Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

2011 has only hours to give us.  As I mature [age is such a depressing work] the days, weeks and months race by.  No longer do the long days of summer holidays last forever as in my childhood when hours and days were easily spent lying on an old mattress under the laden cherry plum tree; just a short reach to those luscious [non fattening] fruit.  The mattress was an essential ... over ripened plums tended to fall from the heavily burdened branches, not a nice feel!

The mattress under the shade of the plum tree helped convey me to other worlds, the world of the written word.  I recall struggling with the verbosity of Dickens, and within a short time devouring his descriptions of life in another land in another time.  

Summer went on forever!

Winter sometimes brought snow, always froze our fingers and toes with icicles that crackled and broke under the weight of children skating along the gutters.

Spring ... daffodils, the japonica hedge a vision of pink and glossy green leaves, violets pushing up their unforgettable scent wafting around the garden; pet lambs to be bottle fed ... spring with all its promises.

Autumn with the carpet of poplar leaves on our long driveway; the wind tossing leaves to the four corners of our little farm.

Each year brings new memories, begins with new dreams.  The passing of the old year gives us a few hours to reminisce over the good and the not-so-good, hopefully a little light-bulb moment will flicker in our mind as we suddenly wonder about a solution to a small problem; and the beginning of another year sends our thoughts to yet to be known delights. 

May 2012 bring good health and happiness to All.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cash/Vouchers or Gifts?

We have just returned from a quick trip into town ... mail and milk mainly.  Enroute a storm that blew up from nowhere threatened, but by passed us.  Forks of lightning struck earthwards with loud thunderclaps almost deafening the eardrums.  By the look of it, most was out at sea, though the streets in town were running water ... a welcome coolness to an otherwise hot day.

The small supermarket was busy, queues formed at four checkouts.  As is often the case in a small town, queues give reason for a chat and a laugh.  The Post Office can be the source of  'the laugh of the day'!

The lass serving me appeared less animated than usual; normally she is bright and cheery.  An observant customer enquired as to how she enjoyed Christmas.  The reply was half-hearted, which aroused the attention of the rest of the queue.

Being naturally curious I made a comment to bring forth more information.  She took the hint; her reply was illuminating.

She received lots of money and vouchers, but she loves to open a parcel. 
This comment gave me reason to ponder on the journey home.  I had sent vouchers [to those who in the past were unimpressed with my chosen gift ... teenagers!], and in the process saved considerably on postage.  I much prefer to spend on the person than the Post Office, in spite of the fact it can be a source of considerable amusement.

We received vouchers ... overall for a considerable sum.  At the moment I have no brilliant ideas as to what these vouchers can be exchanged for!

I have frequently heard parents of children, some as young as five or six, who gave the children a voucher to spend on the Boxing Day sales; sales I avoid!  We hear that the spirit of Christmas is money oriented; the true reason for the season lost in the whirring of check-out tills.  That a young woman, not long turned 21, prefers a parcel to open than money or vouchers sounded a timely warning to my 'gift giving' next year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Blessings

May this Christmas season bring you blessings, love and laughter, and good health and happiness for the coming year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Red Sky at Night

Red sky at night, shepherds delight; red sky in morning, shepherds warning.

The above little verse was oft heard in my childhood home; my Dad was a weather watcher and endeavoured to instill a little ancient wisdom into the minds of his children.  It worked.  Or the red sky in morning verse stayed in my mind, and as weather is changeable there have been many opportunities to recite these wonderful words of knowledge.

Earlier this week a man of words professed that the above verse has as much relevance today as in earlier times, with the rider that a guess at tomorrow's weather is as accurately forecast by the colour of the sky as the long-winded technical forecasts broadcast daily in the media.

While a vast area of the south/west of Western Australia burned with devastating bush fires a week ago, and while at the moment thousands of acres of station country in the northern mid-west of Western Australia is being destroyed by fires started from lightning strikes, the opportunities for startling skies is ripe, dust and smoke from fires adding to the garish colours of the setting sun.

Tonight a bright pink colour captured my attention.  Parts of the house shone in this glow.  The sky was orange.  A camera opportunity!  The clouds swirled in the atmosphere rippling like the incoming tide on a sunny afternoon. 
 Tomorrow should be a fine day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift shopping

This morning we headed north to our larger shopping centre.  In my handbag I carried a list, one side groceries, the other side presents.  For once I was able to purchase all on my list!  That alone is a minor miracle as so often an idea flits into the mind, buy this or that, for one particular person on the list.  Too many times the item is simply not available [perhaps I did see a similar thing five years ago?].

When making out the list my mind wandered back to the days of my youth [not yesterday!]  How gifts chosen differ from last century, and what a choice in the shops today.  My Mum sometimes received a pair of slippers.  To a modern miss slippers appear mundane; not to a busy country woman of several decades ago.  They were epitome of relaxation.  Putting on a pair of slippers after a long day of chores ... washing, ironing, and cooking without the aid of electricity; digging and planting a vegetable patch to supply the family with vegetables for much of the year, though I must add that my Dad did plant potatoes in the paddock.  The art of potato growing, moulding up, digging and bagging up was a family affair.  No-one was too small to help.

Slippers were luxury, pure and simple.

Today the shops are full of appliances, shiny and wonderful; gadgets that one needs to read the instructions before using.  Not much relaxation there!

Not forgetting Dad.  A good book, or a pipe [a no-no today], but they both represented relaxation as well. 

