Petit Paradis – Soup de Jour – Miso

miso pp

Well, I guess there are a hundred different versions of miso.

This one was made from a stock of vegetable scraps and some bones from dinner. Carrots and celery chopped finely. Perhaps the last of the celery that we will see for a while given the incredible price hike it has received recently. I have a plant in the garden coming along. We will wait. The planet is in a self-imposed slow food movement anyway.

Some brown rice was cooked really well in the strained broth so that it became swollen and full. A good amount of miso paste and some tamari. Salt and pepper if required.

I served it to the family for breakfast after a jog and sprint around the park with the Little Fellas. We are in training for the Long Distance run for school. But it is good training anyway and makes for a decent bit of activity before school activities.

Half a boiled egg sits aloft the soft vegetable and rice mix surrounded by a moat of rich broth. Speckled with chopped chives from the garden it is a nice start to the autumn day.

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The Last of March

The rains have come and I am grateful.

Mostly because the days are sunny and delightfully warm and those overnight showers or early morning drops are ideal for the young seedlings and newly planted trees. I have also been re-potting some of the trees and they are liking this extra fresh water.

It is also nice to hear the rain shower on the tin roof in the early morning. But not being one to sleep in I was up early anyway and working in the garage, out on the back verandah and under the house. I managed to do many small jobs today – like paint our street number out the front, sand and paint and old table and sow more seeds.

Then it was time for home school. Maths, spelling, music, reading, art,  on-line learning. Some further insights into the workings of young minds. What an experience this is, I think to myself. How frustrating and wonderful. All of it. Intriguing and frustrating and really trying on the patience. But intriguing. And of course, I am learning too.

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We all sat at the kitchen table chatting about home schooling when Gran blurts out at the head of the table “Are they doing swimming?”

“No Mum. There is no swimming anyway. Not at the pool or the beach. Besides, the pools closed.”

We return to our lunch.

“It’s a good thing they’ve canceled swimming then!”

Little Fella Number One looks incredulously at his Gran and shakes his head. We all grin and nod. And eat our lunch.

__

Despite early attempts to whinge and whine in rebellion against the morning walk, this morning they were dressed and ready and Mrs PP took them to the beach in the drizzle. They had a great time chasing waves and even took me back in the afternoon with their boards to go in the waves again.

They have been hungry those Little Fellas, and I’ve been making up various dishes to show them what can be done with food and left-overs. Like the rice pudding with sultanas, lemon rind and nutmeg. Autumn, ahhhh. They learn the basics of cooking also. School never really stops at home. But we don’t tell them that to remind them.

rice pudding pp

Bullfrog has been pretty low key recently. He spends his days in and around the pond. He is dark now, like the saturated wood in the pond that he clings to. Soon it will be time for the Moaning Frog to start calling.

Finch has been perching on the uppermost branches of the neighbours hibiscus tree and calling a little courting call as he holds a long strand of freshly plucked grass in hi beak. He tends to alternate between the hibiscus and another tree further up the slope.

I’ve moved the native iris and geraniums that were pulled from the front garden up to the very back of the block to plant out. I just need to impede the growth of the kikuyu before I get them in the ground.

bananas pp

The bananas have grown remarkably well in the current weather cycle of hot, sunny days and cool, damp nights. I have been in the practice of putting other potted plants around the base of them on the mulch to keep everything easily watered but have limited this practice now as the diameter of the bananas stem is increasing a lot and the mulch is just so deliciously alive and attractive that any potted plant placed on top immediately decides to set roots deep into it. I have instead put in a few slips of sweet potato. I am fond of the leaves in salad, but if we get a small crop of tubers it will be a bonus.

So March departs and there is the promise of those glorious days of April and May. We shall see what they bring. The council workers ‘closed’ the park yesterday. They have removed swings, barricaded play areas and locked up fence areas in an effort to reduce the potential exchange of the virus. The beach is not busy, but that comes with the change of season anyway. So we go there. The fresh air, the cleansing water. People are usually happy there.

I am hoping. That when Moaning Frog begins his woeful, sad call in the weeks to come, that it is a celebration of the winter rains.

 

 

 

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Home Shopping

 

sea pp

The days are blurring together. But this is the kind of stuff I’ve been up to.

Friday morning was the beach walk with the family. It was refreshing, relaxing and resulted in a catch of one dead seagull, two dead shearwater and a dried out blowfish. More on that here.

