2021…….

And just like that, we are into the second week of this brand-new year.  I don’t follow the tradition of a resolution but there is intent ahead.

  • Making a conscious investment in myself because finally, I realise I am worth it.
  • Endeavoring to do more of what I love.
  • To not walk the long path I have often felt obligated to walk.
  • Allowing that space inside me to accommodate more simplicity and joy, and
  • The continued transformation of my garden and this house into my home…..no pressure 😊

Captured in photos, I have just skimmed through the last 12 months.  It was at times, a sweet look back.  The cats, the ocean, local travel opportunities (those posts to come) and my garden.  Ordinary days made good.

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I can’t complain of 2020.  I sincerely cannot complain when so many suffered such tragedy yet perhaps for many, that year also marked a return to home.  In a year filled with sorrow, such uncertainty, lockdowns and isolation, the need for home and family and loved ones was recognised and for me, there was also a greater appreciation of the small things.

I am grateful for Thomas and George who arrived so skittish and fearful but who now are settled.  Sweet, happy, gentle and very much at home and for me, finding home in their very gentle presence. Thankful as always for little Zoe.  For a simple yet beautiful old book which arrived in the post, a blue banded bee on a sage flower, the washed denim blue of the sky, a roof over my head and home-grown food on the table, a fledgling kestrel and snow bird and good people. Small yet significant things.

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Over the past few years my sadness has been vast and deep and there is nothing which can prevent you from feeling lost but life marches on with or without your consent or attendance.  You soon realise though, there is much good out there and even better reasons to move forward.

It is no secret that when I first returned to South Australia I initially found in my come back, a difficulty.  I was leaving behind much which I loved in Newcastle, and I was embarking on the unknown.  And trust me, returning somewhere whence you have been is never easy (#USA2015!!).

The house and yard were both an absolute mess.  An overwhelming chaotic muddle which stole my time, my energy, my patience and at times my sanity.  Some days, I seriously reached my quota!

I very often tend to take far too much on.  There are clearly no margins to this life and when driven by perfectionism, I forget to be kind to myself which in turn leaves me exhausted and shattered.  Yet over time, I have come to slowly love this place again.  I am starting to like the way it is turning out with the investment over the past few months of a new roof, full solar power and a reverse cycle air conditioner to replace the old swampy.

Rusted gutters along with 22 tonne of old brittle and broken terracotta tiles were removed and the house sighed with relief.  New steel beams replaced dry rotten wood, a dark colourbond tin roof chosen for a more elegant and contemporary look, the eaves and chimney painted.  No more leaks.  It looks amazing.  Best investment ever!

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I adore the garden and yard now too, especially my veggie patch.  That ever evolving and growing space called ‘Zoe’s Patch’ after my little gardening companion and where I spend my quiet time has come so far.  As soon as Zoe hears the rattle of my keys in the back door she is at my feet.  The patch is fully enclosed and Zo loves to head out there to either sit on the sugar cane mulch or amongst the plants or perch herself upon one of the compost bins.

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How it looked when I first arrived back……

And in the post came the most beautiful of surprises.  My mothers cherished book.  She and I share a love of books and many of her old childhood books display the evidence of her relationships with them. Well read and much loved, spines rebound, yellowed scotch tape and dog-eared pages and small notes.  I could not love this dear little book more.

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This year is about developing roots yet still having the ability to fly.  It is about being a warrior for and a peacemaker with the past.  It is of simplicity and mindful resilience.  Hugs without restrictions or supervision and all the little things in between.  Nothing is out of reach……….x

And we’ll never be Royals……..

What odd times we live in at present.  Everything has slowed to almost a stop and life as we knew it has come to pass.  Although I miss some things, volunteer work, travel and just the ability to sit in my favorite espresso bar, I am relishing these quiet moments of isolation.  Time now is occupied star gazing, perfecting jenga moves, letting herbs go to seed and drying the tiny pods ready for re-planting next year, mixing gin for late evenings of Miles Davis, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and just simply being.

My home has never been cleaner which always makes me feel good.   Fire places scrubbed, furniture moved and re-arranged and small projects completed with new ones begun.

I am also preparing for the eventual renovation of the house.  There is an endless list and much work ahead but most of all, I am looking forward to the verandah being re-attached.   In anticipation, I have scoured the rust and flaking paint from lovely pieces of vintage cast iron furniture I have collected over the years, am in the process of repainting them and plants have been repotted.