My bestest Christmas present ever was a jigsaw puzzle.  I was about ten years old and a new aunty chose a jigsaw with a picture of an olde cottage with roses around the door as a gift for her niece [I cannot recall what gift my brother received].  Once the box was opened and all pieces tipped onto the floor I had to puzzle out exactly what was to happen next, never having seen a jigsaw puzzle before.  By pushing them around the dawn of an idea grew ... the funny pieces fitted into each other.  From that moment on completing a jigsaw puzzle was easier.  And there was a reason why that particular aunt gave me such a gift ... I often stayed with Aunt and Uncle in school holidays, and as Uncle was on the tramcars he sometimes worked a late shift.  Aunt and I worked on a jigsaw!

Today as I wandered around the shops jigsaw puzzles were scarce on the shelves, slippers away until winter, pipes ... well smoking is bad for your health did you not know ... and even books are harder to find in shops.  All around electronic gear, shiny and bright clutter shelves ... how do many of them work ... I have no idea.

It did seem that relaxation has slipped down the ladder of gift buying ... 'tis a sad day for human kind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wildlife Week

Now that warmer weather has arrived sun-loving creatures appear.

Living, as we do  in the country, or as Aussies say 'the bush' [though why I have no idea as this is a cropping/grazing area] wild creatures frequent not only the outdoors, but inside as well. 

Over the past week a series of creatures has invaded our daily lives; albeit creatures that are welcome to share our space.  They provide amusement and education.

Blue-tongue lizards, or known as bob-tail lizards by some, wander around outside as soon as the day warms up, often clambering over the mat, up a small step that is the sliding door, before exploring the house.  Strangely enough, while I do not like snakes or spiders, or ants or flies, these little fellows are amongst my favourites.

The lizards are always on the lookout for a tasty treat, be it a moth that struggles under continual bashing against the ground by the lizard as it seeks to render its next meal helpless, or a piece of tomato dropped to the floor 'accidently on purpose' as one of the five vegetable daily intake recommended by nutritionists.  The tomato proved almost as difficult to control as the struggling moth; unfortunately I had left the skin on!  Blue tongue crunched the tomato end finally softening it enough to swallow.

Another lizard, smaller and considerably shyer than the blue-tongue, appears to have a home under an old refrigerator.  Some days it sits on the concrete pathway, no doubt easing its limbs in the warmth.  That it sat still long enough for me to pick up the camera was almost a miracle.
Last but not least our tawny frog-mouth family that successfully [after much difficulty and drama] raised one chick have reason to be proud.  Sometime during last night the little one, who I have named Bambino [what else?!] fledged.  This morning on the first of the many daily inspections, Eggsitter and Bambino were no longer in the nest.  Twisting my neck to the left there in another low branch of the neighbouring gum tree the family perched, parents on either side of junior.

Another camera opportunity!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Tis the season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

Summer has arrived with all its attendant risks; namely bush fires.   While I may [mildly?] complain about raking leaves yesterday a vivid reminder of the reason why made itself obvious.

We went to the northern city on a minor shopping expedition, and is our normal procedure we headed up back roads where, one hopes, the lunatic driver would never consider spinning his tyres.  Significant Other has a two-way radio in the vehicle giving us a blow by blow account of major, or minor, incidents that occur on the highway.  Some of these conversations are amusing as 'comments' between drivers of the many road trains keep alive the obvious camaraderie between the converyors of our daily needs.  At one stage several drivers asked about a fire.  

It became obvious that a small grass fire, alongside the main highway, had not only been noticed, but was under control.  Many farmers have a 'fire appliance' as part of their plant ... this could be as simple as a water- tank on the back of a ute ... just in case of need.

We shopped; nothing exciting ... groceries etc and travelled home;  the temperatures warm [37°], blustery winds skating seed heads of wild radish across the highway like frightened rabbits. 

However, upon switching on the radio [to catch up with the latest news or 'perhaps news'] bush fire warnings were being broadcast regularly.  A bush fire, that began as a 'controlled burn' in the south/west of Western Australia had gotten out of control.  The fact that a controlled burn was undertaken at the end of winter, which is the normal time for a controlled burn; a time when a burn can be kept under control; had escaped and was causing havoc.  This morning we hear the dreaded news; at least 19 homes have been destroyed.

There are many questions being asked as to why the burn took place; there are folk living in the Margaret River area who do not know if their home will survive should the strong winds, forecast again for today, turn the fire their way.

I note that the strong winds here have distributed another carpet of leaves that need raking.  This is an ongoing task, one that is hard hot work on a day when the temperatures are in the high 30's.  There is a reason for raking, and the season is ... always.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bush Fire Preparation

Spring is a season of variations; this spring is extremely variable.  Spring is also the time when householders should clear litter from around their homes as one precaution to avoid the devastion of a bush fire destroying property.
 
This time last year when returning from an outing we noticed more than usual vehicles on 'our' road, which is not the main highway.  In the distance a wisp of smoke curled upwards ... a bushfire!  We soon found out that the bushfire had blocked the main highway, hence the upsurge in vehicles on the secondary road.
 
Spring this year has been wet; compulsory fire-breaks along boundary lines are growing again making the risk of a fire in summer a greater risk.
 
While boundary fire-breaks are made with tractor and slasher or plough other precautions are essential.  My self appointed task is the raking of leaves; it is endless, and when flies are plentiful [one never reads in glossy tourism pamphlets the trials one experiences re flies and other creepy crawlies], and the sun shines from a blue, blue sky, and rivulets of perspiration drip from the raker's face and neck and clothes cling to the body like a suit of clothes three sizes too small, this task is simply a chore.
 
