Nine Weeks until Christmas 2020

The local farmers markets restarted in June 2020 after the first* NSW Covid-19 lockdown, and I have been visiting regularly, almost more regularly than pre-covid. There’s a little fence around all entry points, and you need to have your temperature taken and grab a squirt of hand sanitiser before heading into the outdoor venue.

It’s good to see all of the farmers and producers again.

Anyway, for my most recent visit, there was a sign up saying: “Nine Weeks till Christmas! Order your hams now!”

What the? Nine weeks till Christmas? What happened to 2020? How has it both managed to drag on interminably, and suddenly be near the end?

In other (garden) news, I thought I would get no guava crop this year. They normally crop around June-July. When I had nothing then, I thought my pruning mid-summer had snipped off all of the forming fruit. But it seems it was a combination of odd-weather and poor pollination. I got fruit in October. So very very late. The poorly pollinated fruits were smaller than golf balls, and instead of the rock hard “normal” seeds inside, I got little brown dots, a bit like rosehips. Because it is so warm, the guavas are almost rotten by the time they drop off the tree. What’s left I have been pureeing with apple sauce + tumeric + black pepper + cinnamon, and dehydrating. Sort of a guava chewy.

Over winter, I splurged a little and bought two fruit trees – prunus mume and a calville blanc d’hiver apple tree. Then I found out this new apple tree isn’t compatible with the current lot of apple trees that I already have, and not only that it is a triploid. Gonna be difficult to get apples unless I get another pollinator ….

Have also planted corn “seeds”, from last years crop. Germination rate is pretty good, nearly 100%. Hoping to have a break from the cherry tomatoes, but the seedlings sprouting from my compost have other ideas.

Have you discovered this too, dear reader, that your year has been both super fast and super slow? Have your fruit trees also cropped this year at an unexpected time? Let me know your thoughts.

Plastic Free July, 2020

Unlike previous years, I am not cataloging my usage (or attempt at non-usage) of plastic during this year’s Plastic Free July.


1. It is depressing; and
2. Covid-19.

I am still heading to the bulk goods stores when I can, and refilling my dish detergent, milk bottles, laundry detergent, epsom salts etc. I’ve found some local shops that sell nuts & beans without packaging, I just take along & reuse a plastic bag when I head there. I am using my reusable N95 mask that I purchased during the 2019 Summer bushfire season. Who knew that it would come in so handy later in the year?

But look at this:

reusable cup

I got so excited when local (ish) bourke street bakery announced that after the Covid lockdown in March 2020 (& subsequent refusal to use any reusable cup); that from July they were accepting the “Green Caffeen” system of reusable cups. Woohoo!

I couldn’t find a copy of the updated advice from the Restaurant & Catering association, but here is something from the Northern Territory Government. Essentially, cafes can accept a reusable cup as long as (a) it’s a contactless pour; and (b) cup is clean/cleaned in a commercial dishwasher.

Not only that, Ragamuffin Cafe in Leichhardt is accepting *any* reusable cup, not just the green caffeen system.

So appropriate to the public health orders applicable to your area.

So get out there, be social but spatially distance so you can *support* these business that are supporting the reusable cup system (rather than those that don’t), and get caffeinated at the same time.

PS. I was sifting through my compost. Look what I found:

disposable cup

Yep, it’s the plastic liner of a single use disposable coffee cup. Each reusable cup you use, prevents the usage/creation of something like that.

Ping, May 2020

Hello world, it’s me. I’m still alive!

Blogging has gotten a little more complicated than when I first started. Yahoo sold Flickr to SmugMug, and then the access rights changed, and now I can’t simply upload a photo by emailing it; I have to drag and drop to upload. So it’s an extra step that I haven’t had to do for YEARS. Then my phone bricked itself, and so of course any photos that I have taken in the past couple of months are currently inaccessible.

Stuff is still growing in the garden. The cherry tomatoes have been cropping like crazy, too many than I know what to do with, so I have been dehydrating them, and blitzing them into tomato powder to make “instant” tomato paste. The dehydrator has been getting a big workout.

I harvested 3 x purple cherokee tomatoes so far. They were enormous.I got the plants from a crop swap. Oh crop swaps, when we could meet in a group to exchange plants, seeds and baked goods and give each other hugs. *cries*

I just recently spotted a banana flower growing. I was so excited, my first banana hand growing for at least 3 years. We are going into winter, it’s going to have a hard life. Poor thing gets so neglected – I don’t chop down competing banana pups, and it doesn’t get extra fertiliser apart from grey water from the laundry. I guess I’m going to have to do something about that.

