Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Poem

What will this Christmas mean to you as pressures come your way?
The shops all hope for bumper sales, but notice what they say:
'Use credit cards for purchases with their extended pay',
But then your debts will quickly mount right up to Christmas Day.

We ask ourselves what food to eat and what gifts shall we buy?
And what can we afford to spend when prices seem so high?
We need to plan for everything for everything costs more.
These are the Christmas questions that we really can't ignore.

The Christmas cards are on display and there are special stamps.
The travel agents focus on their fine resorts and camps.
It's good to get away a while and share a family break,
But do be sure to pay your way for everybody's sake.

We trim our Christmas trees and use our other decorations.
We really are so busy making all these preparations.
We welcome family and friends to show we really care,
And catch up on each other's news which we are glad to share.

But pause awhile and be aware that Christmas was foretold,
For in the Bible we may read the prophecies of old.
The saviours life, also his death, are forecast and fulfilled.
The gospels then record it; that's the base on which to build!

It's nice to hear the carols but do grasp the words expressed,
For in that 'lowly cattle-shed' God gave his very best.
He sent his own beloved Son, His precious gift to all,
His 'shelter was a stable and his cradle was a stall'.

What did the angel really say? Whatever was the reason?
The 'good news of great joy' explained the reason for the season.
'A Saviour has been born to you' and 'He is Christ the Lord'.
He's 'ever to be worshipped', to be 'trusted and adored'.

The angel choir then praised the Lord and sang of 'peace on earth',
But that hope seems in vain without response to Jesus' birth.
Our 'peace with God' is found through Him; for that we need to pray,
Then there is hope for human peace when Jesus is 'The Way'

Ask God to help you understand His special revelation,
How Jesus came, lived, died and rose, to offer us salvation.
And if we really understand the Bible's presentation,
Then we will have the focus for our Christmas celebration.

Remember those across the world who face such desperate need.
The aiding agencies all help and for donations plead.
Lets count our blessings in our land and generously give.
Live simply so that you can help the ones who barely live!

Poem written by Rev Perry Smith of Belmont NSW. He is a dear friend of our family and gave me the poem he wrote for his christmas cards this year. I thought it was worth sharing.

Merry Christmas All,

The alphabet will continue after Christmas.

Love Hannah

Monday, December 15, 2008

E is for Eggs

Eggs aren't the only reason I keep chickens, but they sure are a good thing! I have 3 Barnevelder Chooks *who feature in the picture up above called Milly, Molly and Mandy (but don't ask me to tell them apart and two bantams (an aracauna and a leghorn) named Speckles and Sadie.

I love having chooks and have written about the benefits before on another blog. I have the big three in the run, and occasionally let them out in the evening, when I can be there to supervise (any mulched area is gone, which is okay when it's around a tree, but somewhat of a problem when it's my potato bed)

The bantams live in the chook tractor, and after my first attempt to let them have a wander ended with me chasing Sadie around the garden looking like a headless chook myself. I move them every two weeks, letting the spot rest for a week or two and then digging some new garden bed. I am currently just planting heavy feeders like corn in there, perhaps some brocoletti, or silverbeet next, and eventually that will be the area of the garden that is rotated each year.

The brown egg is from the Barnevelders, they were bred to lay these lovely brown eggs, and I usually get one from each every second day. The little white one is much smaller than the bantams usually lay, but they had stopped for a week or so altogether, and were to the point of getting threats of going in the pot when this weeun appeared. They are back to normal size again now (about 40g)

The chooks are also just great characters, always say good morning, interact with humans as well as each other and process my lawn clippings and vege scraps into dark rich soil which I put into the vege garden.

If you have any questions about keeping chooks, send them my way.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

D is for Decorating

I bit the bullet and got out the christmas decorations over the weekend. Oh and I did buy some cinnamon spice candles and some star lights. I don't think the lights will come down after christmas finishes, they're too nice.

This is my dining room, with the star lights over the curtain railing and an advent decoration on the table, four candles to symbolise the four weeks leading up to christmas.
I decided not to get out the christmas tree, as there's nowhere to put it where you can see it from the road. If I was having Christmas at my house I'd put it up in the back room though.