We have a lawn in winter, and with luck it only needs mowing four or five times a year; the rest of the year outdoors is a carpet of sand with a splattering of twigs and leaves that fall at the slightest zephyr of breeze onto the sand.  For one who has spent most of her life in green New Zealand the sand, flies, and never-ending fall of gum leaves can become rather depressing.  Raking those leaves helps ... I guess it could be on par with disposing of unwanted 'whatever' one dislikes the most!

On an average 'raking and barrowing' day I can remove a dozen or so wheelbarrow loads to the bonfire that can only be lit in winter, and then with a goodly supply of water on hand ... just in case it spreads to the surrounding paddock.

gum leaf litter
clothes line area cleared two weeks ago

leaves on bonfire
My life in Western Australia is a 1000 times removed from my previous existence in New Zealand, and there are days [when the flies are bad, the mosquitoes are biting, and snakes slither hither] when I close my eyes and imagine that safe greeness of New Zealand.  Then in an Australian winter when temperatures seldom fall below 12°, and family in New Zealand report snow and hail and ice, I am grateful for what I do have here. 

If only those leaves only fell in one season, not all the year around!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ice

With the warm weather only a whisker away this morning, time has been spent raking leaves ... this is an endless, ongoing task; one that I tackle when visitors are expected, or when the hot days of summer and the bush-fire risk aids urgency.

Admittedly I had raked the leaves into bundles a couple of weeks ago, and had not got round to it, but overseas visitors expected early next week added urgency.   There is a song here in Australia, one of the lines being, "Give me a home among the gum trees'.  We live among the gum trees, they shelter us from excessive sun and storms and in return drop dead leaves with the slightest zephyr. 

While wheeling the barrow to the 'heap' I yearned for a block of ice to quench the thirst, and reinvigorate the enthusiasm.  Suddenly a memory from my primary school days scrambled from the corners of a cluttered mind ... one word sprung to mind ... Ice.

In my youthful days few households had a refrigerator.  How did you keep food cool and fresh I hear you ask!  A Safe; a cream and green metal safe that hung under the weeping plum tree on the back lawn kept food safe from attack of flies and the gentle breeze wafted in keeping food 'more or less' fresh.  I daresay there were some occasions when it didn't work, but my Mother, mindful of the fussiness of her two children, never advertised those moments at the dinner table!

We never had a refrigerator, indeed as a child our home did not have electricity!  And that will leave you with a million questions as to how ... when you know no other way it is easy.

I lived in the country, travelling by bus to a school in the town.  Country children took cut lunches, buying fish and chips or a pie once a week; town children went home for lunch.  A bus took those, who lived on the outskirts of town, home, returning them 10 minutes before class.  Us Country Children did not envy those Town Children at all;  exciting things happened in the lunch hour!  Knuckle bones, pick-up-sticks, skipping, annoying boys playing marbles ... all the usual happenings of the era.

But, come a hot summer day [a little like today] and the Country Children crowded the bus stop for the return of the Town Children.  Because ~ some brought a preserving jar full to the brim with little blocks of ice which were dished out to 'friends'.  On those days the Town Children had more friends than ice, but the secret was to be close to the bus when the door opened!

Today I made do with a glass of cold water, followed by a swig of a popular sports drink, as per doctor's orders;  dehydration in the Australian warmer weather when one is raking and shovelling is almost as bad as death, except there is a return! 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Writing

Last night the radio station we are always tuned into ran an interview with Lynda LaPlante bringing back memories of my life in New Zealand.

The Library, a donation by Andrew Carnegie, stood on the corner at the other end of my street.  Reading has always occupied much of my spare moments, and when a busy Mum of five children I mastered the art of reading and peeling potatoes, at the same time.  OK, sometimes a little skin was left on the potatoes but I have it on good authority that the skin holds many vitamins.  It was not inattention that resulted in zebra-like potatoes, but my thirst for knowledge, or escape from potato peeling.

There was a time when I had read everything [I was interested in] book on those shelves.  The librarian, a woman half a decade younger than me suggested I read Lynda LaPlante.  Mmmmm ... I picked a couple off the shelf and read the blurb.  I put them back on the shelf.

Why?

For a start her name put me off ... quite a high faluting name, and her topics were of little interest.  I looked for other authors.

Sorry Lynda LaPlante, I misjudged you, though I still don't think I will read your writings ... I like a gentle escape from this world of seemingly [according to the media] increasing tensions.  But Lynda LaPlante, you are a delight.  Your hour on the radio was a hoot ... you have researched your topic to grass roots, and your sense of humour shone through. 

Is there a moral to this little tale?  Maybe, maybe not ... maybe never judge a book by its cover?  Or an author by her name!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Great Endeavour

James Cook, Captain of the Endeavour, mapped much of the coast of New Zealand in 1769 and in April 1770 his second in command sighted Australia.  Part of the east coast of Australia was mapped ... and as they say the rest is history.  Both New Zealand and Australia soon saw British settlers ~ New Zealand and Australia became part of the expanding British Empire.

Move forward to the present time.

In Fremantle, Western Australia a replica of the HMB endeavour was constructed and commenced her maiden voyage in October 1994. 

