This week a lot of my thinking time has been done whilst weeding our very overgrown verge garden. I find weeding to be an exceptionally tedious task, with virtually no redeeming features. The only upsides I’ve come up with are: (a) the outcome = tidy garden = satisfaction, and (b) my mind is free to wander around and trawl through ideas that have been lurking just out of sight.

So far (a) has not been achieved – but I’ve spent a good many hours working towards that goal and am past the halfway mark. Satisfaction is within sight. Meantime various items under (b) have received a good deal of my (spare) attention. The issue that’s surfaced to the top of the contemplation pile is… procrastination… probably because the seemingly endless weeding I’m ‘enjoying’ is a direct result of just that.


The following questions have been buzzing around in my head as I weed:

  • Why do we procrastinate? (…and don’t kid yourself, we all do it!)
  • How do we resolve it?
  • What motivates, inspires or drives individuals to get going on a project or task in the first place, i.e. what kicks people into getting stuck in and doing things?
  • And what makes them see it through to completion?

No doubt there are many and varied answers to all these questions – and no doubt those answers are slightly different for each individual. My starting point (in the hunt for some answers) was to try to categorise people into groups. I came up with three broad categories:

  • Self-starters: people who seem to walk to the beat of their own drum, a neat little rat-a-tat-tat that (to an onlooker) just seems to keep on going.
  • Pleasers: respond actively to motivation in the form of outside encouragement, rewards, etc. – or to a combination of reward/punishment.
  • Resistors: seem not to be swayed by any form of persuasion, from any source.

Once I had all that clear in my head, I boldly put myself into the self-starter category. Then I realised that I actually fall into each of the categories at different times or for different types of tasks. Sometimes I just get cracking and get something done – but other times I do things to please others or to avoid negative outcomes. I confess that there have also been times when I’ve actively (and stubbornly) resisted some tasks completely.

Reflecting on this I see that my own procrastination isn’t just because I don’t want to do things. Sometimes it’s because the task is tedious (weeding), or overwhelming (a lot of weeding!), or I feel uncertain (perhaps because I don’t have the skill to effectively complete a particular task). There are some things I have procrastinated over starting because not starting seems less stressful than doing it ‘wrong’, or because other things take priority, or when I simply fall into the trap of watching TV / social media browsing / email.

Plodding through all this – particularly whilst doing something I don’t really want to do (but do want done) – has made me realise that the first step to getting things done is to consciously acknowledge that I’m procrastinating. I had a think about what I do with my time instead of getting on with whatever it is that I’m avoiding (weeding!), then tried to figure out how much time I do actually fritter away on time-fillers (rather than on things I’ve theoretically actively decided to do). It turns out to that I manage to fill rather a lot of time with useful, but essentially directionless activities.

Later on I did some reading (yes, internet browsing…) and found that there are numerous websites that provide suggestions on how to manage procrastination. The tips that make the most sense to me are:

  • Motivation. Finding something that will get you going is often a tough ask, but you could consider giving some thought to Future-You. Or, as with the weeding, sometimes you might need to simply accept that you’re doomed and just need to get started in order to produce sufficient motivation to complete the task.
  • Chunk the task into bite-sized portions. This helps to make even the most overwhelming task less implausible. The verge garden as  whole seemed insurmountable last week, so I decided to chunk it. 1 – 2 hours of weeding every morning this week left my arms and back aching, my nails broken and provided me with no enjoyment it at all. But… rather to my surprise, it’s almost done…
  • Beat your own drum. Fear of failure / being judged by others is a fact of life – so acknowledge it and then set your own standard. In this example, the garden will really only be mostly weed free when I’m done – and I’m okay with that. Progress = success, even if it’s not perfect.
  • Reward yourself. My reward was that I set a time limit  for each session (more than an hour, less than two) and stuck to it. Tottering away from the garden was such a relief each day that I actually didn’t need more reward than that – although I did indulge in a very nice cup of coffee and a cookie afterwards anyway.


I reckon two more sessions in the garden will see the weeding conquered. My reward at that point will be to go to the garden centre to choose some new plants. Perhaps a fig tree… or some pumpkin seedlings… Meantime, a surprise harvest of one perfectly ripe pumpkin this morning. Win!