Harvested a few strawberries, some pineberries, basil, parsley.

Also a TRUCKLOAD of apples.

I would never think that my ballerina columnar apple trees would fruit so much. I think that there was so little forage around Winter 2019, that my bees (*sob*) went nuts, and I got an incredible apple harvest. Many more waltz’s (20+) than bolero’s (3 isH), which is good. The waltz’s were fantastic, the bolero’s were like an overcooked golden delicious. So I dehydrated slices of the boleros which made them much more edible.

My kaffir limes are fruiting again. I dehydrated my 2019 crop to make kaffir lime shampoo when the limes were out of season. They’re back in season,

I’ll post some photos when I get my act into gear, or get my gear acted upon.

Work wise – yes, I still am employed. I am working from home which is a privilege that I am very grateful for. This is week seven of WFH.

I feel really sad for the arts/theatre/music communities – all of these things that I had been looking forward to in 2020, all of those social butterfly things, all gone. Surprisingly, although I am more extroverted than my partner, I appear to be handling the work from home aspect a lot better than he is. He is itching to go out camping, or go mountain biking, just do SOMETHING. I don’t want to do anything that lands me in hospital! Hospital is the last place I want to be right now. I’m still keeping busy, but keeping busy in the home. I book-end my WFH days with yoga in the morning, and walks in the afternoon. It keeps me going.

Most recent travel: to a yoga retreat near Nowra, mid March 2020
Most recent crop swap: mid February 2020
Most recent theatre: early March 2020, Sydney Theatre Company’s “No Pay? No Way!” at the Sydney Opera House. A week later, all theatre was cancelled.

What I *had* been looking forward to in 2020:

  • Belvoir 2020 theatre subscription (Some plays outright cancelled, others postponed)
  • Tim Minchin “Back” (postponed to January 2021)
  • Tami Neilson in May 2020 (TBA…)
  • Support the arts. It’s what makes us human.

    Isn’t it incredible how much we take for granted, until it is no longer available to us?

    Harvest Monday, December 2019

    Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. For the background behind Monday harvests, please visit the Our Happy Acres blog.

    Harvested, took photos, went on Christmas holidays, forgot to post. Posting now!

    Capsicum (sweet peppers):

    Two small capsicums. These went into a chilli dish I made whilst in the outback over Christmas.


    Soybean seeds, blue butterfly peas, and purple tomatillos planted in November didn’t survive me going away. Purple “sapphire” seed potatoes and “midnight specials” potatoes have sprouted greenery. The greenery has (sort of) survived some 40 + degree days (104 F). It has been hot.

    I have harvested one full warre box of honey, about 6 frames (6/8) from a second box. This is probably about 20kg worth of honey, unknown amount of beeswax.

    Look at them apples:

    I have had an incredible amount of pollination this year on my columnar (ballerina) apple trees. I shouldn’t have over 20 apples growing from a pot. I think because of the drought this year, there has been less in flower/less of a nectar flow elsewhere & since these are well watered I got A LOT of pollination.

    We are now in “stage 2” water restrictions, with the main dams for Sydney at just of 40% capacity & a lot of bushfires going on (which needs water to fight them). Sydney is basically surrounded by a burning ring of fire. These water restrictions mean that now I can only water my plants with a bucket. Which is ridiculous because it is less targeted than a hose. I’ve had crop swap friends observe that they are actually using MORE WATER with bucket watering than they were with a hose. Surely, me growing plants that help keep the area cool & the bees & birds fed, as well as reducing food miles is a more useful deployment of water than someone washing their car (also with a bucket)? Makes me so angry. I got a few more unglazed terracotta pots & installed them as ollas in my raised garden beds.

    So dear reader, what have you harvested from your garden recently? Do you have any tips for keeping plants going through water restrictions?

    2019 Review Thingo

    Questions repeated from Shauna Reid 2017 Review Thingo, because the actual reverb thingy appears to have stalled on the interwebs.

