Weekend Reading and out in the garden

18 June 2021
I've had a good break away from the computer and enjoyed the two weeks Tricia was here. Spending time with close relatives or friends is always a valuable thing to do. Tricia brought plants from her garden so we planted out Euphorbia, Lupin and Penstemon cuttings and lots of seeds.  I've taken cuttings from some of my roses and they're growing good shoots now and although I planted a few vegetables, including turnips, a night visitors enjoyed half the seedlings the first night they were in the garden.  Funnily enough, the other half are still happily growing.

Above: the pecan tree is yellowing and dropping leaves, it will be green again in September/October. To the left of it is a native fig tree. All birds love this and fly in daily to feast on the tiny fruits.

Here is the elder tree chopped back to the bone. You can't do this kind of pruning to most plants but this elder is as tough as old boots. It's currently growing about 2 - 3 inches a day and will be back in action in a couple of months, and much healthier for the pruning.
Below: one of the yellow passionfruit cut back after a year of prolific growth and many buckets of fruit. It's about a metre high now and will cover the trellis again, shading our bedroom wall, by summer.

The orange tree returned to its full glory this year after being devastated by night moths last year. We have three orange trees - two Washington navels and late season orange called Lane's Late; two Eureka lemon trees; one elderberry, which was cut right back and is now putting on strong growth; one pecan; a loquat and two yellow passionfruit vines, also cut back and regrowing well.

Above: fragrant stock, a favourite of mine and below, Cleome - four Queens Mix.

I'm having such a lovely time at the moment. All cleaning and home maintenance work is up to date, the weather is superb, I have a garden that needs my help every day, I have a couple of books waiting to be read and plenty of sewing to do. I don't need more than that to make me feel satisfied and happy.

This is the only rush hour we have here - the chooks racing each other to get out of the coop in the morning. Now, in winter, they want to be the first to find any native figs that have dropped overnight.

I promised the recipe for the plum cake so here it is. I bought Sophie Hansen's book In Good Company recently and have baked her Visitors Cake several times since. It's similar to the old pound cake and can be made plain and simple as a morning tea cake or enriched with dried fruit, apples, apricots, nuts, coffee or chocolate to make it an ideal visitors cake. This time I added plums. And for all the chook owners out there, it's a good recipe when you want to use up four eggs, or use up 12 by baking three cakes and freezing two.  It would freeze very well.

  • 1 cup (250 g) butter, softened 
  • 250 g (9 oz) caster sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⅔  cups (250 g) self-raising flour 
  • 6 fresh plums cut in half or ¾ of a can of plums
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 20 cm (8 inch) spring-form tin. 

Add butter and sugar to a mixing bowl and cream it with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour. Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes. 

The cake is ready when it smells cooked and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for about five minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

Bidens growing near my tiny solar fountain. We still have a lot of nut grass. Has anyone had success in removing it? I'd love to know your secret.

I hope you're safe and secure and enjoying life. Thank you for being here today, say hello in the comments so I know you're still around, or you're a new visitor. 

๐Ÿ’š ๐Ÿ’œ ๐Ÿ’š


My favourite webcam started up again - Katmai Alaska Bear Cam, live
Curiosity du Jour: The Talking Victorian Bouquet
Ageing process is unstoppable, finds unprecedented study

Weekend Reading

14 May 2021
This will be my last blog for a while. I'm taking a break. Life is getting busier outside so I'm not reading as much online to make up the weekend reading list and my sister is coming up for a visit very soon. We haven't seen each other for over two years so we have a lot of talking to catch up on.  I'll keep my instagram going and post if we do something I think you'll be interested in.

I hope you've had your Covid vaccination or you're getting closer to it. Stay safe, enjoy your weather - be it hot or cold, and keep working towards a simpler life.


  • Extinction - The Facts - David Attenborough's must-see documentary on biodiversity and how we're being effected by it
  • The Best Homemade Pasta With Meatballs - I introduced you to Liziqi, the Fairy, a couple of years ago, she was the ultimate in making everything from scratch. This couple is similar, they live in Azerbaijan, they're self-sufficient and they live off the land. 

Weekend Reading

7 May 2021

On Tuesday night I gave my last ever live community talk. I have had a connection with Noosa Permaculture for about ten years now so I ended on a high with this beautiful community group. President Petrina and her committee made me feel at home as soon as I walked in the door and the people who came along were supportive and interested. Thank you all. I had a lovely evening and after giving community talks from here to Hobart, I feel well and truly satisfied that my last talk was here, close to my own home and with people whose values I share.

