31 August 2015

Another chapter closed. Another new beginning.

This photo was taken two years ago.

Hettie died on Friday afternoon. The vet said that in addition to the cancer, she had a few other serious problems. He gave us the option of coming back with her on another day, but as there was no hope of treatment or recovery, we decided to ease her pain straight away. She slipped away quietly while I held her. So after a lifetime of having dogs and cats around, we've decided that Hettie will be our last four-legged friend; it's too painful at the end. She was with us for a long time and it seems quite strange knowing she's not here now. RIP Hettie. Another chapter closed. Another new beginning.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who sent us a message for Hettie. Your kind support helped us get through the sad hours and makes us feel loved. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

Kerry's Mambo feather cushion.

Tricia pinning her quilt before hand quilting.

The weekend here was subdued. Kerry and Jamie called in so Kerry could help Hanno with some heavy work. They loaded the trailer twice and drove off to the local dump and then we had lunch together. Even after so much decluttering, there is still "stuff" surrounding us. Although to be fair, this was mostly from the shed and yard. It feels good to be getting rid of all that excess and rubbish.  Tricia and I cleaned out the bush house and then she went inside to hand quilt while I stayed outside and did some repotting.  I'm still working in the garden, planting, tying up, propagating and fertilising but I'll be ready to show you a few photos later in the week. Yesterday the three of us had lunch with Kerry and Jamie (Sunny was working) at a local pub which has its dining area overlooking the water. It did us all good to sit in the sun and relax.

 Sewing for Moey. 

Receiving this pastel of Jamie was one of the highlights of my year. Moey is such a talented artist. She drew this from a photo on the blog, so it was a complete surprise to me.

I've really enjoyed my sewing lately. I took part in the Down to Earth Forum blue August swap, making a linen apron, a table runner and napkins for my partner Moey in Perth. She sent the pastel of Jamie above. Isn't it wonderful! And I found an old Mambo shirt hanging in the cupboard, it must be about 10 years old. I decided to repurpose it and made Kerry a big feather down cushion for his white leather lounge (photo above). He was away for his birthday so it became his birthday present. I think the distinctive artwork of Reg Mombassa needs to be on display, not hidden in a cupboard.

The start of the blue quilt collection.

Soon I'll be doing more work at the sewing machine. I'm planning (in my head) a blue patchwork quilt for our guest room. Now that I have more time to work in my home, I've decided to put some effort into a couple of areas so they reflect how we use those spaces. Homes change all the time and although I don't want to be constantly updating, it feels right to fluff up these spaces now, using fabric on hand, so we can all enjoy them and make guests feel at home here when they visit us.

My sister Tricia has been visiting these past couple of weeks and we've had a great time together chatting, knitting, sewing and gardening. She's going home tomorrow so after that I'll be back in the garden again to finish off a few things and then I'll take some photos to share with you. The weather is perfect for outdoor work at the moment and I'm mindful of the fact that tomorrow is the first day of Spring. There is always something to do here and although it's sometimes sad, it's never dull. I hope you've had a good weekend and that the week ahead is a productive one for all of us with many opportunities to enjoy time with our families.  xx


29 August 2015

Down to Earth hardcover on US Amazon now

Ellymae bought my hardcover Down To Earth book from Amazon US so I've just checked out my Amazon page.  It's available for sale there now but there are only 13 copies left. If you've been wanting to buy one for a while, the opportunity is there for you now. Click here to go to the page.


28 August 2015

Weekend reading

This is our much loved cat, Hettie. You can see in the photo she has developed skin cancer on her ear and nose, and she has arthritis in her front legs.  Lately she's lost weight and energy.  She'll be visiting the vet today and I doubt she'll return to us.  Hettie is 18 years old and has lived her entire life here in our home and yard.  ♥︎  I think it will be a sad weekend.

- - - - - - - - 

Holocaust research shows epigenetic inheritance - the transmission of trauma
Blood oranges are one of my favourite fruits although I usually forget about them because we grow our own oranges and by the time we've eaten and juiced our way through our trees, I'm over oranges for a few months. But then I'm reminded of these little beauties - they're perfect in our whole orange cake and if you make icing with the juice, it's pink. However, this recipe for rice pudding using the zest might be a good way to use one of the oranges you buy. You'll have to hurry though, the Australian season will be over soon.
Self-sufficient couple builds their own floating off-grid island
When will my life begin?
Knitting project for northern winter - free pattern


27 August 2015

My favourite place #8

This is a weekly feature for readers to show us their favourite place at home. This week's photos are from Caroline in Ontario, Canada and Jan in Victoria, Australia.

