Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reality yoga, Christmas miracles and Enough

A little miracle has occurred between my blueberries and my perennial leeks! I now seem to have a gorgeous, lush patch of red alpine strawberries where, last year, I had a not very exciting patch of regular strawberries. The soft, green leaves are ever so pretty and spreading like a gorgeous carpet all over the hay and, every so often, incy wincy, brilliant, deep red berries dangle enticingly. The soft flesh drops into my fingers at the slightest touch and is transported to taste buds newly initiated to a rich, delicious flavour never before experienced, along with a concentrated, strawberry perfume to the nose, before even a taste is had.


Never can these tiny morsels make it to a shop and can only be experienced by gardeners in the right climate as I must be. How on earth they appeared or transformed I have no idea and I hope they remain happy inhabitants of this patch for a long time. I have left a row of flowering chicories on their north-west side to protect them from wind and too much summer sun.

This all sounds rather dandy but….. they chose a tricky spot to spread so thickly and, since I cannot bear to damage even one leaf, I must bring into practice much yoga in order to stretch to reach each berry, whilst kneeling on one knee, the other leg used to counter-balance the arm that must reach horizontally to a ripe berry the size of  a pea or smaller!

My friend Erika has a garden that makes me sick (with envy). Her strawberries are big and amazing, the patch is a jungle of abundance and I have been the happy recipient of many of her crop. I think my strawberries gave up after over-hearing a conversation about my disgust with mine, compared to Erika’s. Somehow though, a miracle did happen and now I can boast to Erika about my patch.

While I was out there a few moments ago I thought that I would actually prefer mine to hers now because I live here by myself and, by doing daily yoga in the garden, I can farm just enough strawberries to add to my raspberries and other berries for breakfast or dessert. Modern society is all about abundance and striving for more and more. Abundance is fabulous but sometimes it is nice to have almost enough instead of too much.

Life is short; eat dessert first.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Barefoot in bathers

I headed to Henley beach for a swim yesterday. If there is a specific place I call home, it is there. I parked my little red hire car in a row of hundreds of others, walked down a short, sandy path and dropped my towel, hat, clothes and car keys on the beach. As the sun spread silvery rays onto the calm sea, through some rare dark and stormy clouds, I dived into the cool water at the end of a 40C day.


As I floated about, relishing the moment, I looked back at the houses on the other side of the road. In my mother’s childhood, there was no road and this was a sandhill where her mother told her to watch out for strange men who camped in the sandhills. In my childhood it was a place you could rent a cheap house. Now it is millionaire’s row but still many of the old, stone and brick houses remain. If I had enough money I would buy one of them because it is still a wonderful place.

There is not much need for a towel on such an evening; Adelaide air being so totally dry. I donned my ancient beach shift (a word we never hear these days!) and went for a walk. Families dotted the beach and the shallows. Children pushed little trucks along the sand, others had buckets and spades. Lads of all ages threw or hit or kicked balls of all sizes and shapes in games whose rules were defined by lines drawn by toes, in the sand. I had to walk through a game whose boundaries clearly included the first 50m of the sea as well. Many languages were being spoken, many skin colours shone and I was so happy to be amongst them all because that is Adelaide; full of the richness of diversity, all seeming to co-exist happily, as it should be. I saw only one person on a phone.

As I walked along in the shallows, the main sound was the lapping of the sea on the shore. Dogs trotted happily along with their owners, some on leads, some enjoying a moment of freedom to splash in the water. There were no boat engines, no radios, not much sound besides the sea, laughter and quiet chatter. A couple of sailing boats drifted slowly by in the very light breeze.

I think that the peaceful diversity of Adelaide’s 1.5 million people is due in part to a climate that brings everyone together on the very long beach. There, it matters not how powerful you are, how rich you are, how old or young you are or where you were born. Everyone feels good at the beach at the end of a very hot day. Fashion is definitely absent in the heat and everyone looks pretty much the same when they are lazing about in the water or sitting barefoot in their bathers on the beach!

All along the coastline of Adelaide you can still get a park right by the sea, still find a large space in which to plop your towel and still not have to worry when you leave your keys and purse under your hat. You can get fish and chips or a coffee at Henley Square, where a grassy piazza stretches along the beach front and huge shade sails provide a place for people to wait, in sandy feet, messy hair and wet bathers for their chips to be ready. I am taking my mother there for her birthday and together with a brother and a son or two, we will have fish and chips. She lives not far away and loves Henley Beach too.

My hire care always needs to be well vacuumed at the end of my stay in Adelaide!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why wouldn’t you want to grow food if….

it looked like this?

I'd love to have glass cloches like theseThere’s no reason why food gardens have to be ugly but many I see are uninviting, regimented and have nowhere to sit with a coffee and watch the birds, the breeze in the leaves, the bees in the flowers or the vegetables growing.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon pottering about in my vegetable garden, which simply IS my garden. I step out my back door directly into my vegetable and fruit garden. My clothes line swings between a Bramley apple tree an oak tree and the broad beans. I love it.

