The Crazy Gardener

That would be me! At least, I’m sure my neighbours would say so after witnessing me cut all the beautiful flowers from our front garden. They’re probably wondering if I’m related to the Adams Family.

Because our house is at the entrance of Abbey Green Estate, our garden is both the first, and last, to be seen by anyone entering or leaving the estate. Almost all of the residents have expressed delight as they’ve seen what was an overgrown, untidy shambles slowly turn into a kaleidoscope of pretty colour.

In full bloom this morning.

In full bloom this morning.

A riot of blue.

A riot of blue.

With summer coming to an end now the roses are setting buds ready to burst into their best for the approaching autumn. However, my blue salvia, petunias and vincas were showing signs of needing a rest. So, I’ve done what many would fear to do – I’ve given all the annuals a ruthless cut back. Paul will attest to the fact that once I get a pair of secateurs in my hand, watch out. He doesn’t stand still anywhere within snipping range, fearing he may also get ‘the snip’.

And this afternoon - all gone!

And this afternoon – all gone!

Now with a good cut back, and a mega dose of fertiliser I’m sure they’ll reward me soon with a second flourish. If I’ve timed it right, when the roses are in full bloom, the salvia, petunias and vincas will have recovered their strength and will be providing a stunning final show, just in time to compliment the roses.

Also, in the garden this week we’ve planted a garden bed of ferns and palms in a shady area along our newly erected brushwood fence.

A newly planted green tropical garden against the backdrop of the brushwood fence (also new).

A newly planted green tropical garden against the backdrop of the brushwood fence (also new).

I loved our full time life on the road, but I did miss having a garden to tend. It’s been hard work making a start on the transformation of what was an unattractive jungle into an organised paradise. We’ve still a long way to go – but as I always say, “once begun, half done”. We’ve certainly begun, so certainly it’s half done. Watching it grow, and evolve now- what a pleasure!

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Raindrops on Roses

The roses looked stunning this morning sending us scurrying for our camera.

Dew droplets on Double Delight.

Dew droplets on Double Delight.

Blush Ice-berg surrounding by blue salvia

Blush Ice-berg surrounding by blue salvia

An unnamed rose planted by the previous owners - now a favourite of mine.

An unnamed rose planted by the previous owners – now a favourite of mine.

No prizes for guessing which song I’ve been singing all day.

Preparing for The Gibb River

Our plans for this winter’s sojourn are to leave Busselton early in May, and return early in October. This year we’re planning to do full justice to just the North of Western Australia, including the Gibb River Road.

The Gibb River was originally constructed in the 1960s to transport stock from the surrounding cattle stations. Now it’s predominantly used by tourists. 660 km of what’s noted to be spectacular scenery – it’s been my number 1 ‘Bucket list’ destination for longer than I can remember.

The road conditions vary from bitumen to natural rocky earth, and is, in many places only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles with a high clearance. Towing caravans is not recommended. So, we’ve been researching tents and sleeping mats. We’re also undertaking regular yoga exercises to try and get us supple enough for rising from a 4 inch air mattress placed on the floor of a tent….. Not as easy now as it was during our tenting days 15 years ago.

We’ve found a touring tent second hand from Gumtree. It’s canvas, so nice to sleep under, and fast to erect. It only needs to be pegged out at the base, and then the insertion of a centre pole, taking around 1 minute. If the conditions are windy it will also then require guy ropes, but most times I gather on the Gibb River, guy ropes won’t be a necessity.

Looking a bit wonky without grass to peg the base to.

Looking a bit wonky without grass to peg the base to.

Bricks inside instead of the necessary  pegs provided a rough erection simulation.

Bricks inside instead of the necessary pegs provided a rough erection simulation.

These normally retail for around $500. This one was second hand but was missing it’s centre pole, and is in need of couple of patches. We managed to acquire it for only $50, plus around $40 for a new centre pole and patches for the necessary repairs. Now all we need is the camp mattresses. Comfort is going to be paramount if we’re to enjoy the trip, so we’ve decided on the slightly more expensive bonded mattresses, now it’s just determining which one, and then to find them at the cheapest possible price.

Our plan is to put the caravan into storage in Broome for three weeks whilst we complete this Bucket List destination. We’re also going to tack on a second trip to Cape Leveque, and a road trip into the Bungle Bungles, both also four wheel drive only destinations, and places not suitable for towing a caravan. We’ve done both Cape Leveque and the Bungle Bungles before. Previously we flew into the Bungle Bungles and then did a helicopter tour around the beehive like formations. It’s apparently a totally different experience to drive to it, and to camp overnight. And Cape Leveque – twenty trips wouldn’t be too many trips to this amazing destination. So, tacking on a few days extra for a second trip seems like a good idea.