Saturday I got stuck into the main garden bed and re-arranged it. I was a little reluctant to as after having stored a good variety of plants in the garden there over the summer for ease of watering for the house sitter, they really were looking comfortable. Very lush. But not really ideal for growing winter vegetables. I compromised and left some of the sweet potato in situ for the winter. I have since planted out peas, parsnips, carrots, beans, numerous dark, leafy greens and coriander.

lush pp

Once inside from the garden I made a frittata for the family. They always enjoy a yummy frittata. The Little Fellas get into it with gusto and it’s one of the few meals I can cook without them picking bits out. I’ve made dishes where I’ve finely diced all manner of vegetables and inevitably they still find their favourites to pick out. Not with the frittata. Hooray!

frittata pp

Then there was Sunday’s shopping outing which occurred over the neighbours fence. To make the job easier I used one of the Little Fella’s old fish/butterfly nets. Observing social distancing and all that stuff. Actually, it was really just easier for the neighbour so there wasn’t much reaching involved.

fence pp

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The First Trees are Planted

Yesterday I planted out our first trees.

There was no pomp and ceremony. Not loudly anyway.

I carted up several loads of sandy soil and dumped them on the growing swale at the top of the slope. I filled up several more and left them by the swale. I gathered the soaked cardboard, the composted pig manure, the 3 dead sea birds gathered from the shoreline this morning and the dead puffer fish and lay them out ready next to the loquats and avocadoes.

Three of those lucky trees got a ceremonial burial. Two with Short-tailed Shearwaters, each already a couple of days deceased and one with a Silver gull. Definitely much deader than the shearwaters and smelling the worse for it.

I did it with as much reverence and conscious thought as I could muster. I was hot, tired and couldn’t even be bothered to try to entice the family up to take part. I piled on the sand from the buckets I had standing by and watered them each. On another swale I planted acacia. It will eventually join with the fruit tree swale to become one long swale stretching the top of the block. I just need a passage through at the moment while I work up there.

As I gathered up some pea hay and a jar of assorted seeds I’ve had waiting for years for such an opportunity, the Littlest Little Fella came outside and offered to help. I was so grateful.

“Yes please. You’ve come just at the fun part.”

We walked up the back and scattered pea straw gently like confetti over the newly planted trees. Then I gave him a handful of seeds to scatter in amongst the pea straw so that hopefully they will grow to bind the soil and keep the trees happy. Making a good show of things before the kikuyu inevitably snakes its way in. The resilient grass will also bind the swale soil and the trees are tall enough and sturdy enough that once they take a hold it will be easy enough to keep the grass managed. It’s a very uninspiring photo that one on the bottom there, but as the trees grow it will look a bit more impressive.

The main thing is, in the meantime, they are at least in the soil and growing.

the first trees pp

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A Matter of Distance & Why it Matters

As told in a previous post, we are now home schooling our boys.

So when I’m tasked to teach about distance and measurement I take the opportunity to make it real.

I have been designing and building our chicken yard recently and in the eleventh hour I made an alteration to the design as you will come to see.

“This is the design I did for the chicken yard.” I tell the Little Fellas.

“There are two ways to get to the yard to collect the eggs. So this eraser represents a three metre length (~ 3 yards)”. I say holding the eraser against the rough sketch I made on a notepad. “The same length as the sleepers I have in the backyard for making the retaining walls.”

We measure out the two ways you can get to our soon to be chicken yard using the eraser as our 3 metre representation.

“So one path is 15 metres in distance going the long way around the raised gardens from the top of the stairs. The other way is . . . ” We measure it out.

“The other way is 9 metres from the top of the stairs. So one way is shorter than the other. It’s six metres shorter.” We are learning subtraction also. ✓

I encourage the Little Fellas to follow me in the story and consider things a little further.

“Where the chicken coop is going, is not going to be in the middle of the chicken yard. There are two yards separated by the coop. One is long, the other short. In my first design I had the coop closer to the fish pond and as we’ve measured it, it is 15 metres from the top of our steps and pretty much in the middle of the garden. The coop doesn’t have to go there. We could swap the long yard with the short one and move the coop closer to the other side of the garden. What if we did that?”

distance pp

We measure out the distance it would take to get to the chicken coop if we switched the yards and the coops location.

“6 metres.”

“So we now have a 15 metre walk or a 6 metre walk. We’ve reduce a potential return walk of 30 metres down to 12 metres.”

The Littlest Little Fella speaks his mind, as he is apt to do.

“But what if we like going the other way Daddy? Through the garden beds.”

