My Pins

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Digging It With The Dirt Demi-God

Steve Solomon is a Growers Guru
The Living Better With Less Group had the honour of a tour of his garden this weekend and one and a half hours flew by as he spoke to us passionately about soil health, nutrient balance, seed dilemmas for small growers and plant spacing for optimum yields.

Steve lives in suburbia on a large block and grows all the food for his family all year round.

Everything lush, healthy and disease resisting. He grows for food and also extra for seed. Growing from saved seeds saves $$$ and you can be assured of genetic material suited for your area, climate and vigorous.

He spoke about his huge line of asparagus that he keeps contained width-wise between the parallel wires. This limits the sprawl and also makes weeding and access easier. He tells us that over a few years he selectively culled all the female crowns and kept only male plants a) because they produce larger spears rather than putting their vigour into seed production and b) by culling the females he avoids the prolific seed drop and thus delays over-crowding for years.

Another shot of his garden and a climbing frame for peas and beans. In the very first photo, Steve and I are standing in front of his healthy kiwi fruit vines covered in flowers. Down the western side he has espaliered fruit trees and berry bushes. A netted tunnel of raspberries is heavily cropping and you can just about hear the plants singing.

Steve is 73 and very fit and looks at least 10 years younger than his age. What struck me especially was the way he is still learning and still experimenting with growing. Further proof that you never stop learning. Reluctantly we thanked him and departed and I have to tell you the experience has been very profound for me. My mind has been in a whirl, thinking of all we spoke about, trying to catch hold of it and not let a snippet of information be missed. 
Afterwards we enjoyed a bountiful shared lunch at a fellow members beautiful mud brick built house by the Tamar river. Wonderful times and memories to treasure.

If you have the opportunity, Steve's books are well worth the investment. This is the copy I covet. I wish all of you could have joined us and benefited from his knowledge and passion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Racket Match

My friend Jen spotted the tennis racket over in the corner and asked if it was Margaret Court?
No, this random item is of another great lady in tennis,
Don't you just adore old wooden tennis rackets with their natural gut strings and soft worn leather wrapped handles.

I did tennis for such a brief time when I was about 9 years old but I was captivated by Evonne Goolagong....what a great name, I used to sing-song it over and over in my mind like it was a powerful hypnotic chant. It's the perfect rhythm for  the sound of white Volley runners slapping the red dirt court on a warm up jog before a lesson. She was really successful in the 70's and 80's and some of her records still stand.

Evonne was on TV often and I admired her open friendly face and smiling white teeth, her brown skin and cute white tennis outfits. She was never without a smile and I thought she was charming.
It was not so much her tennis ability, but rather her grace and friendliness I aspired to. 

A bit of trivia - The first laminated wooden tennis racket was made in Launceston at the Alexander Patent Racket Factory. Craig's father worked there before it closed down in 1961. They tried growing English ash at Hollybank (see this post for photos of our visit to Hollybank) but it failed to thrive.

And thus ends my story of a randomly un-packed possession, a childhood memory and it's six degrees of separation.
Game, set and match?

Friday, November 13, 2015

A House Becomes A Home - The Next Room

And another room completed and a house slowly becomes a home.

We scrubbed and scrubbed. Over and over, layer upon layer, breaking the protein molecules and busting the smell, and not just the floor, the walls too. As the shearer and I remained on our knees, Cindy fetched bucket after bucket just like Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerers' Apprentice.

It wasn't enough, the slate on the hearth had to go....
and then the next two layers of hearth and the soil from beneath that.
(Read about it here)

Finally everything is coated in the shellac based primer Bin-zinser and the carpet can finally go down. Huge thanks also must go to our dear friends G&M (you know who you are) who came down and helped us several weekends with painting and fencing and feeding!

The large mirror reflects back light into what was once the original kitchen adding space to the room. A "nook" is created within the original cooking fireplace and the original swinging arm that once held pots and kettles will be the ideal spot for Christmas stockings. The unusual cushion from my daughter last Christmas made from a vintage linen tea towel seems very appropriate in our new country home.

The door from the bread oven is wire brushed and liberally coated with rust converter and then coated in black paint, restoring it back to it's former looks. The domed brick bread oven is several feet wide and deep within and would have been used to bake many loaves supplying a good many houses in the area and perhaps travellers.

While it would be great to fire it up for "pizza Fridays" (one of our long term traditions) it would just not be practical due to the size and amount of wood needed to create coals. Besides, before we can light any fires there is an awful lot of straw in the roof space to be cleaned out yet from decades of starlings nests! 

We are half un-packed and familiar things surround us once more helping us assimilate into the new space. My most treasured possessions are those made by friends and family; Matty's footstool, Cliffy's wooden box, great-grandma Murray's blanket.... 

This is not the pages of Home Beautiful and my life is real. There will be no purging and I have no need to make my home era appropriate. It is the helping hands, the generous hearts and the objects of love that make a house a home. A lifetime to collect memories. It has taken me decades to learn that and be content. We are so blessed.

And the work continues....
in the attic....

Monday, November 9, 2015

Before and After - A Room Completed

Don't know about you but one of my pet favourites are before and after shots.
I think this one is pretty graphic hey!
The stone wall was once the original back wall of the house when it was first built. A lean-to would have been added some time after that when kitchens became more than huge fireplaces and running water was being connected. 

