Weekend Reading

26 September 2020
We had "scheduled maintenance" on our NBN on Thursday and now we have limited broadband and no explanation why. Anyhow, I'd already added these readings to the list so I'll post them now while I can access the net (I hope).  It's 2.45am. I'll be back when everything is fixed.


Weekend Reading

18 September 2020

Tomorrow is Hanno's 80th birthday so our family will be here for lunch and celebrations. I met Hanno when he was 37 and I was 28, we sure have come a long way since then 😳.


Weekend Reading

11 September 2020

Yesterday afternoon, I'd just planted some snapdragons.

I've never grown Californian poppies before but some were in a bee and butterfly seed mix I broadcast over the garden a couple of months ago. I was surprised and very pleased when I saw these charming, buttercup flowers spring up right in the middle of the cottage garden last week. But when I saw about 20 stingless bees in that yellow cup, I decided that California poppies would be a part of my forever garden. We need flowers such as those poppies to help provide pollin for visiting bees. We have a lot of bees here, many solitary bees like blue banded bees, teddy bear bees, leafcutter bees, resin bees and some more social bees such as our native stingless bees.  Stingless bees produce honey known as Sugarbag. We buy our raw honey from a man down the street who keeps hives and I'm pretty sure his bees come here too. The honey bees we're all so used to seeing are an introduced species from England.


Weekend Reading

4 September 2020
Each week the weather is warmer and each week I try to do more in the garden because I know that come November, I won't want to be outside.  It's peaceful here. We hear trees rustling in the wind, there is sometimes a faint buzz of traffic in the distance, birds twitter, the chooks squark and occasionally a gate will open and close.  That's it. That's an accurate summary of the sounds in our back yard.  So with a minimum of sound, it's easy to focus on what I'm doing, think about how I can improve what's before my eyes and, most importantly, relax and feel secure in my home. Feeling relaxed and safe is a good feeling and the foundation of most things that happen here.

Summer memories is being grown in a large pot. It opens out to be a large cabbage-type pale rose.

Weekend Reading

28 August 2020
The backyard at 3pm with Gracie's woollen blanket drying in the sun.
Hanno having a rest while he fixes the pathway in the chook run.  That's the mini Cavendish banana in the foreground. He's going to cut the pups off and transplant one to that bare space on the wire fence.

All citrus grow too many flowers at the beginning of the fruiting season but tend to either drop them or lose them to birds or insects in the following weeks.  Our main orange tree is bursting with flowers. I'll pick many of them off soon to help it grow a good crop of large fruit instead of many small fruit.

Weekend Reading

21 August 2020

More work in the garden this week. It's been good to be outside although the wind is annoying as it dries out the soil too quickly. Hanno is preparing the corner of the garden to transplant some banana pups so we have more bananas and, hopefully, at different times.  Overall though, these mini bananas are easier to tend than the taller ones. The minis grow to just about a metre tall so checking the leaves, removing dead leaves and harvesting are much easier. After a question from a reader on IG, I searched for these mini bananas online and found Diggers has them in stock. In a frost-free climate, these are a valuable addition to the backyard.

Weekend Reading

14 August 2020

I've spent time every day in the garden this week. The warmer weather has promoted growth and the two tomato plants have grown a lot in a week. There are plenty of flowers out now too. Today I'll finished the planting with a punnet of foxgloves - surely the sweetest flower name of all.  My aim was to get all the planting, weeding and mulching done before the hot weather, and we've done that, so from now on, it's pruning, dead-heading, fertilising, watering and a little bit of harvesting. Speaking of which, Hanno harvested the curly kale on Wednesday for his annual pork and kale feast.

Weekend Reading

7 August 2020

I showed you a photo of our sofa recently but I've gone closer now so you can see the Australia cushion made by my sister, Tricia. She upcycled an old wool blanket, made the little pom-poms from scrap materials and embroidered the Coat of Arms. I love it. I want to make another small cushion for this area, I've decided on the design so I'll go through my stash to make sure I have the materials I need.

