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1 July 2016

Weekend reading

This is Hanno and two other travellers buying pumpkins and avocados at a lonely roadside stall on the road to Toowoomba.

We're going into week four of the bathroom renovation. Sigh. Most of the tiles are up, they still need to be grouted and then the fittings installed. I'm sick of the mess, the dust, covering and uncovering the bed with plastic sheeting everyday and having to use the main bathroom and toilet. Hanno tells me it will be finished soon but I'm not so sure now. But I'm hanging in there, I'm hanging in. :- ) It's good to have the bears to watch.

It's mating season now and while you don't see bears mating, you do see mating behaviour. This is an example above - male bear 856 (looking at the camera) guarding female 410 as she fishes. 856 is the largest male at the river and 410 is the oldest female.
And this is the beautiful habitat. This track runs alongside the river and is walked by bears, rangers and people who fish for salmon at the park.

If you've not yet discovered the wonder of the bears at Katmai National Park, you're in for a delightful discovery. I spend probably an hour a day watching them. The bears have just woken up from their hibernation, they're hungry and the largest sockeye salmon run in the world is close by at Brooks River, Alaska.  Mothers with spring cubs are wandering around, dominance is being established, newly emancipated older cubs are trying to survive and it's all absolutely natural, unscripted and happening right before our eyes. 

I took both the photos above this week as I sipped tea at my computer. This is a really wonderful opportunity to see nature up close and to see and understand how bears live their wild lives.

Take a walk through Morag's wonderful permaculture garden
Don't throw it out - repair cafes 
Milk and Other Surprising Ways to Stay Hydrated
A Small, Solar-Powered House in the Blue Ridge Mountains
$8 Billion Waste: Australia Throws Away One In Five Bags Of Food
What’s the best way to organise and store my digital photos?
People Might Call Me Cheap, But I Live a Rich Life. Here’s How I Do It
How to do the most work in the shortest time

Thank you all for your visits and wonderful comments this week. I have the most loyal readers on the WWW. Have a joyful weekend. I'll see you again next week. xx

27 June 2016

Being self-reliant in a connected community

I've been wanting to review our financial situation for a while now and when the Brexit referendum came up with a surprise "leave" result last week, I knew I had to start.  Of course no one knows yet what sort of changes this vote will bring. The only certainty is that there will be change. I hope for the sake of all my UK and European friends that the changes won't be too drastic or drawn out.  Whenever there is uncertainty in the world and it looks like there may be hard times ahead, the first thing I do it make sure my own house is in order. If I know I'm doing all I can do, if our budget is solid and we're prepared for anything, I know we have a good chance of getting through it.

Over the weekend I spent time looking at our financial situation. I went through all our contracts and accounts so I know exactly where we stand and if there is any way we can improve what we're doing. Wasting money at any time is unwise, to do it now is stupid. I also looked at our stockpile and garden and worked out how we could cut back if we need to.  One thing is for sure, the less we rely of others to live the life we want to live, the better. Being self-reliant in a connected community is the best way to move forward and provide for yourself. That is true all the time, not just in times of crisis and change.

Above are two elderberry bushes I propagated to give away along with an edible cranberry hibiscus and a Grumichama cherry that Morag gave me.

I've been wanting to look at my food shopping for a long time. I think we're doing okay but I can't be certain until I check. So I'm in the process of making up a price book which is something I did very early on in my simple life. I expect that price book will help me as much now as it did back then.  I've kept my shopping dockets from the past month so I know the current prices of all the groceries we buy regularly. There are apps you can use on your phone to do this too, but I can't be bothered keying in all the info and for me, paper works best for this. In the coming weeks, I'll be using that price book when I menu plan and make up my shopping list and I'll take it with me when I shop.  It should help me not to over pay for anything on my list.

I'll add a few more cheap and easy meat-free meals to my rotation. Dropping meat from the menu is an easy way to save money; we usually eat too much meat anyway. The protein we eat doesn't have to be animal protein, it can easily be plant-based protein so finding new recipes will add variety to what I serve in the coming months. I'll continue to shop for what is in season because it's usually at it peak flavour and cheaper.  23 meals to cook when you're broke

I often cook from our garden so I've also taken the time to look at how that will function. We have a productive vegetable garden now but I want that to continue right through to the end of the year so we increase the amount of vegetables we eat but don't buy as many. There are a couple of things I want to add to the garden but mainly we have to successfully follow up the greens, beans, herbs and salad vegetables that we're currently growing so there are no gaps in the supply. Succession planting has always been a hit and miss affair for me but I'll focus on it now and plan more carefully.

