Events, Garden Update, Life and my Garden, Mindful Nature

Happy Nature Filled New Year 2019!

A flower blessing to YOU from my garden and I for a beautiful, healthy and happy New Year!

In this photo I used mini dianthus, zinnias, dahlias, nasturtium and roses I picked from my garden on New Years Day, with a purpose that didn’t involve a vase.

I felt these beauties should have multiple uses, in true permaculture style. So when I was picking flowers for my usual flower blessing bowl – a beautiful energetic practice I like to do for setting the home’s energy on New Years Day (see below) – I thought I’d do a year theme inspired photo for Instagram too.

If you’re not following me on Instagram I confess that’s really where the daily posts and action is. So please press this Instagram link and follow me there too–I’d enjoy getting to know you!

I’m more of a ‘just do-er’ than a resolution maker. But I will be better at posting here in 2019 and that’s really what I work with– a loose plan with flexibility that involves taking opportunities that pop up along the way!

On the ‘harvest opportunity front’, my edible garden is producing amazing things right now in the peak of our Australian Summer. I posted a photo of tomatoes on my windowsill today on Instagram. There are really so many ripening on the windowsill it’s making the window difficult to open. I need a new and simple system, ha ha–don’t we all for everything! It’s a great problem to have! But I wouldn’t want the window open today anyway. It’s 38 degrees C outside! So I’ve bought myself some time with the weather’s help.

I’m doing a daily pick/harvest photo, and sometimes a focus photo, on one particular type of vegetable or fruit if I think it would be interesting. Here are some examples of this colourful and productive time of year in my garden.

One of the aspects of having a garden I really enjoy is the ability to be resourceful with the produce that comes in the harvest basket from my morning garden stroll. That harvest is often determined by the weather right now (saving things from heat) or determined by what I need for a particular meal.

The cheese-ball you see above is an example of a theme based snack. I made it for New Year’s Eve (out of near-to-date milk which otherwise may have gone to waste) by making my own cream cheese and then, using it in the cheeseball. It wouldn’t be coated in chives unless I’d had an abundance to pick from in the garden. It wouldn’t exist at all if I didn’t have an aversion to wasted milk.

So the intention behind the types of home cuisine I make can be steered by the garden itself and ‘ingredient opportunities’ that present themselves. Becoming aware of your choices is what this is about, which is ironically linked to New Years Resolutions.

Mindfulness in the garden, offers a beautiful rhythm of flowing with the seasons, with life in general, if you let it work on you.

I hope you experience great ‘flow’ in 2019–at work, at home, at play, in communication with others and in your special relationships.

May 2019 be your best friend!



Tales of Nature's Cooperation in my Garden

The Helpful Spider

A fallen trellis and a passionfruit vine (right hand side) standing up by itself. How?

I went for a wander, after taking the washing off the line today.

I noticed the unsupported side of my newly potted yellow passionfruit vine (originally supported by a makeshift trellis) ‘standing to attention’.

And that got my attention, straight away!

Vining plants don’t generally do this unless secured to a support of some kind.

Yes I had provided support by securing one side to the tree trunk. I later noticed (ok, more than a week ago) that the wind had sent my makeshift trellis for it’s right hand side vine…flying. I left the trellis exactly where it fell.

I had too many more urgent tasks to do on that windy day, so I left it to ‘fend’ until I got back to it.

I made a mental note at the time…’might move it to a less windy spot.’

I never got back to it. My bad.

Fast forward to today and it’s right hand branch had the little top tendril ‘grabber’ standing perfectly and securely upright–with nothing to support it.

I did a ‘double-take.’ Passionfruit vines tend to ‘hang’ and ‘lean,’ rather than stand when unsupported.

I started second-guessing myself and inspecting–’did I use fishing line to tie it to the tree branch above?’ ‘Was I more organised than I can remember?’ No. I definitely had left it to ‘fend’!

It was then I caught the glimmer of a strong ‘guy-rope’ like ‘spider rope’ (not a web) that had been started from the top third of the right hand side passionfruit branch, to the overhanging tree branch. This spider ‘rope’ had tightly secured and supported the passionfruit branch to the tree branch, almost a metre above it.

