18 December 2020

Weekend Reading

This will be my last blog post for a while. I'm having a break over Christmas and will come back when I'm rested and ready to go again. Next year will be my 14th year blogging about how we live. In the beginning, knowing I wanted to write about making beds, washing up, housework and budgeting, I wondered if my blog would last 14 weeks. But it's still here and so are you and for that, I'm truly grateful.

Happy holidays from Gracie!

My sister sent this photo during the week. The Down to Earth paperback in the window of a bookshop near where she lives.

My sincere thanks to everyone who bought my books this year. It's an important part of our income now and 10 per cent of what you pay for one of my books comes to us and helps us live our chosen life here. Thanks also to all the readers who continue to visit.  Without you, this blog would not be here.

My tomatoes were growing in the bush house last week. This is what happens when you don't stake them early enough and it rains for 12 hours.

Munstead Wood standard rose growing in the back garden.

This has been the strangest year I've ever lived through. We aren't locked down now but we have been in the past and I know it's difficult shopping for food, going to the doctor and taking children to and from school. Staying at home helped stop the spread of Covid here and although there's a spike in Covid in Sydney this morning, we have almost no restrictions where I live. Hanno and I are still cautious and stay at home most of the time. What frightens me is how quickly it spreads and, as Sydney is showing us now, it goes from zero to five to 17 in less than a day. And many people don't have symptoms when they're tested but they have the virus. 

If you're locked down, I get it, it's hard but so is this virus. Keep hanging on, stay at home, be safe and wear a mask when you go out. Keep hand sanitiser and masks in your car or if you usually walk or use public transport, always have a mask and hand sanitiser in your bag. 

Use the time at home to think about your life and how you want to go forward. I'm pretty sure things will change after this, I really hope our governments will lead us towards a sustainable, less commercial, pollution-free future where businesses think about the environment as well as profit margins. It's a good idea to contact your local member of parliament too and ask how they and their party intend to protect the environment while we recover from Covid. But it's up to us to make our own personal changes too and now is a very good time to think about what we can change and improve in our own spaces. I use the plural 'spaces' because as well as being at home, most of us are also in our workplace, schools, parents homes, library and various indoor venues and these spaces must be safe for you as well.

Cecile Brunner rose growing over the chook fence.

Here is the last 2020 reading list. There are some lovely links here and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 

So that's it for another year, my friends. Enjoy the holiday season, look after yourself, rest, think, play and come back ready for what might be another challenging year. Make the most of the time you have with your family in your safe haven.  

Hanno, Gracie and I send love to you across the miles. ๐Ÿ’œ


11 December 2020

Weekend Reading

This is the first foxglove flower I've ever grown. I just love them but always thought our climate was too harsh for them to grow here. This one is in a pot in the bush house and is really healthy. Other seedlings planted in the garden are tiny and I doubt they'll produce flowers. I'll have to change my strategy next year but in the meantime, these two plants are a real joy.

4 December 2020

Weekend Reading

This week I've been working on promoting the Down to Earth paperback on radio and writing articles for magazines and online. The weather has been dry and hot so I've had the sprinkler on the garden and thankful we have rainwater tanks to allow that to happen. I've also been gearing up to do some sewing next week so I've decided on two projects and made sure I have everything I need.  All I need now is the time to do it and I think that will happen next week.

Lace cap hydrangea.

27 November 2020

Weekend Reading

My son had to go back to hospital last Sunday with a nasty infection under his arm. He had a melanoma and lymph gland removed in late September. He stayed in for four days on IV antibiotics and tests and, thankfully, was released on Wednesday afternoon.  He's feeling much better now but it's another stark reminder of how important our families and our health are.  I hope your family is healthy and things are going well for you.

21 November 2020

Weekend Reading

My apologies for not posting this on Friday. I had a few things to do yesterday, and it's almost the end of the year and I'm tired. I had a good sleep last night, I'm raring to go today and apart from a few odds and ends, I have little to do this weekend. This afternoon, I'll start knitting a new set of dishcloths for myself and a friend. This is a yearly task for me and it's one I look forward to because it makes me sit, think and relax with the repetitive clicking of needles.  

13 November 2020

Weekend Reading

Here is our really tasty lime cordial alongside a jar of radish sprouts I just started.

