Felicity’s List – Paying it Forward

Some years ago, one of my music students, Ruby Grant (who’s also one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known) introduced me to her friends Felicity and Dave at a party. I was really taken with this young couple, who (like Ruby) were smart, interesting and really good fun. Originally from the UK, they’d ended up in Tasmania. Occasionally, I’d see them at gigs and we’d bump into one another from time to time on Facebook. (In a town as small as Hobart that sounds ludicrous – but it happens!)

Then, in 2015 Felicity started a blog “About That Cancer Thing” and announced that at 33, she’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She was young, fit and otherwise healthy so I think we all thought that she’d get through this with her usual quiet determination. In her blog, she documented her treatment and what it’s done to her life, the joy of being able to go for a walk with Dave, their disappointment at not being able to have a family, and the financial impact her treatment and ongoing care has had on their lives.

To that end, Dave and Felicity set up a Go Fund Me page to try and see if they could raise money to keep their dream of a family alive and to help with the incredible costs of being so ill.

A couple of weeks ago, Felicity posted that the meds were no longer holding the cancer back and as she so eloquently put it,

“You can’t protect people. You can try. But it’s not really protecting them. I thought I was protecting people. Then I wondered if I thought I was protecting myself. But actually I was just delaying peoples opportunity to process the truth. Learning this didn’t really change my behavior though”.

Then a couple of days ago, Felicity posted “Wrapping Up” and at the end, a list she wrote some months ago when she was better than she is at present.

I urge you all to read it, as it is a wonderful, practical, uplifting and utterly inspirational thing.

To the best of my knowledge, Felicity is still at home with Dave and I hope they are enjoying the gentle drizzle of this warm autumn morning. If you can afford to, please donate to help offset some of their crippling medical costs.

And act on Felicity’s list ❤

The Weird, Grim World of 2016 – A Personal Perspective

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As we come towards the end of 2016, many are bemoaning the seemingly endless outpouring of grief on social media for celebrity deaths. There’s no doubt that it’s been a nerve-racking year if you’re famous and part of the post-WWII “Baby Boomer” generation but a lot of people are getting sick of the intense posts from fans, citing that many important people have passed away this year who weren’t celebrities, and stating the obvious – we all die.

But have there been more celebrity deaths this year than in the past?

There’s evidence to suggest that deaths among the famous have increased, as reported in The Week recently. The dearth of internet news, celebrity sites and You Tube channels has meant that more coverage is given to the comings and goings of celebrities. And of course, social media itself has enabled ordinary people to post tributes to memorialise their favourite celebrities.

For my part, this year has been brutal. As a career musician and writer, I’ve spent a good deal of my life listening to, enjoying and analysing the work of David Bowie. There were times in my teenage years when life felt very strange and his work helped me make sense of it.

After Bowie’s death in January, the rot really set in and I lost many significant people in my life. Most notably Jeff Weston, Leon Turner, Kevin Gleeson and my dear, beautiful friend Jacqui. There were others I didn’t write about, several acquaintances from the past as well as newer friends. Anecdotally, I have to say that social media has heightened this. Reconnecting with people from my past and forming new networks has tended to make my circle of friends much broader and spreading news a very immediate thing.

Now at the end of the year, I was incredibly saddened by the death of Carrie Fisher and tragically only a day later, her mother Debbie Reynolds, who were both important figures in my life for different reasons.

Like so many of my generation, I first saw Carrie Fisher on the big screen in the original Star Wars (1977) . She was only a few years older than me, and her portrayal of the feisty Princess Leia was an inspiration. Leia showed us that girls could be heroes too, an important cultural lesson to any young woman of that era. I followed her film career with interest, and particularly loved her as the gun-toting Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers (1980) as well as her reprisals of Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga.

As the years rolled on though, it was her writing that really spoke to me. It takes a lot of nerve and downright bravery to be that outspoken and honest, and her advocacy for mental health issues really struck home with me. And I loved how she aged too, honestly and (for the entertainment industry) rebelliously.

Debbie Reynolds is a very different story. Back in the 50’s my brother (who was 14 when I was born) had a typical teenage crush on Reynolds from her lead role in Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). When I was born he was given the duty of naming me, and what better than after his favourite movie star! I was never a fan in the way my brother was, but since his death I always watch re-runs of Singing in the Rain (1952) and think of him.

