Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The earth is turning toward the sun again!

We have passed the Solstice, which means, for us in the southern hemisphere, our earth is turning this part of her face back towards the sun. The days will start getting longer. 
This is a pretty short period of daylight for us in our latitude:

We have developed a tradition to celebrate Mid Winter with a feast. This is a great way of celebrating the moment, and we all need celebrations, don't we? 

In order to get some extra room around the table, we swap our dining room with the lounge room and bring in more chairs and the table from my sewing room. A party for eleven sit-down diners won't fit in the dining room, and it is too cold to be outside. 

We invite friends.

We decorate.

This year I served beef cheeks slowly cooked in the oven, with a potato bake, Brussels  sprouts and a salad, followed by lemon tart, chocolate, strawberries and three kinds of cheeses.

We usually send our guests home with some produce from our garden, and some preserves.

We now only have one cumquat tree which has not quite ripened (see picture above)  so they didn't get DH's famous cumquat marmalade, but he has developed quite a skill in making tangelo marmalade. We usually give them Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) leaves and bay leaves from the garden, and citrus like grapefruit grown in our own backyard. 

As I write this post, the rain has been pouring down all day. This is normal for us who have a short, sharp, wet winter and an extended dry summer: a typical Mediterranean pattern. It is a time for staying indoors and watching the weather radar website, to see if the bands of rain will allow a quick walk later on. It is a time for making soups and stews. It is a time to read, to do the accounts before the end of the tax year, to sew in my sewing room. 

Dh has been preserving pears in red and white wine, as they are cheap at the moment. 

I am close to completing a new quilt -a small wall hanging in celebration of everything that lives in the garden. I hope to post pictures of it over at my instagram account later this week. (@earthmotherwithin). 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Grounding myself in the community

There are plenty of terrible things which happen in our world, and they are enough to make me despair. How about you? If we had a conversation and talked about them, it would be good to know we shared the concerns, though we might disagree about which ones were most worrying -the lack of safety for women and girls or the incarceration of refugees or the separation of children from the parents or the melting polar ice caps.... there is plenty to worry about.

One of the ways I keep myself grounded is by being involved in caring communities which band together to do small and large acts of kindness and generosity. They give me lived experience of that other dimension of reality -the one which also exists often beyond the scope of the media and politics, but which just quietly goes on caring and sharing. 

I have mentioned this before, but I am always overwhelmed by the West Australian Quilters' Association and its gifts of quilts to women's refuges and rehab centres and the like. This was just part of the pile going off from our meeting this month. I spotted one of mine in here. You can't always know where our donated quilts will end up, but this time I know it is off to a woman and her littlies in a refuge. I hope it encourages them as they try to make a new start. 

I have been experimenting with putting spare produce outside my place for people to take if they need it. As our street is pretty quiet, I decided I needed to use social media to let people know it was here. I have found a neighbourhood "Buy Nothing" group, which is a lovely way of sharing our excess -not just crops but anything excess. Free, with courtesy and kindness. 

I have also been playing with these blocks which feature bees and butterflies and dragons and such. They remind me of the gentle companionship and support of the plants and insects in my garden, who all support it. It is my aim to make my garden free of any kind of nasty poisons -I haven't got there yet as I object strongly to snails eating my veggies -but anyway we have to have goals, don't we? 

I hope this will become a wall hanging near my front door. 

The walk to the shops gives me a lot of lovely things to look at -here my neighbour is growing a spectacular flowering shrub over the fence to where I can enjoy it too. I love having a shop I can walk to -if we want local shops, we need to shop locally. Both the shops and the gardens remind me of the community which supports me. I like to live 'sustainably" but do not imagine I can do it alone. We all need other people. 

This final picture is of donated groceries for the people who are going to be cut off income support whilst they are having their refugee claims processed. It was a lovely thing to receive these donations today, on World Refugee Day, and know that there is a lot of goodwill which does not get expressed clearly but which is the 'groundswell' of our communities. I support The Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees in Perth. 

I hope you have a few instances of community to keep you grounded, too. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hard rain gonna fall

The hard rain did fall in Perth this past week -and it was very welcome! It has soaked into the dry soil, washed the dust off the leaves and the roof, filled up the water tank and generally refreshed everything. After such a dry and long autumn, the rain is such a blessing.

It has been very dark and gloomy on most days, and we are wrapping up in warm jumpers and scarves and hats. I have a new-to-me coat which I found in an op shop -it is wool and cashmere and so, so warm. I also found a new red knitted beanie. Both of these items are getting some use as we have been out and about, especially in the evening. One of these events was a very special one -we were invited to celebrate an Iftar meal (for the breaking of the fast during Ramadan) with some Muslim people and a church group.