This is the advent decoration up close, some christmas cloth underneath, and a couple of decorations on top. They are real pine branches from a tree near church, it was happy to have the prune, and they make it smell like Christmas :)
But my favourite is this, a dutch nativity. The top is like a fan, and it twirls around by the air movement created by the candles, a lot slower than it looks in this photo, creating gorgeous patterns in the room, and although you can't see it, inside there is a complete nativity scene, mary joseph and baby jesus, the wise men, shepherds and the angels. One of my brilliant sisters found this for me, and I love it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

C is for Circus

Three weekends ago (Was it only that long ago?) my family went to see Cirque de Soleil in Canberra. It was our birthday presents from mum. My Brother Bohdan and his girflfriend Kate and I went down the dirt road through Nerriga and stopped at Bungendore for breakfast...Yum

Bohdan and Kate

Then mum shouted us all lunch at the national library cafe. Yum again.

Me with my grandy's. See the stained glass windows in the back. Well, I had to go into the library and check who did them, because I recognised them from the art gallery in Melbourne. I was right. They have amazing designs, kind of medieval art slash indigenous inspired. Bold colours and shapes.
My other grandma and great aunty audry came too!
Me and my siblings Jonina, me, BIL Glyn, Miriam, Kate and Bohdan outside the tent.
Funny story about Jonina and the Icecream man, remember to ask me when you see me next.

The show itself was amazing as usual... the human body is an amazing thing. Music, costumes, muscles...
This girl was a one handed balancing contortionist. It was amazing what she could do.

There's a lot of drama in the shows, clowns, characters, song and dance. All in french so you don't understand the word, but you don't really need to.

This is the Dralion. Combination of chinese dragon and a lion.

On the way home we caught up with Rae and Duane and Xavier Green, fresh off the plane from NZ. great to see them and have a meal together.

B is for Bread

I have been wanting to start baking my own bread for a while, but the whole hours of work and kneading was not the most appealing thing in the world.

So when I came across the idea of no-knead bread with next to no effort involved, just a bit of time to do all the work, I had to give it a go. I found this website to be the most helpful, as it explains the why not just the how.

Basically put 3 cups plain flour, (I have been using 2 cups no-name and one cup of wholemeal organic flour) 1.5-2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp dried yeast in a bowl and mix. Now add 1.5 cups water and mix (I find I have to add just a bit more water to make it all come together. It should be sticky to touch, with no dry bits of flour left.

Cover this with gladwrap and leave overnight (I do the first step before going to bed at night, it takes less than 5 mins)

Optional step - in the morning get a spoon and beat the mixture down before covering again. Last loaf I made I forgot to do this and it had no discernable impact on the loaf.

The Yeast doing all the work
The following evening I heat up my baking dish - a rectangular cast iron casserole dish in a very hot oven, around 250 degrees celcius. It must be a dish with a lid. Initially I used two smaller dishes, hence the two loaves below, but now am just using one larger one, it's about 4 litres in size I'm guessing.
While that heats, I shake flour over the dough in the bowl, use a wooden spoon to pull it away from the sides and then tip it out onto a floured piece of baking paper. I roll it around a little to ensure that the whole loaf is floured and then when the dish is hot I flop the lot into it, cover and leave in the oven 30 mins.
Using the lid creates a steam like effect, that gives you a loaf like a bread artisan would make. After 30 mins take the lid off and cook for a further 15-20 mins at the same heat. Tip it out onto a wooden board, and listen to the crust crackle as it cools. It will be hard to wait, but if you can leave it for at least an hour it will be the best loaf you've ever eaten. Delicious plain, toasted, with oil and dukkah....oh the possibilities.
Loaves just out of the oven. (Can you hear them crackle)
Just looking at them is making me hungry, oh and the fact that it's lunch time

And this is the inside of a loaf. We have a woodfired sourdough place that sells loaves which don't taste much different to these for 6-7 dollars a piece. I reckon this one costs under a dollar and takes about 15 mins maximum time to make (plus 24 hours where you are not involved.)
I gave Allison some last night, and she said it was amazing. So amazing that she doesn't want the recipe, she just wants me to make it for her. Anyhow, hope some of you try it out. It really is failsafe. Well so far at least, and i'm on my third loaf and more coming!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A is for active

I saw another blog using the idea of the alphabet to head her posts, so I am going to try, that I will make my way through the alphabet of posts.

