Saturday, December 19, 2020

Festive thoughts from our place to yours


One of the major factors in our Aussie Christmas season is the weather -if it is not bringing fire or floods it is most probably hot. Some people ignore the heat, and continue the northern hemisphere traditions of hot roasts and gravy and pudding. Often we sing carols from the other side of the world -about snow and frost.

When I found myself, as a young wife, away from the family traditions, DH and I decided we didn't care for all that food, and instead started experimenting with our own Christmas traditions. We have most often had seafood, salad and fruit, with a generous glass of champagne-style Aussie wine. We focus on what is in season and most often we sit outside on the patio to eat. Wherever possible we recognise that we are  celebrating Christmas the Aussie way. That means we put up the tree and have an Advent Wreath, but I have to keep the candles in the fridge and have enough to replace them should they melt. We sing carols outdoors -my choir is going to sing at the beach this evening. 

So far, the weather forecast is, after a hot Christmas eve, we will be a comfortable 32 C maximum for Christmas Day. 

The garden will, so long as I can keep a few things alive in the heat, provide us with tomatoes and basil, lettuce and chillis, oregano and lemons and parsley and mint. I am turning to my favourite recipe books from the Mediterranean regions for inspiration. We are planning a low-key celebration on Christmas Eve with just the three of us who live in this house, because the next day my son and daughter in law are hosting Christmas lunch at their place in Ellenbrook. They are relishing the fact that this year, they are not working on Christmas Day! No need to rush anywhere, no need to drag the kids away from their toys. We are just going to have everyone's favourite foods served buffet style -no need to nag the kids to eat, or make anyone feel uncomfortable. 

In the past, we have been away from each other on Christmas Day and often for months each side of it. This year has, despite all the problems, been a blessing because we are just 30 minutes apart. We are enjoying all the sharing of our lives and celebrations. 

(I have added a very simple Nutella Mousse recipe to the "From My Kitchen" page - it is so easy and yet so, so nice! You might find it just the thing for a no-stress treat during the festive season this year). 

Many people are having a very strange Christmas, and will be feeling a bit at a loss this year, due to COVID 19 restrictions. Parts of Australia are now back in lockdown and that is sad. Some will be alone, and that will be quite a challenge. I am wishing all of you, no matter where you are or who you are with, a day in which any sadness and loss can be met with some conversations by technology with those who are dear to you. I hope you can remember that the first Christmas was also a difficult time for Joseph and Mary and their baby, far away from support networks and homeless. They were able to support each other and find their way through it, and I hope you do, too. 

Is your Christmas going to be the same this year, or very different? 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

SHADE! Getting ready for the heat of summer


It has been a variable spring and now we are officially moving into summer. The Noongar Season 'Birak' is represented by the colour red as it symbolises heat, sun and fire. During Birak season the rain eases and the warm weather really starts to take hold. The afternoons are cooled by the sea breezes from the south west. Traditionally this was the fire season.

This week we had temperatures in the mid 30 (86F) to 40 C (104F). We are preparing ourselves, our house and our garden for the summer heatwaves. 

One of the things I learned in the past few years of gardening is that I need to let go of some expectations around what will survive, and what will die, even with much care and attention. When temperatures are very hot, the cell walls of tender plants like lettuce simply collapse. It is a recipe for disappointment to keep on expecting lettuce through late December to March. I don't know how the commercial growers do it, but I have learned that we need to swap to other greens -silverbeet and beetroot leaves survive, as do sweet potato leaves. I can also swap to grow alfalfa sprouts indoors for our salads. 

Other things thrive in the heat -chillies will do well so long as they get water, tomatoes generally do well, pumpkins faint like a romantic heroine in the mid-day sun but perk up when the sun goes down. Roses and cannas laugh at the heat, unless we are in extreme heatwaves (up beyond 42C).

This week we helped our son and daughter in law with a project to assist their new Ellenbrook garden -you can read about their garden plans here. The mulch that was over some of the garden has gone thin, so we used our trailer to deliver some free mulch from the council and helped weed and spread it. The young fruit trees will need their roots to be shaded and evaporation of moisture in the soil retarded, as they cope with their first summer.

