Saturday, July 26, 2008


Last night on Foxtel on UK TV, they showed the episode of the Vicar of Dibley where the members of the Dibley Parish Council argue over their memories of events in the village such as "The Night of the Great Storm", "The Night of the Great Freeze", "The Great Frost" etc. The discussion has been sparked by the stormy weather, and in the morning, the stained glass window has been destroyed by a tree falling through it.

Now our weather Bureau had warned us to expect some pretty high winds here on the island last night, and we certainly got them.

By this morning, the news was buzzing round about the damage from some of the gusts, which, I believe, reached incredible velocities. There were trees uprooted, rooves lost, windows blown in, roads blocked.
We received the news that an enormous old Norfolk pine had been uprooted at Crest Holiday Apartments, which belong to Bernie's brother. It had fallen right on top of the building housing their Office/Reception and Transit Lounge. We headed round to see the damage and offer support.

No doubt insurance will pay for the re-building, but in the meantime, business must go on! They have been able to recover the computer box, but the booking register lies open, weighed down by a large branch. It may be some time before they can access the filing cabinet. The wind is still blowing strongly there, and the building, as you can see, is pretty unstable.

John and Jonathon look in through the office window.

And this is the view outside looking in!!

Len and Helen are away, and will no doubt be devastated by the news. However, Joanne and Glen and Bing have things well in hand for the clean-up operation, and they will get plenty of help.

Down in the grounds of Government House, another magnificent old pine had also been uprooted, but fortunately fell so there was no damage to buildings or fences, and even very little damage to other trees!

During the week, there had been enormous seas at Kingston, and the waves had washed right up to some of the convict buildings.

At Middle Beach, a new fence had been washed away ......

and the water reached right down into the old Lime Kiln picnic area!

The wind was still blowing strongly from the south-west, as you can see by these bending pines.

The surf was still pretty wild.

But when we went to see if there was any damage out at Simon's Water, on the other side of the island,it was calm as a Mill Pond!

Back at home here at "Devon" it was a very noisy night, with garage doors banging in the wind. A few branches had come down around the woodland.

Unfortunately we lost a one of the lower branches of our very productive paw-paw. The fruit that is right up high, and is very hard to reach, is hanging on bravely, but the easily accessible ones will now end up as pig food. But I will save one to steam as a vegetable.

Friday, July 25, 2008


We have to admit that times are hard just now. The world situation is worrying, and the effects of the fuel crisis are filtering down to us all, and affecting us in far more ways than the price of filling your tank at the bowser. We are not immune here on Norfolk Island, and because we are so dependent on tourism, changing travel patterns can threaten our very bread and butter. Many of us are tighteningour belts a little.

But I have often said that I would rather be poor here on Norfolk Island than anywhere else in the world. There is always a spot to grow stuff, and friends and family to share stuff with. The people here are resourceful, too, and do not whinge about being isolated and away from the mainstream.

Today it is about as cold and wet and miserable as it ever gets here on Norfolk Island. Many of our visitors laugh and say we do not know what bad weather is. And they are right, And there would hardly be a single Norfolker who does not value every drop of water that is going into his tank or into the water table!

A cold wet day is a wonderful excuse to burn up the fire to keep the house warm and dry. There is always plenty of wood for these occasions, because it is not often cold enough to need it!

Basil the cat has a very thick coat, and does not often seek out the warmth, but even he made an exception today and enjoyed the warm loungeroom.

This has all got me thinking about other good things that have been happening.

Last week I got a parcel in the mail from an old friend whom I have not actually seen for a long time. It was a lovely bundle of colourful ribbons. Isn't it great to have friends who know that something like this gives me more joy than an expensive bottle of perfume or a new outfit. I can just look at them for days, run my fingers through them, and dream of all sorts of possibilities for them. Later I will use them in creative projects, and that will give me pleasure once again. Then somewhere down the line, I can give away what I have created, and the joy gets passed on to someone else!!

