Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Soup for tea

Yesterday I went out "corfluting"...  putting up election posters between here and Pt Wakefield.  It took me six hours and I was very tired when I arrived home.
Chris had already lit the stove (and the fire in the living room) so I quickly put a pot on the stove an cooked a big stew.... and while that cooked,  I made a batch of bread dough, of which I cooked some as rolls with that stew.  No pictures... a big rush and a tired cook!

Tonight we'll have soup... lentil and rice soup with whatever I can find from the garden....  broccolini, carrots, celery and some onion and potatoes from the cupboard.
There are a few rolls left over from last night....  (some disappeared during the grazing sessions during the day)....
... but I still have a loaf of bread.  the shape of bread that I have been making lately is in a long pan...  about 15 inches (39cm) and so I make two loaves and put them end to end in the pan.  Each of the two loaves have an end like this....
.... and whenever I see it or cut one,  I am reminded of the loaves that were delivered to our front verandah when I was a child.
Money was left on the verandah in a bread crock and by the time I arrived home from school the "baker"  would have left a "half loaf"  with an end like this.  I had never seen bread in a plastic bag, or sliced, at that time....  it would be wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper,   but only where your hands would touch it as you put it in the crock.   The baker's cart was pulled by a horse which knew where to stop and waited as the deliveries were made.  (My grandmother used to run out with a bucket and spade if the horse should poo in front of our house... though there was competition for this free gift for the garden.)
When I arrived home,  the bread would be warm and the fresh flaky front could be peeled off and eaten on the verandah.
With this (pictured above) loaf,  this is still possible!  The soft fresh end of the loaf is just beautiful and somehow still a little bit sneaky.

The soup is nearly ready....  lentils, rice and vegetables....
... and we are warm in the kitchen as well.
There is more corfluting to do,  and once I get the council business, Carer's Link (where I am a board member) business and some vegetables planted (I need to plant something every week in order to eat every week)  I'll be out there again with the corflutes....
... this time for Wakefield in the federal election.

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica)

It is a very cold morning,  I've hung out the washing and I'm cleaning up the kitchen.  As I was standing at the sink,  I looked out of the window to see this Grey thrush singing beautifully.

There are a couple of them around,  no doubt a pair.  They regularly nest in the garage where their song echoes like a voice in the shower!  The description of the call in my bird book is  a liquid melodious"pip-pip-pip-ho-ee"  and I'm sure that they have read this too.
The book shows a male and female,   and I think that this was the male.

Australian birds are opportunistic breeders (rather than seasonal, as in migratory European birds,  for example.)  Many Australian birds are long lived and their behaviours are best understood by reading the literature about primate behaviour rather than the more traditional "bird" literature from Europe.  The traditional literature describes behaviour that involves migration, pairing up for the spring breeding season, flying "south" for winter and relatively short lifespans.  Australian birds often breed after rain....  not only the huge flocks of water birds inland...  but also the smaller seed and insect eaters that are able to take advantage of the flush of growth following the infrequent and unpredictable rains.

It has been suggested that birds have evolved from a form that might have been found in Gondwanaland, the precursor supercontinent.  It has been suggested that these forms might have been more like the Australian native birds that are longer lived,  often "hanging out" with the same individuals for a relatively long time and breeding opportunistically and cooperatively.  Even small native birds live much longer than the typical few years of European birds that find the cold northern climate and consequent migration more life threatening.  Even the tiny blue wrens that are so beautiful and popular subjects for artists and photographers can live as long as 25 years or more.

While this is interesting in terms of evolution,  survival of the fittest and life strategies, it can also prove to be a trap for management of wildlife when civilisation and settlement impinges on habitats.

Many people don't notice the problems for wildlife until numbers are significantly reduced, particularly with the relatively more common bird species.  It is only when one realises that one hasn't seen a particular species for some time that the alarm might be raised.  With longer lifespans,  this can be less noticeable until numbers are quite low.  In fact the huge reduction in relatively long-lived and common species is truly alarming...  species like willy wagtails, magpies and thornbills are all around,  though very much reduced in recent years.

And so my resident songbirds are much appreciated and I enjoyed the serenade at the sink.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Winter in Kapunda

I have been busy with corflutes and paperwork for the election... the blog has been a bit slow :-(  

However,  the garden continues to produce.  Thank goodness!  We have been eating well.   The weeds are getting ahead of me,  but I have been vigilant in the actual vegetable beds...  the other areas look lovely and green with sour sobs and winter grass.  The only justification for this might be that I can compost the organic material produced!

It is sunny and relatively warm outside today (for July, that is....  currently about 15C outside.)