“You can always still do that. But you try to tell me that you’re going to be happy to do that when you want a nice hot egg for breakfast and it’s pouring with rain outside.”

The eldest Little Fellas face twitched. He saw the logic of time and distance immediately. He is our chicken carer.

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Lessons from Our First Week of Home Schooling

homeschool pp

Gran – despite her robust diet of packaged meals, meat pies, toast & jam, dry biscuits and Promite, fizzy drinks, milk chocolates and prescription medicine – still has a fairly tenuous grip on life. Especially after her near dead experience last November.

Grans health (and a society gradually contracting as a form of risk management for our global community against COVID 19) is the reason we started home schooling this week. Our schools are currently still open, but will wind down next week, breaking early for the Easter holidays. However, over the last two weeks we’ve yanked the Little Fellas from their extra-curricular activities in order to preserve our Gran. So as a family unit we have already been home together for a fortnight.

The first twenty minutes of our home schooling adventure on Monday morning felt really awkward.

Really awkward.

Plus my mind was starting to fill with thoughts that bubbled up to the surface and distracted me from spending time with the reading that was going on before me. After a time however, my thoughts began to consolidate and I saw the potential and the potential pit-falls before me.

“How are we going to sustain this? And for how long?”

“Our kids education is in our hands.” Gulp.

There was a real sense of being personally responsible at a ground zero level. The home ground. Our little paradise was not just an adjunct to learning, it was now a learning institution.

Both of our school teachers were really very generous and helpful in setting us up with materials and getting us access to the on-line learning that they use in the school.

As an aside – I really didn’t want to be writing anything of the COVID 19 virus on this blog and so I’ve held out until now. But this is how we have come to adapt over the last couple of weeks and when the Little Fellas look back on this in years to come they can see a little more of the world that was not apparent to them at the time. If you’d told me I’d be writing about my experiences of home schooling our kids a month ago I’d seriously have laughed. If it is indeed possible to laugh seriously. (?)

So after our first week of home schooling, these are what I have noticed. They are probably not new to those who already home school their kids, this is from a somewhat forced hand shall we say, but a welcome one.

10 Things I like about Home Schooling

  1.  Straight off the bat, in the first half hour I could see that we would discover first hand the strengths and weaknesses of each child in each subject. An opportunity awaited.
  2. This allows us to customise the learning experience to the individual child ie. breaking up desk maths with laying on the rug and going through flash cards as a game.
  3. We can more easily adopt various learning strategies rather than a generalised learning style. I’m not all that keen on using on-line learning so I try to break up the content to keep it interesting and then for those moments when we need to get other things done, allow for screen time and learning on the tablet. Still under a watchful eye and with assistance. It gives them space.
  4. The learning spills over. We are more mindful of the learning process and I can see how we are slipping in extra teaching throughout the day. The Little Fellas love it. We sat in the dark with a candle and a ping-pong ball and I explained to them about the hemispheres and the seasons and with the addition of a larger ball, how the moon phases change.
  5. The Little Fellas are actually getting into the swing of things early. Despite initial objection to a morning walk down the beach they are continuing their projects when they rise – and wait for their morning walk.
  6. We keep to a rough routine that tracks their school time table, but on the whole we’ve found we start earlier and ‘finish’ earlier. We are all aware that the learning doesn’t stop at 2pm but it simply changes. They help in the garden, help in the kitchen, go for a bike ride or work on art projects.
  7.  Variety is alive. They read us their books. We read them from history books and science books. They want to colour in a kookaburra and so they find the bird book and look at what colours a ‘real’ kookaburra is. They’ve taken a skink from the grips of a magpie and brought the limp, lifeless little thing inside. Within minutes we had it preserved in a jar of methylated spirits for further observation. We’ve grafted a bright, colourful cactus scion onto a graft stock. A seemingly simple project turns into a multidiscipline approach incorporating art, science, writing, maths and also reading.
  8. They drink water. I’ve been telling them I am earnestly going to talk to their teachers if they don’t get to drinking their water at school. More often than not they come home with relatively full bottles. As a result they don’t get breakfast in the morning until they’ve had a glass of water to start the day. That way I know they’ve had some to begin with. At home they now drink regularly because the glass of water is there on the table all the time. Waiting.
  9. When the big emotions show their full strength we can deal with it then and there. The big questions get the time required to answer them properly. We supplement this with the odd YouTube clip or piece of on-line research, if not immediately, then booked in for a later time.
  10. I’m taking the opportunity to speak to them about subjects such as gratitude and consideration – and why they are important. We have to be mindful of Gran and her certain requirements or comforts. We send out text messages, short videos or photos to family members of some of the days little moments. To share a little of the experience.

