Sunday, June 5, 2022

Eat like a peasant

 It is now winter -or more precisely the Noongar season of makuru, which is when we can expect more rain and cooler weather. In the face of the good news of our new government (Yay for democracy! Yay for preferential voting!) we have the continuing bad news of rising prices in just about everything, but especially energy prices. 

As I wrote in my last post, there are some long term things we do to help us cope with inflationary cost pressures. 

I have been reviewing our habits on grocery spending  and genearl food habits this month, and thought I would write down some of the suggestions. One of the things I have been doing is reminding myself of the "peasant lifestyle", through some cook books on my shelf*, as the resourcefulness and simplicity of the peasant lifestyle is a bit of a hedge against feeling powerless in the face of the supermarket price rises. I turn to the classic cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia for inspiration. 

Here is an article about 'cucina povera" -or peasant food! Click here

Growing some of it ourselves 

It is fair to say that the garden gives me great pleasure, and good exercise. If it did nothing else, it would be a worthwhile investment, but the garden actually provides us with real food which we can eat fresh picked and without any food miles. I deliberately try to grow things which are expensive when bought in the shops, and things which don't travel well -like herbs. Our diet can be tastier, healthier and more varied by doing this. We don't grow potatoes, carrots or onions because they take quite a lot of room in an small garden, if you want to stop buying them from the green grocer altogether. 

The think you notice about the peasant life is that it flows with the seasons. Seasonal food is cheaper, it doesn't need to be transported half the way across the world, and it is fresher. In the Mediterranean diet -often cited as very healthy- fasting is a normal part of the year but especially for the religious seasons of Lent and Advent. Vegetarian food is common, with meat used sparingly. 

What we have been harvesting

Tangelos -these gloriously orangy oranges are fabulous in breakfast juice. Our tree has about 20 fruit this year, and I am saving every single one for us. 

Grapefruit-these are the pink ones, and I reckon there are more than 100 on the tree. I have already given a basketful away to the neighbours through our buy nothing group on social media. We add some of these to our breakfast juice. 

Meyer Lemons -sweeter and juicier than eureka lemons, and we have a very productive tree. Have given away a basketful already this season.

Limes -not just for gin and tonics, but good for these. I will freeze some in quarters, and I am also going to put some in salt -like preserved lemons- for adding to salads and rice and couscous. 

Olives -DH and I are putting away a couple of small jars in brine every few weeks. 

Salad leaves -I am growing  a whole range of 'cut and come again' lettuces, along with rocket and coriander and dill, in the garden at the moment. Most of these are self-seeded, which means that I just let the plant flower, and then the seeds fell into the garden and now I have new plants. Winter is the best time for green leaves in this climate. We also have kale, kan kong, warrigal greens and sweet potato leaves for stir fries. At about $3 per bag of salad leaves at the supermarket, we are doing well in saving money just from this one item alone, especially as ours are always picked absolutely fresh. 

Herbs- soup is better with parsley and thyme, pasta is better with basil and rosemary and oregano. I have bay leaves growing outside. I have makrut lime and curry leaves for curries. Mint for tea and deserts. One read recently that those tiny packs of herbs in the supermarket come out to $200 per kilo! Now, herbs are astonishingly easy to grow- in fact with things like mint and saddle back sorrel the trick is to keep them from taking over the garden. Instead, I keep them in a pot, and feel like one of those TV chefs when I just pop outside and come back with a handful of herbs for my recipe.

How much do we spend on the garden? My budget gives me $50 per month, and I can usually find something to spend it on. I don't buy pesticides or fungicides -but I do buy a bag or two of pelletised manure, and quality potting mix to add to the compost when I am potting up plants. This month I bought rock minerals because Perth sandy soils can be a bit deficient in minerals. I also bought a bag of kitty litter which is made of bentonite clay, because it is a cheap way of getting clay to add to the sand in the garden when I am planting something. Sometimes it  is nice to buy a new plant -I got a bougainvillea this month -but I often can divide or take cuttings when I need to fill a space in the garden. We make compost and get free mulch from the city council, and I am always on the scrounge for free ingredients to add to the garden. This pile of leaves was one such opportunity - I had a bag in the boot so I quickly piled them up and took them home for the compost.