Let's start with our friend Caroline, who writes:
Thank you for the opportunity to share our special places! I really enjoyed the last time that you ran the photos and we could get a glimpse into the lives of other people and realize just how very different, yet alike we are.

I live in Ontario, Canada and every summer for 10 weeks I live on an island out in Georgian Bay. When our children are older we hope to live here for half of each year. My inlaws bought the property back in the '60's, and 5 years ago my husband built our modest home here. We are completely off of the grid, and utilize solar panels and propane to power our daily lives. Life is simple and slower than back in the city and every year we work towards our goal of spending more time here. I enjoy numerous crafts, baking and spending time here with my family. Georgian Bay is a part of the Great Lakes and can be very temperamental weather wise. One needs to watch the weather carefully in order to plan trips to town for groceries! After September, we try to come for weekend visits, but after late October, it is much too cold and then time to get ready for another Canadian winter. Sometimes if the ice is thick enough in February, the family has snowshoed over to spend a chilly night or two with the woodstove going non-stop.

I have recently begun blogging at www.offthegridneedlearts.com and would be pleased if you would visit. I have admired your writing for many years.

- - - ♥︎ - - -

And now we have Jan, who just loves her chook house:

I'd love to share my favourite spot in our yard. Our chook house :)

My very clever husband built this out of our daughters old swing set. He's made self waterers and feeders out of polly pipe and they have a run out under our apple tree. My 4 Isa Brown ladies (Fiona, Princess Penelope, Charlie and Nigella) look out over the vegie garden and are put out to free range when we can keep a watchful eye on them. We live in Southwest Victoria, near the coast and at the moment are in the midst of a wild winter. Our girls are held in the timber section of their house at night and I can access the eggs from the outside - you can possibly make out the little box on the left - it has a pull down hatch for ease of getting the eggs and cleaning. They have their roost in there and so far the cold hasn't stopped them laying 4 beautiful yellow eggs a day. I just love this addition to our simple life, I never dreamed it would be such a wonderful thing but couldn't imagine my life without chooks now. Being able to collect eggs everyday is such a treat I'm not tiring of. They also provide me with a laugh at their characteristics and antics. When the weather is better, I sit out with a cuppa and watch them - it's strangely quite soothing and peaceful.


26 August 2015

Our daily bread

I've had a few requests to write about how I make bread. I've written a number of bread posts but as it's such a big part in our lives, let's go through it again.

Even thought the bread I make looks like different recipes, I change the type of flour I use to get the variety I want but the recipe stays pretty much the same. I always use baker's flour, not pre mix. Over the years I've used plain white, wholemeal, whole grain, soy and linseed, corn and barley, leckerbrot and rye.  At the moment I have organic spelt, rye, white and wholemeal flours in the cupboard and it will eventually make up bread of different forms such as sandwich loaves, free-form loaves, bread rolls, baps and French loaves.

My tutorial for making bread by hand is here 
Making bread using a bread machine is here


  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey 
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 4 cups bread flour (can be any variety – wholemeal, rye, white, grain or spelt) 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 350 ml warm water (approximately) Read what I said about water in the links above
Make sure the flour and yeast are fresh and if you want a more tender dough for to use for pizza, add a tablespoon of olive oil or butter. You can freeze the dough if you want to. It's often handy to have a few batches of dough big enough to make a pizza base in the freezer.

The following photos are all bread made using the recipe above but with different flour and toppings.

If you're a new baker, don't give up if your bread isn't what you expect the first time you make it. It took me ages to perfect a good dough, to know what to look for in the dough and to always get my hands in and feel it, even if it's being made in the bread maker.  Teach yourself through trial and error what good dough feels and looks like and over the days and weeks, you'll teach yourself to produce loaves good enough to be used for sandwiches, rolls and toast. When you start producing good bread, experiment with toppings, additives and different shapes.

