Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Simple but pretty

When I first came to the mid-west the sand that passed as soil astounded me.  In N.Z. I had been used to fertile soil that grew wonderful vegetables and flowers, if one planted plants that like a cooler climate. 
My first foray into making a flower garden here was an abject failure.  Plants purchased failed during the long hot dry summer.  We obtain our water from a bore, admittedly it has good water, but needs to be pumped [by electricity] to a holding tank.  Watering flowers seemed an expensive waste of water.
The following year I purchased more plants; another failure.  When 'moaning' about my lack of gardening abilities in the local newsagents I was surprised to hear that this was a common complaint.  The only way was to plant flowers that needed little water and could withstand weeks of temperatures in the high 30's to low 40's.  Lesson learned!
Next year I purchased a packet of nasturtium seed; planted a couple of the old fashioned geranium that grows anywhere, and was the lucky recipient of a rosemary bush and an agave.  These form the backbone of my 'garden' such as it is.  Vegetables are cheaper bought at the supermarket.
Each year in winter I plant a few seedlings ... petunias, pansies that sometimes do well and sometimes do not, stock that invariably is a single stock despite the punnet assuring they are doubles.
The nasturtiums from that initial planting seed year after year and make a colourful display; needing no attention and thriving with the occasional rain storm.
I love their brightness, their adaptability, and the ability to grow year after year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kookaburra in the old gum tree

Australia has more gum trees than I care to count; I would hazard a guess that no-one has counted them all.  We have gum trees sheltering us.   Their falling leaves are another story ... I have the self-appointed task of raking them up and transferring them to a bonfire.
Two days ago I heard willy-wagtails creating a raucous.  Willy-wagtails are a small bird with a huge inbuilt survival kit.  Spring is when they nest; spring is when they chase any bird that looks like attacking their young; spring is the time they dive-bomb humans who venture too close to the nest.  A willy-wagtail making a dive at one's head is not funny!
Wondering what was worrying the wagtails I peered into the old gum tree.  Three wagtails were flying in close formation around the head of a lone kookaburra.  Give Mr Kookaburra his due, he ignored the onslaught!  My sudden appearance decided the wagtails the battle they were waging was not worth the effort and they flew away, which made me wonder if this was simply a learning curve designed to teach the young how to protect themselves.
I hurried indoors and managed to take a photo of the kookaburra who sat undisturbed on an overhanging branch.
The wagtails did have a case re the attack as I believe kookaburras are not against raiding the nest of a wagtail

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Food or Fodder?

This morning I read an article about kale, the latest wonder food.  It was written with tongue firmly in cheek and resonated with me.
I have noticed how many folk are talking about kale ... that leafy green plant  I thought was grown for cattle fodder.  Not that my Dad grew it; instead he grew its close relation [well I think it is a close relation] chowmollier which smelt a lot like cabbage.  It also looked a little like cabbage but with an extremely long stalk.  
Chowmollier was planted as a winter fodder crop for cattle and sheep, along with swede turnips that played an important part in my childhood diet as a table vegetable mashed and sweetened with a little sugar; or plucked directly from the ground, the mud cut off with a pocket knife that fathers and brothers invariably carried in pockets, was a firm winter favourite.  Sadly swede turnips in Australia are a poor relation to their New Zealand cousins.  It was always said that a swede turnip was no good until after the first decent frost; frosts are not commonplace in this part of Australia.
Upon reading the article it struck me how vegetables come and go in favouritism.  I remember spring cabbages that were leafy and green [no doubt in the same class as kale for goodness] whereas today supermarkets favour pale insipid looking cabbage, often cut in half and wrapped in cling foil.

I think I will give kale a miss and look forward to whatever is the 'in vegetable' in future.   I hope it isn't mushrooms!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A trip south

Last week we headed down to Perth, mainly for a break away before the heat of summer arrives, with a secondary reason being I needed summer clothes.  Honestly I do need new clothes!  Last summer I wore skirts and tops; not a great idea as the extra fabric at the waist only makes me swelter all the more.  Loose fitting dresses seemed a better alternative.
We do not have a movie theatre in our town; a trip to the movies added to the pleasure of a week in the city, not forgetting visits from and to family.  All in all a lovely break away.
Coming home we stopped at a little parking bay for a cup of coffee [a flask of boiling water and a couple of coffee sachets along with biscuits are essential for a four hour trip].  The photos were taken from there.  You may be able to make out wind turbines in the distance in one of the photos.  Turbines are commonplace especially near to the ocean [Indian Ocean in this case] where the wind is no stranger.
picnic shelter
bushland with turbines in distance
bushland next to picnic shelter