What is the garden worth in dollar terms? I haven't actually done the figures, so I don't really know. We still shop for vegetables and fruit, but I think our diet is more varied, and we have fresher meals because of it. I saw someone offering home grown grapefruit for $1.50 each! I have more than 50 on the tree -so that is a significant cost saving right there. 

If you have the land -or even a bit of a sunny balcony or a strip of land next to a driveway, I think you can eat from the garden and save money. 

*Books like "Honey from a weed" by Patience Grey , and  Rick Stein "From Venice to Istanbul" 

Other Resources

Integrated pest management

It's OK really 

Great tips here  from Zero Waste Chef

Friday, May 6, 2022

Inflation -some strategies for avoiding spending money

 In Australia, as in other places, the cost of living is rising sharply at the moment. Interest rates are going up, and for those who have loans and mortgages that means that they will have less discretionary spending money.

Food prices are going up around the world, too. 

One of the best definitions of inflation, that I have read, is 'a time when your money buys less than it did before". For anyone on a tight budget, or a fixed income, inflation is a challenge -how manage when prices are going up? What follows are my thoughts on how someone in my situation -one a fixed budget and at the retired stage of life, might do some hedging against price shocks.

  NOTE: I know many others have it much tougher than we do, and I am sorry, really sorry. If this blog post is not helpful because you just don't have enough money now let alone when prices go up, please know that I have been there too, and I really hope our society can be kinder and fairer to everyone. In Australia that means, at the very least, we should raise the rate of Newstart to something like $80 per day. 

Get it for free

This is a devil's ivy plant, which was given away on our local "Buy Nothing"  site, because it really really needed some plant first aid. Now, I have quite a collection of indoor plants, and enjoy growing them up. They can cost quite a few dollars, but last a long time if cared for and in the right place. 

After a few weeks of tender care the plant is now thriving in a new pot -this one which actually has drainage- and I am using the pot as a cover pot for another of my plants. It was a fun challenge, and it made me happy. If I want to, I can now give it away as a gift.  Free stuff -you might find it in all sorts of places if you are open to it. It is particularly true in gardening -most people are very happy to give away cuttings and seeds, or even whole plants if it is in the wrong place, and you are willing to dig it up for them. Many of my garden plants were grown from cuttings, and often turn out to be the best for this climate, such as pelargoniums and shasta daisies. 

I will also mention libraries as my favourite place to get reading material for free. I absolutely love my library -I am an avid reader. It would cost a fortune to keep me in books, so libraries are a great source of entertainment and education and they cost nothing. 

Books to find at the library on frugal living
The Art of Frugal Hedonism bu Annie Raiser Rowland and Adam Grubb

A Girl Called Jack -recipe book for those who are living in a low cash environment -and all the other cook books Jack Munroe has authored, like "Cooking on a bootstrap" and The Tin Can Cook. 

Regarding free stuff -it may be important to check what subscription items are in your budget that you could replace for free things -I am thinking of subscriptions to various apps and channels. If we are creative, we can find our entertainment and educationw without paying each month for it. 

Lend it

If you can't get it for free -maybe you know someone who would lend you something you only need for a little while. I read somewhere that most electric drills are used for only 4 hours. People want it to do one thing, buy it and never use it again. In some parts of Australia folk have set up lending libraries of things like camping equipment, garden and workshop tools and the kind of things you need for a big party, but don't need very often. If you take good care of the item you borrow, and return it on time, you will keep your friend happy.
Don't forget to return the favour -maybe you have some things you could lend to another. The kind of reciprocity of this exchange builds community. 

Maintenance Pays Off

We have all had that experience of suddenly discovering that the washing machine won't work, or the dishwasher is making odd noises, or the car has a warning light on the dashboard. Not only is it often extremely inconvenient, it is also really expensive. Getting a tradie to visit your home involves a 'call out fee' even before they have started work. 

I try to do routine maintenance on my appliances to ensure that they last as long as possible, and that such emergency service calls are only required infrequently. I am not in any way a technical or mechanically minded person, but I can easily clean the filter on the dishwasher, and often give it an extra clean with lemon juice or vinegar, to clean off scale and mould in the pipes and hoses.  One of my friend's adult daughters watched some YouTube videos before succesfully fixing their washing machine. 