The weather this time of year in South Australia is glorious.  After a summer of over exposed heat and raging bush fires, the cooler weather and bluer skies make for perfect gardening.  More beds have been added in the vegie patch, the soil enriched with compost and manure and seeds and seedlings sown for a winter crop.

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A different variety of garlic this year

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They may not be my beloved surf boards but shit is getting done

To the yard the bees, the bugs and birds have all returned along with the possums, micro bats, lizards and the occasional echidna.  That alone fills my heart.

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For me, the garden and yard are a source of absolute bliss.  I love watching it change and grow and find it more self indulgent than self isolating when out there which brings me to this post on the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.

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Endeavoring to write of these gardens, established in 1818 on the banks of the River Derwent, gives way to much hesitation.  I know I will find it difficult to put into words the graceful beauty I found amongst the almost 14 hectares of gardens.  Of how it was to sit on garden benches under perfectly blue Tasmanian skies.  Of how the scent of early spring blossom hung in the air and of how lovely the paths and grass were carpeted in the spent petals of Camellia and Magnolia.  Most problematic of all however, would be how to describe to you the utter joy and winsomeness I found whilst skulking around the affectionately named Pete’s Patch.  

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The grounds are sectioned off and hold just over 6,500 species of native and exotic plants. We strolled around and through most.

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The Resilient Garden

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The Conservatory

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The Herb Garden

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The Tasmanian Community Food Garden – Pete’s Patch

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It is unfortunate, but I cannot write kindly of our experience of Succulent, the gardens’ restaurant.  On the day we were there, it was disappointing to a fault and we were not the only ones dispirited!  It was really poor yet I understand since our visit, the restaurant closed and re-opened under new management.  To be fair, when I return to the gardens I will give them another try.

Enjoying more of the gardens……..

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Farewell Tasmania………..thanks for coming Mum x

Would I like my little patch to be like that of a Royal Botanical Garden.  The answer simply is no.  It will never be royal but I like how my garden is evolving with the leniency of secateurs and pruning sheers.

Change, whether it be the garden or these very odd times is forever upon us.  It is all just a matter of time and patience.  Enjoy these days of living a slower pace, don’t complicate things, don’t complain, don’t hoard and be kind.  Its really not that hard……x

If you never, never go – Part II…….

The heat wave continued in South Australia making for bleached, pale and hazy skies.  A thunderstorm on Friday evening, which blew my ‘tree house’ down, then short bouts of showery rains have finally cooled our state down.

Little in the way of digging, planting or weeding has happened due to the heat although very recently, as in the past day or so, I invested in some beautiful Hybrid Tea Roses.  I have devoted a bed just for them right in front of the house where I will see them every day.

An entry in a writing competition received second place.  It was a placing I certainly did not expect as I was chuffed enough to have been shortlisted in the top ten.  I am so happy and very humbled by my ‘win’ and I decided to spend the prize money on something which will bring continued joy and a gentle reminder to keep writing.

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The beautiful ‘Just Joey’ ……..

The garden and yard have been challenging, and at times, a deeply frustrating quest but I’m getting there……..slowly!  Some days, I have actually been out there from sun up to sun down yet the weeds persist.  Completely resilient to heat, boiling water, hand pulling and my cursing them, they soldier on with such determination and vigor.

I wrote earlier in a blog post that I am trying to hand pull all of the weeds as I am a committed organic gardener which means no herbicides or pesticides.  Plus I am trying to ‘break the cycle of weeds’ by removing them completely.  Therein lies the problem as apparently ‘a year of weeds left to seed, makes for twenty years of weeding’!  The  wonderful and very knowledgeable Sophie Thomson said that so by my calculations, it had been five years since any weeding was done, therefore, I have 100 years of weeds ahead!

I have a vision for the restoration and a plan.  Low hand-made gabian walls and paths, a mix of native and indigenous plants alongside roses, daisy’s, salvias, cat mints and lavenders.  Athough a perfectionist in most (okay all!) areas of my life, my garden is to be a beautiful chaotic mass of colour, rooms and foliage.  No clipped lawns, no harsh lines and edges and certainly not contrived.  Just soft, irregular, rambling and lovely.


Eat Darwin

Like your food on a stick?  Me too and where better to find it than at one of the popular Darwin markets.

There are two main markets in Darwin, both equally famous for their street food.  The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (run only during the dry season) and my favorite, the fabulous Parap Markets.  Both these markets epitomise everything  Top End – a love of community and a relaxed multicultural vibe.

Mindil Beach Sunset Markets

Every Thursday and Sunday evening in the dry season, which falls between April and October, and home to around 200 stalls are the popular Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.  Held on the foreshore of Mindil Beach, these markets are a perfect way to end a glorious day in the top end as you watch the sun go down over the Timor Sea.