Yesterday HMB Endeavour was open for viewing at Geraldton, and in spite of a gloomy dank day we drove north to take a look-see [it was grocery buying day as well ... you know the old saying, killing two birds with the one stone].
The Geraldton port provided safe anchorage for the Endeavour replica for almost a week in weather was not typical of the mid-west of Australia.  While the Endeavour was open for viewing we did not board this ship which in its heyday of discovery and voyage in the south seas carried a crew of 72 plus animals.  At first glance this ship looks no larger than many of the fishing boats or pleasure craft anchored alongside.  To think that such a ship sailed from England to the South Pacific, discovering new lands and following the Transit of Venus!  In comparision with the luxury liner that called in at Geraldton two weeks earlier, and which was too large to anchor at the wharf, the Endeavour looked like a dinghy.  While the queue to board the ship was not that long, due no doubt to the weather, Dave is tall, and space in the Endeavour is 'limited'.  Photos taken in driving drizzle had to suffice.
As Captain Cook and the Endeavour played a huge part in the subsequent settlement of Australasia a look at the replica of the ship was an educational experience, giving a new slant at the deprivation of the sailors who crewed the original ship, though one must mention that due to James Cook's inspired knowledge the scourge of scurvy did not occur. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Country on Show

Last Thursday we headed inland to Mingenew where the yearly two-day Expo was in full swing.  In other places this Expo could be classed as a country show, though in all fairness the Mingenew Expo concentrated on produce rather than side show entertainment.  My small indulgence was a packet of what Australians call Fairy Floss but what I have grown up knowing as Candy Floss  And yes, I did have sticky fingers, but hopefully managed to wipe my face completely clean of traces that clung around my mouth.  Delicious, but a once in a blue-moon treat!
 
The countryside is looking wonderful and the cropping farmers are looking towards a huge harvest of wheat, canola, and barley.  One paddock, back a little from the roadside, is already showing golden heads, while others had beards turning gold, almost like an old man with a beard of patchy grey but certain in the knowledge that the silver of maturity is just around the corner.
 
Mingenew is a typical country town of Western Australia; a main street that has a post office, a bakery, a small supermarket that sells not only groceries, but magazines, newspapers, books, and fruit and vegetables.  Two or three blocks of streets run back from the main street on one side, while across the road from the 'shopping centre' a parking area for cars, trucks, and caravans act as a barrier from the railway track.  A very small industrial area lies across the line.
 
Each year the sports grounds are utilised as the Expo venue, transforming football grounds, cricket pitches, and the race track into a huge showcase for  produce and machinery.  Spraying and harvesting machinery tower above the human population effectively resembling a monstrous machine from an alien planet dominating the landscape.  Small children, and older males clamber over these farming equipment; the children in wonderment and the older males no doubt wondering if the bank would see its way clear to finance one of these essential-to-the-croppers business machines.
 
Pens of sheep and alpacas capture the attention of all ... merino sheep with wrinkly faces and horns stood next to the dorper whose 'fleece' doesn't need shearing, but instead falls off leaving a coat that looks all the world like hair ... the owner had a sample of the fleece that I was encouraged to feel ... not at all like the wool that I knit into cardigans!  The dorper sheep are breed for their carcass, not fleece.
Alpacas

Dorpers

 Wrinkly faced Merino
A row of small open tents showed a variety of goods ... leather belts, sun hats, jewellery, garden ornaments, a children's farmyard zoo where children were offered the treat of feeding the animals.  One white and tan goat had down to a fine art how to manage to get a taste of all food on offer! 
 
There were caravans to look through, not as luxurious, but able to go off the tarseal, camper trailers, delightful outdoor furniture [one outdoor bench had space to store cushions etc in inclement weather], political parties politicised, insurance companies made dubious promises, farm agents and land agents sat in their space drinking tea chatting clearly delighting in their day at the Expo, and a little train gave rides to young and old alike.
 
My favourite place was the big tent that had stalls within.  I bought some Salvation Jane honey, the nearest I can find in Australia to New Zealand clover honey which is my all time favourite.  There were wine stalls, a barber cutting hair, the CWA stall where I purchased a slab of diabetic fruit cake and it is every bit as scrumptious as the non-diabetic type with the added bonus of being healthier!  Schools vied with each other for the attention of Outback parents whose children need to go to the city to boarding school to finish their education, while Morawa Agriculture College had an excellent display of metal work completed by their students.
 
The Mingenew Expo has something for townies and country folk and each year I discover a new exhibit.
 
The day wound up with an unexpected surprise.  Once home a coffee was essential!  I was sitting quietly in my chair when an unusual noise attracted my attention.  I crept to the door, and there I found a blue tongue lizard trying to extract the last dregs from a beer can! 
An alcoholic in the making?

Dave filled a plate with water ... we truly do not want an alcoholic lizard around the place!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strawberries

Delicious, lucsious, new season strawberries are now in the supermarkets and on sale at the markets.  No matter what time of year strawberries are a treat, but the first of the season seem to be sweeter and tastier.

Last weekend I picked up a punnet of strawberries grown in a market garden in the northern suburbs of Perth with no clear idea of how I would present them.  Further along the aisles a jam roll pushed its cheeky nose towards my shopping basket, its jammy smile enticing me to buy.  Mmmmm ... jam roll and strawberries.  I could hear a trifle calling.  Next stop, the dairy for a packet of whipping cream and with its inclusion I had all the ingredients for a trifle [custard out of a packet ... cheaper, and just as tasty as home made, and certainly one less messy pot to wash ... is always in the pantry].  That trifle lasted three dinners, though had we not 'partaken' of some for an early morning tea on Sunday, it may have lasted four.  However, if one is to be decadent, we might as well go the whole hog!

As I washed the cut glass dish, essential for a trifle, strange thoughts flitted in and out of my mind.