On Tuesday, my very creative and resourceful friend Annette gave me a box of soap that she had made from a bottle of Olive Oil I had given her. There were 15 cakes of beautiful, pure, creamy white Castile soap, without a single additive. When I gave a cake to Kim, she could not believe it had not been perfumed, because it had such a fresh and delicate fragrance. It is just so beautiful to use, and wonderful for the hair. You can forget about shampoos, with all their chemicals and additives - this is the real stuff!!

There have been treasures from other places this week too. I was delighted to discover some handmade doileys, both at the Op shop and at the Waste Management.

I have quite a collection of these now. I just have to 'rescue' this sort of thing, because so few people value them nowadays.

In the same way, I had to rescue the huge pile of knitting patterns at Waste Management, and the big bag of assorted balls of wool. I do not even knit (although I can.) Upstairs have dozens of pairs of knitting needles, also "rescued" from garage sales etc.

Now I was wondering if I should just take these patterns home to join the needles, or find a knitter to pass them on to, when up behind me drove Jane, and her husband Alan. Alan's mum Dot knits all the time. It is like eating and sleeping to her, and probably the times she is eating and sleeping are the only times she is not knitting!! So they took the patterns home to Dot, who has since gone through them and found a few she did not already have. Dot is going to pass the rest on to Annette (the soapmaker) who also does wonderful things with wool, combining colours and textures and shapes in just magic ways. The bag of wool will also go to Annette.

I should tell you about our Waste Management Centre. It is a drive through arrangement. Opposite the rubbish shutes there is a big bay where all sorts of "might be useful stuff" is dumped, and absolutely anyone is free to go through it and take what they want. It is very democratic and inclusive. You only have to be there at the right time. There is always a big pile of reading material, including recycled library books from time to time. There are two enormous bins for used clothing and linen, a wonderful source for rags, cover sheets, dog blankets, patchwork, and often something quite wearable! At different times I have brought home beautiful woollen blankets (no longer used by many in this doona age) and hand crocheted rugs.There are usually loads of household goods in all sorts of conditions, electronics, toys, even furniture.Charles once got several timber framed doors and windows - even the paintwork on them was quite respectable.

Now I should mention thatBernie has mixed feelings about my forays to the Waste Management Centre in search of "free stuff", so I do not go very often. But he was definitely pleased when after my visit the other day, I brought home several metres of net curtaining, brand new and still in the bag in which it had been purchased. It was just what we needed to curtain the bedroom in Peter's flat. And I was also pleased with another find - a pair of heavy Sheffield steel scissors, much like the ones my mother used for years. They are just slightly rusty on the handles, but they cut like a dream, even heavy fabric. When they do go blunt, they will be easily sharpened.

The blessings don't stop there. The other day, one son brought us piles of beautiful vegetables from Dean Fitzy's garden - yams, potatoes, kumeras, carrots. Tonight he is bringing us some fish. Another son and his wife shouted us out to dinner on Sunday night. Yet another one is paying for us to go out for lunch for my birthday next week.

I could go on and on - there is so much to give thanks for in this life. And I would still be forgetting or omitting some of the good things that happen and the kindnesses people show.

And look at one of the best gifts of all. Our little grandson came to stay for a few hours today while his Mum was busy. He is just sixteen months, and brings us enormous joy, awake or asleep!

Monday, July 21, 2008


As the old song goes......"But the fruit of the poor lemon...Is impossible to eat."

That is not true, of course.

In fact, when you have a tree which is so enormous and bears as abundantly as the one behind our shed, you just have to make the most of them. They are Bush lemons and are not really pretty. They are rough skinned, knobbly and misshapen, although the skins are usually bright and clean. They are there in their hundreds and thousands through the Autumn, Winter and early Spring. Unfortunately just about the time one's thoughts are turning to refreshing lemonade and tangy summer dishes, there is not a lemon to be seen!

So this is the time of year we use them and enjoy them.