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Apart from the sunset, these markets are renowned for their smoky grilled street food and there is plenty on offer.  Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Brazilian and Portuguese to name just a few with most serves costing from as little as $6 onwards.  On my first night at the markets I believe I may have eaten my weight in stuffed chicken wings which were amazing.

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There are a number of very good arts and crafts stalls selling photography, bespoke jewellery, leather goods, fresh water pearls, tie dye items and Indigenous wares.  The Indigenous works are stunning with paintings, beautiful screen printed fabrics (which have been made into items such as bags and scarves) and hand-woven pandanus baskets.  Some of these stalls are 100% Aboriginal owed which means the artists and their remote communities benefit.

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Parap Markets

Tucked away in Parap Village, this market, with its laconic community style is where you will get one of the best laksa’s on the planet!

Mary’s Laksa has been dished up to locals and tourists for just over 20 years and the recipe hasn’t changed.  Home-made with the freshest ingredients, this laksa is absolutely worth the wait in line……..and there is always a line.

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I loved these markets.  The community vibe and the air heavy with the aroma of roasting coffee, sweetly scented tropical fruit and flowers and Asian food.  There are also many arts and craft stalls where you can pick up a one off hand-made piece of the Top End to take home. Held every Saturday rain, hail or shine markets don’t get much better than these.

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Thai deep fried banana……..I didn’t (couldn’t) stop at one serve

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There are so many great places to eat in and around Darwin.  With its multicultural mix of restaurants, cafes, food truck, markets and bars – the freshest of seasonal and local produce along with seafood pulled straight from the ocean – Darwin has it covered.

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Drink Darwin

The thing with Darwin is that it is always hot and the beer is always cold.  Again, there are a number of great places to grab a cold one from high-end to the oh-so-laid-back-casual to all those places in-between.

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I recommend you find a spot on a deck or balcony under those big slow turning fans as this will offer the best place to indulge in the perfect combination of a Green Ant G&T and a little people watching.

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The ‘Ski and Trailer Boat Club’ is a great little spot to catch up for a cold beer and watch the sun go down.  This little club is unpretentious and welcoming, offers great food and is packed to the brim with friendly locals.

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Best in show again Darwin…….

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Tips: 

Best time to visit – ANY!  Either season has its draw-cards

Eat – Wharf One, Humpty Doo Hotel, Ski & Trailer Boat Club, Parap Markets

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if only for this – Mary’s Wonton Laksa…….

Drink – For great coffee The Museum & Art Gallery NT, Ski & Trailer Boat Club, The Darwin Hotel (a cozy Art Deco watering hole in the city) and anywhere along the waterfront.

Crocs and street art up next…….x

Footnote:  Just Joey Rose – Barossa Nursery in Nuriootpa

 

 

The rabbit hole…….

Well, its official.  I am a million miles behind on my blog!  It seems I always have a ‘to do list’ which never shortens……no great observation there!  Time just keeps marching  forward with such inexplicable speed.  Days turn into weeks and those weeks a month and before I realise it, I have not even logged onto my site.

Sometimes I feel as though I have fallen down a rabbit hole.  There has been travel (those posts will come I promise)  but it is the garden, yard and house which takes up most of my time.   Not that I am complaining about the garden.  I find it awfully easy to breathe out there and this space, my ocean substitute, has such an effect on the soul.

Things are progressing well.  Over the  past 7 months I watched as the birds slowly returned along with the lizards and bugs.  On warm winter days, I have seen blue tongues, the odd bob-tail, penny lizards and skinks which has been wonderful and although I was worried I would not get a winter crop in, we have enjoyed fresh spinach and rainbow chard, rhubarb and an abundance of herbs.

The garlic will soon be ready for harvest and a bed of lettuces, chillies and two rows of ‘Manchester Table’ carrots have been sown along with dwarf green beans.  In another bed the waiting soil, enriched with compost and manure, is ready for the sowing of heirloom tomatoes, basil and parsley, daikon and Asian greens.

And in the midst of all this, our sweet little companion Zoe turned 13.  I do so love this little old cat and all her expressions are known to me.  The long slow blinks, the gentle head butts, the different purrs and mews.  A rough start to life – Zoe arrived at a Melbourne shelter neglected and abused – and after almost six months of care by the wonderful shelter staff she was ready for adoption.  Finally adopted, the family returned her after just four days.  Luckily for us, she was back up for adoption and nine years on, Zoe is as lovely as the day she came home.  Thank you for choosing us Zoe xx.

