Thursday, December 28, 2017

Wood to water: the seasons turn

Our response to light is primal. Its change with the seasons brings a feeling of gentle disquiet, as we ease into its dictates.  Spring and autumn are energising, transitional times of change that call for a reevaluation. Yesterday, I cleaned the ash from the fireplace and removed the wood buckets. Watering replaces woodchopping, the outdoor furniture retreats into the shady spots and cooking is planned for early in the morning or after dark.

Daikon radish pods
In the garden, the days take on their own pattern. The early morning is the time to pick leafy greens and soft fruits then, as the dew evaporates, calendula and lavender flowers. Early evening, I am  harvesting the winter seed: poppies, coriander, rocket, daikon and watercress and  in a week or two will be picking pick sun warmed tomatoes and capsicums at their end of day best. There are water bowls, bird baths, pot plants and the pond that need topping up with water and rainwater tanks to monitor. The reassuring grinding as the mechanisms in watering stations turn on and off tell me my plants will survive if I am not here for a few days.

I monitor the flow of the river over the weir with great interest, willing it to continue as long as possible. Gently tapping the side of the tanks I check their levels to evaluate how long they will last.

The wrens and the silver eyes thank me for the a bath under the sprinkler every couple of days.The black skinks have appeared with the bobtails and I hear snakes are about too. The bush rats are into my seed buckets and I have bought them inside to clean and pack away for autumn planting. The warm nights allow us to reacquaint with the ring tailed possums and mosquitos while enjoying the music of the frogs and the moon carolling magpies. The day time chorus is of crows and kookaburras, cicadas and sandgropers.

It is a shift in awareness from wet to dry, cold to hot - a changing of clothes, diet and activities. The world expands, comes out to play to plan holidays and enjoy the beach and the forest. I am grateful for this reminder of change and renewal in nature. The seasons here may not be as dramatic as in other climates but it is there. Wherever you live and whether you will be eating pudding by the fire or lobster at the beach, I wish you all a gentle joy in the turning of the year.

Go well, now and always,


Monday, December 4, 2017

Spring harvest

November, the last of spring and the garden is soft and lush, ablaze with colour and movement. Like  the northern hemisphere we are about to go into our time of extreme weather and have mini harvest time for the soft  vegetables and flowers that are at their best. Red cabbage has been made into a brilliant red kimchi,  the lemons have been juiced, pickled, preserved and made into Lemon Power and  gremolata for the freezer.  The deep red petals of  the 'Mr Lincoln' rose are large, dark and fragrant, not yet beetle prey they are being dried to make Turkish delight for  after a short stint being admired in a vase. Calendulas are being deheaded daily, the best season in years. Don't be squeamish about picking them, you will get so many more in return and you can just pick half each day.I will have an abundance for oil extractions and tincture and enough to sprinkle on salads and add dried later to rice before cooking.

It is also the best time to harvest my favourite old fashioned mint before it flowers. Diamond-backed moths and rust are making their way up the stems and making a mess of it. Cut now, the damaged leaves stripped, the bunches are hung indoors in the shade. Rub the leaves through a wire sieve when dry. Do not leave dried herbs hanging too long, they get cobwebby and dusty, especially in summer. I think dried mint works better than fresh in spanakopita, palak paneer and mint sauce and I always have some in the cupboard.

A friend called to ask about elder flowers and came an harvested a basketful for Elder Fizz for Christmas. Inspired, I began a batch too. The grandchildren love this very grown up drink and non drinkers enjoy its champagne like bubbles. There is still plenty of time if you would like to try. Two weeks is the minimum fermentation. Best tip....don't decide to do it the day after recycling has gone unless you have a great stash of wine or beer bottles. I have been promised I can bin dive at a friend's accommodation cottage for my next batch!

Elder Fizz

This is a tried and true recipe at our house, usually made in time for Christmas ‘champagne’ for the non drinkers and children. The flowers contain natural yeast that assists the fermentation.
Will fill 10 wine bottles.

9 litres water
700g white sugar
1 lemon, juice and rind
30ml cider vinegar
12 elderflower heads

In a large saucepan, bring the water to the boil.
Stir in sugar until it is dissolved and remove from the heat.
Gently shake the flowers to remove dust and insects and remove as much green stalk as you can.
When the water has cooled to room temperature, add the flowers, cider vinegar and lemon juice and rind.
Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.
Filter through muslin or a clean tea towel and bottle in clean screw top bottles.