We have put up a shade sail on the western side of the house above one of our garden beds. Some is 50% shade and hopefully will let the right amount of light in. The rest of the garden is benefitting from more shade as our own fruit trees grow bigger. I have plants in front of the raised colourbond garden beds -to help with the cooling of the beds. We have drip irrigation and some tiny sprays on just about every part of the garden. 

Our patio, which is on the south west side of the house, nevertheless gets some sun in the afternoon, and easterly sun in the morning. These blinds have been great to manage the egress of sun when we want to warm up, or keep it out.

Our house manages pretty well in the heat. We are close enough to the beach (about 10 minutes away) to get sea breezes in the afternoon which cool things down on many days. We have chosen not to install air conditioning but we have ceiling fans.

Meanwhile, here is a great resource from one of the gardeners on Gardening Australia, Sophie Thomson, who has some great ideas about shade. 

 Great information from Sophie Thomson here 

Thanks for dropping by at my blog! I do hope you are doing your best to enjoy your Christmas preparations, even with all the problems in the world at the moment. We are very lucky here in Western Australia -my choir is able to sing and prepare carols to share with others at 3 events this year. In some parts of the world that will not be possible.

Great information from Sophie Thomson here 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Humans and green things

 We were thrilled to get some free tickets to the new WA Museum this weekend. It is a fabulous place full of things to discover and stories to tell, that is why the Museum is called WA Museum Boorla Bardip (many stories). In the manner of many museums it has displays of the rocks, insects, plants and animals of our special place here -and also the way in which the people of the land the Noongar and other First Nations took care of it -until the colonisers turned up and changed everything.

Now, in a time of climate emergency, we need to hear the wisdom of the elders. How to take care of the land and have it take care of us. My own little space of garden is my principal source of mental health and joy. For example, this week my DH helped me set up this fountain, which uses a solar pump and a glazed pot. 

It is in a bed on the edge of the patio, and we can see it from the kitchen window. This bed was totally made over in the winter -we pulled everything out and moved the roses in, and planted the new passionfruit and the other things. This spring we have watched it come to life and fill out -and it is bringing me lots of joy. When the fountain was installed my delight was multiplied. I absolutely love it! 

I am told by friends that the birds will discover that they can fly through the spray, which will give us lots of extra entertainment. 

My idea was to add the sound of running water and the sight of splashing water to refresh us in this hot and dry climate- just like the people of Spain and Italy designed in their similar climates. In fact, I reckon we can find other places for fountains in our garden -and they can join the 6 other bird baths I have already! These are in a variety of places and heights to offer water to birds and bees and other wild things. On a hot morning recently the birds were queueing up to get splashy in one out the front. 

It is also why I am researching the kinds of local native plants to set up on the verge after summer. 

Meanwhile, inside our place,  this happened: 

Our grandchildren and their mum and dad came over to help with the tree. We had a lovely time! They decorated the tree, then drew pictures of more trees and stuck them up in the kitchen. The tree tradition comes from northern Europe, where snow and deciduous trees make greenery something to be treasured during winter, along with shiny things as it is so dark -the shortest days of the year. In the southern hemisphere, the Christmas time is very bright and there is no shortage of greenery -even if it is rapidly drying out in the summer heat. 

Our blueberries are ripe at last , and I am preserving lemons for gifts for Christmas. We are picking early tomatoes and I am moving from planting things to weeding and watering -the tasks of summer. 

Here are a few internet things to enjoy: 

humans need green things

And pictures and plants 


Sunday, November 22, 2020


After we got home from Kinjarling/ Albany and felt that it was time to take Dora to the vet. Our young neighbour had done a great job in taking care of her while we were away, but we felt that she was a bit thin. It turned out that she has hyperthyroidism. We have started her on some medicines which we hope will help her feel less anxious and be more willing to eat and put on some of the weight she has lost. I have noticed that she is sleeping more soundly now, which is good. 

 We made progress on the verge garden, spreading a load of free mulch on it. Now we wait until the rains come again in autumn before we plant. The mulch should start breaking down and reviving the soil a bit. Meanwhile I am keenly observing other verge gardens around here to see what grows well. 