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mellow Yellow

Remember the song, Mellow Yellow?  Last week as we drove around the area it became obvious that the theme for this time of year could be Mellow Yellow.
Spring in the mid-west means the countryside is ablaze with crops reaching towards the sky as they grow and ripen, often inter-mingled with verges of wild flowers.
The canola makes a yellow splash on the sky-line ... surely a happier sight one can hardly imagine.
While the sky appears threatening no rain eventuated from those grey clouds.  A week later still no rain has fallen and the land is fast becoming parched.  Those splendid looking crops need rain or they will fail.  Yesterday the temperatures reached 30°, today they will be not far behind.  Farmers are becoming anxious.


Monday, July 28, 2014

No to Scams!

Once upon a time I received money in an envelope; it was called my pay.  Straight away I headed to the bank and deposited a hefty proportion of that pay packet, saving some for board [I lived at home with my parents and board was expected back in those days], some I placed in my purse for 'sundries that may have included stockings [yes, before pantihose!  and nowhere near as easy to wear as pantihose], going to the movies, and perhaps a look at the sales.
Later when married for some time my husband was paid with money in an envelope until one day he was requested to give his bank account number to the company as thenceforth pays would be direct debited.  Instead of putting money in the bank we were encouraged to take it out!
Time moves forward.  Plastic cards almost took the place of money.  Herein lies my tale.
Yes, cards are easy to use; easy to spend with, which I suspect is more than half the reason the banks like them as if anyone is not careful enough to keep within their bank balance a loan [with interest] might be required from the bank.  Banks have become Big Business!
Fortunately I had a good grounding in keeping hold of money.  I now have a debit card which I will admit is invaluable in spending 'on line'.  Oh so very easy to log in, search for a fabric [as most of my sundry spending these days is on fabric to cater for my addiction of stitching and patchwork], type on the card number, if they don't use PayPal, and wait for a parcel to arrive in the post.
Recently my debit card was updated.  I did not request it be updated to a 'wave by' [or some similar foolish name] card.  In fact one of my first forays into the shops, a little bakery that sells quite delicious decadent cakes, I was asked if my card was one of these 'wave bys'.  I must have looked quite blank.  The shop assistant grabbed my card, waved it above a machine, and before I knew what had happened the transaction was complete.
On my way home, some time later, it suddenly occurred to me ... what if my handbag/purse was snatched?!!  In some places it is quite common [sad what some humans have descended into isn't it!?]  Since then I have insisted I insert my card into the machine and put in my PIN. 
Whilst at the newsagents last week my eye was taken by a stand displaying metal 'card holders'.  I asked why metal.  The reply was that they are meant to stop folk who have a scanner from scanning a card whilst it is in a handbag/purse/wallet/pocket and spending money that does not belong to them.  I bought a pretty pink one!!

Some days I wish we had money to spend!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The kangaroo family/mob [had to look up the collective noun for these animals!] have once again been grazing on the green grass across the road.  I grabbed the camera, which does not have telescopic lens ... unfortunately ... but I did wind the view finder to its best view, sneaked across the road trying to walk quietly on the gravel.  My quarry was in sight!  However he [or she] had excellent hearing and stood up listening.  I managed a couple of photos before it bounded away beyond my picture taking distance.
The best photo I cropped, but you will see the distinctive shape and colour of a  red kangaroo which are the most common in this area.

The white blobs are melons that grow wild and prolifically and over which I wage a continual war.  I must add that our place does not have melons ... they are pulled out at the 'poking head through the soil' stage!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Green, green.

Searching through my mind for a title the Tom Jones song flickered into my consciousness ... and how apt it is.

