Sunday, July 28, 2019

Achievements: Monday 29 July 2019- and a worrying marker

 Dora's big achievement this week has been finding the very best place in the house to sleep the day away. The northern sun comes low into the house at this time of the year, and my sewing room has a chair with a quilt, which is just in the right spot to warm up her black and white fur.

After I finished my Blue Mountains Mystery quilt I was feeling a bit low in energy to start something new. One way I find that helps me find the quilting mojo again is to start clearing the scraps and leftovers from my bench. This bag is the result of running big pieces through my Accuquilt cutter. I don't know what it will be, but it is a lot better than a pile of crinkled and unsorted scraps. 

We took advantage of a sunny morning to go for a walk in the Walyunga National Park. One of our goals in 2019 was to see this park in all 6 of the Noongar seasons. This season is Makuru—season of fertility, and winter. The bushland is getting ready for the big spring flowering. This eucalyptus is one of the few trees in flower right now.

Last time we were here was late summer and the river was so dry that we could walk across to the other bank. It was good to see the river in flood, and everything around it green and lush.

DH has been busy this week. He got us another free load of mulch, so we will have a lot of work spreading it over the garden to make sure our plants have the best chance to survive the long dry summer.  We finished the pruning of the citrus today, by tackling the grapefruit and the tangelo. 

We are proud of our Kangaroo Paws (left) and the nasturtiums now in flower in the garden.  I have started some seeds to plant in a couple of weeks, thinking that we might do well to have some early tomatoes and some lettuce soon. 

Finally, today marks the day that the we have used up our earth budget- we are now in the 'red" as far as our earth's resources go.

We need to all learn to reduce waste, stop over-consumption, learn to live on less. That is what is driving our simple lifestyle. We are not perfect, but we are trying! How about you? 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Planning for spring 21 July 2019

We tackled a big task this week: completely renovating our largest raised garden bed. We had this idea a month or so ago, that the dwarf nectarine which we were growing in a large pot, might do better in this bed, whilst also providing some shade to other plants in the summer.

We thought we could also put the cumquat (also in a pot) into this bed: citrus shade is not very dense so the other herbs we grow here won't be struggling for light. This bed is on the west so can get quite hot. We have a shade sail (50%) which we put over it during the height of summer.

We want bigger crops from both of these trees , but do not want either of them in the ground where they might get too big. As our weather has been quite mild, we were worried the nectarine would start new leaves soon, so we needed to get on to it!

The bed got a spa treatment: home made compost, rock minerals, fertiliser, mushroom compost and mulch. I had all of the ingredients already here, apart from the mushroom compost which was recommended for the worms, so I guess it cost about $10 to do this bed, plus about $2 for the plastic pot saucers we are using for the tower lids.

DH had been taken with the idea of providing each tree with a 'worm tower" and to this end, went and chatted up a young neighbour who has been doing the most monster renovation on his place. DH had noticed a large diameter plastic pipe in the rubbish pile, which he thought would do nicely for the worm towers. The neighbour was happy to pass it on.

DH drilled holes all down the sides, then we buried them up to their necks near each tree. With some mushroom compost and food scraps in the bottom, we added our own compost worms. These will escape via the holes to do their magic in the beds, but return to the towers for the food we provide. As it is a raised bed which sits on a concrete pad that was here when we bought the house, the worms won't escape further into the garden. There is one worm tower near each tree, providing wonderful food for them.

One of DH's friends has given us more worms, so we can add more towers around the garden. The only trouble will be that I now have 4 compost bins and two worm towers and one worm farm, all needing vegetable matter! I may have to turn to my neighbours for food scraps soon.

The Drylands Permaculture farm is north of here, in the drier and hotter Geraldton area. I have bought Yilgarn seeds from them before. I appreciate the way their seeds are adapted to our growing conditions -if they survive in Geraldton they should be good here.

I have some lovely new varieties to try:
Asparagus Peas
East Indian Clove basil
White Flowering Catnip
Laos Tiger Green Stripe Eggplant
 Palestinian Za'atar;
and Dongara Long white apple cucumber.

As a result of the renovated garden bed, I have now two large pots for my summer tomatoes. Wouldn't it be great if I actually got a glut of tomatoes this year?

