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