I bought a small bag of limes when I was shopping last week and decided to work out later what I'd do with them. They cost $2.50.  Last summer, my friend Nicole gave me some finger limes from her own garden. I hadn't used them before, found the flavour to be a delicious mild lime flavour and they made best cordial I've ever had.  I was hooked.  That memory came back to me later in the day so I finely zested and juiced the limes, added juice from two lemons from the backyard and made lime cordial. It doesn't have the complex flavour of the finger limes, but it's pretty good. Those seven limes and two lemons made up a litre of cordial which I'll serve with iced tap water or cold sparkling spring water.

Usually, we make large quantities when we preserve fruit or vegetables and that's a great thing to do. You make the fruiting season last longer and add interest to your pantry and meals by putting up a few dozen jars of peaches, jam, tomato sauce, relish or chutney. That's a great thing to do, but it's also good to preserve small amounts too and it's a good way to get started on preserving if you haven't done any yet. A small batch will take less time, the lime cordial took about 10 minutes to make, and even though you'll only make a bottle or a couple of jars, you'll have something special in your fridge or pantry.

Where I live, we have an abundance of citrus fruits in spring and summer so it's common to find offers of free lemons or oranges. If the same is true where you live, grab a bucket and do up a small batch of cordial or juice. It will set you on the preserving road and that is a really wonderful life skill to have.

Here is this week's reading list. I hope you're able to make a cup of tea and sit for a while to read them.
My sincere thanks to everyone who ordered and bought the paperback Down to Earth. I hope you get a lot of good ideas and motivation from the book and that it guides you towards significant changes in your life.

Stay well everyone, especially those in areas where Covid-19 has taken hold. Have a great weekend.

8 November 2020

Where to buy Down to Earth paperback

I thought about writing a new book to show how simple life could help you thrive when Covid is active in your community. But when I thought about it, I’d already written it - Down to Earth is all about living in a safe and comfortable home, providing as much as you want to produce in your home, cooking wholesome food, growing, fermenting and preserving food, mending and recycling, slowing down, keeping your family close and being comfortable in your own skin. So instead of writing another book, Down to Earth has been published as a paperback with a ten dollar drop in price.

The Down to Earth paperback was published on 20 October and I’ve had a number of people from all over the world ask where they can buy it. So I’ve done some research and come up with this list. Thank you all for your support.

Many independent book shops. Ask them to order it in if it’s not there.
Woolworths - for the first time, Down to Earth will be sold at Big W soon, certainly in time for Christmas shopping.

UK, Europe and Asia
Book Depository with free postage

North America
Amazon Canada - please note: it states on the page that the book will be released March 2021. That’s not correct. It was published 20 October, 2020 and is available now.
Amazon USA - please note: it states on the page that the book will be released March 2021. That’s not correct. It was published 20 October, 2020 and is available now.

6 November 2020

Weekend Reading

I had some new paperback Down to Earth books sent to me during the week and decided to sign and sell them. I sent the first batch off yesterday and I have five left.  This offer is for Australian readers only as the postage costs to send anything from Australia is too expensive to justify. So if you want a book, I'll sign one of these and send it to you when I receive your payment and address details. If you already have a copy, you might like to give one to a loved one for Christmas. These will be gone by tonight so if you want one contact me with your name and address and I'll send you my bank details.


30 October 2020

Weekend reading

It's been a busy week here.  Hanno was in the hospital on Monday to have an angiogram. We thought he might be headed for heart surgery but it was good news instead. Nothing has changed since the last angiogram two years ago and the only treatment is a change in medication. I'm going for my checkup today but I'm feeling good and I think I'll get a gold star.

Gracie and I went over to the hospital to collect Hanno after his tests. We sat in the very pleasant garden off the car park where Gracie attracted a few passers-by who wanted to pat her and know her name.  I think she liked that.  


23 October 2020

Weekend Reading

I want to start today by thanking everyone who bought a paperback copy of Down to Earth. The hardback was published in 2012 and became a best-seller, remaining in the book shops for over eight years. I thought the book would help a lot of people cope with the COVID crisis by showing them how to create a safe haven at home, Penguin agreed and so a cheaper version of Down to Earth was printed. If you did buy a copy, I'd love you to tell me if you enjoyed the book and to review it on Instagram, your blog or Goodreads. Look in the link list below for a link to an extract of the book on Penguin's website.

16 October 2020

Weekend Reading

We've continued to get the garden ready for summer but the most important part of this week has been preparing for the publication of the paperback Down to Earth and writing some publicity articles for Penguin to distribute. The book will be ready for sale next week - 20 October. The RRP is $34.99 but Booktopia has its presale price at AU $27.75. It's also available at Book Depositary and Amazon if you're reading this far, far away. 

