Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's that dog looking at

We have some regular night-time visitors, and as soon as Mirrhi heads outside, she looks for them, and is instantly riveted when one is spotted.  She knows all their hiding places and gently sniffs around, under and on until she suddenly goes on alert and points her big snout in the visitor's direction. ( The odd yellow cast to the pictures is from the yellow fluorescent light which is meant to keep insects and bugs away.)
Oh look! I think I've spotted one.

Yes, there it is, on the shoe cupboard.........a big green frog!
A quiet reminder to "be gentle" and she hunkers down very slowly and carefully.  Frog stays still while she edges closer.....

.... and closer

Mmmm, love this froggy 

Oh bliss - touching.....but still ever so gentle

Ok dog, you've had your fun, time to leave, places to go, bugs to eat.

Oh, no, please come back out, don't go.
 There's actually about four or five frogs that gather nightly for supper under the outdoor lights, and sing very loudly in the downpipes when it rains.  They're very welcome visitors to my garden, and a sign that it's a very healthy space.

Til next time..............

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tibet on my mind

   Road to Lake Manasorova - Kailash in background                                                                          photo credit Anilkumar

*Warning : lots of words and pictures, grab a cuppa or a glass of wine to sustain you. 

Back in August I traveled to Kathmandu to begin a pilgrimage to Mt Kailash, a great mass of black rock soaring to over 6,000 metres (22,000ft) out of the plateau of the remote western - most part of Tibet and to meet up with the other 11 members of the group, under the guidance of Sol, a yoga teacher from Sydney, who had already made this pilgrimage twice before. 
From top left clockwise :  Western face of Mt Kailash; our pack yaks; cheerful and warm kitchen in guesthouse; Lake Manasarovar;  prayer flags;  pilgrims on the road

I first heard of Mt Kailash after a friend made the pilgrimage, with the same Sol I went with, and I felt drawn to the mountain, not knowing why, or even where it was exactly!  I decided then I wanted to make my own pilgrimage "one day".........that day was 7 years later! I had no idea when I set out from Australia back in August what I was letting myself in for.  It was a demanding and challenging adventure, not just physically, but emotionally as well.  

After a couple of days in Kathmandu, making sure we had enough warm and wet weather clothing.....Tibet's weather can be quite unpredictable and we enjoyed everything from sunny days warm enough to bathe in an icy mountain lake, to sleet and snow and freezing cold.........we flew to Lhasa, where we stayed for 5 days to allow time to acclimatise to the higher altitude.  I didn't suffer with altitude sickness, but any physical exertion was difficult, even sitting up in bed!  Lhasa is a beautiful busy city, a wonderful mix of the old and the new.  I'll do a post just on Lhasa another time.

We set off from Lhasa, initially excited to be on our way at last.  As well as "the 12", we had our Tibetan bus driver and his wife.....a wonderful couple who made everything so much easier, their names were complicated and hard to pronounce, harder to remember, so we called them Mr and Mrs Driver, since this was delivered with smiles and the same were returned, it seems they didn't mind.....our beautiful Tibetan guide Pema, who went above and beyond to make sure we were all warm, safe, had regular toilet stops, he cooked for us and fed us, translated, told wonderful stories of Tibet's Buddhist history and terrible jokes and endlessly answered all our questions and concerns.  As well as these three, it was required we be escorted by a Chinese policeman, so Mr Ten joined us.  He was a very young man, had lived in Tibet ...... or the Tibet Autonomous region of China as the Chinese call it.....since he was a child. We were warned not to talk of the Dalai Lama, or make any criticisms of China, and no political conversations.  While we were nervous and wary around him to start.....and remained so when it came to what we said.....he was a very charming and helpful young man, and seemed to enjoy his time with us.  He often carried my pack for me.....I was the "old lady" of the group.....and was always nearby with a helping hand, or hot sweet tea.

A toilet stop along the way......not much privacy, no shame, no modesty....a good way to get to know your travelling companions! 

The landscape changed dramatically after we left the bustling busy city of Lhasa. The views along the way of the Himalayas shining in the distance took our breath away, we all tumbled out of the bus in excitement of that first view of those snowcapped monoliths. Outside the bus, prayer flags flapped madly, sending their prayers and blessings out to the world. They were strung in deep lines on every mountain pass, along bridges and edges of streams and lakes and even on communication towers and solar panels. 

These colourful stalls selling jewellery, prayer beads and little statues of interestingly, Indian dieties.... were at every mountain pass and scenic spot we stopped at......how many fake amber bracelets does a girl need?