The broad beans are beginning to flower and that is pretty amazing because I will be planting some more in the next few weeks....  all of my broad beans are grown from my own saved seed and most of it is this kind.... with black and white flowers (originally var. aquadulce).....
....  but last year I grew some red flowering ones.  I kept the seed from those plants separate,  but look at this....   there has been some cross pollination by the bees and this plant has to be heterozygous and the red flowers must be dominant....
... not quite out yet,  but I'll be interested to see how the flowers turn out....  stripey?  or plain red?

Nearby,  a native snail.  If I find a foreign snail or slug,  I always give them to the chickens,  but I feel a bit different about the native ones... they were here before these foreign vegetables,  and who knows what else might be dependent upon them.  They don't eat much....
This one is sitting on the leaf of a swede plant.

And there are other flowers coming along also....  coriander...
... borage....

... and these pink flowers whose name escapes me (I should remember!)

The jalapenos are still producing,  though in the cold weather,  they grow much more slowly.... the Q10 rule again....
... and we'll soon be eating cabbages....  there are about 10 or 12 here....

Today's basket of food from the garden....
beets, spring onions, leeks, carrots, broccoli  (all side shoots now) and some fennel....
.... on the kitchen bench and still not washed....
..... and that doesn't include the three eggs that I collected from the chook yard.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Washing day during an election campaign

The federal election campaign is underway.  On Monday night,  I attended a launch of sorts in Adelaide where Bob Brown (Senator, and party leader) gave a speech about current issues,  candidates and campaigning.
I was introduced by Sarah Hanson-Young (Senator for South Australia)....
Here is Sarah (with the microphone) telling Bob about my electorate (Wakefield) ane the candidate for Adelaide,  Bob Brown,  myself, and candidates from several other electorates.

Despite the election, corfluting, writing press releases and a few other obligations, it has been the first sunny day for some while and so, of course,  it's washing day.
This morning I actually did a huge amount of washing, and much of it is almost dry!
These are the last few "heavier" items that are still a bit damp.   But look at the weedy path and the overgrown patches of garden!   There may not be much time for weeding in the next five weeks...  I'm sure that many of the other candidates have someone else to keep up with those things!  It is almost time to start the new plants for spring, but I don't suppose that those things are taken into account when election dates are decided. (Football games  and cricket seasons do effect the choices.)

Meanwhile, in the rest of the yard....
.... the jonquils are doing well.  The leafy plants in front are mustard plants.  I grow them from mustard seeds that I buy in bulk for eating in curries...  the cheapest way of buying seed,  I've found.

On the way back inside,  I checked out these little "lily" plants.  I don't know what they are,  but they grow beautifully when it rains....
.... the flowers are lovely,  though tiny campared with lilies that I'm used to.... up to about 10cm tall....
I picked one to show the shape....  a bit over 2 inches "tall".....
....  lily-like, but I don't know what it is.  I usually "google"  in images to find flowers that I want to identify,  but I can't find this one.

The washing is still not completely dry and I am ironing some of the tea-towels, handkerchiefs and linen to reduce the amount of things that will be suspended around the fireplace overnight.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Garden food

After a very foggy cold morning, and 3mm of rain overnight,  we have a beautiful sunny day.  It is still cold, but the garden is doing well.... not much in the way of frost!  Even the potato plants are looking ok.  I have been out for a cold walk around the wet and muddy paths.

This morning I found another different jonquil....

... and some fungi on the fallen wood, reminding me of Paul Stamets' 2008 talk at TED.

The next crop is sure to be cabbage.  (I love it fried.)

After that, we'll be waiting for the spring,  and broad beans....

There is till plenty of food in the garden here....

.... and here....

I have cleaned up the kitchen this morning,  and just as I'd finished, I noticed a feather on the kitchen bench....
... around here,   there's no way that you could forget where the eggs come from.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Musing on sustainability

Today is quite cold outside.  It is raining gently,  and I hope some finds its way into the tank,  not that there's any great rush of water...  but it's all welcome, nevertheless.  This kind of weather does make the house cold though.  I have lit both fires and, while we are comfortable,  it's easy to see how seductive heating that works at the "flick of a switch" can be.  However,  there is the feeling of a trap also.
I have bought two loads of wood for this winter (though the smaller bits will last into the summer for the kitchen stove.)  Despite this, and the fact that all I need to do is to carry the wood inside and maintain the fire, I know as well how easy it is to turn on an electric heater.

