Saturday, June 3, 2023

Makuru -winter in the South West of Western Australia 2023


We had a lovely week away in Kinjarling/Albany at the time of our 47th Wedding Anniversary. Strangely, it was still and warm and sunny, and everywhere was the most amazing blue. I have a strong emotional connection to this coastline and love returning to it year by year. DH's family lived here at one time, and the first thing we did as a couple was visit this coast.

Since getting home, I have been working on a series of reversible gift bags -one side Christmas fabric, one side generic. I have made 5 so far. I need eight, but it is getting harder to keep going now it is a bit repetitive. The idea is that we no longer will need to throw out shiny paper which is hard to recycle. 

The garden is responding to the seasons. This poinsettia is huge, even though I cut it back hard last year. I think it grows  up to get the maximum amount of light.

We have harvested the limes, which we juiced and froze.For the first time I experimented with freezing juice in glass jars and it worked out well. We did some flash freezing of slices for drinks too. 

 We are eating tangelos and grapefruit. The myer lemon has only a small crop this year, after I cut it back hard to reduce the spread of citrus gall wasp. I will be giving away grapefruit very soon -the crop is very heavy. 

The rains held off for quite a while, but last week we copped a bucketting. It was a bit disappointing to see how badly the gutters fared, seeing as we had them cleaned only a couple of weeks ago. I have actually been using some water from the smaller water tank on the garden, although it absolutely does not need it, just to create a space for the next rain events which are expected this week.

We are all sick! After 3 and a half years, we are sick with COVID. DH was eligible for the antivirals, and I am pleased to say he is doing quite well 4 days in. DD is crook too, and I tested positive on Saturday this week.  We have been taking advantage of the extensive selection of food in our freezer, pantry and larder as none of us find much energy for elaborate cooking. This is one of the real benefits of the simple living lifestyle- the preparation we did months ago and now being appreciated. Stock in the freezer, left overs saved for another meal, rice of all kinds- I rarely run out of something without having a back up somewhere. 

While I am sick, I have been reading books and here are some I recommend:

This is a fascinating book about indigenous astronomy. Easy to understand for a person like me without a lot of science background. 

This is not a cookbook but a rationale about why it is better to go slowly in our food habits -cook well not just to save money but to provide nutrition and flavour boost our health. I really liked it. If you can find them in your library I reckon you might enjoy them. 

Well that is about it for today. Thanks for reading

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

BUY these things at an op shop! They are useful, hard working and durable*

 I was browsing in one of those kitchen tool type shops recently. They have lovely things, and I had 20 minutes whilst waiting for my husband. What shocked me, though, was the price of things I have at home which I got at op shops and have loved and used for years.

In each case, buying them from the op shop extends their useful life, saving them from landfill. (However, only buy them if you can actually use them. The Op Shop Goddess likes people who are considerate of others!

1. Wooden salad bowls, plates and boards

We buy wooden salad bowls and use them a lot around here. Mind you, some of them looked pretty drab in the shop as no-one had cared for the wood for years. That large teak salad bowl was desert dry and had tuned almost blond in colour. We brought it home and gave it a wash, then layers of lovely food safe Orange Oil (an Australian product and I don't have any links to the company- substitute whatever food safe product you can find) were applied and this is how it came up. I wash it in soapy water, dry it and use it over and over, but about once a year, I slick the orange oil over it and take care of it.

Sometimes we have found a nice handmade bowl -but someone has put plastic estapol on it. DH sands it back and then gives it the orange oil treatment. 

Salad bowls are of course, just a bowl which can hold all sorts of useful things. Many foods are most flavourful when at room temperature: tomatoes ripen slowly on the bench on a cute raised bowl . If I had chickens I could put eggs in them. 

Scones look lovely on a table when served in a wooden bowl with a linen napkin lining. Bread is  a natural on a wooden platter or shallow bowl or a wooden chopping board. 

