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Ghosts of Christmas Past . . .

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Ghosts of Christmas Past visit me each year, sometimes twice as we continue our new tradition of Christmas in July. The ghosts are family, welcome and regular visitors to my kitchen. I look forward to the festive season, find pleasure in Christmas by melding my memories with what gives me joy nowadays. However, it doesn’t always come easy. Every year we ask ourselves will we put up the Christmas tree. End-of-year-tired-adult-me says no. Six-year-old-me says yes. So we do. Adult-me, lover of twinkle, adorns the tree with lights and we all enjoy the ambience but it comes down a day or so after Christmas Day as adult-me likes an orderly house. The ghosts remind me that festive spirit doesn’t come from excessive doing and spending and standing in line to buy overpriced seafood. They help me remember how much I loved our homemade celebrations.

Ghosts of Christmas Past visit me each year, sometimes twice as we continue our new tradition of Christmas in July. The ghosts are family, welcome and regular visitors to my kitchen. I look forward to the festive season, find pleasure in Christmas by melding my memories with what gives me joy nowadays. However, it doesn’t always come easy. Every year we ask ourselves will we put up the Christmas tree. End-of-year-tired-adult-me says no. Six-year-old-me says yes. So we do. Adult-me, lover of twinkle, adorns the tree with lights and we all enjoy the ambience but it comes down a day or so after Christmas Day as adult-me likes a tidy house. The ghosts remind me that festive spirit doesn’t come from excessive doing and spending and standing in line to buy overpriced seafood. They help me remember how much I loved our homemade celebrations.

My memories are scant of Christmases from the early years but the marks on my psyche are carved deep. A single Christmas, age five, the last at home with Mum, and Santa’s gift of a blue child-size table and chairs. I was twenty-ish before I discovered by chance it was handmade by my Dad. It stayed around for a long time, later bequeathed to my seventeen years younger sister.

the blue table and me
A friend and me at playing at the blue table and chairs at Oakleigh circa 1972.

However, when I think of Christmas, my memories invariably crystallize at my grandparents’ farm. The living room with its pine tree I ‘helped’ my grandfather chop during an expedition in the bush, placed in a bucket of water and stationed in the small corner next to the fireplace. Simply decorated with ornaments gathered over the years, not new; not much in that house was.

my grandparents farm how i remember it
“Oakleigh” my grandparents farm circa 1970’s, how I remember it.

The Christmas tree skirted by a few wrapped gifts modest in nature and number. I could also -as I had been good… of course- expect a gift on Christmas morning from Santa and Christmas stocking filled with useful things, story books, colouring pencils and small treats. A distinct memory is the long-awaited Christmas morning of the much-desired baby doll… which Santa inconveniently left behind the tree. Forbearance is still not one of my virtues. Nor singing, another clear recollection is my uncle suggesting I sing Silent Night… silently.

musical doll circa 1970
Souvenir of Christmas past, a wind-up musical doll, a Christmas gift from my nanna circa 1970.

My nanna’s kitchen is one of my realest memories. If I am very focused, barely breathing, I can transport myself to it, six years old again. Our festive food was made in this -tacked on to the back of the house after the old outside kitchen burned to the ground- boxy room with its wood stove, faded paint timber dresser, Laminex table and modest Kelvinator refrigerator.

Plates of Christmas cake appeared when visitors did and disappeared quickly along with welcomed cups of tea or glasses of beer depending on the hour of day, sat side by side with Bakelite trays of child tempting treats; lollies, assorted nuts from which as the only grandchild I would freely pick the cashews & brazil nuts, irresistible crunchy sweet red-coated peanuts.

Baked vegetables, I’m sure there was a whole panful cooked in dripping but my eyes were on the prize, sticky baked white sweet potatoes, served with roast chicken -wing for me please- with bread & onion stuffing and gravy -rather than the more common roasted rooster- selected for the occasion from the laying hens and prepared by my grandfather… thankfully I didn’t make the connection when I was ‘helping’ him although the memory of the stink of chicken feathers and skin scalded in boiling water is fresh as ever decades later.

