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A good old working bee

Hanno asked me to pass on his thanks for all the good wishes you sent.  Reading through your comments made him feel better.  He's still weak but his chest has cleared and it looks like he's on the road to recovery. Thank you all for your thoughtfulness.

 The delicate and tiny Cecile Brunner rose.

There is no doubt about it, old roses are bullet-proof. When Hanno took down our ancient wobbly wooden arbour in the front garden, we got rid of the wisteria and moved the 20 year old Cecile Brunner rose. I hoped it would survive but I wasn't sure. The transplanting procedure was typical - we carefully dug it up and let it sit in a bucket of diluted seaweed solution. When it was planted again - this time in the vegetable garden fronting the chicken run - it was watered in with seaweed and watered every day.  That was a month ago. I hadn't seen any signs of life and took my trusty garden knife out to check the cambium layer; that is the layer under the bark where moisture and nutrients travel through the rose. It was moist and healthy so I knew Cecile was still alive, she just needed more time. Yesterday, I noticed the first shoots on both trunks and now I have visions of Cecile Brunner establishing herself along that back fence, providing me with a beautiful backdrop over the wire chook fence. Every time I see a Cecile Brunner rose, I think of my mother who grew her Cecile rose along the side fence. It's such a beautiful reminder to have in the backyard.

I transplanted some of the Welsh onions to make way for Cayenne chilli bushes. This bunch was divided into eight clumps.
Another basket of delicious tomatoes.
I've spent the last couple of weeks working in the garden and sitting in the shade thinking about the plants and the coming hot weather.  I've finished doing all I can do now. I'm hoping that as it gets hotter, the mulch will keep the weeds down and the water in the soil. Everything that needs it is cut back, tied up, fertilised and ready for Spring.  Don't forget to get out and do some pre-summer jobs in your garden if you have the time. Just about everything will benefit from a cut back, vines and tomatoes need to be supported and tied back and if you're in Australia, it's the ideal time to fertilise.  I've just added liquid potash, organic pellets and liquid seaweed and fertiliser to the entire back garden. It will make a big difference in the coming days and weeks and the plants will go into renewed growth much healthier and better able to cope with the heat.

I'll stop gardening when the humidity returns some time in November. When it's humid, there are lots of bugs and it's too hot to be outside for long periods. Then I'll put it all to bed for a few months and start up again in March next year. But until then I can keep harvesting parsley, thyme, dill, rosemary, basil, mint, oregano, bay, green leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies.  I've ripped out all the large tomato plants and we're continuing along with two cocktail tomatoes, about golf ball size, and one cherry tomato. In future years we'll only grow small tomatoes because we have too many problems with the beautiful large heirlooms.  We don't have fruit fly but we've always had a night-visiting moth that sucks juice from large tomatoes. It seems to have been worse the last couple of years so I'm giving up and staying with the smaller varieties.

This is the new edging around one of the orange trees. It's holding in the mulch.

The citrus are thriving and they're very important to us. We always get a huge return on the work we put into our lemons and oranges.  I've put up a small border around two of our Washington navels and filled in with organic sugar cane mulch. We also have a late orange - Lane's Late - which is starting to grow well and will extend our orange season by a couple of months. One of our Eureka lemons has had a boron deficiency - brown patches in the flesh - so I've given them all a dose of trace elements that should  fix it. Hanno balanced out the other side of our old lemon tree by cutting off the old branches and now it's looking better than it has for many years.

I was going to plant cucumbers in the trellis garden where we grew berries last year but I don't have the will or the strength to dig up the hard soil there. I'll plant the cucumbers over the garden arch this year and let the berries come through again. I'm learning to be very flexible with my gardening plans. ;- )

The garden looks quite bare now although there are still lots of greens. I've harvested a lot of tomatoes and herbs and pruned back the roses. Everything should start growing strongly when the warmer weather starts again. It feels good to have done this garden work. It's a long time since I've had sole responsibility for the garden but when I packed up my trolley and brought in the garden tools and hose, it felt good. It was certainly time well spent.

Have you done any work in your garden lately?

Weekend reading

There are a lot of elderflowers this year.