We took 6 days to get to Darchen,  the "gateway to Kailash" and where we'd begin our trek, all designed to give our bodies the best chance of coping with the high altitude we were heading to. Three days were spent at Lake Manasarovar,  also to rest and acclimatise.  We were able to enjoy steaming hot mineral water baths here, an absolute luxury!  And we bathed in the icy cold, but clear and clean sacred waters of the lake.  This was a magical time at the lake, walking along the water's edge at sunrise and dusk in cold clean air.......not too close to the army camp, please, you'll get shot!....or sitting in the cosy kitchen while the stove, fueled by sheep dung, pumped out welcome heat and we would be served hot, sweet tea and enjoy watching the locals who wandered in for the same...tea and warmth.

From there to Darchen, only a couple of hours away, and wonderful glimpses of Kailash as she played hide and seek with us, in the clouds and behind other mountains.  We stayed another couple of days here, getting used to the higher altitude, then off on our pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage involves a circular trek .....a kora....around the base of the mountain at 6,200 metres high, and a total distance around of 52 kms.  This is done in two parts.......from the town of Darchen we walked to Drirapuk Monastery, (pronounced Derapuk)  where we had lodgings in one of the guest houses. This was a distance of 22 kms, and because of the high altitude and difficulty breathing, took me just over 8 hours. The walk ended at the the pilgrim's village, high above the Drirapuk Monastery, and accessed by crossing a small bridge over the meadow waters from the snowy peak of the mountain.  A very welcome sight!

Off in the distance, Drirapuk Monastery, foreground is the pilgrim's village. Our rooms were in the white building on the far right. At the end of the building at the right was my favourite place to sit and commune with the Mountain. 

We had a few days in Drirapuk, again to rest and acclimatise, then the second stage of the pilgrimage takes you up through the Dolmala Pass, the beginning of a 3 day trek back to Darchen.   Although the conditions here were far from luxurious.......no bathrooms, one very unclean and unpleasant toilet.......a shared 'pit' space with no doors or privacy.... we never did work out the etiquette in these open space toilets....did you briefly greet other users, keep your eyes down, chat away unconcernedly....4 of us sharing a very small room, and by day 2, very cold, I found these days spent under the mountain the most joyful, peaceful and satisfying of the whole trip.  A Taoist poem says it all for me..." We never grow tired of each other, the mountain and I".


This picture gives a wonderful 'bird's eye view' of the route taken on the kora.  When I see it like this, I feel pretty pleased I managed to walk halfway...that's pretty rough and high terrain out there.

I  didn't complete the full kora, for a number of reasons, mostly to do with my own physical and emotional well being, completing the first stage really knocked me around, but also as time went on I realised I was there for other reasons than to "trek".  I have no regrets about this, and as the snow and sleet whirled in and the and the temperature dropped rapidly the night before leaving for the Pass, I was even more thankful I wasn't going.  Once you leave Drirupuk Monastery, tucked under the mountain, and head up through the pass and walk around behind Kailash to the south and east, it can no no longer be seen........and I was there to see and be with that mountain!  Legend says if you complete the kora all lifetimes of karma are wiped out......I feel fine about this too, having walked half the kora, perhaps I have only half the karma to work out.  

Pilgrims heading up to the Pass.....they carried far less than we did, and had no hiking boots, no gortex jackets or heavy duty down sleeping bags!

Despite the lack of bathrooms.........showers were unheard of......awful or non-existent toilets......, and scarcity of electricity.......I loved Tibet and was sad to leave........the people, the wide wide blue skies, meadows marching away into the distance, gradually becoming mountains, snow covered and majestic, and pastureland dotted with yaks, sheep and yurts.....all with a twin cab ute and a motor bike parked outside.... there was such a sense of peace and timelessness to that wide open plateau that goes on and on forever.  I felt very much at home there and could be lost for hours in the ever changing landscape.......like a well-made quilt, there was always something interesting or intriguing or unexpected to see or wonder at, gentle meadows, deep gorges and clear, running streams and rivers to rest my eyes on.   These words and pictures barely scratch the surface, so plenty more to share in posts to come.

So, what have I been up to since I came home ? ........

Languishing :  in my bed, very ill and barely able to move with dengue fever, caught in India and originally misdiagnosed as flu .........better now thankyou. 

Taming :  the jungle my garden turned into while I was away and languishing (see above)

Harvesting : and eating in salads, cooking sauces, making
ratatouille, sharing around ..... all the self-sewn cherry tomatoes that had taken over the garden.....all ripped out now as they were ripening too quickly for me to pick them all and turning into a smelly squishy mess. Even the chooks wouldn't eat them!