Active, because I had an active weekend. On Saturday morning B, D and I got up early in the misty rain and drove through fog to do Drawing Room Rocks walk. It wasn't really raining much at all, the wetest part is brushing past all the heathy plants once you get up on top of the hill. The mist clings to them, hits your leg and runs down. I had my goretex jacket and some gaiters so my top and my feet stayed nice and dry, my legs however were soaked.

I am quite proud that we surprised ourselves by how quickly we did the walk, only half an hour up and a bit less back. No stops required. We have to plan a harder walk next time.

At the top it was a complete white out, that is, we were in the middle of the cloud. It made sitting on the chair look quite interesting, we thought we could just insert our own background. When I get photos off D I'll share.

Sunday morning B, A and I went rockclimbing, down at Thompson's Point, near the university. It was raining the night before, but obviously not all night as it had dried out enough to climb. Thinking back, it was the first outdoor climb I had done since starting a coaching course at Hangdog Gym in Wollongong that I did for a month or more, and I could really tell the difference. B is going to do a mountaineering course in NZ in Jan so she was wanting to do some training hence the walk and the climb. The exciting thing about the climb is that there is a grade 15 climb which I had never succeeded in climbing, and yesterday, no problems. It was amazing how much difference a little bit of climbing made to what I could do. I was all ready to go on for something bigger but we ran out of time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Garden wedding

A young couple from my church got married on the weekend. It seems like a few weeks ago that they announced their engagement, but it was actually almost a year. It was at a friends property in Kangaroo Valley (One of those freaky parts of the world that's always green, reasonable weather - if I wouldn't have to drive over a mountain to get to work I'd live there.)

The wedding aisle...
Catherine and Naomi, two of the bridesmaids singing a song Naomi wrote as the signing of the register happens
Cam and Brie, the happy couple
And straigt to wedding photos. Aren't the bridesmaids dresses lovely. I think I want one.

Warning! Giant Strawberry!

Actually it's just a normal sized strawberry. The title should actually be miniature apricot. Yesterday I picked, and ate my first and only apricot that grew on my tree!
It was tiny, but it was delicious, and I hope next year to have a bigger crop, but it couldn't get much more delicious.

I also ate my first blueberry off my bushes, but I neglected to take a photo of that. Just thought I'd share as it was very exciting. It fell off in my hand, and I was afraid I'd knocked it but then thought it looked quite yellow and tasted it to see.... It was ripe (hence the already bitten into nature of the poor thing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Goodbye Grandies

my little sister J and my grandparents
For those who read this blog regularly you will know that my Grandparents have been holidaying nearby this year, which has meant that we have been able to spend time with them visiting and having them for dinner.
They go home tomorrow which is sad, but they're probably over us and our crazy lives, and grandpa needs to take his tomato seedlings home and plant them out. (He couldn't leave them in Canberra in case they didn't survive so he brought them on holidays and they were moved in and out of their cabin depending on how hot or rainy it was.
Them going isn't too said though, as I'll see them on Sunday as we are going to Canberra to see cirque de soleil. My other grandmother is coming as well and it should be a great day. I've got a packed weekend, back fence neighbours for dinner tonight, garage saleing, wedding and a 21st tomorrow, canberra Sunday and monday morning an interview with the newspaper for the permaculture group.
See you next week...

This Morning

I love my mornings, it is my productive time. This morning I got up, read for a few minutes then made fresh lasagne sheets with my pasta maker all organic and lovely yellow colour. I chopped up the leeks and eggplants and capsicum ready for cooking tonight as well and covered them.

I then made my breakfast, homemade muesli with organic natural yoghurt and preserved quinces (heaven in a jar) and took it into my front garden to eat while I read part of a chapter from The Purpose Driven Life. I try and read this book regularly as it challenges me where I am becoming complacent in my faith and my relationship with God. Today it was on authentic worship - more than music. Worship is about being a living sacrifice. Living in a way that says I believe in a God who loves me. Living in community, Living creatively, Living fully.

