Friday, January 28, 2011

Breakfast and singing under the trees - country town Australia Day

I've come to Melbourne for a week or so, to celebrate some family birthdays.
My country had a birthday too, and here is one of the parties, in the old goldrush town of Kyneton.

 Golden girls from the RSL made us all an Aussie battler breakfast, on the barbie.

I just rolled out of bed, wandered down the street with the gang: my sister Sharon, Doc, and Kelly the WWOOFer from China. We all ate with my new family - the entire town of Kyneton.

Lots of farmers, with their beautiful little blessings

Children get so enthusiastic, and enliven the rest of us

Look at this!
I get enthusiastic too. 
See, I told you that success in life might be closely connected to naming things well. If its good enough for quick-draw fire fighters, it can't hurt having well-named towel cupboards.
Getting the little things in order reduces the burden of decisions and searching, frees you up for more important things.

Like raising curious, have-a-go children.
Some people do it.
Swimming in a sea of flags with grandpa

Nanna's jewel

These little wonder women have achieved something I haven't yet worked out how to do, and brought a few more Australians into the world.

These guys had us singing, and gave us a good patriotic cry, with the Seekers song "I am Australian'.
Here are the lyrics, from the All Down Under Website, 

I came from the dream-time, from the dusty red soil plains
I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame.
I stood upon the rocky shore, I watched the tall ships come.
For forty thousand years I've been the first Australian.

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

I came upon the prison ship, bowed down by iron chains.
I cleared the land, endured the lash and waited for the rains.
I'm a settler, I'm a farmer's wife on a dry and barren run
A convict then a free man, I became Australian.

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

I'm the daughter of a digger who sought the mother lode
The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road
I'm a child of the depression, I saw the good times come
I'm a bushy, I'm a battler, I am Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

I'm a teller of stories, I'm a singer of songs
I am Albert Namatjira, I paint the ghostly gums
I am Clancy on his horse, I'm Ned Kelly on the run
I'm the one who waltzed Matilda, I am Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

I'm the hot wind from the desert, I'm the black soil of the plains
I'm the mountains and the valleys, I'm the drought and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky, the rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land, I am Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian
I am, you are, we are Australian!

We are one ….. We are many ….. We are Australian!

I'm going to keep on thinking about this song. 
The reason it touches people might be that it tells a strange truth, that our boundaries are set a lot further than we think.
It might be that my little life is still being run by all those collective ancestors. Its pretty certain that their anxieties and survival machineary are a part of the fabric that made me. Maybe I could say 'thanks, but not thanks guys' when the emotions they bequeathed me start sending me down outdated paths.

But maybe I could jump onto their hopes and dreams, and see where they lead me. Hoping and dreaming is what ancestors were good at - they had little else. 

Today is a very good day to be strong and free and alive in Australia, and I'm enjoying a rare burst of patriotism today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Breakfast Cornflakes Mexican style: a reason for growing balcony Tomatillos

Jan 14
If you want your day to be full of jump and sunshine from the minute you wake up, I recommend  Mexican Relatives.
My brother's wedding celebrations are now into their 5th week, the new relatives are still partying, and new (to me) recipes keep appearing. This is how they have their morning cornflakes:
Corn chips
Salsa Verde, made from green Tomatillos
Cheese, & a scrap of chicken

It will make you happy.

Laura shows of our Cornflakes, eaten in the company of traditional Mexican place mats, a wedding gift. Special people we will never meet worked with focus and style to grow and sew our lovely breakfast. Thank-you!

Tomatillo photo from One Green Generation
I have known tomatillos for years as Hozuki, the Japanese lantern fruit, dangling from its pretty covers. You pop them in your mouth when orange, something like a mango in taste, complex and sweet. Ground Cherries is another alias these hooded little treasures go by.
They grow easily, scrambling over the rest of the herb garden, self-seeding wildly.

purple de milpa tomatillos
Tomatillo photo and salsa verde recipe from Alchemy Farmhouse
Now I'm on a hunt for tomatillo seeds, and have visions of creating a beautiful useful Americas garden for my beautiful talented sister-in-law, in the Jungle garden she now shares with my brother in Urban Sydney. I just need to send someone up with a chainsaw to make holes in the canopy...There must be a way...

