Monday, June 24, 2019

Meeting in the middle

Last Friday night we celebrated the Mid Winter feast, as we have done every year for the last six years. This is a time to gather with friends, to mark the solstice, to have some wonderful wintry food and to look forward to the slow extension of daylight and the return of summer.

In order to fit everyone in, we move our furniture out of the lounge room, which is the biggest room in the house. DD has a wonderful eye for making the decorations special each year-she makes it all very festive. We put the dining table in, and supplement it with one of my sewing tables. Seats for a crowd -the seven dining chairs we own were supplemented by some chairs we found at the tip shop for a tiny price. I was prepared to see this purchase as the same as 'hiring' chairs -ie we could donate them back to the tip shop afterwards, but DH said we have enough room in his workshop for a stack of chairs and undoubtedly there will be more parties! 

This celebration is a kind of Yule fest -like Christmas but without the stress (or the heat!). DH and I like to send out our friends with whatever produce we can -this year we used baskets from the op shop and stuffed them with DH's marmalade, some lemon cordial, kaffir lime leaves, dried grapefruit (great for casserole flavour) along with a selection of our lemons, grapefruits and limes. I am amazed how our small garden (we are on 700s metres) can produce so much to share. I have a bucket of lemons out for the neighbours again today...the Eureka lemons this time.

We are now gradually returning our home to its normal layout. The decorations are packed away, the sofas are back in the lounge room. We are taking it easy for a while now, I think! 

When the rain stops, DH and I like to go out for a walk around the lakes near our place. We live between two lakes -each one with lovely walking tracks. The heavy rain we have had recently has filled them up and made the birds and frogs very happy. We love to see the flowers in season.

As the weather has got colder, I have had to adapt my bread making. I have found it necessary to swathe my sourdough bowl in a thick towel as it rises overnight. I made this one in a tin rather than the banneton, in order to eliminate any possible excuse for the bread to sulk and not rise when tipped out of the basket!

We are gradually getting the winter pruning under way. DH has trimmed the grapevines which shade the northern windows and wall in the summer, and we are getting lovely sunshine in now. The Eureka lemon has had quite a big haircut, as has a rambling rose in the back garden. We picked up another compost bin for nothing, and I have placed this one under the Eureka lemon out the front. This will provide that tree with extra moisture and food -especially during our hot summers.

We did have one disaster on the gardening front, however. ALL my broccoli florets were eaten by rats!!!! Today I took out the broccoli. I will plant something that the rat does not have such a taste for, I hope. They don't seem so interested in the mizuna, for example.

My poinsettias were lovely as decorations for the Mid Winter feast. Even though I burned the ends, as shown on YouTube (!) they sadly were spent the next day. Mind you, DH tells me that the bush which supplied the cutting from which our plant grew, is about 3 metres high, so as the bush grows in future there will be plenty to spare!

Last week I finally got my scrappy mountains quilt to the longarmer. She said that she had a bit of a "window" in her diary in which she could get the edge-to-edge design done for me, so I may be able to go back this week and pick it up. She even offered to put the first side of the binding on it for me, which will be an enormous help! The drive out to her place takes us quite close to the lovely Swan Valley, so DH came with me when I dropped off the quilt and we stopped at a favourite winery and cafe on the way home. We may do this again when I go back to pick up my quilt!

A friend dropped off a whole bunch of half square triangle blocks -someone she knew had started to make a quilt and never finished it. I had mentioned our Community Quilt group, and said that we would take the blocks and see what we could make of them. Well, when I saw how many blocks were finished ...and how many bags of tiny half square triangle blocks were not sewn together yet, I thought I had better get busy. It would be good to see if I can get something together as a quilt top before handing it over to the Community quilt people for finishing.

So here we are, meeting in the middle of the year.  I love this time of the year...a quiet and reflective time, with plenty of opportunity for brisk winter walks, nights by the fire, and the odd glass of wine.

How do you feel about winter - or perhaps it is summer where you are?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

One step in the right direction, one step back

This post is not going to be about pretty things so I am going to start with a  picture of Dora for you, snuggled against my legs while I read - just to set us off right. I will post some pictures of the garden too, which is going so well now the rains have arrived. 

