Super Saturday – Day 25 NaBloPoMo 2017

Oh what a day!

The Superstars played a set at today’s Christmas Lunch for OAKPossability participants and I was very proud of us all. We played a selection of our favourites, that showcase people’s skills, a few festive numbers and a couple we’ve written. And ended up doing encores of audience favourites!

Playing in a band is quite a tribal thing, and it’s evident that we’ve made connections with each other that are lasting. This was particularly clear today. Two of our group, Kathryn and Sally have been away sick for a few weeks and turned up today with their families – ready, willing and able to perform. As a professional musician, I couldn’t have asked for more commitment than these people gave ❤

Me and my lovely friend Sally (aka “my gorgie one”)

Although we’re a month early, it was a lovely festive function and we had heaps of really excellent Xmas food to eat. (So much, I couldn’t eat dessert!) It was a very warm, muggy day but we finally got some brief respite with a thunderstorm and a little rain this afternoon.

All round, I think I’m a very lucky woman – I live in a lovely part of the world, I’ve clean water and good food to eat, and work that sustains me, letting me work with dedicated staff and fantastically talented participants ❤

Headaches and Happiness – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2016

Well, I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

After yesterday’s long day gardening in the sunshine, all I’ve really done today is use my brain. And I must confess I don’t feel like there’s much of that left now!

This morning I double checked my assignment, made sure the format was correct and uploaded the beast into the ether!

After a celebratory lunch it was back to the grind. With one enrolled unit left for 2016, what units do I choose to study next year?

People have been asking me about what I’m studying so here’s the story.

Although I live in Tasmania, the southernmost state of Australia, my university is Griffith, which is based in Queensland. I’ve been studying online, one or occasionally two units at  a time since November 2013, so it’s been a long slog. And consistent. Unlike being on a physical campus, the year is broken up into four study periods (SP’s) of 12 or 13 weeks and they go all year round. So I haven’t had a real break from study for three years.

I’m enrolled in an undergraduate degree course, (Bachelor of Communications) and I’m on track for a double major in Creative Writing and Screen Studies. After discussing it at length with folks online, and working out what was available in which study period, I’ve opted for my last 2nd year elective in SP1 Writing Crime and Contemporary Romance which starts in late February, and although I love pulp noir fiction, I’m not a chick lit fan.

Then in SP2 it’s the start of third year subjects and a Screen Studies unit, Media Audiences, which I’m really looking forward to. It looks at the theory and methodology around audience studies as well as constructing and interpreting qualitative and quantitative research and how it is applied to media policy and content. (Yeah, I know – it’s pretty dry but I like that kind of thing!)

SP3 is back to creative writing with Writing Gothic and Speculative Fiction an area I’m very interested in learning about and I finish 2017 with a cross over unit which applies to both Screen Studies and Creative Writing, Documentary Scriptwriting. This is going to be a fascinating and intense finish to the year with assessment work to research, furnish a proposal, write a draft and revised script. I already have an idea brewing for this!

Meanwhile, it’s late, I’ve got a headache and all I want to do is sleep. But it’s really hot tonight (24.2 C at 10:20pm!) and I have a whole week off before I start SP4 and Writing Poetry, my last unit for 2016.

I wonder how much gardening I can get done in a week?

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Let the Madness Begin! – Day 19 NaBloPoMo

I had a really good day today.

Because I’m back on schedule for my uni assignments, I decided to make the most of the lovely spring weather and spent most of the day in the yard.

There were rabbit hutches to muck out, chickens to talk to and (at long last!) tomatoes to start planting, and later, I did quite a lot of work in the greenhouse.

Around this time every year, life gets a bit crazy for me with lots of summer vegetables that I start from seed. These either need to be either planted out in garden beds (like tomatoes, beans and salad greens) or potted up for growing in the greenhouse (primarily basil and chillies).

This year is no exception, and this afternoon I potted up one of my favourite summer herbs, Shiso (Perilla frutescens), also known as Beef Steak Plant.

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I use it shredded in salads and when the leaves are full size, as a wrap for sashimi and even for pickling and drying. I love it’s spicy, fresh flavour. I have a really good and simple pickling recipe here if you’re interested.

