Sometimes a little love is all it takes

This is my latest custom order for Bev, a revamp of two old/worn tub chairs.

after

before

Since putting out my bright colourful patchwork restorations in the shop, I often get asked questions about the making process.  I find this hard to describe, most of the design process happens in my head. Explaining each stage is difficult.

So this time, I took photos along the way to provide a little insight and inspiration!

The process

I love selecting the eclectic range of textiles. This is the fun part.

I juxtapose pattern and colour to achieve an overall harmonious balance.

Start with a few pieces of fabric you really want to include and build on that colour scheme. Chuck in a few random, vibrant pieces to make the collection really pop with excitement and intrigue.

I exclusively use reclaimed materials with a penchant for coffee sacks, flour bags, tea-towels and wool blankets. This gives it the charm and character you expect in a quirky patchwork.

studio-details

cutting-fabric

I will be completely honest, during the sewing process it can get very laborious. Each chair is unique and requires a pattern to be created first.

But if you have time, patience and are willing to wrangle your head round cutting a pattern – it is not that difficult to do. If you can sew straight lines on a sewing machine – you can do this!

The first step is to cut a pattern.

You may need to sit and study your chair for a while. Look for panels of fabric, seams and joins. You want to try to replicate these shapes. This will give your cover the best fit, molded for that chair.

For square block shaped chairs the simplest more accurate way is to measure each panel. For curves and sculpted chairs, I use a thin transparent piece of fabric. This grips to the chair (or you can use a few pins). Using a pencil I trace out the shape of each existing chair panel.

stages-b

Then you make a patchwork piece roughly the size of each panel. Using your fabric pattern, cut out the exact shape (allowing for seams).

cutting

pins

Each patchwork panel is made separately. Figuring out how each of these panels fits together is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle. It can help to pin each panel to the chair to figure out which panel it will connect to.

stages-d

stages

stages-c

Each patchwork panel piece is stitched together to form a cover that can slip over the old chair cover.

I say slip, but in reality to obtain a nice taunt look means the pattern needs to be precise.

To fit the final ‘patchwork’ cover over the chair it is usually a tight fit.

Go slow, work the cover over the chair gently.

cover

Trust me it is easier to tighten a cover then it is to loosen, so er on the larger generous fit to begin with. You can always bring a seam in another centimetre.

A bit of unpicking and redesigning is inevitable with these sort of projects. To get the perfect fit, alterations usually need to be made. So you might be fitting and refitting that cover a number of times until you have it right.

The last step is stapling the cover under the base of the chair.

staple-gun

measuring-size
arm-rest-details-her
After

her

chair-seat-details

back-of-her

It is a time intensive process but once you fire that last staple – the final reveal makes the hard work melt away.

Patchwork chairs are bold  beautiful statement pieces and will no doubt be the subject of many a conversation.

side-of-him

back-of-him

chair-leg

The best part is you can save an otherwise worn/old/damaged chair from being thrown away.

x Isabella

Seashell Buttons Washed Upon The Beach

medium-woven-basket

Yesterday I received a parcel in the mail accompanied with a hand written note, from one of our gorgeous local artisans called Autumn.

At the moment Autumn is off traveling around Australia, enjoying a nomadic bohemian life for a while. 

Like most makers, there is no such thing as idle hands. So while she drives and boats her way around the country, Autumn continues to knit and make the loveliest things.

Periodically I receive a parcel of her latest work to sell in my shop.

collection

Autumns products are extremely well made and use good quality luscious wool she finds in op-shops and from old jumpers.  She adapts patterns, re-invents clothes, free style knits and is the queen of using the resources she has at hand.  Every package is diverse, interesting and unexpected.

Yesterday’s parcel is particularly endearing, I just had to share:-   

  • There is a set of three baskets made using small pieces of scrap yarn. 
  • A denim bag made using pockets from a pair of old beach shorts. When I looked closely I noticed little beach stones and pieces of coral had been used for buttons. 
  • A hat made with scrap yarn and a doilie.
  • A cape/poncho, scarf and beanies made by cutting up and upcyling an old jumper.  

And my favourite inclusion is three seashell buttons that Autumn found on an old ugg boot washed upon the beach.   

denim-pocket-bag

handwoven-baskets

For the past six weeks Autumn has been relishing the coastal life in Port Headland (Western Australia). There is a distinct beachy theme to these new products.

denim-bag

coral-button

Holding her items I can feel the freedom of walking up long stretches of beach in her designs, as if I am tagging along with her on the adventures. I imagine knitting in the sand and by a camp fire and wandering up the shores, bending down to pick up rocks and washed up coral. The neutrality of the knitted poncho, scarves and beanies matches the soft tones of beach sand and granite rocks.

infinity-scarf

cowl

seashell-buttons-and-colour

Nothing beats a great story behind a handmade product and every piece is tactile and gorgeous.