After the dryness of summer we have had rain, not just one rainfall, but several over the past weeks and a transformation has occurred.  Outside it is Green, green!  We now have a lawn which to me is rather upside-down as in New Zealand I mowed lawns in Summer, here in Western Australia I mow lawns in winter.
The photo shows the greenness ... and while it appears to be just a photo of rural Western Australia [which it is] there is a wonderful tale surrounding this scene.
Two weeks ago as I was adding more rubbish to our bin parked across the road where it waited patiently for the bin-man I heard a strange noise.  I looked and there down the neighbours' boundary fence were two kangaroos trying desperately to jump across or through the high wire that kept them from the shelter of a small bush area.  The smaller kangaroo managed.  It took several minutes of what was obviously a time of panic for the larger kangaroo to finally find a place to jump over.
I believed there were kangaroos living in that bush area to the top left of the photo. 
Last night as I sat eating my meal I noticed some brown blobs in the paddock.  Even though I had new spectacles [not as good as my old ones for distant viewing!] I wasn't certain if they were kangaroos or dead grass.  Leaving my meal I grabbed the binoculars, hurried outside for a better view.  Four kangaroos were grazing near the large gum tree.  One, a large one, must have heard me for it raised its head [and it was then I knew I was looking at kangaroos] and loped out of sight.  The others continued to graze for the best part of quarter of an hour. 
We have kangaroos nearby!!  I feel sorry for folks not living in a rural area as the sudden appearance of native animals and birds keeps one fascinated.

Friday, April 25, 2014


25th April is the day we remember those who gave their lives in war.  Ninety nine years ago the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps fought for freedom at Gallipoli; many lost their lives; many came home changed men. 
World War 11 [1939 - 1945] followed, more death and despair, the Korean War [1950 - 1953], the Vietnam War 1962 - 1975], and now the Afghanistan conflict [2001 - ] continue to take the lives of young men, leaving widows and fatherless children to lead some semblance of a normal life.  Some, too many, who come home are so seriously affected they can no longer face life; truly a great sadness.
Women left at home attempt to bring some normality to their loved ones serving abroad, and  in World War 1 a recipe for a 'good keeper' sweet treat was concocted.  The result ... Anzac biscuits, that are a firm favourite with the home-maker who bakes not only around ANZAC Day, but throughout the year.
Not having an oven I buy biscuits.  Last year ANZAC biscuits were sold in a tin; and this year I found two different tins full of these chewy biscuits in the supermarket.  I bought one which will be used as is it's last year companion, as a storage container for sweet treats.
ANZAC biscuits
120 g butter
1 tblsp golden syrup
1 cup desiccated coconut
pinch salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
2 tblsp boiling water
Sift flour and salt.  Melt butter and golden syrup on stove, dissolve baking soda in boiling water.  Mix all ingredients together, roll into balls and place on tray lined with baking paper leaving room to spread.  Bake in moderate oven 350° F 15 minutes or until golden.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


We often hear it said 'He is a person of letters' meaning he is of an intellectual persuasion. 
But ... there are those other people of letters who literally write letters regularly, to family, to friends, to acquaintances, letters of complaint, thank you letters, and letters of apology.  To me folk who put pen to paper, or in the modern idiom, fingers on keyboard and print out [which is eminently more readable in many cases] are the true people of letters.
Sadly people of letters are becoming a rarer breed.  Although the Internet offers several ways of communication much is fly-by-night; fluffy and following the thoughts of the millions of that moment.  Some, thankfully, is interesting and well worth sitting down to read and appreciate.
As a child I liked to write letters; more importantly I loved to receive letters, and it soon became evident that to receive a letter one had to first write one, or at least reply.  Aunts and Uncles became my main targets as they were as thrilled to receive my scribbles as I was to receive their replies.    Thus a lifetime of letter writing was nurtured.
When my parents departed this world I took it upon myself to become the 'family correspondent'; after all my only brother had left pen and paper behind upon completing his school days, though [said in a whisper] when he was courting he did write letters.  Those letters were composed at the kitchen table with a lot of input from myself and our parents.  To this day I am sure the recipient was not aware of how public his letters were. 
Elderly relatives died and my list of correspondents faltered.
Then I discovered pen-pals!  People from across the ocean wishing to correspond with folk of like minds.  By this stage a portable typewriter became my main tool of keeping in touch, and on a Saturday afternoon with the children either in bed, or at the swimming pool, and husband occupied in his shed, or in the garden, the kitchen table took on the appearance of an office.  The number of pen-pals altered as other activities captured their attention more than writing. 
Many of those letters had small booklets enclosed and these little treasures held the names and addresses of other pen-pals wanting to increase their circle of friends.  Fun!  Did I want a pal in this particular country or would I prefer one there?  All the time the cost of stamps was kept forefront; after all the grocery money had to be adjusted to fit in overseas postage.
Letters passed to and fro; photos of children; snippets of a life lived in another country added to the tapestry of my life.
Time marches on; the Internet arrived, and slowly, one by one many of those letter writers fell by the wayside and emails were exchanged.  Emails that were jokes, or fripperies; not letters that could be read and re-read.
But, some of us keep up the old tradition of letter writing [or letter typing and printing out, complete with photos] and today I have just written two such letters.  Page upon page of what I hope the recipient at the other end will find interesting. 
I do wonder how, in say 100 years, people will communicate?  Will mail be delivered into mailboxes?  Will pen and paper, or typewriter and printer be  normal, or will everyone send a text ... minus the vowels?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Old is new is old