As I worked through my exercise routine at the hydrotherapy pool yesterday, it occurred to me just how fortunate I am. This was probably spurred on by the presence of two young cerebral palsy patients, each with two carers assisting them in the pool. As I walked and cycled and did the rest of my exercises (unaided), I thought about how easy it is to whinge rather than to take stock of just how rich one’s life actually is. This then led me to consider when last I’d consciously enjoyed my week. The short answer was ‘this week’ – seven days of random things, excluding paid work. So here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

Weather guarding the fruit trees. This involved some compost, a lot of mulch and hard work. The first step was to lower the level of the garden bed in our mini orchard by about 15cm. Whilst that may not sound like much, I have many bags of sand that testify otherwise! There simply isn’t an easy way to get rid of sand when there isn’t ready access for a bobcat or other doggy-machine to do the work for you. It comes down to a shovel, determination and time. Once I’d finally reached the desired level (after mole cricket larvaemuch digging and bagging of sand), I decided it would be a good idea to add a little compost to enrich the area and to make up for having removed most of the topsoil.

This also sounds simpler than it actually was. It turned out that our compost bin was ‘enriched’ by a large number of creepy-looking mole cricket larvae. How the devil they got in there is a mystery, but I know exactly how they got out… I donned the gloves-of-protection, sifted through the compost – by hand – and removed them, one grub at a time. By the time I finished I was decidedly grossed out and very much in need of a shower to get rid of (mostly imaginary) bug residue. Himself very kindly took on the task of spreading the compost and then topping it with a thick layer of mulch. The trees look happy and we’re hoping they’ll have an easier time of it through the February heat.

Socialising. Finding time to spend with friends often falls foul of busy schedules. I’ve found that a way round this is to book what are, in effect, ‘play dates’. These can be lunch/dinner, a walk, coffee, a movie – any excuse to ensure that we can get together to catch up on nothing and everything rather than gradually losing contact. This week I went to a movie with friends, had people round to our place a few times and enjoyed a couple of hours catching up with a good friend over bagels, waffles and coffee. I did wonder whether being an informal DryAthlon participant this January would impact my social life – but it’s made no difference at all.

Harvest. In a moment of crazy late last year I planted out 12 basil seedlings. It was really for some fresh greenery in the garden at Xmas time, but I didn’t expect many of them to all survive the heat. They did. They all did. So this week was the first great basil harvest and pesto making adventure. The house smelled delicious and my freezer is now full of little boxes of pesto for later in the season when the plants have died back. I also took the time to strip our ruby blood plum tree – and to eat a goodly number of the plums. Not a huge harvest this year, so I won’t be making any plum jam – but I’m okay with that since we still have a LOT of various jams in stock from past harvests.

Convention wrap-up. As part of the organising committee for the 15th (very successful) GenghisCon, it was good to share the highlights with the rest of the crew at the final meeting this week. We also spent some time brainstorming as to how we can make the planning phase easier for the 2016/17 committee. Cunning plans are afoot.

Pet fud. A 6am run to the local meat markets on Saturday resulted in the purchase of 10 ox hearts, 2 ox livers and 18kg of beef mince. Later in the day the household vibrated to the sounds of the mixmaster with its mincer attachment going full tilt. Hearts are no problem – the flesh is very firm and easy to cut up and feed through the mincer. Livers, however, are slippery little devils and mince out to a meaty goo that’s seriously visually unappealing. (Just thought I’d share that visual image).

Our pet fud recipe is: 2 hearts, 1 liver, 10kg mince, 1.5kg sardines in oil – mix together (wear gloves!), then weigh out into 600g lots and freeze. Our pup currently gets 300g of this mix each day, along with her (soaked) biscuits and whatever veggies I have to hand. She’s loving it and the meat component costs us less than $2 a day. This time round we processed 105 meals, so it’ll be a while before we need to head back to the markets. Well worth the early morning and a couple of hours of production. Win.

(The rest of the meat was for DaughterDearest to turn into catfud – the process is essentially the same, but with the addition of various cat-specific dietary supplements.)

Veggies. A friend and I take it in turn to go to the wholesale veggie markets every 3 weeks or so. This wasn’t my week on, so I had the pleasure of having three boxes filled to overflowing delivered to the door. Our fridge is now pretty well stocked with delicious fruit and veg that will keep us going for the next couple of weeks. Happiness.

Having reviewed all that, it occurs to me that it’s often only by comparison (to the plight of others) that we appreciate the richness of our own lives, that we realise the value of our abilities and the strength of our relationships. Surely this isn’t best practise? Perhaps being more conscious of these things in the here-and-now, mindfully rather than habitually, could be a useful goal to strive towards this year.


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.