My car does get it's regular service, and now that we use a mobile mechanic who comes to our home, we notice that they do not try as much as the franchise mechanic, to on-sell us extra parts like air filters.

Cleaning out the gutters before the winter rains is a good maintenance tip. Water in the roof can be really expensive to fix. 

If you can sew, a bit of repair on a hem or a button can save money on buying another item of clothing. 

If you have your appliance handbook, there may be some tips about regular maintenance and what to do if it stops working. I have mine in plastic pockets in a lever arch folder, and this has saved the day many times. Like the time we somehow put the child lock on the induction cook top -and nothing worked. before panic set in completely, we remembered the manual, which  told us how to fix it, without a call out fee! 

Plan for replacement -or do without

We are using YNAB for our budgetting, and I love it. One of its rules is that a good budget knows the difference between an emergency and a 'true expense'. True expenses are things like buying new tires for the car -usually not an emergency, we should be able to predict that we will have to do this at least months if not years in advance. Similarly, we should be able to predict that a 7 year old appliance is probably going to need replacing sometime in the next year or so. If we set aside small amounts regulary to cover such replacements, we should not have our budget wiped out by them. In fact, if it works well, we just pay it! No drama at all! 

Of course, if there are too many things which need replacing all at once, before the budget has enought in it, we might be in difficulty. At such times we might just have to get by without the appliance for a time. In an inflationary environment, it will possibly be much more expensive to replace our appliances than when we bought them some time ago, and so knowing how to do without for a time, is a really good strategy. I know that I can wash all the dishes by hand, even though I would rather not, but I would struggle to wash clothes by hand so I would priorities a washing machine over a dishwasher if it had to be one or the other. 

Of course, you can budget this way without YNAB -we did for years with a spreadsheet, but the idea of true expenses is important to know. 

Do It Yourself

Some years ago I was part of a website and forum which taught frugality. One of the people there was a woman who had suffered an injury at work and so was unable to contribute cash to her family by paid work. She worked hard on finding ways to replace the things they had bought with cash, with things she could make using the time she had once traded for dollars at work. If she had been used to purchasing a packet of biscuits, for example, she made biscuits. If they were used to buying soap powder, she made her own. She actually went to the shop, studied the list of ingredients, went home and researched and experimented to find replacements. If you have the time to give, you can replace many consumer and manufactured products with your own ready made items, at cheaper cost, without fancy packaging, shelf stabilisers and funny ingredients. 

You can make your own curry powder, grow your own herbs, bake your own bread, culture your own yoghurt and make clothes. I learned a lot from this woman's example, and now have many items we regularly make ourselves.

In the garden I make compost, which uses up things we would otherwise throw away, and get a soil amendment to help me grow fruit and vegetables which saves me money too. Our worm farm makes the best soil amendments. Sometimes I simply take the 'do nothing' approach -if the plant is a bit sick, and I have watered it and fed it, and it still has problems I wait to see if the ecological niche it lives in will support it or whether it was just wrong for this place. I don't buy poisons and amendments for the garden. 

DH is a handy person who has helped us a lot by putting up shelves, painting walls, making and repairing furniture, repairing loose screws and such. Often a simple tool kit, picked up cheaply in garage sales, can make a big difference-every house should have a screw driver or three, a hammer and a pair of pliers. Dh often recycles things we get for free from our local Buy Nothing group, or cheaply from the Tip Shop. These lovely windows came from a neighbour for nothing.

Just today he replaced a towel rail in the main bathroom, which had actually broken off at the part where the rail joins the supporting plate attached to the wall. Imagine if we had to get a tradie in to do that job -it would have taken a lot more than the $70 for the new rail.

Don't forget to Pay it Forward

If the times are bad, our community can be a powerful force for good. It is hard to face hard times alone, so if we can, we should offer our surplus to others. This is a basket of limes from my tree which I have put near the letterbox for others to take.

If we have free time we can volunteer at a community organisation -it costs nothing, but can be very rewarding. If we are living in a tight economic environment, and feeling pinched, giving back to the community by volunteering might be something which gives us a feeling of bounty, of abundance and of connection. Both DH and I volunteer in community organisations and we love it. He is treasurer of a mediation community and I work in the garden of a play centre. 

