Friday, February 28, 2020

Prepared for a possible pandemic?

When I was listening to the Health Report on Radio National this week, it seemed to me that the experts were saying that they fully expect that the Covid-19 virus will spread around the world and become a 'pandemic'.  Australia's chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy says that we are a well prepared country. But it should be a warning to all of us to do a bit of thinking about how prepared we are, each of us in our own places, and also in our local areas.

In the light of the terrible summer we have had in Australia, with the fires and then very heavy rain, we are more aware than ever that being prepared for disaster is a good idea.

This is our ABC article about the subject: 

And a bit of an alternative view here 

We all have different situations- DH and I are retired and we have regular income. If we were living on casualised income, with no sick leave, I think being prepared in advance would be even more strategically wise. Maybe these folk need to be trying to save up an 'emergency fund' to have in case they couldn't work for a few weeks. I am not saying it is easy to build an emergency fund on casualised wages- I am absolutely sure it would be very difficult!

Here at "Cottage EMW" we have a pretty strong basis for being prepared anyway-it is the way we live.

Medicine and Health practice
According to the experts, we need to be talking to our close family and friends about basic hygiene: washing hands for example, is recommended as a precautionary measure but also making sure we have their regular medications in reasonable supply. My DH and DD both need asthma puffers when they have a respiratory illness -we need to make sure they have a fresh puffer available at least. I will be checking our prescription medicines too. When the next flu vaccine is available we should all get it - and I will be old enough this year to get the government scheme vaccine. Anyone who needs it should consider the pneumonia vaccine too. (I am not a doctor -as your GP about your own health needs).

For a couple of years now I have participated in the Australia wide flu survey. By taking part, we are  contributing to scientific research, and helping to track influenza in our local community and nation-wide. Over the 14 years the survey has been running in Australia (and now in New Zealand) we have grown to over 40,000 participants per week who have collectively completed over 5 million surveys!

A simple online survey that takes less than 10 seconds each week during flu season can tell us so much.

The main aims of FluTracking are to develop a system that can provide:
  • Community level influenza-like illness surveillance
  • Consistent surveillance of influenza activity across all jurisdictions and over time; and
  • Year-to-year comparison of the timing, attack rates, and seriousness of influenza in the community.

Participate in the survey 

If there was a bit of a food scarcity -say there was a ban on movement of food in an out of a region -or if we had to stay home in quarantine for a couple of weeks- then have enough food at home to keep us going for a few weeks would be a good idea.

We are lucky enough to have two pantries and two fridges. The pantry which faces the kitchen was always there, but DH made extra shelves for it so we can store a lot of food in it. The pantry which faces the laundry was once a hot water system storage cupboard, but when the system moved outside we redeveloped the space as a 'larder' for long term storage. My outdoor fridge/freezer stores my seed collection, and extra supplies of perishables in longer term storage. (Normally this is not such a good idea -having two fridges- because of the power costs, but our solar power sort of compensates for this).

For a number of years now I have worked on our resilience by buying in bulk where possible. This food storage capacity in our house is ideal, but you can also store extra items in any useful location -you can squeeze a box of toilet paper under beds or in the garage. Many of us have a suitcase for our holidays -this can be used to store quite a lot of cans of food without taking up any more space. Bulk cleaners can be stored on shelves in the garage or garden shed.

The reasons we buy in bulk are many.  When you buy in bulk you always have a meal on hand in an emergency, and can often save money. At the very least, you keep away from those unintended purchases that happen every time you go shopping! Supermarkets seem to have a price cycle -sometimes an item is highly priced and sometimes it is discounted. By having the capacity to buy when it is cheap and not to buy when it is expensive, we spread out our costs and always have cheaper costs. For example, if I buy 1 kg of the coffee we prefer to buy when it is high in the cycle it costs $24. When low it is $16. If I buy 20 kg a year, at the high price it would be $480. If I always buy at the lowest price it will be $320. That is a big difference!

What to store? 
Each family is different about what they want to have in their long term food storage. Our family greatly values tinned fish -we LOVE the Italian style tuna in oil, jasmine rice, UHT milk (which we use for making yoghurt but in a pinch it would keep our coffee milky) tinned tomatoes and coconut milk.  So long as I have bread flour (I keep this in long term storage in the fridge in the garage to reduce the chance of weevil infestation) then I can make bread or pasta. I find a 10kg bag lasts us about two months, if I am making two loaves of bread per week. DH makes jam and marmalade and from time to time preserves fruit in jars. Don't forget things like toilet paper!

