A Day In The A Blue Mountains.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I welcome you to take your time and browse , visiting my bush garden and discovering the wonders of my city within a national park; Blue Mountains National Park. Via my blog you will travel with me through the successes, trials and tribulations of gardening on a bush block. I share with you my patchwork & quilting, knitting, paper crafts, cooking and life in general.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Up Close And Personal

2015 is turning out to be one of loss. I have so far lost an uncle and our small cluster of villages seems to be mourning another member every other week.
 In 2008 I lost the older of my baby brothers ‘A’ in tragic circumstances during an outing to the beach.  
I am the eldest sibling of seven, five girls and two boys, in that order.
Given that I love my four younger sisters you must be able to imagine my delight when the birth of our first brother was announced.
In fact, I was the one to announce his birth to my Dad and my younger sisters.  
We lived in a little town north west of Sydney.  We had no motor car and no telephone.  Mum had been admitted to the women’s hospital in Sydney the day before and Dad had sent me to the shops, about a kilometre and a half walk, to telephone the hospital to ask about any news.  
My Dad scolded me because I had not asked about Mum’s well being and I was made to walk back to the post office telephone to inquire about the baby’s and her health.  I felt ashamed that I hadn't, felt guilty that my excitement had been allowed to overtake my sense of responsibility towards my family.  To this day, I realise that I’m still guilty of this characteristic.  
I wanted to shout out; it’s a boy.  And I did, I ran the distance home.  When I saw Dad I shouted:  It’s a boy, it’s a boy.  
Two years later our second baby brother was born.  Our brothers were like chalk and cheese.  ‘A’ was shy, introverted, a thinker, hardworking, responsible, a quiet achiever.
Our youngest brother ‘D’ extroverted, happy-go-lucky, funny, always on the go, made friends easily, had more friends than you could count, and rather irresponsible.   He saw no bad in anyone, which unfortunately is not always a good thing.  
On the evening of May 1, 2015 our youngest brother departed this world.  
My emotional response to his sudden passing is in stark contrast to the emotions I felt when losing my first brother. 
In 2008, when we lost ‘A’ I believed I would never recover from losing him.  The emotional pain was overwhelming; I couldn't believe he was gone.  I believed his passing was irresponsible, and that he was still needed here in this world.  I wanted to know ‘why’ he had been taken.  The fifth anniversary of his death was as difficult, if not more so, than his first.  I felt the loss sharply.  For the first two years after his passing I though about him daily.  Daily, my heart felt broken.  It’s only been perhaps the last twelve months or so that I have come to accept that he is no longer in this world.
On both occasions of my brothers’ passing, I have been given the news over the telephone.  In my mind, I have this concept of ‘that phone call’, ‘that phone call’ that no one should have to take.  The mother, the father, the sister, the brother... The wife, the child, the uncle…..
On three occasions in my life I have had to cope with ‘that phone call’, two of them to announce the loss of my brothers’ sudden and tragic passing.
My baby brother’s life was never simple.  Therefore it’s no surprise that neither was his passing.  So although he passed over on May 1, his funeral wasn't held until May 13 because of a variety of complications, some as minor as providing paper work to finalise funeral arrangements.
But, strangely, my initial response to hearing the news was of course shock, but in a strange way, his sudden passing was not surprising.  Emotionally, since then, I feel empty.  I believe my brother is truly at rest, but at the same time I haven’t registered his passing as having happened.  In other words, it feels like nothing has happened.  
The only things that sustain me are what I believe to be messages from him. 
The first sign we received was as his casket was ready to be lowered into the burial ground…out of nowhere, on a beautiful blue-skied-day, a sudden, strong gush of wind blew up and made me fear that the casket would blow of its strapping.  Our baby brother was saying goodbye, always the attention seeker, and the entertainer.
The second appeared as a double rainbow over his home town, as we left our mother’s house.  What a beautiful way to say au revoir to every single one of his friends simultaneously.  Only my baby brother... 
Fly baby brother, fly, your soul was too burdened by the constraints of this world.  You are now truly free.  

From one side of town...