To have enough for fresh and preserving, I usually grow about two dozen plants in small pots and keep them in the greenhouse. I use a weak home made liquid feed once every couple of weeks

There was also a punnet of Bergamot (Monarda didyma) that I’m planning to use to attract bees, and add flowers to salads and for tea that yielded a dozen plants, more tomatoes and a punnet of five very healthy Jam Melons (Citrullus lanatus).

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These very old fashioned fruit are a real blast from my childhood, when my mother would use a melon to make autumn fruits go much further for desserts such as pie fillings, tarts and of course, Melon and Lemon Jam. The melon is fiddly to seed but once cooked, the translucent flesh takes up other flavours beautifully. I was given the seed by a lovely woman in northern Tasmania and I’m really pleased these grew. I intend to grow the strongest two but don’t have large enough garden beds left to put them in! So, I’m planning to put them in big tubs and let them spill out across what used to be the corner of shame – now well tended pine bark around the plum tree.

It’s a little bit of forward planning (and maybe wishful thinking) but I’m hoping to have at least a couple of melons to use for making the last of the berries stretch that little bit further at the end of the season ❤

Tomorrow I’m potting up the first of the basil – the official start of “basilapocolypse” – and more tomatoes. Next week, some of the chillies will be ready to go. Then things will get really crazy!

Sunshine at Last! – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2016

I’m really tired tonight.

Last night I went out and celebrated Meraki Management’s 1st birthday, had a drink (yes, only one!), listened to some wonderful local, original music and caught up with lots of friends – it was lovely! There’s a fabulous vibe in Hobart at the moment valuing live music, which in many ways is bucking against the global trend. Long may it prosper!

This morning I slogged away at more weeding and prepared another area for tomatoes. It was overcast but very muggy, and as the morning progressed, the cloud burned away and it ended up being a really lovely day. But tomorrow is forecast to be increasingly windy and 29 C (84 F), well above average for this time of year.

I hope all my baby beans survive but this is perfect for the raspberry bed, which is looking like a wonderful (and early) crop this season.

With overnight temperatures only predicted to go down to 11 C (52 F) and no rain likely until next Tuesday, I’ll probably be up early and out watering everything before it gets too hot. Although I live close to central Hobart and have mains water, I like to use rainwater out in the yard. I’ve plumbed a gravity feed line down the the back corner and the greenhouse and I have a small electric pump that provides mains pressure. It’s a good system but I’m continually tweaking it. Over the coming months, I’m planning to set out extra lines off the gravity feed with soaker hoses that I can turn on and off as needed. It’s a big job and quite fiddly, so I’m happy to take it one bed at a time.

Tonight I had the house to myself and being tired, I decided on a very simple dinner. A piece of fresh fish, a little butter and everything else from the garden. I cooked off chopped garlic in the butter, added a sliced mushroom (from the compost bags again!) and once that had softened, I pushed it aside and put the fish in. Once I turned it, I tossed in shredded silverbeet and sliced fresh snow peas. I covered the pan for a minute or two while I got a plate and cutlery ready, serves the veggies first and put the just cooked fish on top. It was delicious!

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Tomorrow after watering, I have to finish off my last assignment for my current unit. I decided to put myself way outside my comfort zone and prepare a draft for a children’s picture book. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about tomorrow for NaBloPoMo.

Sometimes I don’t know why I do this to myself!

Goodnight friends, be well and I’ll see you tomorrow ❤

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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Making Room – Day 10 NaBloPoMo

This will be a short post as I’ve got to get ready for an early set tonight as I mentioned here a couple of days ago and I’m still not absolutely certain what songs I’m going to play. Something short and vitriolic feels kinda right at the moment.

While the world seems to be coming to terms with the US election, I gardened hard this morning. I picked heaps of snow peas, and there’s loads of new flowers and peas coming on. It’s been a wonderful crop and hopefully with last another month or two.

I also ripped out a couple of giant Italian Parsley plants that are going to seed and stripped them for use in the kitchen over the next few days. Then I got stuck into the broad beans in the next bed and picked the largest pods I could find and shelled them into a bowl while the chickens looked on. Again, there’s still heaps of flowers and new beans forming, so this is going to be a good crop. All the parsley heads and bean husks got chopped up and fed straight to the chickens, who are giving us loads of eggs this year.

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I’m the only one in the house that likes broad beans as a fresh vegetable but they dry very well, and we go through a lot of dried beans each year in curries and stews to make meat go further. I’ve laid out what I imagine would be a meal’s worth and I’m going to see how long it takes for them to dry out. It could end up being a dehydrator job but at least these will have a start.