Most mornings I read the free on-line headlines in the newspaper that was once my daily newspaper, The Otago Daily Times, as I like to keep up with what is happening 'at home'.
This morning's smaller headline spread a smile on my face.  From the article I gleaned that knitting is making a comeback in Otago where I hasten to add, wool is the most suitable fibre for winter wear.  In my 'mother' days I knitted; kept five children in knitted jerseys, and when the need arose knitted for myself and my husband.  Knitting was what I did at night with one eye on the television; knitting occupied any spare moment during the day, and a wool shop was a goldmine. 
Upon my departure to Australia and needing to keep the number of 'things' I brought with me, taking into account where I might live and how much space I may have, and just how much of my decades of accumulation were important enough to transport. High on the list, in fact very high on my list, were knitting needles. 
 Over the years my collection of knitting needles had grown ... bamboo ones [wasn't too keen on them as the action of knitting split the bamboo leaving me feeling as though I had swallowed a fly]; plastic needles that bent like palm trees in a storm, steel needles that pierced the eardrums as they click-clacked against each other.  My Mother did not like knitting, though she did through necessity; her reason being the click clack, click clack.  My favourite needles were, and still are, plastic coated steel lined.  Soft gentle click clacking, and they come in pretty colours.
I have a collection of knitting wool that needs getting into ... unfortunately the temperature in Australia is much warmer than South Otago and the need for woollen garments less.  I do still knit, mainly for new arrivals though a cardigan half completed in a bag will be finished and worn ... next year perhaps?
 The newspaper article reminded me of the hours I had spent knitting as I pondered upon the thought that knitting is almost a pastime of the past.  Perhaps knitting will show a resurgence, and once again women will pick up the needles, knit something they can wear, and feel rather pleased with the result.
Oh ... it isn't just women who knit.  My bachelor uncle who was a keen cricketer and bowler [indoor and out] knitted jumpers for the cooler days when he played sport.  It was he who showed me a great way to cast on, a method I use to this day.

Deep down I hope knitting, and other skills from last century, will once again be taken up, and fashion is once again dictated by those who put time and effort and their own particular stamp on a design.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beautiful Iris

Much of my life I lived in complete ignorance of Garage Sales; that changed when I moved into my present home.  Significant Other is an avid Garage Sale viewer and slowly this harmless addiction has crept into my psyche.  One need not always purchase!  One should always look ... and common sense should always prevail.
Saturday mornings see us driving into town armed with The Rag, our local once-a-week newspaper, advertising when and where that day's garage sale can be found.
Many of the folk who regularly seek out garage sales are the same week to week; a kind of camaraderie exists, though there are a few who have their eye only on bargains.
Yesterday was a diamond day; well an Iris day.  The goods were spaciously laid out and there in the middle of a table sat a gorgeous Iris article.  From the distance I assumed [wrongly! one should never assume as a tutor once told me, to assume makes an ass out of u and me] this delectable looking article was pottery.  The price would probably be more than what I had in my purse.  But ... luck was on my side!  This tin, with a lid, was in perfect condition and became mine for the princely sum of 50c.  Now that is a great bargain.  You may wonder how I will use it ... I am not sure, but never worry; I will find a use, and a space for it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


When living in New Zealand melons were considered exotic [by our family at least ... they were expensive and therefore never appeared on our menu].  You can imagine my utter surprise when whilst exploring an old mining site at Lake Austin, [Western Goldfields, Western Australia] I noticed melons growing, their spreading tendrils offering ripe fruit for the wild life. 

As I exclaimed and oohed and aahed, taking photos to record this wondrous discovery, my companion proffered the news that these melons were nothing more than weeds.  Stunned as I was, that did persuade me to seek other opinions ... all answers were the same; these melons were Paddy melons and not even suitable for jam.
I will never forget my excitement at my first sighting though!
Back at the hotel, where I worked, we were short of fruit for 'the boys' lunches.  The Boss suggested melons.  Where did one purchase melons when one lived in a small Outback town with one general store?
The Boss replied, "From the garden!"
Did we have a garden?  Where was it?  I had lived there for several months and to the best of my knowledge there was no garden.  The Boss went outside and brought in a huge water-melon!!  I will not divulge its growing position, suffice to say it was well fertilised. 