After spending almost two years growing out my layers, my hair is now a blunt cut below my shoulders. I like having long hair because I can wear it up or down. But the sad truth is it takes a long time to wash and dry, and the shower, which is a dangerous place for me anyway because of my dizziness, becomes a slippery accident waiting to happen with shampoo and hair conditioner on the tiles. So I'm having my hair cut short again next week. It will be easier to care for and in summer I can wash my hair every day if I want to. I hope I don't chicken out before the big day.  😳  

Weekend Reading

31 July 2020
I will never tire of looking at this face. Gracie was under the table on the back verandah with the sun streaming in. She enjoys being there on winter afternoons because it's warm and out of the wind.  Good girl, Gracie!

We got another stimulus payment from the government this month, a payment that needs to go back into the economy to help businesses survive.  I bought a new camera and this week I've been experimenting with it and trying to get through the 550-page manual.  Hopefully, in the coming weeks you see an improvement in my photos.  I'll never stage them but I hope you'll be able to see more details in what I do present for you here and on IG. 

Weekend Reading

24 July 2020
I forgot it's Friday! 😳  I just came home from grocery shopping and it clicked. I'm glad I remembered now and not Sunday afternoon.  

Making finger lime and lemon cordial. The little floaters in the pot are finger lime pearls.

It's been a busy week here with a few exciting things happening that I can't tell you about just yet. Tuesday I had my eyes seen to by my eye specialist and I was convinced I'd have to have surgery again.  But no, he said a film had grown over the artificial lenses and he could fix one eye immediately, the other one will be done next week.  He burnt the film off with a laser, the entire procedure lasted less than two minutes and was entirely pain-free.  Go science!


Weekend Reading

17 July 2020
This week I've been reading through a recently published book, The ultimate guide to preserving vegetables. I've really enjoyed it and found a lot to inspire me.  Written by Angi Schneider, she writes about canning, pickling, fermenting, dehydrating and freezing fresh produce.


Weekend Reading

10 July 2020
Hello everyone. I had a good break and feel better for it. I did a lot of thinking while I was away, it's amazing how clearly you focus when you're sitting outside in the fresh air with birds swooping by. I've decided to use Instagram as the main tool to communicate with you. It's faster, so I won't spend too much time online, and the passing traffic there is much greater than here.  

Gracie is doing her afternoon checks here.  She's watching the chooks in the first photo and then she moves closer to the creek to make sure no bush turkeys are about to storm the fences. 


Weekend Reading

19 June 2020

I'm taking a break from posting here and on IG. I'll sign off for now but I'll see you again soon. Thanks for your recent emails and comments. They really do make it more interesting for me.

I hope you enjoy this week's reading.


Valuable and useless vegetables

16 June 2020
We're learning hard lessons lately. The ongoing drought and coronavirus have taught me that to be resilient enough to bounce back time and time again, I need to strengthen my systems, learn as much as I can about what I want to do here and then put in the work to make it all happen. We have recently gone from a very productive vegetable, herb and fruit garden to a much smaller setup of flowers, herbs, fruit and a couple of vegetables. When I work through this season and my new systems start to evolve, those hard lessons might save me in the future.

One of the lessons I stumbled across years ago was to only grow the fruit and vegetables we eat. Even though it's enjoyable and rewarding, gardening is time-consuming and can be difficult at times, even for experienced gardeners. Growing vegetables that look different but are harder to grow isn't worth the extra work when you can get the result you want with something easier.  For instance, a few weeks ago I found a few vines I hadn't planted starting to colonise a large area around one of the roses. I thought it was a cucumber and left it to see if we could use it.  When it started to flower, the flowers were smaller than the cucumbers we usually grow but I let it mature to see what it really was.  This is it below - an African horned cucumber. The seeds were probably dropped in our garden by visiting birds.
Apparently, the skin goes yellow when it's mature and it's FULL of seeds.  It tastes like cucumber but the horns are spikey and there are very fine prickles along the stems.  It's very difficult handling it in the garden so all the vines were pulled out.  Good riddance to bad rubbish. In a few weeks time, when I'm ready to plant cucumbers, I'll choose a delicious apple variety, either Crystal Apple or Richmond Green. Both are well worth growing.


Weekend reading

12 June 2020
We're quietly working away in our home with a day out here and there for Hanno's doctors' appointments and grocery shopping.  Life at our home is a mix of house and garden work, sitting in the garden, morning teas on the verandah, reading, knitting and thinking about what's happening in the world around us.