There is nothing to stop us using wooden bowls for mixing bread or cake batter and other things in -I must confess I never have, but once upon a time wooden mixing bowls were standard in kitchens. 

Wooden chopping boards and cheese boards can take a bit more of a sanding back, because they are flat and thicker -DH gives ours a turn in the workshop if they need it. to freshen up the surface before treating with the food safe oil again. 

Oh, just so you know -wooden salad bowls were $70 or more in the kitchen equipment shop! 

2. Serviettes or Napkins

I have a lovely range of wash and wear table napkins which we use a lot. No need to have single use or disposable  ones. These are generously sized, easy to use and easy to wash-honestly, I don't worry if they are used for greasy fingers or to wipe tomato spills-after all, they cost only cents. I can't remember any of them staining that badly though. I have a couple of sets of colours to go with my table settings. You can shove them in the picnic basket and not worry. 

These are cotton and synthetic blends mostly, which is why they are pretty indestructable.  I would rather use all natural fabrics, except in this situation where the fabric already exists, and is practically bombproof. 

3. Table cloths

I have a couple of table cloths which fit my table and were bought at op shops for tiny amounts of money. They make it look like I made an effort, and are so easy -just wash and fold. Recently I borrowed a book from the library about how to emulate French Country style -and guess what? Table cloths were recommended! If you have ones that don't need ironing, or find them at the op shop for a few dollars, why not put them out and enjoy them?  

4. Tea towels

Many opshops have souvenir type teatowels which are made of linen, and will cost very little! I buy them and wash the shiny sizing off, and use them in the kitchen. Have enough to change them every day! 

5. Glass storage jars

I store my food in glass in the pantry and in the fridge whereever possible.  Glass jars are expensive to buy new, but cheap in op shops. They can be refreshed in the dishwasher and come up nicely. If you need lids they can often be found online. Here is an Australian supplier. 

Yes, I do freeze food in glass jars! So long as you leave a 'headspace' for the food to expand as it freezes you will be fine.

If you are lucky enough to have one of those bulk dry goods stores near you, you can fill up your glass jars with all sorts of spices and flours and bypass the plastic bags in the supermarket entirely. 

6. Baskets

Baskets are the MVPs of my house. 

 I have dedicated baskets for my library books, so I can keep them safe by my favourite chair, and then pick them up and go the library when it is time for a renewal.

Decent baskets with useful handles and a fair capacity can be picnic baskets, shopping baskets, harvest baskets, fruit baskets, there are so many uses.

Those little flat bamboo baskets are great for drying herbs 

The lovely thing about baskets is the way they feel -sort of old fashioned and they swing as you walk.

One of mine needed a bit of a repair when I got it -the edge was a bit broken and likely to catch on things. I wrapped some string around it and now it is fine. I believe in making things last -no need to hide a repair, enjoy it. 

And, of course, there is always a creative use for baskets.

7. Kitchen tools 

I have a number of kitchen tools that I picked up at Op Shops. I like things like tongs, strainers and double boilers that will fit a number of saucepan sizes. The good thing is that if they don't work, you can easily return them and let someone else have them. 


You can also barter these things for a jar of your home made pickles, or get them for free from a local share/swap site, or find them in garage sales. Whatever, if you use them they are not in landfill. 

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Djeran - Seasonal changes, and a catch up


It has been pretty obvious that we have slid towards Djeran -the local Noongar season which we would think of as Autumn. Nights are getting cooler -down to around 18C, and we have had one significant rain event. When you have a summer drought as long as we have each year, the first decent rains are very welcome. As soon as the dust is washed off the leaves, and the ground softens with moisture, all sorts of plants emerge from their summer half-hibernation and begin to get leaves growing. My water tanks were pretty low, but the 1500 litre was full after a night of rain, and the 3000 litre is about three quarters full. 

The shade sails and other shade structures are coming down, as I work my way around the garden. 