We don't have any financial problems right now. We've been systematically replacing appliances with good quality energy saving models for the past few years.   That has set us up well for the future and has helped reduce our electricity costs significantly. Our home maintenance is very good, we have a near new car, we don't need new clothes or shoes at the moment.  I do need to work on gifts, make soap and continue to cook from scratch, make our cleaning products, mend clothes and sew household linens when we need them instead of buying them. I'll continue to compost and recycle and we'll try to cut back on our consumption of electricity, gas and water, not just because it's expensive to waste those resources but because it's something we should all be doing.

And what if all this is for naught? What if nothing dire happens in the UK and Europe and we sale into the future with no ripples to tip our boats over? Well, then all this will be for our own peace of mind and to address the increasingly desperate problem of our environment. That's something we all need to do, starting yesterday. I wonder what your immediate plans are and if they've been influenced by the vote. I'd love to know what you will do, maybe I'll pick up a few things that will help us here.

24 June 2016

Weekend reading

The bathroom renovation is slowly coming along. The floor tiles are down now and although I initially thought they were too light and Hanno thought they were too dark, we both like the look of them on the floor. They have to set over the next couple of days and the workmen will be back on Monday to tile the walls. 

I forget the name of this cream coloured rose - is an old-fashioned cabbage rose. When at full height it's enormous but this is recovering from my brutal pruning.
 The Montville Rose, above, and The Fairy, below.

I think you know what I'll write next - I've been in the garden! ; - ) The flowers are looking beautiful. I love their radiance, the roses in particular seem to beam in low light. I'll be organising the bush house next week so I have plenty of growing room on the benches in there. I untangled the old vanilla orchid vine last week and gave most of it to Morag. There is a small cutting left to grow but I doubt it will flower because I don't have the patience to do all the things it requires. The flowers are a different matter altogether. I'm pruning, tweaking, cutting and admiring every day.

Two pots of Viola Tricolour.

What Makes Berlin a Playground Paradise
Shattered records show climate change is an emergency today, scientists warn
Compost, sharing the love
Three Easy, Low-Tech Ways to Keep Container Gardens Watered
Food waste - what can we do about it?

Hopefully I'll have photos of the completed bathroom for you to see next week. Thanks for your visits this week. Enjoy your weekend.  xx

20 June 2016

The discipline of daily life

What a few days we've had. Everything was going well with the bathroom renovation until the waterproofers arrived and applied a coat of whatever it is they use. They came back the following day for another coat. That stopped us sleeping in our bed for the next few nights. The smell was overpowering and gave me asthma. Not much housework as been done this week. I've spent a fair bit of time outside, had morning tea with Morag and her daughter in the garden on Friday and I have stayed away from the bathroom-end of the house.  Today the floor will be levelled with some sort of liquid gloop and when that dries - possibly in two days with all this rain we have at the moment, then the tiles can be laid and the new fixtures and fittings installed. We're looking at the end of the week at the earliest for it to be completed. 

And here I was thinking it's only a bathroom, it will take a couple of days.

There has been rain on and off all week and yesterday a lot of rain fell over the east coast of Queensland. It's surprising because winter rain is unusual here in our state. It looks like it's broken the drought in some places out west, so that's a great outcome for the farmers and rural communities.

We had Jamie here over the weekend which is always a pleasure. We made cupcakes and he played with his Legos, making some magical aircrafts and all sorts of spectacular "people". There wasn't much time outside because of the weather but he brought his Lego Movie with him so that DVD saved the day.

Viola tricolour - Love-in-Idleness.

Even though the house has been turned upside-down, outside it's a different story. Outside has a power all its own. I've never had much control out there where nature reigns with a strong and steady hand. Roses are flowering, sweet peas are climbing, I've planted some love-in-idleness aka Viola tricolour, and iris seedlings are sitting on our rain-soaked table waiting their turn to be planted.  Tricia collected an iris seedpod for me when she was out walking last year and these seedings are the results of those seeds. I'll be planting them in with the vegetables to bring in the bees and give me something wonderful to look at and care for.  One thing is for certain, with this rain and our overflowing tanks, everything is growing well and we're harvesting every day to eat and share.

I'm looking forward to getting back into a small part of my routine this week. It won't be the full production but small elements will slip back into place for me when I make soap, declutter and organise the front verandah.  There's no rush to do anything, I'll take my time and enjoy the process of reconnection and the discipline of daily life.