Puddings!  Puddings that I ate as a child; those puddings today would be considered uninteresting, boring even, but to small children of the 50's they were puddings fit for a king; nourishing and full of energy filling goodness.

My favourite was macaroni custard, which consisted of cooked [al dente] macaroni tubes added to a good pint of milk into which two eggs were added, and small dollops of butter placed on top.  The butter helped to form a brown skin that was eagerly fought over by my brother and I.  Rice pudding, made in a similar way somehow didn't rate as highly.

Then there was apple pie, the one that my Aunty Clarice perfected.  The shortcrust was delectable ... oh dear, my mouth is watering at the thought!  When it came my turn to be cook to my own family I preferred its simpler cousin, apple crumble.  No shortcrust to roll out as with a large family time was of the essence.  I used to add a sprinkle of nutmeg, or cinnamon to the apples.

There were chocolate steamed puddings, golden syrup dumplings that were guaranteed to add inches to the waistline.  Back in those days we simply worked the extra calories [that we had never heard of] off.  There was a quick, but very scrumptious and ever so easy to make, pineapple upside down pudding made in the frying pan.  Its cooking time was usually as long as it took to eat the main course.

Today families seldom eat puddings.  What a shame!  Spotted dick, jam roly poly, or apple roly poly, coconut tart, all made regular appearances on the dinner table.  In summer when fruit was available from the garden we had rhubarb crumble, or a favourite with my youngest son when just a toddler, stewed rhubarb set in a raspberry jelly; or gooseberries and custard, plums and custard, or any in-season fruit and custard. 

At Christmas my Mum always made a plum pudding, boiling it for what seemed forever, and sometimes a brandy sauce as a special addition. 

That simply made trifle brought back so many memories of meals that were all home cooked from home-grown produce.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spring is in the air

Although August is still officially the last month of winter in my eyes it has all the hallmarks of spring; the birds are tweeting their love from the branches, flowers have emerged amongst the verdant green of the luxuriant weed growth replacing the dry barren brown of summer and autumn, and the wattle is in bloom.  Wattle, or acacia as it is 'officially known', has many species abundant in Australia. 

In my childhood my aunt, who lived over the country road, had a huge wattle tree that was a picture of yellow in spring.  My one attempt to bring a small branch indoors was met with the rebuff, "Don't bring wattle inside, it brings bad luck!"  In my maturer years I believe that the bad luck was asthma or hayfever that some members of my family suffer from.  Wattle never affected me!  Today I have a small branch indoors bringing a touch of sunshine into the room. 

As the rainfall in the mid-west has been amply sufficient for the farmers' crops, it has brought added benefits to the area.  A wild-flower season exceeding all expectations.  While we do not have many wild flowers, such as orchids or wreath flowers, or even paper daisies in the vicinity, we do have a yellow flower closely resembling the dandelion family, but which at the moment has created a virtual yellow carpet brightening the paddocks and creating a feeling of well-being to us humans.
One wattle tree that suffered what was meant to be a debilitating pruning only caused it to flower more prolifically in its chosen spot at the base of a white-barked gum tree; a picture that only nature can paint. 
Today the sun is shining brightly, there is a warmth in the air only present in spring; a promise of warm weather but not a threat of stifling heat, and although the ants are busily mounding up their doorways in anticipation of rain, today is a day to better no other.  It is indeed great to be alive in the mid-west of Australia.

It is easy to see why the national colours of Australia are green and gold!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Countdown

'Tis pendantry to estimate nations by the census, or by square miles of land, or other than by their importance to the mind of the time" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Today is Census Day in Australia; the day when the population is counted, when the number of bedrooms in each home is recorded, numbers living in each residence, their occupation, and a myriad of other questions that are designed to help the nation decide where money needs spending in the future.

All this is information is statistical ... and of small importance to those filling in the 18 page questionaire.  The final question asks if each person present in the household on this day is willing to have their information kept in the National Archives of Australia and made available after 99 years; this is for tracing ancestors.

As like most our form will be filled in this evening. 

This five-yearly count of the population etc is interesting to the individial if they take a few moments to consider how their lives have altered over the past five years.  Where were we five years ago?  Where have we been in the intervening time?

Today many move from place to place, unlike many in days of yore who were born, lived and died in the one town or area.  We are more mobile today than in the past, and each place where we have resided leaves a different footprint on our minds. 

The last census occured days after I arrived in Australia to begin a new phase of life.  Soon after I moved north to a job in a town I had never heard off; in a climate much warmer than experienced before.  I adjusted and settled into a lifestyle so remote from that ever experienced before.  Life is a series of experiences that make a person whom they are. 

Now retired I live to the south of that Outback town, but still enjoy the simpler lifestyle of the country.  All those little things I had put off 'for when I am older' are now important parts of my daily existence.  Apart from the heat of summer, the flies, the endless procession of flies, the ants that abound in summer, this new life suits me fine.

I wonder where I will be for the next Census?  What adventures will I undertake in the next five years? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time Out

Everyone needs time out from their day to day tasks, even those of us lucky enough to be 'retired', but not tired.  A recent invitation to house/dog sit in the Big Smoke was accepted, not only for the change of scenery but also for the chance of a nosey around city shops that do surpass those in our regional northern city.

We left home on a grey morning, the threat of rain following us south.  Living in a farming region we appreciate the need for rain, and to give it its due the landscape is a glorious green so restful for the eyes and soul.  However a small part of our pysche would have liked sunshine, if only for a day.  It was not to be.  Rain fell every day and tried its darndest to dampen our enthusiasm for enjoying the break away.

