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2 September 2015

In the garden again

Thanks for your enthusiasm about the new book. I was amazed at all the comments yesterday. It's a wonderful feeling knowing you're all there waiting and as eager for the book to be out as I am. I've decided this will be my last book so I'm savouring every moment of it.  I'll have another update after I find out about the book tour and publicity. I want to tell you more about the book too but that will have to wait until after I see the final stage - apparently that will be here in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, let's get back to lives being lived. Tricia flew back to Sydney yesterday and even though I was looking forward to gardening and carrying out a couple of plans I have for that area, instead I watered the vegetables then sat on the garden bench and felt a wave of tiredness overcome me. Hanno brought out a pack of sugar cane mulch for me to use on the new beds but it's still not done. My plan now is to do it tomorrow. I have a feeling that the last few months have taken a toll on my energy levels.  In addition to meeting so many impossible deadlines, Hettie's death and the lead up to it, more mundane things such as a burst water pipe in the kitchen on Monday seem to have hit me all of a sudden. Let's see what tomorrow brings. It might just be that I need a few nights good sleep with nothing to do the next day.

Silverbeet/chard, beetroot and lots of parsley.
Lettuce, turnips and a potted Cleome.
 Cut to the ground in winter, the raspberries are starting to shoot again.
Violas and alyssum with a pot of succulents.
Curly kale and rosemary.

The garden is smaller now after we took out two beds last year, but it will still provide salads, green leaves, herbs and fruit. It's not nearly as much work as it used to be. As we get older, smaller is better. We're growing a selection of herbs that I always use in cooking - tons of parsley, thyme, sage, borage, rosemary, Welsh onions and oregano and there are also three types of chilli and ginger. We have lettuce in the ground and soon I'll plant up a tub of it to grow in the bush house. When it's hot here, lettuce will bolt to seed soon after it's planted but we get around that by thickly planting up a tub of it and keeping it out of full sun and well watered. We cut it early when the leaves are about half grown.

We've just planted four tomatoes and that will be the extent of our tomato planting this year. We're trialling two new types (to us) - Beef Short, a medium sized beefsteak variety grown on a medium bush, and a prolific cherry tomato called Rapunzel with metre long tresses of fruit. They're been in a couple of weeks now and are both going well so far. Rapunzel is in flower already. We still have the ever-present kale crop and it's still looking spectacular. If you're thinking of growing kale this year, look for curly kale because it grows like a weed through winter and into summer. Hanno has been eating kale for 70 years and says curly kale is the best tasting of all the kales, and it's the easiest to grow. Our other favourite leaf - silverbeet/Swiss chard has just been planted so we should be right for leaves for the next few months. Chard's sister, beetroot is in the ground too. I often pickle beetroot but we also have it raw. A trellis is ready for the Lebanese cucumbers to scramble over and I'm going to prune last year's capsicums/peppers and see if I can get another year out of them. Finally, I'll be running a line or two of French radishes along the edge of the beds. Oh, and we're planting a few rosellas too, for jam and tea.

We have more berries now. I planted two more Heritage raspberries and we've moved an old Youngberry over with the raspberries.  They're in a fairly small area so I'll have to be ruthless with the clippers but there is a strong trellis to climb on so I'm expecting good things from those plants.

Shhhh, through the bushes I caught this elusive creature reading the paper in the afternoon sun.

I still haven't finished carrying out all my plans in the garden yet. This year I'm making it a place of production and a shady place to sit and relax. When I've done that, I'll take photos but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the photos I took yesterday so you can see what's going on out there now.  It's a great time to get busy in the garden. What are your plans this year?

1 September 2015

The Simple Home

I'm pleased and proud to show you a sneak peak of my new book (my last). I don't have too much to tell you yet. It's still in the production stage, it will go to print soon and will be available in March 2016.

After I look at the final product, I'll give you a list of chapters but basically it's a very practical book which details projects month-by-month throughout the year. In the food chapters there are recipes and a step-by-step guide to bread and cheese making. But there are also chapters on cleaning, slowing down, thrift, gardening in containers, mending and sewing.  I'll let you know when I have more information.  :- )

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 and would be pleased if you would visit. I have admired your writing for many years.

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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.

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