Remember the bread you bake will be made exactly to the dietary requirements of you and your family and nothing you can buy at the shops will be as good as what you bake at home.  Your bread will be cheaper than the good bread you can buy (but not the cheap and nasty supermarket loaves), you'll know exactly what's in it and you'll have fresh bread in your home whenever you want it. I hope you try your hand at this because it's one of the core skills of a simple home. Even if it looks too difficult for you, trying and then perfecting a bread recipe will help you produce quality food in your own home and it will challenge you. And we all need that.


24 August 2015

What simple life will allow you to be

I'm hoping the hard copies of my books will be on sale at Amazon soon so I was checking in there yesterday looking for signs of activity. While I was there I noticed a review with one star so I had to look at it. This is what it said: While there were some really good tips for simplifying, the basic message in this book is how to be a "traditional" housewife. Nothing against that at all, but it is not for me and I suspect many others.  Anyone who has read my books right through or the blog for any length of time would know that my "basic message" isn't promoting traditional housewifery, but an encouragement to be whatever you feel is your true self. Simple life is a garment that all of us can wear but we need to pin and sew it according to the cut of our own jibs, not the expectations of anyone. Just as in mainstream life, if you live according to the ideals and aspirations of others, you're doomed to failure.

The life choices you make should fit the age you're currently at and reflect your values. When you move towards a simple life it should incorporate what you're comfortable with and be allowed to settle in its own time. Anything else would be a complete waste, and a betrayal of your core beliefs. When I look back on my own life, I see that each decade presents different challenges and if you're lucky enough to start living simply when you're young, you'll progress through life, building one stage upon the previous one. However, not all of us are that sensible (I wasn't) but it's quite easy to come into the lifestyle at any age and start where ever you're currently at.

Jamie's toys on the kitchen table (above) and craft supplies, collected rocks, seeds and a little pine cone on the outside table (below).

But getting back to the "traditional" housewife in the review, I hope you're not a traditional anything just for the sake of tradition. That implies to me that you're adopting a role that has already been laid down and rubber stamped as being acceptable. If simple life gives us anything, it's the guts to move away from what is "normal", the courage to examine who we are and what we have, and to do things our own way. It's fine to be a traditional housewife if that is what you are, but it's also fine to be any other kind of housewife or not to think of yourself as a housewife at all. I prefer not to label anyone and to accept them as they are.

If you end up moving towards a traditional life or a non-conventional one, if you're married or single, straight or gay, young or older, if you are black, white, yellow, red or spotted, if you're female, male or transgendered, it is possible to have a happy simple life. And within all that diversity, with people making decisions based upon their own values, beliefs and knowledge of what is good for them, what will emerge is a life worth living. So steer clear of anyone who wants to label you as being a certain type, be yourself, be true to who you are and live to your potential. Life won't always be smooth sailing but if you create a balanced life, the way you live will help you through the tough times. And if someone who doesn't know you labels you as being the opposite of what you are, just roll your eyes and move on.


21 August 2015

Weekend reading

Our new season vegetable garden is slowly taking shape. Work inside and outside is bubbly along nicely and I'm starting to think about end of year activities such as community talks (see below) and some blogging/writing workshops I'm doing before Christmas. I guess I should start getting some notes ready for those events. I hope you enjoy your weekend. I'll see you again next week.

:-: ♥︎:-:

Interesting stats, state by state, in Australia
A free magazine-style ebook with interesting articles, beautiful photos and lots of great recipes. Megan @ Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores sent a link during the week. She said: I went away for a weekend recently with a bunch of photographers, stylists and writers and when we came back we compiled our memories in a free e-book. It can be accessed via Megan's site link above.
How to get children reading this summer


20 August 2015

My favourite place #7

This is a weekly feature for readers to show us their favourite place at home. This week's photos are from Linnea in Finland and Marian on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia.

First up is Linnea: My favourite place in our home is this little, cosy nook. We live in a second floor flat in a 100 year old house (renovated 8 years ago, though), and I really enjoy the sloped ceiling. 

This is my favourite place for reading or knitting, or just letting my thoughts wander while looking out from the window. I live in Finland, so we have four distinctly different seasons. Warm but short summers full of light, dark, cold and long winters and few months of spring and fall in between. At fall and winter time this nook looks very homey with the candels lighted.