This handsome new glazed pot is going to have a small solar fountain in it, among my roses. I can see this garden from my kitchen window. I am thinking about making more opportunities for having more  moving water in the garden -this is my first experiment. We used a smaller plastic pot inside the glazed one, and DH glued it and sealed it. We did not realise however,  that the weight of the water would sink the pot further into the outer glazed pot, so the water level is not where we thought it would be.  DH is having a think about what to do next -perhaps we leave it as it is, perhaps we buy some preparation to seal the outer pot so it doesn't need a liner. The solar fountain is ordered and on its way. 

This jasmine is the best I have ever seen it. The perfume is amazing. It is covering an ugly back fence near my patio.

As a result of all the rain we had in the first couple of weeks of November, everything is looking great in the garden. I have just about finished harvesting the beetroot, and the lettuce is going well. There are a couple of new snow pea vines coming on, and if I take the tomatoes off the vine when they start to turn a bit pink, I have the chance of ripening them up inside before some critter steals them - it might be the 28 parrots.  The blueberries are ripening nicely and I have some mulberries on the tree at last.

I really enjoyed Toby Hemenway's book "The permaculture city: regenerative design for urban, suburban and town resilience" which I got from the library. As I live in a suburban house, it makes a lot of sense and is very applicable to me.

Jason Hickel's book "Less is More -how degrowth will save the world" is a cracker of a book too. Highly recommended. 

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please leave a comment if you like.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Visiting Kinjarling (Albany)


We have been able to get away and have some time down in our favourite holiday destination! Kinjarling- Albany is about 350km south of Perth, a place of fabulous views, white beaches, unique flora and fauna and great cafes and restaurants. Sadly we missed out opportunity to see the whales make their visit this year, but there may be a more kind opportunity next year. Kinjarling is the Minang Noongar word for a 'place of plenty'. Recently the local council adopted a dual naming policy -indigenous place names and English names will be seen together on all signage. 

This beautiful land in the Great Southern region of Western Australia Always Was, Always Will Be Aboriginal Land. The custodians of the land for more than 50000 years are the Minang Nyoongar people. I pay my respects to their elders and their strength.

I think we have been visiting Kinjarling - Albany for something like 44 years! It was the place my DH took me on our first adventure together -which included meeting his parents, who lived there for a number of years. When we lived in Melbourne for 13 years we came home and visited them as often as we could. We have memories of taking our tiny children to the parks and watching them chase the seagulls while crawling in their little bodysuits. Later when DS was a teenager with a driving license he drove us to visit the wineries, while staying sober himself! 

We had a lovely place to stay with views over Princess Royal Harbour. Sometimes it was enough to just stay there, watching the clouds and the boats and the waves.

Kinjarling-Albany is notorious for its weather. As it is on the south coast of Western Australia, it is often brushed by low pressure systems coming in from the Great Southern Ocean. In summer people from Perth go south to avoid our heat. They are often rewarded with drizzly days and cold temperatures. We were lucky this time -four days of sunshine! 

DD wanted to see the trees of the Tingle and Karri forest - a unique and tiny geographical area where the giant trees are found. They grow just outside of Walpole (about an hour's drive from Albany) and we are so lucky that the forest remnant is still there, given the pressure of agriculture and climate change. The trees are big and old -they have the largest girth of any eucalypt in the world. Some of them have hollowed out bases -due to fire and other events -but continue to grow. One of these is easily big enough to park a car inside. We had bought some food from the Denmark bakery -a local award winning business -and found a coffee van in the car park of the Tree Top Walk. Once we had our picnic we had a walk through the forest, admiring the trees and flowers. 

The coastline is a particular feature of this part of our beautiful state. On the edge of the town of Kinjarling-Albany is a national park called Torndirrup, where the Wagyl Kaip people are the traditional custodians. It is a fairly narrow strip of land which has ocean views and views to Frenchman Bay and Princess Royal Harbour. The coast is rocky and the seas notoriously rough and unpredictable. The white sand means that the shallow water near the coast is an astonishing opal or tourmaline colour. This place is hard to photograph simply because the landscape is so big and so beautiful -where do you point your camera? And even then, you can't quite get the impression in a photograph of walking down a bush track and suddenly being on the edge of the hill, with the ocean laid out before you.