This is a Hepburn Voice, a gift for my birthday last month.  It's a voice activated speaker that works as a radio, it plays the music I have on my phone (and other online music) and it also allows me to listen to Ted Talks, radio stations from all over the world, audiobooks and podcasts. I can even ask it what's the time in NYC or the weather in Lativa or answer my phone while I continue to cook in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Modern technology, most of it doesn't relate to how I live but this, THIS is wonderful.  And I love that it's high tech and yet looks like a meek and mild vintage radio.

Our passionfruit have been producing for the past couple of months and this week, Hanno harvested the last of them and pruned the vines right back.  The trellis has to be repaired in places so now is the idea time for both the pruning and the repair work. The cordial is a light syrup with all the passionfruit that needed to be used straight away. I strained the seeds off when I bottled it.

Today will be the first of many days when I have no appointments, meetings or work of any kind so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the garden. I've got about three times as many seedlings as I need, a few plants in pots, and packets of seeds that I plan to broadcast over the soil.  I'm planting my potatoes in bags and pots today too. The weather is beautiful, the birds, bees and insects are flying in and out and for me, this is a perfect day's work. I have a feeling that many of your will feel the same about your gardens.

I hope you're safe and well and feeling more optimistic about the future with the increasing vaccination rates.  Hanno and I had our first vaccination last Saturday and will have the second jab in late July. We had feeling of tiredness and Hanno had sore muscles but the only other effect is the feeling that we're safer this week than last week. If you haven't been vaccinated, I hope you can get it done soon.  Have a lovely weekend.  xx


Weekend Reading

30 April 2021

It's been wonderful out in the backyard this week. We had a gardener come in from Airtasker on Monday and while she worked hard removing the weeds in the two main gardens, I watched from the kitchen while I cooked lunch and plotted my next moves.  And so the garden went from this ....

... to this.  

I can't tell you how good it feels. I'm starting off with weeded, manured and mulched beds, a lot of seedlings, a few potted plants and the motivation and energy (I hope) to create a garden where I can grow vegetables, pick flowers and sit to enjoy the splender of it.  My sister Tricia is coming up from the Blue Mountains soon and she's bringing seeds and seedlings from her garden for me to plant. It remains to be seen how well they do coming from a very cold climate to a subtropical one. This could only be done in autumn/winter, both of us have a long history with gardens, so the three of us should be able to help most of them survive.  I'll be working out there today and over the weekend but it will probably be between showers.

Inside the house I'm shortening curtains, slowly preparing a bedroom for Tricia, washing sofa covers and cleaning the oven. Yesterday, I made enough Swedish meatballs for two lunches so I'll only have to cook up some vegetables to go with them today. I love double-batch cooking - it's saved my bacon more times than I care to recall.

Hanno's been pruning the elder tree, harvesting passionfruit and pruning back the vines for another big crop, maybe at the end of the year but certainly next year. Even though we're both getting on in age, if we work at our own pace, all these jobs are doable and usually enjoyable. 

We're having our Covid vaccinations tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that. I know there is a very small risk of side effects, but the risks associated with Covid are much more of a worry. Our government has been very slow with our vaccination program and now that there are variants from the UK, India, South Africa, I think it's important we gain as much protection from the virus as we can.

I hope you're fit and well and looking forward to the weekend. The change of seasons is well and truly with us now and for me, this time of year is the sweetest. I hope it is for you too. Take care. xx

Here are the weekend readings:

Weekend Reading

23 April 2021

Work in my home continues with cooking, organising, cleaning and gardening taking priority this week. Hanno and I went to Ikea on Tuesday, our first trip there in over two years. I never browse when I shop, I have already done my research online and I go with a list on my phone. So I wait until I have enough things to make the trip worthwhile and then we set off. I needed a pair of new blockout curtains for one of the bedrooms, a doona and bed linen, some preserving jars, a few kitchen items and a couple of large glass tea mugs, ideal for my big cuppa first thing in the morning.  Hanno took advantage of the little food hall near the checkouts and bought some of his favourites - herrings, knackerbrot and jam. We both really appreciate those little treats because we don't often buy them.

Jamie and I made these little egg and bacon pies for his lunchbox last week. I used the recipe in The Simple Home - three sheets of puff pastry, bacon, eggs, cheese, garlic and green onions. They're delicious hot or cold, so perfect for a lunchbox.