My freezers are used for preserving harvests -our pomegranates or lemons for example, for use when the glut of harvest is over. This time of the year I am most grateful for the lemon juice ice cubes I made months ago, which are carrying me through while we wait for the winter citrus harvest. I have quite a few jars of pesto, using the summer's basil -which would come in handy if we were a bit sick - all we need to do is cook the pasta and the pesto is already there, brim full of wonderful flavours and goodness.

We do have limes ready for picking now though -and I guess that if we were in lockdown they would keep us from getting scurvy, at least! (LOL)  Actually, I think that experts say a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are what is required for good health -not just limes! If we couldn't shop for a couple of weeks we would still have our garden produce -rainbow chard, broccoli leaves, sweet potato leaves, herbs like parsley and mint etc.

We have been watching the SBS series "Food Safari" on DVD - I am always inspired by the cultures of other countries and the way they are able to see something like mint or parsley as a vegetable in its own right, and not just a flavouring. I have a number of places in the garden where the Vitamin C rich parsley grows, sets seed, dies off and then re-grows. Morag Gamble on her YouTube channel often  discusses the many things we grow in our garden and what we can eat -sometimes it is surprising. For example, did you know that all parts of a broccoli plant are edible -leaves and stalks too! The leaves are great in salads and in stir fries. Sweet potato leaves are really good too, even before you harvest the tubers. On Gardening Australia we saw a segment where pumpkin leaves were highly valued by people in Kenya -they stripped the hard strings like you might do for celery-before blanching.

The end of summer is not a great time for lettuce around here but I have just planted rocket and rainbow chard and spinach. Meanwhile we have alfalfa and mustard seeds to grow into sprouts if we are short of a quick fresh green!

Frozen vegetables are picked and frozen within hours and retain much of their original nutrition. While it is somehow seen as 'less than" nutritious to eat canned food, really canned foods are wonderful -they enable the grower to pick their whole crop, not just the perfect ones the supermarkets buy-and extend our reach beyond the harvest season.

Being prepared just makes sense, and always has done. It’s a solid ethical choice, as much as a pragmatic one.  Kirsten Bradley, February 26, 2020 in "Milkwood" =read more here 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Late summer actvities -garden and sewing room

It is late summer and the frangipani has been stunning, over by the pomegranate tree where the fruit is getting red, hanging like so many absurd Christmas decorations. This is the time of the year when my garden doesn't have many flowers, but after a few hours of rain the other day I think my roses might be thinking of a new flush of flowers. 

I am harvesting basil every few days and making pesto which goes straight into the freezer. As long as I prevent them from setting seed I can get more leaves for a little bit longer. I was pleased that I found some lemon juice ice cubes in the freezer for my pesto, as my Meyer lemons are weeks away from being ripe, and the Eureka hasn't been prolific after it's huge haircut in the winter. 

I set up my seed cart and have been propagating every few days. The marigold seeds I collected have already sprouted! These are for my DGD who wants to grow flowers at her new place when they get here.  It is a wonderful feeling to see your seeds come up -I have just been out to check and I believe the clove basil is up, as are the spring onions. My curry leaf tree has black berries on it at the moment, so I am experimenting with growing them too. Next few days I am going to be making some newspaper pots for further seed raising. 

We experimented with some large olive barrel pots in the hard sunshine near our garden shed -lots of heat and unrelenting sunshine. The tomato I planted was a bit of a disaster, the capsicum is OK but the fruit is getting sunburn. I have moved the tomato with DH's help, to a shadier place (yeah, I know, all the books say 'full sun' but I don't think they mean Perth sun at 43C). I will be moving more pots over the next few days. 

In my last post I mentioned I had set up an ironing station at the end of my sewing bench. This has turned out to be one of those amazingly helpful additions to my sewing room- I can roll my chair to the iron and back to the machine in just a moment. The quilt on the design wall is an improv one I am working on at the moment. 

 We are still going down the beach a couple of mornings per week. This week I found some seaweed with tomato like ends.

I have a collection of shells - they are sometimes on display and sometimes I have to go looking for them. Today I found them in a basket on my potting bench, all covered with spider webs! I am now cleaning them up -maybe it is time for a turn inside again (without spiders of course). 

We were back at DH's sister's place this week. I put up some pelmet/valances I made with the free curtain fabric I picked up a few weeks ago. DH fixed some kitchen shelves more securely so that they won't move if she puts something on one of the ends, or inadvertently bumps them.  

