Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beatuy in the dark

It was a hot summer night.

The bougainvillea was in flower.

I just had to capture it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Simply friends

It has been a week of old friendships.

We were invited to a birthday party for an old friend, held in a local restaurant, and it was lovely to be part of the special festivities. The birthday dinner was his gift to her, and in return she arranged a short ceremony in which they re-affirmed their wedding vows. So touching!

Last week I had a lovely long chat with someone who was just in town from Brisbane, for just a few days, but who wanted to have a phone conversation at least. We usually comment on each other's Facebook antics! It was special that she wanted to take some time to do this.

This morning we attended a lovely birthday breakfast for an old friend -and his wife, children and grand-children along with his many friends, spoke of their true affection for a remarkable man. His wife commented that he was -and is-a wonderful companion.

On Friday I was enticed out of the office by a couple of friends just in town for a few weeks. We sat and had coffee under the shade of a tree and chatted.

We went out last night to dinner and a show with some friends, and it was a great time! We saw a preview of the Sapphires which will be a Festival of Perth event.

This basket sits by my chair. Alongside the most recent set of books from the library, it contains some light but important reading-all those Christmas cards and letters that came from friends and family, near and far. I am enjoying pulling them out whilst having a cuppa, and reading them over again. I use the cards for bookmarks, and each time I do so I am reminded of my friends.

I have learned to appreciate friendship which exists beyond affection or just being colleagues at work. I have learned to appreciate friendship which can last over distance and over time. I appreciate the time taken to remember a birthday, or listen to a worry, or invite a sharing of a celebration. I appreciate friends who know my secrets or my pain, and hold them and me tightly when I need to be held.

It is part of my thinking today, my pondering on the simple life, that friendship is one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other. One thing I love to do is to invite people who can to come and have lunch with me when I am at work. This gives us the opportunity to catch up regularly without lots of preparation and -for my female friends-without the need for spouses to complicate the conversations!! (sorry guys)

My DH loves to invite people over to our house. He has always had the gift of hospitality and I appreciate the way he gathers in old and new friends in this way. We have both come to realise that it does not need elaborate preparation or competitive cooking -the most important thing is the idea of eating and laughing and sharing together. So the important thing is just to do it -as often as possible!

I also appreciate the new friends I have made through the internet. Last Saturday we met as a group of Aussies Living Simply members in a 'real life Get Together' which was great fun. I enjoy reading a number of blogs each weekend and feel as though I am privileged to share in the lives of women and men around the world, many of whom now I feel quite close to!

I notice that I have had another person join this site as a subscriber. Welcome! Thanks for those who made comments after the last blog post -you are an encouragement to me!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surviving the heat! Simple stuff.

It is a bit hard to see, but that thermometer is reading 47 degrees Celcius -in the shade!

Tomorrow's weather forecast is 38, next day 37 and so it will go from now until late March. Perth has had one of the longest dry spells on record, with something over 60 days straight without rain.

People, animals and the garden need to have strategies to survive the heat.

Our strategies are:

Our House

1. The house is well insulated and has only one window facing west, which is the aspect for a lot of heat in the afternoon.
2. We keep the windows closed when inside is cooler than outside, and open them only when it is cooler outside than in. The windows have security screens and so we can leave them open all night to cool down.
3. We have ceiling fans in all the rooms -they use a lot less power than air-conditioning! From time to time I have been tempted to do what most people in Perth do, and install evaporative air conditioning, but so far there has always been something I wanted to save for more than this.
4. We have built and installed simple shadecloth blinds which are over every north, west and east facing window. They stay up all summer. The lovely thing about shade cloth blinds is that the air passes through them when there is a cool breeze and there is still a lot of light in the room. The light coloured shade cloth works very well in bouncing light into the room.
5. Later in the afternoon the front of the house is shaded by the big trees in the park alongside the neighbour's house.

What we would like to do next for the house:
1. Build a pergola on the north side and plant a grapevine. This would provide shade when the sun was at its worst in summer and then lose the leaves for winter sunshine. When we build this the shadecloth blinds on the north windows can go.
2. Build a carport in the front of the block. We have a carport under the main roof but it only has room for one car. Our plan is for a wide carport to provide much needed shade for the car, but it will also add afternoon shade for the front garden.