We only stayed for four days, but we all feel so much better for having refreshed our memories of this lovely place, during NAIDOC week. To read more about NAIDOC week click here 

Friday, October 30, 2020

With a lot of help from my friends

 It was the middle of the night, and I was listening to a permaculture podcast about water-saving and storing and landscape revegetation (I often am awake for a few hours in the night).

 All at once was born an idea -that the 6 square metres or more of brick paving between my garden and the road could be much more beautiful and useful as a wildflower garden and habitat for indigenous plants and animals. The bricks are not needed as driveway. They store a lot of heat on a hot day, and they have little cracks in which weeds grow which are then hard to remove. I knew that there was a movement in Australia of people who were digging up lawns and planting native gardens areas like this. Here in Perth we call this Council owned space a 'verge" but in Victoria it was known as a 'nature strip". 

These pictures that I took in Kings Park show just some of the wonderful indigenous plants which are totally adapted to WA climate and conditions. DH and I went there in Spring and loved the displays. What if we could get something like this in front of our house? 

I spoke to DH and DD and they both loved the idea. I even said that, in the middle of the night , I actually believed that I could even take up the bricks myself if I took it slowly, a few a day. They thought I could, and so I got started. I moved about 20 a day and got a pile of about 100 bricks lifted.

Then DS and DDIL came over, and were talking about their wish to extend a deck in the front of their place, as an extra outdoor living space. I offered the bricks -especially if they would help me lift them. The offer was taken up and DS came over on several days to lift brick and take 700 of them home. That saved them the price of the bricks and saved me a huge amount of work. 

DS also lifted about 500 which he didn't want but which I needed moving out of the way. I offered these on my local Buy Nothing Facebook page, and wonderfully someone actually wanted exactly these bricks and yesterday they took them away too! So that was more help! 

Today DH helped me by tidying  up one of the edges by laying the bricks we have left in a line to indicate the end of the paving. 

 The next step will be to get a couple of free loads of mulch from the Council and just spread it over the yellow sand. The summer is on the way and it is NOT a time for planting things now: too hot, too dry. The best time in Perth is in Autumn when the winter rains start. So I want to let the mulch begin to rot down over the summer and allow the soil to begin to behave like soil again. The native plants I will select will be hardy and won't need much attention or water, but they will need soil which is alive with the kinds of beneficial insects and such which will help them grow. I will need some compost when it is time to plant and I have the next 6 months or so to gradually work on that. 

What do you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Living for the earth

Friday 16 October is World Food Day 

This years World Food Day marks the 75th Anniversary of the founding of FAO, with a view to looking towards the future we need to build together and the theme “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.”

See the promotional video here 

This week I read James Rebanks' book "English Pastoral- an Inheritance". It is the story of three generations of farmers, who succumb to the pressures of industrial farming, only to discover that monoculture and poisons and chemical fertilisers are killing the life in the soil and the birds and insects around them.  Rebanks points to the insidious work of supermarkets which consistently drive down the price paid to the farmer, which makes the farmer take these drastic measures. He is now in the business of trying to restore habitat and work regeneratively, but economic pressures make it necessary to do this by working off the farm.

All of this points to the BIG issue we are facing -our economies and our agriculture are going to destroy the fertility of the land, and change the climate for generations unless we do something about it.

That is why World Food Day is pointing out that we need to make agriculture 'sustainable' for the future. They ask us all to do three things -choose LOCAL, choose SEASONAL and Grow Food at Home. 