Then I cleaned up a bit, got ready for work and fed my chookies and watered the pots. And raced to work as time got away from me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

100 foot salad

Took this photo as a joke, but really like it.
This salad is almost all from my garden (Beetroot from a friend's garden and potato was bought)
But the ingredients that didn't travel were...
Lettuce (two varieties)
broad beans

And it really was delicious, and lasted well, I had the leftovers for lunch today (two days later) and still crisp and fresh and yummy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Permaculture group and Basketweaving

The first meeting of Shoalhaven Permaculture Network was a hit. There were over 30 people (I was hoping for 15-20) and everyone was keen to keep coming and make the group work. I invited everyone to introduce themselves and we had people who have been gardening for over 60 years to one lady who is gardening for the first time and has one tomato plant (That's her at the back right of the photo.) I gave a brief introduction to Permaculture and then people broke up into small groups to discuss and brainstorm what they wanted the group to look like.

It was interesting that the groups all had very similar responses, looking at continuing with the idea of a monthly meeting, and planning weekend workshops to get practical skills shared.
For me it was encouraging to see the interest, as it confirmed my feeling that there was a need for a group like this in my area. Both for people already living this way to share things with each other and for those who want to learn to do so.

That's my grandpa in the centre of the photo. He is my inspiration, he was famous in Canberra for his front yard garden, and producing food in my backyard was never a strange concept thanks to him. My grandparents are holidaying in one of the coastal villages near my town, so he came along to support me.

This week I also spent an afternoon with a friend to learn the basics of basketweaving. The one above is hers not mine, and I was so grateful to go out, and to make a new friend. Her and her husband are so inspirational, living a simple life, choosing to work jobs that make them feel excited and working for themselves as well.

This one is my creation. It is now finished, but I didn't take a photo so I'll add that in a future post.

And lastly Elhi, in her studio/sunroom. I have been madly weaving since, and feel a walk to the nature reserve near my house coming on to collect more supplies, I think I'm hooked!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Colour inspiration

These roses are so rich that they almost look fake.
They are heavenly to smell, and I think I could almost eat them...
The rose bush is as old as the house I imagine, and I've always wanted these roses in my garden.

They make me smile.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A very Gardening Saturday

I had a wonderful weekend, visiting some friends (and their gardens).
Firstly thankyou to Sue, who came and found me at the Markets so that I could come visit her. Sue and I are both part of Aussies living simply, and it was great to meet her and her husband and see their garden and their home.
They have the most amazing stockpile, inside they have dried foods (they have adapted fowlers jars to vacuum seal their dried fruits and veges) bulk rice, groceries etc. They have bulk wheat which they grind themsleves for bread and scones in an electric mill. Under the house is the cellar with the bottled food.
They had a shed which they lived in while building their house, this was the preserving area, with converted shelves to hold hundreds of bottling jars, fowlers and pressure canning units, dryers and more.
Then the garden, which was full of food. They grow much more than they can eat and give the surplus to the local meals on wheels group. Her husband has a shed full of old engines and toys. I was so impressed I almost asked if they would adopt me. :)
Sue's Stockpile. Fruit, veges and soups. (She can bottle veges and meat as she has an american pressure canner, which can cook foods at much higher temperatures.

Sue's Garden, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, onions, broad beans. She has runs for the chooks, areas for berries that is netted in and an orchard.
What an inspiration! When I grow up I want to be like her.
Also on Saturday I went to Feedback, a gardening group based in Nthn Shoalhaven. They were wording on establishing a permaculture garden at a rural property that had recently been completed.
There was a large group, adults and children, and the garden was almost done by the time I arrived with my gift of banana trees and lebanese cress for the garden. We finished up the work and then went for a bushwalk.

The creek we crossed to enter the property, there was a causeway to get over.

The landscape was a mix of open paddocks and pristine rainforest. Some of the group are keen bushcare volunteers and were pointing out plants and picking up weeds to destry.