Hanno hasn't been well and during the week he was diagnosed with pneumonia, again. This is the second time in 18 months. He also had an internal bleed due to his Warfarin levels being too high - apparently a side effect of the antibiotics. He's going through the process of healing now, taking it slow, breathing in clean air, eating nourishing food and getting back in shape for his birthday next month. He'll be 77.

With Hanno out of action I've been doing a bit more work here which, of course, takes more time.  At the moment I'm trying to get the garden and bush house ready for summer. I'm on target to do that which will make things easier for us later when the hot weather returns.  We've had a sneak preview of that the past couple of days with our temperature here rising to 31C yesterday after a very warm week.

I hope things have been good in your neck of the woods. Thanks for your visits this week, enjoy your weekend and don't forget to stop a few times during the day to appreciate what it is you're working for.  See you next week. 💕

Inner Pickle blog is back! For those of you who know Fiona, she's blogging again, for those who have no idea, click on the link and get acquainted. She returns with her passionfruit slice recipe. Yum!

Can you learn to love hard work?

Amy left this comment a few days ago:
Can you do a post or point me to resources about how to love hard work? I'm finding that being a wife, mother, and grown up is frankly a lot harder than I thought it would be! I keep trying to look for solutions (usually via some gadget/ something convenient to buy) but I'm realizing it's just plain hard. Need some help "digging in" and expecting/ enjoying the work...even the small stuff.

Amy, I doubt you can be taught how to love hard work. You either love it or you don't. I think the real point of this post will be to work out how you get to the point where you want to do the work. I know nothing of your circumstances but I do know this. If you want to live in a clean house you have to clean it, if you want to get into a comfy bed at night, you have to make it in the morning, if you want clean clothes, you have to do the laundry, if you want to eat nourishing food, you have to grow or buy it and learn how to store and cook it. And when you've finished cooking, you have to clean up. Unless you're wealthy and can pay others to look after you, the time has come for you to step up, work out what you want for yourself and your family, and then do the work to make it happen.

From what I can see, you have two choices. Either decide it's all too hard and stay as you are, or think about the kind of life you want, decide on what values are important to you and start changing.  The first option will be easy now and become more difficult later, the second option will be difficult now but will become easier as you learn more. Being a grown up is hard, being a mother is the toughest thing I've ever done, but the rewards are significant and beautiful. If I can do it, you can too.  So sit down with your partner and work out your priorities.

The main things you'll need to focus on are living on a budget, saving for a home and creating a sustainable and thrifty home and lifestyle. And within that framework, you'll simplify your mindset, live a slower life and show your child, by example, that you don't have to work until you drop to pay for products, produced in their millions, which end up in landfill. You don't say if you're going out to work but if you are, the housework is something you should share with your partner.  If you're at home looking after your child, make that and your home your career. Run your home like a small business, with your partner earning the money and you using that money to build the life you both want. There are many ways you can move away from the mainstream model of what "normal" life is nowadays. You'll be able to make things you used to buy, use fewer chemicals in your home, cook from scratch, mend and recycle. By doing those things, slowly but surely, you'll create a new life.

As you do all those things, you'll develop routines and become more organised.  If you read through my blog and a few others, you'll learn how to make shortcuts that will make you more efficient. You'll develop a new strategy for your grocery shopping, set spending targets that are lower than what you're used to and then use the money you'll save for a home deposit or to pay off debt you may already have. It's all within your reach but you'll have to have a clear vision of the life you want to live and you'll have to change your attitude. I've listed a few of my older posts below to help you get started but there are a lot of other posts there that are exactly what all this is about. I hope you take the time to read some of them and then put your plan in action.  It won't be easy but it will get easier and I think you'll grow to love your new life. Good luck and keep in touch.


Last week Donna commented that she and her husband will soon be first time grandparents and wondered if I had any tips to pass on.  Of course I'm happy to share my own experience of being a grandma but I think that every grandmother-grandchild relationship is unique and even though there are many similarities, there are just as many differences. Children are wildly different too. What works with one grandchild, won't work on another, so you tear up the guide book and reinvent the strategy for each child. It's also worth remembering that times have changed since we raised our children and while that doesn't mean that everything is different, most things are and you'll need to be guided by the parents and do a bit of reading yourself.

These are my boys at age four and five.