My food garden is my haven; it is where I go to breathe fresh air, to rid my head of busyness, to feel the sun, to hear the birds and to relax. It is full of nooks and crannies so I can always find a spot to garden or sit in or out of the sun, in or out of the breeze and somewhere open or somewhere enclosed.

I garden in the earth, not in raised boxes. I have a love / hate relationship with some of my soil but I try to work out what is wrong and plant things that can manage the tough spots.

Here are some photos from around the world of Etherland, where I go to garden when it is dark outside in the real world.









































Friday, October 9, 2015

Microgreens experiment

I have been sprouting and eating lots of lovely things, all winter; the coldest winter for 50 years in southern Tasmania. The days are always short in winter but this winter was so grey and so cold that it was a chore to manage the garden at all. I use a handy little, 4 layered sprouter that is really good, so I always have fresh sprouts, even when it is snowing!

Now spring has arrived with its usual flourish and the garden is bursting with life once more. For some reason I now feel less like eating sprouts and more like eating micro-greens, which I have not really tried growing much before. I normally eat from the garden, not from a pot.

However, our local green grocer was giving away little punnets of microgreens (she called them lettuce sprouts, but they weren’t) she had grown but which had not sold. They were tall and spindly and did not look very interesting but I accepted one and brought it home. It sat, neglected, on my kitchen window sill until one day I clipped it back by half and gave it a drink. Within a few days it sprang to life, thickened up and looked like it might be worth looking after, after all.

That was at least a month ago and it is still going! I trim it and put the shoots in my salad often and still it grows. A week or so ago I took the whole clump out of the punnet to see what the seeds were, that had so much life in them, and discovered lentils. Ah haaa, I sell organic, Australian lentils, amongst other things, in my Garden Shed and Pantry shop, so I took a handful of this and that and headed to my potting bench.

I gathered some punnets and some pretty pots then wondered what medium to use. She had not put much soil in the punnet but had a thick layer of seeds so I did the same. Obviously they would need some good, nitrogenous medium to keep them growing so I used compost, potting mix and a dash of chook poo pellets. The pots required more soil than the punnets just to fill them up a bit but next time I would put less, as the swollen seeds have now pushed it all up and it looks like a risen loaf of bread!


I sowed green lentils, azuki beans, chick peas and buckwheat. Before long, the green lentils were up and growing fast. Next is the buckwheat; not so even germination but ok. The chick peas and azuki beans are slower to send up green shoots but have good roots.

Green lentils microgreens

These terracotta pots are cheap and available locally but made in Italy! They come without any holes, so I drilled one but, for these microgreens, I wonder if it would be ok not to have a hole, since the terracotta itself is porous and the life of the greens is not long. I will try that next.

Life is good. Get there fast then take it slow.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A much, much better way

So much of what I read and see around me is about moving to a rural place and growing a new and better life. Tasmania is being covered by people moving here and doing that. This is not the answer, in my opinion. This has all sorts of negative consequences for the people, the land, the air, nature and the planet!


In France, many hundreds of years ago villages were built with everyone living very close together, houses touching gable to gable, even. In the centre of each village is a market square and totally surrounding every village are the food gardens. Everyone has their own garden, which comes with but is separated from, your house. Beyond the food gardens is the farmland, with animals and crops to sustain the whole village.

1-DSC_0030Narrow alleyways run from the market square to the food gardens and you see families bringing produce to the market on market days, via the alleys. I walked with my hosts from their house to their garden via the alley and it only took 5 minutes.








We spent the morning working in the garden, chatting to others who were working in their neighbouring gardens. We exchanged news on what was sprouting, what we were picking and varieties they grew as well as swapping some produce, there and then. They even dug up a self-sown cherry tree and handed it to my hosts who promptly planted it on their side of the fence! At lunch time we retreated from the heat to a little hut in the garden, surrounded by a grape-vine covered structure, complete with a table and chairs. We lit a little fire and cooked some things from the garden and ate them with a picnic we had brought. It was idyllic and had stood the test of time for a thousand years.



BBQ's don't have to be expensive or glamorous






It is time we took these ancient methods and rethought them for today, in every small town across Australia (and the world). Directly behind the shops in the main street of my town, Cygnet, Tasmania is farmland, hundreds of acres of it. Mostly it has cows on it. Imagine if, instead of so many people living far out away from the town (and having to drive everywhere!), everyone bought a house on a small block, within a few minutes walk of a ring of land around Cygnet. That ring would grow most of the fruit and vegetables for everyone, by everyone. You could use it how you liked but it had to grow food. Imagine the camaraderie, the sharing of knowledge, skills and help and the consequent health of the people  and the end of all that driving!

We would still need our local market gardeners as I for one never successfully grow everything I want to. The farmers who currently own the land would benefit by the perpetual leasing of this land to the town and they would still have all the land beyond the gardens encircling the town.

Imagine if we had a government or council who encouraged such land use and made a future plan for Tasmania along these lines. It is totally crazy to have so many people dotted about, making services expensive to provide, roads over-used, in fact making life so much harder and more stressful than it needs to be. This is a healthier way; for us, our pockets, our minds, the land, the wildlife and the planet.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kermandie Falls walk

Have you heard of Kermandie Falls? We had not until a bloke in Geeveston told us about it and drew us a map because there was so much snow and debris up the Hartz road we would not be able to go there .... gosh.....