The Gibb River road stretches from Derby to Kununurra in the far north of Western Australia, with plenty of camp grounds dotted along it’s length. The abundance of hikes, waterfalls, gorges and fresh water swimming holes means the trip can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. I gather ten days is about normal to do it justice. So, we should have plenty of time to fit in the other side trips before heading back to Broome to pick up the Travel Home. I’m sure after three weeks of roughing it under canvas, and sleeping on air mattresses we’re going to be looking forward to getting back to the comforts of the caravan.

I just love the planning of our trips. I get almost as much joy out of the planning as I do from the trips. Life’s little pleasures! Gee it’s good to be alive.

Old Friends

We’ve just spent a delightful three days enjoying a visit from two of our Perth friends, Di and Bob. We’ve been friends with Di and Bob for more years than I can count, so when I say ‘old friends’, I’m referring to the length of time we’ve been friends rather than their (or our) ages. We’re not quite ‘old’ in years yet, getting close for sure, but still not quite there – and I’m sure Di and Bob will give anyone a swift clip around the ears who says otherwise.

We’ve had a wonderful time, eating too much, drinking too much, laughing a lot, and having a good old catch up. We all had a go at fishing the first night. Not a lot happening, although between us we managed four little herring which provided a little pre-barbecue taste. Di was the fisher person of the hour, catching two of the herring, plus an undersized flounder that went back to live another day.

The day after they arrived, Di and I headed out to a high tea at The Deck. The Deck is a restaurant, bar and function centre built overlooking the canals in the suburb of Geographe, (at the Eastern end of Busselton). The high tea was a little different to any i’ve been to before. The food was served buffet style rather than on tiered plates sitting on individual tables. I’m not much of a fan of buffets, so had I known in advance I may have opted out. However, the other difference was that this high tea had surprise entertainment. Two of Perth’s Drag Queens put on a bit of a show.

Check out Katya's amazing blue eyes.

Check out Katya’s amazing blue eyes.

So, had I opted out, I wouldn’t  have had the chance to meet, and chat with these charming two ladies – stage names, Scarlett and Katya. I can’t remember Scarlett’s stage sir name, but Katya’s is a wonderful play on words, Kokov. You have to say that fast, Katya Kokov. I think Katya was a little tentative about telling us her full stage name, but when we roared with laughter, I think she relaxed a little, and spent a considerable amount of time chatting with us. As always, I tend to be forthright with questions, so I hope I didn’t overstep any mark and offend. The main question I should have asked, and didn’t, is how on earth can they dance around so energetically, getting hot and sweaty, yet their make-up stays perfectly in place. I only have to get slightly warm to have any make-up I’m wearing looking absolutely awful.

Apparently, they do shows at a couple of the Gay Nightclubs in Perth, where I’m sure the speaker and sound systems do a lot more justice to their act than our little venue did. They were mesmerising to watch, as is the case with most Drag Queen acts I’m sure, not that I’ve seen that many to judge. They performed a few song and dance routines, miming in what looked like perfect time to the recorded songs. Under stage lights, in a darkened night venue with powerful speakers surrounding them and belting out the music, I’m sure, that although the acts would still be clearly mimed, it would have had a better blend of artist to music. Never-the-less we did enjoy their little numbers, and even more, enjoyed chatting with them. They are both beautiful and charming young ladies in their stage personas, and I’m sure are equally as lovely and charming young men when not performing.

Whilst we were enjoying our high tea, Bob and Paul had some quality male bonding time on the Par 3 golf course, followed by a cycle up to our little local for a refreshing drink or two.

Yesterday, their last day here, we went to Aravina Winery for lunch. We had almost finished our meals when the approach of three helicopters, although destroying the peaceful ambience, added a certain amount of intrigue and excitement for all the diners, including ourselves. We had thought perhaps our homeward bound transport had arrived – but alas it was only some of Perth’s socialites arriving down from Perth for a birthday celebratory lunch. How the other half lives eh!! But no complaints from me on that score. We may not be wealthy enough to have helicopters as our means of transport, but we still have the good taste, and the funds to appreciate at least one of the finer things in life that they enjoy – a very enjoyable lunch at Aravina.

Thought our ride may have arrived....

Thought our ride may have arrived….

Di and Bob left this morning. I hope they enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed theirs. It was a lovely few days.  Two of our other friends, Robyn and Keith arrive in Busselton tomorrow. Although Robyn and Keith aren’t staying with us, I’m sure we’ll be catching up several times whilst they’re camping near by. February is shaping up to be a busy month and a month where we’re going to be enjoying the company of both newly found friends, and old friends. What a pleasure

2017 Busselton Jetty Swim

On Sunday 12 February 2017, Busselton hosted it’s 22nd Busselton Jetty Swim. I believe the Busselton Jetty swim is the 2nd biggest open water event in the state, with the Cottesloe to Rottnest swim being the largest.