DH is progressing well on the removal of the finish on the bed we bought at the tip. Next step will be putting a darker stain on it and then a wax finish. 

So that is our week's activities, thanks for visiting and thanks for all your kind words about our bedroom furniture from last week's post. 

For your enjoyment: a wonderful segment on a family living on a quarter acre block and being radically permaculture inspired people.  Click here 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Seeing the potential in thrifted and second hand furniture

It is our preference to buy second hand rather than new in order to save things from the waste stream. Many things which are still very useful are tossed away -often because of some idea that they are no longer fashionable. This is an enormous waste -particularly when the things thrown away are made from trees which grew for a long time before being cut down. The wonderful Brenna Quinlan (@brenna_quinlan drew this diagram below: please follow her on Instagram! 

Capitalism depends on us deciding that we can no longer tolerate something which still has a lot of use, in order to buy something which the factory somewhere has just made -often in inferior quality. This demand keeps us all at work to raise the money to buy the new stuff to replace the stuff we already have! For example, a serviceable table in laminex is fashionable in one generation -the next things in laminex are execrable. The tables end up on the tip. Then 'someone' decides that, not that they are rare, they are somehow 'retro' and fashionable again!

This is a post about the things you can achieve with some thrifting and buying things second hand, if you are patient, if you are willing to think outside the fashionistas and if you are not too worried about everything being exactly the same. 

We have a project this year, to "tizzy up" our bedroom. There were some things we didn't think were working for us, like the baskets of clothes on open shelves -too dusty, to hard to keep tidy, took up too much space.  We want to paint the room and generally refresh the space. Anyway, rather than participate in all this consumerims we first gave away our shelves and baskets to some local people who had no storage in their new home, participating in the 'gift economy' as an act of generosity and community building. Let's face it, the gift economy is an act of rebellion as well as an act of grace!

We also decluttered our clothes, so we could manage with less storage. The useful items went to the Op Shop (charity shop).

After a lot of research, last year we bought two lovely old wooden chests of drawers from a second hand shop- beautifully made and brought back to life with a bit of a polish with a furniture restoring polish. I think we paid about $300 for both of them. They both have a slightly bowed front, and the same kind of hook handles -so even if they are different they kind of go together. I must say, they have been a great improvement, and we love the fact that we have 'saved' them. We took a bit of a risk in purchasing them -they were quite different from what we had ever had before, but we love them now.

The next challenge was to replace some bulky white IKEA chests of drawers we were using as bedside tables. I looked in op shops, in the tip shop, online in second hand market places, for about three months!

This week we had a couple of finds. The table lamps you see here are kind of glass or crystal -$25 for two from the tip shop, and the little Queen Anne style bedside tables were $50 each from a local who was selling their mother's stuff as she was now going into Care. They are similar in colour to the chests of drawers, and have the same bowed front and the same hook handles.

The old bedside lamps were too chunky for the cute dainty tables, so they came here in the dining room- we just have to inch the painting up a little bit so they are not obscured.

In the picture below you can also see our new-to-us trolley -bought from an online marketplace and in use every day as our breakfast trolley. Compared to how long it took to find the bedside tables, the trolley turned up just when we decided we needed it! At $140 it was a bit pricey, but we love the art deco feel of it. It sits in our bedroom too, but here you see it pressed into service for a Cream Tea with scones and cream and mulberry jam. 

The IKEA chest of drawers have been put to good use. Here is one in my sewing room as an ironing station. The drawers are holding my scrap fabric collection. This is just SO handy, I can't believe I have managed so far without it. The project I am seen working on is the valance for my sister-in-law's window. The other is in our walk in wardrobe. 

We continued this week to improve my husband's sister's place -finishing off the shower, and purchasing a disabled person's frame for the toilet so she has support to get up if needed. 

DH brought home her piano stool which was looking a bit worse for wear. He sanded down and re-stained the wood. Then we put on a new cover- the first time DH has tried a bit of upholstery. 

I think it looks fantastic!

DH has another project for our bedroom, now in the workshop. We paid $40 for a wrought iron and wood bed frame -from the tip shop!  He is now working on staining the wood darker, and refurbishing the whole thing. He thinks it will take about three weeks, so I hope to have some news next month that it is in place.

