Wednesday, 31 March 2010

You could call this bangers and mash

Locally grown, home cooked - delicious! Cotechino made by a friend from a local free-range pig. Lentils grown just to the north of us at Mt Zero. Lentils with flavour! Nicola potatoes grown just down the road by Mt Warrenheip.  

Not a glamorous photo, but we were hungry and couldn't hang around fiddling with a camera. Autumn is a wonderful season for greedy people.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

One hour

Last night.
 Autumn rain, no cars on the road. Earth Hour Ballarat.

This morning the road is noisy with cars going to church.

What did you do by candlelight this Earth Hour?

It was dark well before seven so I turned the lights off early and played by candlelight.

Earth hour in the forest.

A harpist plays by candle light.

A witch drinks from her gumnut goblet

A forest spirit comes by to listen.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Unstitching kimono

I have just had the best couple of hours, sitting by the sunny front window and unstitching an old silk kimono.

peacefully starting the transformation of an old garment into a quilt.

Loving the the silk sheen in the changing light as clouds pass by

Heaping up folds of rich silk

Thinking about how to use the different textures and colours

Undoing carefully the careful stitches set by my predecessor in the fragile lining silk

Admiring the stitches before I pull them out

Silk rustles in a quiet room

The stiff and the fluid silks let go of each other

and float to the floor

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Master

This week in a secondhand bookshop, I found The Golden Bowl, one of my favourites by Henry James and long missing from my shelves.

I also found The Master, a novel about Henry James by Colm Toibin.

Generally I avoid 'faction' but I picked this up and was entranced. I've read both books in tandem, over my four silent days. 

The Master manages to convey briefly but intensely  the novelist's whole life and character, by focussing on just four years late in James' life, and extending them through reminiscence and  memory. It isn't primarily a fictionalised biography. It is an exploration of  how a writer writes out of the grief and terror and sorrow of his life - and of the disciplined life of observation and work lying behind the novels.

I'm trying to reread my favourite James' novels, picking them up second hand as libraries don't seem to keep 'the classics' any more. Henry James gets a lot of criticism for his detachment, his long, stylised sentences and his occasional obscurity, but time and again I pick up a new book and find it is a reworking of one of his.

Happily I haven't quite finished The Golden Bowl and I'll still be reading it tonight.

Aren't blogs lovely?  I can't go off and have a coffee and chat about these books, my throat's too sore, but I can chat here. 

Friday, 19 March 2010

Rose-scented apples

After several uncomfortable days I feel lively and hungry again. I'm still voiceless though, this virus is a tough one. We went to the Farmers' Market at Buninyong - heaven on a sunny autumn morning!

We found figs, quinces,  marmande tomatoes, delicate pears just about to ripen fully, rye bread from Geelong.

Walnuts, sundried muscats and apricots from Mildura, sugar gum honey from around Newlyn, the last little red radishes, lettuce, fennel, and giant white Chinese radishes from organic growers near Warrenheip, local eggs and bunches of basil.

And many kinds of apples. Cox's Orange Pippins, Snow Apples, Gala and a beautiful new variety, Prima. This is apple season, and I can get my apples fresh from local orchards. Apples with flavour, each variety distinct.

The new Prima apples (new to me) taste and smell of roses. I knew that apples and roses are related, now I believe it.


And after silence there is shopping.



The days have beeen hot but without the fierce edge of summer. I've had to keep silent for three days in a row as I have a very sore throat and no voice to speak with.  I've been out walking, solitary in Victoria Park among the pine trees, just past the Pony Club.

This morning I went op shopping with a handy pencil and notepad. I found two little books from the 1940s.

The first one is full of autumn sun and silence.

The paper is cheap and the pictures are a little fuzzy, probably due to wartime restrictions.

But the colours are still rich. 

All is quiet in her forest

The publishers weren't afraid to use black and white pictures too.

and here is the illustrator

I love the threaded needle pinned to the edge of the sampler.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Autumn and gardens

The weather has turned to Autumn, and Hebe, a minor goddess from the Ballarat Gardens seems to be offering some more refreshing rain. Ninety millilitres! (I do know that Hebe is not a water bearer but in Ballarat she can offer nothing better).

This Sunday past Slow Food Ballarat had a Harvest Lunch at the Buninyong Botanical Gardens. All the food was cooked by the Slow Food volunteers. (Yin and I have been with SF Ballarat since it started, since we fancy saving the world through eating.)
I won't go into the menu much, but it was all grown locally from the flour to the yabbies to the blueberries and cobnuts.

This is part of the display of Grinders farm, out at Dunnstown under Mt Warrenheip, just fifteen minutes away. Garlic, gourds, multiple varieties of potatoes and of autumn fruit.
All the mineral water and wine was from our region and the coffee came from a village cooperative in Niugini. It was imported by my neighbour, who is from the coffee-growing village, but who grew up to marry a Ballarat woman - so it's sort of local coffee.

600 people were fed. I was just on gates and free water, but Yin boldly eschewed (love that word!) Chinese cuisine and cooked 600 blueberry, cobnut and cinnamon muffins with Jo. He can no longer claim that he does not cook cakes.

This is the 150th year since these beautiful gardens were planted. The recent heavy rain brought the grass back plush and green, and filled the waterways and pond.

The bowling club was full of happy bowlers who completely ignored the wine, food and acapella singers around them.

And here is one more staue from the Ballarat Botanical Gardens - Summer, about to stride stolidly off, leaving us to enjoy the harvest.

PS. I added a link to the Buninyong website and found a picture of me on the farmers' market page. Fame at last!

Monday, 8 March 2010


Today I went to the Begonia Quilters show at the the community centre at the back of one of Ballarat's central shopping complexes.
Lots of lovely colour and patterns, but here is the one quilt that was worth my trip in.

I love patchwork and quilting that reuses old fabric, I adore the special texture of handquilting. 

Not the best image but it gives a bit of a feel of this quilt.

Here are the quiltmaker's words on  her work.

Maria Cook has done everything I want to do when I make a quilt -  she's made old materials beautiful again and created a useful and comfortable object. Working with traditional patterns, she has had
a conversation with the other sewers and patternmakers who have made quilts over the centuries.

(And she's actually finished it)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Walking down to the town on Sunday

There have been arguments here over whether one does or does not go down to town from our place.

But it can be plainly seen from these that one walks down,

when on the way to see a display of embroidery in the cathedral's hall.

I went through some very handsome gates to get there, but I was disappointed by the work I saw and I am still thinking about that.

I walked back up Sturt Street to the Botanical Gardens,
past the memorial to the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon and to the
thousands and thousands of horses killed and abandoned in the Boer and First World Wars.

I stopped for a bit to look at the Ballarat Base Hospital.  I'm fond of this place. You can't see the modern part from here in Sturt Street.

 My father, a medical student on a returned serviceman scholarship, did his residency here in 1955. 

But the wards where he would have worked are now offices.

The gardens were lovely. I cheered up.

 There were luxurious floral beds - hardly ever seen these last few years because of the drought. There was water and large fat fish in the pond.

The marble statues have finally come out of the pavilion and are back in the gardens, and the grass was incredibly green.

And finally the begonias. They were outrageously beautiful. Fluorescent, fleshy, massive blooms. The conservatory was warm and damp and full of very happy people loving the flowers and taking pictures.

After all those designer flowers I had to cool down in the fernery before I went home.

I'm going to see the quilts of the Begonia Quilters tomorrow.