I am having a hard time not buying it all for myself.

 

From Glazier To Glass Artistry – fusing passion with experience

Last month I finally got around to visiting what has to be the cutest glass studio ever.  This slice of rainbow glass heaven is nestled in a pretty valley, just up the road from our shop, in the Granite Belt region of Australia.

Prior to opening his dream studio, Brian spent the last 30 years working as a glazier in the city. One day on a whim he purchased a plane ticket to Japan to take a much over due holiday. He loved the place so much that he flew home, packed up his life and moved to Japan to live. Brian comes from a family of glaziers, his grandfather was a lead lighter and glazier in England, and his father and brother also glaziers. Brian had spent most of his life working with the practicality of glass.  Japan lit a spark in him, a yearning for something more creative. So upon returning to Australia he left the city life, bought a property here in the country, and opened Glass Shokunin Studio.

 

Little Valley

Shokunin-16

Shokunin-15

I first met Brian earlier this year when he popped into our Bridget Bunchy Recycled Gallery Shop. We have a few of his amazing dichroic glass earrings and pendants in our shop. I love them, they look like mini galaxies.

His glass studio is only a few kilometres away, back up the New England Highway heading towards Stanthorpe. I am pretty excited that another artist has moved to the village and opened a shop.

I am taken by his story and the bold move he made from owning his own successful glazier company to striking out on his own yet again. The difference is this time he is following his passion for colourful glass artistry.

Shokunin-4

Glass-Bowl

Shokunin-7

Shokunin-13

Shokunin-14

Shokunin-17

Shokunin-24

With years of experience working with plain functional glass, Brian now works exclusively making gorgeous divine glass art – vessels, sculptures, jewellery, garden art and accessories. His pieces focus mainly on glass fusing and flame work using all colours of the rainbow.

What I loved the most about Glass Shokunin Studio is all the little sculptural pieces of glass that hang in the bush or mounted on logs as you meander down the driveway to the studio. His property is immaculately tiny, and everywhere you look glass features in the sweetest of ways.

Shokunin-20

Shokunin-21

Shokunin-26

Shokunin-27

Shokunin-29

Shokunin-31

Brian’s wife took a basket making course on their recent visit back to Japan and is now adding her exquisite woven baskets to the studio.

Baskets-1

Baskets-2

Originally Brian bought his rural property to be a weekend escape from city life. But he fell in love with the pace of country life  Despite leaving a steady income to live the ups and downs as an artist, Brian has never looked back.

I applaud his courage, love his art and hope you enjoy this little sneak peek into his studio and this wonderful pocket of the world I live in.

You will see his sign on the highway (25355 New England Highway) and if the little open sign is hanging down the bottom, head on down. He has no set hours, but will see you coming and open up his studio for a welcoming tour. It is worth it!

Shokunin-25Shokunin-28Shokunin-1Shokunin-18

For more details check out these links

Instagram – Glass Shokunin Studio
Website

Tree Jumpers That Warm Your Heart

Sunny-Queensland

Here is a bit of yarn bombing eye candy to cheer up the winter greys from our stroll down the main street of Warwick, this week. Warwick is about half an hours drive from our shop, in south east Queensland.

Once a year as part of the towns annual Jumpers and Jazz in July festival, the main street transforms into a living outdoor art gallery. These adorable handmade tree jumpers bring so much brightness to a cold winter.

I just love this quirky yarn bombing festival and I hope these flamboyant colourful designs wrapped around trees, warm your heart and inspire your soul.

The festival this year runs until the 31st July 2016, so if you are in the area, you still have a chance to see these gorgeous master pieces.

LeavesTown-Hall

Courtyard-YarnBomb

Geometric

I-heart-to-Yarn

Yarn-Bombing-Trail-2

Snakes-Ladders

Yarn-Bombing-Trail

Jumpers-and-Jazz

Dreamcatcher

JJJa

A lasagna recipe for a new garden bed

Dylan from Sugarloaf Permaculture recently cut out a new garden bed, in the lawn out the front of our Bridget Bunchy shop, in The Summit. This new garden bed is built on permaculture principles and will now lie dormant for the next two months, while the soil naturally prepares itself. In the spring a display botanical herb garden will be planted.

For those planning on cutting new garden beds where there is currently lawn, here is a recipe for creating healthy soil with substance and longevity. It is a process, but once in place, you will reap bountiful rewards. Healthy, rich soil gives your plants the best start to life and continued support for lush growth.

Do this now during winter and plant in spring.

It is called a lasagna mulch garden bed – many layers all working together to stop the grass re-growing and enrich the soil.

Step 1: Dig up the grass

Lay out your garden bed edging (Dylan has used old roofing tiles) and dig up the grass with the tools you have – shovel, pitchfork etc..