What we have now:
1. A number of shade sails for the more tender vegetables -leafy greens for example.
2. A Wicking Bed to provide a reservoir of water underneath the plants in that bed, which reduces evaporation and stress. The tomatoes are the first crop in this new system bed.
3. Lots of mulch to shade the roots and conserve moisture in the soil. Recently we took Jacki French's advice and added mounds of mulch to the 7 year beans and they seem to be enjoying it. Seems that they will add roots in the mulch which will feed the plant too.
4. Drip reticulation which provides the plants with a good supply of water which is not wasted by spraying it into the air. We are allowed to water twice per week and the drippers are on for half an hour for each station.
5. Temporary shade structures to act as first aid to those plants which are still too immature to cope with the heat. This has included the young citrus plants, whose leaves were showing signs of sunburn and the climbing rose on the back fence-which gets all the afternoon sun.
6. Today we are putting more shade on the wicking bed where the tomatoes are. The tomatoes are still growing and fruiting, but there are lots of leaves showing signs of sunburn and wind damage. We have bought 70% shade for these ones.
7. We water by hand (this is allowed) each morning, for the plants which are most in need of it. This seems to enable the pumpkins and cucumbers, for example, to droop when it is hottest but still recover overnight.

What we would like to do for the garden:

More trees! I want more fruiting trees and the good thing about many of these is that they are deciduous to let in light in the winter time. I think we need to build the 'groves' that Jacki French talks about -groups of trees which can form a mini climate together to support each other as they cope with this environment.

People and animals:
My elderly cat is stretched out on the floor under the fan-no doubt she knows what to do!

It is all about resting during the hottest part of the day and being active when the temperature is cooler. Many Mediterranean countries have the habit of a siesta -unfortunately we were a British colony and we all know that "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun!"

It is also about having lots of temptingly cool drinks on hand. I like cold peppermint tea, and the coffee lovers have adjusted well to iced coffee!

Finally it is about adjusting our diet to the fact that no-one wants to stand at the stove cooking, or have the oven on to add heat to the temperature of the house.

We eat lots of salads of course.

We often use the slow cooker to roast meat, as it heats up the house less. I am trying to get myself organised to put the slow cooker on in the evening and turn it off in the morning. Meanwhile I am content to purchase ready-roasted meat from my lovely butcher!

I have been planning a 'dip dinner" in which we will have hummous or dhal, veggies and bread and just nibble on them.

I have this weekend made labna -which could turn into a 'tasting plate' meal (a bit like antipasta-olives, cheese, pickled vegetables, roasted capsicums, etc with a good bread.

Last summer we made gazpacho a few times, but I did notice a certain reluctance about the family when I served it!

I keep searching for easy to make cooling meals to tempt us during the summer, when salad, salad salad could get boring! Of course lots of recipes for different kinds of salads helps too. I am making raw beetroot into a salad for tea tonight.

Cafe style toasted sandwiches are an attractive option that seems to be well accepted around here from time to time.

I would love you to add your suggestions for simple ways to survive the heat -and we can share these strategies together.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Take care of yourself

I did manage a walk on my favourite beach this weekend, but not a whole lot more, I was feeling a bit under the weather -nothing serious mind, but enough to need a weekend off doing recuperative, restful, gentle things.

No big projects happened.

No craft.

I did have a long afternoon nap.

I did go to bed early.

I just let go of what I had planned, and took care of myself. Thankfully my family are very supportive of such moments, and were very happy just to let me do what needed to be done. Those with more energy than me this weekend did the important stuff to keep the household going, and one dear man took it on himself to do what he could to spoil me rotten!

Strangely, most of the women I talk to find this extremely difficult to do. Just today I heard of a woman who, having seriously injured her thumb whilst cooking, and just wrapped it in a bandage and kept on working! I wonder why we do this 'martyr thing" so readily? Sure, we have a lot of responsibilities and take them seriously, as we should. But if we don't take care of ourselves, who will?

So, not a lot of stuff to write about tonight, except that the simple life really needs to be simplicity itself sometimes!

By the way, by Sunday afternoon I had recovered enough to cook a nice free range chicken roast and make soup for later, and freeze it!