Finally my advice is to try to be content with things -and here is a small article which may assist 

Home renovation of a modest budget

Sunday, April 24, 2022

When you do stuff, stuff gets done

On the Easter weekend I was out in the garden and thought it was time to harvest the quinces and pomegranates and the one single pumpkin which survived the summer. When I put them in the basket, I realised just how pretty they all looked and so I took a picture of it. Sometimes you just have to celebrate the abundance of what you have and how wonderful it is that some things survive and grow and multiply. 

We are also harvesting limes and basil, and the first of the pink grapefruit. 

We have a new chorister in the choir at the moment, a mature person who is taking a sabbatical from her academic work in England  by working here at our university. She commented that she couldn't get used to the idea that our autumn is not about things dying back, but everything springing to life. These banksia flowers are a sign that autumn is here -or Djeran, the Noongar season name. 

I have completed the quilt top for my queen size quilt.Finally! I will be taking this one to the long armer to quilt up, because it is way too big for me on my domestic sewing machine. I bought a large piece of fabric for the back, and some wadding, but now I have to make the binding. The long armer puts the binding on one side before she is finished with the quilt, which is a lovely service! 

The garlic is planted, and I have seeds of coriander and dill in the ground. 

I have today planted two new  plants on the verge: 
Carissa Desert Star and Chrysocephalum apiculatum (yellow buttons). Our local tip shop has a bit of a plant section and they often have quite good bargains. I am hoping both will be as hardy as described, because it is tough out therre on the verge. We have a few days of rain forecast, and I hope they will be bedded in nicely by the rain. 

Here are some good things to read or listen to: 

 Perth is drying up 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Waiting for rain, and other Djeran activities

Djeran season at last sees a break in the really hot weather. A key indicator of the change of season is the cool nights that once again bring a dewy presence for us to discover in the early mornings.

The winds have also changed, especially in their intensity, with light breezes being the go and generally swinging from southerly directions (i.e. south east to south west). Many flying ants can be seen cruising around in the light winds.

Djeran is a time of red flowers especially from the Red Flowering Gum (Corimbia ficifolia), as well as the smaller and more petite flowers of the Summer Flame (Beaufortia aestiva). As you travel around the Perth area, you may also notice the red 'rust' and seed cones forming on the male and female Sheoaks (Allocasuarina fraseriana). Banksias start to display their flowers, ensuring that there are nectar food sources for the many small mammals and birds that rely upon them. Source:

Eagerly we are watching the skies, the weather charts, the plants in the garden. There have been a couple of very short showers of rain, and the temperatures are gradually cooling down to the low 30C. Is the summer over? Can we start planting autumn crops? Can the garden recover from the heat? 

A week or so ago I took down one shade sail, on the western side of the house. We have a large bottlebrush tree there, and the bed is planted with cumquat, sweet potato, fennel, basil.When the garden did not die from the heat (!) I took the rest of the shade sails down too. I rather too hopefully planted some rainbow chard and 12 garlic cloves, but it may be a bit early yet. 

The garden has survived the summer, but it was not as productive as I hoped, and I don't really know why. I planted some zucchini but had only one fruit, even though there were plenty of flowers. The passionfruit has had lots of flowers, but no fruit set either. The pumpkin that self seeded has only one fruit on it. The dwarf beans I planted came to nothing. I wonder about the pollinators -was it too hot for the bees? There are some  bee attracting flowers in my garden all the time -I have alyssum, which bees love, and nasturtiums, and parsley, and basil, but it has been some time since I saw the bees out in force.

Gardening, no matter how long you have been doing it, is an exercise in observation and patience. If I was actually relying on the garden to feed us, there would be times when we had a 'hungry gap'. Nevertheless, we are now harvesting limes, pomegranates, fennel and mint. DH found an olive tree on the street near our home, with small black olives, and harvested 3 jars for a quick batch. Our kalamata olives are very green still. 

If the rains come, I hope the parsley will come back again - I miss it! 