In recent days,  I have been a part of several conversations in which "alternative energy"  is seen as one of the most important priorities for the planet.  I have some doubts about some of the ideas that I've heard.
Peak oil has probably passed already and coal has no clean option, so my community and others need to wean themselves from the cheap oil/coal energy options.   In fact this is going to happen, one way or another,  whether we like it or not.   This will either be fast or gradual, and taking into account the changing climate that might also be either fast or slow,  David Holmgren (of permaculture fame) has suggested four possible scenarios for the future.  These four scenarios are
  • Brown tech - slow oil decline and fast climate change 
  • Green tech - both slow oil decline and climate change, allowing the development of "green energy" and less change in lifestyle
  • Earth steward - fast oil decline and slow climate change,  requiring a "bottom up" re-build of infrastructure to support human civilisation
  • lifeboat - both changes happening fast
In all cases,  fast climate change would lead to scarier options than the slower change allowing some time for accomodation to the change.
It is in the scenario of "Green Tech" that discussion seems to be happening now.  How are we to produce sufficient energy to maintain our current lifestyles and even improve the lives of many who don't have the "benefit" of our level of energy consumption.
While there are many elegant theories and ideas about electricity production and wonderful energy conservation measures,  I can't imagine where the resources will come from the make the hardware to support these changes.  How much embodied energy is present in the windfarms, solar panels and batteries and electric cars that are intended to replace the infrastructure that we are currently using?  and what kinds of specialised materials are required for production of those energy producing or storing items?
We have used more than a million years worth of stored solar energy (captured and stored by ancient plants and animals) within about one hundred and fifty years.  The rate of this exploitation has increased annually for all of that time.  This exponential increase in energy use that we have come to rely upon to support our profligate lifestyle, let alone our precarious economy, cannot continue indefinitely on a finite planet.  We are "between a rock and a hard place" and there is really no easy way out.

"Sustainable" seems to be the word of the year!  We need a sustainable population in sustainable communities using sustainable energy and sustainable water supplies and then there is the oxymoron...  sustainable development.  In our culture,  development refers to increasing infrastructure and/or use of the natural world.  In order to be sustainable, there can be no "annual increase" of any percentage,  however small, as, in the same way that compound interest increases exponentially, this is completely impossible unless we live in an infinite environment.  But we have only one habitable and accessable planet, and we are fast running out of unused resources.

This "exponential increase" that requires infinite resources first occurred to me some years ago when I read about the requirement for the "economy" to increase by at least a small percentage every year. (There is a very good description of exponential functions here.)  I'd watched the "law of diminishing returns" in real life as I lived in Newfoundland before and during the collapse of the cod fishery...  the amount of energy, money and fuel and hours spent on fishing for cod increased exponentially while the catch gradually reduced.  This was a very graphic demonstration of just how quickly the actual collapse of an exponential function might happen.  The economy cannot increase by any percentage forever on a finite planet, and neither can energy production, of any kind. And neither can the biota of the planet, including humans.

While I am certain that there will be some wonderful innovations in energy production and conservation, I am just as certain that the amount of energy, whatever its source,  that each of us is able to use will be reduced in the future.  Green Tech will not enable us to retain our "standard of living."

There are many people on our earth who use very little.  To reduce their consumption of electricity by, say,  half  will make much less difference than to many of my friends (or me) who might need to reduce their consumption by half.  There are already many people in the world who have electricity available for only a part of the day.  I wonder how some of us would manage with only a few hours of electricity daily.  A "one off"  blackout seems to cause quite some consternation.  

This brings me back to my own kitchen and my own thoughts on the matter.  I wouldn't like the loss of access to the internet,  radio and news of the world.  I wouldn't like the inconvenience of little light after the sun goes down...  it's hard to read by candle or firelight.   As I look at my kitchen fire burning, heating the oven for dinner,  I sometimes think about the woman (for I am sure that it was a woman) who stood there in her full length dress tending the fire in relative silence (no iPod for her) and her trips with a bucket to the hand pump out by the tank for water, or to the woodheap to stoke the fire (as I do regularly.)  
There is an old lilac bush (almost a tree) growing in the forest that is the front yard of the house.  Perhaps she liked the colour or perfume and watered that plant with the dishwater during the summer to enable it to survive, as I do with some of my garden favourites.

The house was built for the Church of England as a manse, though it was also used for Sunday services (there must have been quite a small congregation!) until Christchurch was built and commissioned in 1857.  Reverend Strickland lived here until 1859.

“How amiable are Thy tabernacles O Lord of hosts!”  So began the first sermon in the new Kapunda Church of England by the incumbent. the Revd F.P. Strickland, on Sunday 11 October 1857.
 (Holy Bible, King James Version, Psalm 84 verse 1)  The evening text came from the 48th verse of Acts, Chapter 7 “Howbeit the most high dwelleth not in temples made with hands; saith the prophet”  Incidentally Strickland lived in the house that became the home of William John Moyle Oats, bootmaker and uncle to W.N. Oats who later became principal of King’s College and then The Friends School, Hobart. 

