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. 


Friday, February 5, 2021

Looking better


Things are looking better for us after a pretty scary week while locked down with the whole of the south west due to a quarantine guard contracting COVID. During the 5 days of lockdown there was also a huge bushfire just north of Perth which has sadly cost 86 homes and a lot of beautiful bushland and countless animals.  Several fire fighters were injured, but none seriously. It could have been worse.

Our own son and daughter-in-law's place was in the 'red' zone of the warning area at the beginning of the week and they evacuated to their other grandparent's place for two days. On the third day it was safer to go home but they brought our granddaughter who has asthma over here for 24 hours just to keep her out of the smoke. 

Today it has been announced that the bushfire is 'contained' and therefore not spreading. The COVID situation seems under control (no new community cases for the whole 5 days) and so we are no longer locked down though there are some restrictions in place. We must wear masks when away from home -inside or outside, for example.

Some people say that 'everything comes in threes" In this case it is that there is a weather event on the way -a cyclone type system has disintegrated into a rain bearing depression and travelled all the way down our coast and we are expecting some rain over the next few days. This is good news so long as it is not too heavy. In the north of our state they are used to monsoons and cyclones, but there has been heavy flooding and some people have needed rescues from flooded roads.  We are here under the cloud in the south west of Western Australia. The rain should put the bushfire out completely, and clear the smoke too. 

DH and I have removed the summer shade cloth from our veggie gardens for a week or so. The garden will be much refreshed by the rain. We have a Mediterranean style climate, so mostly we have a summer drought and any summer rain is unusual. 

The rain will be a test of our new gutters. We finally got our gutters and downpipes replaced this week with ones which will take more flow! 

DH and I have kept ourselves busy with crafting type activities. I will post some pictures next week.
Meanwhile please note the new link on the right of my blog -my DIL has a new crafting business! We are going to be offering some of our own creations in this website too, when they are ready.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lockdown, fires and other emergencies!

 For 10 months we have been living a dream existence here in Western Australia with NO community spread of the CORONA virus. Yes, that is right -ten months, due to our hard borders, quarantine arrangements and so on. We were living in ways other places in the world could only dream of -going out to dinner and concerts, family meals, friends able to visit. 

We all knew one case could change everything, and on Sunday it was announced that a security guard in a quarantine hotel had contracted the UK variant of the COVID 19 virus -which is believed
to be even more easily spread. Our State Government immediately ordered the South West corner of our state into lockdown. No movements apart from exercise for one hour per day locally, and we are allowed to shop for essentials. 

Then the fires started east of Perth.

Read about it here

Our son, daughter in law and the three children are evacuated to their other grandparents' place. We don't know how long for, as the fire conditions are bad at the moment with strong winds. No rain in sight for several days, although a cyclone 'up north' might bring a bit of unseasonal rain by the weekend. 

Their house is OK at the moment, but more than 50 homes to the north and east of them have been lost today. The air is full of smoke. 

So here we are, hoping for the best. I hope to update this story in a few days with better news. 

Then our son, daughter in law and the three children evacuated to their other grandparents' place.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Quilt Finish!

My first quilt finish for 2021 is a Superheroes panel quilt which I have made and donated to the WAQA community quilt group. Each year my guild gives about 1000 quilts away to shelters, hospitals, refugees, rehab centres and the like. Mostly I contribute some squares to quilts made as a group project, but each year I try to donate a completed quilt. This one is for the boys/men who want quilts to look more manly! 

As I write we are a few hours away from the inauguration of the new government team in the USA and I send all my love to quilters there and hope you are all safe and well. I feel like we are all holding our breath here, to see a peaceful transition. 

We had our first WAQA meeting this year and this was part of the display of community quilts. They all do an excellent job.

I bought myself an Accuquilt template of tumblers and have been turning scraps into a scrappy quilt. Here are the blocks I have made so far, in random order.  I am also cutting anything too small for this quilt into 2.5 inch squares. Anything smaller than that is going to be stuffing in a pillow for the cat basket! 

