Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Day

hee hee hee got a bit ahead of myself yesterday, post title should be new year's it's new year's day!

Hello there...........

The day's already dawned hot and humid. the temp was 29 C overnight and is now 30C  and is set to climb to the mid/high 30s C.  I've been up since 5am and have done the laundry, walked the dog, tidied the house, cooked ratatouille/pasta sauce, veggies for the dog, pumpkin and seeds for the chooks and started a dish to take out to lunch tomorrow.  Phew!

Brenna eyeing something tasty
Speaking of pumpkins, I have this maurauding beast that's taking over the garden. it's a volunteer and doing really well and it's even growing baby pumpkins but it's smothering everything else.  And it's in my flower bed, not the veggie garden......not that you can tell that there's any flowers there any more!  My dilemma is do I leave it or pull it out? I hate to remove anything that's growing and thriving but it's sending out sticky fingers to grab more of my garden for itself.  It has a lot of flowers, and I'm wondering just how many pumpkins I can eat or give away.  It probably doesn't help that I don't like pumpkin soup, or that could be a good solution. I think it might have to go, what do you think?
pumkins forming
Now these tendrils can climb and spread, I don't mind, they're on my cucumber plants.......with a companion spider.
Hmm, maybe one plant would've been enough?
I've been getting into the garden in the cool early morning, or late evening......good old daylight savings! and doing some tidying and rearranging in the veggie patch.  This messy spot was full of radishes, collards, silver beet and calendulas, a few weeds too.  All gone now, and will be replaced by some trees, not sure what yet apart from a pomegranate and maybe a pawpaw.   I want plants that will grow tall enough to give some privacy from next door, and to shade the side of the house from the vicious afternoon sun.
Looks like this now, I left the parsley there.  still some weeds to be dug up.....sigh!
And I added this raised bed to the other side of the patch,  for beans, capsicums and some lettuce, or bok choy. The beans will grow tall enough to shade the lettuce.  Collards in the background, left there for the chooks, this bed will eventually go too, and be replaced by fruit trees.  Spring onions in a styrofoam box to the left. I planted these 2 years ago, and they just keep producing for me, even when I neglect them.
Just one more game, pleease.
 I was given this sweet potato plant, so popped it in a tub on the side path.  It provides some green and a splash of colour in an otherwise hot and boring area. won't take over the garden!
Molly in a contemplative mood, using the kitchen floor as camouflage 
 I'm off to the Farmer's Market now, want to come too?  Oh good, I'll take my camera with me and you can see the sights tomorrow next post.

I'll leave you with new year wishes.....have fun whatever you do tonight, stay safe and don't worry about making resolutions, just decide to have more of everything.

 til next time..........

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Greetings

However you spend it, wherever you are, have a day, a season, a life filled with love and light.

til next time..........

Monday, December 22, 2014

Swaps and sewing

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd been doing some secret Christmas sewing, for the Santa Sack Swap.  Cheryll from Stitching Cubbyhole blog organises this every year.  My partner this year was Lyn in New Zealand and we had 6 months to get know each other and make 5 gifts plus a stocking, tote or sack.  Lyn and I both decided we wanted a tote.  We were both running late with our gifts - Lyn had lots of report writing to finish and I had dengue fever, so we agreed we'd give ourselves an extra week.  Today was the day we opened our gifts and I received these wonderful gifts.
Beautifully wrapped

Cute NZ card

Tote bag.  Already in use with my latest project! 
Little wall hanging
Christmas tree napkins.....such a clever idea and beautifully folded ...too pretty to wipe the gravy off my chin with.....and  a sewing purse, here it is open.  It has 4 pockets for keeping all my sewing needs together

Thread catcher...I need this, I end up with snipped threads all over the place, fabric with NZ birds...a pukeko I think...on it and the sewing purse closed.  A purple theme happening's my favourite colour, Lyn did a good job stalking my blog :)

Beautifully stitched Christmas cushion...oh and there were chocolates too..hmm wonder where they went?

For some reason, probably trying to get everything packed up to send, I didn't take photos of the gifts I made for Lyn, but I made some very nice things.  Hopefully Lyn will take photos and I can borrow them from her blog Stitches from the Mainland.
Thanks to Cheryll for organising this swap.  Swaps like this make blogging and the internet a fun and positive place, "meeting" new people far and near, people I might never meet but still connect with.  And the gifts are a special bonus, Lyn and I were commenting that we plan and organise, choose colours and projects we think, hope our partner will like, then stitch away making our gifts , forgetting that someone else is doing the same, so it's wonderful when that parcel arrives, with thoughtfully chosen presents.  Thanks Lyn for being my partner.

'til next time

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 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 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 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 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..............