The kids said that the mattress was sloping to one side, and in fact when we looked, we could see that the edges had deteriorated. We had a great deal from a mattress company which makes them locally, and we are really enjoying it. 

An election

I volunteered on two occasions to hand out 'how to vote cards" for the Greens at my local State election. I have done this kind of thing before, and enjoy it as a way of contributing to our democracy.  As it happened, the election resulted in a huge win for the local Labor party and I am pretty OK with it, even though the Greens candidate I was helping is probably going to lose her seat in the upper house. Labor is pretty progressive party. 

And the rest of the stuff

Dh and I went to a rally in Perth to protest at the sexual assault of women and the way in which we all live with a daily fear of being attacked or harassed. When a couple of assaults were alleged to involve our Federal politicians -one allegedly happened in a Ministerial office- the women of Australia said "ENOUGH". Rallies were held all over Australia, and the political revelations of more mysogyny and harassment are daily occurrences at the moment. It seems like a lot of women are no longer going to keep men's secrets but instead will be shouting them from the rooftops. We don't want women's testimonies to be disregarded because there is no 'evidence' , we want laws which will actually provide justice for women even while upholding the right to a fair trial for the perpetrators.

So that is a bit of a summary of life with us. Thanks for reading this far. Please leave a message or comment if you feel like it. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Late summer

It is late summer in Perth, and the sea breezes come most afternoons- except when they don't and it gets really hot (39C) and doesn't cool down much overnight. We have been lucky and had some milder weather in between the hot spells. I have most of the garden thriving, or at least surviving! 

My own seedling fig is not producing fruit but it is young,  but I have a quilting friend with a prolific tree, who was glad to bring some along to share! There is something so luxurious about a ripe fig -sweet and sticky but a slightly bit acid too.

Due to the warmth, my sourdough batter  rises quickly. I try not to start it too early the evening before, and can just leave it on the bench. I find myself getting up early to bake before it gets too hot here, and to catch the dough before it gets exhausted. 

I am drying calendula flowers for tea, and thinking about making some herb salt with dried rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena and celery leaves. 

I took this picture of our dresser in that glorious afternoon light that comes just before sun goes down. Once or twice the local State governments have wondered if we should have summer time daylight saving in Perth, but when we tried it, many people found it too hot into the evening, and we were worried about the children walking home from school in the absolute hottest part of the day. So we have sunset to look forward to, with the drop is temperature which mostly arrives with it.

Even though I have two different lemon trees - a Eureka and a Meyer, I have almost no ripe lemons a all at the moment, but I have all the limes I need, though they are a bit hard and therefore not actually ripe yet. I tend to leave them on the tree if I can keep the Mediterranean fruit fly away from them, as DH makes the most remarkably good Golden Lime marmalade. One of our Australian cooks of note, Maggie Beer, says she loves the limes when they are golden. I do too! 

We are waiting anxiously for our first pomegranate to ripen this year. Once I used them to make pomegranate molasses -a big, fiddly job properly left to the experts. Pomegranates are a symbol of Easter and resurrection, and also just the taste of summer! 

After a few days of cooler weather, I returned the shade cloth to the veggie beds. This one has a shade structure I have just made from a salvaged metal hoop from a child's swing set, along with some star pickets and some plastic trellis I have used many times before. I am wondering if I can get another quick crop of snake beans in before the end of March when the weather usually turns cooler?

As a subscriber to Choice Australia, I get the benefit of their product reviews. The cast iron casserole dish is a cheap discount supermarket copy of the well known one that costs hundreds of dollars. I have often wondered about buying the expensive one, but was concerned that maybe it would be too heavy for me to lift, and I didn't want to spend that kind of money with such a risk. Choice said this particular copy held up very well in their tests, and was 90% cheaper! I thought it was worth a try, and I love it. Being able to brown things on the induction stove top and then bung it in the oven is convenient. It is a good size for roasting the free range chickens my local independent grocer marks down Sundays when they are nearing their 'best before' date. 

This picture if part of our first market stall with DH's cheese boards and knives and trivets, and my bags, teacosies. We learned a lot on our first try out, will be working on another one later. This time I want to go equipped with lots of bunting and a sign for our marquee, and take the time to do a bit of extra presentation. My DIL has some lovely pot covers for sale, and I reckon I might be able to pot up some plants to go with them.