The Joy of Books – Day 30 NaBloPoMo

I love writing, I love reading and I love books.

One of the joys of living in one place for an extended period means I’ve managed to collect some quite rare titles and (particularly since I’ve been back at university) amassed a pretty nice Film Studies library.

My favourite local bookshop is a wonderful place called Cracked and Spineless New & Used Books. It’s a fabulous place run by Richard and Mike. Over the years they have become my friends as well as my book sellers, even to the point of getting in obscure text books I need for study. They also have a great collection of used books and often post excellent deals on their Facebook page. It’s always crowded and I often bump into friends there but the thing I love most about Cracked and Spineless is that I feel welcome. In this age of bookstores that feel more like supermarkets, this place is much warmer and real. No matter where you live, support your local bookstore – they are important!

Cracked and Spineless

Today, apart from being the last day of the NaBloPoMo challenge is also the beginning of my birthday week, and this year I decided to really treat myself. Richard, who is also a music fan managed to get two copies of the Mick Rock mega photo book The Rise of David Bowie. I am now the proud owner of one 😀

I cannot begin to explain how gorgeous this thing is. From the box it came in (printed pink and black), the textured, vibrant teal foldout case, to the smell of the book, this is a thing of immense beauty. And that doesn’t even begin to describe the photographs by Mick Rock. They are disarming, charming and always lush.

As Richard said to me tonight, this is one of the coolest books on the planet. I feel very lucky to have been in a position to buy it.

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Thanks to all of you who’ve liked or followed my blog over the NaBloPoMo challenge, it’s been great fun and I’ve enjoyed reading lots of your blogs throughout the month.

Take care all, I’ll be back soon! ❤

A Day of Quiet Bliss – Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2015

It was very overcast and quite humid in Hobart most of today. Although I was supposed to go to an event nearby, I decided to stay home and potter around the garden. The girls were very pleased because this meant lots of extra treats for them and they rewarded me with eggs as usual. Boudica Bunny is also eating enormous amounts at the moment and all the babies are out and starting to get the hang of this eating solid food caper.

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I potted up more basil, chillies and Green Shiso (Perilla fruitescans var. crispa), a wonderful Japanese annual herb, which I primarily use in stir fries and salads. I’ve grown it in the past but never had such a fabulous strike rate as I did with this year’s seed supply. It’s looking wonderful and already has that unmistakable flavour and aroma. I find it likes a rich potting mix and lots of warmth for quick growth, similar to basil.

And then there was the completion of half the “corner of shame”. This is a classic before and after situation.

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Before

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After

Admittedly, we’re only half way there but that’s a lot further than we were a few weeks ago!

After removing the worst of the perennial weeds, I put some dolomite limestone over the area and covered it with several layers of cardboard.  Then we laid some cotton mats, donated by family members, that were old and worn and heading for the rubbish tip. (I think half our garden is recycled!)

A thick layer of coarse sand went over that and it was topped with some well composted native bark mulch, which I’ve found considerably less acidic than pine bark mulch. We did the same thing behind the chicken house and I’ve planted two Australian Tea-Trees (Leptospermum sp.) there to provide some extra wind protection for the ladies who lay.

The weeds will grow back – but not as quickly or as vigorously as they have in the past. I want to plant a couple of English Lavender here in the next few days and I’m planning to put netting or shade cloth above the fence to give a little more height for growing climbers in tubs and privacy both for and from our neighbours. Next spring, this is the likely spot for my beehive, angled in towards the garden.

I also finished the garlic crop, which has been curing inside the last two weeks. It’s now cleaned up, the tails have been clipped and it’s in three plaits, hanging off the laundry/kitchen door. It’s quite a decent amount this season, considering I’ve used and given away at least half a dozen or so heads already – and there’s more in the ground that needs pulling!

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Tomorrow is back to music work and teaching, the beginning of my birthday week, first day of my next university semester and the last day of NaBloPoMo – and I’m picking up my birthday present to myself tomorrow too 😀

 

 

Friends, Gardens & Games – Day 28 NaBloPoMo

After being under the weather the last couple of days, I felt well enough to venture out and go to a friend’s place this afternoon for a birthday barbecue.

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I was really tired but glad I went, the young man who was celebrating is a dear friend I met through my son about ten years ago. He lives at home with his married sister, her partner and their two year old son but his mother works in Perth now, on the other side of Australia. (For overseas friends, New Zealand is closer and easier to get to from Hobart than Perth is!)