If you haven't read my first book, I hope you get a copy with this release. It's my manifesto and a full description of what Hanno and I did when we decided to make a complete and significant life change in the early 2000s. I think it would make a good Christmas gift too, especially for young people just starting out or for older folk who are unsure how to move ahead during Covid. This lifestyle makes complete sense for a whole lot of different reasons in 2020. It will help you make your home a shelter, it will guide you towards decisions about how to grow, store, preserve, cook and bake food, and it will help you decide how you can make your home productive and move further away from buying everything you need from the shop.

Above: A simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon.  I use natural bacon with no added nitrates or preservatives.  Below: Getting ready to roll out a batch of dog biscuits for Gracie.

Now that the lavender flowers are starting to die off, I'll cut the top of the bush off, removing all the flowers.  That should give me another flush of flowers in summer.

Here are some of the things I've read during the week, I hope you enjoy them:
๐Ÿงต  ๐ŸŒฟ  ๐Ÿงต
Kerry asked me to pass on his thanks and gratitude for all the lovely messages of hope he received here and Instagram last week. He's recovering nicely and has just returned to work and the gym. Hanno and I thank you for your kindness and grace too.

So that's all my news for the moment, what are you up to?


9 October 2020

This is not the easiest thing to write about

We got our internet connection back yesterday afternoon so I'm pleased to be back with you. There'll be no Weekend Reading today because I haven't been online for a couple of weeks; it will return next week. During our time offline I've been gardening, taking plant cuttings, sewing, baking, cooking, grocery shopping, reorganising things in my home, reading another Wendell Berry book - Andy Catlett, Early Travels: A Novel, and relaxing on the front verandah with Hanno and Gracie. I enjoyed those two weeks a lot.

But I also lived one of the worst days of my life during that time. My son Kerry was diagnosed with stage two melanoma. I've never been so scared in my life. Kerry handled it very well and although he was worried, he went ahead with all the tests, scans and surgery and then had to wait a week for the results. We were all so relieved when the surgeon reported that he removed the melanoma and nearby gland and that instead of stage two, it was stage one. Removal of the gland revealed the cancer hadn't spread.

I spoke with Kerry yesterday and asked if I could write about this. He agreed and wants me to pass on an important message to you. He said it's vitally important that we all check our skin, especially with summer coming up. He said that even if you think there is no problem, just like he did, to do a thorough check and go to your doctor if you find anything out of the ordinary. The doctor actually asked him what made him have the check-up because it didn't look like a melanoma. He had no pain, no itching and no reason to be worried, but he was and he acted on instinct and got it checked. That saved him and I can't express how grateful I am that he took that step, had a check and got the treatment he needed. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world so please check your skin today and make sure you check the kids too. How to check your skin.

Herbs and a transplanted orange tree.

After Kerry's scare, things returned to normal and the rest of life is pretty good at the moment. We're getting ready for summer outside - we'll be cleaning the windows next week and trying to protect the garden from wind and sun with straw mulch. Our sun umbrella it up all the time and I'm wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen but most of all not spending too much time in the sun. I still have to clean out the bush house and repot a few plants and hope to get that done soon. I only have about three weeks before the humidity starts and want everything done before that.

We always have water out for the birds and insects.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow - Hanno's favourite plant.

The Down to Earth paperback arrived last week.  I'm delighted with it and will take photos tomorrow and write about it over the weekend.  

I hope you're well and safe from the coronavirus. Over 35 million people confirmed with it so far and there is no sign yet that it's easing. The state I live in has a handful of cases, all from returning travellers, so we're out and about but still very mindful of the dangers and abiding by the advice given to us. Take care. xx


26 September 2020

Weekend Reading

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.


18 September 2020

Weekend Reading

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 ๐Ÿ˜ณ.


11 September 2020

Weekend Reading

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.


4 September 2020

Weekend Reading

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.

28 August 2020

Weekend Reading

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.

21 August 2020

Weekend Reading

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.

14 August 2020

Weekend Reading

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.

7 August 2020

Weekend Reading

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.  ๐Ÿ˜ณ  

31 July 2020

Weekend Reading

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. 

24 July 2020

Weekend Reading

I forgot it's Friday! ๐Ÿ˜ณ  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!


17 July 2020

Weekend Reading

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.


10 July 2020

Weekend Reading

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. 


19 June 2020

Weekend Reading

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.


16 June 2020

Valuable and useless vegetables

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.


12 June 2020

Weekend reading

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.

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