There were several melons growing in the garden and were a welcome addition to the hotel's menu which suffered slightly by the unavailability of fresh fruit and vegetables as our supplies arrived once a week.
Later, as I moved south, melons once again sprung on my horizon.  Not luscious juicy water melons, but small prolific paddy melons!  Over the past several years I have pulled out, chopped off, removed all paddy melons I could find on this block.  My diligence has paid off as the melon population has dried up.
However the neighbour is not as diligent and his paddock houses a veritable crop of melons ... all very ripe and full of seeds just waiting to be dispersed to continue the cycle. 

 Because of the close proximity of the two properties it appears that some hand weeding may still be necessary when the rains come and the seeds are scattered hither by wild-life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March, and its still hot

Summer is still with us!  I was speaking to a neighbour at the weekend and she mentioned that we had not had rain since mid October.  The four or five drops we have had recently were not counted; indeed I am not sure if there were four or five drops, as they evaporated the moment they hit the ground, which is tinder dry with a covering of what resembles straw.
The gum trees are bending under the lack of moisture with many branches dragging on the ground.  For one the ground was too far down.  A stressed branch bent and cracked; two days later it succumbed to the heat and collapsed on the ground, not far from where our vehicle is often parked.  The branch was towed to the woodpile in readiness for cooler weather and the saw.
While taking the photos I could not help but hear the galah population as they call to each other in the trees.  At this time of year a favourite occupation of galahs is to strip leaves from the white-barked gum trees.  This is not an act of vandalism as in spring new growth springs from the almost naked branch.  Indeed, I would go as far to say that the galah population acts to protect the trees and ensures they spring into new growth when rain and temperature combine to provide suitable conditions.
Close to my clothes line the tawny frog mouth's take refuge from the heat, perching in the lower branches of an old tree until the heat drives them to seek a cooler spot.  Can you see the tawny frog mouth keeping cool near the base of the tree?  His camouflage is excellent.
In the meantime life continues ... politicians make political statements; bad parenting is exhorted on talk-back, cricket takes on a life of its own, and ordinary folks like us aim to keep as cool as possible.
Those residing on other parts of this planet pray for less rain, less snow, less wind ... summer is on their minds.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Black lizard

Living in the country brings many creatures close to our doorstep; creatures that those dwelling in cities may never sight.
Last year Other Half called me outdoors.  I hurried but too late; the lizard he had spied on the lower branch of a gum tree had hidden, where we were not sure, but certainly away from human eyes.  We have lizards around; in late spring and early summer blue tongue lizards treat our space as their space, and before Christmas a junior blue tongue appeared regularly in the kitchen for a treat ... he [I am calling this lizard a he as it showed no fear] loved canned peaches, would eat pears, but disliked pineapple leaving it on the piece of cardboard that served as a plate, until ants found it.  After the first time when a column of ants descended, marching like troops into battle, in search of the sweet smelling fruit I made certain the cardboard plate was removed.  Who wants ants in the kitchen?
Moments ago, as I headed out the door I was startled by a sudden black movement.  I looked!!  There, scuttling as fast as he could go towards the power pole, and safety, was a very long tailed black lizard.  And yes there was a photo opportunity.
You can see the end of its tail at the bottom of the photo. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Year

Today is Australia Day, which means January is all but over.  While it arrived calmly in lovely weather, the last couple of weeks have shown us that the sun's rays are indeed warming.  We bask roast in temperatures in the 40's when any type of outside work is a no-no.  We have had one day when the temperature indoors reached 46°, several when it hovered around 45°, and many more when just above 40° was normal.  Needless to say sleep is fitful, what seems gallons of water are consumed just to see it ooze from the pores and settle as a dampness on all parts of the body.  Clothes are dripping wet, two showers a day essential ... and to say that I am looking forward to March would be an understatement!
But this Australia Day is a milestone day in the life of my daughter, who earlier in the day pledged allegiance to Australia ... she is now an Australian citizen.  To mark the occasion I made a wall-hanging, 'A home among the gum trees', which she should receive once normal postal deliveries resume after the long weekend break.
I did take some photos the evening of the day when the temperatures reached the mid-forties ... for a few short moments the sky was glowing; not from the bush fires that prevailed further south, but from the dust particles in the atmosphere. 
Today I am staying indoors partly because I have sewing to do, and partly because the endless heat soon depletes my reserves and I seriously have no desire to dehydrate myself with careless behaviour!