Sorting : and filing a million photos from the trip.....aaah!

Planting : my summer garden - zucchinis, cucumbers, lettuce, silver beet, herbs and some flowers - gerberas, celosia, petunias and zinnias.  More to do.  We've had plenty of rain lately with really
warm days, which means I can almost see those tiny seedlings growing. 

Loving : being home again with my animals, my home and garden, and reconnecting with friends and my neighbourhood.  Home is good.

Sewing : a couple of baby quilts, the pink one and the doll donated to a special visitor to the Footpath Library, the other  for a special new arrival (see below);  a 'batty' prayer flag for a friend who recently retired and now volunteers with a bat rescue group; 5 dozen little stockings filled with sweets for Knitting for Brisbane's Needy to give out at Christmas ( my small contribution was part of a larger call for help....over 3,000 were required by various charities, these little gifts might be the only gift for many people);  secret santa gifts I can't show yet, for this Santa Sack Swap.  They're on their way to New Zealand.

Welcoming : this little one into the family.....my new great-granddaughter Memphis, little daughter of my grandson Jack.  What a blessing to have a new generation beginning.  I haven't met her yet, she's in the USA, but I'm hoping one day Jack will bring his ladies to visit.

Memphis, around 4 weeks old here
That's all for now, until next time..............

Friday, August 22, 2014

hello and 'bye

Lots has been happening and I haven't found the time to blog.  My dear ex mother in law passed away 2 weeks ago after hanging in against the cancer until her 90th birthday when family arrived from all over to celebrate with her.  Sadly, she went downhill after that, and passed away quickly and peacefully with all her family around her.  I didn't really feel like blogging much at all then.

So the 'bye part is off I'm on exciting travels, flying out to tonight to Kathmandu, meeting a pilgrimage group there, and we're going to Mt Kailash via Lhasa and Lake Manasarovar.  You'll have to google all that yourselves, as I don't have time to find and post links and pictures.

After Tiber, a friend is meeting me in Kathmandu and we're going to have an adventure across India.

I'll be back in October with tales to tell.........no blogging while I'm gone, I don't have any "devices" and I think I'll just soak up the experience.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gifts in, gifts out

About a month ago Suzanna from Mostly Threads had a giveaway for a pretty little stitched raindrop, a prayer in thread for more rain in California.  I left a comment to be in the draw, but didn't win.  What I didn't know was that Suzanna was also giving away a print of her raindrop to all who had entered, and mine arrived a couple of days ago, and here it is.  It's so pretty, thankyou Suzanna.  Suzanna has some lovely stitching on her blog, pop over and have a look.


Remember the quilt I was working on for my ex-mother in law?  Well it's finished, after a couple of late nights to get it done.  Here it is hanging on the line after I washed it......it looks odd because I'd hung it sideways and then flipped the photo.  I was very pleased with how it turned out.  I backed   it with a beautifully soft vintage sheet so it will feel gentle against her fragile skin.......forgot to take a photo.

And here is Rene, with it tucked around her....(I didn't chop her head off,  she didn't want her face in the photo) . When I handed her the parcel and she was opening it, she was saying all the "right" things...."you shouldn't have, you didn't have to get me a gift" etc.....then saw the quilt and clutched it to her and said it was just what she wanted without knowing she did. How nice is that?  She was absolutely thrilled with it.  This was a bittersweet gift... you see, what I didn't say in my last post about making it, is that Rene was diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas, and the doctors said there was nothing they could do and gave her only a few months.   She's lasted longer than the doctors said, but is very frail and fragile.  I don't know how much longer she'll have to enjoy her quilt, but I'm pleased she has it to comfort her for however long.

early morning rainbow
.................til next time

Monday, June 9, 2014

In the winter garden and a chicken bower

Winter, that's a bit of a joke.  Although there's a cool breeze today, outside it's quite warm enough for a t-shirt.  It's good growing weather, warm days and cool nights.

This is the bed I had prepared last week and is now planted with broad beans, Asian cabbage, spinach, collards, and too hard to see, calendulas and heartsease.  Radish seeds in the middle space.

This is a new bed I finished a couple of days ago, after breaking my back removing weeds and hauling soil.  It's now home to snow peas, a couple more broad bean plants, some bok choy and marigolds.  Radish seeds in the "holes" in the mulch.
Homemade climbing trellis for the peas, using long branches picked up on my doggy walks.
When the sun gets too hot for the tender seedlings, the trellis supports shade cloth. This area used to be in shade in the afternoon, but is now in full sun since the jacaranda tree fell.
Potatoes doing well, they've been hilled up twice since I took this picture, and I've nearly unrolled all the way to the top of the bags, they quite like being in the sun all day .