As you can see, I'm not the only one who loves this spot in our home!

My blog: http://kaunistajakaytannollista.blogspot.fi name of the blog: Neulanen (meaning a needle or a little pin) (Written in Finnish, but I'll put an English post to welcome readers when the post is published in D2E)

Thank you for giving us all the lovely opportunity to take a peek in each others homes!

 : : : ♥︎ : : :

Our next reader is Marion who says:  I live on the Southern Mornington Peninsula Victoria in a semi rural area. This is one of my favourite places, my Kitchen. I was lucky enough to be able to design my house, hence the large country kitchen. It faces north so it gets beautiful winter sun which is a blessing in this cold weather. In summer it is shaded by the verandah. I can enjoy the garden view all year round. We get migratory birds and have a myriad of wild life passing through at different times of the year and this is the best viewing area.

You can just see the vegetable garden, and looking through the little window in the second photo you can see Missy one of my goats.

: : : ♥︎ : : :


19 August 2015

Build your fast frugal food recipe collection

I'm an old fashioned cook. My food is tasty, I can stretch a pound of minced steak as far as the best of them and to tell you the truth, when I see towers of food, foam, micro herbs, "super" foods, or anything newly fashionable I roll my eyes and move on.  I'm not a complete philistine though. I do enjoy eating and cooking with grains (turn your heads all paleos), and I like experimenting with salads and dairy foods.

But I am what I am - a product of my times, and although some new food is seen on our table, mostly I go for the old standards and I have a group of delicious slow foods that we all enjoy. The one thing I found that helped a lot early on in my married life (and now) was to have a decent collection of fast food recipes that even though it is cooked from scratch, I can prepare quickly. If you have a few standby recipes for cheap nourishing meals and snacks that you can make in a hurry then you'll save yourself time and time again when life gets busy.

I've had a few requests for some recipes I've featured in the past week. I'm happy to oblige and share how I cook. All the older experienced cooks and a few of the younger savvy ones will know most of my recipes but I'm aiming for the newer cooks and those who are still unsure of their capabilities in the kitchen.  Introducing fast quiche and banana and walnut cake.

Remember that a quiche is an egg pie with a range of additions, which will change depending on what you have in the fridge. In this one I used bacon, parsley, garlic and cheese. Often the thing that puts cooks off cooking quiche is the pastry. I can make quite good pastry but I use filo pastry when I need a fast meal. It's easier and much quicker. Instead of brushing the sheets of pastry with melted butter, I spray the sheets with olive oil, which cuts down on the prep time. Normally it would take you about an hour to make a traditional quiche. This fast recipe will have you putting the quiche in the oven to bake in about 15 minutes.  Add 30 minutes for the cooking time and you've got a healthy meal that will feed at least four people. To feed more, just increase the amounts.


4 or 5 sheets filo pastry
can of olive oil spray

6 large eggs 
½ cup cream
2 rashers bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated on a microphone
½ red capsicum, finely diced
1 cup hard cheese, grated
hand full of parsley, finely chopped

Prepare the pastry by spraying the sheets and folding them in two. Line the pie dish with the filo, and spray the surface again. Make sure every surface is covered. If you're using a large dish, use more pastry. Fold the edges of the pastry down to prevent them from burning.

Mix the eggs and cream together in a bowl and leave while you cook the other ingredients. Fry the bacon, onion, garlic and capsicum/peppers for about three minutes - just enough to soften all of the vegetables.

Add that to the egg mix, add the cheese and parsley, mix well and pour it into the pie dish lined with filo.  Bake is a moderate oven 175C/350F for about 35 - 40 minutes or until the egg mix is golden brown on top and the egg is set. Be careful not to overcook the egg, take it out when the centre is still slightly wobbly because it will continue to cook for a couple of minutes after you remove it from the oven.

The quiche is delicious hot or cold and served with a salad.


This banana and walnut cake is ideal for those who don't have a mixer but still want a good light cake to add to lunch boxes or for morning or afternoon tea.