I have been harvesting limes, quinces and pomegranates. There is a pot of quinces on the stove right now, slowly turning pink and perfuming the house with fragrance. Our newish apple tree has tiny apples on it.

There is a lot of basil, which means that we are making batches of pesto and freezing them for later use.

Autumn is a time for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. I am watching with interest my experiments with duranta and curry leaf tree cuttings, and have sown calendulas for the bees. 


Inspired by the podcast "Eat drink  cheap, I have been getting used to making sausages, using the fancy attachments I got for my Kenwood Chef for Christmas. This time I had sausage casings, so that took the process up a notch or two. 


Dora has returned to her favourite spot on the table in front of the window in my sewing room. It is too hot here in the summer, but with the cooler weather she likes to watch the birds come to the bird bath in the garden. She is still holding her own as a teenage cat, with the help of a bit of vetinary medicine. One day I was delegated with the task of taking her for a checkup. Somehow she must have picked up a vibe, because when I needed to load her into the cat carrier, we found her hiding in the depths of an inaccessible part of the storage cabinet under DD's bed, and would not come out. DH has more success at this than I do, so he took her a week later, after we barracaded her into a room with fewer hiding spaces. 


While the weather holds, I have used the outdoor table to pin two quilts together. This one was made with scrap fabric printed with all kinds of music motifs. It is now pinned together and waiting for me to start the free motion quilting on it.

The other is a scrappy which I have now given to the WAQA Community Quilts group for donation to refuges and such facilities. I am grateful for this "potato chip block" design -it was so easy that the quilt came together really easily. I cut up a lot of scraps from previous projects into either 2.5 inch squares, which I will use later, or these 2.5 inch by 4.5 inch rectangles. The tidiness of the quilting room is an added bonus. 

DH and I had a lovely day travelling to Harvey in the south west, about an hour and a half from here, to attend the Quilt and Craft show this month. As usual, the quilts were very fine -here is just one example. We love to have lunch in a country cafe where they still remember how to make a decent salad sandwich with all the fillings, and then go and enjoy the craft show for a gold coin donation entry fee. 

The label below tells us who made it and how. 


I have added a new-to-me sewing machine to the fleet of vintage sewing machines. Read about it here.
Vintage sewing machines are repairable and serviceable by ordinary people -there are no computer mother boards to fail. I love the sound of them and the feel of them when I sew. The extra bonus is the feeling of empowerment when I solve minor technical problems with a pair of tweezers, a drop of oil or a minor cleaning. 


Well  I think we have bragging rights on this one, for sure. This month, we had a wonderful afternoon with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, when they played our son Ben's composition Karinup fanfare. Listen here  

This blog is my record of our simple life -but it is so nice if others visit it too.Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Bunuru - a celebration of many things!

It has been a succession of celebrations around here since my last post. Our son and daughter in law graduated with master's degrees in teaching from ECU and our daughter graduated with a Grad Dip in Information and Library Studies from Curtin. These were very happy moments of recognition of a lot of hard work and it was lovely to be able to celebrate together.
I love graduation ceremonies. Each person who crosses the stage has a whole story of struggle and achievement. The whole thing is full of hope in a way that is not often found. 

Our youngest grandson needs a pick up and delivery to a group event on a Thursday afternoons every fortnight. This gives DH and me a chance to spend some hours in the vicinity of the beautiful Swan Valley. We love this little cottage cafe in the middle of the vines, and take time to sit under the fig tree and enjoy our afternoon together. There are great plant nurseries nearby, and on-farm produce sales, and lots of wineries. We will be trying to make the most of our fortnightly visits out this way this year. 

I was very happy to get back to the West Australian Quilting Association monthly meeting after nearly a year. The whole thing is very inspirational. Here is the display of quilts donated to the Community Quilt group for donation to hospices, shelters and other needs in the community. I have now started my annual quilt for this group. 