So at a very personal level, 2016 has been quite the “annus horribilis”, bookended by the passing of two people I never met but who spoke to me through their work and one who I was named for by my beloved big brother.

On the other hand, there has been a lot of joy for me this year too. My work with Callum and The Superstars was particularly uplifting and there’s great things planned for the coming year. All the personal sadness has underlined how I am surrounded with people who care about me – both professionally and personally.

As I said in another post earlier this year, live your life well, with honesty and integrity and love unreservedly. Don’t put off seeing people or telling them you care, be brave and run with it.

Life is short.

Be well beautiful friends, and thank you for your support throughout this awful year ❤

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

Dance with the Rhythm – Day 14 NaBloPoMo

I read someone’s comment on a local Facebook gardening page this morning about patience – and how they hope they’ll develop it as they start their new garden. It got me thinking about how terribly out of touch I can be in my own life with the art of waiting.

I don’t think gardens are never “finished” in the same way that, for example, a piece of writing is. Yes, it requires dedication and a lot of hard work and there are choices made throughout the process, it is edited and polished and pondered over but there is an end point when it is released into the world.

Gardens aren’t really like that.

Those of you who know me will fully understand, I’m not the most patient person in the universe, but over the years I’ve learnt how to wait. Yes, there is a difference! And I’ve realised there’s a rhythm to that waiting and I’ve managed to learn a few of the steps 😀

It’s really just the same as being a musician. As I tell all my students, the day you feel you’ve “finished” learning any instrument is the day you should stop doing it. It takes a particular kind of determination and discipline to stick with it. There are triumphs and disasters – but if the foundations are solid and the drive is there all things are possible. And after 50 years of making music, I’m living proof it’s a lifetime journey.

 

I have a food garden, an urban farm with chickens and breeding rabbits for meat. It’s full of fruit trees, some permanent fruit and vegetable plantings that give it structure and beds of seasonal plantings. The one concession I’ve made to this are a few of my favourite Australian native plants that attract birds and insects (particularly bees), that are mostly in a particularly shady and cold section of the yard and the occasional “visitor” from nearby gardens, like the poppy below (which I will be pulling out before it sets seed!) Yet, there is always something in flower to look at, admire and enjoy while waiting for the garden to grow.

Gardens are like us, they are always being edited, upgraded and polished, evolving and changing with the seasons – always a work in progress.

Wherever you are, enjoy the supermoon and take time to dance with the rhythm of your world ❤

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Celebrating – Achievement Unlocked!

Hi everyone,

I know I’ve been a bit lax posting lately but I’ve been busy with all manner of things. Despite it being winter, a time when a lot of folks think there’s nothing to do, I’ve been flat out!

I’ve planted dwarf apple trees in wicking barrels, made sauerkraut, started shooting a music video with The Superstars, preparing for a debut gig this month with my student Callum, also from OAK Tasmania – all of which I’ll write about in the coming weeks.

But last month I reached a milestone – I’m officially halfway through my online Bachelor of Communications with Griffith University and Open Universities Australia. I won’t pretend – it hasn’t been easy! And there have been times when I’ve thought (however briefly) about giving up.

So to celebrate my achievement, tenacity and sheer bloody-minded stubbornness I bought myself a little present. Below is a fresh Tasmanian black truffle that arrived Friday via courier from Perigord Truffles. There were two in the pack, which are now nestled in tissue paper in a glass jar in my refrigerator. While I’m working out what to cook with them, they require daily airing which makes the whole house smell utterly divine…….

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With the chickens laying again, I’m definitely having scrambled eggs with shaved truffle in the coming days and I’m planning to make ravioli with some herbs and vegetables from the garden too. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Meanwhile, I have to get back to researching another assignment. Take care one and all, and don’t forget to be nice to yourselves occasionally as well as others ❤

Therapy with the Bees

Since I last updated this blog, Britain voted to leave the European Union, lost its Prime Minister (and most of the Brexit big wigs along the way) and gained a female PM. Australia has seen a painfully protracted election count (to follow the longest campaign I’ve ever seen!) And this week Hobart had snow to sea level, followed by cyclonic level winds and finally, flooding in the south of the state.