 I will let you know how this one works out! So far I am just having fun making pairs and seeing what eventuates. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Festive thoughts from our place to yours


One of the major factors in our Aussie Christmas season is the weather -if it is not bringing fire or floods it is most probably hot. Some people ignore the heat, and continue the northern hemisphere traditions of hot roasts and gravy and pudding. Often we sing carols from the other side of the world -about snow and frost.

When I found myself, as a young wife, away from the family traditions, DH and I decided we didn't care for all that food, and instead started experimenting with our own Christmas traditions. We have most often had seafood, salad and fruit, with a generous glass of champagne-style Aussie wine. We focus on what is in season and most often we sit outside on the patio to eat. Wherever possible we recognise that we are  celebrating Christmas the Aussie way. That means we put up the tree and have an Advent Wreath, but I have to keep the candles in the fridge and have enough to replace them should they melt. We sing carols outdoors -my choir is going to sing at the beach this evening. 

So far, the weather forecast is, after a hot Christmas eve, we will be a comfortable 32 C maximum for Christmas Day. 

The garden will, so long as I can keep a few things alive in the heat, provide us with tomatoes and basil, lettuce and chillis, oregano and lemons and parsley and mint. I am turning to my favourite recipe books from the Mediterranean regions for inspiration. We are planning a low-key celebration on Christmas Eve with just the three of us who live in this house, because the next day my son and daughter in law are hosting Christmas lunch at their place in Ellenbrook. They are relishing the fact that this year, they are not working on Christmas Day! No need to rush anywhere, no need to drag the kids away from their toys. We are just going to have everyone's favourite foods served buffet style -no need to nag the kids to eat, or make anyone feel uncomfortable. 

In the past, we have been away from each other on Christmas Day and often for months each side of it. This year has, despite all the problems, been a blessing because we are just 30 minutes apart. We are enjoying all the sharing of our lives and celebrations. 

(I have added a very simple Nutella Mousse recipe to the "From My Kitchen" page - it is so easy and yet so, so nice! You might find it just the thing for a no-stress treat during the festive season this year). 

Many people are having a very strange Christmas, and will be feeling a bit at a loss this year, due to COVID 19 restrictions. Parts of Australia are now back in lockdown and that is sad. Some will be alone, and that will be quite a challenge. I am wishing all of you, no matter where you are or who you are with, a day in which any sadness and loss can be met with some conversations by technology with those who are dear to you. I hope you can remember that the first Christmas was also a difficult time for Joseph and Mary and their baby, far away from support networks and homeless. They were able to support each other and find their way through it, and I hope you do, too. 

Is your Christmas going to be the same this year, or very different? 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

SHADE! Getting ready for the heat of summer


It has been a variable spring and now we are officially moving into summer. The Noongar Season 'Birak' is represented by the colour red as it symbolises heat, sun and fire. During Birak season the rain eases and the warm weather really starts to take hold. The afternoons are cooled by the sea breezes from the south west. Traditionally this was the fire season.

This week we had temperatures in the mid 30 (86F) to 40 C (104F). We are preparing ourselves, our house and our garden for the summer heatwaves. 

One of the things I learned in the past few years of gardening is that I need to let go of some expectations around what will survive, and what will die, even with much care and attention. When temperatures are very hot, the cell walls of tender plants like lettuce simply collapse. It is a recipe for disappointment to keep on expecting lettuce through late December to March. I don't know how the commercial growers do it, but I have learned that we need to swap to other greens -silverbeet and beetroot leaves survive, as do sweet potato leaves. I can also swap to grow alfalfa sprouts indoors for our salads. 

Other things thrive in the heat -chillies will do well so long as they get water, tomatoes generally do well, pumpkins faint like a romantic heroine in the mid-day sun but perk up when the sun goes down. Roses and cannas laugh at the heat, unless we are in extreme heatwaves (up beyond 42C).