We are planning a really good spring/summer season.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

And then it was finished! Blue Mountain Majesties quilt

It was very exciting to go out to pick up my Queen Size quilt from the long-armer last week. Margo from Patchwerks had quilted it with a pantograph called "eucalypt leaves" and also put one side of the binding on for me. I was overwhelmed by the way the texture of the quilting enhanced my quilt, and soon got the binding on. I actually sewed it on by hand- which was a bit of an effort as I have over-rotating joints and arthritis, but I took it slowly and am very pleased with the result. Machine binding can be great, too, but this one needed something else.

I call this quilt "Blue Mountain Mystery". Many of the fabrics were bought from local quilt shops during out epic 3000km journey by train last year through the Blue Mountains and beyond. This ancient scenery with its fabulous local flora had us both enchanted. DH says that it was our best trip ever, and I am so happy that I have commemorated it with this quilt. 

The pattern is a free Bonnie Hunter pattern called Scrappy Mountain Majesties.

We are planning quite a bit of redecorating on this room in the spring -new paint and some new furniture. I am thinking about a blue/grey wall behind the bed. Also I should make some pillowcases from the quilt scraps! 

Apart from that excitement and sense of achievement, we did a lot of other fun things this week including:

Choir performance: 
The power of community was really apparent on Sunday when our choir joined 4 others to perform sets of music for each other at the Voice Moves WA Winter Choir bash. It was really apparent just how much fun each choir member gets from performing, and that the point to the whole thing is participation not perfection. Mind you, we did really well! Performance lifts our singing tremendously.

Our choir is a community choir so we are not auditioned: anyone is allowed to join. Our wonderful choir director helps us learn how to sing and blends us into a harmonious group. We are a place for everyone to feel that they belong, that they can contribute.

Here we are on stage!

Free Mulch

A neighbour helped us out with vouchers for free mulch. DH also met another neighbour and asked if they had any use for a piece of 150 mm polypipe he had noticed outside their fence in the pile of junk left from their renovations. They didn't -and so he is going to set up a couple of worm pipes in a raised bed we are planning to renovate. 


We had a wonderful walk in King's Park on Saturday -one of those lovely winter days which just sparkle. There were a couple of red tailed black cockatoos on the bare branches of this tree in the centre of the photo.

Now we start a new week, with a pile of mulch to deal with, and lots of plans for more projects around here.

Have a good week everyone!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

"Our work and our life is the same thing" Hannah Maloney

Reading Recommendations

(I get no income from these recommendations- they are just things I have liked and hope you will too.)

Shannon Hayes: Radical Homemakers: reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture

When I was working, I noticed a funny thing about the way I behaved on my holidays. I would immediately put on an apron and cook up a storm. I once described this as "turning into a 1950s housewife" but whilst it made me happy, my friends looked very uncomfortable at the idea. As feminists, we have been led to thinking that homemaking is somehow a return to slavery and boring manual work with no rewards.

Home made onion scrolls

In this book Shannon Hayes interviews 20 people involved in what she calls the 'radical homemaking' movement, whereby they value growing their own food, making all kinds of things at home, social justice, the community and ecological responsibility. She tackles the 'is this perhaps anti-feminist' question and does justice to the complexity of the answer.

I found this a very helpful book -it is encouraging and supportive without being in any way dismissive of the complexities for women who are practicing 'radical homemaking". I love my radical homemaking -and DH does too. We share the work, we each have specialisations and skills to offer, we love being together and working on this place. I have noticed, however, a bit of a sense that when I try to describe my activities in the week, it sometimes sounds less impressive to others than I feel it to be myself. 

This week I made bread, I planted asparagus and lettuce and noticed what was growing in my garden, I walked around a lovely lake with my DH, I made some quilt blocks, I read some books, I did some volunteer work...DH made some of the meals we ate, he prepared a patch of ground for some repair concreting after the plumber dug it up, he planted begonias, he did some volunteer work....

This book helps me with that - it gives me a sense of not being alone, and that walking in another direction from the crowd is just fine. Shannon's blog is found here

"hang up the washing on a line" - even in winter we can line dry most of the time. 

