Garden Structures

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There is more to a garden than just the plants.  Pergolas, seats and birdbaths are some of the non-plant items you might find in a garden.

The vegetable garden is perhaps less likely to have these type of pieces than other areas of the garden. However, this week we made the following additions to our vegetable garden.

The first is a purely whimsical piece – a ‘windmill’ which spins in even the slightest breeze.  I am hopeful that it may even be something of a deterrent to the pesky birds.  Aside from that, it is quite mesmerising to watch and is visible from the kitchen window.

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The other additions are of a more practical nature.  These black powder-coated toppers accept 4 standard sized garden stakes which are anchored with screw fixation to create a wigwam-like structure.  Twine can be wound around them to create a growing frame for climbing plants.  I am planning to plant climbing beans on one of them.

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One of my future projects for this area is the addition of a scarecrow.  I have never made a scarecrow but I don’t think it would be too difficult.

 

 

Finding Balance

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It is a little over 6 months since I finished work and I am now beginning to look at how I manage my time at home.

While I was working it was the time available which dictated what I achieved at home.  However, now that has all changed as my time is my own.

The first 6 months were taken up with the final preparations for our overseas trip followed by 9 weeks overseas then it was less than 2 months until Christmas and a road trip and family Christmas.

My activities can be roughly divided into the following categories (in alphabetical order, not priority):

Cooking – meal preparation – sometimes in bulk
Exercise – aquarobics, gym and walking
Gardening – growing vegetables, flowers and shrubs
Household maintenance/renovations – usually in conjunction with GMan
Online/Computer – blog, Facebook, emails
Relaxing – reading, music, television
Routine housework – making bed, washing, ironing, sweeping, vacuuming
Sewing – clothes, mending, patchwork and Boomerang bags
Socialising – book club, film society, theatre, friends, family, Air BnB guests
Shopping – groceries and miscellaneous
Travel – local, interstate and overseas

By their very nature, housework and cooking tend to occur everyday.  Formal exercise is twice a week but I am trying to include either some walking or gardening every other day.

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I try to find time for some gardening, relaxing and computer work each day.

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Sewing and socialising usually happen several days a week.

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Shopping is as little as possible but groceries are mostly once a week.

Some activities cross over such as aquarobics and socialising.  I also try to combine activities and errands to limit the number of trips I make into our local town (8km away).

From time to time a particular activity may demand a substantial block of time to the exclusion of almost everything else but I generally try to keep a mix of activities each day or so.

 

 

 

That Was 2019

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I am writing this on the final evening of 2019 in a motel room in Rutherglen, a small town on the Victorian side of the Murray River which forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales.

Rutherglen is not where I expected to be tonight.  We were supposed to be in Bermagui on the south coast of New South Wales, however, it is right in the midst of the horrific bushfires raging in the south-eastern corner of Australia.

This photo is from Mallacoota on the coast near the Victoria/NSW border at about 10am this morning.

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I have gone back and re-read the 34 blog posts I wrote in 2019.  That is only about 1 post every 10 days on average.  At the end of 2018 I mentioned that I was going to have all of my photos sorted in 2019.  That did not happen.  The content of my 2019 posts is interesting.  They generally focus on my interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, op shopping and trying to be self-reliant and minimise our carbon footprint.  However, the posts from the latter part of the year tend to reflect the increasing concern over the climate crisis and my personal connection to it.  These included having a bushfire evacuation plan as well as growing food in extreme heat and saving our precious rainwater.

One event which I did not post about was the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) which has held in Madrid earlier this month.  Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister, represented Australia, however, his prime effort was to block any real progress on global climate action.  As a result, Australia was singled out as being one of a handful of countries who set out to thwart the process.

I am reticent to use the word ‘unprecendented’ but that is the best description of the massive bushfire emergency which has been menacing almost every state and territory of Australia over the past 2 months.

Climate change did not cause the bushfires.

Climate change is contributing to the conditions which have allowed bushfires of the scale we are now witnessing to occur.

If the last day of 2019 is any indication then 2020 is not going to be a happy new year for many Australians.  My fervent wish is that my fellow citizens are all safe.

Many of us have worked diligently for years to make lifestyle changes to reduce our personal carbon footprint but our governments will not take action.  The Murdoch media and fossil fuel industries constantly facilitate climate denialism.  This cannot continue.  My New Year’s resolution is that I will take whatever action I can.

I make no apology for this post nor the fact that there will be more blog posts which focus directly on the climate crisis in 2020.  These will be balanced with important positive actions.  We must all do this together.

And one final comment.  Please read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Gardening in Extreme Heat

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My apologies to those of you who live in the northern hemisphere.  Here in Australia summer has just begun (officially) after having sweltered through the driest and second-hottest spring on record.  Daily temperatures in excess of 30C, and sometimes 35C, have been the new normal here for several weeks.  Hot, dry and windy days have increased the fire risk to ‘severe’ on many days.  We live at about 400m above sea level and within 30km of the coast so our conditions are nothing like those facing the drought-stricken farmers further west.

Growing food in our current weather is a challenge but one I am prepared to try.  Summer means salads and salads mean lettuce.  So, I am growing lettuce.  I have some in one of the main garden beds which was grown from seed as well as some in styrofoam boxes that were purchased seedlings.