Christmas pudding studded with thrippence and sixpence but a little light on red jelly cherries in the fruit mix, the price of my ‘helping’. I still have my nanna’s trifle bowl, smallish but cut crystal and treasured, big enough for each of us to savour sufficient portions of pale sunshine coloured custard and buttery cake both made with freshly laid eggs and creamy milk from their dairy cows, sprinkled with a little of my grandfather’s sweet sherry some of which might have also been tipped into an accompanying small glass for the cook, studded with glistening slices of peaches picked from the orchard and preserved in jars, dotted with spoonfuls of shiny multi-hued jelly.

Somehow my nanna conjured festive food miracles akin to biblical loaves and fishes. Counting my grandparents, aunts and uncles home for the holidays, and assorted visitors we might number more than ten for Christmas lunch which would be plentiful enough to require a postprandial nap, followed by the cool joy of a salad of leftovers for tea which is what as dairy farmers they called the meal eaten around 5 pm, and later when the news was on the black and white television (likely purchased along with the Kelvinator, the only nod to modernity in the house), a pot of tea and small bowls of remaining sweets.

If you mention Christmas food to my family members of the era, their collective recollection will be my nanna’s egg mayonnaise which I remember dressed our Christmas tea and Boxing Day salads -lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, tinned beetroot & pineapple, potatoes, ham, chicken- in cold creamy deliciousness. A secret recipe apparently but after some family conferring my aunt and I agree this is it, although I’m inclined to the milk version.

polly's salad dressing
Polly’s salad dressing.

That Christmas when I was six was the last for my beloved nanna. She died one hot afternoon in late February after I had gone back to school, in her sleep on the green vinyl night and day sofa in the living room where there might have been a few remaining pine needles escaped her housekeeping in the crevice between the carpet and the wall in the small corner next to the fireplace. I found her there cold to my inquiring touch having arrived home after walking up from the school bus drop off to a too quiet house just ahead of my Pa who had popped over the river to the lucerne paddocks.

four generations, dad, nanna holding me, and her mother
Four generations, Dad, Nanna holding me, and her mother at Oakleigh circa 1967.

Fresh from Christmas’ recent incarnation which saw the G.O. and I visit and celebrate with my family a few days before, in their merry style. Everyone enjoyed catching up and had a good time. Back at home for Christmas eve, one of my favourite days, we spent it with the usual soundtrack of carols in kitchen and lawnmower in the yard. My local in-law family opted out of Christmas celebrations this year… and after the event were a bit sorry but it meant on Christmas Day we pleased ourselves, barbequed breakfast, exchanged Christmas morning phone calls with faraway family, opened a few gifts, visited the in-laws, walked on the beach and later enjoyed a quiet festive food dinner.

our christmas tree suffered collateral damage from a christmas morning altercation between deez-dog and his new squeaky pig toy
Christmas tree collateral damage from a Christmas morning altercation between Deez-dog and his new squeaky pig toy.

Yuletide, for me, is timely alchemy of intangible festal mood and tangible: our hand-me-down tree with its lights and decorations all the more loved after fourteen December Christmases and one July; gifts squirreled away through the year; wreath on the front door; sparkly lights woven through a tree in the front garden to cheer passing night-time festive travellers, which the G.O. and I once were; seasonal home cooking that brings to mind food our grandmothers made… manifestations of my memories in a contemporary setting.

Christmas is occasion for quiet communion with my ghosts who are never far away anyway, at home with the life and place I’m at now that quite resembles theirs’, no accident, I’m inclined to believe. In my early fifties, three years beyond the age my nanna attained, I get to experience the other side of the festive coin. Now a step-grandmother, I found satisfaction and joy in our inaugural family Christmas in July when the kids’ -old and young- eyes lit up at the array of simple food I had made, planning already the next year’s festivities before they departed to their home a few hours drive down the coast, and talking about the food for months afterwards.

christmas in july same same but different food to december, and morning frost for authenticity
Christmas in July same same but different food and tree decorations to December, and morning frost for authenticity.

Just a few weeks after Christmas past is a felicitous time to look forward festively, not a year ahead but to our next gathering in July: holiday ambience invoked by our tree in cheery adornments of white ribbon, red hearts and -of course- lights, adjacent to the living room wood fire which will be lit and around which we’ll gather to eat dessert and open gifts. Devised as a family gathering -eschewing the bandwagon of mid-winter commercial trendiness- an opportunity to partake not only of gifts and comfort food but timeless pastimes en famille of brisk strolls, and toasted marshmallows around the pot belly fire outdoors… circumventing the pressure cooker of December festive negotiations and obligations.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” ― Bob Hope

wabi-sabi

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While my daleleelife101.blog has been somnolent I have been gently expunging from my self any disquiet lingering from a bout of self-imposed obligation that in order to be part of the blog-world I must write something… anything… on a regular basis. Although possibly blog-worthy thoughts -and some words- came, they never fell into place at the quite the right time.

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Thoughts come… and go, at the kitchen sink.

However, remaining an interested blog follower, reader and commenter; perceiving winds of change I wonder might I have been an early adopter in a drift -at least among some of us who have personal rather than commercial blogs- away from obligatory posting and commenting to a kinder life-centred approach. And so, feeling absolved and a lot more relaxed, a few words – enough- have come just in time to write a footnote for 2018.

closing the gate
Closing the gate on horticulture studies, for now.

Similar in many ways to 2017, 2018 has been a productive year. Literally, because I followed my first year of Horticulture study at Tafe with a more hands-on focus year of Production Horticulture study. Don’t ask me why… the best answer I could supply is my brain enjoys absorbing the subject matter and my body appreciates applying it in outdoor environs despite sometimes being a bit worse for wear afterwards; an antidote to many years of clerkish work-life indoors.

Beyond our residential home garden situation I’m unlikely to apply my horticultural knowhow, such as it is -conversational rather than expert- although given the opportunity I’d continue that field of study when the next level course -currently under development- becomes available at Coffs Harbour Tafe where I was studying.

walking up to the block
What gets you out of bed in the morning? This walk up to the production horticulture block.

During 2018 an itch of creativity bade me explore beyond my customary endeavours. In November I completed a six-week MOOC, NHI101x: Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 via the University of Newcastle and edX. The same creative urge led me to take up the opportunity to study Photography and Photo Imaging with Leo Meier at my local Macksville Tafe campus in 2019… somewhat befitting as I spent much of the horticulture course time taking and Instagramming photographs.

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6 weeks of drawing challenges: NHI101x: Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101.

2018 has been significant for us. This year is our third since treechanging from city working life to a differently natured but equally busy life in a country village. If there was going to be a tipping point, this year was going to be it.

Life isn’t always easy or perfect. Some of our physical considerations we thought would improve when we gave up paid work in the city, persist… turns out age catches up with us too. Accommodating the G.O.’s tinnitus, osteoarthritis and lingering occupational injuries is an ongoing health & lifestyle challenge for us both; my MiL now aged 85 lives independently with our support; and my Dad’s health is not great but, as they say, we are all “above the dirt”.

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If we were looking for signs we are in the right place… God’s fingers and a rainbow.

Practically -and fortunately- we allowed for wildcards and learning curves in the many years of planning and preparation towards the type of lifestyle we aimed for, realistically matched our aspirations to our finances, and factored in contingencies.

We revel that we backed ourselves, are doing it even if it’s not exactly what we imagined [what ever is?], living the simple life we dreamed of, worked towards, and arrived at. We derive a great deal of satisfaction from shedding our old life and beginning anew we are proceeding successfully, getting better at living well with what we have, do and make of it. We’re still here, loving our life more than ever.

“…in repairing the object you really ended up loving it more, because you now knew its eagerness to be reassembled, and in running a fingertip over its surface you alone could feel its many cracks – a bond stronger than mere possession.” Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature

I’m a devotee of the Japanese term wabi-sabi which according to the Collins Dictionary means “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay” and has come into common usage, it certainly resonates with us.

In pictures:

Production Horticulture: From irritation irrigation repairs to riding around a blueberry farm in golf carts, to biodynamics, to 150 kilogram garlic harvest and everything in between with a great team.

Dabbling in design: Photo shoot, corflute signs, business cards, website, Facebook and Instagram profiles for TA Timber.

What works for us? Our mantra… live simple home made grown local creative better. Clockwise from top left: Flowers and leaves prevail amongst vegetables in our home garden. Trying it… turmeric tincture might be a wonder cure for osteoarthritis. Diesel is the master of life-life balance. As are the chooks. It all comes together on a plate.

“Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. […] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success–wealth, status, power, and luxury–and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.” Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

For glimpses of our everyday life you can follow me on Instagram @ daleleelife101 and on Facebook @ daleleelife101.blog.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
(Little Gidding)
― T.S. Eliot

Wishing you love and light for 2019.

 

 

a journey of sorts . . .

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When the student is ready, the teacher will appear… Without fully realising I’ve been needing-looking for a creative project I’ve been feeling the lack. And, I need a creative outlet that gets me out of the kitchen, doesn’t involve flour, butter, sugar, eggs, food processor, saucepans or washing damn jars.

A few years back Anne Lawson proposed The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook just as the G.O. and I were settling after relocating from city to country-coast followed by an around Australia roadtrip, and the timing didn’t feel right. Two years later, cue aha moment when I read a post by Richard Guest of the blog The Future Is Papier Mâché about the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

Following the link Richard provided I found plenty to interest me… Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project is a “crowdfunded library of artist sketchbooks that anyone can join”.

“Founded in 2006, Brooklyn Art Library is a creative platform that hosts interactive projects accessible to anyone. We are the largest collection of sketchbooks in the world. Housing over 40,000 sketchbooks on our shelves and over 20,000 in our digital library, we fuse the digital with the analog to create a one of a kind experience for all of our artists and visitors.”

Follow your own theme or go with one of the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project 2018 themes… Go-between. Disconnection. Bizarre. Things I’ve left behind. Standstills. Rituals.  This one thing… Burdens & Brushes. Homonyms. Stitch & story. Infinite sketch. City streets. Melancholy. A visual short story of the day we met.”

You can opt for standard and digitized versions. The current 2018 sketchbook project deadlines are ORDER BY: NOV 15th, 2018 / SUBMIT BY: FEB 15th, 2019.

“After the due date we’ll exhibit the current year’s collection of sketchbooks both at the library in NYC and out of town. Everyone who sends their completed sketchbook back in time will have their book included, and later cataloged into our permanent collection at Brooklyn Art Library.”

The Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project website is www.brooklynartlibrary.com. Find out more via the FAQs, and order a blank sketchbook here.

I decided to sleep on it. If I could come up with a starting point and theme I’d go for it.

I signed up this morning.

Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” ~ Albert Einstein

The not so humble art of choko pickles​​

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1_Choko Pickles

Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. It remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence. A green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. It was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years -where its vine grew over the backyard dunny– in Australia and still graces dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or in white or cheese sauce.

3_Choko Pickles

In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.

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Day 1

Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.

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Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.

Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.

Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.

Cry.

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Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.

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Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.

Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.

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Day 2

Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.

Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.

Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.

Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each. 

Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.

Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.

Stir to combine then bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.

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Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.

Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.

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Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.

Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.

Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes. 

Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.

Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.

Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.

When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.

If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.

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Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top. 

Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what. 

Screw lids on tight. 

Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth. 

Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.

Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool. 

Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents. 

Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.

Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.

Happy dance each time you hear a pop.

Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month. 

Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.

If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.

Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…

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Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google. 

A basic, classic recipe is http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/choko-pickle-306

If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.

“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”  Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers

 

an ordinary life

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An ordinary life… but a good life. Albeit -after 2 and a half years- still sans the routine and spare time I anticipated went hand-in-hand with tree-seachange lifestyle.

Our ordinary encompasses variously the housekeeping of life: mundane – the G.O. continues to wrangle osteoarthritis; necessary – assisting my MiL to live independently; and inevitable – ongoing concern around my Dad’s ill-health.

Too much time away from the blogosphere brings with it overthinking and inevitable crisis of confidence… is this ordinary life too simple to translate into a blog post, of little interest to those who already do what I do & know what I am only just learning, of no interest to others who never will, too irregular in its missives to appeal? 

And yet my fingers yearn to tap a keyboard and my mind constructs narratives, some of which find themselves accompanying my ad hoc day-to-day offerings via the convenience of Instagram.

There, perhaps, lies a possibility of sorts, laid out in snapshots which although intersowed with continuing horticultural studies evidence a focus on food. Allowed the opportunity, kitchen witchery has become an avocation… fulfilment of an urge to apply the fascination of alchemy to the everyday, augmenting our philosophy of live simple home made grown local creative better.

A philosophy which has crafted an extraordinary everyday that bears little resemblance to the retirement for which it is all too often misconstrued. It is, in fact, a full-time endeavour but wondrously rewarding.

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“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen

 

growing a life

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I’ve arrived at the end of my year of Horticulture study greatly wiser, learning a lot… enough to understand there is so much more I do not know. However, among many useful skills I acquired the aptitude to research and find answers within the horticultural domain.

Business Card
I’m a Horticulturalist!

Professionally, as well as actually obtaining a qualification as a horticulturist and the starting point of a knowledge base, the most rewarding aspect was that I began to think like a horticulturist with confidence to look further, know who to ask or where to obtain more information.

Personally, I had a wonderful year. I enjoyed exercising my brain via processing new data. I met and spent time with a diverse & entertaining group of fellow students, talented teachers with impressive industry expertise, and found new community in the horticultural realm.

Some of the metamorphosis was tangible. For the first half of the year I showed up at class in versions of my everyday attire until mid-year when I knew this was a way of life to which I’d decided to commit, demonstrably in the form of purchasing a pair of steel cap work boots, now my go-to footwear paired with a black t-shirt and blue denim jeans, quite different to my city corporate legal wardrobe pre-2016.

If you’re wondering What Next? I was too. The answer became apparent as the year progressed. More of The Same. The more I learn the more I realise how much more there is to learn. It takes time to create a muscle memory bank, a knowledge reference base that is habitual & reflexive when called upon.

For 2018 I’ve enrolled for another year at Tafe studying Production Horticulture, with a balance of theory and appealing practical aspects growing crops such as garlic and ginger in the Tafe agricultural plot.

“Plant dreams, pull weeds & grow a happy life.” Anais Lee

Wishing you love and light for the festive season. Thank you for your blogging company during 2017. Day-to-day life has been pleasantly busy and not all as I’d envisaged prior to our sea-tree change in late 2015 but at the moment the balance works for me, and I’m happy with the juggling act that it is.

For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101.

My Horticulture Certificate 3 year in pictures…

Set out collage
Set out site for construction works
Propagtion collage
Implement a propagation plan
Plant establishment program.jpg
Implement a plant establishment program
Plant Nutrition.JPG
Implement a plant nutrition program
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Contribute to work health and safety processes
environmentally sustainable.jpg
Apply environmentally sustainable work practices
stone structures.jpg
Construct stone structures and features
Pruning.jpg
Perform specialist amenity pruning
Steam weeder.jpg
Control weeds
Concreting collage
Construct landscape features using concrete
Soils.jpg
Implement soil improvements for garden and turf areas
Plant sale.jpg
Maintain nursery plants
Beneficials.jpg
Control plant pests, diseases and disorders
Irrigation.jpg
Install pressurised irrigation systems
Retaining Walls Collage.jpg
Implement a retaining wall project

In addition to Horticulture Certificate 3, I did a couple of complementary short courses. SafeWork NSW National WHS General Construction Induction Training (White Card) and…

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Agricultural Chemical Skill Set SMARTtrain Chemical Accreditation AQF3 (ChemCert)

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a year via subsidised education fees – my fee spend was $340, plus petrol money and my time.

 

small pleasures

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Hello from mid-semester holidays.

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small pleasures: foraged blooms and backyard eggs

My year of studying Horticulture at Tafe is hurtling along. One more term -8 weeks- until I complete Certificate 3, during which time I need to decide what to study next year… Too much of a good thing is wonderful! Despite more than a few aaarrrghhh I’m never going to meet this study-assignment deadline  moments, I love being a face-to-face student, fortunate to find myself in the company of interesting & interested adult learners and talented teachers in an environment encompassing pleasant campus grounds, greenhouses and classrooms.

Day-to-day life continues to be a work in progress. The G.O. and I regularly marvel that we are still refining -but at least improving- the approach to and execution of our #lessismorelife. Although reconciled that many of my pastimes remain in limbo currently usurped by study and [often somewhat pared back] real life, as well as studying I continue to work at crafting a lifestyle which gives more attention to daleleelife101’s social media presence as well as recreational reading, writing and better than ad hoc visits across the blogging community. I have much to show & tell but coalescing it into shareable form remains an elusive art.

On the home-front we have been mostly focussed on the garden, necessarily. We’re two days into October and rain is falling for the first time since our early winter drenching courtesy of Cyclone Debbie in mid-June. When your household relies solely on rainwater tanks, almost 4 months with no rain feels like a very looooong time.

Some time ago when it became apparent record dry & hot temperatures and the forecast lack of precipitation was ongoing we implemented further water conservation measures, including harvesting kitchen sink water to keep the garden alive. In the midst of a dry winter and beginning to spring it has rewarded us with small pleasures.

“… real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.” ~ Buried Light, Beau Taplin

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small pleasures: shallot blooms
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small pleasures: coriander blooms
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small pleasures: basil blooms
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small pleasures: rocket blooms
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small pleasures: strawberry blooms
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small pleasures: sage blooms
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small pleasures: violet blooms
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small pleasures: wisteria blooms
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small pleasures: early tomatoes
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small pleasures: wasabi lettuce blooms

 

 

how we got rich

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The title of this post was supposed to be “how we got happy…” but it’s more than that, I’m feeling rich these days, an abundance of happy. We made it, we’re really living the life we dreamed of.

We found our pot of gold of happiness out here in the hills

We’re in the middle of a glorious Australian subtropical winter, I’m in the middle of a mid-year study break. Just over 18 months has passed since we traded our city lives & working incomes for the best laid plans of a new life in the country.

Good morning winter solstice

Our first year was a whirlwind of unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling interspersed with several months of holiday caravanning around Australia before resuming unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling. Much of which continues.

​​It isn’t quite what we’d envisioned… lazy days reading books in the sun, pottering around the garden, leisurely homegrown home-cooked meals, creative projects, day trips to the beach. It’s more; busier, challenging, exhausting and rewarding.

It seems we’ve hit a sweet spot. In words and pictures, as briefly as I can…

achievement
First on the list and incredibly satisfying is doing things for ourselves. I grew-cooked-made-built-fixed-did this. Tangible & immediate payoff, or long-term gain.

Our winter vege garden

belong
We support, share, barter, collaborate, exchange with neighbours, family and friends.

Some produce from our garden, and other from the neighbour’s

choosy
With so much going on in our lives exposure to television, news media and the superficial side of social media is naturally limited. We’re not sorry about that.

Keeping it real… carrot top pesto, fabulously frugal

downtime
Although we no longer participate in a structured Monday to Friday working week, this wonderful homemade life is fulltime, so we endeavour make -at least- weekends our free days.

Somewhere to get away from it all

enjoy
We focus on what we have, what we can do for ourselves and the benefits.

Homegrown, home-made Sunday café style lunch on our verandah

exceptions
There are times we spend modest funds running errands, going to markets, celebrating occasions, and so on. Sometimes we make major purchases that will add value to our life. We then resume our usual fabulously frugal.

The G.O. browses at a local swap meet

know-how
We aren’t alone, there are people in our community and all over the world living similarly, many using creditable social media platforms to document their experiences and inspiration. Our life would be so much poorer and less enjoyable without the generosity of their shared information. We contribute to the mix via the blog, Instagram and Facebook, and taking time to chat.

Making something from nothing is an everyday art. L to R clockwise: Dried rosemary, dried lemon peel (later to become lemon & rosemary salt), pumpkin soup, fig & walnut cake, filled focaccia

mindset
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.

Sit awhile…

priorities
We believe wealth is more than money in the bank and dollar value of possessions. Time is an under-valued resource. How much of your life did that Thneed cost? Time or money, what we spend must give us a lifestyle return.

The G.O. does his thing

reality
Although our income is limited we have an extras contingency plan which enables us to take advantage of bargains, bulk buys, and cover emergencies. We use it judiciously. We live fabulously frugally by choice, and long term have modest funds we can’t access until later in life.

Few things taste better than foraged bush lemons made into curd using homegrown egg yolks

seek
When I planned to study I called the local Tafe college, then visited, and was provided with advice on courses, what financial support I could access and how.

When it became apparent the G.O.’s self-employment plans were going to be delayed by his knee injury we sought assistance from local government agencies to understand what options were available for him.

Tafe Horticulture Certificate III project, re-establishing this subtropical garden outside the classroom

thrive
We don’t do cheap. We prefer the terms fabulously frugal… or plain old-fashioned thrifty, embrace less is more and live well.

In our happy place

Finally, free advice if the ambiguous title led you here and you made it through all the way to the end.

If you’re searching for rich don’t overlook happy. If you’re searching for happy you can make it yourself.

words and deeds

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 homeworkAs the season changed from summer to autumn I continued to live in two horticultural worlds; one of words creating an imaginary garden in answer to a client brief to fulfil the major plant culture assignment for my Hortculture course at Tafe, and the other of deeds working on our garden.

Today I finished the report. This is the overview, where I “sell it”…

The gardening year naturally divides into four seasons characterised by their own events, cycles and weather. Taking into account the practical, aesthetic and sensory this plant assemblage has been selected to accomplish an outcome which is both handsome and serviceable.

It offers an opportunity for simple pleasures: waking to birdsong, beholding butterflies, soothing bee hum, wafting perfume, feel of fragrant foliage, aroma and flavour of fresh culinary edibles, as well as seasonal appreciation of ever-changing leaves and flowers.

Central to this garden design is its heart, literally evidenced by a signature Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (Eastern Redbud) whose burgundy heart shaped leaves and rose coloured flowers are on display front and central, offset by a mass of Gaura lindheimeri’s (Beeblossom) whirling butterflies blooms adjacent to a stand of stylish Prunus glandulosa ‘Alba Plena’ (Dwarf Flowering Almond).

Acanthus mollis’ (Oyster Plant) resplendent ruffled shiny green foliage studded with striking purple and white flower spikes in summer heralds the front walkway, preceding an invitation to linger along scented Lavendula dentata (French Lavender) fringing the entry, divert to a troika of tasty Fragaria (Strawberry) species or the perfume of an espaliered Osmanthus heterophyllus (Fragrant Holly) just beyond.

Flanking the western border are glossy dark green foliage and pink budded, fragrant springtime flowers of Viburnum x burkwoodii (Burkwood Viburnum) countering a multi-hued floral display ensemble of Impatiens species skirting the deck.

On the eastern side Backhousia citriodora’s (Lemon Scented Myrtle) bronzed green leaves and clusters of flowers provide a lemon scented boundary and backdrop to the patio.

Neighbouring the existing grove of citrus, a triad of culinary tub specimens garnish patio boundaries: Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Pomegranate), Eugenia reinwardtiana (Cedar Bay Cherry), Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel) are close by Rosemarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ (Rosemary) demarcating the kitchen garden proximate to the pergola’s swathe of Passiflora edulis (Purple Passionfruit).

A guard of tall evergreen Melaleuca armillaris (Bracelet Honey Myrtle) with creamy-white puffy flowers and characterful bark grace the rear northwest corner balanced by a trio of fragrant flowering Abelia species in the northeast.

Taking advantage of the generous proportions of rear space a trinity of Ceratopetalum gummiferum (NSW Christmas Bush) provide shade and festive display in harmony with the adjacent jewel of the backyard, a Lagerstroemia indica x fauriel ‘Natchez White’ (Crepe Myrtle).

Complementary and constructive plant selections have been made to accomplish eighteen contiguous but distinct areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan, and are detailed in Appendix 2 Plant Selection Sheet and Appendix 3 Plant Profile Sheets.

Then went for a walk around our garden with my camera…

 

 

 

 

“A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds” ~ John Fletcher

Kate of the talltalesfromciconia blog and her husband Mr C came for a visit yesterday, and has some lovely words to say and photographs to show on her blog about our corner of the world.

theory & practice

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As autumn weather intensified into flood rain during the latter part of the week our day-to-day life calmed. During a sunny Sunday morning lull in the downpour I checked the garden and snapped some photographs.

Five foot high and rising.jpg
Five feet high and rising… Diesel-dog on flood watch

Approaching week 8 of my Horticulture course at Tafe I’ve been directing time and attention to preparing for assessments and assignments. To date I’ve developed a memory bank of 30 Latin plant names.

Podcarpus henkelii
In my sleep, I dream Latin names

Amidst this everyday, life and death goes on… We’ve attended 2 family funerals, an uncle on my mum’s side and the G.O.’s aunt, the G.O.’s knee arthroscopy went well and while he impatiently recovers he literally & figuratively workshops future ideas & plans. We take care of domestic business, shop, cook, clean and of course garden.

the shed
The G.O., workshopping

The client brief for my major assignment sees theory and practice mingle as we improve our own garden and I create another on paper, in the process learning that I can  dig holes, and weave words around just about any  subject. 

Theory

assignment cover page cropped

“Remodel existing garden using optimal plant selections to achieve eighteen adjacent but discrete functional areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan.

Propose solutions for pests and diseases.

Retain and rejuvenate trio of existing citrus trees.

Propose care plan for kikuyu lawn.

Select and provide detailed profiles for plants suitable to a residential garden…

… This stylish scheme fulfills the fundamental requirements of the garden and adds value to the property, then goes further to reward its owner throughout the year with leisure-time enjoyment and opportunities for hands-on cultivation balanced by peace of mind in leaving broader care to a horticulture specialist…

… Bees are necessary to the ecosystem and beneficial to gardens. Their diet needs to come from a variety of sources, in early spring and in times of scarcity when little else is in bloom, dandelions are a valuable food. Timing lawn mowing to allow dandelion flowers to bloom provides incentive for bees to come into the garden. Mowing before flowers develop into seed heads prevent dandelions proliferating…”

Practice…

Above:  We have growing things! Looking from both ends of our vege garden cage

Above: The G.O. added rock edges and I added plants to extend  back & front garden beds

Above: Bone gardening Diesel-dog style…too many parsley seedlings anyway… and brick paving G.O. style

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” ― Yogi Berra