The chickens have been noticing the absence of the jacaranda as well.......not only had their run become very hot without it, but they had lost their "jungle" overhead, which made them feel safe, and so they wouldn't venture out into the open space.  So I made them a shady jungle bower from the broken branches that had to be trimmed off the mulberry tree. Not pretty but it works.

 Spangly Lola, golden Juno and a black blob which is Brenna, happily hidden away....I think they like it.

 Today, I need to check on the newest seedlings of bok choy and kale and see if they're ready to plant out, start some more seeds and I know there are tomatoes ready to be potted on.....all that and some sewing to hopefully finish off the Seed Packet quilt will fill the day quite nicely.

...............until next time

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Virtual sewing party

Donna at http://chookyblue.blogspot.com.au/ held a virtual sewing party to celebrate her blog's 2nd birthday.  She had real people enjoying a weekend of sewing, good food and "bubbles" at her house; whereas most of those who joined in sewed alone......I find I get more done that way, anyway.
I only managed a little sewing this afternoon, after spending most of the day tidying up the mess the tree fall made, fixing trellis back again, and giving all the plants that had either a shock or a squashing a little tlc to get them back on track.
I worked on this quilt I'm making for my ex mother-in-law.....although I haven't been married to her son for many years, she and I are still good friends, and I visit her regularly.  It's her 90th birthday in 3 weeks and the quilt is to be her gift. It's a pattern by Bronwyn Hayes called The Seed Packet quilt.

I already had the stitcheries done, so now I'm adding the borders, and finished 3 and a half today. 

These 4 are left to do, plus a heart block.
I love this about the internet, that there were dozens of women on the weekend all stitching or knitting, doing their own thing,  in "company" with each other.  We have the opportunity to visit each other's blogs and see what everyone's doing, give encouragement and admire the works underway, all while enjoying a beverage of choice and some treats.....well, it was a party!  I don't know if I would've bothered doing any sewing today, choosing to relax with a book instead, if I hadn't "signed up" to party along with Donna. 
Happy Bloggy Birthday, Donna

What a day!

I was woken about 2am yesterday morning by a loud noise, a thwumping kind of sound.  I got up and checked on all the animals.....all were fine.  As I headed back to bed, I suddenly realised what the noise was, so I stuck my head out the back door and sure enough, the huge jacaranda tree belonging to next-door's had fallen......into my yard!
Here it is in all it's glory a couple of years ago.
and here it was at first light this morning, laying sadly on it's side, broken and finished, it's roots ripped out of the ground.

My weaving frame, and a couple of chairs are under here, 
My neighbour was out there pretty quickly with his chain saw and had it all cleared away by mid-morning.  Luckily not much damage was done, part of the fence was buckled, and my garden weaving frame ......that's it in my header picture.....was pushed over, and some chairs near it were flattened.  If the tree had fallen during the day, there's a good chance I'd have been sitting right there, where I have a little table and chairs set up, and Mirrhi and the chooks gather there with me of an afternoon.  The weaving frame is ok, it was able to be pushed back upright, and will just need a couple of metal pickets to support it and stop it falling over again.  Luckily I'd put the table in my car the day before, ready to take to the markets yesterday.

With the tree gone, a huge gap is left on the western side of my yard, and will change the whole climate of my garden, as it provided welcome shade from the afternoon sun in summer.  My shade-loving plants will need to be moved I think, and replaced with sun loving vegetables and flowers, so it might be not be all bad.  The birds will miss the tree as a huge variety made it their home.....I will miss the birds!  My chooks are very nervous now about being in their run, as they've lost their safe 'jungle' overhead. And I'll miss the beautiful blue-mauve carpet of the blossoms as they flutter to ground come spring.

Here's the space with the tree gone, luckily there wasn't much damage done to my neighbour's tropical forest, so there's still a lot of greenery there.  It's different now, but other plants will grow and thrive without the competition from the hungry tree, and soon it will seem like it was never there.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, my friend Jan and I had our first market stall together at the Tyalgum Markets.   The markets are set up in the beautiful rose garden of the local B&B, with gazebos set up around the perimeter, giving it the look of a medieval fair. 

 Jan arranging our stock
 We call ourselves The Kelpie & The Cat......there's the table that missed being squashed!

 This little tyke spent the afternoon napping on my knee, he'd come to the market with his owner, a fellow stall-holder.  It was a pretty quiet day, with steadily worsening rain keeping any customers away, but a pleasant afternoon nonetheless, sitting and chatting in good company.
til next time