Sydney and Canberra Lockdown walks, Reid’s Tiny Farm and spring is in the air…

My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.

Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.

One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.

Bondi Beach and the Tidal Pool (Photos by Tim Read: All Rights Reserved)

Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!

This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..

and the almond tree..

The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.

We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…

In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.

The Galahs look like Australian State Premiers trying to decide on a pathway out of this pandemic.

Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.

A Crimson Rosella in a Eucalyptus tree

We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.

This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.

Paul in the distance walking down McQuoit Hill

We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.

Kangaroos must be curious as to the increased human traffic on these paths.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are everywhere..

During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)

Dimity May with some of her organic seedlings and vegetables..(Photo: Canberra Times)

Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)

seedling -raising cocoon tunnel from Active Vista Tasmania (Photo Canberra Times)

She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.

At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.

We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!

Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.

However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)

Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.

Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.

What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.

reidtinyfarm.com.au

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Birds, Ouma’s Cookery Book, Raymond Blanc with Covid: are we changing?

We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.

The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.

There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.

This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.

The parent Kookaburra is taking his time at the blue birdbath.

Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!

The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.

My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.

It is lovely to see Mum’s handwriting, she has hastily written her Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe, very popular with the whole family

Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)

I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.

The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.

‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”

Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.

It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.

No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.

Koeksisters Recipe: photo by Introducing South Africa

Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.

Paul’s graduation, and days to be remembered ..

The first few months of this year have slipped away, unnoticed, since the global grip of CV 19. Yet February 2020 was quite a milestone for Paul, and for our family.

On 12th February 2020 Paul was awarded his PHD in Health Policy. The ceremony was held at the Deakin University Campus at Geelong.

Our little granddaughter Joanie was not at all phased by her grandfather’s long gown, but nearly ready to take off in the wind, on this most exciting day!

Five years ago, Paul retired, and immediately began his PHD.  Both Paul and I have always loved learning, and we were both surprised at how many people were amazed that he should start a PHD at 60 years of age.

Paul’ s father and uncles were pharmacists, and many of his family work as health professionals of various kinds.

Not long after Paul was born, (the first child in a family of eight children) Paul’ s father, Frank bought a pharmacy in a small town, Oak Flats on the south coast of New South Wales.

Rebecca and I with Paul’s parents, Margaret and Frank.

Frank, a quietly spoken, knowledgeable man was the perfect pharmacist for a region not blessed with many  health facilities, doctors or clinics. At the end of every day he returned home only after he had delivered prescriptions to elderly patients. As the children grew, the older boys in the family delivered prescriptions  on their bikes on the weekend.

Years after Paul and I had settled in Canberra we met a middle-aged woman who came from Oak Flats. When we mentioned Paul’s father she said,

Oh, I remember Mr Mackey! I came from a big family and my Mum used to get us to ride up to Mr Mackey’s pharmacy when one of the little ones were sick. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time, and Mr Mackey was just as good!”

I always relied on Frank when either of our daughters were sick, and trusted his judgement completely. He was a calming influence to all those who had young children. When we visited Frank and his wife Margaret, our daughters, (the first of many grandchildren) always remembered him making them toast and orange juice before changing into his crisp white coat and going on his long commute to work.

Our daughters Jessica and Rebecca with Frank, in retirement.

As young adults Paul and I left Sydney to work in Canberra. I began teaching, and Paul began his career in the Research Service at the former Provisional (for 60 years!) Parliament House. This building is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Over time Paul took over the portfolio of Health, a perfect fit for someone with his background.

As with many young families, we juggled life with one car. Much as I love the Walter Burley Griffin plan of space between suburbs in Canberra, it makes for a long commute home from the centre of the city.

I always parked along the edges of the building to admire the roses nearby.

Most days I would put the girls in the car, drive to Old Parliament House, and park almost outside the front door. I’d often sing songs so that our younger daughter, Jess, didn’t fall asleep while waiting for Dad.

During the time Paul spent at Old Parliament House, a Christmas party for children of employees was held in the lovely grounds of Parliament House every December.

The Christmas party was held in the cricket pitch!

The Senate gardens were spilling over with roses and irises..

What a mild and carefree time it was…

Now there are fences around the building and it looks quite different.

Once new Parliament House was built, Paul moved into this office in Parliament House.

When Parliament was sitting Paul often had to work until 10.00 pm. Our daughters were still young, and it was a long evening without Paul!

Occasionally I would take the girls into Parliament House and meet Paul in the cafeteria for dinner.  The car park we used would be completely inaccessible to the public now. September 11 changed many things over time.

Paul has worked in many sectors of Health since his early days at Parliament House. Throughout his long and varied career he has remained passionate about health care, and equality in our Health system.

Since  Paul retired and began his PHD he has enjoyed juggling studying, gardening, travelling and being a grandparent ….a perfect fit…

You are never too young to learn about sprinkler systems in Australia..

Paul has given papers at many conferences, and I’ve enjoyed going along, hearing and talking to Health professionals. As a bonus we have both enjoyed visiting gardens in various cities, places we may never have visited if not for Paul’s studies.

Brisbane, one of Australia’s northern cities, relaxed and warm in winter!

Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. A wonderful country to visit.

Paul and his supervisor enjoying a coffee in Palermo as he prepares for his conference in the city.

Palermo a vibrant and fascinating city, one we might never have seen. Salute to Paul!

On a very windy day in February, Paul graduated, and he wrote a wonderful acknowledgement at the beginning of his PHD, for the support of myself, our daughters, Rebecca, Jessica, and our son-in-law, Anthony, and he ended with this important acknowledgement:

I would also like to thank my mother and late father for all they did to start my learning journey many years ago. This thesis is dedicated to my granddaughter, Joanie, with the hopeful wish for an equitable future.

The pandemic today has shown us all how fragile and central health systems are in our countries, and our world…..and the importance of equity in the survival of us all.

I hope you are all well, and surviving in this new and restrictive world. Where ever you are in the world, I wish you sunshine and warmth, and if you have a garden, may it flourish!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.