I continue to play with my sourdough recipe. Lately I have been adding 3 teaspoons of malt powder - I used to use malt extract, the syrupy stuff but I have found malt powder used by amateur beer makers, and it is great. It adds crumb and makes a great crust, as well as adding some nutrients to the bread. I am also using flax seed too. 

My favourite tree is now in flower around the suburbs : Eucalyptus erythrocorys, commonly known as illyarrie, red-capped gum or helmet nut gum, from Western Australia. It has smooth bark, sickle-shaped to curved adult leaves, characteristically large flower buds in groups of three with a bright red operculum, bright yellow to yellowish green flowers and sculptured, bell-shaped fruit.

It was our great delight to finally -after 2 whole years -see and hear the Australian String Quartet live in concert. They had been unable to attend in person, due to WA's COVID restrictions on travel. We are now open to the world (!) and COVID is at last running through our community. I know this is very different to the experiences of others in Australian states, and in other parts of the world, but our State Government took the stance to protect us until we had the chance of getting most of the population safely vaccinated, before opening up. It was hard for some families, being so isolated from relatives, but so far our hospitalisation and death rates are far below other places. We have to wear masks indoors, and that is a struggle for some people, but it is helping to keep vulnerable people safe. I hope that wherever you are, you are taking care and finding ways to connect with others even though the pandemic is not over, not by any means

Finally, I have a couple of recommendations for you: 

Recommended Book 

Henry Reynolds "The Other Side of the Frontier"

Recommended Podcast 

We talk a lot about agricultural practices, climate change, and the global food supply, and the news is not always great. Rebecca Ruda reflects on the anxiety this can cause and reminds us that just as the problems of the world deserve our attention, so does our mental health. She provides tips for recognizing anxiety symptoms and openly shares her own experience. Then Rebecca offers simple but useful strategies for continuing the work of advocating for nature without doing harm to ourselves.

Perth heat

Friday, March 4, 2022

I have a new project -helping at the children's community centre playground!

Recently I responded to a call out on social media for a person to help a community centre for children develop their garden with more vegetables and fruits.  I spend a couple of hours each week at the garden. There are two areas -one for little toddles and babies and one for the 3-4 year olds. 

They already have some good infrastructure. They have two chickens! There are two large rainwater tanks, a worm farm and an irrigation system.

The bones of the garden are already set up -shady trees, paths for little feet and trikes, logs for balancing on, sheds for storing play equipment. To the north -through the fence- is a school with a spare block of land, which may one day become a community garden. 

It has been really interesting to work in another garden than my own! I have been putting the permaculture principles I have studied privately (not done a PDC) into action. One of the best things I did was take a sketchbook and try to draw what I could see of the garden -it helped me identify the watering scheme and its possible problems, the big trees on the boundary and the shade they provide, the opportunities to get more plants in the ground and where. 

There are three raised garden beds. One of them had three very stressed eggplants in it. I built a rough shade structure over it to give it a break from the baking sun, and put some dwarf beans in, just to help with nitrogen fixing and to fill up the bed. I was pleased that some of them have come up after just one week! 

The other two raised beds are even drier and more dead than this one! We need COMPOST and MULCH before we can plant anything in them. 

Apparently the irrigation system failed over the summer - I think between Christmas and New Year, when the centre was closed and we had that distressingly hot 8 day period of extreme weather. Several trees died -a couple of young citrus and an dwarf apple. In an institutional garden, unlike a domestic setting, there was no-one to notice that things were going wrong. The centre needs a back up plan! 

There is a covered play area with a solid roof which could be another opportunity for rainwater harvesting, and a couple of big sheds, which could also have gutters and tanks added. Maybe if there were some more volunteers like me, we could have keys to the garden and go and check when the centre staff are not working, and use the water from the water tanks to make sure the garden stays alive? 

I have been working on reviving the compost system. There was one compost bin, which was about a third full of very dry weedy stuff. As well as the buckets of prunings I can bring from home, I was given several buckets of roughly made compost from a neighbour- and the plastic bin they had been in! One of these buckets of compost  I spread on an empty raised bed, and the others I have added to the compost bin. Today someone has offered me three bags of shredded paper, which will add to the bin I am filling. The new bin will be used when the first is full, so we can have one filling and one turning. 

The staff are working on an application for a grant to help us get some tools and some plants. 