This week we helped our son and daughter in law with a project to assist their new Ellenbrook garden -you can read about their garden plans here. The mulch that was over some of the garden has gone thin, so we used our trailer to deliver some free mulch from the council and helped weed and spread it. The young fruit trees will need their roots to be shaded and evaporation of moisture in the soil retarded, as they cope with their first summer.

We have put up a shade sail on the western side of the house above one of our garden beds. Some is 50% shade and hopefully will let the right amount of light in. The rest of the garden is benefitting from more shade as our own fruit trees grow bigger. I have plants in front of the raised colourbond garden beds -to help with the cooling of the beds. We have drip irrigation and some tiny sprays on just about every part of the garden. 

Our patio, which is on the south west side of the house, nevertheless gets some sun in the afternoon, and easterly sun in the morning. These blinds have been great to manage the egress of sun when we want to warm up, or keep it out.

Our house manages pretty well in the heat. We are close enough to the beach (about 10 minutes away) to get sea breezes in the afternoon which cool things down on many days. We have chosen not to install air conditioning but we have ceiling fans.

Meanwhile, here is a great resource from one of the gardeners on Gardening Australia, Sophie Thomson, who has some great ideas about shade. 

 Great information from Sophie Thomson here 

Thanks for dropping by at my blog! I do hope you are doing your best to enjoy your Christmas preparations, even with all the problems in the world at the moment. We are very lucky here in Western Australia -my choir is able to sing and prepare carols to share with others at 3 events this year. In some parts of the world that will not be possible.

Great information from Sophie Thomson here 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Humans and green things

 We were thrilled to get some free tickets to the new WA Museum this weekend. It is a fabulous place full of things to discover and stories to tell, that is why the Museum is called WA Museum Boorla Bardip (many stories). In the manner of many museums it has displays of the rocks, insects, plants and animals of our special place here -and also the way in which the people of the land the Noongar and other First Nations took care of it -until the colonisers turned up and changed everything.

Now, in a time of climate emergency, we need to hear the wisdom of the elders. How to take care of the land and have it take care of us. My own little space of garden is my principal source of mental health and joy. For example, this week my DH helped me set up this fountain, which uses a solar pump and a glazed pot. 

It is in a bed on the edge of the patio, and we can see it from the kitchen window. This bed was totally made over in the winter -we pulled everything out and moved the roses in, and planted the new passionfruit and the other things. This spring we have watched it come to life and fill out -and it is bringing me lots of joy. When the fountain was installed my delight was multiplied. I absolutely love it! 

I am told by friends that the birds will discover that they can fly through the spray, which will give us lots of extra entertainment. 

My idea was to add the sound of running water and the sight of splashing water to refresh us in this hot and dry climate- just like the people of Spain and Italy designed in their similar climates. In fact, I reckon we can find other places for fountains in our garden -and they can join the 6 other bird baths I have already! These are in a variety of places and heights to offer water to birds and bees and other wild things. On a hot morning recently the birds were queueing up to get splashy in one out the front. 

It is also why I am researching the kinds of local native plants to set up on the verge after summer. 

Meanwhile, inside our place,  this happened: 

Our grandchildren and their mum and dad came over to help with the tree. We had a lovely time! They decorated the tree, then drew pictures of more trees and stuck them up in the kitchen. The tree tradition comes from northern Europe, where snow and deciduous trees make greenery something to be treasured during winter, along with shiny things as it is so dark -the shortest days of the year. In the southern hemisphere, the Christmas time is very bright and there is no shortage of greenery -even if it is rapidly drying out in the summer heat. 

Our blueberries are ripe at last , and I am preserving lemons for gifts for Christmas. We are picking early tomatoes and I am moving from planting things to weeding and watering -the tasks of summer. 

Here are a few internet things to enjoy: 

humans need green things

And pictures and plants