What we have to look out for:

  1. Sticking to a routine or structure. It’s easy to get distracted at the best of times. As a pre-emptive measure I reduced the furniture and clutter in the living areas so that there was less visual distraction. Toys, phone calls, deliveries all still invade but can be dealt with without to much interruption.
  2. Keeping the break times interesting. The Little Fellas are not getting to play with their usual little mates so we have to vary things so that each break is looked forward to. I enjoy doing what we call Rumble Time with them. We have a mat that gets put out, we have rules which we go over before we start and then we get into some rough and tumble. They love it.
  3. Time outside is important. They get a play at the park, their morning beach walk or a bike ride, some time in the garden. They might get to chat with their friends over the back gate at a distance and this does them good.
  4. Hide the food. They get their breakfast and school snacks. Where possible I hide bowls of fruit or containers of snacks in the fridge. If they see it, they want it. As an aside to this I have sat down to teach number values using match sticks and sultanas. If the mathematical workings are correct they get to eat the sultanas. This somehow also takes the edge of the inevitable – ‘I’m starving’.
  5. We’ve had trouble and concern over computer tablets getting removed the night before or in a dawn raid and accessed. Even viewed at night after bed time under the rugs. They get locked in the office each night. I just need to make sure the office key is available to lock the door with! Sneaky monkeys!
  6. I want to say that we probably move through the work quicker, but in doing so we also add in little extras. Plus if there are other interruptions or diversions this can spread the time out.  As above, if there are tantrums we deal with it – which can take time and some space.
  7. While mentioning space, one of the first flow on things we did after they ‘finished’ school on Friday was to come home and set up their own desk and study area. This happened somewhat by default, but in retrospect I think it was a really worthwhile thing to do on many other levels too. It provided a context for a continuation onto something new and different. There was a novelty to it, a personal learning space and an organisation physically and mentality – readying the mind for what was to come. I think we need to keep this learning space special, unique and workable.
  8. I’ve found there is some nice flexibility to it all. There needs to be if it is to work. We just need to remain mindful that we cover the days items. Both of the Little Fellas are learning a musical instrument so this normally happens before they leave for school. Now, in consideration of the other, one does their music practice and the other will do so later in the day. Having two different instruments being played at a beginner level in close proximity does not work for learning or calm nerves.

You probably haven’t noticed, but I’ve categorised this post under People Care and Produce No Waste. People Care speaks the obvious, but Produce No Waste is a reminder to me that no opportunity is to become a wasted opportunity in our home schooling experience or in our time yet to come. I want to make the most of this opportunity and give our kids a really unique experience that we simply could not have afforded previously. It’s a silky, slippery irony isn’t it? Such a twist.

To be honest, I see Gran’s room as having transpired into a Den of Doom & Despair. Even her demeanor has changed. There are regular news updates on the TV. Statistics. Announcements. News flashes. National addresses. Just the general fall-out of it all in daily life and the consequences to come. Personally, I stay clear of the media reports where at all possible.

I stand committed to the story I tell my boys. That there will be so much more good to come from all of this. It may not come tomorrow, but it will play out in the years to come. And there will be changes that occur that will impact them in their life times. I don’t know how I know this. But that is what I think.

So I will continue to record how these changes impact our own little paradise here in this corner of the world. Refining, organising and capturing my thoughts and concepts digitally.

 

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Petit Paradis – Soup de jour – Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It’s 4:30 am and I am awake. Rested, but awake.

Gran is mumbling to herself in her darkened room. She watched television until late last night. Why else would you mumble in your sleep? Have you seen what’s on TV these days?

When I get up after my morning mediation and enter into the passage way, the air is scented with the next vegetable soup. In lieu of not having a bread making machine in our home, I really enjoy instead waking up to the wonderful, savoury smell of a fresh batch of broth or soup. It is a thick, comforting smell that fills all of the air in the living room.

These days, approaching the middle of autumn, it is still dark outside a little later.

I had placed into our slow cooker – celery root, carrot, butternut pumpkin, potato, onion, salt & pepper, some paprika, some red capsicum and the last little bit of sweet chilli sauce that we had in a bottle along with some chicken stock.

I gave it a light blend. It was eaten for breakfast with some toasted sourdough bread swamped in butter.

spicy p pp

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