You might also like to read an interview and her "10 radical steps" here 

The blog title form this week comes from Hannah Maloney. If you have seen Hannah Maloney on Gardening Australia, you may have noticed that she is both a permaculture designer and a self-described "radical homemaker. Watch here

If you like this book I suggest you will also like Barbara Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- our year of seasonal eating. 

Barbara's family spends a year only eating what they grow. The book includes chapters from other members of her family, who reflect on the experience. There are insights into the industrial food production processes in the USA and why growing your own or purchasing from local producers is a good idea.

Check out these books in your local library -if they don't have them you might be able to get an inter-library loan.

I leave you with a quote or two from Shannon:

*Live radically, and you’ll inevitably face the judgment of others; loving unconditionally is the antidote.
* Building a better world is hard work. It's time we embrace dirty hands.

Monday, July 1, 2019

July! More winter fun

You can see that I had to dodge the showers to get out in the garden and pick some produce for our Leek and Potato soup last night: bay leaves, chives, thyme, peas and bok choy. The rain has been very welcome, but as we have had over 200 mm in June, there has been quite a bit of dodging showers. We still managed to do some gardening and even had three proper walks -every opportunity to get outside was a sanity-saver.

With all the rain and cold (and a dose of potassium) our tangelos have turned a gorgeous deep orange, and become sweeter too. This is a fantastic development - I was thinking that the tree was pretty much a useless duplicate for our very productive ruby grapefruit, and might have to come out. It is now getting to be the sweetness of a valencia orange, and we are very happy with that. 

When it was raining, I have been making up these blocks for a community quilt, from some Half Square Triangles (HSTs) someone gave me. I now have 10 more than the ones which came with the HSTs -and will need to make another 10 I think, then unpick the very weird layout the person had made -and abandoned-to see if I can get something more attractive and worth the quilting. 

The eureka lemon out the front has had an enormous pruning. DH did it with my absolute blessing. I want a tree that I can weed under without the danger of bumping my head on prickly branches, and it needed to be reduced further in height in order to keep the sunshine coming in from the east for the rest of the garden. The fruit was not great this year -nothing like our Meyer at the back-so I think we can give this one some attention and see if we can improve things. 

It was lovely to find a sunny afternoon to go for a walk along the beach. This is down at Hillarys, not too far from where we live, and a favourite walk for us in the winter time. 

This week I have been pondering the big questions in life such as "have we reached "peak lemon" in my suburb? My last attempt to give a bucket of lemons away has been only moderately successful. I may have to resort to preserving (canning in the US) some lemon juice as the only way to deal with the rest of the harvest. Next season we will certainly be reducing the number of fruit we allow to set.

On Saturday it was a very wet and cold day. I decided that the best thing to do was to get in the kitchen, put the oven on and make a roasted vegetable and feta pie. I had some roasted veg left over from another meal, and added some semi sun dried tomatoes and some sour cream mixed through with 3 eggs to bind it all together. My short pastry for the bottom crust, and a commercial puff for the top. With some greens from the garden, a warming meal. 

On Sunday it was still very wet, but we took the chance to go to a nursery and buy some plants. DH spotted some vibrant begonias which he wants to use to brighten up a dark narrow passage down the side of the house. We got a couple of asparagus plants and some basil too. I have been reading Linda Woodrow's book on the  Permaculture Home Garden , and have some further ideas for improvements in our production around here. 

Today is the first day of #PlasticFreeJuly and I think I did ok when I took my favourite op shopped basket to the local  Waste Free shop to fill up my container with wholemeal spelt flour and bring home some waste free egg noodles in a cloth bag. I did pretty good with paper wrapped brie and butter too. The downfall was a piece of Gooda cheese in plastic. Cheese is difficult to buy without plastic -as is milk around here too, which only comes in plastic containers. Nevertheless, it is not about doing things perfectly, but a whole lot of us doing better than before. 

This is our favourite winter spot. On the north side of the house and sheltered from prevailing winds, it is a great spot for morning tea or lunch. DH's orchids are blooming and it is all rather nice. 

Thanks for reading this far. I hope you are also having winter fun (or summer, if it is where you are!)