This is the beginning of the donation quilt -potato chip blocks from a whole bundle of scraps that I cut up into 2.5 inch x 4.5 inches and have started sewing together. I am really enjoying the project and it is good to get my 'sewjo' back. 

I enjoy borrowing cookbooks from the library. Sometimes I make a recipe from them, sometimes I actually go out and buy the whole book! One such book I recently bought and will heartily recommend is the book Use It All The Cornersmith guide to a more sustainable kitchen.  (no affiliate link). 

Of course, sometimes it is just a matter of revisiting cookbooks I own, and trying something new. We have a small group of friends which meets on Friday nights where possible, to eat together. We each bring a course, and that way it makes it easier for the host. These brownies (without the hibiscus leaves!) were well received. The book is Annabelle crabb and Wendy Sharpe's book "Special Guest -recipes for the happily imperfect host". (no affiliate link). 

My DH painted my sewing room door and installed the perfect sign! For a quilter who loves vintage sewing machines it is a wonderful thing and it gives me joy. I have a whole page on this blog about my machines here

Giving me joy is the health of the indoor plants I am gradually collecting around here. While summer sees some of my garden under stress outside, and I am battling pests and fungus and rats (grr!) I find that it is important to allow the season to be what it  is, and to sometimes retreat indoors and just read books! I trust you are also finding moments of joy and celebration in your life. Maybe leave a comment and let me know? 


Monday, January 2, 2023

New Year, old me, same slow living

 Welcome to my first blog post of the New Year and thanks for visiting.

One of the things which happens at the end of the year is that we have lots of birthdays to celebrate, including mine. I always start the year officially older. Our celebrations of Christmas and New Year always spread over several days, to try to give the birthday girls a moment in the sunshine too. We had lunch with friends and lunch with the adults of the family, and a picnic afternoon tea in the park with the grandchildren, just for birthday celebrations. 

Did you give and receive presents recently? One of the things now residing in my house is a new attachment for my Kenwood Chef- it is a food grinder. 

The reason this grinder was on the Christmas Wish list is that I was interested to go further with my experiments in building skills for slow food, slow living. The questions was, would it be cheaper to make my own mince and sausages?  The 2.3 kg pork shoulder I bought was $20. Pork sausages are about $8-9 per 450g this week so making my own would save about half the money of buying 2.2 kg of sausages. (I am using for this example good quality sausages, not the cheap 'goodness knows what is in them' kind). 

I tried it for the first time this week, making a boneless shoulder of pork into mince. I then made meatballs with some of it to serve with pasta and tomato sauce, and froze the rest. I have some sausage casings on order -it will be interesting to see if I can manage the process of actually filling the cases and making sausages. I am also looking into what else I can make with this attachment. The process, though slow-ish, was enjoyable and I will certainly go further with it. 

I already have established several old timey sorts of habits and skills - I can make a pretty good sourdough loaf, most of my cakes turn out fine from scratch, I am now a regular pastry maker so pies and flans are often eaten here. My husband makes yoghurt and jams and chutney. There are pickled onions and pickled vegetables in the fridge for summer salads, which we made ourselves.

Of course we also try to grow food in our suburban garden, and whilst there are some successes -the blueberries have been fabulous-there are also failures. No strawberry has ever made it to ripeness in my garden without some pest eating it before I did! After several years, the mulberry is now producing decent fruit, and the rhubarb we pick is now both chunky and red. 

Summer is well established now. The rains have gone, my water tanks are half full, and the irrigation is the focus of our garden survival. DH thinks we need a new solanoid thingo  and a new controller for it. Shade has been spread around to help everything cope.

DH is a partner in the old fashioned skills, with his fabulous set of tools in the shed. Today he is working on my sewing room door, repainting it after sanding and making it nice again. I have a new sign to go on it when it is done. 

The grandchildren have a swing set in their garden, and one of the components that they loved was a stand-on swing. On Christmas Day it broke, so we brought it home and DH made a new piece for it out of wood, and sealed it. It was a bit tricky due to the ropes involved, which he did not want to undo, but he worked out a design which enabled the new wood to be inserted without undoing the ropes at all. 