The fading light when I noticed this meant I’ll need stronger morning light tomorrow, to reveal the ‘spider rope’ properly in photo form.

But just so you know the disorganised truth, that helpful spider proved effort from myself and plant, were not really needed. It stepped in with a ‘spider highway’, motivated by whatever it needs!

Maybe garden insects and plants communicate more than we admit. Maybe the passionfruit said ‘Well she’s not coming back to help me grab on to this tree–can you help me.’ Co-operation in action–premeditated or accidental?

Nature proved to me I should leave that passionfruit exactly in that spot. Why mess with the eco-system?

The spider and tree frogs who live in the tree, will control any pests that passionfruit might have in future.

The vine will provide habitat for many creatures and shade the soil, buffering it against very hot and windy days.

And I will be eating passionfruit in my yoghurt, sooner rather than later.

So step back and let Nature ‘co-operate away.’

I always try to work with Mother Nature, though I must admit, this synchronicity without effort was surprising.

But then we probably have less jobs to do in the garden, than we think…

If we just… trust Nature. 🌸

© Trish McGill 2018.


Garden Thoughts, Nature, Garden Update

Garden Update: Focus on what you Can do


A summer bearing Imperial mandarin focusses energy for survival in a hot climate by not wasting it on producing an orange skin–even though its ripe and ready for eating.

A garden can teach you anything if you let it. Focus is one of those ‘anythings.’ It springs from cultivated patience and observation over time. Nature says ‘you’ll just have to deal with this,’ the Garden says ‘all that remains is what matters.‘ And a gardener who looks and listens, learns the lesson. Well that, at least, is my experience.

If you follow my Instagram feed you may have seen my post about my tiny 2 feet high Imperial Mandarin tree. Despite this high heat-ridden, windy, dry summer, the little trooper produced 5 very large mandarins. They were delicious and juicy. How? Well, you’ll notice I harvested them green with slight yellowing of the skin. This is because the mandarins in our hot summer climate are best harvested (for taste and sweetness) at this stage. I harvest the Valencia oranges the same way, from another tiny tree. The fruit at this stage, are ready for eating, but they don’t look it. The tree focusses its energy to prioritise survival in a hot climate summer-bearing situation, by stopping short of full orange colour-ripening. The tree lives. It’s that simple, but complex too. In a natural forest hot climate situation, the fruit would fall to the ground where the ripened seeds (unaffected by peel-colour) allow the plant a chance to reproduce. Now, if you’ve ever waited (in a hot climate) to harvest summer-bearing imperial mandarins until they went orange, you’ll know it was a long wait and the fruit tasted bitter (been there). The tree wants the fruit harvested quickly to increase chances of reproduction, so water can be directed to the roots and growth. Those actions will in turn increase its survival and resilience. Nature is way ahead of us! We have to get with the program!

Focus is the best piece of advice I can take from my experience in my garden this season, then give to you, as a possible hint on handling these weather weirding times. Right now there’s a ‘back-up in the flow’. Observation is telling me to ‘hold…hold’ – just like the Scots were told to ‘hold’ attack by William Wallace in that powerful battle scene in the movie Braveheart. It’s still too hot in the garden, for several types of cold season crops. Though, not necessarily for all types. Further, the steps I take when, have to be pared back to the essential, minus any flurry (because I, like the garden, have not got the energy to waste).

To fill you in, I think we are discovering ‘Second Summer’ in southeastern NSW this year. This is the name I’ve heard some indigenous elders call the weather cycle in the warmer regions of Australia, which seem to be eerily similar to this years weather patterns we’ve been copping. It’s April and yesterday was 35 degrees celsius here, again.  Today is over 30 degrees in temperature, but this time accompanied by strong hot and drying, northwesterly winds. The lead up to this has been 8 months of regular windy days from different directions, suggesting wind might be ‘the new daily normal.’ The heat in my area this month has been a consistent 7.6 degrees celsius above average. Less than 1 ml of rain fell this morning (the first rain of this month) and we have had just 106 millilitres in 2018 so far. My water tanks, are dry, again. The 106mm rainfall roof-harvested and tank-stored water has this year been used sparingly but consistently, on parched earth throughout the season. Many high temperature records have tumbled. Our nearby cousin, Penrith, was the hottest place on Earth recently. Our local area flying fox population was decimated by the heat  in early January, when our maximum temperature registered 45.3 degrees celsius. Later today I’ve learned in the news that a serious bushfire is burning out of control in a bush lined suburb just kilometres from here. Hot northwesterly and westerly winds seem ever-present when bad bushfires occur on parched land.