Send us your seeds

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Self-expression Sydney continues, with bonus kitchen sink gardens

Rosellas snack on eucalyptus blossom on the roadside

The story of Susan Street Anandale and its treasures continues, as I spent the last week here, staying with my brother John.

So the question was, 'Why is this street beautiful?" 
One answer is, because its nourishing. For the bird, for starters.

Each doorstep-scape is different from any other.  Yet the street is consistent in being engaging,  invested in by each resident. An interesting, fully-functioning family.
The fluffy pink eucalyptus blossoms make me happy in the most Cecilia-ish way possible. They co-ordinate with everything I own, everything I am. 
People love things that look like them. We just do.

Yet imagine a whole street of frilly Cecilia stuff,  a whole neigbourhood. I remember once eating a whole bag of fairy floss, and thats how sick it would make me. 
I'd stop being special too, being a surprise for somebody else to come upon.

Now, I would never have this geometric, black and white, metal-ridden decor at my doorstep, with construction-vehicle Yellow. The pot plant just doesn't DO enough to earn its rent - so chaste.
Yet I am so delighted to see this tableaux in my street,  a stylish little world in one meter square.

Peeking down into the basement kitchen sink, the yellow and chrome theme continues - look at the cleaning cloth.
I love people who make their own world, like this.

Look at the purposeful nature of this West-facing, hot afternoon garden. 
They didn't just do what was convenient, they did what works.  
Instead of buying a heap of different plants, with characters that cancel each other out, they restricted themselves to classical roses, varied the color and height, and will become experts at making roses happy, productive and pest-free.

They didn't pretend that everything will be fine with the pots sitting on the tiles, or on mosquito-breeding saucers. They lifted them up so the water doesn't pool, so that the breeze dispels the heat from the floor, and the soil life and roots can stay cool, transpiring and happy.

They didn't buy the cheapest pots, or fashionable tapering pots, with their plant-unfriendly narrowness.  They invested in something they can use for decades. They made the effort to re-pot each plant, not this 'hanging petticoat' plastic-pot-inside-real-pot business. 
Bigger pots would have been better, but they don't yet know this, and the roses might just be fine. Its a sunny, often-passed, well-attended to spot. 
Life-giving success often looks beautiful.

"I Boris. I from Russia.
What you want here?".
Burly cat guards veranda.

Now we are back to the house at the end of the street, the most edible of them all, and my favourite. Look at the springy organic wrought iron - little knobs individually coaxed into being, like onion flowers meandering their way out of the soil.

The aztec look of this little garden is a deft representation of...

...the bloke who make it.
Meet Mario the craftsman, from Paraguay, who came out to say Hello.

And then invited us in for tea.

The story of what I found at Mario's house will be for next time, but for now, here is the kitchen sink. 
Beautiful, as expected.
Every beautiful balcony garden has a beautiful kitchen sink, Its the rule that wrote itself.

If you want a lovely permaculture balcony, the sink is where it starts and ends up, so give yourself permission to put your beauty-creating efforts there. 
The garden will follow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Residential Self Expression Goes Beserk - one street in Sydney

Meet Susan Street, Annandale.

Its my little brother's street. It backs onto a canal, but doesn't lead to anywhere in particular, and only takes three minutes to traverse. Most front gardens are a narrow strip of concrete, or a basement where the garden should be.

What I want to know is,

How did everything get so beautiful?

This house only has one plant in its garden.

Yet 'garden' is the world, as it is a little universe within itself.

This telephone pole is homeless. No home, but the furnishings are delightful.

And this old luvvy is Still here!

People bother to Customize

They reach for the tiniest scrap of light, of space

They respect their elders

This house said "Just because I came with boring pillars doesn't mean I have to keep them". Look what they did.
Just because the whole house is narrower than the car parked out front doesn't mean it cannot be magnificent.
I even saw someone playing guitar on the doorstep, and SINGING.

Concrete can be celestial.

And Urban Plein Air painting can be a lovely slice of riverside peace, for the harried teenager.