Eventually we found the start, after discovering the road we needed to go on (Ogles Road)had lost its sign! First we scrambled down to the creek and heated up an early baked beans and Hugh’s bread. Hugh had prepared everything so beautifully for my birthday adventure.









imageThe start of the walk was not signed but we saw a pink ribbon on a tree and headed towards it.

We followed more little pink ribbons, battled LOTS of fallen trees and the usual debris of the Tasmanian rain forest (including mud, slips, rocks, steep bits, very slippery bits and jumps across wash-aways). We came to snow and more obstacles but after a good 1.5 hours we arrived at Kermandie Falls. The sound was deafening as massive amounts of water hurtled over every surface.











We didn't stay long as the forest there was dark and menacing, the volume of moving water almost scary, the recent debris horrendous to climb through and the walk back was going to be as slippery, cold and tricky as the walk in..... and we had food to cook on our return!









Back at the car the sun was shining and we decided to set up our table and BBQ right there, on the road, and joy what little warmth it provided as we cooked. Hugh brought wine glasses but, knowing I don’t like wine much, instead brought kombucha! What a perfect way to revitalise ourselves.

He had prepared everything without me realising….. picked salad greens from the community garden, adding some of my favourite things like finely sliced fennel and roasted red capsicum. Out came his excellent, portable BBQ and in a few minutes we had perfectly cooked lamb cutlets. Off came the grill, on went a ring and soon we had hot chocolate to wrap our by now cold hands around.

Thanks a million, Hugh!!


We followed Ogles Road on, until it met with what we hoped was Kermandie Road which got narrower and rockier until finally coming out somewhere at the back of Geeveston…. well worth exploring. The mountains in the south west were still a blaze of snow after the heavy falls earlier in the week and it was certainly a delight to come across snow on our walk up to Kermandie Falls today.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting on with “things”

I must get up and get on with things….I must light the fire / have breakfast / wash the dishes / feed the chooks then get on with things….. I must leave this phone call and get on with things …..That’s enough time spent having lunch, it is time to get on with things…..

I have caught myself saying these kinds of things recently but why is it that what I am already doing is not considered one of the “things”? Life is no longer a thing in its own right; you have to be doing more that just living these days. This attitude always surprised me when I was a young mother staying at home with my children, spending 24 hours a day living, but not doing paid work. So many people asked me what I did all day, questioning if I was bored, insinuating at times that I was lazy or not pulling my weight in society. I knew there was not a job in the world more worth while than raising your children.

It is the same now. I yearn for days of solitude to simply get out into the garden and potter about, or cook slowly in my kitchen, while everyone else seems to be going to things, participating in organised things, eating out and travelling far and wide to see other people doing things. Gardening and cooking are seen as chores which must be done quickly or by someone else so everyone can get on with “things” most of which I have no desire to do.

5-DSC_0011Lighting the fire is a thing I love. Why do we nowadays have to turn it into a chore and hurry on so we get on with real “things”? I love greeting the chooks in the morning, with a bowl of leftover dinner and some grains for them. I stand and watch them chat about it; arguing over one piece of bacon rind when there are 6 more there if they just look and one after another having their fill and moving off to have a drink of water. Why is that not a “thing” worth getting on with?

I do get a bit cranky about this at times when I try to cut the crap from banal conversations about art exhibitions I have not been to, movies I have not seen, music I know nothing about and celebrities I have never heard of. I try to move the conversation beyond the human, to frost on the broccoli in the early morning light, frozen bird baths, the movement of layers of clouds across the sky recently, ideas and philosophies  I have read about but we are from different planets; the others and me.

Mostly I do not listen to music; I prefer the sounds of the natural world around me to the sounds of humans. That makes me a freak who does not appreciate the finer “things” of life, evidently. What is finer than the sounds of the crackling of the fire, the chooks wanting breakfast, the creek gushing along after rain, birds in the garden or a breeze in the trees?











Mostly I don’t care for art, except when it is useful. I’d rather have a bird’s nest on my mantel piece than a famous sculpture. I love baskets and fences woven from plants in people’s gardens,  I love ceramic fermenting crocks made from local clay, I love quirky, interesting furniture made from local timbers by clever artisans….. but I cannot be bothered with art for its own sake. These days you cannot go around saying you are not interested in art or music…. but when people ask me, I tell them.


Recently a woman who has the most amazing singing voice and makes a living singing asked me what music I like. I tried to say “I love it when you sing at the market but between markets I rarely listen to music” but somehow it came out sounding like I was criticising music, because I don’t know about genres and musicians’ names.


It is not enough to know about vegetables; evidently that is not a “thing” these days. I was excited because I had been to a restaurant with son Hugh where I had chosen a meal with 3 vegetables I was not familiar with (skirret, salsify and Portuguese cabbage). People laugh at this as if I don’t mean it, but I was as excited about this as another would be about a new piece of music they had discovered….. and no-one would laugh at that!

So, now I am sitting in bed writing this…. I doubt that blogs are “things” and that I really should get up and get on with things….