The Busselton event attracts in excess of 2000 entrants with only approximately 20% of participants being local. A further 5000+ supporters and spectators line the shore and Jetty to offer their support, and to marvel at the tenacity and athletic skills of the competitors. It’s an epic event, and hats off to all the organisers. With so many additional visitors to the area, I’m sure many Busselton businesses benefit immensely from the additional revenue raised.

Paul and I arrived after the swimmers had taken to the water this year, so we missed the excitement as they made their big, joint splash at the starting line. Our friends and neighbours, Kaye and Brian told us the beginning is a real sight to behold. This year Kaye’s brother, Peter was one of the entrants.

Kaye proudly supporting her brother, Peter. Well done, Peter.

Kaye proudly supporting her brother, Peter. Well done, Peter.

Windblown

Windblown

Like most of the participants this year, Peter’s goal was just to complete the race. The weather was windy and the water choppy, apparently the worst conditions ever experienced for the swim to date. The participants had to swim wide of the jetty to avoid being blown into it, no doubt adding distance to the normal 3.6kms. The chop on the water was such that it was difficult for swimmers to breath without taking in seawater. The conditions were awful. Certainly not conducive to any personal bests, or record breaking speeds.

The event was supported by volunteers from St Johns Ambulance Association, Busselton Marine Rescue, and Busselton Life Saving Association. All were kept busy. There were a number of inflatable rescue boats, and jet skis ferrying swimmers to the shore when the conditions become to tough. I saw one swimmer wrapped in a silver thermal blanket, and I’m sure there would have been many more. Our water safety in Australia is constantly dependant on the many volunteers who donate their time and skills. There are so many of them. They are a wonderful group of people, and have my utmost respect.

The first Swimmer over the finishing line was Tim Hewitt, with a time of 44.56.13, approximately 2 1/2 minutes longer than last years winning time – no surprises there.

The first to finish.

The first to finish.

As the rest of the swimmers reached the shore it was clear how absolutely dreadful the conditions had been. Smiling faces were rare, and it was clear every step being taken along the sand towards the official finishing line was being taken with considerable mental effort. Some of the comments to be heard were:

“That was awful.”
“That was shit.”
“Last years swim was a doddle compared to this years”.

Walking to the finishing line  clearly took a lot of effort.

Walking to the finishing line clearly took a lot of effort.

Some of the faces were green when they reached the shore, and I believe many were horribly sick, both during the race, and at it’s completion.

I haven’t managed to track down the exact number of participants this year, nor how many actually completed the race. Accolades though to all who entered the water on such a dismal day. For those who pulled out without completing the event, congratulations on even beginning the race. You were very brave. There’s certainly no shame to be felt at withdrawing, or being rescued. For those who completed the event, I’m in awe. It was clear from all the faces as the swimmers made their way to the finishing line, there was no immediate feelings of Joy. I hope that as the pain faded, the realisation of what you accomplished kicked in. And with that realisation I hope you felt euphoria. You all deserved euphoria.

Life’s little rituals

I love life’s little routines:

Things like eating three meals a day. Not so much for the sustenance, but the meals somehow divide the day into manageable breaks. Without regular meal breaks a day can seem endless.

So too can a week. Some of the little rituals Paul and I have are as follows:

Monday,Tuesdays,Thursdays and Saturdays: As we’re aging we’re realising the creep of old age decrepitness is approaching at more of a gallop than a creep. In an effort restore some flexibility, or at least slow it’s loss back to a slow creep, we’re trying to establish yoga as the ideal start to several days a week. The more we stick to the routine days, the more we realise how important it is. So, four days a week we try and do our little yoga routine upon rising first thing in the morning. If we leave it till later, it inevitably doesn’t get done.

Wednesdays and Fridays: I start my days with a walk with a local women’s walking group. I love those days. Paul starts those days with a cycle ride.

So, that’s the routine parts of our weeks that ensures we at least do some exercise. We try and fit in a few additional walks along the beach in the afternoons. All to often though we forget, or allow something else to take precedence. Perhaps we’ll have to allocate a few more days to those walks, make them routine, ritualise them…. It would ensure fewer things intervened.

Then theres a couple of weekly food rituals.

Friday night is still a hangover from our working days. When we were working we always tried to get started our weekend as soon as possible. Fridays we celebrated the end of the working week with a couple of drinks, and dinner was always some sort of finger food. Knives and forks were banned. It could have been pizza, or burgers, or fish and chips, but it was never purchased take away. Part of the ritual was cooking for ourselves foods typically associated with take away. Sometimes we only had a good bread, cheese, pate’, and some cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and grapes on the side. Other times we went all out and had a selection of tapas, cooked and eaten over several hours. We still stick to our Friday night ritual as much as possible. It keeps us aware that the working week is over for our families.