Produce No Waste

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my desire to find a compost bin for cheap or free which I could use to process the contents of the Kitty Litter tray. I found one this week -offered by a neighbour -with the most wonderful composted leaf litter inside. The leaf litter went on the garden, and the large compost bin has gone down the back under the grapefruit tree, where it will feed the tree whilst processing this litter. We use recycled paper for the litter tray, and have at times just chucked it around the garden under the fruit trees (it is recommended that we not use this on the vegetable garden)  but the smell and the time it took to decompose put us off doing that. I objected to weeding amongst the litter! Then we tried a half olive barrel -but the composting process was too slow and the bin filled up too quickly. I am hoping this bin will solve this problem. If so we are making good strides with the 'produce no waste' goal.

Unfortunately at the same time we had a setback in the whole 'produce no waste" thing. About a year ago, we swapped out the bottles of shower gel and shampoo in our ensuite, for soap. It went pretty well for a while, but then we noticed soap scum accumulating on the glass shower screen-and with our Perth water it stuck hard on it. I tried all sorts of natural solutions for cleaning the glass -bicarb and vinegar worked pretty well, but it took a LOT of scrubbing and I wasn't happy. We also noticed that the tiles were also becoming coated in the same soap scum, and all my scrubbing was ineffective. Eventually we got a tool which is called a ceramic cooktop scraper -like a razor blade in a handle -and DH took to work scraping off the soap. There was a LOT of soap- imagine piles of lux flakes!

Now, DH is being treated for carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands at the moment. I have arthritis and over-rotating joints which are painful. This amount of cleaning was not going to be sustainable for us in the long term. 

I have tried the no shampoo/bicarb/vinegar rinse approach to shampoo, but my sebhorric dermatitis was inflamed by it.

I tried the bulk shop near us to purchase product -refilling my own containers -but it was exorbitantly expensive and the products actually didn't work very well.

Reluctantly we have gone back to  shower gel and bottles of shampoo. I can buy both of these in bulk -which means fewer plastic bottles -but this is not a 'no waste' solution. There is a place in Perth which makes these products -I wonder if I can persuade them to take back the empty containers? Other than that, DH thinks we can turn the 5 litre plastic bottles into planters for the garden -and this would at least mean that they don't go out in the bin for recycling. Australia has a recycling problem at the moment -did you know that we used to ship it overseas and that places like Indonesia and China have stopped accepting it and started shipping it back? We need to process it here -which means that we need to find and buy products using recycled plastics.

I am trialling a shampoo from the Body Shop. They take their bottles back and say that they recycle them in India -but oh, what about the carbon miles!

So, not a great result for the planet, but I am aware that none of  us can do this perfectly. We will persevere.

In other news

We gave away another bucket of lemons.

I made some herb and feta scrolls which were very yummy.

We have started on the winter pruning: the mulberry got the treatment yesterday. DH has re-potted one of our blueberries into new soil, given it a prune and put it back in the pot. We were given two bushes by my brother about two years ago, and had great crops from them.

Thanks for reading, thanks for those who leave comments. I always read them and appreciate your time and contribution.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

What gets done when it rains? A Flimsy!

If you noticed the title of last week's blog post, you will understand that  the arrival of a couple of big cold fronts was greeted with acclaim around here. Lots of good rains for the farmers, lots of good rains for our gardens. My 3000 litre water tank was getting quite low,  but now is almost half full. There is more rain to come. The mulch DH and I have spread on our garden over the years soaked the rain like a giant sponge: no rain washed off, no soil washed off- everything was directed towards the root zone and beyond.  It is very heartening to see our hard work over the years now paying off.

So how to keep myself amused when the rain is pouring down? Well, whenever there was a break I did scoot out to do some weeding or snip back something which was getting a bit out of hand, but largely there were other things to do.

The biggest achievement is that my "Scrappy Mountain Majesties quilt top is finished! 

The quilt top is done! While listening to the ABC Classic's #classic100 I put the borders on and also got the wadding and backing organised. This will be quilted at a long armer: too big for me. The fabric was purchased during our Blue Mountains holiday last year. To be honest I am relieved I made it this far! Big project blues slowed me down for a time. #quiltersofinstagram#bonniehunterfreepattern

LOW Carbon Living inspirational seminar

I attended a great seminar in Fremantle, highlighting the work at CUSP-Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute. and their Low Carbon Living  CRC. I really recommend you browse the link here -fabulous ideas, lots of tools and tips too.  The institute was established in January 2008, headed by Professor Peter Newman

The seminar showcased seven years of leading research to support the transition towards sustainable cities and communities, including Josh’s Byrne's work on high performance housing and residential precincts.It was really an impressive day full of smart people making clever ways to cut carbon emissions from cities. It was encouraging to be there, especially given this graph of Australia's current dismal performance in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. My own state of Western Australia exports large volumes of LPG which is just adding to the problem.