Imagine this for a view out your loungeroom window!

And sunsets like these....
Tempting, but I do love my house, and my crazy community.
After the walk we had a pot luck dinner, delicious with homemade sushi, dolmades, salads and curries. Thanks Janet for inviting me, I'll definately be coming back!
Lastly, I'll add in a photo from Sunday...

I went to my workmate's for lunch and after we ate, her husband decided to sew a cover for his new camera lens, I couldn't resist a photo!
Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A fun night out, and a beach trip

The other Friday was my back fence neighbour, Allison's birthday. We had a BBQ with friends from church and then headed out to the local! Berry Pub. It was Karaoke night, and I made my debut public performance. It was much easier than singing at church, all you do is stare at a tv screen and sing.

Alison, the bday girl and SJ posing for the camera!

SJ is a work colleague of my friend's who came to stay for a week. Only problem was my friend had to back to work sat and SJ didn't start til tues. So Saturday pm I took SJ out to the beach. By the time we got out there it got cloudy so I swam alone while SJ walked along the beach. Then we went to the opening of a friend of mine's art exhibition and on the way home I took her to a local museum that has a mangrove boardwalk which is really nice.

The reflections are amazing and as we were walking the tide was coming in and all the fish swimming around the boardwalk. (Mangroves have arial roots that stick out, and it was amusing to watch the fish try to swim and keep running into the roots)

SJ and I on the boardwalk. (The sun had decided to make and encore appearance)

As we were driving into town some friends rang and said they were going out to Huskission (where we had just been) for dinner, so we dumped my car, got in theirs and went back out for a lovely dinner by the water, and dropped in on one friend's dad's bday party on the way home. We told them it was to use the pool table, but really it was for the pavlova!

Whilst in the poolroom however, we came across this beautiful portrait of my friend!

Note that my friend is 29 - we were very impressed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Local dinner

Have been enjoying meals from the garden lately. Not 100%, but all the greens, and all the eggs, and now some fruit. I have harvested 3 paw paws and one more to go! They stayed green all winter without growing or anything, and finally now are ripening.

Harvest of broad beans, snow peas, pawpaw and eggs!
The Pawpaw was delicious with yoghurt and honey - all organic.

I enlisted my brother's help cutting the salad, it was a vegetarian meal as his girlfriend doesn't eat meat.

Lastly, I had to bring a baby photo to work recently, and because I was the only person with a colour baby photo, I took a photo of my photo and printed it on black and white. I succeeded in confusing most of my workmates. Thought I'd share the photo with you. See, I was cute back then too!

Monday, October 13, 2008

What to do with a swarm

I was at my friends in Sydney on the long weekend, and while I was there I was able to see the process of rehoming a swarm of bees in a new hive.

I didn't know that generally each spring a new queen is born and the colony divides and becomes two. The group that swarm generally swarm in a nearby tree, and whilst swarming are reasonably placid. If you don't get them into a hive they continue to swarm and can pose a danger to neighbours, so you have to get them quick.

My friend's dad here is packing the smoker, using pine needles he collects while working on his bush regeneration sites.

My friend Clarissa is preparing the sheets for the new hive, with prepared beeswax attached to the hives for the bees to build up and fill.

Once suited up, remove a sheet from an existing hive above the queen excluder thingy (the honey in the sheet gives the swarm incentive to move in and make themselves at home.) An new sheet is put in to replace it.

Now climb up the tree (this is a persimmon tree) and cut off the branch with the swarm on it. Carefully descend the ladder. My friend's son is the one handling the bees, he is learning the skills from his grandfather and the new hives will be his. It's great that the skills and traditions are being passed on.

Now get the branch over the new hive and shake them in (note it's an up and down action rather than side to side - the aim is to get them in the hive not on the grass) Look for signs that the queen is in by looking for bees flying into the hive as well as out through the base.

Get the lid on and congratulate yourselves on a job well done. I took photos and later Persimmon cuttings, and tried to avoid the bees. lol. They were actually quite placid.
It was a lot of fun, but I think my yard is too small for bees so I will leave them up at Illabunda and just put in my order for honey :)