Monday, 30 November 2009


I've had an busy week of work and intense meetings and trying to finish some research (and not quite managing it).  After work today I had a treat.Yin and I went to see The Boys Are Back which I loved and which made me cry a bit.

Cherries are in the shops - for me cherries are the treat of Christmas.We had a large bag of cherries.

Then we got a small pizza instead of cooking dinner, which is wildly irresponsible for us, and I saw the flowering, sparkling reindeer the City of Ballarat has put up among the statues in our main street.

Oh I love Christmas lights! I love silly decorations and I really don't think I'll get tired of these even though it is still a long time until December 25th.

I was not the only person taking pictures of ridiculously charming reindeers made of begonias and electric lights, I'm pleased to say.

Rudolph and pastel lupins in the dusk.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


I went to look at gardens last weekend, it was Ballarat's Spring Open Garden weekend. Some gardens were wrapped around grand old nineteenth century houses. Most were very neat and weeded.

I didn't take photos of my favourite garden because I was too busy talking to the lovely man who had made it. It was small and winding and had vegies and fruit trees and flowers and ponds and a raspberry hedge, and a potting shed and a pergola with wisteria and banksias grown from seed from travels in the bush. Ferns covered trees and filled every cool corner, and tiny bonsai grew in huge, light, bubbled boulders of pumice found by an ancient volcano.  I wish I could show you some of it!

I was very happy to find some gates for my collection in one of the the neatest and best-presented streets of Ballarat.

Look how the tree has overturned the contained order of the garden.

I love the way that the people who live here have let the tree be and worked around its growth. See the chain and padlock because the gate no longer shuts!

The garden behind this gate is mostly hidden and is very charming. The number on this gate is one that I consider my own lucky number.

I don't seem to be thrilled by well-maintained gates. I hope you like things that are a little worn and well-used too.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Rain report

First there was fog and we drove very slowly along Mt Helen's twisty roads, off to Buninyong farmer's Market. At 9 am it was still dark in Buninyong, a hopeful darkness after all the blazing blue mornings of the last parched fortnight.
Look how the little banners glow under that grey sky.

Yin and Paddy set off after sausages from the sausage stall.  We ate locally-made chunky pork sausages flavoured with fennel and pepper. Paddy had an ordinary beef snag of the scout-fundraiser kind. We don't take Kitty dog to the market, she doesn't like noise and bustle much, but Paddy adores the fun.

 I bought bread and eggs and gooseberry jam . There wasn't much fruit or veg - don't know if the early hot weather has knocked out some of the small local organic growers, but they weren't at the market today.

We sat in the car and ate our sausages. The mist darkened.

Then it rained, and if you peer you can see the the tiny drops on the car's front window.

Real rain fell in the afternoon. Ballarat is soaked!

Thursday, 19 November 2009


I've just caught up with a lovely Posy blog post on scent.  I love scent as much as I love colour. I enjoy essential oils and incense - generally Japanese or Chinese incenses which are complex and elegant and enticing.

I love to mix flowers and leaves in a vase to blend their fragrances.

Today I have a posy of wild fennel fronds and jasmine flowers. The liquorice smell of the fennel blends magically with the creamy jasmine.

I always grow as many scented plants as I can fit in my garden, and every year I make up blends from the dried flowers and leaves. Each year's mix is different.

I don't use a fixative - although bay leaves tend to deepen and preserve the scent of any mix. A few of my mixtures have kept their fragrance for years, but generally they only last a year and I renew them each autumn.

Here are this week's rose petals, the beginning of this year's mixture. 

And this is one of my dearest treasures. I have kept these little sweet boxes for forty years now. Inside is the still fragrant pot pourri I made from the flowers of my mother's garden the year I left home. I gave one box to Mum and took the other with me.

When my mother died it was in her box of special treasures. Now whenever I open the lids I can still smell the particular fragrance of that garden, that summer.

Lemon leaves

I put out my coolest colours in my reading/sewing corner yesterday. On the table is a jug of lemon leaves from my tree and a basket of the same.

And when I got up hot and creased this morning after a night of 29 degree heat (at 2 am the dogs woke me up to tell me about it), I took a cup of green tea and sank into my corner with relief.

Now, about the lemon leaves. A jug full of fresh lemon leaves fills a room with a cool lemon scent. Lemon flowers have a richer, tangier scent, and if you pick them you lose the lemons they will become, so I rarely pick  the flowers.
The artificial lemon smell of so many washing and cleaning products is a mere lemon stink once you smell the real thing.

Lemon leaves can be dried for pot pourri or better still, can be put in a bath or a basin, soaked in boiling water and when cool the lemon leaf water will sooth hot and dusty feet. Be careful if you want to soak deeply in a bathtub of lemon leaf water. The oil is strongly antiseptic and can be very harsh on tender skin or intimate anatomical parts.

Hot and purple

I've been overcome by the heat. It's been like late summer here rather than late spring with 30 degree plus days even in cool Ballarat, no rain in a month when we expect rain, and the plants in the garden are racing to keep up.

The garden has been briefly full of beauties like these, old-fashioned  iris that I've acquired from old gardens and roadsides.

They rushed into bloom and plants that usually flower all through November had finished in two weeks. I've saved a few pictures of them.

The hot weather has made the lavender bushes happy. I gathered five baskets of lavender from the garden, the English lavender that preserves against moth and decay.

It dried in a couple of hot days and I made simple lavender bags to sweeten the shelf of winter flannel sheets

and to protect the newly -washed, sun-dried winter woollies folded away in the cupboard waiting the cold on a day that feels as if cold will never come again.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Living here would be good.

Julie posted some lovely old windows and a  house in Woodend she'd love to live in, and I thought about a place I'd like to dwell in for a while, up the hill, just along this street, at the edge of the old part of Daylesford town.

It has a door that opens right on to on the pavement, and it's two stories high with a wraparound verandah frilled with with lacy iron work. It's big enough so that one room could be left completely empty. Always.

I'm such a townie - I love old provincial towns. Got to have a library and cafes and shops and a couple of people and a dog on the street as well as the occasional hour when nothing is happening anywhere you look.

Look at those huge old shopfront windows - I could sit there with the dogs and piles of books and sewing and pens and paper and coffee and wave to the world occasionally, even ask it in for a cuppa.

And just a step away the is the best old postbox for the daily crop of letters.

And look, the place is a bit battered, so I wouldn't have to live up to it, I could just live in it.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Rose riot

Birthday roses

Roses plonked in a jar

A ring of red roses

Over-the-top roses.

Welcome summer!

Summer roses

After a burst of envy for autumn pleasures of halloween parties and bonfires, I went out into the garden this morning and was overwhelmed by the scent and colour of the roses. They have loved the alternate days of rain and warmth this last week.

The fat buds of this rose darken to a black-red and the flowers have an rich perfume. I don't know what it is as I've grown it from a cutting, but I call it, a bit prosaically, my cooking rose. I make a beautiful rose sorbet with this rose, and it makes an intensely rose syrup that goes well with custards.  When it's cooked it turns a grey-purple, but after it cools or is frozen it becomes a deep and glorious pink. There were enough blossoms on the bush for me to pick some for the house. Last year I made delicious almond-meal cupcakes glazed with its pink, rose-scented icing.

My yellow tea rose is covered with buds too. I've tried to use this rose in syrups etc but its cool scent and its rich yellow colour don't survive the cooking process. It does, however, dry very well and keeps its colour and scent in a pot pourri.