Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beltane & the beginning of summer

Today people in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrating Halloween (or Samhain, depending on the perspective) and the start of the winter season. Over the past decade or so, and no doubt in part due to the the major influence of American culture on our society, Australians have increasingly began celebrating Halloween on the 31 October each year also.
However, in the Southern Hemisphere the 31 October is the traditional date for Beltane, which marks the beginning of summer. Beltane is a time for optimism, a celebration of flowers, fertility and delight. It was traditionally marked with bonfires and revelry and hope for a good harvest later in the year.
October in South Australia is supposed to be the month of thunderstorms and spring rains, but both have been severely lacking this year. Although there is the possibility of a light sprinkling later this evening, it will probably prove meaningless for the garden as there is no subsoil moisture present.
In the garden the lillies, jonquils and daffodils are dying off as the fabulous daisy perennials are all coming into bloom, whilst the veggie patch has been a bit slow to grow. I've had seedlings in ground now for three weeks but they have had to combat extreme heat, unexpected cold snaps and frosts during that time. It has been a "see saw spring" so I leave the shadecloth on the garden beds now, to protect them from whatever Mother Nature decides to conjure.
It certainly feels like Beltane in the Ranges today: The temperature may reach anywhere up to 39*C (102*F) before day's end. At present it is hovering around 33*C (91*F) and for the most part it has been overcast and completely void of breeze, making the air outside thick and sticky. However, inside our little cottage it is blissfully cool: The stone walls and narrow windows work a treat at keeping out the heat. We've not even had to use the air conditioning.
What is it like at your place today? Does it feel like the season it should?

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Ode to the Humble Carnation...

The carnations in the garden are all coming into bloom. In the evenings, especially when it's still warm, their scent carries right to the back door.
Carnations make me think of my Nanna (maternal grandmother). I have childhood memories of carnations in her garden on the farm - just the sight or the smell of them and I am 6 years old again. I used to love to pick them and hold them to my nose whilst my Nanna painstakingly watered the garden by hand.
When we'd come inside the carnations I'd picked would end up in a small glass of water on the dining room table.
Last spring I purchased a punnet of 8 plants and much to my delight, every single one has survived, a mixture of deep red, pink and white blooms. This spring I've been transplanting them, moving them around the garden to locations where they can be more easily seen and enjoyed. They aren't the most attractive plants, but they are tough. This makes them perfectly suited to our arid and unpredictable climate.
The flowers are pretty, though, and have a sweet scent that lingers but is gentle, not overpowering. When picked they make great decoration as they are slow to wilt, usually lasting around a week in a vase. They remain one of my all-time favourite flowers for their appearance, their endurance, their scent and the memories they conjure.
And it would appear that I'm not the only one who loves these simple, humble flowers.
What is your favourite flower currently in bloom?

Friday, October 19, 2012

365 Mail Art Project: Week 2*

5 of 365:
Bookish mail art for Marta in Italy.

6 of 365:
More books, this time for Arjen in Belgium.
*Posting a day early as I won't be anywhere near a computer tomorrow: I'm going shopping! Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver...

A History of Scotland: Look Behind the Mist and Myth of Scottish HistoryA History of Scotland: Look Behind the Mist and Myth of Scottish History by Neil Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Scotland is a small country on the edge of Europe, facing west into the harsh Atlantic Ocean. Life has been hard there for most of the people, most of the time." - A History of Scotland

If, like me, you're the type of person who enjoys learning complete histories of entire countries, then A History of Scotland is just the book for you.

Neil Oliver (achaeologist, historian, broadcaster and writer) takes the reader on a momenteous journey through Scotland's vast history, its shining moments and its debilitating pitfalls, from the Dawn of Time until Present Day. Constructed in a way that makes it feel like a novel, Oliver effortlessly recounts major events, memorable eras and the personalities who shaped them, drawing back the curtains of myth to reveal the truth of Scotland's history - and its continuing legacy.

Although lacking in detail in parts - particularly near the end where perhaps it is mistakingly assumed that everyone is aware of Scotland's more recent history - A History of Scotland is a wonderfully easy book to read, providing an insightful look at the twists and turns of Scotland's fate.


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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Week in Pictures...

* FruChoc cheesecake is quite possibly the most AMAZING cheesecake. You have to try it.
* Does anyone have a recipe for bagels that I can use a breadmaker to mix the dough? There are so many different ones on the internet and I want to make sure I use one that works.
* I finally got into the garden this week and planted in all the seeds and seedlings: Cucumber, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, tomato, corn, carrots and beets.
* Two days later it rained all day and blew an absolute gale. It was also pretty darn cold. The tomatoes looked a little shocked by it all.
* The day after, whilst the ground was still damp and soft, I planted lavendar, geranium, palergonia, carnation, sage, lamb's ear and daisies in the frontyard. There was nothing really there before so it looks much better already.
* I couldn't find the charger for the dog clippers so I had to trim the hair around Bailey-dog's eyes with a pair of paper scissors. And all because I can't get him into the dog groomer until the 23rd.
* Mail art is terribly time-consuming, but oh-so-fun. Current inspiration = Victorian and Regency fashion plates.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

365 Mail Art Project: Week 1.

1 of 365:
A letter to Christina in a handmade envelope with matching paper using old scrapbooking paper and cancelled postage stamps.

2 of 365:
A teapot for Ursa.

3 of 365:
Regency-inspired mail for Claire.

4 of 365:
Victoriana for Rachael.
I should also add that if you sent me an email during the week I have received it and added you to the 365 Mail Art Project list of recipients. I may not yet have had the opportunity to reply as I've been rather busy with other things, but rest assured I am not ignoring you and I promise you will receive a piece of mail art from me soon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Introducing a 365 Mail Art Project!

The Week in Pictures...

* This week the focus has been on the garden. I have painstakingly planned a veggie patch that follows principles of companion planting, prepared the soil and sourced all the seedlings, which will go in ground this week coming: The weather is expected to be perfect for it (not too hot, not too cold, and hopefully not too windy either!).
* Our Bailey-dog thinks he's human. Lately when I've ventured outside around dusk to water the garden I've found him sitting up on the bench-swing that overlooks the backyard. It's the perfect spot to waste away many a summer's evening. Bailey-dog must be reserving his place early.
* I have become a tea connoisseur! I drink too much of the stuff and became bored with the same thing every time, so I started buying different types and now have a cupboard full of variety. I like either an English or Irish Breakfast first thing in the morning and an Assam Bold mid-afternoon. Chai and Darjeeling are great in the evening - not too strong so they don't keep me awake all night.
Do you drink tea?