125 grams butter
¾ cup sugar - I use ½ white and ½ dark Muscavado sugar You can use a mix of white and brown sugar or just white or raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup walnuts
3 small-medium eggs
½ teaspoon bicarb soda/baking soda *
1½ cups self raising flour or plain/all purpose flour with 1½ teaspoons baking powder *

* Please note: baking soda and baking powder listed above are two different ingredients.

Into a small saucepan, add butter, sugar and vanilla. Over a low heat, melt the butter while stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the butter melts, leave it to the side.

In a bowl, mash the bananas, add the eggs and bicarb and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. Then add the melted butter and mix it together, add the flour and combine thoroughly. Finally, add the walnuts and mix through.

Add the cake mix to a prepared cake tin. I use a 33 x 23cm rectangular cake tin but you could also use a 22 x 13cm loaf tin. Bake in a moderate oven 175C/350F for about 35 - 40 minutes or until the cake is golden on top, it smells cooked or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Store the cake in an air-tight container and it will last about 5 days. It's ideal for school and work lunches because it will travel quite well packed in lunch box.

These are just two examples of simple foods that won't take too much time, effort or money to make. Collect recipes like this that you and your family like so that when you need to produce food and you don't have much time, you can have good food on the table and you don't buy take away.  Hopefully other experienced cooks will share their fast and frugal recipes here too. It's okay to link to your own blog today to share your recipe.


18 August 2015

Friends visiting

First I must apologise to those people who left comments late yesterday. I was up wandering about late last night, I read them, selected all to be published and then clicked on delete instead of publish.  It's Blogger's fault.  They shouldn't put the buttons so close together. Please resubmit your comments if you feel like it and I promise to publish them this time.

 From left: Blinky, Tricia, Damac and Rhonda.

My sister Tricia is here at the moment so there are a few excursions planned as well as a lot of slow time in these last days of winter. I'm sure we'll also be sewing, quilting and drinking tea. Yesterday we had a visit from two forum ladies, Blinky and Damac and Damac's sister-in-law Rhonda (there is a growing army of us). Blinky is a local lady and Damac is visiting from Sydney.  Of course the conversation turned to crafts, Blinky brought along some of her exquisite embroidery and Damac brought gifts that she made. Luckily Jamie was here yesterday so she could give him a named Jamie bag she made for him. Damac also showed us a dishcloth she's crocheting using 100 percent soft cotton string she bought cheaply at Woolworths. I forget now what she said the price was but she's getting 1½ dishcloths from one ball, making it a very thrifty dishcloth.

These are some of the handmade gifts Damac brought along.

We wandered around the garden, enjoyed hot drinks and cake and generally had a lovely time. It's always good to get together with people who think like you do. It reaffirms the path we're all on is right for us and there is always something to talk about, even though you may not have met before.

Today we may go to visit Sunny at her shop. Tricia hasn't seen it yet. When we come home, I'll help in the garden - Hanno is planting out seedings and I and have about 15 elkhorns to attach to backing boards. So it looks like another good day here in our little homestead. I hope yours is a good one too. xx


17 August 2015

The true gift

It's been a quietly busy few days here. I finished my blue swap sewing, worked in the garden, baked bread and a cake, made a quick quiche which fed us for two days, watered the garden when I gave up all hope of rain, finally booked an appointment to have a haircut and did the hundred other unnoticed but necessary things that make up a day.

I smiled when I just read what I'd written. It seems like so little was done and yet it filled my days not only with activity but with satisfaction and contentment as well. There was a time when I would have thought I was wasting time doing what I've been doing, a time when only busyness counted. Well, I'm more enlightened now. Now I value each moment. I've stopped rushing and I'm just as committed to enjoying what I do as I am about the productivity of my hours. Life's too short for anything else.

In the old days I would have known I had a certain task to complete - let's say it was my swap sewing - and I would have planned it out, cut it out, spent time at the machine sewing, ironed what I'd made and within half a day, I would have finished the job. HA! Not now. Many of you know I now have my sewing machine set up next to my computer and so before I sat down to make the last blue item, I searched for some music to listen to and watch on You Tube. I settled on the funeral music of country  music legend George Jones, yes, the funeral music, then readied myself to listen to Alan Jackson singing He stopped loving her today. Not the most popular music but oh my, it was beautiful - I was captured by the emotion as much as the words.  As it turned out, I listened to that particular song about 10 okay, 30 times. Long term readers will know I've referred to myself before now as the ageing equivalent of a box full of monkeys being let loose in the jungle. This is another manifestation of that. We are all many people rolled into one and this is a small example of my obsessive self.  It surfaces fairly frequently. ;- )

So, I had the music ready and was just about to start sewing when my good friend Kathleen messaged me. I have phone messages set up on my computer too, so we had a long chat, in between stitches, cutting, snipping and listening to Alan singing sadly for old George and watching a bit of flat foot dancing on the porch. It took me three or four times longer than it should have to finish my project but the enjoyment factor was sky-high. I was smiling and ready for anything.

