Tuesday, December 31, 2019

RACES - One day at a time

Yesterday was my birthday (31 December) and I had a lovely time.  I got spoiled with lots of presents, and we went to see the movie "Cats' for a bit of escapism and it was great. Dora (my cat) would have approved! 

On the other side of the continent, however, people were sheltering on a beach whilst waiting for a bush fire to sweep over them all-did you see pictures of this where you live? On our West Australian south coast a very fragile national park is in flames, and I fear the damage which is being done to flora and fauna.

This is a very strange and confronting time to be an Australian. Our successive governments have done very little to acknowledge or even plan for climate change emergencies, and now we are at the beginning of a long hot summer with no relief in sight. For most of Australia it will be months before they have any chance of rain.

We have lost -at this moment- seven confirmed dead- and somewhere around a thousand homes lost. We have many native species at the brink of extinction. This is a terrible thought, and many people find themselves shocked and grieving. For me however, I have been aware and active in this movement to change our world for many years and I have done at least some grieving already. Some years ago, reading one of Tim Flannery's books, I couldn't sleep, and had this urge to get up and go and take pictures of our unique trees down south, before they are all dead! They are not dead yet, but who knows how long they will survive? 

For a longer discussion of this topic I suggest you read this from Meanjin and if you have time here is a  

I am firmly convinced of the power of hope, and that it is not too late to turn this thing around -I will not be giving up. 

I have decided that I have five words which will characterise my year -Radical Action, Community Empathy and Simplicity: RACES for short. 

Radical Action will be required from all of us -to challenge the current way of doing things, and especially challenge the assumptions behind them.  We have to go beyond fossil fuel based economies -and do it quickly. This will require us each to change our own lives-drive and fly less, for example. That won't be enough unless our goverments, our corporations, decide to rapidly decarbonise too. We have to make them want to do it! 

Community is going to be needed because this emergency will test all of us and our ability to be a community will be the key to our survival. We need to look out for the vulnerable and bring them with us.

Empathy is the powerhouse which will keep us going -for example, even if the fires are not here right now, we can feel for those who are dealing with it, and that feeling will spur us to action. 

Simplicity is the compass point for everything I do. We all need a lot less 'stuff' than we think we do, and a lot of life can be enjoyed when you know what is important and what is not. 

Some of you who read and comment on my blog will be just as concerned as I am. Some of you have been in fire zones and dread the return of them. For others, the problems of climate change may be different -maybe it never stops raining and you have to deal with floods, or polar winds bring icy conditions too far south. 

I wish for us all that the new year will bring us clean air, fresh water and food, someone to love and human rights. If any of those are in danger, I wish us courage which will result in action. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas Eve down here in Perth Western Australia -and I am planning a gentle, easy day. Last night we attended a 9 Lessons and Carols service and it was a wonderful reminder of all that Christmas means about love and hope. Things are tough for many people around the world - certainly the horrendous fires are on the minds of Australians. I am concerned for many people I know, and lovely towns I have visited. I am hoping and praying they are all safe.

Our world is in trouble because of the way we are living without regard to the impact we are having on the systems which sustain us.  We need to take note, and transition away from exploiting the earth's resources and start the healing and safeguarding of our planetary home. Simple Living can be a good example of the kind of wonderful life we can lead -a life of abundance and not hardship!

I hope that we can all have a good Christmas Day. If it is difficult for you -for whatever reason- please take good care of yourself. Do what you need to protect your soul. Enjoy the escape of a good uplifting book -go to join in a faith community- go for a walk in the natural world ( a city park will do) but whatever you do, try to think of something you can be grateful for. Rebecca Solnit says "Hope is an axe you use to break down a door in an emergency". I wish you hope. 

Today we are doing a couple of gentle things to get ready for Christmas Day. We will be just the three of us for lunch -and that is just fine. We have moved in this year to a largely plant based diet -even more than in the past, so that 'feast days' when we have something like a lamb roast are extra special. I am going to cook it with slivers of home grown garlic embedded in it, and rosemary and fennel. I might do this later today as tomorrow Christmas day will be 37C. (It will go in  the oven after the patatas bravas I am planning for our dinner tonight -having been re-watching Rick Stein's series on Spain).

I am making a couple of salads - I have some baby potatoes for a potato salad with mint and sour cream. I have asparagus. I have olives and feta for a Greek salad to go with the lamb. We are going to have Eton Smash for dessert.

We won't be with our grandchildren until later in January -they are in Victoria. We will enjoy being together then. Before that, we have 2 family birthdays between Christmas and New Year! We like to got to a casual fish cafe near the beach for a celebration on DD's birthday.

We will be back at the beach every morning we can. We will be reading books, keeping the garden alive (I hope) during the heat of the summer, and I will be sewing. I have a new improvised project on the go, inspired by a book I got from the library. I am using gelati coloured solids and leftover indigenous pattern fabrics from my "Blue mountain" quilt.

Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving comments. I appreciate the connections we make across the world.

Stay well and live simply! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Surviving the heat -and a quilt finish!