Did you know that the World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize this year

Now, I am one of those lucky people who have both the land and the time to grow some of my food here. This plate contains beetroot, lettuce and asparagus from the garden, and the other things are bought where possible from independent grocers who source the produce from local growers. Sadly in the last two weeks one of our independent fruit and vegetable shops was forced to close -the owner of the property put the rent up, and so they closed, and the little local shopping centre near me is left with a monopoly of a large supermarket which has been found, over the years, to have done things like try to pass off as fresh bread stuff which was made in Ireland (yes, really) and frozen and sent by ship to Australia and then warmed up in store! They have their 'own brand' eggs -some of which come to Perth from Queensland -on trucks -a journey of over 3000km! They push the price of milk so low that dairy farmers are leaving the industry in large numbers. 

I have been inspired by podcasts about regenerative farming. I have begun turning over a patch of land near the street -now under brick paving -back into garden as a result of watching this Ted Talk about "Planting the Rain" in Tuscon .  I am taking up a few bricks at a time, and will heavily mulch over the summer and then plant native plants when the autumn rains arrive in about May next year. (Remember, we are southern hemisphere). 

The bees on my nectarine are so happy -but if the world heats up much more, and if we keep on using pesticides -we may kill off the bees and then what will we do for food?  We are dependent upon a web of life -yet we seem determined to blow it apart and expect it still, somehow, to support us all. 

This week the enviromental journalist Sir David Attenborough was reported to have said "Speaking personally and frankly, we are going to have to live more economically than we do. And we can do that and, I believe we will do it more happily, not less happily. And that the excesses the capitalist system has brought us, have got to be curbed somehow.". "That doesn't mean to say that capitalism is dead and I'm not an economist and I don't know. But I believe the nations of the world, ordinary people worldwide, are beginning to realise that greed does not actually lead to joy."  Read more here 

Happy World Food Day -may we all learn the limits of our greed and start taking care of this one earth on which we all depend. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Kambarang- season of birth- in my garden

The Noongar season of Kambarang has begun here in South West Western Australia.  Known as the season of birth, it is common for us to see baby birds in their nests at this time. We have a family of magpies here, who are raising a new brood in a nest swaying high up in a tree on a neighbour's property. Each year they come to us for some supplemental feeding whilst the hungry mouths are in the nest. We are feeding kitten biscuits -with a high percentage of protein they seem to like them and can manage them. They come to us a couple of times a day for snacks, and also drink in our bird bath. It is also the season for wildflowers to bloom -especially yellow ones, and for the stalk of the Balga or grasstree to be in evidence.

The season is known for longer and warmer dry periods in between showers of rain. This makes the garden grow fast, but is also a time for me to start examining my reticulation and checking that everything is going to be watered as the hotter weather arrives. 


In my garden I am busy putting seeds in the new wooden flats my DH made for me.

This tray has petunias, black tom tomatoes and rainbow chard. I am also anxiously waiting for chilli seedlings to emerge, along with some za'atar and clove basil which I am growing from some seed I bought via mail order from a local seed saving operation. I am experimenting with a seed raising mix which I have added some coir for extra water retention, and a bit of perlite. 

We also have planted some salvias and Mexican marigolds (Tagates lemonii) , and some Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), to add colour to the garden. I have put up some teepee trellises for the early tomatoes. I have replanted some coriander, after my earlier success in winter, although I know that it is likely to grow more seed than leaf if we get some early hot weather. 

The garden is looking pretty good at the moment, thanks to the fact that I am now in a pretty regular routine of spending a couple of hours peer day in it whenever I can- which is most days of the week, really. I find it the consistently happiest part of my day. 


Monday, September 28, 2020

Two weeks of activity!


We had our 6 year old grandson stay with us last weekend for two nights! As a result we had a great time, with lots of fun things to do, except blogging...which took a back seat for things like a visit to the local aquarium where we saw sharks and stingrays and all sorts of things! We had a busy time -he made an aquarium out of a plastic box and some paper, we made a 'insect hotel' for the garden out of sticks and things Pa left him in his workshop (Pa was away) and we played lots of games. There was a 'out after dark' trip with torches to our local playground- spooky! We cooked honey joys and ate some of them. His aunty is now the favourite as she has Minecraft on her computer! 