Of course I had many other things I could have been doing but I came away from that sewing machine feeling that I'd looked after myself and given myself the time to enjoy those hours. Sometimes it's not so much about what is produced but the feeling the production gives you. That is the true gift and there will be days when that gift will carry me through a bad day and help me continue this journey of simplicity. And even though some people would look at me there, madly re-listening to Alan singing for George, and taking longer, much longer, than the job needed, sometimes we all need to embrace the mad feelings we have, invest that time and craziness in ourselves and then reap the rewards.

What craziness do you get up to? :- )


14 August 2015

Weekend reading

We're looking forward to a visit from my sister. She arrives on Saturday and will stay a few weeks - a respite from the very cold winter in the mountains where she lives. We don't have a lot planned but I know there'll be trips out, sewing, knitting, gardening and many, many cups of tea in the sun.

Thanks for your visits this week. I hope the weather where you are isn't too harsh. It will change again soon and those of us who now long for warmer weather will probably want the cooler weather back, and vice versa. Enjoy the weekend, I'll see you again soon. xx

= = = ♥︎ = = =

Why you shouldn’t tell children they can be whatever they want
Get out the pencils, here's a new colouring in book
Gardening is a political act of resistance
A continuing obsession of mine, watching clog dancing - Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers with Pete Seeger - You Tube
Live stream - African wildlife camera
Why freezing is the best way to preserve cilantro/coriander

13 August 2015

My favourite place #6

This is a weekly feature for readers to show us their favourite place at home. Our first photos this week are from African Aussie in Australia, the second are from Jeannine in the United States.  Thanks for sharing, ladies.

I live in the tropical north of queensland, almost in the Daintree rainforest, so the weather is hot and humid for much of the year. Having a bit of shade is important.  My favourite spot is sitting under the gazebo in our side garden. Early on Saturday morning you will find me with my first cup of tea and later breakfast, mulling over the work I need to do in the garden that weekend. The swing is against the fence and the grandchildren love to sit on the swing with us, we look out towards the bird bath and when the little honey eaters come and have a bath they turn very quiet and still. Sometimes they play on the table with play dough or paint - it is so much easier to clean up the mess here than inside! 

I have hosted afternoon tea at this table quite a few times. The barbeque is out there, and we have shared many happy barbeques with friends and family. Sitting late into the night with some citronella candles burning to keep away the mozzies. There is often rustling in the bushes, but that would be the cane toads.  Just around the far corner is my veggie patch - it is small but fresh lettuces, tomatoes and cucumbers often grace the salads that I serve for dinner. As I sit at this table I often feel a deep feeling of peace and contentment settle over me.  My blog is www.africanaussie.blogspot.com

= = = ♥︎ = = =

Here is my favorite corner in our vast world. My name is Jeannine and this is Florissant, Missouri, U.S. Our community is next to Ferguson where all the recent unrest happened. But here at home, my husband and I spend as many mornings as possible right here drinking coffee, talking about memories, and dreaming of quiet adventures (the best kind) yet to come. : )


12 August 2015

Thanks Jo, thanks Andrea

This is a photo of me with my Penguin editor Jo Rosenberg, taken on our front verandah.  Today is a milestone in Jo's life because it's her last day at Penguin. She's leaving to take up another editing position in Melbourne after ten years with Penguin.

Jo was the person who "discovered" me. It was her email to me a few years ago, asking if I would like to write a book for Penguin, that started me off as an author and gave me everything that spun off from that. I'm very happy that Jo came into my life, we have a very strong friendship, even though she's half my age. I imagine we'll remain close friends until I die.