Then I switched on the television news a few days ago and saw what had happened in France and (at that stage) 50 or more people dead. I immediately switched the TV off. Yesterday, it was a failed coup in Istanbul, another 250 plus people dead and I wondered, not for the first time, what happened that the world got to be such a mad and angry place. My response was, as it is to most traumatic things, is to hide in the garden, pull weeds and talk to the animals – they seem far more sensible than a lot of people at the moment.

The wind did some reasonable damage to parts of the garden and I had to spend some time Friday morning making sure the baby bunnies were safe and secure after their hutch was damaged in the gales. Apart from being pretty skittish, they were ravenous as ever and settled back to normal once food appeared. I think the greenhouse roof is going to be okay after tightening roof bolts but I really hope it’s solid for September and October, the traditional months for high winds here.

All in all, we got off fairly lightly compared to many homes and gardens but I’ve been stitching up bird netting today and there’ll be a lot more of that over the coming weeks. Some of it ripped branches of fruit trees and they’ll need attention too.

Over the weekend I finished weeding and pruning the raspberry bed, moved some escapee canes from the path back into the bed, top dressed it with straw from the rabbit hutches and repaired the netting to keep the blackbirds out. I think it looks pretty good and hopefully we’ll get another bumper crop this coming summer.

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I finally got around to liberating the cabbages and some of the kale from the mass of weeds that sprung up during the mild, wet weather. This winters’ crop are an Italian purple savoy type I haven’t grown before and I’m really impressed with the colour and the growth they’ve put on for this time of year.

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All in all, this weekend’s been gloriously sunny and despite the damage that had to be dealt with, it’s been a joy to be out in the yard and away from the madness of the world. Also, I met a lovely young woman who came around to do a plant trade and found we had a lot more in common than a love of growing things. I hope that’s a friendship that develops.

Sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed with sadness about where we’re heading globally, and I tend to retreat into things I have some modicum of control over, such as the yard and tending the animals, providing clean food for my family. And then I meet people like Kate and things start to make a little more sense again. Perhaps that’s where the real revolution is waiting – one yard at a time 😀

Finally, both my rosemary plants are in flower despite the time of year, and they’ve been literally covered in bees the last few weeks. It’s been lovely to take a break and just sit and watch them 🙂

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Take care of yourselves people, be kind to one another and when you have the opportunity, plant more seeds and take time to watch the bees ❤

Rain!

I caught a break in the mad weather we’re having to take a few pics of the garden and a short film of the Ladies Who Lay, who were looking quite bedraggled this morning. Being down in Hobart, I think we haven’t had as bad a time of it as friends up north or on the east coast. Nevertheless, the tropical low that’s torn down the eastern seaboard of Australia has left it’s mark here too. The rain gauge was overflowing and my water tanks are (thankfully) filling again, but normally free draining areas are starting to pool, particularly in the chicken’s run. I’m also worried about the rhubarb bed as the crown’s are overdue to be lifted and divided. But as the changing weather patterns keep telling me, it will be what it will be and we’ll cope with it 🙂

Italian Purple Savoy Cabbages with baby weeds!

Italian Purple Savoy Cabbages

Further to my post last night, some of these photos will give you an idea of how much things have grown in the last month. Especially the weeds! It’s hard to imagine I had most of the beds clear three weeks ago, but with the mulch it’s fairly easy to remove them and the chickens love the tender new shoots.

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Some of the Kale in the foreground, looking to Silverbeet, the remaining Leeks, mini Broccoli and Garlic in the next bed. And thriving weeds!

Also, I checked the new asparagus bed, which I top-dressed with seaweed and aged chicken poo from Cluckingham Palace. I’m thrilled but also slightly disturbed by some of the shoots the bed is still throwing up.

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The crazy asparagus bed

Given I’m in Hobart, asparagus should be well and truly dormant by now but these barely six month old crowns are still throwing up new fronds – and some ridiculously big ones too! Since planting them out in March this year when it was still very dry (and abnormally warm), the plants have thrived. To get an idea of how much growth they’ve put on have a look at them here.