Shops are fun ... for a couple of days.  Then there is no reason to venture into crowded malls where busy shoppers rush from one shop to another, yet seldom carry many parcels.  Except me!  Not to worry, I now have a couple of rather beautiful new-season's apparel that will see me through at least two summers. 

One day we drove from the outer suburbs south; visiting my daughter.  The day did dawn sunny and we headed south light in spirit.  The further south we went the darker the sky became; huge grey clouds crowded the sky pressing their weight of raindrops against the skyscrapers and the cranes perched precariously on their half-completed tops.  It was difficult to make out the workmen up there!  They looked like ants as they hurried and scurried around the rooftop moving whatever the huge piece of concrete that had been carefully manipulated into place in the sky.

A quick walk with the dog, and it was off to my daughter's for tea.  The threatening sky darkened even more; lightning pierced the sky and the thunder echoed over the Swan River, whose ruffled waters showed a hidden side from the peace and tranquility of a sunny day.  Weather warnings were broadcast over the radio and TV; batten down for a storm!  Not wishing to be caught in the onslaught we made a hurried exit and drove up the motorway in the hope we would out-run the rain.  We did ... almost, but arrived back safe and sound.

Rain and thunder and lightning accompanied by strong winds continued for the next two days ... it did not matter as we had purchased a couple of videos and commonsense being the better part of valour, stayed indoors.

Travelling home I had intended stopping to take photos, but, the weather was unsettled.  Instead I clicked as we drove and did manage to capture quite a good photo of the lime sands that are exceedingly spectacular when the sun shines.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why??

I have just finished reading "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking; a book I began months ago, put down as the complicated language floated before my uncomprehending eyes.  But this book was on loan from my son, and I deemed it time to return it. 

Of course there were zillions of facts, or theories [at what stage does a theory become a fact?] espoused on those pages; scientific words dotted the pages like a tagger's tags on a blank wall; questions asked and not answered did little to enlighten my mind. 

My son has read this book at least half a dozen times, and he being of a more scientific and mathematical leaning than I, confessed that one must read it over and over for the information to sink in.  Maybe I will re-read it again some time in the future, but then again, maybe not.  Because the main question this book raised in my mind was WHY? 

Why do we suppose that by KNOWING how the Universe began our lives will be altered, for better or worse?

Why does it matter what lies beyond the moon?  Or indeed, does it really matter what lies on the moon?

I know mankind has an insatiable hunger for knowledge, but sometimes I wonder how this knowledge affects the 'ordinary man and woman' of planet Earth.  I wonder why some folk spend a lifetime sitting at a computer [today] or scribbling figures on endless sheets of paper [in the past] to work out an equation that so often in another ten years proves to be nothing more than a walk down the garden path of 'I grew the wrong plant!  Cacti do not like cold wet climates ... I should have grown weeds.'

As I read all those words that I had absolutely no idea of their meaning it crossed my mind that if as much time and effort, and dare I say it money, were spent on working on the many problems facing the Earth today ... WHY some folks are discrimated against, WHY so many go hungry,WHY a few own 90% of the Earth's assets, or rather use those assets to their own selfish advantage, then perhaps this planet on which we live at this moment, might be more joyous, and our relationships with each other a glue that keeps us bound together in making the Earth a better place to live NOW.

Of course we should continue to ask questions ... why, why, why!  Why of course, to further our knowledge.  However I contend some knowledge is of more universal use than some other.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A sewing project completed

The quilt and matching cushions I began not that long ago are now finished. 

For further details click onto this
 http://shirlwin.blogspot.com/2011/07/quilt-and-matching-cushions.html 
where more will be revealed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Remembering

"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us."  ~ Oscar Wilde

I have been told that as we mature we tend to spend more time in the past!  Not sure if that is 100% accurate, but then again ...

At lunch as we were munching on a malt biscuit with our coffee I suddenly recalled the days of my childhood when we were dished up a spoonful of malt extract [Maltexo I think was the trade name] to help us through the winter.  Malt was not too bad, if a trifle sticky if the spoon was slightly off course and malt met the face. 

My brother also had cod-liver oil pills ... not me!  I had one once, crunched on it and Yuk!  Not nice at all, and a good enough reason to refuse it ever after.

Then there were warm clothes in winter.  I recall an undergarment, worn over a singlet, called a bodice.  It was white, sleeveless, fleecy if I recall correctly, and had funny buttons down the front.  The texture of the buttons was sort of soft and pliable, but as this was last century I have no idea of their make-up. 

Some of our classrooms were older than the new block which had heaters around the walls.  The old block had pot belly stoves that belched smoke and ash especially just after they were 'fed' with coal.  All children had to drink a small bottle of milk that in winter, was placed near the pot belly stove ... to take the chill of it!  Another Yuk!  [Though I will admit that expressive word didn't occur in our vocabulary way back then!]  Thankfully we lived on a farmlet and had our own cows.  With a great sense of relief I persuaded my Mum to write a note excusing me from school milk.  The only good thing about school milk were the cardboard tops to the bottles, which made excellent bases for pom poms.  No doubt 'town milk bottles' had the same cardboard.

Now we have centrally heated schools, children seldom wear more than three layers of clothing, and as for malt ... I have a feeling they only know it through malt biscuits.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Roygbiv

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”

A science teacher told the tale of a race horse named Roygbiv that was named after the colours of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, recommending the name of the racehorse would help us in exams.  I am not sure that we were ever required to name the colours of the rainbow but questions about refraction of light and other associated questions were asked.