    Earlier “year in review” posts can be found:

    2014 part one, part two

    1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

    Travelled to Tenterfield, Inverell, Grafton, Glen Innes areas, all within NSW Australia.
    Joined a local Boomerang Bags sewing group, and learned to sew a little on a machine! These groups make reusable bags from reclaimed materials that would otherwise be put into landfill.

    2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?

    I don’t remember what new years resolutions I made in 2019, so clearly can’t have kept them.

    This year I’m trying to use less single use plastic, so if there’s an option to buy something in a bricks and mortar store (rather than online), that’s what I’ll do.

    Complete projects that I start, rather than having a house filled with partially started efforts.

    Meditate daily.

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

    My friend Clare gave birth to Liam in June.

    4. Did anyone close to you pass away?


    5. What countries did you visit?

    Australia and USA. Shouldn’t discount the country that you live in as a place to visit!

    6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?

    These are the words I picked last year:




    7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory?

    The week that I spent on Lady Elliot Island, in the Southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. Same as last year – and yes, I went again this year!!

    Two years in a row. How indulgent.

    8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

    I got some kudos at work for some problems I managed to hose down by working cooperatively etc.

    I helped start up a local Women’s Shed.

    9. What was your biggest failure?

    Stopping procrastination.
    Making time.

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

    Consistent niggling injuries, the downside of getting older.
    The leg thing I talked about at the end of 2018? I somehow knocked off a piece of cartilage in my knee, & it was rattling around like a pinball in my knee joint. I got an arthroscopy to vacuum it out.

    11. What was the best thing you bought?

    A ticket for a special vegan Southern-style dinner, created by Shannon Martinez as part of good food month.

    12. Where did most of your money go?

    Online shopping. I joined a buy swap sell group to get rid of some clothing that I had purchased. I still have the clothing I started with, but now I have even more. Then the penny dropped that each purchase meant another shipping satchel, & these aren’t necessarily recyclable. See New Years’ Resolution.

    13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

    My second visit to the Great Barrier Reef as part of a yoga retreat. I went in 2018, and so I knew what I was in for. This year’s trip was in October, and the weather was so much warmer. I went snorkelling once, twice, even four times a day. I was a lot more confident in the water, going into the water on the ocean side (always with a swim buddy) and I saw SO MANY TURTLES. Very excited. I love turtles. Also saw a few cow tail rays, which are all black with gold spots. Fantastic. Yes, the reef has been bleached (2016) and it is recovering from the last bleaching event; however it looks like 2019/20 is another hot season and the coral may be bleached again. It’s not a good thing.

    I also managed to get the last ticket to a sold out show to Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade in Brisbane. The show was sold out, and I had my name put on a waitlist. Miraculously, someone returned their ticket, and I got it. Woot!

    14. What song will always remind you of this year?

    Tones and I, Dance Monkey.

    15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder?

    Much of a muchness.

    b) thinner or fatter?

    Marginally thinner. It took me all year to lose the weight from eating all the American diner breakfasts I had in a fortnight in the USA in 2018. How did I measure? Whether or not I fit into a specific item of clothing.

    c) richer or poorer?

    Probably poorer due the amount of online shopping.

    16. What do you wish you’d done more of?


    18. How did you spend Christmas?

    At an old station/ranch house in the NSW outback. Daily temperatures were 25 deg C to 45 deg C – thank goodness one room had refrigerated air-conditioning. Unfortunately for evaporative air-conditioners (swamp coolers) you need potable water, I don’t think you can use bore water due to the salinity and minerals.

    19. Did you fall in love this year?

    20. What was your favourite TV program?

    Seriously. Can’t remember anything memorable that I watched on TV. I watched Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell when it was on tv; and also the x-files seems to be getting a bit of a repeat on SBS. I seem to be drifting a lot towards the home renovations type shows, including things like Escape to the Country.

    21. What was the best book you read?

    Cannot believe that I used to be such a bookworm. I have a lot of aspirational books that I carry around with me on my travels, but never quite get around to reading. Case in point:

    Thinking Fast and Slow. I don’t think I’ve made it past page 50.

    I’ve been getting a lot more into ferments, and I have recently picked up Pascal Bauder’s foraging/ferment book, as well as the Shockey’s miso, tempeh and natto book. Sandor Ellix Katz is touring Australia in early 2020, so I’m looking forward to something on this tour.