In the middle of the dreadful news from Ukraine, and the IPCC report, and the terrible floods on Australia's east coast, this project has been a blessing. 

Here are some recommendations for you 

I read and enjoyed this book by Fritjof Capra

You might also like this one from the ABC 

How to grow liveable worlds  

"Forget everything you thought a garden was. And everything you thought a gardener was supposed to do. Your job in the Planthroposcene is to stage plant/people conspiracies to keep this planet liveable and breathable. Your primary commitment will be to support plant growth".

Friday, February 18, 2022

It's working! What we chose to cool our house


What is that new thing on the roof? Just to the left of the solar panels is our new evaporative air conditioner, installed 2 days ago in the middle of a Perth run of hot weather, with maximum temperatures running over 34C for more than a week now. 

This post is about our decision to choose the evaporative air conditioning, after deciding that the passive heating and cooling measures we had taken already in retrofitting our house, needed amendment for the changing climate. See our post about it here 

I am not sure that everyone understands evaporative air conditioning and how it works.  An evaporative air conditioner uses the natural cooling properties of water to lower the temperature of a room through evaporation. A ducted cooling unit is installed on the roof and connected to a series of outlets throughout the home that draws in fresh air from outside. 

The hot air passes through filter pads located inside the roof unit which cools the air and then distributes it through the vents inside your house. With an evaporative air conditioner, the entire volume of air within the house is refreshed every few minutes. 
Evaporative air conditioners work best in Perth on days when the air is hot and dry. So essentially, the hotter the air, the better the cooling effect will be. We have LOTS of these. 

Benefits include the use of fresh air to cool the home, and the ability to have the windows open! It is low in energy use compared to refrigerated air conditioning. We have noticed that because it operates with open windows, the patio outside our kitchen is also feeling the benefits of the cool air. This would not happen with refrigerated air conditioners, which rely on keeping windows closed. 

Of course, if the weather is humid, the evaporative air conditioning does not provide much assistance. Compared to the east coast of Australia, where they have summer rain, Perth does has a mediterranean type climate with a summer drought, so evaporative air conditioning has more application. In fact, we estimate about one third of the houses in our suburb have evaporative air conditioners visible on their roof. 

When the water has been used for cooling, it runs down a pipe to this bin which is on the side of our house away from the entrance, and from there we run it over to our struggling lemon tree. I am hoping the extra water will cheer it up! 

Comparing the cost of a whole of house evaporative air conditioner and a whole of house  heat pump type air conditioner, the evaporative is much cheaper. We could have chosen a split system to cool the bedrooms -because being too hot overnight is a really difficult thing, if you want to sleep- or the whole of house evaporative airconditioner. We choose the option which would give more comfort for us wherever we were, for the amount of money we could afford at this time. 

What will we do if it is humid, and evaporative airconditioning is not an option? The system can be operated without the water, as a fan, but I reckon we would rever to the way we did things before -closing the house during the cool of the morning, using our ceiling fans, and waiting for cooler temperatures overnight. We still will have had many more comfortable days than we did before. 

There is still the option for a heat pump -especially a split system for the bedrooms -at some later date, if we so choose. 

How has it been so far? It has made an astonishing difference. It feels cool in here, and we have more energy for living life. I am even happy to turn on the oven and cook in the middle of the day! 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

What I learned in a heat wave


It has been hot here, and for a long time.  Perth has broken its record for the longest stretch of days over 40 degrees Celsius, as it swelters through one of its hottest summers on record. Little over halfway through summer, Perth has also broken the record for the highest number of days over 40C between December and February.  So far, 10 days have broken that mark this summer.

Summer is only beginning- we have the months of February and March to go through yet.

The beach is a lovely way to start the day -but we don't stay after 9 am as it is too hot and too hard to stay safe from UV rays. Even though we are only 7 km from the beach, the wonderful 'sea breeze' which is so famous in Perth for racing in after a hot morning, to cool things down, has been weak and hardly made it to our place, for about a week now. 

DH and I have been remembering how things were when we were kids -in those days people had no insulation in their houses. They used to sleep outside on hot nights, or just put the sprinklers on and let the kids run around in their bathers all day. Some people who live in rentals are still in houses that are poorly set up for hot weather, and that makes it very hard.

