It’s a funny old thing how, no matter how many things one gets done around the house/property and no matter how happy-making they are, there are always – and I mean always – other things that need doing. Somehow the to-do list seems to magically grow faster than things can get crossed off it.

Endless gardening

This can be overwhelming, to put it mildly, and I’ve seen many people admit defeat and give up. The list wins and becomes the we-won’t-get-to-it list rather than the to-do list.

Recently I reviewed a bunch of stalled-out projects, ones that have either trailed off or somehow haven’t even gotten off the ground. The sheer volume felt a bit depressing, to be honest. I was chatting to DaughterDearest about this last week and she agreed: so much to do, so little time, so much competition for resources. However, she and K have devised a most cunning life hack to help to solve this dilemma.

They each listed every task they could think of – big and small – that needed doing on their property. These ranged from costly tasks, such as installing more water tanks, to time-consuming ones, such contacting the local council to resolve various issues. Then they combined the lists, removed the duplications, and independently ranked each task on their personal perception of its importance (on a scale of 1 to 5).

At the end of this, they conferred and negotiated, then created a master task-list from which to work. No more items will go onto this list for the next 12 months, she said, after which they’ll review and reprioritise. Work has commenced and they’ve already crossed things off their list 🙂

Whilst I applauded the idea – and the progress they’ve made so far – I was feeling listed-out and somehow didn’t see it working for us. Even so, I mentioned it in passing to Himself and – much to my surprise – he thought it was a splendid idea! It’s logical, will clarify what needs doing when, and should provide a workable roadmap, he said.

So over the weekend we listed, compiled, agreed on no more items, prioritised, negotiated – and now have our very own master list. It’s been printed out on an A3 sheet and is up on the whiteboard where we’ll both see it every day: 98 items in total (several of which are sub-tasks of others).

It is a long list and might seem daunting – but it feels good to have sat down together and worked out a plan. We have 12 months in which to conquer as many of the items as possible. Progress is already underway and we’re both keen to move maintain the momentum. Roll on next September and review-time  🙂

For many years I was convinced that living rurally would be fun, that moving to a lifestyle/hobby farm and getting back to basics Some of the backyard trees at Menagerie10would suit me to a T. I’d have the space to do my own thing, perhaps set up a proper art studio, get involved in the Country Women’s Association, start a co-op. The children could have horses and help in the veggie garden and we might even get a small cow… the possibilities seemed endless.

But by the time we moved to Australia (20+ years ago), I’d come to realise that I’m better suited to being a backyard farmer. I enjoy growing things on a small scale, so we planted lots of fruit trees and set up a vegetable garden. Since all of that keeps me on my toes, it’s pretty clear that the sheer scope of the day-to-day work entailed in establishing and maintaining an acerage would leave little time for anything else.

So why do people choose to move to the country? Is it because land is more affordable further from the city,  living costs can be relatively low and that living on an acreage promotes a task-focused approach? Perhaps it’s because of reduction in distractions allows one to live the dream… but is that enough? It’s such a huge step, often impacting work, family and social networks. Then there are issues such as whether the property is part of the integrated water supply scheme – and whether a dam or borehole is feasible if it isn’t (and even if it is). What about public transport, access to the nbn and availability of emergency medical and/or veterinary help?Gallifrey Forest Farm chickens and guinea fowl

I thought about all this quite a lot whilst house-and-animal sitting at Gallifrey Forest Farm for DaughterDearest over Easter. Relaxing on the verandah, gazing out across their small farm in the Perth hills, I could finally absorb just how much she and K have achieved – and understand their move more clearly.

From the first they devoted large chunks of time to laying the foundations on which to create their future food forest. Whilst this may sound straightforward, it was anything but as they were still living in the city. This meant that for a few years most weekends involved very early starts, filling water barrels, loading up gear and heading out for yet another day of improving the soil, digging swales, planting, watering, maintenance  work on the firebreaks, fencing, chasing the kangaroos and whatever else needed doing that particular week.

They put in beehives and planted more seeds, trees and shrubs, erected sheds to store their equipment – thereby limiting the amount of loading and unloading required each week, and put in their first water tank to reduce the need for weekly water deliveries for the plants. They made friends with their neighbours, erected chicken runs and, in due course, designed, built and moved into their house. This was the last step in the transition from being city-dwellers to living an hour outside the city in a semi-rural environment. They’ve solved so many of what I thougGallifrey Forest Farm Permablitz Dayht might be overwhelming problems with sheer determination, inventiveness and networking – and they’re having fun doing it.