So thank you Jo for all you've given me, for all the times you pushed me to do my best and for the times when you knew it wasn't my best and kept pushing. I'm very grateful to have had your guidance, encouragement and love over the time I've been with Penguin, and I wish you the very best in your new job. They're lucky to have you there.

Another wonderful woman who is leaving Penguin this week is my publisher, Andrea McNamara. Andrea also has seen me through all three books, has been the most generous guide and advisor, and I wish her the very best as she too moves beyond the walls of Penguin.

I had less to do with Andrea, but over the years and as I observed how she worked, I grew to admire her very much. She is one of those women who encourages those around her to be their best, simply by the being who she is.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with these two creative and innovative women. I'm thankful that we started off together and with my latest book, we're all finishing together too. They've taught me a lot about self expression and, of course, that always comes back to being a life lesson as well.  I'll miss you both, Jo and Andrea, and I wish you every success and happiness.  xx


10 August 2015

Our wild and natural habitat

The weather is wonderful at the moment. It's cool at night (6-8* C) and warm during the day (20C ish) and that is the best gardening weather. Our gate is closed and if you strolled down our one lane street, you'd think no one was at home or at the very least, the people inside were watching TV or sleeping. But it's been a hive of activity here. We've been cleaning, moving, cooking, baking and rearranging the outdoor space out back to better suit us.

We downsized and simplified our garden last year, stopped growing so many winter crops and decided to focus on herbs, salad greens and summer vegetables, with some tomatoes and fruit thrown in for good measure. So instead of planting out many tomato bushes, this year we have four: two cherry tomato types, the hybrid Rapunzel with her metre long trusses of fruit, and an older heirloom variety: Beef Short. Those two varieties should cover all our needs for snacking, salads, sandwiches and cooking. Over winter we've grown our winter favourites - turnips, kale, snow peas and lettuce. We also have all the herbs I need for cooking as well as ginger, chillies, capsicums (peppers) and Asian greens. I want to grow more flowers too, in with the vegetables, to encourage the insects and to bring into the house. I have two new raspberries to plant. They're the Heritage variety which is a good grower in warmer climes. We planted two last year and got a reasonable crop from them but a passionfruit crowded them out so Hanno will moved that to another spot this week and the area will be for raspberries alone now.  According to the tag on the plants, I should expect a crop in spring and a very big crop in autumn.

I haven't finished setting this area up yet. It's an old table there that I have to scrub clean and I still have some potted plants to move in.  I'll take more photos when I'm finished and happy with it.
I'll plant these out during the week, fertilise and mulch them so they should be set up for the end of winter and the warmer weather.

But the most exciting part of the garden now is the introduction of a table and benches, and when it's hotter, a large canvas umbrella. It will give us an extra place to sit and relax and to look around this wonderful backyard we have. One of the great advantages of a garden is that you're outside surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world, instead of being inside in a man-made one. We hear bees buzzing, see birds of all kinds fly over and hope they'll feel safe enough to visit here a while. We have water out for them and we don't mind sharing the food we grow. There is enough for all of us.

 A flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos visited us for a snack during the week.

Now the warmer weather is just around the corner, the grass is starting to grow again and that means more clippings to make compost for the garden beds. We have a good crop of comfrey right next to the compost heaps and soon I'll make a rich fertiliser for the gardens and use the rest to accelerate the decomposition of the compost materials. Comfrey grows fast so they'll be plenty of follow up leaves we can use during the year instead of buying organic fertiliser. I've written about how to make it here.

Hanno is going to remove that picket fence soon too. It used to keep the dogs and chooks out of the area we grow fruit in.

It's peaceful here. The garden is productive, the hens are happily laying eggs and soon the deciduous trees will start growing new leaves and that will signal the warmer weather and yet another year of growth - both for the garden and us.  There is a lot of work going into our backyard at the moment but we both enjoy the work and we get back ten times more than we put in. There is a kind of magic out there that blocks out the noise, and sometimes even the knowledge, of the outside world. We potter around, sow seeds, weed and water plants and generally make this place what we want it to be. We both feel very lucky to live here and when the work of the day is done, and even when it isn't, we take the opportunity to sit and enjoy our wild and natural habitat.

I wish you all the best for the week ahead. ♥︎
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