So I continue to focus major effort to providing enough water to my large and unirrigated suburban garden. Having earned my certification in permaculture design in 2014, I have provided my garden (both prior to, and since) with the benefits of water harvesting design elements. They work really well for both food forest trees and my annual vegetable garden.  I also have available town water – not as good for the soil as rain water, and an ongoing problem if it doesn’t rain soon, but there, thankfully,  if I need it.

Just like the mandarin tree I focus harvested water, where it is needed and conserve its use. By growing my own seedlings (using seeds collected from previous crops) I’m giving my annual vegetables the greatest chance of survival, in this garden and climate. Those annual plants then develop their own genetic ‘water-usage instructions,’ pass them on to the seeds they produce, and I collect them. So the seeds can only get better…for this garden. Meanwhile, the perennial trees and plants develop their learning about how to live and use water in this climate, because they never really go dormant (except in summer high heat). Plants learn from conditions then prioritise an adapted response. So cool.

My change-of season garden ‘should’ technically have cool season crops starting to ‘take’ or even ‘fruit’ by now. But ‘should’ is a human perspective and the four seasons approach has little relevance in Australian conditions. There are probably more like 12 seasons but I would need training in indigenous weather content to know for sure. I take many cues from Indigenous knowledge weather advice, but I have much to learn! What I have right now is a ‘hybrid season’ annual vegetable garden, that looks much like… a summer garden! Eggplants, cherry tomatoes and capsicums have no intentions of fading. Volunteer tomato seedlings are popping up with strong little stems that don’t resemble the straggly fragile ones that usually die off at the first sign of cold. I’ll pot those up the minute the weather threatens cold, and shelter them through winter for an early start next season. The garden is not overly tidy and neither are my techniques, but it’s not messy either. I have a very strong need for aesthetic beauty and when everything is humming nicely along, my garden proves both great productivity and beauty can co-exist.

My confused granny smith apple trees are blossoming again. There is no real chance of them producing finished apples before the eventual cold, which from experience of this last year, could mean no granny smith apples in spring/summer – for the second year in a row. Bummer. It’s unlikely the blossoms will last anyway in these cruel hot winds. Even the washington navel orange blossoms which are ‘on schedule,’ may find it difficult to hold on in the wind (they are drought stressed).  We may have less oranges this winter. I caught myself singing that “Cruel Summer’ Bananarama song the other day while pruning some burnt leaves off my avocado tree. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a psychological hang-over from my youth, and is more of a meaningful thought as I pruned the avocado of this cruel season!

Anyway, there’s some cool season things like snow peas I planted in shade…now climbing and flowering. They are third generation to this garden, so they’ve adapted to the seasonal routine (which is something bought seedlings can’t do in their first generation). They make my heart sing. The red russian kale seedlings don’t seem to mind their haphazard garden spot which is the result of being put in ‘for now.’ They seemed tough enough, with my intention being to move them to a final spot, later. Their mature siblings from last season, left in over summer for an early start, burst out of dormancy into production a few weeks ago. The garlic are up and over the 20cm mark, but I won’t know how the very warm start to the ‘cold season’ has affected their taste, until closer to Christmas.

Many of my cold season crops – naturally grown seedlings I’ve started like broccoli, purple cauliflower, edible flowers, rocket and mizuna are holding out in seedling trays and pots. I’ve had to focus my efforts more than usual this season, on providing shelter from wind and heat. I find I can water them easily, keep them alive and prevent bolting this way, which wouldn’t be possible in the garden beds yet. While I hope they won’t be ‘bonsai’ by the time they get into the garden (because their roots have been in trays and pots too long) the alternative – bolting or dying when I’ve spent so much effort raising them, seems a lot worse.

