Sunday, January 30, 2011

Permaculture Principles - gift offer!

This is my first Loofa...
As it's the last weekend of the month, I thought it was timely to do a garden update, which includes some of my pondering about gardening. I have a fabulous Permaculture calendar and diary this year. The Calendar has identified one of the permaculature principles to focus on each month -a meditation point or discussion starter.
  • January - Observe & Interact
  • February - Catch & store energy
  • March - Obtain & yield
  • April - Apply self regulation & accept feedback
  • May - Use & value renewable resources & services
  • June - Produce no waste
  • July - Design from patterns to details
  • August - Integrate rather than segregate
  • September - Use small & slow solutions
  • October - Use & value diversity
  • November - Use edges & value the marginal
  • December - Creatively use & response to change
So, in January I've been observing my Loofa develop. When I planted the vine months ago, I had hopes of being able to give the Loofa sponges away for gifts at Christmas. However at Christmas there were no Loofas on the vine. Now I have three and more on their way.... so exciting. You may be wondering though, how does a squash/zucchini fruit turn into a sponge?? Check out this video...

My interactions in the garden recently have included capturing seed from lettuce, bok choy and parsley, allowing the spiders to take control of the insect issues - which means interacting from time to time with a web, and harvesting. January's best harvests included tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, beans, spinach, rhubarb, radishes and basil.

Gift Offer!!! - I have a free copy of the Permaculture Calendar to send to someone who would like it. Just let me know in the comments section. I'll send it to the first person who shows an interest. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I got this idea from Karen at Bookbath - it's a self made collage (about me) created from a fashion site. I've titled mine "Paris et moi!" The collage tells you a little bit more about who I am..... A small clue - I've been absent from blogging for a little bit, because I'm going to France in July to ride my bike and watch the Tour de France (soo excited). Since Christmas I've picked up my bike riding/training hours - adding almost an extra 6 hours of training to my week. I hope soon to find a balance where blogging and reading fit back in.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Madame Bovary

Francis of nonsuchbooks hosted a read-a-long in September 2010 which I attempted to join. Unfortunately it wasn't good timing for me to concentrate on this beautiful translation of the French classic. But I have made the time and place to finish Lydia Davis translation this past few weeks while I've been on break.

In preparing my thoughts for review here I felt disappointed that I should be better able at critically analysis this book. I had placed this book on a fairly high pedestal for it's supposed portrayal of feminist in another era. I felt like I had just read a great classic with many great reviews of this translation, that I should have some analysis to offer here in the review. But no, alas I have no great insights to offer. except to say this -

I did not enjoy the first part (probably due to where my head was at the time), so I delayed returning to the book for part 2 and 3. However, when I did return to the book, I was gripped with interest and transported to another time in history. I couldn't really put the book down. Now I'm tempted to return to Part 1 just to see what I missed.

I enjoyed the story, as if I was watching from the village itself, as the life of the little town carried on around me. It was enjoyable, but I did not find it revealed anything to me about Flaubert's feminist standings, or about a woman who was driven to strive for more than women were permitted. I just think she was terribly unhappy, terribly self centred, and unable to find that which would fulfill her soul. In the end, she appears to have made the only choice available to her.

I thought for a while that Charles was a perpetrator of male chauvinism, responsible for 'keeping his wife' bound in by the norms - but in the end, I wondered if Charles was not a victim in this story. Sadly, his life and death was bound in her, and her selfish ways, left him with no hope for the future. Berthe was definitely a victim of the sad story. I wonder if anyone would be so bold as to write the story of Berthe now??

But Thank You Frances, and to all those who participated, cos I really enjoyed your reviews and I am pretty proud of myself for reading another classic novel from France....

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brisbane Floods

This week we've had unprecedented flooding in South West Queensland and the capital city, Brisbane. While I'm sure you've seen the news, the photo's and heard some of the stories, here's just one more for you. This is the end of my sisters street. Her house is three away from the corner this lady's on. You can see at the end of the street one house is fully submerged up to the eaves. One the day of the flooding, my sister had many of the streets children over to her house, while neighbors pitched in and helped each other.

I dont have pictures from my other sister yet, however, her street was unaffected, so with she and her family went down to the streets nearby that were affected and helped lift things to higher ground. As one stage my sister reported a good Samaritan offering people transport on his jet ski to lift things to higher ground. She accepted the ride to offer assistance to a friend from church on the other side of the flowing water.