It is this house of William Oats, bootmaker, that I am living in now.  I even wonder whether anyone in Kapunda would be able to make shoes if it were necessary.  Mainly though,  I wonder how sustainable is the way that people live,  not only in Kapunda,  but further afield as well.

Sustainability implies a much longer term than I believe our community is thinking.  It means using only the amount of resources that are replaced continuously.  Since the only source of energy arriving on our planet is solar we need to use energy that is renewable at the rate that it can be produced or collected as has always happened in the past;  even taking into account that embedded energy used in producing the infrastructure to collect the energy and the "depreciation" in efficiency on that infrastructure.  It is only over the last relatively short few hundred years that we have been able to make use of energy that was collected over millions of years and that can't continue for much longer.

Many people in the world are already living sustainably.  They have no choice.  

We will either make that choice voluntarily or we'll be pushed into one of those scenarios so well described by David Holmgren.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Election announcement, bread, jam and soup....

Today the Prime Minister announced that we would be having an election on August 21st,  as I have already commented upon.  I need to get out to put corflutes (posters) up in a number of towns in the electorate.  The problem for me was that I had already soaked the dried apricots to make jam and they just had to be cooked.  We had run out of bread and so I needed to get that made also and, of course dinner needs to be prepared.
I took this photograph of my kitchen the other day... when it was more or less clean and tidy.
Here is is tonight with a newly baked loaf of bread,  the dirty jam pan and jars of jam and a heap of dirty dishes....
The soup is cooking and the basket of greens consists of the "pot herbs" to add in a little while.  I haven't put the coreflutes up yet.....  tomorrow!
I wonder how many of the male candidates for the election had to make sure that the family had food prepared and kitchen under control....

Today I found the first of my bluebell bulbs emerging....
... and I can't wait until they flower.  (They are currently about 1cm tall!)

Once again.... the jonquils are perfuming the whole yard....   still.


Today, Julia Gillard has visited the Governor General to ask her to dissolve parliament.   She has decided to have the election on August 21st, meaning that  the writs will be issued on Monday night.  This means that, while we have a permanent electoral roll here in Australia, anyone who has moved house or turned 18 in the last three years (since the last federal election) needs to make sure that they are properly enrolled for this election before 8.00 pm on Monday.
I  have been endorsed as the Greens candidate for the electorate of Wakefield.  It seems that the next five weeks will be very busy.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Today's harvest from the backyard

The garden remains productive.
I picked some salad, parsley, chinese broccoli, small beetroot, spring onions and (St Valery) carrots.  
That means that we have stirfried vegetables (the broccoli and beet leaves, carrots and parsley) with some gulf prawns on top of salad leaves (Gulf St Vincent, that is) and rice.  I'll add some photographs later if I can.

Cottage garden patch, herbs and bulbs

This patch of my garden is beginning to have a "cottagey" look about it.  It is my "herb patch" in fact,  but it had been a very messy patch with very poor soil until lately.  I had planted herbs there in thepast,  but in the very hot November weather last year (spring is a bit early for a week or more of 40C days)  many plants here died.  Before I replanted this time,  I have dug qquite a bit of compost and soil from the chooks yard into the patch....

There are the usual edible herbs.... parsley, sage,  rosemary and thyme  etc,  but I also have several lavenders,  rue and several other sage varieties also.  In the middle,  there used to be quite a healthy crop of sour sobs and these are so hard to get rid of (they produce lots of underground bulbs annually)  but they are also fairly uncompetitive when there are other plants around... and so I planted mustard.  In the above picture,  the large green leaves around the bulbs are mostly mustard (the cheapest seeds to buy from the spice dept.  of a bulk food shop.

The jonquil bulbs are now flowering profusely here too....  and I still much prefer the simpler "single"  flowers....
The ones with multiple rows of petals are too heavy for the stems....
Jonquils produce plenty of bulbs too.  I move the extras to the "orchard" area whenever I find any...
This is a peach tree (leaves all fallen) with jonquils all around it.  Other trees have similar circles of bulbs,  though there are still gaps...  it's a work in progress.

Today I found this little shoot also...
I had taken some cuttings of a salvia that grows well here.  I didn't have time to take much trouble over these,  but just poked them into the ground where I wanted it to grow, and it has worked!

This row of green tinge is the next row of carrots.  It's necessary to keep on planting as well as picking!  I thinned these yesterday and they are looking pretty healthy, if small!