Almost everything is ready in the garden to start planting, all I need now is help with the weeding.  Both Hanno and I get very dizzy when we're bending over so I've arranged for a gardener from Airtasker.  She'll be here today, I hope. So it looks like I'll be busy in the garden next week and then have the joy of watching the garden grow for the rest of the year.  You can see in the photo above, the two beds at the front are well and truly overgrown with weeds but there are plants in there too.  It will be good to have some order in those main gardens and to watch a new landscape emerge in the coming weeks and months. 

Hanno and I will have our Covid vaccinations next week. I hope the Covid situation is improving where you live and that you have access to the vaccine. Sadly, the situation in several countries is still out of control but wherever you are, staying at home and going out only for the necessities seems to be the best way to stay safe.  Take care everyone.  xx

Weekend Reading

16 April 2021
My sincere thanks to everyone who sent a birthday message yesterday. I had such a good day. I didn't do any work, I relaxed, read, gardened, went out to lunch at the local pub with Hanno and Jamie and all through the day those messages, emails and phone calls flowed in to fill the spaces left open. Thank you for help making it the day I hoped for.

Here we are in the garden after lunch. There's quite a shake up out there with lots still to do. When Shane, Alex and Eve were here for lunch on Wednesday, Shane put out some pavers for me that are now too heavy for Hanno and I to lift; they'll soon be part of a feature in the garden.

Okay, for lunch Hanno had fillet steak, salad and chips, Jamie had a chicken burger and chips and I had two entrees; crispy pork belly in Asian sauce and four coconut prawns. I asked for chips too and they brought out a huge bowl filled with them that were left uneaten.

This is yesterday's morning tea on the front verandah.

I set up my little solar water fountain in the garden yesterday. It's been sitting on the back verandah for the past six months. It's one of the things on the pavers.  More photos when everything is in place and we're happy with it.

I hope your week has been a good one and if it wasn't, that everything has improved now and is moving in the right direction. Covid is still playing a huge part in lives here and probably where you are too. Stay safe at home if you can and take the opportunity to improve your home and garden.

Here are this week's readings, I hope you enjoy them.

It’s my 73rd birthday today

15 April 2021
It’s my 73rd birthday today so I’m looking back and deeper, trying to find where I fit in the scheme of things. I’ve lived through an incredible era, from the much gentler days of horses and carts delivering milk and bread to homes, then the introduction of TV in the 1950s, the first supermarkets in the 60’s, credit cards in the 1970s and later the Human Genome Project, computers and the internet. And of course I’ve seen all the less desirable things like the invention of plastic, the pollution of our oceans, air and land, wars, terrorism, global warming and mass extinctions. I wish I could add that equal rights for black people and equal pay for women were two important achievements I witnessed but sadly, they’re not. I hope they will be something you can claim in your lifetime.

I usually take a photo of myself on my birthday but this year I have this portrait my five year old granddaughter Eve gave me yesterday. I'm wearing my birthday crown so it suits this post more than anything I could create. Thank you Eve. xx

My life got better as I grew older. I met Hanno on my 28th birthday, I was 32 and 33 when our sons were born. I was 49 when we came to live in our home here and 55 when I gave up work and suddenly discovered a unique way of looking at life. I was 59 when I started blogging, 60 when I spent all my time working in my home and in the community as volunteer coordination of our local Neighbourhood Centre. I was 63 when I became a grandma for the first time, 64 when Down to Earth was published as a hard cover, 68 when The Simple Home was published and 70 when I was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumour. Paperback Down to Earth came along when I was 72.

Life has been up and down with many of the everyday traumas and worries most of us experience but through it all I always worked towards the next goal and consciously strived to remain helpful, generous, respectful and kind. Then Covid changed the world in ways that truly shocked me. The world changed, cities emptied, shops, universities and schools closed, travel stopped, borders closed and we couldn’t attend ordinary family events such as weddings, births and funerals. Loved ones died alone, weddings were postponed but happily the babies kept coming. We had to wear masks when we went out, we couldn’t touch our friends and relatives, and millions of people lost their jobs. I NEVER thought I’d ever see anything like it.

I believe the world will never be the same after Covid and sadly, that the opportunity to change the problematic way we live, will not be realised. I doubt Covid will be eradicated. I think it will be yet another disease we’ll have to be vaccinated for every year. My focus now is to encourage my grandchildren to learn traditional skills that will help them survive if things get worse.