A couple of weeks ago was testament to this. They held a permablitz event, inviting like-minded people to come round to help out on the property and to enjoy morning tea, lunch and camaraderie. And people came… even some complete strangers (who are no longer strangers) came. They (we) planted trees & seedlings, pulled out weeds, moved piles of sand and gathered fallen timber from the wooded areas. We got rained on from time to time. We met new people, laughed, ate delicious cake and generally had fun.

And I guess this is what makes it all worthwhile. It’s seeing a dream come to life, enjoying the magical sunsets and the quiet, kicking back in a hammock after a days work and sharing a meal at least part-made from what their land has produced. They’ve dared to dream big, they’re working hard to achieve their goals – and they remember to take time out, make new friends, connect with old friends, get help when they need it (permablitz days), hold dinner parties – and to pat their kittens.


Sunset at Gallifrey Forest Farm


My ears woke up before the rest of me yesterday, filled with the sounds of rain splatting on the tin roof. Big juicy drops bouncing and rolling, rushing down into the overflowing gutters, gushing out to form gullies in the dry sand. It was still to dark to see, but I heard it all. It was the best sound in the world to wake up to at the end of a hot, dry summer.

Cocooned inside my sleeping bag I wriggled back down, smiling in the silvery predawn. I’m spending the Easter break at Gallifrey, house-cat-fowl-and-plant sitting for Daughter Dearest. Although I knew I might have to trudge down to feed the chickens and guinea fowl in the drizzle later on, it’d only be a minor inconvenience. I couldn’t help feeling a bit like it was my birthday – with the rain an unexpected and glorious gift. The plants were being watered without any help from me and, even more importantly, at least some of the water I’ve used while I’ve been resident has been replaced.


Over the past few years I’ve come to realise how easy it is to take water for granted in our first-world city life. The simplest daily actions, such as washing one’s hands or rinsing a cup or flushing the toilet, are all done on the assumption that there’s a plentiful supply of water. But not just any water. We naively assume that it will be clean and bug free, i.e. potable water,  and that it will be piped into our homes without fail. And it’s these assumptions that lead us to be blasé about our water use and to waste litres upon litres of this diminishing and most precious resource.

T and I try to be water-smart at home, using low flow shower heads, limiting the sprinkler time, keeping showers brief and checking for leaky taps regularly. So I was surprised to find Australians at the top of the list of per capita water consumers in the world, with a quarter of our daily water use (26%) literally  going down the toilet.

Although modern water efficient toilets are required to use no more than 5.5 litres of water per flush, a standard flush toilet uses 12 litres (!) – every time it’s flushed. With an average of four flushes per person per day, that’s about 10,000 litres of water each of us is flushing away every year. That’s a whole lot of water, particularly (but not exclusively) if you rely on rainwater for all your water needs.

Knowing this is not the same as living it. I’ve found that as a (temporary) resident at Gallifrey I’ve become hyper-conscious about water use. I’m suddenly personally aware of the fact that there’s no scheme water on the property, that the house and garden are dependant on the water in the tanks and, when that runs low and rain doesn’t come, the remaining option is to purchase water and have it trucked in to fill them. An expensive undertaking.

Every time I turn a tap on, I think about the water tank levels. Every time I use the composting toilet, I’m conscious of the water that’s being saved. For a two-person household, this system is saving about 20,000 litres a year. That’s water that can then be used in the house and for the animals and orchard instead. A real, practical step to water management.

As water becomes scarcer, this system is becoming more mainstream. Instead of being seen as another ‘hippy-eco fringe’ idea, it’s gaining traction with the broader public. According to a recent ABC report, more people are looking at it as an option for new homes – and I know I certainly would.

Listening to the rain as I fell asleep last night, surrounded by the smells of rain and soaked earth, I was content.


Ragamuffin gardenThis week I found an all-but forgotten potted geranium had sprouted the most luscious pink blossoms. The totally unexpected flash of new colour in my ragamuffin garden made me laugh out loud – and then smile on and off for the rest of the day.

Geraniums do tend to look perky and pretty, particularly when in flower. But they were really just so much background scenery when I was growing up. Then I went to Europe, where I seemed to see window boxes full of bright red geraniums everywhere I went.

Seeing them in this new context, I realised that I’m actually rather fond of these hardy little plants. They’re great performers: water-wise, pest resistant, need minimal maintenance and can be relied on to flower regularly and brighten up pretty much any garden.

Forgotten geraniumOver the years I’ve added several varieties to our garden, including the vermillion ones that remind me of Europe, the cerise pink variety that always makes me smile, one with lime scented foliage and lavender flowers, and the stunning big red that I found a couple of years ago.