I have been making Bush Lemon Jelly.
You take some lemons, and chop them roughly - into quarters will do.
You put them, skin and seeds and all, into a big pan with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water per lemon, depending on the size.
Then you boil the whole lot merrily away until only about half the liquid is left.
Then you strain it. Whether you use a fine muslin, or just a colander or slotted spoon is up to you and how fussy you are.
Now you measure out a cup of sugar for every cup of juice, and boil away again until it jells, which doesn't take very long. Now you just bottle and seal.

Voila - Bush Lemon Jelly, which is wonderful for all sorts of dishes that need lemon flavouring, marinades, stir fries (like sweet and sour), or on cakes, scones and toast!

Now I was so pleased with the results, and with the easy measurements for the quantities, that I adapted the recipe for some Mandarin Jelly from our very sour, but prolifically-bearing Mandarin/Cumquat tree. I added some Passionfruit towards the end to make it even more flavoursome.

Then I decided I may as well use the same techniques and measurements for some Marmalade. I made a Four Fruits one using Grapefruit, Lemons, Oranges and Mandarins (and I do believe I even added a couple of Edie Mack's limes also!)

Next I made a more chunky one from mainly just Oranges and Lemons. I had some of Bene Summerscales lovely Navel oranges, but because they are seedless, I needed to the lemon seed and juice to increase the pectin content.

I produced at least 40 jars of jelly. It was all very satisfying, and I could have gone on boiling away merrily for days. I had visions to jars and jars to give away to friends and family, to put on stalls, to sell at our Spring Fair, to use for presents.

Then the other day I decided to give the pantry a bit of a clean-out, partly with the idea of making room for more jars of marmalade.

It was long overdue, and I found myself turning out lots of jars of old preserves, jams and jellies which were long out of date, unrecognisable, candied, mouldy, turned to syrup and toffee. They were the forgotten relics of past over-ambitious marathon efforts in the kitchen, bent over the preserving pan!
Will I never learn??

Saturday, July 12, 2008


A group of quilters has been visiting the island this past week on a special interest tour organised by Travel Agent Maree McClelland, who has had a very long association with this island.

Maree has always been very "crafty" herself, and has even conducted mini-workshops for local craftspeople in the past during her visits. But this time she brought along well-known teacher Rhonda Coates from Windermere Quilting in Kilmore, Victoria.

An opportunity to shop is always welcome! I was able to buy some variegated cotton machine thread that I have wanted for ages!

Eight other ladies travelled with the group, and were joined by a number of local quilters for workshops with Baltimore Applique during the week.

The quilters used the spacious conference facilities at Governor's Lodge, where there was plenty of room to spread out supplies, display quilts and works-in-progress, and provide for space for a mini-shop (set up by Rhonda with lots of quilty goodies) - and of course the necessary cuppa always on the boil.

Bianca, who is the wife of our acting Administrator, was delighted to see photos of quilt shows that our "Pine Needles" quilt group has held in Government House in the past.

No doubt the highlight of the week was Thursday and the Great Quilt Crawl. Local lady Raewyn Maxwell had organised this from the Norfolk end, and the group spent a leisurely day travelling to a total of six homes, shops etc to see the work of the local quilters and needleworkers. At most venues, it had been organised to have the work of more than one person on display, so a great deal of our local talent got an airing.

They came here to Devon in the morning and stopped for morning tea. Raewyn had decided that I would have more than enough of my own work to show, and she was right. For one thing, I have been at it for years! And because I mostly work on small items like bags, and do not have the patience for really fine work or detailed projects, I have probably churned out more than most. The trouble is that much of it ends up in drawers and cupboards.

So it was good to bring some of it out into the light of day, and better still get some positive feedback - sometimes a little lacking in this male dominated household!

I am kicking myself that I forgot to take any photos, but I made up for it later in the day when I joined the group for the last two stops of their journey.

In the afternoon we went to Raewyn's lovely home where her own work was displayed, along with many items made by embroiderer cum quilter Denise Reeves. Now both Denise and Raewyn do exquisite work, have enormous patience and eye for detail, and will not rest until their piece is "Exactly right". They have set a high standard for us all!