Sunday is cooked breakfast day. We look forward to our bacon and eggs on a Sunday. Not only do we enjoy the meal but it reminds us that shopping hours are reduced, and some shops aren’t open at all. Additionally, not always, but Sunday is still our preferred day for cooking a roast. I don’t know why – it’s a ritual that’s been with us since childhood, and somehow still feels right.

That’s just a few of our little daily and weekly rituals. Without them, I doubt we’d know what day of the week it was. I’d love to hear what your little rituals are? Do you still have rituals even though you’re retired? If you’re still working, do you have rituals that end your working week, or set you up for your working week to begin? I’d love to hear about them.

Reflecting on abundance

I was born in 1955. My mother was widowed twice, the first time before my first birthday, and again when I was seven. She was left with seven children to provide for, and didn’t have the benefit of any life insurance policy.

By standards even in those days we were considered ‘poor’. But were we? Everything’s relative, and compared to our immediate neighbours, yes, we were poor. We wore hand me downs, often visibly darned. We were kept warm at night with wool patch work quilts which mum spent days sewing from scraps obtained from a local coat manufacturer (I think my oldest brother worked there). Our warmest winter clothes were also patchwork skirts lovingly made from the same scraps. Our jumpers and cardigans were all hand knitted, often from old jumpers unravelled and re-knitted in a size to fit.

We lived on a 1/4 acre block, common in those days in Christchurch NZ. Much of the block was planted in vegetables. We looked forward to the first of the potatoes, always the first of the year dug for our Christmas nights dinner. Fresh beans when they came into season – I’ve never tasted beans like those mum used to grow, and pick when they were young and crisp and sweet. Cabbages, carrots, peas, cauliflowers, tomatoes, lettuce….. Mum grew them all. And she always found time to plant a lovely flower garden too. I loved our garden.

We were fed cheaply but well. For dinner meat and three veg was normal, with the meat being either from a weekly side of mutton, or sausages, saveloys or mince. Sometimes there wasn’t enough money for meat to go around eight people, so mum would buy a ham hock and make a thick vegetable soup. Milk in those days was subsidised, so the occasional pudding was usually milk based, either rice, sago or custard to go over a home made steamed pudding or crumble. Breakfast was usually either week-bix, porridge or toast, and lunch was sandwiches.

Mum always managed something small for us for birthdays and Christmas’. One year, I think it was about my eighth birthday I remember getting a pair of knitting needles, a ball of wool, and a small bar of chocolate. I was thrilled.

I didn’t know we were poor. To me, how we grew up was normal. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised that whilst people in those days didn’t have the same abundance that is evident now, none-the-less, most had more ‘store bought’ things than we had.

Compared to our Christchurch neighbours, we were poor. But compared to most of the world would we have been poor? I suspect not. While we were wearing darned hand me downs and patchwork skirts, and eating home grown veggies with the cheapest of meats, much of the world was famine or war ravaged, the same as it is today. Much of world had no real roof over their head, no shoes on their feet, and only the clothes on their back. Much of the world wasn’t getting one good meal a day, let alone three, and it’s still the same today. I suspect that as poor as we were compared to our neighbours, we still would have been amongst the top 20% of the worlds wealthiest.

And what’s bought about these reflections? I’ve just been reading about the low fat diet revolution that has taken place over the passed 40 years – now in the process of being completely debunked. That had me thinking – The Pritikin diet, The Aitkin’s diet, Low carbs, High carbs, low protein, high protein, the 5 and 2 (two days of fasting weekly), vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, wheat free…… the list goes on and on in our over abundant western civilisation. Yet for most of the world, food, any food is welcomed.

Food is such a pleasure, and we’re so lucky to have it in abundance. Yet we insist in finding ways to deprive ourselves of some of it. We cut out fats, we cut out carbs, we cut out meat, we cut out our daily bread. My thoughts today are that any diet that omits a complete food group (true allergies excluded) is likely to end up being debunked at sometime in the future. In our Western World of true abundance, relatively new in society, we haven’t as yet developed the self discipline to prevent us over eating in preparation for the next famine. Today, I don’t think omitting any one food group is the answer – tomorrow I may think differently, but today I can’t see any sense in it.

I don’t know how or what we should or shouldn’t be eating in our over abundant western civilisation but the words of Robert Burns come to mind:

The Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Food is such a pleasure. I’m going to keep enjoying it while I can (but I wish I could develop a little more moderation).