I water the plants thoroughly twice a day – early in the morning and again late in the afternoon.  I cover them during the day and so far this seems to be an effective strategy.

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We picked the first leaves today and are looking forward to plenty more salads based on lettuce grown without chemicals within 10 metres of our back door and completely devoid of packaging.

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Making a Difference

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Australia has just recorded the driest spring on record – EVER!  Additionally, it was the second-hottest spring on record and fell just 0.04C short of the record.

We live in what is generally regarded as a high-rainfall, temperate sub-tropical area, however, that description seems but a distant memory.  As the hot, dry weather continues we are constantly looking for ways to save our precious water.

Our water supply is entirely rainwater which we collect in the 2 large tanks with a combined capacity of close to 100,000 litres.  In the 14 years we have lived here we have barely scratched the surface of that capacity, however, the current drought has made us consider what measures we can take to preserve every precious drop. If we were to run out, our only option is to buy water.  Even purchased water has to come from somewhere and there does not seem to be an endless supply.

In an effort to be as self-reliant as possible we are trying to grow more of our own food which necessitates watering crops in the dry weather whereas during a ‘normal’ season they manage quite well on the natural rainfall except as very small seedlings.

We retrieved a square plastic washing-up dish from our camping equipment and it now lives in the kitchen sink to catch any excess water from washing hands, rinsing dishes etc and that is then tipped onto various ornamental shrubs to help keep them alive.

The other thing we did was to buy 10 metres of hose to attach to the washing machine outlet.  Before I do a load of washing I unroll the hose out of the laundry and across the verandah so that it empties the washing water onto the hibiscus bushes at the front of the house.  The only problem is what to do with 10 metres of hose when it is not in use.

Today, we located a bracket that we had and GMan kindly attached it to the wall above the sink and now the hose coils neatly in place when not in use.

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What changes have you made to save water or other resources?

Local and Leftovers

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There has been quite a bit happening here as we prepare to leave for our holiday in less than 2 weeks.

However, some things remain consistent and preparing meals is one of them.  They are not overly fancy but here is a quick snapshot of some of our recent food.

This was my Sunday brunch.  Omelette with stir-fried cabbage and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  Apart from the seasonings (salt, pepper and smoky paprika), everything was sourced within 20 metres of my kitchen.  No chemicals, no packaging and no transport costs.  This is not feasible for every meal or even every day but it is quite exciting when it happens.

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Then there are leftovers.  On Saturday evening we had Mexican quinoa followed by satay chicken and vegetable stir-fry the next night.  So last night was leftovers – a multi-cultural taste sensation!  They are not flavours I would generally combine but it was a wholesome and satisfying meal.

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Note that there was cabbage in the stir-fry.  When you have several home-grown cabbage it goes into pretty well everything.  There is no photo but we also recently had baked potatoes with salad and a generous serving of coleslaw.

As a change from cabbage, today I picked these 2 beautiful heads of broccoli.  I steamed the florets of broccoli then made a tuna and tomato (with a touch of chilli) sauce to pour over them and finished with cheese and flaxseed meal topping.  A few minutes under the grill and I served it with some rice.

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There will probably be a few creative meals in the next week or so as we try to use up what is on hand as well as in the garden.

A Golden Oldie

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Prompts from several different sources inspired me to make a Lemon Delicious pudding yesterday.

First, a Facebook group post encouraged members to make a post recipes for a childhood favourite food.

Second, my brother, sister and brother-in-law were coming for dinner.  What better, than to share a dessert from our common childhood memories?

Third, another Facebook group discusses how our grandparents lived, including cooking and preparing food.

I had not made Lemon Delicious since 2012 when I began eating a gluten-free diet, however, I was not going to let that stop me.

I have posted the recipe for Lemon Delicious on the blog previously.  See here.  Unfortunately the photos have disappeared from the old post and I am unable to retrieve them.

So, here it is again – with the addition of the gluten-free option.

LEMON DELICIOUS

1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour (use gluten-free flour if required)
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add flour, juice and rind.  Mix well.  Separate the eggs, add yolks and milk to mixture.  Place the whites in a separate bowl and beat until stiff.  Fold the beaten egg white into the mixture.  Pour into an ovenproof dish.  Stand the dish in a tray of water (about 2-3cm deep) and place in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is firm to touch and golden.

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The finished product is like a lemon self-saucing pudding.  This can be served warm or cold with ice-cream, cream or custard.

NOTES:

As a nod to past generations, I did not use my Kitchen Aid mixer to cream the butter and sugar.  I used a bowl and tablespoon – hard but satisfying work.  I also beat the egg whites using a hand-held rotary beater.  The results were equally as good as any I have made previously using electric appliances.

The ‘sauce’ of the pudding was somewhat thicker than other efforts and I think this was probably due to using gluten-free flour which does tend to absorb more moisture.  I would probably ad the juice of another half a lemon in order to rectify this.  Despite this, the pudding was extremely well-received by the dinner guests and I will definitely be making it again before too long – especially as the lemon trees are absolutely laden with fruit.