But having said all that, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I know that is because of the choices I’ve made along the way and because of the incredible family I am surrounded by. But it also shows that even when a catastrophe stops life as we know it, the joy of simple living remains and by working quietly and slowly in our own homes, we can adapt and thrive. And it doesn’t take much for that to happen - a family and friends, seeds and a place to grow them, knowing how to cook, preserve and store food, being able to mend, sew, knit and make what you need, and the skills to look after yourself and what you have. They’re all simple but significant skills that you weave into a way of life that will be held strong and unshakable by the values you live by. And on this 73rd birthday, I’m very thankful I know that. 

๐Ÿ’œ ๐Ÿ’š ๐Ÿ’œ

Weekend Reading

9 April 2021
The gift this week brought us was rain and it was so badly needed. It meant we stayed in the house, or at least on the verandahs, for three days but it was beyond wonderful to watch it fall, to see the green landscape return and to sleep as it fell on the metal roof. Simple things give so much. And now we have all that moisture back in the soil, it's the ideal time to do some weeding, relocate plants and get a better idea of what needs to be done to get the cottage garden up and running again.  In years to come, the garden will take care of itself for the most part, with just some weeding and watering from me so it's important at this stage to get everything in the right place, have taller plants that create shade for tender ones and not only get the colours right, but the structure too. Gardening and just being in the garden plays a big part in my mental wellbeing. I wonder if it's like that for you too. Maybe I should write about that. Hmmmm.๐Ÿค”

Ginger, picked in the back garden just minutes before this photo.

It's the first time I'm trying this way of sterilising jars. I saw a lot of Korean homemakers use this method and if it works well, it will be easier to do small batches this way.

Both Hanno and Sunny have suffered with sore throats and coughs lately so I made up my throat tonic for them. The recipe is here for you to try.  

Ginger and Lemon Throat Tonic

  • a piece of ginger about 3 - 4 inches long
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced
  • 1 litre water
  • ½ cup raw honey
Add the water, ginger and lemons to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the saucepan and let it sit for two hours. Then add the honey, stir until it's completely dissolved and pour into a sterilised bottle.  

You might go through this fast if there's a harsh winter but if not, you'll need the sterilised bottle to keep the tonic safe and able to be used much later.

I keep the ginger and lemon and  recycle it, going through the above process again. The flavour won't be as strong, but it's definitely worth getting two batches.

To make up the tonic for use, make hot tea with it by adding boiling water to 2 tablespoons of syrup, add it to black tea using the same amount or make it into a cold drink.

I keep a small amount of ginger and lemon in the tonic to keep up the intense flavour until it's used. 

I'm waiting for elderberries to ripen at the moment, they should be ripe next week, so I can make up a winter tonic too. You can freeze the berries as you pick them if you don't have enough with one picking. The berries and the flowers are still very useable after they've been frozen.  I'll write about the winter tonic when I make up the batch.

If you're looking for a small backyard tree, I'd like to recommend an elder tree. It's a tree that grows fast, it's a great shade tree, it will give you (and the wildlife) flowers and berries, it's easy to look after and you can easily keep it to the shape and height you want by cutting it back. It's a soft wood so it's not difficult to keep it tidy. The downside is that if it's in a really good position, it will send out shoots for new trees, but these are easily snapped off to keep it under control. You might have to look around for a sapling, I've never seen them at regular plant nurseries. I bought mine at the Maleny Co-op. Oh! I was just looking for unusual salvias online and found a place selling organic elderberry saplings for $5.50 each.  Great timing. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I'm really enjoying the slow transition to colder weather. I hope you appreciate the change of seasons too. The Covid situation is settling down here again although we're waiting too long for our vaccinations. Hanno and I are eligible for our jab now but no one has any vaccines and it looks like it will be May before any working clinics will be up and running.  I hope you're well and staying safe.

Thank you for visiting me here today. I love your feedback and comments and although I don't always have time to answer them, I read them all and often think about them again during the day.  Have a great week.  xx

๐Ÿ   ๐Ÿ  ๐Ÿ

  • Cafe Vienna coffee mix - this won't do for coffee drinkers who must have a certain brew made at a certain place but for those of us who just want a cup of coffee, this is a good mix to have on the shelf

Weekend Reading

2 April 2021
A few years ago, the week we've just had here would seem like a very easy week. However, now things take more time so I feel it's been a busy week. Today we're looking after Jamie, always a pleasure, so we'll probably make ginger syrup, talk about his birthday and birthday party, the final week of school and what he's got planned for the holidays. Then when he goes home today, the gate will be shut and over the coming days, Hanno and I will mix gardening with relaxing.  Oh yes!