So inspiration is badly needed, and I found it in bucketfulls during the day's many presentations.

In line with our thinking about living a low carbon lifestyle, we have decided that on September 15 2019 we will be opening our house for Sustainable House Day!

Last time we did this, I abandoned my family to their fate because I was working at Synod, and they had ALL the fun! This year we will, hopefully, meet lots of wonderful neighbours and have a great time.

Finally, thank you for reading this far and I leave you with these inspirational ideas I found in my internet browsing this week:

A new way to subdivide and leave all the trees!

Forest bathing: get out among the trees

A Kalgoorlie based sandalwood oil producer has become the first Australian organisation to receive the prestigious United Nations Equator Prize.

Inspirational videos from The Mumbai gardener

Sunday, June 2, 2019

It is winter? Or is it just June

Yesterday we went to a nearby country town to enjoy the weekend fair that they had set up for "WA Day" weekend. Pinjarra is a pretty place, and the drive through the countryside is quite lovely (we avoided the freeway as it is often very busy on a long weekend). The displays of old machinery and cars, the historical displays, craft and community groups were all we wanted! I love these signs of community at work: the volunteers who run scouts and guides, the Emergency Services personnel, the Historical Society story tellers, and those whose passion runs to fixing up vintage cars.

 The weather has been dry and mild so DH and I took our own picnic -buns from the freezer with tuna and celery. We sat on the grass in front of Edenvale Homestead and then went to a very fine art exhibition of local works at the Civic Centre. I guess winter will arrive soon -at least I hope so. My water tank is getting low and we are now not allowed to reticulate our garden at all for several months. Perth is consistently suffering from a drying climate. Our rainfall mostly falls in the winter time, and these winters are getting shorter and less rain is falling overall.

Today is Eddie Marbo day.  This is the day we as a nation were forced to confront the myth that the land was not occupied when the settler/colonisers arrived. We can't celebrate our community without remembering what it has cost for the indigenous people along the way. On Friday DH and I walked with a large crowd of people on the WA Walk for Reconciliation. The theme of the walk was 'Grounded in truth, walking together in courage". It was good to see so many people but we have a long way to go to achieve reconciliation.

What we gave away this week:

2  jars marmalade
2.5 buckets  lemons
More lemons and grapefruit to friends

Our Cooking Adventures: 
Beer damper (recipe in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's "Love your Leftovers" recipe book)  and sweet potato and capsicum soup
Sourdough -as usual
Onion scrolls- my first time making these! Next time I might add cheese to the onions
Left over veggie soup
Orange and lemon marmalade -as pictured!

What we made:an onion and potato box

 I had mentioned to DH that I would like to have a ventilated box for storing potatoes and onions. You know how they store better if they are kept in a dark but well ventilated space? He made me this from bits of wood in his workshop, including some vents which he had been given from his brother's shed. The hinges and handle were new. I like it a lot- it holds plenty.

A bread slicing guide

I have trouble cutting bread into neat slices. DH saw a bread slicing guide somewhere, and thought he could make me one. It uses old bits of timber he had lying around, and some IKEA screws he saved from a piece of furniture that was eventually retired. It works!

Improvements we are working on

My Permaculture Principles calendar is highlighting the principle of "producing no waste" this month. As we regularly put out our non-recyclable bin each week, I guess we have a way to go on this score, but not many of us are perfect at this stuff- we just try hard and hope to get better at it. The non-recycleables which go into it are largely plastic wrapping and other packaging (hard to avoid- magazines come wrapped in plastic, for example) , along with kitty litter waste.

We did try to have a separate compost system for the kitty litter, but it filled up too quickly and took too long to degrade. I understand that it is not safe to put the kitty litter in my ordinary compost bin because it will be used on my vegetables, but it can be safe once composted to scatter around fruit trees or ornamentals. I am thinking that what I need is a really big bin - I must start trying to find a suitable receptacle in the recycling/bartering/waste streams.

Thanks for dropping by and reading this far! Let me know you have been here, and leave a comment if you like.