On Saturday, still full of enthusiasm from my mid-week geranium smiles, I decided to go hunting for some new varieties at the WA Geranium & Pelargonium Society Annual Sale Day. Daughter-dearest and I had great fun trawling through the stalls, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the pretties. It was like being in a candy store, rushing from display to display to admire the blossoms, smell the leaves and chat with other geranium enthusiasts.

One of the club members explained that the plants commonly called ‘geraniums’ are, in fact, pelargoniums. Confusion on this point is quite common, apparently, but affected our enthusiasm for plant-hunting not one whit! The sale day turned out to be a great opportunity to find varieties I’ve seldom (if ever) seen in suburban gardens.

Co-incidentally, Daughter-dearest has just recently taken up residence in her new home and it seemed like a good excuse to buy instead of just browse. She certainly wasn’t about to talk me out of shopping for pretties, so we ended up acquiring a couple at each stall until we ran out of hands. We then headed for home, armed with a veritable wealth of geraniums – ten different varieties in all.

Since they’re dead easy to propagate, we immediately set to work with secateurs and potting soil. The process is very simple. First step was to take a small cutting (approximately 10cm) from just above a leaf joint (node) on each of the new plants. We then trimmed each cutting so that there were only two or three leaves on it. This makes it easier for the cutting to thrive, because the plant doesn’t have to work too hard trying to keep lots of leaves alive. Next step was to pop each of the cuttings in a small tub of potting soil and water them lightly. Try it – the results are well worth the tiny amount of effort involved.

Propogating geraniums_Oct2015

I’ll continue to water the cuttings lightly every day and the first tiny roots should start to appear in about three days. After  about four weeks the new plants should be ready to transplant into slightly larger pots or, if I’m feeling brave, straight into the garden – both options have worked for me in the past. Either way, I’m looking forward to even more bright flashes of colour in my ragamuffin garden this summer.

My daughter and I have grown up together. I had her fairly young and learned about being mum at pretty much the same rate she learned about being her. It seems to have all worked out okay: I’m still her mum and she’s definitely 100% her 🙂


Daughter-dearest left home after finishing her first uni degree, heading off to work overseas for a year, then travelling around South America and Europe for several months before heading back to home base. Having flexed her wings and found that they provided more than adequate lift, it wasn’t long before she moved into a share house with some friends.

At the time many of my friends asked whether our nest felt empty, whether I felt sad or even lonely with her gone again so soon. In short, the answer was a simple – but firm – no. I was both pleased and proud when she moved out of the family home to set up independently. I guess it’s a bit silly, but I had one of those ‘Yes!’ moments, a moment when I did a happy dance and thought, ‘Wow, she grew up – we made it – how good is that?!’

It was enormous fun to help her in small (and unobtrusive) ways: with the move, by buying some bits & pieces for her kitchen and by dropping off a banana loaf (or whatever baking I felt in the mood for) every now and then. Share houses being generally notoriously random in the pantry department, both she and her two housemates always received these deliveries with enthusiasm and rather raptor-like self-interest 😛

She moved house once or twice after that first share house – including going to the UK for a while, then to Melbourne – before settling back in Perth and putting down some more permanent roots with a partner. For the past few years they’ve been developing a small acreage about an hour out of the city, digging swales, planting trees, improving the soil, camping out occasionally and, finally, building a house.

This last element has been a stressful journey for them, with many building and bank complications along the way. For a variety of reasons they ended up moving in with us for a few months whilst the house was being completed. This meant that our house of two plus dog(1) & chickens(2), became a house of four plus dog(1), kittens(3), chickens(6) & quail(3) for most of 2015. Quite the little menagerie, really.

This weekend the move to their new house finally happened. They’d already spent a week or so unpacking all their furniture from storage and on Friday they hired a truck to move the many (many!) pot plants and assorted paraphernalia from our house to theirs. After a good night’s sleep (here) and some final packing, they loaded up the kittens (now almost full grown) and headed for home.

It was a great feeling to wave them goodbye, knowing that the next stage of their dream can finally start to take shape. There’ll be days of unpacking and settling in, followed by days of planting and building. But there’ll also be many evenings of simply sitting on their verandah and kicking back – just enjoying being at home in their own home at last.

As a mum, I couldn’t ask for more. But I must admit to a little lurch of my heart when daughter-dearest brought her adorable kittens in one by one to say goodbye to me. Our cat free, guest-free, quail and chicken-free life will seem just that little bit more ordinary and pale for a while. I’ll miss them – all of them… (well, perhaps not the very noisy chickens) … but I look forward to some ‘grandpets’ from SunChaser Ocicats in the not too distant future – and to joining them on their verandah from time to time to share some of that serenity.


The kittehs in their temp daytime run at our place