The walls were lined with tongue and groove pine boards (painted pink) and the ceiling was lined with corrugated iron and like the kitchen, the urine had seeped under the floating floor and skirting and up the wall lining. So again, it was rip out what we could and then scrub and saturate with an enzyme cleaning solution...over and over...about ten scrub downs, till the protein was broken.

And then everything coated in a special shellac based primer to act as a final barrier.
We cleaned down the stone and chipped the layers and layers from the large sandstone blocks to leave them natural.

And then plastering....

The worn window sill - so tactile.

I do like the warm brown tones of blackwood and tan leather against the fresh creamy walls.

A soft deep axminster by Brinton and this room lives happily ever after....

(This is the continuing story of our renovation and in order for it to make sense you might like to start at my post "Win Some, Lose Some" )

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Edible Perennial Beds

In just two short months we are already harvesting from the edible perennial beds. You could be too, it really doesn't take that much space and you could be eating fresh salad greens most of the year round.

Attractive landscaping can also be achieved using edible perennials and I have roughly mapped out a plan for the planting. I plan for the green beds to contain lots of lime coloured herbs and lettuces. Over towards the back I have transplanted my Tahitian lime tree to take advantage of the protected corner and the heat bank of brick paving. The red beds will contain, well, red themed plantings.

Red Beds
Bloody dock with it's spectacular veined leaves and a real favourite in our salads. Red rhubarb and red chard, strawberries, lettuce variety "trout back"and "red oak" and purple flowering oregano rosenkuppel.

Green Beds
Lettuce varieties "lollo bionde" and green oak, green stemmed rhubarb, chervil, salad burnett with it's fresh cucumber flavour, lovage for a celery flavour and parsley. My lime tree will be the piece de resistance but it will have to have a lot of seaweed foliar sprays over the summer to harden it for winters here in town. 

As the season progresses other herbs and leaf will probably come and go and the hollyhocks will provide height for the birdhouse that is situated in the middle. You could add an asparagus crown or two to your perennials. The advantage of growing the loose leaf lettuce varieties is that they can be picked and picked rather than the hearted varieties that reach maturity and then are gone.

So get cracking, you may not have room for a corn crop but you could be selecting gourmet salad in just a month or two and living like kings.

Footnote: The paths are made from convict bricks and the edges from salvaged stone, both come from the ruined cottage from the bottom of the paddock.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hens and the Mind/Body Connection

The animals are thriving. We can learn a lot about the mind/body/spirit connection just from our hens. Never underestimate the power of mental stimulation for animals. 

People who say animals are dumb do not understand animals at all.

Our girls had a really good run at our suburban home and when they were confined to just the run, we hung bunches of greens from the tree on baling twine for them to peck at and we changed the yard around from time to time. Shifting a tyre or a tree log or a bale provides height and climbing things. 

The paddock has taken it to a whole new level for the flock. They have access to a far greater variety of "weeds" and can self medicate as they graze. There is a variety of minor eco-systems provided by open plains and thickets. The space is so large that they can really "spread their wings" and I have observed distinct and greater leadership play among the two groups.

To ensure your suburban hens stay healthy, give them as much space as possible and let them have the yard or temporarily fence beds in fallow for them. Change their runs around and give them heights to stand on and tunnels to go through. Plant herbs close to the fence, especially wormwood, so they can self medicate (but keep wormwood away from pregnant goats and sheep) and gather dried herbs for strewing in their nesting boxes

Happy chickens are manageable, don't fight outside the normal pecking order of things and they produce well and resist ailments. Nothing demonstrates clearer the mind, body, soul connection. It's the same for us.
Keep your environment and work stimulating, clean and nurturing. Get exercise, eat a healthy seasonal variety. Be involved. To be happy is to be as healthy as you can be. I see patients daily and the ones who remain positive and happy are the ones who live with their disease better.
I wish you joy and health.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cedar Clues

Cedar features prominently in the bedroom and the wide window rebates and ledges are my favourite. It provides a space for a warm guiding light for travellers 

and a glorious view to wake up to with sheep in the paddock and the street trees in pink blossom.

The surrounds been stripped and nourished

...and naif art found. Definitely a keeper.

The brass window pulls have been stripped of paint layers and the makers mark behind reveals more clues about the house and it's age and history. The trade mark is for James Cartland & Co., a brass foundry in Birmingham UK. Trade marks change over time and this also helps to date items; this one dates to the mid 1800's.

So far we've chosen to just use the restored cedar blinds on the window instead of other soft furnishings. We are reluctant to make any more holes and further damage the timbers, wall s and floors. Besides, the blinds are a perfect match and I feel with the walls and ceiling painted in a light colour we are striking a good yin/yang balance.

Just one problem....

I found the perfect size cedar wardrobe at auction last week....

Oops! Just a mere 5mm bigger than the skirting board!
Ripping off the skirting board is not an option so I am going to kindly ask the shearer to build a "box" to fit under and allow the wardrobe to "stand" on that above the skirting board. This seemingly small project will be horrid I should imagine as the floor is not perfectly straight or flat and the walls are not perfectly straight either. Oh well,

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