We have been having hot days and rainy days -perfect weather for the garden. We did need to test the automatic watering system one day when it was 31C -my veggies were a bit stressed! I am planting seeds for summer. There are lots of spring flowers in the front garden. My neighbour commented on how much she is enjoying it as she drives by each day. Mind you, the neighbour on the other side has much better roses than we do, but I am hopeful the ones I moved to the back will come into their own as summer comes closer and they settle into their new places. Every morning I go out to check, and rejoice in each new leaf and stem. 

Here is a before and after of the garden around my birdbath. On the left is when I installed the new base in May this year. The right is now. I am trying to fill up the garden, with the aim of eventually having no bare soil at all. There are signs like this around my garden -when the kids lived interstate, we used to make up a small patch of garden for one of them and add their name to a sign, as a point of connection for our video calls. Now they are home the little guy (3) thought the garden needed a sign that said "Nanna's garden" so Pa made one! 

My DH did a great job of making a new frame for a tired and broken second hand oval mirror I spotted on an online site. He had to make the structure to hold it up and attach it to the back of his chest of drawers which went from this (left)  to this (now right) . I am very proud of him -it took quite a bit of design to get it right. 

Some Useful Links from my browsing

I had a couple of scam calls today. This one was pretty easy to spot, but it is harder sometimes to see the truth these days, when so many people are working hard to sell delusions. I found this article helpful about what to do if you are worried about your friends and the stuff they share. 

As summer is coming up -read about shading your house and keeping cool here . For anyone in the northern hemisphere, you will need to swap our 'north' for your 'south'. 

The earth will help heal itself.
This is a great story of hope about regenerative agriculture.
I count Charles Massey's book "The call of the reed warbler" one of the great books of the world! 

Thanks for visiting my blog - and leave a comment if you like! 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Keeping things simple

 Since last week's post we have celebrated Father's Day and our Number 2 DGS's third birthday. As a result we had a lot of lovely family time. Not only that, but we also had some warm spring days so I was able to enjoy both the beach and the river. We are so lucky to have these things fairly close to our home, so we can enjoy them regularly. I don't need a lot of entertaining - a walk outdoors will please me, especially if I have company. 

At home I am as always trying to keep things simple. My achievements this week included:

  • Sowing some snake bean seed I saved from a vine growing over a fence nearby -and they have started to come up!
  • I gave away a pallet garden to a neighbour who had more use for it than I did. DH made this a few years ago, and I had tried various places and various uses, but decided it wasn't really working for me.
  • Planted more peas and beans
  • Sprayed the grapevines with a 10% milk solution to manage fungus problems- I am told I need to do this every week for a while until the summer sets in
  • Did some weeding and made a 'weed tea' to use as a fertiliser. This is the thing where you soak the weeds in a bucket of water for a couple of weeks and then use the water as fertiliser. I was told it stinks, and it really does! I am experimenting to see if it is worth doing.
  • Did a bit of a re-organisation of a few cupboards and drawers to make things easier to find under the sink and so on
  • I made a some Russian Black bread and some sourdough bread too
  • I have been working behind the scenes on some admin for the community choir we are involved in
  • I picked up a glass bottle which a neighbour was sure was 'too good' to just throw away - and I repurposed it as a vase for my iceberg roses. 
  • I made a batch of onion jam which my DDIL and DS rather enjoyed. The recipe is here  DH added a cup of chopped fennel tops to it when he made it and that is a lovely variation. 

I am trialing a new-to-me budgetting software progam and I think we will find it more simple to use. I won't name it just now, because it is early days, but if it turns out as it has started it will make it even easier for both DH and I to know what our money is going on and why, in real time. 

Apart from all this, I have had some good books to read, some music to watch on YouTube and some happy chats with friends and family.

This is the life I wanted all those years ago when I took those first tentative steps on the simple living path. I wanted a slower, more creative and happier way of life. It is a good life and gives me opportunities to grow and develop as a person in my resilience and skills. Even though we all know the times are bad, we also know that we can only take one day at a time, one moment at a time, and do the best we can. I try to see the positive where I can, and stay true to my values and ideals. As the permaculture people have it "Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share."

Thanks to all those who commented on my quilt last week. I am taking it to my quilt guild tomorrow to 'show and tell'.