Correction to original post courtesy of Dylan:  “One note though, in this photo I was not digging up the grass. This is an unnecessary step and is extra work – leave the grass as is – it will decay and feed the soil once the light is excluded. I was however, loosening the soil with the fork – this I thought was necessary because it was extremely compacted and I wanted to help nature a bit😉 i.e. when plants are planted, their roots will have an easier task in getting their roots down deeper…”

So there you go – you don’t even need to dig up the grass! Move to Step 2.

Cutting-a-new-garden-bed-

STEP 2: Add some chunky organic matter

Cover the garden bed with whatever organic matter you can get your hands on – leaves (green and dried), sticks, bark, ash, charcoal, a few small rocks.

Adding-branches-new-garden-bed

laying-organic-matter-in-new-garden-bed

leaves-and-bark-new-garden-bed

STEP 3: Add a few handfuls of compost worms

Compost worms live in the very top layers of soil and assist with breaking down the organic matter.

Compost-Warms

Adding-the-compost-warms-new-garden-bed

STEP 4: Cover the garden with wet cardboard

This is the pasta in your lasagna garden. It might be an idea to leave the cardboard outside for a while before hand – let it get nice and soft. The cardboard will block out sunlight, killing any grass before it can sprout through.

Dylan-adding-cardboard

Adding-the-cardboard-new-garden-bed

STEP 5: Cover the cardboard with wet newspaper

Lay out newspaper on top of the cardboard. It can be 15 sheets thick or so. It is easy to just open up the newspaper in the middle and use the whole paper. Approach your local newsagent to get the unsold papers, if you do not have a big collection at home.

Once the newspaper is laid out, sprinkle it with water. This helps the decomposition and also stops it from flying away in the wind.

Wetting-the-newspaper-for-new-garden-bed

STEP 6: Add rock mineral dust

Australian soil, especially under lawn or near buildings and houses is severely mineral deficient, especially in selenium. Rock Mineral Dust will replenish the earths natural minerals, particularly essential if you plan to grow vegetables and edibles.

Rock-Minerals-with-added-Selenium

STEP 7: Add compost top soil

Fill the garden bed with a thick layer of compost top soil. This soil contains organic composting matter, mushroom compost and soil. For smaller garden beds, a good quality potting mix will work.

Compost-soil

Compost-top-soil-for-new-garden-bed

STEP 8: Add another layer of newspaper

Repeat step 5.

STEP 9: Add a thick layer of hay/mulch

Add a thick layer of mulch. Lawn clipping will work but they need to be old and dry not green. For best results use love grass hay or sugar cane mulch. Spread it out thick.

Adding-the-Hay

STEP 10: Let your new bed rest for 2 months

All the hard work on your end is done, now nature needs time to do its part. The lasagna layers in the bed should prevent weeds and grass growing through. If you do get weeds, pull them out and add more newspaper and mulch.

So there you have it. Winter is the best time to lay the foundations for a flourishing spring/summer garden. Go on, brave the cold and get digging.

Stay tuned – I will post updates in a few months time.

Thank you so much Dylan – I am looking forward to the next stage.

A happy hippie day out

A break from routine with a day trip out of home territory is good for the soul. It is a solid three hour drive one way, but every so often we get the urge to explore the colourful and somewhat magical world that is the Northern Rivers hinterland (NSW).

During our campervan adventure days in 2012, the two of us spent a whole winter immersing ourselves in the Northern Rivers market circuit. We loved it and have developed a strong affinity to the region. I love the lush fertile rolling hills, vibrant arts community and alternative culture. There is something enchanting about the tangled rainforests, bubbling creeks, honesty boxes, the villages and telecommunication black holes. When we need a good dose of hippie love – this is where we go.

The whole area is a smorgasbord for the senses – every visit we find fascinating places and new haunts. But we love our trodden path –  a concise circuit of our favourite spots.

These spots are not any great secret – heck the place is teaming with self exploring bohemians, but it makes for a good day trip. Here is a snapshot of our recent visit.

Map-of-Day-Trip

Leave Before Dawn

It started around 4am at our place in The Summit (Qld). Driving into the breaking day is exhilarating. Our adorable twin two year olds happily slept for most of the drive. A buzz with caffeine and early morning cheer, the two of us chat away the long stretches of highway.

First Stop- Breakfast @ Sphinx Cafe, Mt Burrell

This place never disappoints. The homemade baked beans are a stand out and we never leave feeling bloated, just warm, content and full. Wholesome, homegrown, home made rustic meals. Set on rambling grounds adjacent to a creek, there is a sandpit for the girls and a lovely alfresco dining area.  The cafe is avid supporters of local musicians and artists so there is always a cool mix of pieces for sale in the cafe.