...to the other.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time To Take Stock

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, or visit only occasionally, you will have noticed that my posts are becoming less and less frequent.
I wrote my first post on January 30, 2011.  I find it hard to believe that I have been blogging for over four years now.  
For some months I have pondered on whether I’m worthy of continuing along the lines I have been.  
My initial objective was to use my blog to practise my love of writing.  Have I achieved this objective?  I’m not sure.  Why do we write?  Primarily, we write to communicate.  
Since my first year in school I have been enthralled by the written word.  My earliest memories of the school curriculum involve everything about the written word but nothing of arithmetic.  
Aged eight, I began scribing my autobiography.  I’m not sure what happened to that ‘book’, the words of which I scribbled into a school exercise book.  From an early age my first choice for work was journalist but in the early sixties many vocations, especially if you happened to be female, became nothing but pipe dreams as the reality of your social status, your family’s economics, ethnic origins or other such things, preceded you.
Does my blog display journalistic qualities?  Is it autobiographical? 
The answer to these questions is - sometimes.
Mostly my blog is informative, entertaining and educational.  Sometimes it is personal, sometimes it is autobiographical.  
I struggle with ‘exposing’ my personal experiences not because they are my personal experiences but because they may also be the personal experiences of those closest to me and perhaps this is why I blog about the things I do (…craft, gardening, cooking, etc, etc) because I don’t want to make public the lives of others.   
But had this been my original intention?  I don’t think so. 
Over the past few months I have blogged what I think are “obligatory” posts.  I post because I feel obligated to my few followers and the occasional World Wide Web surfer who may come past my blog.   
Personally I’m critical of blogs that are not ‘signed off’ or removed from the web when they so obviously are no longer active.   
So I’m going through a bit of a dilemma as to what to do with this blog. 
I would therefore just like to let you know that at the moment, I’m contemplating whether I should continue along the lines I have been or what new direction this blog should take, or if it should continue at all.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Before The Storm

On Sunday, the sun was shining.
Mr HP, Miss Seven, her Mum and Dad and I, went for a bush walk.
A leech became attached to my shin.
I now have a nasty reaction to the leech bite.
Today I drove myself to the GP to have it seen to.  Luckily it's not infected.  It's inflamed and at times gets extremely itchy.
I drove in extreme weather for thirty minutes to get to my appointment. Since Sunday night it's hardly stopped raining.
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night. I realised that I had woken because the rain had stopped.  The silence had woken me up.  But it wasn't long before it was raining again.
Before Sunday we'd already had more than our fair share of rain so everything was damp and squishy, hence the leeches (well there were two leeches all up...and five humans)  We came across an interesting variety of fungi on our walk. 

Since Sunday night, Springwood has had around 150mm of rain.  We have been fortunate though, as we've had very little wind and so have been spared the devastation that has struck the coastal regions of the south east of Australia.
Today, Sydney airport was disrupted, railway tracks were flooded, a cruise ship locked out of port, flood rescues carried out, towns devastated as residents watched houses floating down the street, schools closed, and sadly, confirmation of lives lost was announced.
Flash floods are not uncommon in Australia, but it's not often do we experience such immediate devastation from flooding.  In this instance, the accompanying wind would have classed this as a category two tropical cyclone.  But technically, this storm is not a cyclone, because it did not occur over tropical waters, but it is an intense low-pressure system packing winds gusts of up to 135km per hour.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Batten Down The Hatches

We had such beautiful weather over the weekend.  

Yesterday's Blue Skies

Even so, we managed to receive more than our fair share of rain, which, thankfully fell mostly overnight.  This morning however, most of the south-east coast woke to a dreary wet Monday which is developing into an even drearier wet Monday afternoon with the potential for high winds.
We've lived in the Blue Mountains long enough to know that high winds means exactly that.  The Bureau of Meteorology has become a very reliable weather forecaster and when it issues a severe weather warning for damaging winds, I sit up and take notice.
As a result, all our deck chairs are neatly stacked on the verandah, my potted cuttings are set back out of the winds, and all loose objects (you know, the empty polystyrene box, empty plastic pots, gardening gloves, etc, etc), are packed away so that we don't have to spend the next month collecting stray items from the side of the holt on which we live.
Outdoors, the temperature has dropped from yesterday's comfortable mid 20 'C to around 12 'C so I think this calls for some serious cooking.
The heating has been cranked up but I always love to use the oven to help heat up the living areas of our home; so tonight (well, this afternoon), I'm preparing a slow roast fillet of beef for dinner.
I usually search the Internet for recipes but rarely do I follow a mains recipe completely. After scanning through three or four recipes I adapt them to suit my family's taste and what's available in my pantry.
The garden is overflowing with thyme...seems our dry, sandy, soil and humid conditions are ideal, after all, thyme has Mediterranean origins, so I've flavoured the beef with 25 (or is that 26)springs of thyme . Previously I had rolled the cut of beef in a mixture of freshly ground black pepper and Celtic sea salt.
After inserting the sprigs of herbs under the string I also rubbed some olive oil into the beef.
It is now in the oven roasting away in a pre-heated oven (reduced to 140'C - my oven is a 'hot' fan forced oven.)