It is a beautiful day outside... about 20C and sunny.  Rain is predicted,  though there is no sign of it here. The "house" tank is noticeably lower (about two thirds full now) so if it doesn't rain this time (it's been predicted several times lately though we haven't had much at all)  I'll be pumping water from the other tanks again.

The postman has just been.  I have a new seed catalogue!  Time to think about spring already?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Weeding, as usual, and carrots

The lettuce has grown beautifully and is sweet and lovely to eat...  we should be having more salads.  I wish that they would produce this well in the sumemr when I don't want to cook!
I have been weeding, and weeding and weeding....    yesterday I pulled up three heaped wheelbarrows full of soursobs, stinging nettles and grass...
The chickens are loving it.  They have been rummaging through and getting all of the good bits.

We have been having a few carrots too.  They are really sweet and growing fast....
... as they get fatter they crack the clayey soil... I don't put much of anything in the soil for the carrots, so it remains quite heavy and a bit like glue.  They don't really like rich soil.  It looks like a tiny earthquake!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Labyrinth at Waite Arboretum

Yesterday I went to catch up with friends with whom I went to High School in the early 1960's.  As one of us realised at the time,  it is now 50 years since we all started as "first years" at Unley High School.  Here are the first of us to arrive....
.... Lori Neilson, Sue Blackburn (with the bottle) Jennifer Gardner, Sue Park, myself and Anne McMenamin.  (Some of these are a bit cryptic,  ony because of changed names... rather a problem for women trying to catch up with old friends!)
We had lunch in the dining room at Urrbrae House....
.... Jennifer is the director of the Arboretum and the house, so.... what a luxury to have the dining room when it's not in use!
The Arboretum ( Waite Arboretum) is a beautiful place also,  with not only its collection of trees and other plants,  but amazing commissioned sculptures.

The latest addition that I hadn't seen before was the labyrinth.... all assembled by Jennifer during her summer holidays!  I think it is the most amazing labyrinth that I've seen for many years!
From the left, we are myself, Annie Mac, Pamela Hill, Lori Neilson, Sue Blackburn and Sue Park.

The meeting with friends, a couple of whom I hadn't seen for more than forty years... closer to the fifty,  I think,  was wonderful.  Some of our memories matched... we remembered many things in much the same way,  but there were a lot of bits that others could fill in when we'd forgotten.

Once home again,  I was so tired (I'd had a wakeful night previously... with a wayward child)  and I had an early night!  
My plan had been to do some work in the garden today, but it was not to be.  The night had been a wild and windy night... only 3mm of rain,  but so windy.  In the city,  many people had damage and no electricity for some hours...  I suppose we were lucky to have none of that,  but it wasn't very pleasant outside today.  I sat by the fire,  reading,  and happy to be able to stay warm and not so windblown.

I do have quite a bit of "garden work" to do.  It is time to begin planning the spring plantings and it will soon be time to start the seeds for the early summer so that we don't have to endure the hungry gap.  
More tomorrow....

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Light Regional Council

This evening, I will have a Development Application Assessment meeting and so I have had to drive around the council area to view a number of sites.  I'm aware that people find this a bit of a drag,  but I really enjoy the site visits, especially when the weather is good and I end up in places that I don't see very often.
On the way today,  I drove through many paddocks of newly germinated crops....

... this is exactly the kind of land that our council policies are written to protect...  land that produces grain for consumption by people in the city who never imagine what it takes to produce those calories.

And on I went through vines, some needing pruning and some already done...
... and beside these....  a wild rose growing....
I went to have a look at it and the flowers are beautiful.... and the bees are busy....
The "dog roses"  that are all along the sides of the road have rosehips on them,  but they have completely gone into "winter" mode now.  This is some kind of hybrid that has escaped from a garden.
The perfume of these roses was so strong that I could smell them even as I crossed the road.
I was being watched as I photographed the flowers...
..... and behind are the Nain Hills with remnant native bush.

On the road again and this is Branson Rd...  one of the kind of roads that I love to paint or draw....
... the photograph doesn't include the screeching lorikeets or the parrots,  but I saw them!

Back towards Kapunda through huge vistas of germinating crops....  it feels so comforting to know that all of this food production is so close to home.

Further down Branson Rd, an olive grove...
... and nearer to Kapunda,  the sheep paddocks....
... looking green and healthy.

Once home,  I put my stolen roses (from the side of the road) into a vase and already the kitchen is perfumed as if incense was burning....
In the future,  pesticides, phosphate and fertilisers of all sorts will become expensive,  making rotation of crops with the inclusion of grazing animals while fields are "fallow" along with the newer low-till methods of farming will become more necessary...  perhaps this little corner of the world is a good place to be.