This is the last picture for now, its the fertility god Kokopelli playing in front of the streets most edible garden, where stairs lead down to the canal. The residents here took one look at the parkland out front and said "Mine"!
Love something, and its yours.
The stairs and slope and path are covered in rosemary and eggplants and mosaics, wheelbarrows of herbs have been trundled into the scraps of light that fall though the canopy.

Too Much!
You will get the other amazing Susan Street pictures in another blogpost.

These photos were taken in August, when I last visited Sydney.

Right now I'm quietly tucked away in my hidyhole in Waverton, having a little Japanese winter of my own, so for me its all quite seasonal.
The whole 0f 2010 was a tsunami of captivating things, and you don't blog about a tsunami while your are in it.

Now, here's my question, and I need your answer, because its a mystery I'm grappling with. Which photograph is beautiful, and whats the beauty make of?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's morning, twice, in Sydney - How to change a mood, all year long

New Year, New City

This is the view from where I sit now. Its my latest front garden, an outdoor 'office' for my laptop and I.
If I stand up and look down the slope, I can see the sparkle of Sydney's harbor.

I had two New Year's Mornings this morning.
I'm going to tell you about them, because they show how my whole year, whole life might turn out. Or not.
They will remind me that putting 'The right thing in the right place' can rescue me.

Image from Google image search
Take One...
I awoke at dawn, knowing I'd had some kind of defeat.
What defeat?  Where? The details hadn't yet clarified in my fuzzy mind.

Ah, the woes of Sydney's New Years Eve Midnight fireworks.
It was being so small in such a big crowd. It was the seemingly endless march to the ever-receeding train station.
One ear hurt.
Oh, and my poor purse, all my treasures, buckled and ruined, sloshing around in soft drink some goon had poured into my handbag.
Me, actually.

Once bad brain chemicals from what happened in the past get a hold, they have a party working on ruining the future too.
"A New Year?   Oh no!
A blank page for me to hesitate in front of, to make a mess of, to squander"!

I made tea,  had First Breakfast, did some more fretting.
Then I noticed something useful - A sleep mask Id put under the pillow.
Then, I recalled my sister's words: 'Thoughts conjured up under the influence of bad brain chemicals are off limits for later use. Straight to the bin".

Alongside the purse.

With darkness, with permission not to fret, I returned to sleep, for another try at a Happy New Year's Day.

Trish's veranda & Bach: Concerto After The A Minor Violin Concerto - 13. Allegro Assai

Take two...
A few hours later I was having  second breakfast, viewing the park, while the breeze softly came in and arranged my hair.  Those sunny brain chemicals kicked in.  Bless them.
But why did they?

Just last night my brother and the gang had turned up with a basket of goodies, and the muscle to haul Trish's dining table to the 'conservatory'.
Having people who want to eat with you is reason to be happy.
Having allies who carry out wishes that seemed beyond your strength, that's reason to be happy.

Being in dappled light, in lively air, surrounded by swishing green and birdsong is a sadness-repellent. Gets pretty much everybody happy, for free, for no good reason.

There was perfect leftover potato salad. He cooks it just like I would.
Hey, a potato-salad gene.
There was brushcetta with basil and rocket from the newly-planted doorstep garden, my first harvest.

Two weeks ago these plants were bitter and distressed, confined to their containers.
Just two hours ago so was I.

And the crowning glory - on my little Apple Mac I've got Bach's Trumpet Concerto.
Explosions of glory, fading with exquisite slowness. Fireworks in Audio form.
Anytime I want.

So, very small things saved me.
Without .....
  • The sleepmask 
  • Remembering the 'permission not to think' rule
  • The balcony-table move (just two meters, but another world from its usual spot)
  • The 10 minutes for planting (with Trish's BBQ spatula)
  • Bach in i-tunes
..... I might have got stuck somewhere awful. People do.

As for my dread with the blank new year - Hey, I draw. If anyone knows it, I do:
Mistakes are the only way to get something creative, something worth doing from a blank page.

Make drafts. Refine them. Fix mistakes, do second drafts. Be surprised and proud.

 A dwelling to choose

I can do that.
That's what I do.
I can have yet another worthwhile and interesting year, worth the work, and different to all that have come before.