    22. What was your favourite film?

    I really only watch movies when I’m on a plane, going for an overseas holiday. After commenting on Shauna’s 2018 review post, I realised that I had only seen part of Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, so I finished that. And I cried again. Other movies seen include…. The Shape of Water (OMG! The staging, the storyline, the ending …), Secret Life of Pets 2 (uh…), Toy Story 4 (Yes!), 50% of The Dead Don’t Die (Don’t bother), Precious (OMG!) and I, Tonya (WTF? I don’t get it).

    So from that list, I think The Shape of Water and Precious were probably my favourite films.

    I must add to my list of things to see: Parasite.

    23. What did you do on your birthday

    Parkrun. Had a vanilla slice. Delicious.

    24. What kept you sane?

    Gardening. Yoga. Cycling when I couldn’t go to the gym.

    25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


    26. Who did you miss?

    Perhaps this should be “what” did I miss? Time. Being present.


    Harvest Monday, 4 November 2019

    Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. For the background behind Monday harvests, please visit the Our Happy Acres blog.

    Super busy. Harvested a few snack-y type things, took photos, forgot to post.



    Probably harvested too early. But I’m about to go away, and the last time I left them in the ground over November (although technically I’m supposed to wait until the summer solstice), my garlic rotted. No seed garlic, I think it was a “rose” variety of garlic that I bought at a market stall.

    Honey. About 12kg. I don’t remember harvesting in October before, it looks like there’s a bit of a honey flow going on.

    More blueberries (Sunshine Blue), growing in a pot.

    Planted more soybean seeds (endamame). I think I’ve planted about 30, and so far only 3 look to have germinated. Fingers crossed they survive!

    Also planted some blue butterfly pea seeds and purple tomatillos. I think blue/purple is my colour of the year.

    I left it too long with the purple “sapphire” seed potatoes, and the slaters have started to eat them. I’ve had more luck with the “midnight specials” which have at least started to sprout.

    So dear reader, what have you harvested from your garden recently? Is your also garden dying from lack of attention?

    Harvest Monday, 30 September 2019

    Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. For the background behind Monday harvests, please visit the Our Happy Acres blog.

    I’ve taken a bit of a break with the harvest posts, mainly because the plastic free July is a bit draining, and, well, work.

    Springtime asparagus

    Very tasty. Not enough crop. I think the crowns are at least 4 years old? Probably more. I’m not sure on the cultivar, but I think Mary Washington.

    A few Alpine Strawberries.

    Taste like bubblegum. Very sweet. Very delicate. Can’t harvest and eat later, if you harvest you gotta eat straight away.

    A couple of blueberries (Sunshine Blue), growing in a pot. Delicious!


    Not mine. I knocked at the neighbour’s door and harvested theirs. Different to the last lot who didn’t realise that fruit grows on trees, these people just don’t eat grapefruit. I took most of these to a crop swap, and got some slow fermented saurkraut, blueberry tomato and “black cherry” tomatoes in return. The rest… kind of rotted. Fruit fly had got them already.

    I haven’t done much in the garden apart from dig up bindis. I tried sprouting some soybean seeds so that I could harvest endamame this year, but the pods just rotted. Better try again.

    I got some purple “sapphire” seed potatoes.
    Purple potatoes
    Hopefully (once I plant), I will get a good crop! I swapped out three at the crop swap, saving two. I do hope that’s enough.

    I also bought some heritage raspberry canes. Should probably plant ’em.

    So dear reader, what have you harvested from your garden recently? What have you intended to plant, but not quite gotten around to?

    Plastic Free July 2019 The Wrap Up

    In 2018, I counted 66 pieces of plastic used during the month of July.
    In 2019, I used 65.

    This is not much of an improvement. It just made me feel so down and out – despite my best efforts, I couldn’t reduce my plastic usage much .

    This probably means that on average, throughout the year, I am using at least 780 pieces of plastic.

    So let’s see what did I learn to do differently this year?

    I found this slogan inspiring:

    One Person can do so much

    What a difference one word makes. “One can do so much” versus “One can only do so much”

    I made much more of an effort to buy milk from Alfalfa House by using my reusable glass bottle. The milk comes from Country Valley Milk at Picton, on the edge of the Sydney Basin. Un(fortunately), my other half didn’t like that this was full cream milk *all the time*, and demanded that we return to using light milk (semi-skim) during the weekdays. Turns out you can have too much of a good thing.