Also, I gave up waiting and decided to lift the rest of the garlic. Some of it is a little small but it is what it is – and with the parsley, I want to make that other great Italian garnish – gremolata.  I’m going to experiment with reconstituting some of my dried lemon zest and adding that instead of buying fresh lemons. My lemon tree is flowering but no fruit until next year.

And the big reason to harvest these plants is the amazing realisation that I’m running out of bed space! I really need the room to plant out more beans, tomatoes and zucchinis. It’s hard to imagine that I’d ever run out of space in this yard. When I arrived here (7 years ago next month) the back yard was a huge mess. Many of the fruit trees were diseased and some were dying. What is now the greenhouse was an overgrown shed that had suckers from a cherry tree growing inside and most of the yard was a jungle, with weeds almost as tall as me.

This year’s garlic was in the first bed I made. I remember the soil was impoverished, dry and hard, with little worm activity. After all my layers of compost, mulch and crop rotations, today it’s black, rich and alive. When I first started here it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the mess and everything that needed to be done, but over the years I’ve created 6 more beds plus the greenhouse and got it to the point of producing almost all our vegetable needs and some of our fruit year round. One is dedicated just to asparagus, another just to raspberries and one is in the permanent home of rhubarb and acid-loving berries.

Now I go down the yard and still get overwhelmed by everything that needs doing – and because of all the rain the weeds are out of hand again and the grass is tall – but that’s good for the rabbits and there’s food to pick while I consider my options 😉

Today’s cute bunny pic is a double feature. Bernard Black has undoubtedly grown

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But this is my British Giant doe, Boudica. She is a lovely girl, very good tempered, but HUGE – especially when compared to BB!

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I love the “one ear up” pose from both of them 😀

I’m off to get ready to play music. Go gently and be well friends ❤

Strange Days – Day 9 NaBloPoMo 2016

Well, that was unexpected.

Before I get to my usual blog topics (gardening and cute bunny pics) I may as well talk about the elephant in the room. Like many people in Australia, I thought Hilary Clinton would make it over the line, and Donald Trump would be remembered as a “what were they thinking” candidate. Mind you, Australia has a fairly mixed record when it comes to voting.

And if you think it isn’t going to impact Australia, too late – it’s already started. The ASX200 dropped something like $34 billion dollars today according to an ABC report. It remains to be seen what happens next but it appears that the US has certainly had their Brexit moment.

Meanwhile, I had a lovely morning in the garden, but with the dawning realisation that the weeds are definitely taking over. It’s been so wet and with a little bit of warmer weather everything is booming! So I spent some time clearing the way for more veggie planting. I’m trying out some different beans this year, I want to find the best for my conditions for both fresh green beans and for drying and storing. Today I planted some Italian Romano beans that I got through a seed swap. From what I can gather, this is an heirloom dual variety but I’m unsure if it’s a bush or climber, so I planted them fairly close to a north facing wall. So far, they look very strong and healthy.

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Next will be a lot of weeding so I can plant out tomatoes. This year I’m planning San Marzano, Polish Giant and Principe Borghese bush varieties and Debarao climbing. My household don’t eat fresh tomato (I have difficulty digesting them raw) but use them cooked in curries and stews so I decided to try and grow enough to bottle for use throughout the year. It’s another great garden experiment – and I’ll keep you updated!

The cute bunny pic was pretty easy work today. After just over a week living here, I think Bernard Black Bunny has got used to the crazy lady who keeps intruding at meal times ❤

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Tonight, I decided to have something a bit decadent for dinner. Back in August I treated my household to a fresh Tasmanian truffle and made ravioli and froze it in packets for just such a night. I cooked the ravioli quickly, drained it and put it in a bowl. Returning the empty pan to the heat, I added a little basil oil, a couple of tablespoons of pesto with shredded silverbeet and sliced snow peas. Then I tossed the ravioli in to coat it in the basil mix. It was at that point I realised that everything on the plate was home grown or home made. An incredibly satisfying revelation and a simple, totally delicious meal 😀

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And finally, I looked out the kitchen window and saw this. It was too good not to photograph. Despite the state of the world, and the uncertainty many of us feel, I took a deep breath and a moment to appreciate the small things.

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Take care friends, wherever you are ❤

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