Above and below: we drove over to Bribie Island last weekend where Gracie discovered ibis.


Weekend Reading

5 June 2020
We've been really busy this week. Hanno's had a couple of health issues and had to go for an unexpected checkup with his eye specialist. The doctor uncovered a problem, a retinal vein occlusion,  and did an operation on the spot.  As I'm writing this, he's visiting his GP because of high blood pressure. Hopefully, there will be an easy solution for that too.

The garden on Wednesday.


Weekend Reading

29 May 2020
Another week has gone by in lockdown, although the tough restrictions are slowly starting to lift here. The days are beautifully slow but the weeks seem to fly by. I'm not really sure how that works, but that's what it feels like.  We've been doing our regular chores, reading, gardening, sewing, knitting and cooking. Nothing much has changed. 

After two days of sweet potato and pumpkin soup, today's lunch is roasted pork belly, sweet potato, cauliflower and onion, and yes, I'm still eating my junket. 🙂

 Amazon lily.


Weekend Reading

22 May 2020
This is the farmhouse hard cheese I used to make.

I've been going through my old photos and there are several I'll share with you in the coming weeks. I used to make cheese fairly frequently, I loved making it and it was delicious.  I haven't made any for a couple of years but that's because I found it difficult getting enough fresh milk rather than I stopped liking it.

Slow and safe havens

19 May 2020
I live in the slowest of slow lanes and there is a lot to love about slowing down. I get the full measure of what each day brings, I have time to enjoy what I'm doing, I sit and reflect and don't feel guilty and every day there is a growing appreciation for having the time to enjoy the quietness of my own home.

A sign of the times.

Weekend Reading

15 May 2020

It's soup time!  I would live on soup if I could. Most soups are nourishing, the flavour improves each day and they're so easy to make. With each passing day, you can add something different like croutons, hot bread, dumpings or fresh herbs so instead of being boring, your soup is comfort food during cold and dreary weather. My favourites are pea and ham and beef, barley and vegetable, which the vegetables photographed above are destined for.


A cruise through the past week

13 May 2020
I have a collection of photos for you today with not much writing. The garden photos were taken yesterday and the others over the course of the past week.  I hope you enjoy them. I'll have more garden photos for you when I tidy the place up a bit and things start growing. Where you see the straw above, I've just scattered seeds - alyssum, aquilegia (granny's bonnet) and bee and butterfly mix.


Weekend reading

8 May 2020

Imagine my surprise and delight when this little beauty glided down our driveway a couple of days ago. It's our "new" courier vehicle. It's a customised US delivery van, the same van that used to deliver parcels and mail between Gympie and the Sunshine Coast (where I live) in the 1940s. The man driving has restored it to its original condition. You can't see them but inside those blackened windows, the van is packed with parcels. It was such a pleasure to see it and talk to the owner/driver who is obviously very proud of it.


Autumn and winter rituals

5 May 2020
Late afternoon in the chook run - a tree full of lemons and leaves falling from the pecan tree.

Shorter days, cool nights and cardigans are all sure signs we are in my favourite season - autumn. There's not much I don't like about this time of year, although, because of what's happening in the wider world, this May is unlike any I can remember.  Some of my routines change in autumn as I respond to the changing temperature and levels of light.


Weekend Reading

1 May 2020

Our ginger is growing well. I planted this up about eight weeks ago and recently moved it out of the greenhouse to get more sun. Now it's getting cooler, I'll move it to sit in full sun all day.  

I planted some of the crop I harvested last year and kept it on the kitchen bench until it started to shoot. Ginger generally needs warm weather to grow well so if you're down south, wait till spring to plant.


Weekend reading

24 April 2020
I've been made aware over the past couple of weeks that quite a few of you like my recipes (thank you), so here's another one.  It's a zucchini slice, which we had for lunch yesterday and will finish off today.  It's very tasty, thrifty and easy and it can be eaten hot or cold, so it's ideal to add to a lunchbox for work or school.