Every household has a list of mundane tasks that need attention each week. These are the ordinary, every day things that are repetitive, usually pretty tedious, appear unproductive, are largely thankless – and yet are necessary. They’re the time consuming little tasks that move our lives along, such as grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, writing reports, vacuuming, blitzing the shower, laundry, making appointments & paying bills, feeding & exercising the dog, updating spreadsheets, cleaning the pool… The list seems endless once you start and, whilst no one activity takes up all your residual enthusiasm and (notional) free time, they do sneakily combine to eat great chunks of it. Sometimes what’s left is a you that’s simply run out of available energy resources or, as my family calls it, ‘spoons’.

flynetSadly, there’s no magic fix to the list or to the probable exhaustion – not unless you have staff that will see to your every whim. I don’t – so I was out in the noonday sun last week, mower and edge trimmer to hand, sunhat and fly net in place – this is Australia, so the last two are mandatory. Weeks of ignoring the lawns had left them shaggy, unkempt and potentially dangerous for foot traffic (we have a dog). It was well past time for action.

Despite the ultra-light electric mower, trudging up and down behind it across the ankle-deep grass and then thrashing the trimmer around to tidy up the edges was hot, sweaty work. The combination of a 30-degree day, dry easterly winds and puppy that, unable to get to me to save me from the apparent horrors of mowing, took to impersonating an entire pack of howling hounds, was mind-numbing. Thank goodness for the fly net, since that at least kept the bomb-diving flies at bay!

Like many repetitive tasks, however, mowing the lawn doesn’t require much active attention, so my mind was free to wander around and consider plans for my rapidly approaching dog-and-lawn-free holiday.  I started listing the things I needed to do, to get, to pack, to arrange before I leave and to slot those into my mental schedule. Doing so provided the following epiphany with regards to more mundane chores:

  • Make a to-do list
  • Don’t ignore it
  • Prioritise the tasks
  • Chunk them into things that can be done at more or less the same time
  • Schedule as many of them as you can (Monday is often my mundane-day)
  • Set calendar reminders so that you remember what needs to be done when
  • Remember that even if you only do one small thing on the list it’s one less thing still to do
  • Stop before you’re exhausted
  • Out-source where possible – to family spouse, kids or hired help
  • Accept that not everything will get done every week

It’s actually surprisingly sensible advice and I’m going to try to follow it myself from now on, which goes to show that doing mundane tasks can have unexpectedly good results. There is one more thing I’d like to add, though, and that it to remember to acknowledge the tasks you conquer. Tick them off your list and allow yourself to feel satisfied at having completed whatever it is – no matter how long your list may still be.

I must admit that ticking ‘mow and whipper-snip lawns’ off my list felt pretty good and, once I’d cooled down and settled the howling hound, it was gratifying to note that the (quite tiny) front and back lawns actually looked darn fine!


Cumquat trees are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, where the plant apparently symbolises good luck and prosperity. Our tree is surrounded by camellia trees in full bloom and bordered by rosemary bushes that have become a little overgrown – a very pleasing corner feature of our rather ragamuffin garden.

A year ago we spent an intense weekend pruning and moving plants so that our garden wall could be repaired. I know it was a year ago, because our cumquat tree was at least as burdened with fruit then as it is now. We’d recruited a few people to help with the garden rampage – and a couple of these industrious ‘garden gnomes’ were kind enough to collect all the fruit for me before pruning the tree back. I duly turned the harvest into bottles of rather delicious cumquat chutney at a later date and rewards were issued.

Since then, the tree has bushed out and fruited even more prolifically than ever. Unfortunately the garden-gnome-recruitment-scheme hasn’t worked quite as well this year, but I have a couple of likely characters coming to stay  for the weekend soon… I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to bribe them with baked goods to deal with the cumquat harvest then.

cumquats at #10

cumquats at #10

This does beg the question of just what I’ll do with hundreds of tiny, bright orange, pip-infested obloid fruits this year. In the past I’ve candied, spiced and brandied them, made jams, marmalades, chutneys and cakes, used them when baking fish and as accompaniments to roast meats. However, the darn tree appears to be getting more and more prolific as the years go by and many of the cumquat recipes I’ve found use only a handful of the fruit.

These muffins, for example, whilst undoubtedly very yummy only use up ten cumquats in total. Ten. In the grand scheme of things, I’d need to make about 20 batches of muffins to use anywhere near the number of cumquats I have on hand – and I really don’t think my waistline would appreciate that very much! Nevertheless, having found the recipe, I’ll give them a try this evening. I’ll also try this delicious-sounding cake over the weekend. It uses 750g of cumquats – and since one cumquat weighs approximately 19g, that makes about 40, which sounds more promising. I’ll reassess the cumquat situation after that

grapfruit harvest @#10

grapfruit harvest @#10

Meantime, we harvested 170 grapefruit today and there are more on the tree. This is our third harvest this season and we’re just about grapefruited out. So, if anyone would like some, please give me a shout and we can arrange for a pick-up or delivery 🙂