The rabbits being mostly sheltered from the north easterlies are doing fine and I suspect wondering what I’m fussing about – they are getting more than their usual ration of greens at the moment because of all the sudden growth. I should point out too that after consecutive days of frost last week, yesterday and today have been very mild. I was out in my wet weather gear and sweltering!

I’ll leave you with my lovely little hens, who are still laying enough eggs for my needs despite a statewide shortage of free range eggs ❤

My heart goes out to all the folks who are inundated across not only Tasmania but the entire east coast of Australia, as well as France, Germany and parts of the US. Wherever you are on this beautiful planet, take care ❤

Renewal

Hi everyone,

Winter has arrived with a vengeance – hard frosts last week and now milder temperatures but heavy rain and flooding with a big east coast low running down from the sub tropics. And the beginning of winter is also the renewal date for my WordPress account. What better way to celebrate than write a blog post about renewal ❤

I’m still recovering from the horror virus that’s doing the rounds and having to take it quite a lot easier than I anticipated the past couple of weeks. But I’ve been busy finishing off one Griffith University unit (Television Studies) and starting another (New Media: Communications in the Electronic Age), though my brain really isn’t up to being terribly academic at the moment. While it’s seriously throwing out my schedule, being ill has reminded me that sometimes it’s more important to sit back and watch things grow for a wee while.

Whenever there’s been a respite from the cold and more recently the rain, I’ve made a point of going down to spend time with the bunnies and chickens and simply revel in the garden and its amazing renewal with the recent rain – and just watch things grow for a little while 😀

Some of my favourite plants are the small, often forgotten little herbs. Most people who cook grow them, but often we take them for granted but at the right time of year, in the right light they are incredibly beautiful to look at.

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This is the tiny and delicate Orange Peel Thyme (Thymus richardii ssp. nitidus) which comes originally from Sicily. It has a gorgeous thyme fragrance, mixed with orange zest and grows like a mat, making it ideal for containers or rockery edges. I really like it with chicken dishes but it also works well with apple jelly.

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Above is the delectable Lebanese Oregano, also known as Greek Oregano or Zaatar Leaf (Origanum syriacum), undoubtedly one of my favourite culinary herbs. The soft blush on the leaves is typical of this upright herb, that grows into an open shrub that can get quite straggly if it isn’t cut back each year after flowering. The taste is quite intense and different to either Marjoram or Oregano and it is a wonderful herb for barbecue meats, roasts and chopped finely over baked vegetables.

And after a few days without looking at the vegetables and quite a lot of rain – look what I found! This was the first head from the late summer/autumn plantings and it was delicious, lightly steamed 😀

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Of course, as I’m sure all you fellow gardeners will understand spending time even just walking around your patch makes you think of all the work that needs to be done. Gardening is a never ending job, always a work in progress!

All the rain has meant the weeds are coming back in force and it’s going to take some dedicated time over the coming weeks to stay on top of it. Spent raspberry canes need cutting and in some cases, dividing and transplanting into a new raspberry bed. The rhubarb is ready to be divided too and the plum and nectarine trees need some final pruning to tidy them up now they’ve finally dropped all their leaves.

Also, I’ve got new fruit trees arriving soon and there’s a lot of preparation to do for them. I’m quite excited though as most of the new trees are on dwarfing rootstock and all will be going into half plastic drums that I’m going to set up as wicking containers similar to the balcony boxes I did back in January. I’ll be doing a blog post about it and photographing the process. (The balcony boxes are doing well by the way, with onions, chicory and coriander still going strong and three about to be replanted with winter greens – rocket, spinach and vitamin green).

Watching the frost pattern last week also made me consider planting some out of season potatoes in pots in the greenhouse as an experiment. Another project for another blog post when I’m recovered 😀

Meanwhile, the baby bunnies are growing very fast and will be ready to be sold next weekend as pets or grown on for butchering in another month or so. While some people have issues with this, I like to take responsibility for at least some of the meat I consume. And I do the slaughtering and butchering myself so I know they are humanely dispatched. This will be the last litter for a while as I don’t like to put either of my doe rabbits through the stress of winter birthing and rearing. I find it’s better all round to wait until spring.

I’ll leave you with the first Marigold in full bloom – the only one that grew from an old packet of seed.

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Take care wherever you are and whenever you can, take time to watch things grow  ❤

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