Let sit for two weeks to mature and serve chilled.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Minty and fruity - drying soft herbs and natural pink fizz

Warm weather is on its way again and there is a rush on to harvest all the soft herbs before they bolt and flower and send all their energy into seed production. While the weather is still cool and dry, the essential oil content is at its highest level and your herbs will be pungent and potent harvested now. Always pick after the dew has dried and before the full heat of the day.

The mint I picked, bunched and hung two weeks ago is ready to strip before it collects dust and cobwebs and loses a lot of its colour.  The leaves are hard and brittle and should crumble easily. Gently pull the leaves from the stems. Store whole leaves in an airtight jar and store in a dark place. Use for teas and
tinctures. To process for cooking, rub gently through a metal sieve, discarding the hard stems and veins. Chuck out all the old herbs in your pantry as you process the new crop. The sticks make fragrant twigs for the fire or can be chopped up and added to the compost bin. This process will work for  oregano, marjoram, yarrow, lemon verbena and sage but not for fleshier herbs like basil and plantain..

 I got creative with the two batches of elder fizz now bottled and waiting for labels. A lovely pink version was a great success after I added 4 rosehip and hibiscus flowers tea bags to the hot syrup. A nice natural red fizzy drink for all the grandies. Now for the labels!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Can I have a micro chip please?

My website is down. Ten days now. Ten days of struggling to understand the terminology, searching Google for help, dealing with the few hardy folk who managed to contact me in other ways to place orders, participating in 'live' chat that had was more dead than alive in it's responses and  a few days generally tearing my hair out. All this perfectly timed as a follow up to all the advertising that has gone out for March workshops with the website link for bookings.

Technology...fantastic when it works, a head-splitting, ego crushing nightmare when it doesn't.

Each day I have  logged in to stare at the flat line graph registering zero page views.  Today I managed to find out I no longer had an account with my domain host - the result of having changed my email address two years ago. My renewal notice had bounced and I had gone into "redemption."
This meant I had 45-60 days to reinstate or my domain name would be deleted and removed from the registry which meant anyone who wanted it could pick it up. It has been  57 days...I could not change my details as my account was not active.I could not reinstate until I paid a fee.I could not pay that fee online. Many hours and $140 later, I am waiting to see if it all comes good.

I have done what I can, a small over sight has cost me dearly. With the speed which technology continues to change, the learning experience I am proud of today may not be appropriate tomorrow. Every new device involves a new set of understandings. I find I need to write things down and keep hard copies more often, I can't rely on my phone or computer to do it all for me when there are internet outages, power failures, updates and all the other strange glitches that can happen.

When the Australia card was proposed in the early 70's, I opposed what I saw as an invasion of privacy. My opinion has changed. I would like a micro chip in my wrist that I can scan instead of remembering a million passwords, that contains all those cards I have to carry, my medical records in case I have an accident and where I live so if I should go wandering in my old age I could be returned home safely. If you want to steal my identity, you will need to bring a knife!

Meanwhile, if you need me -

Go well,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Big Girls Panties for 2017

It has been an extraordinary year. A year of extremes: unexpected political events that included Brexit and the American election results, deaths of thousands of civilians in civil wars and terrorist attacks, deaths of popular iconic figures, natural disasters, plane crashes.....and on it went relentlessly.

Many people are feeling emotionally battered and bruised, fearful of financial insecurity, political turmoil, terrorism, fearful of the changes in technology that are out pacing the time to learn them, worried about jobs, houses and a safe environment for their children. The 'old ways' no longer work and must break down before a new path can be envisaged. Never has there been a greater need for change. Remember: 'Just when the caterpillar thinks it is all over, it becomes the butterfly.'

Someone always asks about new years resolutions at some point in January. My unrehearsed reply was: to be brave. Surprising to me as much as anyone else. Fear can paralyse. Courage allows us to open doors, embrace change, move forward. Courage can be smiling at a stranger,  saying 'yes', starting a new venture,  listening to your heart. Risking a little (or a lot). Some days it's just being brave enough to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and face the day. For me, it will mean gently putting aside the thoughts that whisper seductively: can't, don't, shouldn't, and transform fear into excitement, change into progress.

I wish I still up might be an easier resolution to keep!

Into my big girl panties!