I love their garden, it’s very different to mine which is primarily a vegetable and fruit garden with few ornamental plants to attract bees and native birds. Also, theirs is a much smaller space and I really like how I can find cornflowers and nasturtiums in the midst of beans and spring onions. They also have a wonderful array of roses, irises and tubs full of colour and interest. I had a great time finding little treasures scattered around the yard, which is sectioned off as garden rooms AND I found another rabbit ❤

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My son was there and some other young men I haven’t seen for a while and it was good to catch up with them all. Being a group of gamers (I’ve played D&D campaigns with nearly all of them over the years) we played a cute and quick little board game after dinner called Avalon, which is by the same people who did The Resistance. (Here’s a great little summary by my favourite nerd, Wil Wheaton). I love these kinds of deduction games, with the right group of people they can be hilarious fun. It was lovely to play outside at the barbecue table, especially with good food, great friends and family.

Do you play board games? Is “nerd” the new black? Let me know what you think, leave a comment! 

 

 

 

Raspberry Time – Day 27 NaBloPoMo 2015

While I’m not feeling 100% today, I’ve been thinking about what to do with the soon-to-be glut of raspberries. There’s so much fruit on the bushes, I have a feeling we’re going to be inundated in the next few weeks. Growing up in South Australia, I never ate a fresh raspberry until I moved to Tasmania and they’re probably my favourite berry fruit.

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Usually I make ice cream or cheesecake with excess berries, which uses eggs up as well. But with Boysenberries, Youngberries and Loganberries starting to colour up too, I think it’s time to consider my options! I’m planning to make a Raspberry Upside Down cake next week for my birthday and already have enough berries for that.

All I do with this is make up a simple sponge batter with 2 cups of self raising flour, 1 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar (more if you like it sweeter), a teaspoon of baking powder and 4 eggs. Instead of splitting the mixture into two tins and filling it with jam and cream, I put the fresh fruit on the bottom of a deep baking pan and pour the batter over the top, baking for 20-30 minutes in a 180 C (350 F) oven. Once the cake’s turned out and still warm, it can be lovely to pour hot lemon syrup over for added zing or (for the adults only version) poke the still warm cake with a skewer and pour over a citrus flavoured liqueur.

None of us are fans of jam so I am going to try mashing some with yogurt and drying it as fruit leather. But for large amounts of berries, I can’t go past Raspberry Vinegar Cordial. I first had this over 30 years ago on a hot summer day in Hobart and it is delicious.

The principle here is to use the vinegar to not only preserve, but also to enhance the tangy sharpness of the fruit. It’s fabulous for very ripe fruit – and it’s ridiculously easy to make!

Raspberry Vinegar Cordial 

Ingredients:

500g (1 pound) ripe raspberries     2kg (almost 4 1/2 pound) white sugar   2 litres (4 pints) white vinegar

Method:

Put the washed, drained fruit into a non-metallic bowl or pot and pour over the vinegar. Mash it to break the berries but don’t puree them. Cover the berry mash and leave it for a day or two. I have hear that some folk leave the mash for up to five days but I’ve never done more than two – patience is not my strong suit!

Strain the mash carefully through muslin or an old, clean tea towel into a cooking pot, squeezing out as much of the precious juice as possible. Heat the juice and when it’s starting to simmer, add the sugar and boil for approximately five minutes.

Decant into sterilised jars or bottles and seal immediately. If you want to keep this for winter consumption, I’d also recommend processing the bottles in a Fowlers bottling urn or water bath. Mine never lasts long enough for that!

What’s your favourite berry fruit? And how do you like to serve and preserve them?

Assignments, Goodbye and Hello – Day 26 NaBloPoMo 2015

Hurrah! I submitted my last assignment for my current university unit this afternoon 😀

I nearly always find this part of units rather bittersweet – I’m a step closer to a Bachelor of Communication but I have to say goodbye to some wonderful people I’ve been studying with. Part of the deal with online study are the discussion boards, which act like a virtual tutorial group, and often these are assessed. In this unit, (Creative Writing, Forms and Structures) I’ve had the pleasure of exercising my brain cells with some really lovely people, and I will miss them.

On the other hand, next week I start a new unit, (Writing the Short Story) and I’ll be saying hello to a new group of people to discuss and share work with for the next 13 weeks. This unit will take me up to March next year, which is the start of Study Period One of the academic year. I decided on my units for 2016 a while ago and enrolled in them today – the last of my second year subjects.

I also realised this afternoon that I’ve been studying online continuously now for two years. It’s quite an achievement for me to stay that motivated and engaged, particularly without any campus interaction, but I’m interested in the work and the teaching through Griffith has been excellent. I’m majoring in Creative Writing and Screen Studies, two subjects close to my heart, but I wish there were more screen units – I really loved them with a passion!

And this is my 100th post on this blog – I’m astonished! As I’m coming to the end of the NaBloPoMo challenge and starting a new unit, I’ll be pulling back from blogging a little. My goal from December 1st is to post once a week rather than every day.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the evening off and chilling out – I’ve got a few days solid gardening to do before Study Period Four starts!