The thing about this kind of slow living that many people comment upon is that it seems like a lot of work, and that they don't have time. Yes it is work but my feeling is that the work is the kind that gives deep satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. How else should we fill our days, except with the stuff of being independent and resourceful and practical, about the things which go to a good life without consuming more of the earth's resources than we need or can afford? Now that we are retired, of course we have more time to devote to these things. It would be hard to live like this  in the conduct of a full time job and with young children, unless something were to change -if you could afford a part time job, for example, or if finally the kids were in school all week. 

Finally some resources for you:

Jill WInger the Prairie Homestead -

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Oh look! Newsy post

I have been a bit quiet of late on the blog, but not any more! Here is a bit of what we have been up to lately. 

I recently decided to splurge and treat myself to a subscription to Grass Roots magazine, and wrote them a letter when I got the first copy. They printed my letter and a photo of my back garden.

My husband's insulated 'hot box' cooker was featured on Nev Sweeney's blog here . If you haven't read Nev's blog  Under the Choko Tree, I do recommend it. Nev does a great job of writing up sustainability and permaculture practices we can do wherever we live. 

Spring is sliding into summer and we are now harvesting lots of blueberries, mulberries and rhubarb. The chillies are ripening and I have just picked some to hang up to dry. The zucchini are now growing fast. This one was 550g! I have a lot of basil growing in a water well pot. The passionfruit are flowering and we wait anxiously for signs of fruit set -this will be the first season for this vine and we are hanging out for passionfruit! Of course we still have the rainbow chard and the spring onions and the various herbs. 

The grapevine has almost covered the trellis on the north side. We sit under it to eat our lunch. The pomegranate has started to set fruit, and the quince is looking better than ever. We have some baby apples on the new tree growing in the wine barrels. 

As the garden dries out from spring to summer, the nasturtiums are dying down and everything looks a bit less lush. This is the time for me to begin spot watering if I see plants in stress. The verge garden is not irrigated, so I keep an eye on it, although I have planted very hardy and sun tolerant plants there. . The new jacaranda tree the city council planted on the verge will need extra help this summer in the way of watering on hot days. 

I planted a new passionfruit to grow over the dead Eureka lemon in the front garden. It will get extra water from the outflow of the evaporative air conditioner we installed last summer, so I hope it will do well and cover this rather unsightly dead tree. I am not sure what happened to the lemon, althought the fact that the neighbour took out and poisoned a large New Zealand Christmas Bush not two meters away from it, probably did not help. 

We bought a new set of string lights -which are solar powered and quite pretty- and have hung them up on the patio ready for long summer nights. I am sure they will turn up soon! 

Sometimes I think I don't get enough of a yield from my garden, and then at other times I realise that I do pretty well given the challenges of the climate and the fact that the block is only 700sq meters, and that includes the house. It also gives me a lot of joy, and a lot of good exercise, as well as providing passive cooling to the air around the house. These things are not without value in themselves. 

If you have a moment, here are some links to a couple of good articles about gardening here: 

    Comprehensive description of how to do gardening for free here 

    Lemon Balm -give it a place in your garden -link here

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Food security? Small and slow solutions

 Spring has arrived and we are as busy as can be, whenever the weather is good. With drier weather, and occasional warm days, we are feeling the need to get stuck into some jobs which always come around in spring. With our Australian economy dealing with global energy spikes  and the poor farmers of the eastern states being flooded -some for the second or third time this year, our fruit and vegetable prices have gone up by 14% this year. 

DH renewed the oil on the outdoor furniture. This is a preservative and it gives us a chance to make sure the furniture can stand another year of outdoor living. 