Making plans for a better future

20 April 2020
One day we'll be able to look back on today and remember a strange and dangerous time when we were told to stay at home as much as possible. Once busy streets and highways were empty, schools, universities, shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels were closed, planes stopped flying, jobs were lost, millions of people went on welfare and the lucky ones were supported by their governments to keep food on the table and a roof over as many heads as possible. And then we started hearing about people dying. I had to stop watching news reports of the deaths because it made me feel helpless and weak.


Weekend reading

17 April 2020
Thank you for the birthday wishes sent my way during the week. I truly appreciate every one of them.  Since then I've been working in the garden, cooking a meal at noon each day, keeping on top of the cleaning and dealing with odds and ends as they pop up. Two of them were me cutting Hanno's hair and Hanno cutting Gracie's hair and brushing her with a brush that takes out her undercoat. 

Birthday flowers.

Yet another birthday

15 April 2020
It's my birthday today, number 72. I usually make a song and dance about my birthday, both here and in real life, but this year I'm much more laid back. This year I'll make a short note here, we'll have a grazing lunch of entrees from the local pub - Mooloolaba coconut prawns, crispy pork belly pieces with chilli sauce, chicken satay and Thai fish cakes and then spend much of the afternoon outside. There'll be the usual phone calls, no gifts as per my wish and I'll go to bed a happy woman.


Koalas return to their homes

13 April 2020
I have a good news update on the Blue Mountains koalas we supported with our sewing during the devastating fires in December last year. They've been brought back to their home territory which, after recent rain, now has enough new growth eucalyptus to support them. They'll be monitored via radio-tracking to make sure they settle in well and continue to thrive.

It's estimated up to 10,000 koalas, which is a third of the total koala population of NSW, may have died in the fires.  These Blue Mountains koalas have high levels of genetic diversity which makes them very important for the survival of the species. They're one of only two koala populations in NSW that are free from chlamydia. The group was returned to their original territory with a new joey in one of the koalas' pouches. Hopefully, that is a good sign for their future.


Weekend reading

10 April 2020
You might have noticed I've been quiet for a couple of weeks. I've been sick (not COVID-19) and uninterested in doing anything. All I did was make the bed, cook a daily meal and after that, I was either asleep or sitting. I'm finishing off some antibiotics today and I'm pleased to tell you that I started feeling better a couple of days ago and now I'm on the verge of being back to my normal self.


Weekend reading

3 April 2020
I'm still working on my Miss Marple Scarf - this time while watching Gardeners' World.

We haven't had such a good week here.  Hanno's been fighting hiccups and then was knocked out by the medication the doctor prescribed. Neither of us has had a good night's sleep for ages so we don't have any energy the following day.  The good news is that the medication has worked and Hanno has another phone consultation with his doctor today.  All the practicalities are taken care of, we're getting our groceries from Woolworths delivery and Sunny is buying our meat. Overall we don't have anything to complain about. We're both content being here but we both wish we had more energy to do what we want to do ... gardening. 


Weekend reading

27 March 2020
How is everyone going out there? We're okay and taking each day as it comes. Routines, good food and the process of preparing it, Gracie's antics and working in the garden help a lot. Hanno had to go to the doctor yesterday and I'm pleased to say, the doctor came out to the car park to see Hanno so he didn't have to go inside the medical centre.  He'd had hiccoughs the three previous days and he was exhausted. The doctor had no answers about the cause but he gave him some pills, the problem eased last night so he got a good sleep.

A wall of passionfruit. These will be ready to pick at the end of April.

Simple and cheap meals

25 March 2020

Potato pancakes AKA kartoffle puffer, Hanno's favourite.

Judi asked the following question on Monday so I've racked my brain to come up with this. I hope it helps Judi and many, many others.  Readers, if you can think of other Australian food ideas that fit this frugal category, please add your thoughts in the comments.

"I am now 63 and living on my own, I have been wife, mother, stay at home Mum, and now a carer, my income is now very low and after having been used to raising all our own meat and vegetables and really eating quite well, I am struggling to feed myself. Having to purchase food is one of my biggest expenses and I am wondering if you could please put your thinking cap on and give those of us struggling financially with a good weeks menu plan please. I have all your books and I do love the menu plan in the Down To Earth book but I can not afford to eat that well anymore. Help, please.