We have had record temperatures in Perth this past week. It is early yet in the summer season to have such a long run of over 40C temperatures. Our family home is not air conditioned - by choice. We are concerned to live simply and economically, to use less power and to adapt to our climate so we can actually live outside whenever possible.  We may be forced to have air conditioning with the way the summer is starting earlier and going on longer, but for now we are OK. That means that we are frequently looking to improve the ability of our home to cool down and stay cool during hot weather, using passive design features. It also requires a certain mode of active operation on our part-opening or closing windows and blinds, etc. As I have mentioned before, our home is a typical 1970s "leaky box" and was not designed with modern passive solar theory in mind. It does pretty well though!

My experience this week has been that our house will gradually warm up over a week of very hot weather. We might start with an internal temperature of 25C at 7 am on the first day which goes over 40C outside, and the house will rise to about 27C internally before the evening, when we open up the windows and try to get it cooler again.

The next day it is 26 or 27C at 7 am inside and will rise to 28 or 29.

The following day it will be 27C at 7am inside and will rise to 30. This is a bit warm but tolerable, especially when you consider we are still at least 12 degrees cooler than outside

In order to try to achieve these results we use:

1. Insulation in the ceiling -DH tells me that the garage under the roof, which he now uses as a workshop, is not insulated-the only part of the roof like this. We need to fix that!

2. A grapevine over the northern walls and windows to shade

3. We painted a west wall a bright light colour to reflect the heat

4. This week we added a home made shade blind over an eastern bathroom window-DH staples 90% shadecloth to two battens and attaches them to the wall on the outside. We still get light in the room, but the glass doesn't have direct sunlight on it anymore. One added bonus to this improvement is that the window is part of our ensuite, and the early morning light was very strong and hard to keep out of our room. This makes it a couple of shades darker.

We also go down to the beach early if we can. DH has a swim and I walk on the beach, then home to where it is cooler and we tend to stay there if we can.

I did some baking on the day before the heat wave, so we had food prepared for a couple of days. I made sweet potato and roasted garlic pie and some sourdough bread. When it is hot you don't really want to put the oven on, or even to go outside to barbeque!

When they were gone we started making easy cool things like gazpacho and pasta with a non-cooked sauce. YES I do have a kitchen Christmas Tree: don't you? I have six trees -why stop at one?

I found a book by Nigella Lawson "Nigelissima" in an op shop for $2 and it is superb! Lots of wonderful ideas to try.

Of course a run of hot weather was a perfect opportunity to retreat to the sewing room and get that quilt finished! YES it is done and hanging up.

Now, what shall I start next?

I am thinking of a scrappy quilt to soak up the scraps piling up in various baskets in the sewing room- just got to decide on which one.

We DID have to go out a bit during the hot weather though- final practices for a wonderful combined choir Christmas concert at Winthrop Hall. Lots of hard work paid off yesterday. It was a wonderful experience. DH and I are both in the choir.

Getting to the serious end of Christmas preparations this week! If you are in a cold climate, enjoy getting warm and think of us keeping our cool!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A little break down south

On Sunday it was our traditional day to put up the Christmas decorations: the first Sunday in Advent. We all got stuck in and by the end of the day we had 6 (yes, you read that right!) trees up and decorated, the stockings hung and the advent wreath out with candles ready to go. I still have a bit more tweaking to go, but that is what Advent is for!

I was glad to get this done, because on Monday we drove the longer way round to Albany (350km or more) on the South Coast, for a little break in our favourite place. We had a lovely time! The weather was much cooler than up here in Perth, and yet the sun shone and everything looked glorious. We wore our jeans and a jumper on one evening!

On the way, we stopped at a WAQA quilt show in Katanning. The quilts were made by a small group of women quilters, who were all riffing on the same 'drunkards path" block. They were all wonderful, but these ones I took a particular note.

Here are some of our favourite views around Albany. The one below is near the Gap and the Natural Bridge. 

Albany is a natural harbour with offshore islands.

The water is either deep blue or turquoise. There is a national park which keeps much of the very fragile ecosystem safe. It is a 'biodiversity hotspot". We have been visiting this place for 44 years, on and off. It is special to DH because he did his high school here, and brought me down to show it to me, as one of the first things we did together.

It was only a couple of days, but it was such a refreshing thing to do.

Since we got back we had several very hot days -more than 40C, and will have more next week again. Australia is suffering during a climate crisis that our government refuses to acknowledge or act upon.  I am throwing shadecloth around over plants which have survived previous summers -one of our blueberry bushes got burned leaves last week. I am saving all the water I can from sink and shower, to either use on the garden or flush the toilets.

One of the things that keeps me going is the stories of people who are working hard in troubling and difficult places, to keep on growing things and thrive in them.  This youtube series by Geoff Lawton on "Greening the desert" is an inspiration. As he says "The Greening the Desert Project is located in the Dead Sea Valley of Jordan. At 400m below sea level, it is one of the lowest places on earth. The project is positioned on a West facing slope, in an extremely hot, arid climate, with extremely poor, shallow highly alkaline top ‘soil’, covered in rocks, with very limited water supply. It's here that we're demonstrating and educating people on permaculture because if it can work here, it can work anywhere!"

What humans do best is adapt to changing circumstances -that is why our ancestors survived! So we just pick ourselves up and keep adapting.