My quilts are back in service as snuggle rugs in the evening, and I have one in my sewing room on the chair, ready to pull over my legs when it is a bit cold. DH is often called upon to share, though.

Our menu has changed with the seasons -we are once again enjoying warming soups and casseroles. This is one of the lovely things about the weather -it brings back into our lives those practices and foods we left behind when the summer came along. Let's face it, we have summer for such a long time here in Perth, and our winters are quite short and sharp, so it is quite a novelty, really- something to be indulged, to be celebrated.

I found this book in a second hand shop: a classic from a classic cook. Such great ideas to keep us bringing in the changes -we like to try new combinations and flavours.

On Friday there was a small clear window, so DH and I took advantage of the break to go down to our favourite beach for a walk. You can see Rottnest Island on the horizon, and the showers were still over there. Unlike the strong blues of summer, the winter beach is full of grey and steel and deep purple.

We also had strong winds, and thunder and lightning...which sent poor Dora in search of any cubby hole which felt safe to her. She has since emerged!

I took advantage of the weather to get back into the sewing room. I actually tidied it up a bit, and in celebration have got back to sewing again. My "leader and ender" project ( inspired by Bonnie Hunter, but as usual doing my own thing) is a bunch of yellow and blue 9 patches, which I thought would create a good quilt for the community quilters group to donate to someone who loved one of our local footy teams, which has the same colours. 

I am using up scraps to make something new. Not sure where this is going -thinking I might try to make some string blocks to go in between the 9 patches, to soak up even more scraps.

You will notice that the first block of the yellow below is wrong...I didn't notice until I took this picture! I will get out my quick unpick and fix it in a minute though.

I was glad to be able to get out of the house this morning to do some weeding in the garden. The daisies and nasturtiums are springing up after the rain, and the couch grass only needs to be left alone for a minute and it thinks it can take over the whole place.  We actually don't have any lawn any more but the couch is a 'forever friend'.  It is time to refresh some of the wicking beds, and even to move the smaller ones out of shade and into  the sun. We picked our first eggplant -they didn't start to fruit until very late in the autumn this year and now I don't know if I should leave the plant a bit longer or pull it out for winter veggies. 

DH's orchids are doing so well this year -now a second racime has 15 blooms! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

This beautiful, fragile space we inhabit

This post is being written on World Environment Day, 5 June 2018.

This past weekend we were able to go to a friend's birthday party, which was being held 'down south' in a coastal town near Cape Leeuwin, on that bit of the West Australian continent that sticks out and forms the south west corner of the continent. 

We were very fortunate to have good weather for sight seeing -it was very cold (to us Perth people) but no rain to speak of and so the scenery was spectacular, looking out to the Southern Ocean.

I don't know how long it has been since we were here -maybe a decade I would guess.

It was spectacularly beautiful. 

One enormous thrill for us was that we found a small group of whales in the bay, just lolling around, blowing water from their spouts and generally having a great time. These Southern Right Whales like to travel up from Antarctica to the warm waters near Ningaloo for breeding, before heading back down the coast again for the southern summer.

The whales stayed for some time, and we just stood and watched them, and it felt quite magical and special and almost holy.

This is a popular tourist destination, and we noticed that the delight in seeing the whales was shared by people from all over the world, who had come to visit the lighthouse and see the sights. Children sat and watched, people called their friends to the viewing platform, people spoke to strangers to make sure they didn't miss out.

That little puff of steam in the middle of the picture is the whale spout. 

"If you can't re-use it, refuse it". 

I can't bear to think that whales are being washed up with kilos of plastic in their stomachs.

This beautiful, fragile planet we share with species who form the web of life we depend upon, is now dependent upon our ability to curb our excessive need for convenience and instead to learn to do things in ways which will not cause harm.

It is quite easy to reduce single use plastic, but harder, I find to eliminate it. I can refuse plastic straws, drink out of china coffee cups sitting down in a restaurant or cafe, and put a plate on top of a dish of leftovers in the fridge. I have re-usable shopping bags, some of which I made from recycled or re-used materials. The harder thing is to avoid the plastic wrapped tomatoes in the supermarket, because they are the cheaper ones, or to make your own pasta every time you need to eat some, because you don't want the plastic bag the dried pasta comes in.

I am working on these new habits -not trying to let the failures get in the way of the small achievements, because we all need to do what we can, and help each other do more when we can.

How are you reducing your single use plastics?