This is just some of Denise's work, laid out in the Maxwell guest bedroom.

In Raewyn's dining room, admiring her recently completed table cover.

Ooh-ing and aah-ing over the beautiful Pansy quilt, a gift to Raewyn from her quilter mother-in-law, Connie.

To finish the day we went to the Two Chimneys Winery, where Noeline McAlpine and her sister Cheryl Rayner had lovely work on display. There were also items from Jan Pearson who lives along the road.

Since opening the winery, Noeline has had little time for handwork, but there are some beautiful pieces just waiting for their finishing touches - and I hope Noeline can find a little "me" time soon to do just that!

Maree admires Noeline's Crazy patchwork with its exquisite stitching and embellishment.

What better way to finish a wonderful day than with a glass of chardonnay in front of the fire in one of the "two chimneys"!!

As a finale, I must show you this magnificent quilt that Rhonda brought along to show us. It is done using Hawaiian designs in reverse applique. The maker is a very busy young single mum. What an achievement!

And what a wonderful bond we needleworkers have! It never ceases to amaze me how we can gather together like this, even though we may never have met before, and laugh and enthuse about those skills, passions and eccentricities we all share!

Monday, July 07, 2008


It was a crisp winter morning on the island, and I decided to take a stroll through the garden here at Devon, armed with my camera, so I could capture this special time of year.

Winter is definitely "citrus time" here on the island. Our old bush lemon is an enormous tree that bears prolifically, with its branches weighed right down to the ground.

This mandarin was given to me as a seedling many years ago. The fruit is small and VERY tart, more like a cumquat. But the fruits appear in their thousands, with two or three crops a year. I can only reach ther lower branches, but that provides me with plenty of fruit for juice, pies, marmalade and jellies. The rest are extremely decorative, and can be seen from a long distance!

This picture also shows a feral pumpkin vine trying to climb the feijoa to the left, and to the right a fig tree sprouting new leaves after a severe pruning.

Each year I tell myself I will photograph the old persimmon tree after it has finished fruiting and while it has its rich orange foliage . It is almost the only tree with autumn colouring here on the island. Each year I seem to be just a few days too late, and find the leaves have begun turning brown and falling to the ground.In a forgotten corner stands the old concrete laundry tubs. I once used these - with great success - to strike cuttings. A lavender survives to this day, accompanied by self-sown Custard Apple and Busy Lizzie. I must get the boys to move these tubs closer to the house so I can put them to use again. Just behind is the remnants of a clump of sugar cane - I was so pleased to see it was still there!The Jamaican passionfruit is nearly finished for the year. It has a long growing season, and the fruits, although a little tart, are very flavoursome and useful. Believe it or not, the original plants came up in my worm farm from tinned passionfruit!!

This colourful vine with its pink flowers used to grow beside the old laundry in the days when Dorothy and Geaorge lived here. It is only an annual soft climber, and a very pretty one at that. But over the years it has been seeding prolifically and gradually extending its territory. I suspect I will have to keep it in check so that it does not become a pest like the Morning Glory.Meanwhile the mauve Pentas bush grows all around the place. Bernie's Mum used to plant cuttings here and there. It is well over 20 years since Dorothy lived here, but new Pentas shrubs seem to appear from time to time in spots on the edge of the woodland where I have never seen them before. Possibly they have seeded, or grown from roots that have been dormant in the ground. But I like to think that Dorothy has been paying us a visit!This male pawpaw has beautiful flowers. The male fruits are green and skinny (you can see them right at the top of the picture)- but can be cooked as a vegetable.Between the garages, the cream Poinsettia hangs on to the last of its showy winter blooms. Beside it stands the red and green Rau-ti. Dorothy always had a branch or two sitting in a big jardiniere in the fireplace. Once they had developed roots, she would plant them round the garden or in the woodland. This is a tradition we have kept up.Basil the cat enjoys the winter sun from his hammock on top of the old shadehouse!
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