Close to the front door, this is one of our book cases which holds cook books, my books, magazines and a few odds and ends.

We started weeding and reorganising our cottage garden during the week. It's a real mess with invasive weeds taking over parts of it and plants that are dying back.  It needs a total overhaul as well as working out where the empty spaces will be and weeding, fertilising and covering those spaces with compost and mulch, ready for planting next month.  My sister, Tricia, is visiting soon and she's bringing cottage plants from her garden, such as penstemon and Japanese anemones, and I have a climbing rose coming from Treleor Roses in mid-June.  Rebuilding the garden will be a staged exercise but that is true of most simple productions - instant anything is rare. I'm really looking forward to the rebuilding process - out in the cool, fresh air every day, gardening, watching the birds, insects and reptiles, and trying to work out new ways of adding interest to the backyard while keeping opportunities for foraging and safety for the abundant wildlife that share this space with us.

I made coleslaw as one of our side dishes last week. This was the start of it - the cabbage is under the vegetables on top. 

Our capital city, Brisbane, which is an hour's drive from our home, went into lockdown during the week when community acquired Covid was found in a handful of people. In the last 24 hours there have 9 cases acquired overseas and one local. Most of our cases are Australian citizens returning from overseas but this goes to show that local spread is still a possibility and we must be careful.

Hanno on his trusty lawnmower.

I hope you're healthy and remain safe, wherever you are. I'm very worried about readers living in areas with high mortality rates. Please stay at home if you can and if you have to go out, wear a mask, take hand sanitiser with you and avoid standing too close to others.

Nodding violets growing on the front verandah.

Thank you for visiting me today. It's Good Friday here and we have holidays until everyone returns to work next Tuesday. I hope you enjoy Easter and spend it with the people you love. xx

๐Ÿฐ ๐Ÿฃ ๐Ÿฐ

Weekend Reading

26 March 2021
Hello friends! We finally got some rain which we're very grateful for.  All up we got 230 mm which is 9 inches on the old scale. The entire east coast of Australia got a lot of rain, many with record falls. The water hasn't run off yet so if you're in one of those flooded areas, I hope you've got help from the locals and the SES and that you get things back to normal soon.

Bread and butter pudding made from stale brioche hot cross buns.

Hanno went back to the eye specialist yesterday. Luckily there hadn't been another bleed and the doctor was very happy with his eye. He had to go back for another checkup in two months. Fingers crossed. Hanno asked me to let you know he was very grateful for all the good wishes sent about his eye.

On Wednesday, I was interviewed for an article in Taproot magazine.  The article will be in the Sustain edition later in the year. I'm sure most of you know the magazine which was founded by Amanda Blake Soule of the wonderful SouleMama blog. When I first started blogging, Soulemama was a great encouragemnt to me and it's good to see both of us still thriving all these years later.

Lunch one day during the week - chive pancakes with mini Roma tomatoes.

My new computer arrived yesterday!  I'm still on the old one writing this but I'll move onto the new girl over the weekend when I have a bit more time. I'm keeping this computer and will use it for photo storage.

Can you believe it? Jamie has his tenth birthday next week. ๐Ÿ˜ณ He's grown into a very sweet, kind and talented boy and we couldn't be prouder of him.  Here is the post I wrote on the day he was born.  BTW, the monkeys are still loose.

๐ŸŒฟ  ๐Ÿ’š  ๐ŸŒฟ

I hope you enjoy this week's readings.  

How to create a neat edge on your garter stitch projects
How to Start Your First Knitting Project
Down the back today - this is an Instagram page of a wonderful Australian garden. This is a genuine garden and home, not the shiny and "perfect" Instagram garden. Check out the seed swap.
La Parfait, Weck and Ball jars and lids and preserving supplies - Australian site
Melbourne mum stuns with 35-tray pantry storage solution - When I first saw this, I liked the idea but didn't think it would suit the kind of food we cook. It looked to be packet and bottled foods instead of ingredients for scratch cooking.  However, if you look at the far right, you can see ingredients there.