I love this quote from the book Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair that I've ordered from Book Depository:
Here’s the true secret of life: We mostly do everything over and over. In the morning, we let the dogs out, make coffee, read the paper, help whoever is around get ready for the day. We do our work. In the afternoon, if we have left, we come home, put down our keys and satchels, let the dogs out, take off constrictive clothing, make a drink or put water on for tea, toast the leftover bit of scone. I love ritual and repetition. Without them, I would be a balloon with a slow leak.

and this:

People like to say that it - significance, import - is all about the family. But lots of people do not have rich networks of hilarious uncles and adorable cousins, who all live nearby, to help them. Many people have truly awful families: insane, abusive, repressive.  So we work hard, we enjoy life as we can, we endure. We try to help ourselves and one another. We try to be more present and less petty. Some days go better than others. We look for solace in nature and art and maybe, if we are lucky, the quiet satisfaction of our homes.

I think I'll love this book. It will remind me to think about "the quiet satisfaction" as it unfolds, to look for meaning and appreciate things that make ordinary days at home so significant and enriching. Life is not about toil to me, it's not the main point of every day. I love to work and do my fair share but I want to enjoy every day and appreciate the beauty lurking in my home too. Finding those beautiful gems in a home I've live in for almost 20 years can be tough sometimes but it's not impossible. And when I do something I'll remember forever or when I increase my knowledge of my environment or myself, when I cook a great meal, drink our fresh orange juice, eat a crisp pea straight from the vine, follow a pattern until the end, or when I sit breathing fresh air deeply that, my friends, is something that helps me appreciate what is and keeps me going until the next time.

17 June 2016

Weekend reading

There was not much time for reading this week but here is a small list I hope you'll enjoy. The main one, of course, is the first link. I'm sure I'll spend a fair bit of time watching those bears in the coming months. I hope you have a lovely weekend. I'll see you again next week. :- )

The cameras are back on at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park. It's bear watching season again!   These are live webcams. The bears are emerging from their hibernation and soon we'll see them wandering in to feed on the largest Sockeye Salmon run in the world.  UPDATE: I saw my first bear at the falls this morning. A small bear on the far side of the river jumping at salmon but not catching any.  This area will be occupied by the biggest bear soon so this little bear is lucky to be there today.
Living off the grid - thanks to my friend Andrew Davies from Radio National for this link.
Revealed: first mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change

14 June 2016

Turning my back on chaos

I feels quite liberating and exciting to wake after a good night's sleep knowing I have the entire day, week, year with no commitments other than those needed to take care of my family and run my home. Ideas come to mind, I decide to make a list of projects I've put off because now I have the luxury of time to do whatever I want.  My needs and ambitions are simple though and all my current plans involve home projects and fluffing our nest. I'm so grateful to be at this point and I'm happy to be able to share it with you.

The evolution of our bathroom. The story continues ...

The house is chaotic today because we have workmen here demolishing our old bathroom and making way for the new. The sound of their work belies the true nature of our calm home but I know there is a time for everything and out of this busyness will come a bathroom that will serve us well for many years. Soon the noise will stop, making way for quietness to return and be part of our days once again. But for now our bedroom is swathed in old sheets and there are towels on the floor to keep the renovation dust under control. I'm staying out of there too because of my asthma. I just creep in there for quick photos.

A basket of vegetables for Sunny and Kerry.

One of our sons has been staying with us for a few weeks while he established himself in a new job and searched for a new home for his family. That's done now, he put in the hard yards and yesterday he left to drive north, pack his family up and return here to a little country town to the north of us. I am so proud of him and his commitment to his family and his work. It will be good having everyone here on the coast, not that we'll live in each other's pockets, but the potential for visiting and helping is always there. That's what families do best.

Last week I discovered the musical Hamilton so while the 2016 Tony Awards were being presented yesterday, I wrote this blog post and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack quietly in the background. I'm very pleased that the rap musical won so many awards, especially as it's already won a Pulitzer Prize for drama. Generally I don't like musicals but this is exceptional, creative, inspirational and joyful. I've heard the music so much over the weekend, that it plays in my head long after I stop listening to it. If you've never heard the music or of the musical, check this out and this and tell me what you think of it.

An easy one-pot meal - lemon and herb chicken with vegetables. I'll used the carcass to make pumpkin soup for today's lunch.

The house looks like a bomb has gone off but I'm happy to leave most of the cleaning until the workmen go early next week. There have been a few tidy-ups and some laundry done, and of course the meals but for the next week, little else will be done.  I know the world will not fall in on my head because we have a few days of disarray, soon it will be over and all will return to normal. I hope to be out in the garden for a large part of the next few days. We've been harvesting quite a bit from the garden to eat and share and it all has to be replanted to keep us in fresh food over the months to come. I want to make calendula soap this week and if I have the time, I'll defrost some rosellas and make up some jam. So much to do!  But maybe I need to pull back and just wait until the house is back to normal. Maybe I should just spend this week in the garden and work on my projects when order is restored here. You're such a wise thing, blog, thank you for helping me organise myself. :- )

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