I'm grateful that my family were safe, and proud that they got out to help - like so many others in the area. We're once again reminded of the awesome power of nature, and the fleeting nature of the things of this world. We've been reminded, here in Australia, that people matter - not things.

While we have a reported 15 people dead here in Queensland's floods, and possibly more as the recovery occurs, I am so very conscious that Sri Lanka and the Philippines are also recovering from flooding - with 5,000 reported dead in Sri Lanka. consider offering up a thought, prayer or make a donation to one of the many natural disasters occurring around our globe this week.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Australian Fiction - Peter Temple

I've just finished my first book for 2011, and I really enjoyed this holiday read. My reading life really only commenced in the past 10 years, and I've not included alot of Australian fiction in my reading list. I remember getting very excited early in my reading life about Australian Authors Lilly Brett and Belinda Alexandra, and more recently Cate Kennedy and Monica McInerney. However Peter Temple has a been able to communicate some of the complexities of Australian life in the country.

Initially I found his writing style, a lot of short bursts of dialogue and quite changing scenes, and very blunt Australian slang, off putting. However, after about 100 pages I got into and couldn't wait to find out what more the story would uncover.

Peter Temple, has won four Ned Kelly awards for crime fiction. The eighth novel from this South African-born, Ballarat-based Australian writer is called The Broken Shore. Unlike his celebrated crime series, the Jack Irish novels; you might remember Bad Debts, Black Tide, Dead Point, and White Dog...those books are set in Melbourne and they feature his lawyer-gambler protagonist. The Broken Shore though is set in a small coastal community which in summer is a holiday village and in winter reverts to its bare bones. This spells development money, old rivalries, small town intrigues, and a turf war. The poor Aboriginal community in the vicinity provides a background setting for racism, blame and breakouts of violence. [quote from an interview with Peter Temple]

From another review I found on line which helps me describe what I found....

The main themes in this book are big issues such as police corruption, Aboriginal politics and the over-development of the coastal regions. There are others, but to name them would be to give away an important plot move. What brings Temple's world so vividly alive is the accumulation of detail in the evocation of the complex social networks through which the character of Cashin moves.

Take the itinerant swaggie, Rebb, one of the finest cameos in the book. Called upon to investigate a trespass, Cashin discovers Rebb sleeping in an outhouse, offering him first a lift out of town and then a job. Men of few words, Cashin and Rebb reveal themselves and their relationship through their actions, looking out for each other, taking care of the dogs, and rebuilding Cashin's ruined house blown up by his great-grandfather's brother in a fit of depression that Cashin fears is genetic. Temple sometimes makes me think I understand men.

In then end, it's all about family: the one you're born with and the one you make. But most of all it's about the writing, and in that regard The Broken Shore might just be a great Australian novel, irrespective of genre. Read it for what Temple does with words.

For me - it was a good book to pick up after some reading challenges - I know I do enjoy a little crime and forensics. I'm now returning to Madame Bovary with renewed vigour, and will keep my eyes open for the next Peter Temple.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Gardening

Christmas Garden Books
I'm enjoying another week of lazy 'Stay-cation' (staying at home for vacation) and a few hours of pleasant sunshine amidst a strange wet Aussie Summer. While the rest of the country is experiencing extremes of rain (in the North) and heat (in the south), it seems my town is enjoying the middle ground. We've had overcast mornings, with threatening rain, and very pleasant days reaching about 33 deg C. Perfect for a little backyard maintenance and planning.

For Christmas, my partner and I got some great books to help with this years planning.
  • The Transition Timeline for a local, resilient future. Transition timelines provides an invaluable set of innovative approaches, new narratives and creative thinking tools that will prove vital in enabling us to shape a new kind of society....
  • Keeping Chickens: An Australian Guide
  • Companion Gardening in Australia: working with Mother Nature
  • The Permaculture Home Garden -how to grow great tasting fruit and vegetables the organic way, free of pesticides and chemicals
While home, I am spending a few hours out in the garden each day. For the first few days I was tidying up, pulling out plants that have almost finished seeding such as the lettuce, celery and bok choy. (I like to let them seed and see which ones come up and where). Then I reconditioned the soil with a blood n bone mixture and home grown compost.