    Country Valley Milk

    I have switched to using a bamboo handle toothbrush. The bristles are still nylon/plastic, but there is less plastic total in the toothbrush. When I visited Great Barrier Reef/Lady Elliot Island in 2018, I was told that one of the most commonly found plastic items found washed up on the island are *toothbrushes*.

    I am making a more conscious decision to eat a little less meat. So if I’m cooking, I eat mostly vegetarian, with a little bit of the meat from his portion. This doesn’t apply when it comes to brisket – in which case it is mine, all mine.

    I found a local source of coffee beans (Circa coffee), that sells you coffee in a reusable container. That is just fabulous, and I will continue to use them.

    But what also does my head in is this. White vinegar, woolwash laundry detergent. I can buy 2L white vinegar from the supermarket for $2. I can buy 1L woolwash detergent from the supermarket for $5.

    The milk in the glass bottle, above cost me $1.87. It is 640grams.

    Woolwash detergent

    The woolwash detergent that I have refilled cost me $7.93 for less than 1 L.
    The white vinegar that I have refilled cost me $10.50 for less than 2L.

    Why does the refilled product cost more than the product + bottle?

    Note: I worked out later that it depends where you refill your bottle. I have found alfalfa house to be the cheapest place to refill, when I refilled 2L of white vinegar, it was less than the $10.50 I quote above

    Plastic Free July 2019 Day 30

    Continuing on my attempt at a plastic free month (or a month of cataloging my plastic usage).

    On Day 30, I had a

    Pork Chop:

    Pork chop and some socks

    Food. Supermarket bought. Hard shell plastic (bottom), softer top layer.

    I also bought some socks, because they were on special. Two pieces of plastic, the “hook” that hangs on the supermarket rack, and “H-shaped” piece that ties the socks together. My other half has toenails that saw through socks like nobody’s business. Also the quality of this brand of sock has gone downhill since they shifted manufacturing offshore, so they are not lasting as long as they used to.

    As an example, this is what the branding of socks look like after one single wash:
    non-bonded bonds socks

    The iron on transfer is coming off. I guess you could call them NON BONDED Bonds socks. This is pathetic. Why can’t they “knit in” the brand name like they used to, instead of using a plastic iron-on transfer that clearly isn’t working?

    Five pieces of plastic today.

    Plastic Count: 65

    Plastic Free July 2019 Day 28

    Continuing on my attempt at a plastic free month (or a month of cataloging my plastic usage).

    Day 25 – 27. No plastic. On Day 25, we went out to a Japanese restaurant. I cried at seeing the single use disposable chopsticks, so I pulled out a reusable metal fork that I had been carrying around (borrowed from my accommodation). But then I left it behind at the restaurant. Hmm. At least it will get reused.

    Don’t worry, I’m nearly done.

    On Day 28, I took a flight from Melbourne.

    This time I had tea without milk (although It didn’t taste the same), and my snack was a gozleme served in a little cardboard box. OK so the cardboard box ended up greasy… and could’ve been composted.

    Baggage Tag:
    Baggage Tag

    I can take a flight without checked baggage, true. But I had a bag with badminton racquets, and didn’t want to risk them being confiscated.

    Then I had to cook dinner once I got home.

    Cabbage wrapper

    Organic cabbage. Wrapped in plastic. Yes, it was on special. Yes, I could shop elsewhere; like at an organics specific store where there is no need to separate the conventionally grown veg from the organically grown veg. But the closest choices I have are either at Homebush West (hard to get to on public transport), or at Richmond (a long way away). Oh the price of convenience.



    We go through cheese like its going out of style. Again, I could buy it at a deli counter and have it placed into my resuable container. Although I can’t remember if I have seen King Island cheese behind the deli counter. Alternatievely, I could buy an entire 25kg wheel, wrapped entirely in wax. Sigh. Maybe next time.

    Meat Packaging:
    T-bone steak

    Purchased outside of July, consumed during the month of July. Kept in the freezer in the meantime.



    Purchased at the supermarket. I think I purchased this specifically to make a dish … maybe goulash, but then didn’t. So the parsley looks a little worse for wear. A few years ago, I had so much parsley growing in my garden. It didn’t self seed as well last year, so my 2019 parsley consumption is down. If I have found some parsley plants popping up in the lawn, or inbetween some pavers, I have carefully transplanted it back to a growing bed

    Five pieces of plastic today.

    Plastic Count: 60