  About an hour before serving the beef I'll put on a tray potato, beetroot and pumpkin to roast and just before serving make a nice dark gravy using the tray juices and steam some green beans.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Month In The Garden - April - Chilli

I have had two worthwhile crops of chillies this year.  I don't normally use chillies in my cooking, simply because Mr H.P. doesn't like spicy food. As you can see in the above picture, I've had to net the one plant I have because the possums treat chillies like delicacies.  On a nice hot sunny day I picked all the red finger chillies and using a needle and canvas thread, I strung about 20 onto the thread and allowed them to dry in the hot sun for a few days before bringing them indoors to completely dry. 

My first strand was exchanged at Crop and Swap for a yummy piece of blue pumpkin.
My second strand went to a friend I have made via an online garage sale and in exchange I received some kefir milk grains.  I gave the kefir grains to my daughter because she has been coveting some for a while now.  

Kefir is a fermented milk drink probiotic.  I must admit, milk is not one of my favourite foods and the closest I come to consuming milk is homemade natural yogurt which I religiously make about ever ten days and add to my porridge or smoothie at breakfast.
Tonight we used yogurt in our pumpkin soup instead of sour cream.
I think I will wait and see what kefir tastes like before I decide whether I will make it or not.
In the meantime, the weather has become very damp and humid and my chillie plant has been infested with aphids.  I'm hoping that a spray of soapy water will bring them under control.

It's not unusual for Sydney to be hot and humid over summer, in fact, it's quite normal.  But the past three or four summers have been so dry that I must admit I've forgotten how unpleasant the humidity can feel.  Unfortunately, the bugs have revelled in the return to more normal conditions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

This Month In The Garden - April - Indian Summer

The Blue Mountains has sort of been experiencing an Indian summer this autumn.  Technically it's probably been too wet but the combination of warm weather and high rain fall has seen some extraordinary things happening in my garden.
I have a potted echinacea purpurea by the front door which had a second flush of blooms late last month.  I honestly didn't think the buds would mature but I was wrong. 

Echinacea is also known as the coneflower because the seed head left after the 'petals' drop looks like a cone.

The 'cone' then continues to grow taller and taller.

What an amazing example of the Fabinacci spiral!

The pink petals of this echinacea are not true petals but bracts.  The many flowers grow from each of the spikes (eventually seeds) growing in the cone.  Sometimes a spectacular display happens when each of the spikes flower simultaneously.  This hasn't happened this year but if you look closely at the third picture from the top you will see three tiny, yellow, flowers growing to the top right of the cone.

My most favourite characteristic of this plant is the wonderful perfume produced by these tiniest of flowers.  I honestly believe the perfume rivals that of a rose.

Echinacea is commonly used medicinally to treat the common cold and boost the immune system.

Even though I've had this one plant for around six years I have not used it for making a tea simply because I felt the plant was not mature enough to cope with being harvested.

  Soon, it will die right back leaving only the seed head which is a favourite of florists to use in their floral displays.

Once the new shoots appear in spring I plan to split up the roots to start off some new plants.

I have under-planted the echinacea with runuculus so that over winter the pot continues to produce flowers.

Echinacea is a culinary delight to some of our wildlife and for this reason I have chosen to grow it in a large pot which I place close to the front door.  The possums and wallabies dare not venture this close to our house and so the plant survives long enough to produce flowers.  On a warm day, the perfume is glorious and can be appreciated every time we use the front door.

In the garden it works as a bee attractant too so if you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about what might eat this versatile plant...consider growing some in the vegetable and herb garden to help pollination.

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