It's a wonderful thing to live long enough to be able to hold your grandbaby in your arms. You get a sense of pleasure and duty but it also gives you an extremely clear perspective on your place within your family, both living and dead. I started researching my genealogy 37 years ago when my children were born but I didn't understand my significance in my family's story until my grandchildren came along. It's good for your grandchildren to know how they fit in their family history too.

Becoming a grandmother is overwhelming, mysterious, thrilling, exciting, terrifying, the most unimaginable thing and the most natural thing all at the same time. Everyone has their own take on it but no one forgets that first look on the day it all starts. I think it's my responsibility to love each of my three grandchildren, to show them respect, kindness, strength, intelligence and unconditional acceptance and love. I try harder and walk taller when they're here with me. I try to show them that I'm a hard worker, that I do what I can for myself, that I'm optimistic and content and that they make me happy. I help them solve problems, I show them how to do practical things and I teach by example.

But in those first few months, it's not only the new baby that needs nurturing; it's the parents too. They're learning how to be parents, they have the bulk of the work and they usually don't get much sleep. If you can offer practical help in the form of babysitting so they can have some time together, catch up on sleep, or just do the housework, those gestures help develop better relationships while providing practical help.

You don't need to keep much at your place but I've found it's wise to have a spare baby bottle and sippy cup in the cupboard. Buy a couple of books to read and a little teddy bear and if you have a quiet space where baby can sleep in those first few months, it will help. Take the lead from the parents on nappies - it's quite common for parents to use disposable nappies so don't lecture them if you'd prefer they used cloth nappies. Remember, this is not your baby. Think back to how you would have felt if you mother or mother-in-law told you you should be doing X when all you could manage was Y. New parents need support and help, not confrontation.

But having said that, don't be a doormat for your children either. If you're asked to babysit and you can't do it, or don't want to do it, let them know. We have a really good relationship with our kids and even now, after six years of babysitting when we're needed, our kids still ring and ask if we can look after our grandkids. They never take it for granted, and they always thank us when they leave.

I guess to sum it up, give as much as you can in the form of practical help without feeling miserable about it.  Remember that generally the more time you spend with your grandchildren the closer you'll be. Don't expect them to feel instant love, they'll have to get used to you, they'll have to spend time with you and if you can develop a strong bond with them without it involving toys and gifts, you'll be on the right track. But most of all just enjoy those new babies as they arrive and be the kind of help you'd wished for when you were a new mum. Congratulations new grandma. You're in for the ride of your life.

I wonder what the other grandmothers here will tell you.

One year old!

This photo was taken yesterday afternoon as Gracie was posing on the verandah.

Happy birthday to our dear Gracie who is one year old today.  We're taking her to the beach for lunch and a run around. Despite her outbursts of craziness, we both love her dearly. She's unlike any other dog we've had before and we're looking forward to many years of Gracie antics ahead.

==  ❤️ ==

If I had to name this dish I'd probably call it chicken fricassee but it's not the traditional recipe for fricassee.  This is, however, a lightish, delicious and easy to cook chicken stew which makes its own stock as it cooks.  It's popular with children as well as adults, it's a good winter all rounder.

You can use either chicken pieces with the bone in or a whole chicken. I use a whole chicken because it's cheaper; I always use free range chicken. If you have a whole chicken, using a sharp knife and chicken shears, cut along both sides of the spine, then snip it along the cut to remove the spine. Don't discard it, it goes in the stew to help develop flavour in the stock. If you have boneless chicken pieces, use them with a good homemade chicken stock.

1 whole chicken cut into portions, or 8 chicken pieces with bone in. After removing the spine, cut off the wings, cut each of the breasts in half, cut the legs from the thighs. This will give you 8 portions plus the wings.

1 cup plain/all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper)
1 tablespoon paprika
Olive oil for cooking
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and paprika together and coat each chicken piece. Place olive oil in frying pan and brown each coated chicken piece. Add the chopped vegetables and all the bones removed when you portioned the chicken. Add a litre of water and mix. Add the herbs.

Put the lid on, bring to the boil, and then place in the oven to cook slowly (about 150C/300F) for two hours. About an hour later, add some potatoes.  Yes, you can use the slow cooker instead of the oven.

As it cooks the sauce will thicken. Make sure you cook this slowly to retain the moisture. A fast cook will dry out the meat.  Serve with a green vegetable.

I hope you enjoy it.

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