"I am in Australia, I have noticed over the last month a big increase in the cost of fresh produce here, thanks to the drought and bushfires, I really like to eat fresh but have given up having things like avocado on my salad as they are $4 each, I am looking for ideas from the 1950s when we ate a little bit more simply but most of the information you find on the internet is American and we eat differently to them. It is quite frustrating and I am struggling with brain fog, that does not help."

Living on one income and developing routines

23 March 2020
On the weekend, I received a message from a reader, "Emma", who is about to leave paid work and will stay at home to manage the family. This is some of what she had to say:

"I was just wondering how you plan your days (if you do at all). 
My partner and I have decided that I will cease work out of the home this year and manage our little family! I just feel a bit lost and overwhelmed with what to do each day to keep the house/garden and hobbies ticking over. I know it will be different for everyone but just seeking some guidance as I enter this more simple phase of life."


Weekend reading

20 March 2020
We went to Bunnings during the week to buy plants, seedlings and seeds so we'll have a decent garden to tend in the coming weeks. I chose only one vegetable seed, rainbow chard, to plant in with what we have here now. I'll write about what we're doing in the garden soon and if there are some new or inexperienced gardeners out there, I'm happy to help with your questions if I can. The rest of the week, I took advantage of the time to think about our current situation and work out our best response. We won't be going out again for a while, Sunny and Kerry are doing most of our shopping, and I don't want to waste any opportunities provided by these extraordinary circumstances.

 Seedlings waiting to be planted.


Weekend reading

13 March 2020
We've been at home most of the time this past couple of weeks. We're both over 70 and the advice is for us to stay at home if possible. I went to my CWA talk last Sunday and I stocked up on fresh fruit, vegetables and milk on Wednesday, the rest of the time we've luxuriated in the calmness of our own nest.  Of course, it's business as usual for us, we usually stay at home enjoying each other's company with occasional visitors popping in to provide interest and support.


International Women's Day and Apricot Custard Cake

9 March 2020
There was no better place to spend International Women's Day (IWD) than at my local CWA cottage. Yesterday, I went along to give a talk and spend time with about 30 other women. It felt good to speak about the life we live here and to acknowledge IWD with local women. Everything I've done publicly since I set up my blog in 2007, including three books published by Penguin, being a monthly columnist for the Australian Women's Weekly and Burke's Backyard, and being on ABC radio on and off for many years, I did at home. Right here in my sewing room, I spoke live on air and I tapped out words that seemed to take on a life of their own and ended up landing all over the world. Home is not only a place to live and grow, it can also be the base from which we launch ourselves and our ideas. We really can do amazing things when we have a passion and put in the hard work to achieve our goals.  


Weekend reading

6 March 2020
Apricot and custard cake made with backyard eggs and pantry staples.

It's been another busy week here. I've been mending and organising and Hanno has been doing his outdoor work, although he's not been well. Our main complaint is dizziness, we both have good days and bad days, and luckily the good outweighs the bad. Today I'll be deciding on my topic at the CWA talk I'm giving on Sunday - International Women's Day.  Later this morning we're taking Gracie to a groomer to be washed and clipped.  Happy days!

I hope your week has been a good one. What have you been doing?

Here are some reading and watching links when you have some downtime.  Enjoy the weekend. I'll see you again next week.  💕

Tragedy of the Isle of Women
Pegging out the wash
13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings
Yes, There Is a Correct Way to Wash Your Hands—Here's How
Face-changing paper dolls
Killer sudoku

Coronavirus stockpiling

2 March 2020
Last week, after listening to the ongoing updates about coronavirus, we decided to check our supplies and restock. No one knows what will happen in the coming days and months but one thing is certain, I don't want to go out into the community to get supplies if I don't have to, virus or no virus. So we checked our food stockpile and made a list of the medications and supplements we needed from the chemist.  It's all packed away in cupboards now and I feel secure knowing we can easily look after ourselves without having to go to the supermarket every week.

It's unusual for journalists to write about their own reactions to a current topic but here it is from The Guardian this week: It just seems sensible, the Australians stockpiling for the coronavirus


Weekend reading

28 February 2020

Someone asked for new Gracie photos last week.  Here they are!