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Always adopt, don’t shop…….

She is also a great gardening companion and is happy to catch some winter rays when I am in the enclosed vegie patch.

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The weekend is just around the corner and although I have a couple of things planned, I will be hitting the laptop in a concerted effort to catch up a little…..not just with the blog but with those so often in my thoughts.

For me, the thought to create good intent means I really need to live good intent so with the very best of intentions, here goes……..x

Moving on…….

I can’t believe it has been almost 6 months since I moved to South Australia, the sea and salt of Newcastle left well behind.  For someone who has consistently moved, I still find the actual act of moving onerous.  Putting my life into boxes once again, the mix of emotion, the sorting, the photos – photos of those no longer with us, babies who are no longer babies and those no longer in my life for various reasons.  Boxes which tie to a collective past, a reminder of everything beautiful and egregious in my lived life.

After living in so many different places and countries, you would think I’d be used to moving.  Luckily for me, I have always unpacked with a roof over my head and with an openness for new adventure.

There has been much happiness to be found in my return to SA.  I guess some things just align with your soul.  It has been an incredibly busy time and there has been some travel yet I bow my head with a mingling mix of shame and guilt as I have lost touch.  Too many excuses but none of which I will use.  I have been busy, too busy – one of my many failings.  I try but fail.  I will be in touch soon with those dear to my heart whom I miss.  You know who you are.  I promise.

There has been a change of season during this time too.  Winter has arrived to SA.  The wattle is out in all its golden gloriousness.  I snip sprigs during my wanderings (one of the small yet special things about living here) and have the blooms throughout the house.  It is cold and crisp today with a chilled liveliness.  I can hear the occasional bird and the very, very distant hum of a train on the tracks given the air is so clear.

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I am missing the warmth of summer with its harsh light and that of my washing drying on the hills hoist in under five minutes and smelling so acutely of sunshine.  Now though, there is time for moments spent in my favourite room, fire side with the little cat for quiet company which is loveliness itself especially when it is rainy and cold.

I am also finding happiness in the restoration of the garden – the house will have to wait, it is ‘livable’ now!!   The garden is a huge undertaking so I work, rest a little, get more inspired then enjoy the solitude of getting back out there.  Its not a race.  There is no right or wrong, just an enjoyment of each moment spent there.

Some areas are no longer overgrown with dead plants, trees, weeds or rubbish.  I am hand pulling everything and composting what I can. Three huge skips have already been filled with ‘rubbish’ from the yard.  Plastics, drug paraphernalia, that which cannot be composted and more rubbish.  There were good renters and not so good renters in the end.  I can’t fret about it, these things happen.

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Gardening has become a passion again.  I love how the soil becomes ingrained under my finger nails and fills the small cuts, scratches and lines of my hands.  A welcomed tattoo from mother nature.

I am a very organic gardener, no herbicides or pesticides.  A healthy environment devoid of all chemicals so there will be ‘cycles’ of weeds to combat for months to come before eventually dying out.

In the heart of all this gardening there has been much compost making.  ‘Brown gold’, much coveted and which during the heat of summer was breaking down from scrapes, organic matter and garden waste into beautiful friable soil in only a matter of months.

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Cuttings, seedlings, succulents and colour have taken up residence in my collection of old, worn terracotta pots and rusting wash tubs and with the winter sun, are doing well.  The bees, bugs, lizards and birds are returning.  Everything outside has been finally swept clean of dust and dirt and it all feels so much better.

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The patch is beginning to take shape again too. I look forward to it being once again filled with berries, fragrant herbs, leafy greens and the root veg of winter.  It is an enclosed area, the wire allowing the small birds and insects through but it keeps the ‘bandits’ at bay.  The possums, as endearing as they are, do love the tender seedlings and blackbirds, the newly mulched soil.

Re-establishing the fruit orchard will be the next venture after completing the patch.  Something else on the ever growing list of ‘to-do’.  The once thriving stone fruit trees and citrus are gone but then so have the roses and natives which also once filled the yard.

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The fruit orchard.  Next on the hit list

The vegie patch, February 2019

Slowly getting there, March 2019

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May 2019

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My favorite gardening companion…….x

The garlic is spouting and the leaves have dropped, there is frost on the ground and occasionally rain in the gauge.  These are lovely liminal times.

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There are more weeds to pull, seeds to plant, garden beds to turn, trees to replace and wattle bloom to collect.  Small but ever joyful moments in South Australia……….x