Thanks so much for dropping by and reading this blog. I do love your comments, and read every one!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hot weather and some good news

The weather has been spectacularly right for the Illyarrie or Eucalyptus erythrocorys,a species of tree or mallee from Western Australia -this one just behind our place in the park. It has been not so good for my grapevines- when it hit 43C this week the fruit shrivelled on the vine and I lost my expected crop of Italia grapes -apart from the ones we managed to get off earlier in the week. Many of the larger tomatoes also were destroyed in the heat too. DH carefully picked over the remaining black grape varieties and turned them into what he calls "almost grape jam" - using a Greek recipe with cinnamon and cloves to make a sticky sweet syrup glykos -which we will spoon on our yogurt.

Permaculture Principle 4 is "accept self regulation and accept feedback". Well, I should have either removed the bunches of grapes when the hot weather was forecast or attempted to shade the vines. Lesson learned! We are only in early February and there is more hot weather to come, so I need to put up some more shade for at least another 6 weeks. I have removed some of the tomatoes and will consider another crop when I have added compost to the beds.

On a more positive note, I was given  some curtain fabric from a neighbour -quite a lot of offcuts and end of rolls. Her family has a curtain manufacturing business. DH's sister mentioned that she wanted to have a new pelmet in her bedroom which was better aligned with the colour scheme and the paintings DH put up for her. I am pleased to be able to take three patterns for her to choose between, and will make them up for her. There will be a LOT left over -that navy is heavy, and I am wondering what else I could make with it? At the very least it could be made into very nice shopping bags as gifts. I also have a bench on the patio with a foam cushion that needs a new cover on it.

We were at DH's sister's place on Thursday last week to remove a large glass shower screen from her bathroom. This was presenting a problem because it was too large for the space -if she fell in the shower the paramedics would have no hope of getting her out without removing the screen. DH installed instead a 'rubber dam' - glued to the floor and used with a weighted shower curtain it should keep the floor dry but not be a trip hazard either.

While DH was doing that, I cleaned the window for her, and swept the little courtyard outside her flat. Today we are going back to do more to the shower. We will take the glass panel to the tip shop, and do a couple of other things to make her life easier. She is in often in pain, and needs a place which is easier for her to manage with her level of disability. Sometimes little changes will make that happen -clutter removed so she can walk around with her walker, for example.

I have volunteered to be part of an interim committee for our choir as we become incorporated. This will be one of the volunteering tasks I do this year. I am also deeply into the research for the CARAD history project which is going to take quite a lot of my time.

Our week also included a couple of dinners with friends -one hosted at our place.

And now for some Good news!
Our son, daughter in law and three grandchildren are moving back to Perth!

This is a big decision for them, and they have lots to organise -housing and jobs and packing and all. We are looking forward to being closer to them all. If you pray, please say a prayer for them to find the jobs that will make their lives easier as they move.

I am potting up some herbs and other things as DIL has specifically requested our help in getting her productive garden started. Meanwhile  our DGD wants FLOWERS.

To read this week

Pay the Rent

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Summer things

It is early and I am up early for several reasons. The first thing is that it is going to be a hot week again, and I need to get the bread made in the coolest part of the day. I started my bread last night, and had it kneaded and in the tin before 7am. 

On the bench are 5 jars of preserved grapes which DH did yesterday.  Our Italia grapes are doing well, and they need processing! Can you imagine us, on a deep winter's day, opening a jar of summer sunshine, and spooning this little jems onto our morning yoghurt? Or adding them to our pancakes? I reckon we have another 5 kilos at least on the vine, which will need to be processed this week. 

DH has gone off for some aquatherapy in the ocean. He finds walking in the water very helpful for his painful back and knees. This is the first occasion for him to try his new bag that I made for him: the bag he can put his towel in, and keep in the car so he doesn't forget it! I made it with an interior pocket for his glasses. The fabric was something in my stash -a heavy hand printed African cotton, which he loves.

Most of the garden has an automatic reticulation system but some of it needs a bit of help. I need to go out and do a bit of hand watering before the heat of the day. We are nursing along some summer things - cucumber, capsicum, basil, tomatoes. The good news is that the limes are now ripe and ready for summer drinks and stuff.

I am tempted to rush into autumn planting, every time there is a mild day, but the issue is that there are probably a lot of days still to come which will be over 40C. That changes everything! There is no point in going with generic planting guides -you really have to know the local conditions. 

The next few days I will be working on my improv quilt, and reading books. However I must go to the State Library to do some research on a history of a not for profit group I have been involved in- the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees is turning 20 this year! 

Our choir is also starting again, and we love to sing. It will be good to get the voice back into its fitness regime, and to see our friends.

I hope you have a good week, too, and thanks for reading my blog. Leave me a message if you like. I love to read them. 

Thinking of things to do, here are some things to read: