“Permaculture is revolution disguised as organic gardening.”
~ Graham Burnett, ‘Permaculture – A Beginners Guide’
Permaculture is about designing for sustainable living. It is based on three ethics: Care for the earth; Care for people; and Fair share.
To become familiar with permaculture ethics, a simple exercise is for each of the ethics, think of examples of how you: have applied them in your life; could apply them in your life in the future; have observed them applied by others.
Care for the earth
Applied in your life: Green and clean. We eschew chemicals, rather use natural household, personal and garden products to promote a healthy environment on both a micro and macro scale.
Could apply in your life: Think ahead. Plant more trees on our own property and others for future generations.
Observed it applied in other: Ripple effect. One of my Tafe horticulture teachers, a member of Orara Valley Rivercare has been part of the work done restoring sections of the river, planting native species to re-establish the canopy as well as flood clean up, removal of weed species and camphor laurels, important work to her as she grew up there, left, then returned to farm the local property that belonged to her parents.
Care for people
Applied in your life: Do unto others. We share our produce, items we make, bake, create or are given and our time with family, friends and the community. We allow them to do the same for us.
Could apply in your life: Time share. Volunteer at a local community garden to both learn, apply what I have learned and share skills with others.
Observed it applied in other: Educators. Since I began studying at Tafe in 2017 it’s been my privilege to be beneficiary of the expertise of industry professionals who shepherd diverse students through a set curriculum at the same time beyond the ambit of their teaching roles freely instil not only course knowledge but interest and a desire to pursue it further in many cases.
Applied in your life: Stop and think. Mindful consumers, before we make purchases as well as our personal D.I.Y, reuse, up/recycle, make do, mend, borrow criteria we consider what is environmentally responsible and who benefits from the purchase.
Could apply in your life: Knowledge bank. For me it isn’t enough to just acquire and apply skills myself, I don’t feel like the process is worthwhile unless I have shared it, and helped someone else discover something that inspires them. I hope to write or teach or at least advocate what I have learned and value, as many worthy students of permaculture have gone on to do admirably.
Observed it applied in other: Lend a hand. Non-profit organisations like Kiva, an online lending platform who crowdfund loans via connecting online lenders to underserved communities and unfinanced entrepreneurs across the globe.
“It is time for all of us to make changes about how we live our lives and to follow a path of the heart. By following our intuition and inspiration we encourage our own acts of heartfelt genius and boldness. This makes us feel alive and vital, gives us a great purpose and harnesses parts of ourselves we may have neglected or didn’t even know we had. We no longer feel overwhelmed by the way the Earth’s resources are managed, but recognise that change is in our hands, yours and mine, the hands of extraordinary people who have made a leap of understanding and are determined to make a difference. We become part of the change by becoming part of the solution.”
~ Glennie Kindred, ‘Earth Wisdom’
How do permaculture ethics fit with your life?
Between now and July 2020 I’m studying Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… follow along if you are interested in learning what I learn during my permaculture journey.
“Starting a garden without a design will end in tears as surely as starting a renovation project without a plan. The design should answer questions about sun and shade, wildlife, proximity and access, water, organic matter and nutrient cycling, local seasons, crops, and weather. The answers will be different in every situation but the principles are the same.” Linda Woodrow
By the end of my year of studying Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital online I will have created a permaculture design, thus the final get-to-know-you assignment question…
Q. Describe the property you are planning on doing your permaculture design. Are you doing doing a rural or an urban design?
I’m planning on doing an urban permaculture design; applying it to our 822 sqm residential block in the hinterland village of Taylors Arm located in the Nambucca Valley on the Mid North/Coffs Coast of NSW.
Our three-bedroom house was constructed in the 1930’s of asbestos fibro, corrugated iron roof, with wide verandahs oriented north-east, 1980’s HardiPlank weatherboard addition, and recent garage and two carports.
The yard is planted with several existing gardens and a variety of trees and shrubs: a mixture of inherited planting; our own, low maintenance bird-bee-butterfly habitat intended to survive our absence and passively cool the house; the remainder is mowed grass.
The property has a north east aspect and the block slopes gently down to the north west.
Bureau of Meteorology Climate Zone: Subtropical, distinctly dry winter.
Australia Building Codes Board Climate Zone: 2, warm humid summer, mild winter.
Köppen Climate Classification: Cfa – humid subtropical.
The native soil profile of the block comprises a significant C horizon predominantly ridge gravel, B horizon of clay, with a thin A horizon and a bare O horizon
Our water supply comes via the sky and all roof areas into 4 rainwater tanks holding approximately 36000 litres/8000 gallons, although in a water emergency we have infrastructure to pump from the adjacent river via a neighbour’s line.
Our water use is conservative and we reuse as much water as we practically can: toilet, bathroom sink and shower waste water is directed into a septic tank; an occasionally-used bathtub runs into the front garden, washing machine water is hooked up to a hose and sprinkler in the front yard; kitchen sink water is diverted into two 20 litre containers used daily to hand water the vegetable and herb garden.
When we returned after our 2016 travels to live here permanently, we built a 28 sqm vegetable garden cage in the backyard -because dog, possums, bandicoots, birds- with inground planting areas and raised beds which were filled with media we created by combining soil from the neighbouring vacant field, straw, newspaper, Dinofert Organic Fertiliser and composted organic material.
In 2017 we began sharing a flock of chickens with our neighbour. Their coop is in the back corner of her yard, which we access via a common area at the rear of the properties where we have also built a compost pile, maintain an intentionally biodiverse weedy-scrubby bird-bee-butterfly belt as well as mowed grass area which gives us access to the nearby churchyard where I collect straw for the chicken coop after its grass has been slashed.
Recently we constructed from recycled materials a compact glass house/potting shed so I have a place to start seedlings, propagate and grow year-round.
“Permaculture is that art of the possible.”
~Graham Bell, ‘The Permaculture Garden”
What do you think? Thoughts and suggestions welcome.
Even studying online, students get to answer the usual get-to-know-you classroom questions.
Q. What you want to achieve by doing this course?
Initially, from this course I want to achieve: greater familiarity and understanding about permaculture; how to observe; some proficiency in permaculture design; how to promote and apply permaculture ethics and principles personally, locally and globally.
One of the first of Bill Mollison’s key insights I read was:
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action…”
Which speaks to a bothersome personal consideration… pragmatic motivation behind our move from city working life to a simple, creative rural village lifestyle: health. Aged in our mid 50’s and mid 60’s respectively both myself and G.O. husband have orthopaedic issues which limit the type & duration of physical activities we comfortably manage. We do what we want to do but we need to work smarter not harder.
Practically, from this course I would like achieve an improvement to our property’s water strategy, accomplish more productive use of the property, and ultimately realise a permaculture design across the entire property.
Since 2011 I’ve been utilising various social media platforms; a member of online, blogging, Instagram and Facebook communities, sharing thoughts, dreams, ideas, information, inspiration and our journey. The manifesto of my personal blog @daleleelife101 is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better.
A long-time supporter of local and farmers markets, after considerable deliberation whether to participate in a selling capacity while despairing of hyper-consumerism, I’ve recently decided to take @daleleelife101 into the real world in the form of a much needed stallholder at our local village markets, primarily to support the community but also as a tangible means to walk my talk… I would like to achieve from this course a productive permaculture garden that contributes useful and inspirational garden produce and seeds excess to our household needs.
Personally, from this course I would like to expand my scope, to become a permaculture advocate.
Foremost, by studying and adopting permaculture practices I aim to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“If you give up on trying to change larger structures and just go off on what some would say is a personal indulgence or being a survivalist, it can be seen as incredibly negative or pessimistic. But the other way to think of it is this: through manifesting the way we live and acting as if it’s normal, you’re defending yourself against depression and dysfunction, but you’re also providing a model that others can copy. And that is absolutely about bringing large-scale change…” is reassuring testimony from David Holmgren.
What have you achieved, or do you hope to achieve through permaculture?
What is permaculture, you ask, as I did and found out it wasn’t what I thought it was, but more.
Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970’s to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.” ~ holmgren.com.au
However, befittingly, permaculture and therefore the definition of what it is, is ever evolving.
A fortnight ago I began my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. Fortunately, I like writing, and it’s one of the things I missed having time to do over the past couple of years while I commuted to and attended face-to-face horticulture classes at Tafe NSW. During that time I shared snippets of my horticulture studies experience pictorially via daily Instagram posts.
This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… if you would like to follow my permaculture journey.
The first get-to-know-you assignment question…
Q. What attracts you to permaculture? You can also mention how you found out about permaculture and what permaculture experience you have had if you like.
A. After living and working fulltime in Sydney for the decade it took us -husband and me- to be financially prepared, living as sustainably as you can in a rented one bedroom apartment in a concrete neighbourhood immediately adjacent to a train line in the inner-west outskirts of the inner-city 2.5 kms from the CBD… keeping the faith by diligently supporting farmers markets and practising living lightly, connecting with and being informed and inspired by many like-minded people, travelling back and forth -1000 km roundtrip- on public holiday long weekends and summer vacations to our small residential property in a rural village on the Mid North/Coffs Coast… three and a half years ago we tree-changed to live there fulltime with the intention of being as self-reliant as possible.
After taking a holiday break when we travelled around Australia in 2016, I began studying fulltime in 2017 while looking for a new direction; following a dream to live simply, creatively, have a garden, and study horticulture but unsure where the direction would lead me.
I completed Certificate II Horticulture in June 2019, Certificate III Production Horticulture in 2018 and Certificate III Horticulture in 2017 at Tafe NSW, Coffs Harbour Education Campus.
A long-time follower of online media: websites; e-newsletters; social media; any sort of information and communication, I had gleaned a perception of commodified – buy this book, pay to attend that course- permaculture… somewhat misconstrued as it turns out.
The actuality of permaculture as a philosophy and available every-person liveable culture became apparent after not too much research when a deeper interest was piqued upon serendipitous discovery of its offering as a Tafe NSW online course; the list of course units hinting there was more to permaculture than I had believed… beginning with design.
What I discovered was both broader and more nuanced than I had understood before my further reading revealed permaculture’s concertina-like scope confers it traction in every context of day-to-day life, and the personal revelation that permaculture is holistic and inclusive of what I had considered were my assorted interests – environmental sustainability & stewardship, resource and land conservation, regenerative horticulture & agriculture, organics, biodynamics, gardening, living sustainably, local community- but offers much more: not a counterculture but an egalitarian toolkit.
“One of the most important things about permaculture is that it is founded on a series of principles that can be applied to any circumstance—agriculture, urban design, or the art of living. The core of the principles is the working relationships and connections between all things.”
― Juliana Birnbaum Fox, Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide
What attracts you to permaculture?
I’m preparing to launch @daleleelife101 -and myself- as a stallholder into the world of local markets. A long-term patron of local markets… and not so local… we visited our fair share of markets when we travelled around Australia in 2016… for years I have bored the G.O. witless with my to-ing and fro-ing on the possibility of realising my dream of having my own stall. On the one hand there is -I believe- too much gratuitous consumer stuff being thrust at us these days. On the other hand, I derive great satisfaction from creating simple inexpensive household and personal products. Finally it came down to monkey see monkey do: I hope to inspire others with my manifesto… #LiveSimpleHomeMadeGrownLocalCreativeBetter.
As soon as we tree-changed from city to country three and a half years ago I began working on our mission statement to… “follow our dream of living simply and creatively” by making as many food, household and personal items as my time and talents allow… simple seasonal condiments and preserves, flavoured salts, dried herbs, tea, cleaning products, deodorant, fragrance… some of which as well as plants and seeds will translate to a market stall, and hopefully -time and talent allowing- I’ll be inspired to try my hand at some new creative projects.
After realising another dream -studying Horticulture at Tafe NSW which involved me driving 160 km roundtrip to and from Coffs Harbour twice a week for two and a half years during semester time- I’ve turned my focus to home, studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW Digital… a commitment of additional course hours but no commute, hopefully scope for further creativity.
A multitude of ideas and options crisscross my mind but I keep returning to the intention… keep it real. Other than investing in a small selection of beautiful and reusable amber glass bottles all other bottles and jars are recycled as well as reusable, keeping plastic as much as possible to a minimum.
After I complete a Food Safety Supervision training course in early August, my plan is to begin with the next local Taylors Arm markets, held our lovely old village hall. I’ve persuaded -I hope- a couple of neighbours -a baker and a maker- and maybe the G.O. to have a go as well. Part of the motivation that finally prompted me to act is my wish for a successful & regular village market. More stallholders are needed… be the change you want to see in your community.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.” Leroy Hood
“Village life gently swirled around them, with the perpetual ebb and flow of people, scurrying in every direction. The village was a living, organic entity, with blood flowing through its veins, and with a definite pulse and heartbeat. It had its own distinct personality and its own dark caustic humour, and was constantly processing and regurgitating information through its winding, meandering streets.”
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 please can we. So we do. Six-year-old-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.
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.
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.
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.
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 thripence 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.”
― T.S. Eliot
Wishing you love and light for 2019.
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.”
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.
“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” ~ Albert Einstein
Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. The choko vine remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence; bearing green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. In Australia it was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years. Often in those days the vine adorned its contempory, the backyard dunny. Choko still graces modern dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or baked with white or cheese sauce.
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.
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.
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.
Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.
Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.
Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.
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.
Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.
Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.
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.
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…
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