This morning, while outdoors scratching the remains of the porridge pot as a bird breakfast with a darkening sky I glanced upwards to see a glorious rainbow.  A photo opportunity!  Then rainbow enveloped the western sky, like a protective duvet on a cold damp morning. 

Rainbows are a marvel that never fail to attract my attention, and the science lesson about refraction of light etc did nothing to diminish the beauty of 'roygbiv', one of a natural wonder of the world.  Dream a dream whilst looking upwards dreams can be as fleeting as the rainbow, but like a rainbow their return may prompt us into action.

As for the race horse story ... I am left wondering if the horse was rainbow coloured, or the jockey's attire rainbow coloured, or perhaps more prosaically nothing more than a gimmick name. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My House

My house is small
No mansion for a millionaire
But there is room for love
and there is room for friends
Thats all I care.

Often it is the small things of life that tell a tale, or give a message worth taking on board our busy lives.  Yesterday I made a small, yet quite magnificent, purchase.  A delightful miniature blue and white  plate priced at the princely sum of 20cents.


I brought it home not knowing quite where it would be displayed as our walls are not suitable for banging in a picture hook.  I didn't let such a small fact worry me!

In the end, after a little deliberation, inspiration struck.  Two pieces of thick double-sided tape, one on top of the other, gave the depth required for this tiny plate to adhere to a cupboard door, where it's inscription can be read easily.

A cottage with a cobbled path leading to the front door, smoke drifting lazily from a tall chimney is surrounded by a wreath of roses and what could be forget-me-knots; the personification of a country cottage where a warm welcome awaits, while the centre is inscribed with the verse [above]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A whole lot of shaking going on

In February, just before my long scheduled trip to my homeland of New Zealand, Christchurch suffered a devasting earthquake.  My second eldest son lives in Christchurch and I spent a few days with him.
 
Once upon a time Christchurch was a beautiful city with delightful gardens reminscent of England ... Canterbury, of which Christchurch is the main city, was settled by the English.  They built a city to remind them of home.  The River Avon meandered gently through the city, parks and public gardens a restful green, while gardens around many homes grew roses and daffodils, violets and marigolds; a kaleidoscope of colour on a green canvas.

My trip back in February was sad.  The city that once boasted beauty had fallen apart at the seams.  Public buildings, churches, private homes, streets and parks were close to ruination at the hands of an earthquake.

The street past my son's home was dusty with liquefaction that residents had piled up, like a child's sandcastle on the beach, except many times larger, in readiness for the Council to cart it away before it too turned to dust and polluted the suburbs.  The corner shop had a hole in the wall, but the shelves were stocked in a fashion as many were buying essentials.  That shop has since been demolished ~ it was rendered unsafe, but building is in the offing ... or so my son reported only a month ago.

Then on Monday the earth began to shake again.  Only three months from the previous quake, they were once again threatened with circumstances that are becoming difficult to comprehend.  I heard the radio news report, and later telephoned my son ... he had been at work when the two largest shakes occurred.  He was OK, his kitchen floor resembled a war zone with food that slid from the refrigerator all over the place, and dishes from the cupboard slipped downwards.  A TV fell from its shelf breaking a chest of drawers in the process.  The TV in the lounge fell over, but once righted went; electricity was on; water was a dribble. 

How much longer can the ordinary people who live in Christchurch carry on their everyday lives when the ground beneath them trembles by the hour? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Winter Green

Most folk would consider winter to be a time for the blues; not me.  Here in the mid-west, after welcome rain, the countryside is green; crops are beginning to appear bringing life to what was only weeks ago a desolate place.

Yesterday we headed to the nearest city for a little grocery shopping.  We do have a small supermarket in our nearest town, but the choice is limited and prices higher.  Taking into account the cost of fuel, which has dropped [!!!] in the last few days, of course it would be cheaper to shop in town.  But ... the city has added enticements.

As you may be aware I have recently taken up stitching; a pastime I had hankered for over a long period, but raising children dampened any enthusiasm ... there were always other essentials to be sewn ~ [pyjamas when the children were young, clothes for my school-age daughter, though thankfully this was before the time when 'labelled fashion garments were required, and bags to carry swimming togs or Cub, Scout or Brownie books].  Now I have the time, and the inclination.

It could be said I have become almost addicted to collecting pieces of fabric.  All for a good cause I hasten to add!  In my humble opinion stitching is a perfectly reasonable pastime, and one that does have worthwhile end results.

Invariably when we visit the city I take a quick visit [half an hour as against a long visit, which could be up to an hour and a half ... I have learned to make a selection quicker] to my favourite fabric shop.  As I needed yellows for a swap I am in yellow fabrics were my first choice.  Having a rather delightful piece of green I decided to make a quilt for my son who lives where it is cooler ... three more colours were required for the design I have in mind.  I purchased three one-metre lengths that should fit the bill.  In fact if I were being absolutely honest, I should be cutting them out now ... but ... later.

The mix of fabrics for this project? 
 I hope my son considers them suitably manly.  Oh the project?  A post and rail quilt, or as some say, a rail quilt.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You can use its coat for knitting

Every once in a while the mind throws a blank as to a suitable blogging topic, and equally every so often a topic is tossed into one's lap; a gift of immense proportions.  Today was one such day.