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Sleepy baby

Wild Weather and Gig News – Day 25 NaBloPoMo 2015

We had a reminder today that it’s spring, and really only one small step away from winter. Although it hasn’t been too cold, the temperature is dropping this evening and the wind has been very fierce. And of course, this is the only day this week I had time to go and buy a trailer load of sand and another of composted bark. I’m certain the universe knows these things!

The reason I needed these landscaping supplies is a problematic back corner of the garden. I think everyone with a reasonable sized yard has one of these. That area furthest away from the house that you don’t look at every day, where you’re not sure what to do, everything you plant dies yet weeds seem to thrive! I haven’t done anything with this area for ages, it must be two years since it’s been weeded.

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The Corner of Shame

This is what it looked like a few weekends ago – arrgghhh!!! We’d already ripped the Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.) off the fence but the roots are trailing and are difficult to remove. I personally think this is one of the worst weeds in southern Tasmania and if left unchecked it will completely smother vegetable beds, while stripping all nutrients from the soil.

In the middle of this bed is a very old fashioned prune plum, which is a prolific bearer of very sweet, yellow fleshed purple skinned fruit. The tree is old but in good health, despite the competition from blackberries, ivy, mallow and thick clumps of onion twitch. We’ve cleared about half of the area – from the fence up to the bole of the plum. It’s a slow, hard job but we plan to keep chipping away (literally) over the coming weeks, laying thick cardboard and old cotton rugs, covering it with coarse sand and top dressing with composted bark.

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Today’s landscaping supplies

Once the bed is finished, I’m putting up shade cloth around the fence to add some height and screen the corner and we’re considering putting a beehive here next year that will face in to the yard. It’s a big job, but like all these things, ultimately worth all the effort.

On another note, I’ve got a gig coming up at The Homestead next month on December 15th, doing a short set for the Australian Songwriters Association. The feature act will be my dear friend, Matt Sertori (of Butterscotch Pony fame) and I’m really looking forward to it. Matt is one of the most interesting performers I know, his lyrics are often insightful and scathing and although he doesn’t do it often, I love his solo shows.

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Meanwhile, I’m off to find a jumper, the temperature’s starting to drop. It was 21 C today (about 70 F) and tomorrow we’re expecting 12 C (about 54 F) and possible snow on Kunanyi/Mt Wellington. Typical Hobart spring weather!

More Small Joys – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’ve had a great day – bustling and busy – but great nonetheless. This morning I fed and watered the hungry hoards and said hello to the baby bunnies, who are all growing at a phenomenal rate! Their eyes are open and they are getting quite inquisitive about the world.

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I picked raspberries (a daily job now) and I’m hoping to have enough to make a spectacular birthday cake for myself next week 🙂 When I went to give Boudica her daily raspberry leaf treat, I discovered someone had come out to see mummy and see what she eats ❤

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There were six eggs from six chickens this morning, so after watering the greenhouse, I pickled another dozen eggs using the recipe I shared  here recently and started another loaf of sourdough bread. This weather Wee Beastie is very active and needs more attention (and feeding!)

My son came over and hung out, he’s in the process of moving out of his old place and in with a friend who lives just up the road from here. I think he was just sick of sorting out the junk from the stuff he wants to keep and needed some chill out time. So we kicked back, drank lots of tea and watched cooking shows on television. We’ve agreed to have a birthday dinner at home for me next week – Roast Pork with all the trimmings, maybe some new potatoes from the garden – which will be perfect!

I’m gradually getting my head around this final assignment, which is due Friday afternoon. I’ve opted to write three poems for plus a 500 word exegesis. Although I’m a professional songwriter (and prolific blogger) I don’t have much experience with poetry and it’s a form I find quite fascinating. Interestingly, I’ve found the easiest way to start is take and idea and just write. Stream of consciousness seems to be the key way into it for me. Then I edit and arrange the words on the page so they make sense to me – and hopefully my tutor! So my poems are largely about the strange weather we get in Tasmania, the changing seasons, growing things, musicians and music.

The sourdough went in the oven late this afternoon and, as a light dinner I took fresh sourdough slices, slabs of Pork Brawn I made on Sunday and crumbled over feta cheese I made a few weeks ago. We put the slices under a hot grill for about 10 minutes – until the feta started to melt – and it was so delicious! The sharp saltiness of the feta worked so well with the rich, meaty Brawn on the fresh sourdough.

I was also reminded by HeWhoMustNotBeListenedTo that everything on our plates was made by me. It was a very satisfying moment……

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So, tomorrow will be even busier – sand and pine bark chips are arriving for a project in the back end of the garden. I’ll have pics to show you all tomorrow night 😀

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