Here are some things I have learned during this heat wave: 

1.. Most of the garden has survived on it's regular watering, but you get some emergencies. There is one chilli plant in full sun which got very shrivelled, but a couple of days or watering has brought it back. Please note -chilli won't germinate unless it is over 30C, and it generally looks fabulous in hot weather, but this is weather is extreme.   Roses are pretty cheery too, even if the flower crisps and dries in one day. The grapes are fine with the hot weather. I have been giving the eureka lemon some extra water because it really was stressed. Don't know if it is going to pull through.

We are still harvesting blueberries, and some eggplants, and herbs, grapes and rhubarb. 

The little pond in the wine barrel, tucked in shade under the patio, still loses a lot of water through evaporation! I am topping it up every 2 days. 

WORMS - I nearly lost all of the worm farm, but read about a technique of putting bottles of frozen water in the farm to cool things down and so far they are still alive. I also throw a wet hessian coffee sack over them to try to keep them cool. 

We have had tiny ants trying to get in the house -and anywhere else they might find moisture and coolness. It takes a bit extra diligence to make sure there are no places they can make ingress.

The local birds are heat stressed! We have a lot of water bowls out for them, and in this weather we need to refresh them in the middle of the day. Birds I don't normally see are now coming into the garden for water. These big trees to the west of us, in the Council owned walkway, are wonderful! In the late afternoon, from about 4:30pm, they cast a shade over the house and bring the temperature down immediately. Mature trees and green spaces help to cool communities by as much as 10 degrees and the shade they provide cools our homes and streets. 

Our older cat is not really interested in eating much at the moment. I guess I understand that! She is sleeping in the coolest place she can find. 

2. We probably will need a RCAC  or some other kind of air conditioning soon. Up till now, with Perth's usual pattern of just a day or two of extreme heat before a cool change, the passive cooling strategies we have taken have kept us pretty comfortable. In a week of hot weather, however, the house just heats up, and it doesn't get cool if the overnight temperature doesn't drop very much. We have shade sails, we have a grape pergola on the north side, we have extra insulation, we have thermal curtains. We operate this house like a yacht- we open to the breeze, we close against the heat, but it isn't enough.  

This may in fact be the new normal for Perth- climate change is making every extreme 'more extreme'. Cold is colder, hotter is hotter and for longer. Drought goes on and on, or rain brings floods. 

Of course the very worst time to try to buy airconditioning is during a heat wave! There are no stocks in the shops, due to transport problems due to COVID, and the installers are flat out. We are thinking of installing a split system to service just our bedroom and our daughter's bedroom, as it is the heat overnight which is really debilitiating. If we can do that, then a "swampy" - an evaporative air conditioner- would be something we would add to the rest of the house at a later date. I am swinging wildly in opinions about the best options here, and continue to do research. I need some quotes for installing systems which will work here before I decide. 

3. It is better to stay busy than think about the heat! I have a new book about preserving the italian way, and have made some pickled onions as one of the first things to try. I am also working on my quilt.  Reading is a way of escaping into another world, and my local library is a treasure! 

4. When it is hot it is OK to cut yourself some slack. I allow myself to buy bread rather than making it (I just feed the starter and hope for the best). We sometimes have sandwiches for dinner! I cook a roast chicken in the slow cooker to avoid heating up the house with the oven. We want salads, watermelon, icecream. Sometimes a risotto or a quick pasta is OK but no-one has much energy or desire for hot food. I have read that heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster, so it is important to take hydration seriously. 

5. Respite can be lovely -we went to the local pool today, and the other day we took Mr 7 to the local cinema. A few hours in airconditioning is a lovely thing, to escape the hottest time of the day -our son and daughter in law invited us over to their place last night, where the evaporative ducted air conditioner was working to perfection. 

Escaping to a library, shopping centre or museum is a bit more complicated as our COVID situation makes some indoor settings problematic, but so far it has been OK. We got our third vaccine shot -the booster recently. 

I found some good stories here, that you may wish to check out

Self seeding plants -they come up by themselves! 

A lovely story of permaculture in indigenous communities in our North West of WA Here 

Surving in the heat -don't make these mistakes