While spending time out in the gardens space, I talk to it, and listen. I'm interested in learning how to make the garden a healthy living community, So it's important to listen. I listen and watch for insect life - the ones I want to encourage and the ones I want to discourage, and I look for sun, wind and shade developments. This all helps me with planning what should go where.

Following some of the principles outlined in the permaculture book, and basic organic gardening principles, I've spent time in the last few days drafting this garden plan.

So tomorrows plans include planting snow pea's, beetroot, beans and radishes from seed, and planting out seedlings I have been preparing like broccoli, lettuce, bok choy and spinach. I also have this seasons Yacon to plant out into the garden as it's started to shoot even in it's spring time hibernation box under the house.

But the greatest joy I've had this week has been the result of some garden planning and increased vigilance over the past 4 months. My Peach tree... last year didn't produce anything at all, the previous year the two fruits that developed were attacked by fruit fly. So I declared the tree on the threatened species list - produce or go.

After much research into possible problems for the tree here in Newcastle, I embarked on frequent feeding with Seasol and potassium supplements, maintained a regular watering program, and when the fruit started to show, I took extreme precautions against fruit fly (baits and full tree netting). So as you can see I was able to produce, from the first fruit showing, real, edible and VERY DELICIOUS Peaches (about 30 of them!!).

First Fruit showing............................................the most delicious fruit!!

Other pickings from the garden this week have included
  • cherry tomatoes (self seeded)
  • roma tomatoes (self seeded)
  • celery
  • rhubarb
  • spinach
  • radishes
  • strawberries
As for Chooks - the plan will be to get the chooks in Spring, after we've come home from our France Holiday.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What happened in 2010

Australian Floods - Nrothern NSW
In an attempt to wind up on 2010 and move on to 2011, I thought I would review my blogging experiences in 2010. But first, I want to celebrate that I have achieved 150 posts since my blog commenced in 2008. I'm not a prolific blogger, (I'm generally not prolific at anything), but I have tried to be constant and regular. I feel it is an achievement to reach 150 posts, so I will celebrate!

So, in January last year, I posted on my guilt for not blogging enough - I've moved on from that now - but also about the flooding in Northern NSW. It's now flooding again, this time in Queensland.

In February I posted on a few ramblings, thoughts from what I had read in other peoples blogs, newspapers and things from my own head.

In March and April I did a few book reviews, but also posted on a short holiday experience, and something about a tea towel.

In May I started doing Friday Fill-ins more regularly. These seem to give me a bit of inspiration, because I also had other posts about movies, gardening and reading.

June was a turning point for my blogging slump in 2010 - when Karen [Bookbath] and I announced our Paris in July event. It also seems that I continued with my blogging inspiration with some book reviews too.

July was our Paris in July event - which we loved doing, and our participants enjoyed also. I have to say this was one of the highlights of my blogging year.

In August, I started by reviews for the Japanese Literature Challenge 4. Again, this challenge has been the highlight of my reading and blogging year.

September, October and November saw a few regular Friday Fill-ins, books reviews, holiday reviews, gardening reviews - and yet again - some reflective posts about blogging.

So what happened in 2010?
I read 16.5 books, noted 11 movies, I participated in the Japanese Literature Challenge 4, and tried to do the Madame Bovary Read a long, and co-facilitated the Paris in July event.

I also carried on with other personal goals such as growing my own veggies and fruit, studying French, increased my cycling (to join with my partner), attended a vegan yoga retreat, continued my voluntary roles in emergency services and increased my commitment to supporting and promoting the small not-for-profit girls school in India.

Again, I am reminded, blogging is a useful tool to facilitate my ongoing learning. I just love to visit many blogs of different varieties - bookish blogs, travel reviews, social justice developments, gardening, green and frugal living etc...

What happened in 2010? A Lot!
I got to 150 posts in blogging world, I made new friends, I had a virtual trip to Paris in July, and I learnt so much..... new and amazing authors are introduced to me each month, I learn new recipes every time I visit another gardener, I started drinking white tea and green sencha because of a fellow tea loving blogger, I planted Yakon and Artichoke, and I've preserved Parsley and spinach for another season. The list is endless what you can learn in blogging world..... I am soooooo looking forward to 2011.