My mind this afternoon, returns to the central Australian indigenous elders who’ve spoken about Uterne Uyelpuyerreme – late summer. In March usually, the advice goes that ”whirly winds dance across the landscape, scattering seeds and pulling the growth up from the seeds in the ground” and then… the cool weather is nearly ready to arrive. But the advice also goes, that if it rains, Winter can extend into September. This would delay what we usually think of as ‘Spring’. Well I’m hoping for rain but focussing my planning systems on preparing for none – which seems somehow to be a higher probability. I’m probably a cynic! But if  it does rain, I’ll prepare for a late ‘spring’ planting, which will mean another ‘hybrid change of season garden.’ I’m not sure Nature is aware she’s being scheduled by humans. If she is aware, she doesn’t care. So good luck to Her if it’s the latter!

As the sun starts to dip today, I can say the whirly winds are still here. Perhaps cooler weather is near. I’m looking forward to it, and the garden doesn’t need to speak to tell me it is too. But just look at those divine olive branches I cut and put into water this morning! It’s still warm enough weather for soft cuttings and a dream of the free olive hedge those cuttings will spawn. That hedge will protect fragile plants from the ‘whirly winds’ in similar seasons I expect to see in the future. Cultivated patience. Thoughts for another blog, obviously. Take care, focus on what you Can do. Trish 🌸

© Trish McGill 2018

Beginnings, journey, Nature, VintageTrish Card Art

Hope Symbols in our Lives


VintageTrish Card Art: ‘Mandala Egg’ Layered Hand-drawn Design Easter Collection 2018. My VintageTrish Card Collections available soon from this website in the SHOP.

This Australian summer season just passed, was the most testing summer I have had in my 25 year old garden. We seemed to have winds whipping out any remaining moisture in the soil for 8 months and baking heat and sun turning clay soil into ‘bricks’ then brick powder! In my area rainfall was the second lowest on record since records began and the highest temperature, 45.3 degrees celsius, was a culmination of several consecutive heatwaves which kept temps in the late 30 to early 40s for the majority of January and February. Even yesterday, ‘Autumn’,  was 34.9 degrees celsius. I get that summer is summer, ‘what do you expect?’ and I love the sun. But I was also glad to wave it’s intensity goodbye for a few months, over the equator to the North. Really…why would I begin a blog on ‘Hope’ with that ‘bleak’ but true story?

I begin that way because I, like every other gardening friend I know and probably millions I don’t know, plant a garden for one reason–Hope. Within that journey each season is heartbreak and elation–just like life in general. I’m not alone when my heart breaks for an avocado tree I couldn’t protect from second degree burns and my macadamia tree began ‘melting’. Luckily I could save both, one of which was transferred to a pot and complete shade. Both water tanks were bone dry for months. I was grateful to have town water, which many farmers don’t have and had to buy in by the truckload just to keep cattle and crops alive. Many gardens across Australia , many casualties.

The gardeners who lost their gardens in the cruel bushfires this season will plant again. That I know because I have seen countless demonstrations of that in this driest continent on Earth over many years.

But…like Audrey Hepburn said  ‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’. It’s in moments of lack of hope, that Hope comes to the surface as that resilient human quality that gets us through the bad patches. Planting seeds is still not a confident activity for me–there’s no ‘knowing,’ just ‘hope’. But that’s good – every season no matter what the outcome for seedlings and gardens is an exercise in hope, and from that we gain resilience. Our gardens are the most amazing models of resilience. The resilience of Nature.

Pondering on this got me thinking of the symbols we use for hope. I’ve mentioned the seeds, they are one. The egg is another symbol of hope and new life. Whether you are religious or not, this Easter weekend gives us an opportunity to think about what an egg symbolises. The egg, just like the plant seed, or a mammalian embryo has every bit of information it will ever need, to LIVE. Nature wants it to LIVE. It is a symbol of hope but then must demonstrate that hope with qualities of resilience, in the life it goes on to encounter. Nowhere is it written in that seed, egg or embryo that ‘you can’t do this.’

In fact, what’s written in the Nature DNA coding of those symbols of hope, is quite the opposite of ‘can’t do this’ – YOU HAVE, DEAR ONE,  EVERYTHING YOU NEED! Now that, my friends, is HOPE in action. That is my Nature, and yours.

© Trish McGill 2018

My doodle (below) for my card design pictured (above)–it’s own ‘symbol of hope’