Christmas at our house

I’m really excited about Christmas this year, it feels like a milestone. You may remember Christmas was a difficult time for us last year. On Christmas Day Theodore screamed relentlessly, refused to feed and showed no signs of giving up his sleepless ways. I remember crying over my pudding whilst my poor friend Hannah tried to bounce him into a calmer state, attempting to feed him expressed milk for fear he would dehydrate. Somewhere in there, we celebrated the birth of Jesus.

This year we’re celebrating in a new city, in a new home and with a new set of friends. We have a sweet-faced, chubby-legged boy whose ways could win the frostiest heart. He and his sister have formed a cosy and formidable twosome, sleep soundly all night and are currently loving the Peter Combe Christmas album. We’ll shortly be heading south to spend Christmas with family, but nevertheless I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate in our own Brisbane way, bringing out mementos of our German Christmases, memories both painful and wonderful. The purchase of a Christmas tree (real or otherwise) seemed unwarranted, so we decorated a frangipane branch that fell during the recent storm. So much more Brisbane than a silly old pine.

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Feeling inordinately blessed this year.

First fruits

One does not like to boast, but this evening we had our first entirely home grown meal from this new garden. Everything we ate, I grew from seed. On the menu were zucchini cakes (I make these, amazing with tomato relish) using eggs from our chooks and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, baby spinach, beetroot leaves, basil and nasturtiums.

This is what real zucchinis look like. One that something had a nibble at, one that was hiding under a leaf and turned into a monster, one that got more sun up one end than the other. What must they do to commercial zucchinis to get such uniform shape, colour and size? As a consumer of commercial zucchinis, I dread to think. I wonder how many such beauties they throw away.

* Sussex trug. Tony excels at gift giving, really.

A swim on a hot day

Aunty Bec is the first of our girls to go “broody”. She’s been holed up in a nesting box for weeks now, rarely venturing out even for food. I have of course had many suggestions as to how this pattern could be broken (such as jailing her in a nestless enclosure or dunking her in a bucket of cold water) but they seemed unthinkably cruel to me. Besides, all she really wants is to be a mum. Nevertheless, the time has come to do something. The poor little thing is skin and bone, comb pale and floppy, showing no sign of letting her maternal yearnings pass naturally. I gave in and decided that on a 32 degree day, a cold bath might not be so bad. Luckily, Grandad was here to do the honours. Aunty Bec seemed rather to enjoy herself.

Regretful

There’s something tragic about a child’s first haircut. Cutting those soft, downy tendrils which grow according to nature’s whim, imposing adult styles dictated by the dual bondage of fashion and social convention. I resisted cutting Rose’s as long as possible, which turned out to be almost three years. She wore clips (remember?) but Theodore can’t do that, unless I want him taken for a girl.

The time had come. Food was perpetually stuck in the foremost strands, clashing with his thick, dark eyelashes. In haste I took my sewing scissors and made a few deft snips. And behold

I gave him a mullet.

* Photo by my friend Chris Luttenberger

Spring in Brissie

I’ve been a bit of a grinch about spring. It’s so easy to feel the comparison to Germany at this time of year. Winter was strictly brown, even the weeds in the pavement cracks would disappear. But the reward was a spectacular profusion of new growth when spring came at long last. It’s easy to feel here that spring doesn’t exist at all by comparison.

But it does. Spring is Jacaranda season in Brisbane. A purple canopy above the city’s head and beneath its feet. Beautiful.

The seedling situation (an update)

After my last post on raising seedlings I thought I’d report back and share my progress. Though I love Lolo Houbein’s idea of the cardboard toilet rolls, it was ultimately unsuccessful here. Those in temperate and cooler climates might have more of a chance but Brisbane’s bright winter sunshine and warm breezes dried out the seedlings faster than I could tend to them (which was pretty fast). Onto the compost heap they went.

My next attempt has involved 2L milk cartons in their dozens. This idea came from Linda Woodrow, the patron saint of home permaculture. She suggests cutting the tops and bottoms from each carton such that the pot can be removed without disturbing the roots and becomes a protective barrier when the seedling is planted out. After some initial success with marigold seeds, I gathered every milk carton I could lay my hands on (coffee stalls at the markets proving the richest source) before painstakingly trimming and sterilising each one. The method does involve lots of potting mix (a potential disadvantage) but if you mix it yourself using lovely mature compost your efforts will ultimately bless your garden.

Though the lead light window greenhouse certainly was charming, it gave way to something much less glamarous: polystyrene. Styrofoam boxes have a number of advantages which make up for their lack of chic: they’re free, they’re easy to sterilise and they’re wonderfully insulating, keeping a lovely constant temperature for those little roots to thrive. During our recent sojourn in Sydney my seedlings were left to the care of our house sitters, Nikolas and Delphine, who were my only hope for an early spring planting. As we pulled up at home after six weeks away, my heart sank. Not one blade of grass remained green. My peas had suffered and given up long ago. The bindis were the only things still thriving. Then I climbed the stairs and was greeted with these:

Bring on spring I say!

Tillari Trotters

Once upon a time I blogged about the very cheap pork neck fillets we were enjoying in Germany. For shame! I’m not sure when the penny dropped, but the reason the meat was so cheap was of course the dreadful way in which the animals were farmed, and I’m sad to say it’s no better in Australia. That pork you find on the meat shelves in Woolies? Someone pays the true price of that meat, but it surely isn’t us. After having this revelation we became quasi-vegetarians, owing mostly to the cost and scarcity of meat produced in an animal-friendly way. We continued our adventures in vegetarianism until recently when a certain member of our family joined us at the dinner table. As many of you well know, this little person is not much of a sleeper, and anything we can do to boost the iron in his diet (read: anything we can do to get him sleeping better at night) is currently top priority.

Second to cuddles (and breastfeeds, ahem) this man likes a sausage in hand.

So you’ll imagine how delighted I was to find Tillari Trotters (aka ‘the cuddly pig lady’). The first things one notices when visiting the market stall are large photos of a lady cuddling her pigs, the very same lady who now stands before you. She and her family farm rare breed Tamworth pigs and Persian sheep, humanely treated and much loved. Our favourite products so far are the loin bacon (salt-cured, nitrate free) and “Crap-free sausages”.

If you live nearby may I suggest you take a moment to order your Christmas ham? I guarantee it will come from the happiest pigs in Australia.

In case you’re interested, Tillari also sell live piglets. Hmm, about that back fence…


About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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