Visiting around Blogland memories of the past were stirred into action.  Pets and childhood!  I guess many children have a kitten or puppy, or a guinea pig as a pet.  I had pet lambs.  One was terribly spoiled and even in her older age, a dignified mother of frisking and frolicking lambs she stayed close to the house, no doubt remembering the joyful days of her youth. 

My Dad owned a small farmlet, almost 30 acres in all.  In the beginning we had cows, but 'regulations' were tightened making it uneconomical to milk cows in a shed that wasn't up to hospital hygiene standards.  We went into sheep, that were imminently better than cows.  Cows, especially if poked through the yard fence by long sticks by my brother, tended to the wild side.  I, a quiet little girl, knew better than to tease milking cows ... or any cows in fact.

Going into sheep often meant pet lambs, and although my Dad sometimes took the coat from the still-born lamb and put it on a motherless lamb, more often than not we could persuade him that a motherless lamb would be better off as a pet.  Pet lambs were given preferential treatment.

My pet lamb of some reknown, was Frisky.  However Frisky somehow didn't sound 'just right'.  I altered it to Frisco, which gave her a aura of movieland [well San Francisco is in California as is Hollywood].  Frisco was bottle fed, several times a day; several times a day more than absolutely necessary to sustain life; she became rotund. 

On a good day she would deign to be dressed in doll's clothes, to be sat upon my knee for her bottle feed.  Please remember, dear reader, I would have been all of ten years of age; a mother in the making.  When one doesn't have small brothers or sisters, a lamb is a substitute!

Frisco had several saving graces; the main one she was an excellent lead sheep.  We dipped our sheep down the road at the neighbours, and while Frisco had to be enticed, and often placed in the boot of the car [my Dad, for some unknown reason, objected to her riding in the car, but I am positive she would have enjoyed the novelty of motor travel with a view] she was in her own coming home.  Once out of the dip she headed for the road, and as though running a marathon, headed for home.

Sheep being sheep, the rest followed like sheep.

The result of having the privilege of possessing pet lambs has given me a soft spot for sheep all my life.  When I knit I insist on pure wool ... none of this artificial acrylic stuff!  Long live the Sheep!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"With this ring ..."

Jack was ev'ry inch a sailor,
Five and twenty years a whaler,
Jack was ev'ry inch a sailor,
He was born upon the bright blue sea
.

This morning, when in the process of tidying away a few of my plastic boxes [full of fabric, wool, and other items that may be useful one day] My Other Half found a treasure he had forgotten about.  It could be true to say that we both tend to keep items for future use ... though I will admit his addiction is stronger than mine!

A grey milk crate, those most useful of items, was found in a corner.  In it were several L.P. records.  Luckily we haven't progressed into the modern world that much that we don't own a suitable player.  The radio is not only a radio, but plays C.D's, and records ... the vinyl type ... do you remember them?

I recall, with clarity, summer holidays at the beach spent in the Family Crib [the modern word for this is a Holiday Bach, or Holiday Home; depending upon where one was born and raised ... Crib does appear to be  used solely in the southern South Island, New Zealand], where not long after my arrival I would haul the old gramophone out to the passage-way at the front door, choose my record [usually Jack was Every Inch a Sailor], and wind the handle as the music belted out, surging across the dusty road, over the river, across to the other side.  The gramaphone must have been elderly then, but the concept of music of my own choice was wonderful.

Back to this morning ... One of the records was Hank Snow, a country musician of the past.  At lunch time we switched off the radio, My Other Half placed the vinyl on the turntable, and Hank Snow filled the room.  Many of the songs were familiar; one, "With this Ring I Thee Wed" I knew 90% of the words, and as my singing voice is not one of my greatest assets, his nasal rendition blended well with my warbling.

We did wonder how the modern miss or mister would accept Hank Snow!  I commented, between warbling, that I knew the words.  How did I know them?  Because when I first heard the song way back last century the words were the main part, sung clearly and not drowned out with music.  

Soon these relics of the past will be museum pieces; folks will query what they are. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hip hip Hooray!

After days of folks informing me they are unable to reply to my postings I have indulged in a little detective work ... I have solved the problem.  A Hip Hip Hooray Day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Busy Sunday

It appears that Blogger is still experiencing problems!  After signing in I go straight to the dashboard, but should I try to view my blog ... I need to sign in!!  After already doing that.  Ah well ... at least I can post.

The weather is supposed to pack up, which for farmers means it will improve giving much needed rain to aid germination of their crops.  To the rest of us, a little rain is welcome; a storm we can do without.  Though often a forecast storm fails to eventuate.

This morning The Other Half and I had a working bee.  I have been promising myself to tackle the litter for days, and with the prospect of strong winds, decided today might be the day.  Gum trees are native to Australia; the perfume of eucalypt permeates the countryside.  Gums grow to the left of us; gum trees grow to the right of us; they grow above us, and their falling leaves litter the ground.  They give a welcome shade in the heat of summer, but those leaves on the ground!!  They create a constant task of clearing, of raking up, and disposing off on the soon-to-be bonfire.

I raked and wheelbarrowed in my red wheelbarrow, ten loads of bark and leaves.



The Other Half added to the ever increasing woodstack.  A chain saw is essential to reduce to firewood the fallen limbs, from the aforesaid gums ... they tend to fall over in a strong wind, especially if that wind is followed by rain.  Every fallen branch is dragged to the wood cutting area, and gradually it finds itself cut into manageable sizes for winter warmth.  Once cut the smaller pieces are tossed onto a pile, while the larger pieces, those that will burn for a hour or two, are carefully stacked onto the base of what was originally a bed

Let winter arrive!  We are ready.