Pecker’s Christmas Present

With Christmas well and truly out of the way, it’s back to the garden and the chicken house. Our Christmas was wonderful with family and friends gathered together. Daughter Number One came down from the sub- tropics to join us and brought with her a delightful bronze rooster. We consumed too much lunch and lots of sweets.

20121226-155139.jpg I tried my hand at gingerbread stars!

20121226-155238.jpg A selection of sweets – I have such a “sweet tooth” – Mango and Passionfruit Pavlova, Summer Pudding, Chocolate Pear Tart, fresh fruit and a delicious Plum Pudding with Brandy Custard were served. The chickens didn’t have too many of these leftovers!
One of my early gifts this Christmas was from Daughter Number Two (I am not much into gifts really) but this was a garden rooster in memory of Pecker who died six weeks ago – a Sad Day post. He is made of tin and shows off fancy tail feathers. He came wrapped in a hessian blanket – just like the one we placed over Pecker to keep him warm.

20121226-160216.jpg He now sits on my winter wood heater.

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I guess the most enjoyable part of Christmas is in the giving. I loved giving goodies from my kitchen to my neighbours…

20121226-161459.jpg I made these to celebrate each of our little houses in the bush.
I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. It can bring out the best and the worst in people but it really is a time to stop and take stock of those who are with us and those who have gone before us. This year many of us have been touched in one way or another by loss – for us it was our beloved rooster Pecker. But we cannot be untouched by the unspeakable losses in Connecticut just before Christmas. We must mourn for these poor souls and for their families. Additionally, we must also care for our animals, our elderly, our earth and our selves. Above all else let us try to reflect on what is most important to us as humans, as stewards of our earth.

20121226-164126.jpg May we use the tools of our hands to benefit others and bring joy and warmth. Pecker’s Christmas Present is for all those who commemorate the simple life and for those who have left our lives but whom we remember with much joy.

Mango Trees and Monkees

It is always with mixed feelings that I return to my hometown in the sub-tropics. Queensland is a vast and varied State. The length of its coastline is nearly 7000 km and it is a place of great contrasts. From the densely populated South East corner to the Outback and the Tropical North, it can be both beautiful and treacherous. Growing up in the decade which spanned the end of 1960’s and start of the 1970’s was like this too – filled with exciting new music coupled with the treachery of so many lives sacrificed to a war in another tropical place. For me, the twelve year old, it was indeed time spent swinging from the mango tree listening to The Monkees (pardon the pun) – not for any deep and meaningful reason but simply to be swept up in the mass hysteria that new wave American music was to produce.

Now, forty years later the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel “My Little Town” resonate with me when I come back here. I really did grow up “believing God kept his eye on us all” or was it simply “daydream believing”. The mango tree is gone and so too is Davey Jones but the heat, humidity, bougainvilleas, frangipanis and the little house on the hilly road are still going strong.

20121122-220017.jpg Imagine walking up this hill to school! It’s not called Red Hill for nothing. Check out the handrail!

20121124-171204.jpg My week here has been very pleasant indeed catching up with family and friends and experiencing some cathartic moments – which will be best kept for another time and place. But you know what – there really is “no place like home”. For me that place is now – a mountain home – I can feel a John Denver song coming on! I hope you will forgive me the clichés.

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20121124-171756.jpg An unexpected heliconia.

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Today’s front yard view comes to you from deep suburbia. See you back home.

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New Chicken House Update

Chickens all around the world will be green with envy when they spot this blue and yellow chicken house on stumps. Thanks to our fantastic neighbours, family and friends, the roof finally went on with much shoving and pushing. Despite the fact that we had to unexpectedly chainsaw a large overhanging tree, the house went into place quite readily.

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20121119-173516.jpg In fact, it looks like it’s always been there nestled under the trees. It was commented that it looked like a gingerbread house in the woods; someone else said we should decorate it for Christmas – no, let’s keep it simple, please.

20121119-175008.jpg If you are interested in Christmas thoughts and musings may I recommend
http://nittygrittydirtman.wordpress.com
and his marvellous writings on the subject along with thoughts of gardens, life, community and simplicity.

We have really lost the simple pleasures of life. Indeed this little house has given us so much delight in its rustic existence; in its basic tin-tacks symbolism of a simpler time. I know that it will house chickens and that in fact it is quite grand for that purpose but it has been salvaged and given a second life – isn’t that what recycling is all about? In fact, just today I bumped into the little house’s previous owner and proclaimed its salvation. She was so pleased that she told me it had actually been their cubby house when they were little kids. They would bring their dolls and tea sets and play for hours on its blue wooden floor. Such simple pleasures remembered and revered and now, hopefully, preserved. I hope kids today still do this – perhaps they do it in a virtual world. I hope they can balance these two worlds; I hope they can sit on earth, on grass, on leaves and feel the textures and look at the sky and imagine themselves as important and have picnics, real or imaginary. That’s what life is really about, I think – simple tasks, simple times.

20121120-204159.jpg Now that the door is on, all it needs is a little coat of paint. My next post will be from the sub- tropics as I visit family and friends – watch out for frangipanis, my own childhood memories and the house in which I grew up. Here is today’s back yard deck view. Ciao.

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Milano Part 2

It really is impossible to see Milano in two days! However, we did a vast amount of walking from our hotel into the centre of the shopping district. As I continue to reflect on our journey throughout Italy, I have discovered many things about traveling with others and their wonderful and varied personalities. (This needs further exploration in another post.) Journeying as a group has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of course are that one is in familiar and safe company and have shared similar experiences in special places. One disadvantage can be that these special places can suddenly conjure up feelings that are emotionally overwhelming and quite embarrassing. The second part of our Milan visit did exactly that for me as we entered the grand Teatro alla Scala or La Scala.

I am the daughter of northern Italian and Czech parents with some Hungarian and Swedish influences. Most of my life I grew up listening to stories about life under the Austro-Hungarian Empire – stories of art, music and history. As a child and teenager this was probably the last thing I really wanted to listen to. However, during this visit to the northern regions of Italy, I finally understood the beauty, the art, the architecture and the history. This in turn created an overwhelming link to my ancestors. As we walked in to the grand theatre, the home of opera and ballet, and entered the viewing platform where a rehearsal was underway, I became so overwhelmed by the artistic beauty that I began to cry! Quite embarrassing when one is with twenty other people! Colin was just as bemused by my antics, quickly shuffling me out of sight as I incoherently sniffled into his sleeve, “now I know what my family was on about this place”.

Dating from 1778, La Scala has been home to all the famous operatic and ballet artists. In fact, the museum, also located on the site, reveals the past performers in all their glory: Rossini, Bellini, Toscanini, Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev and of course our own Dame Joan Sutherland, to name but a few.

In my last post I depicted Milan as a place of self discovery through fashion – a somewhat artificial enterprise. However, it has now become a place where I have found a connection with myself and my ancestral past. Indeed, I will never forget Milano for this gift of understanding. Have you had a similar profound experience of place?

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