The garden is busy! We flushed the reticulation pipes and repaired the spots that had got broken since it was last used. The reticulation is now on again, two days a week. Our gardens have to be hardy in this climate! I water pots if they need it, and about once a week I water the non-irrigated front verge if anything is looking distressed. The plants out there are chosen for their ability to survive once they have had their first summer in the ground. 

As the annuals in the front garden start to dry off, I am planting perennials like pelargoniums in their place. I have dug up some iris corms and replanted them in other spots. There is warrigal greens ( a native edible)  growing as a ground cover in the front garden too. This garden is both a food garden and an ornamental one. We have a pomegranate, olive, mulberry, lemon and two grapevines here. Tomatoes come up in the compost and I let them grow. Maybe in the future I will be wanting to grow more food out here too. Pumpkins could ramble along under the trees. 

As herbs and flowers are in their prime now, I am drying some and also making sure I leave some to go to seed. I have coriander hanging up to dry, to harvest the seeds for my curries. Lavender is drying to perfume new heat packs which I will stuff with rice.  Mint is known as a good help for digestion and can be good for the brain too, I understand. These may be small harvests, but they are very welcome in my kitchen. Calendula petals can be in a healing salve or tea, or added to risotto. 

 I find herbs to be a very worthwhile group of plants to grow. They are expensive to buy in the shops when you just need a bit for a recipe, but most are very hardy in the garden. Once you have planted them you have fresh herbs for a long time, and they really make a difference to the flavour of the dish you are making. Many of them contain important nutrients too. Herbs I grow include  Basil, Borage, Calendula, Chilli, Chives, Coriander, Curry Leaf, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Mint (four varieties), Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme -2 varieties, Verbeena. Most of these grow easily from cuttings so I can give them away for other gardeners to enjoy. 

Mizuna and blueberries 

The garden bed which lines the fence near the driveway is an important garden space. Here I have curry leaf, rhubarb, blueberries and chilli. 

I have planted tomatoes in all sorts of places and I am experimenting with various kinds of supports and feeding regimes. Nearly everyone says that you should not 'over feed' tomatoes in case you just get leaves and not fruit. Jackie French, the Australian gardener, novelist and all round nice person, says the opposite, so I am trying that out in one pot by adding compost and lots of mulch around a cherry tomato plant. 

We are picking asparagus and rainbow chard and cherry tomatoes. The blueberries are a few days off ripening. I had a lovely big handful of rhubarb with bright red stems from my oldest pot this week. 

There is a mulberry tree on the verge near a park in our suburb. DH brought home half a kilo of ripe berries from his walk today! This is very welcome, as my new FODMAP friendly diet requires me to eliminate some common fruits, but the good news is that berries are fine! My grandson had his first ever mulberry today, and announced that he loved them- and why not? As an urban forager, we know that the polite thing to do is to always leave some for the next person who comes along. Meanwhile our own mulberries are weeks away from being ripe. 

This week we will be helping our grandson plant carrots, sweet potato and snow peas at his place.
In the kindy garden where I am a volunteer, we have rainbow chard, rhubarb and strawberries. 
I love helping people discover the joys of growing a little something edible, and hope to inspire a long lasting journey into growing some food to improve food security.
I am also supporting a little "street pantry" where the community leaves food for others, no questions asked.

A lot of people in Australia are food insecure. There have even been cases of scurvy and malnutrition. I would like to think that those who can squeeze a jar of soy bean sprouts onto their window sill in the kitchen, or a pot with rosemary or parsley on the balcony, would be able to get just a small amount of extra nutrition as a result. It is not necessary to use a lot of money to do this -you can grow things in old tins and styrofoam boxes, and just straight in the earth. Compost can be made in a bin or a bag or a bucket with an old house tile as a lid, and compost is what most plants want to grow in.

The only way for people to be food secure would be for the rate of social security to be raised substantially -but that is sadly, unlikely to happen this year. 

Inspiration for hard times: simple ways to garden without spending lots of money  

Make a wild food map of your area here 

Food insecurity in Australia -read here