Sphinx-Rock-Cafe-Breakfast

Sphinx-Rock-Cafe-SandPit

Sphinx-Rock-Cafe

Sphinx-Rock-Community-Garden2nd Stop: The Old Nimbin Butter Factory

This space has really changed over the years and now hosts Nimbin Candles, Phoenix Rising Cafe, Bringabong and an entertainment venue.

The earthy, grungy rawness of the place is inviting and the simplicity relaxing. Removed from the main town centre you immediately fall into a different rhythm. While the girls explore the garden, stage and courtyard, we enjoy a cup of Australian grown Arabica coffee. Phoenix Rising Cafe serves up sustainable nourishing food. I watched the Chef pop out to the vegetable patch that sprawls down the banks to the Mulgum Creek, to collect a fresh harvest for the cafe.

For our road trip hamper basket we bought locally grown plunger coffee (Australian Bundja Mountain Top Estate in Nimbin) and organic chai tea (Chaipotion Gypsy Tea Alchemy).

We went to Nimbin Candles. The place is an enduring local icon, albiet a bit random and dripping with wax. We stocked up on tall taper candles. These give off a superior light in black-outs during storm season back home.

Phoenix-Rising-Cafe

Puddle-Fun

Phoenix-Rising-Cafe-Riverbank

Nimbin-Candles

Nimbin-Candles-Dipped

3rd Stop: Nimbin Main Street

Once the day is well underway, Nimbin township is always pumping.  In days gone by we have thoroughly explored this eccentric town. These days a short stroll down the main drag is enough to soak up the pumping sounds, crazy outfits and over saturated hippie culture. Nimbin is a very interesting place, filled with even more interesting people. We hit our usual spots:-

  1. OzCat Clothing – A fair trade Byron Bay/Kathmandu partnership. I rarely buy new clothes but I bought a poncho, tie-dyed dress and long cotton socks – all of which I LOVE.
  2. Nimbin Emporium – To grab picnic supplies and locally grown produce.
  3. Nimbin Environmental Centre – A small shop that is packed with tag lines and protesting paraphernalia. I admire the passion of the place. Political things aside it has lots of little gems like locally dried lemon myrtle leaves or hand-rolled Australian incense.
  4. Nimbin Apothecary – I could spend ages in this tiny single door shop. I love the plain bottled essential oils and vast collections of aromatherapy and natural herbal products. Last time I bought a jar of hemp healing lip balm which is excellent! I leave this shop wanting to wear a daisy chain in my hair and inspired to grow more herbs in my garden at home.
  5. Nimbin Street Stalls – most days you will find a few random vendors setting up a table of wares out the front of the other shops. Perhaps a backpacker selling handcrafted macrame jewellery to help their camper van fuel fund, or local honey and pottery.

Nimbin-Flags

4th Stop: Koonorigan Road

Not a stop as such, but a great drive with superb views. A few kilometres past Coffee Camp  we cut along Koonorigan Road to get to The Channon. It is a narrow road that winds up the mountain and runs along the ridge.  Busting out of the valley often shrouded in mist and low cloud, you are greeted with rich green views across rolling hills of rainforest, macadamia  farms and coffee plantations.

We pass farms with giant rooted fig trees and dodge pot holes thankfully artistically marked by local graffiti vigilante ” RoadArt.”

Koonorigan-Road

5th Stop: The Channon Showgrounds

This place is a winner. Good clean toilets, drinking water on tap, kids playground, picnic areas, fireplaces and the most beautiful trees that show off the splendours of the season (be it spring blooms or autumn colour). The park is well used and loved by visitors and locals alike. This is the location for the monthly local craft market that we attended as stallholders a number of times.

We love this park. It is special to us. It was our home and hang out when we first set out on our own business venture. Many great ideas started here.

The-Channon

The-Channon-Playground

6th Stop: The Channon Honesty Box

Years ago we discovered this honesty box stall on The Channon Road, approximately 200 metres down from the intersection with Dunoon Road. I have written about it here before. Standing the test of time, this stall is still going strong. You can get preserves, fruit, vegetables, herbs and plants. All grown spray-free on the property. Grab the chilli jam if it is there  (yum!) and toot your horn as you leave so the lady knows you left money. This stall is the highlight of our visit, you never know what will be in stock.

Spray-Free-Farm-Produce

Final Stop: Casino Op-Shops

We hit this point mid afternoon.  I could easily spend the rest of the day in the op-shops of Lismore and Casino. However, the girls still take an afternoon nap, so for our sanity, this is the best time to drive home.

I can’t leave without visiting at least one op-shop, so we stopped at an very inconspicuous op-shop in Casino, down a side alley street. Everything was super cheap , yes you can still buy things here for 20 cents. The op-shop is run by the loveliest ladies. With one daughter asleep and the other running around finding toys in the op-shop, I ended the trip with a great haul of fabric, blankets, pottery and clothes. After a quick nappy change on the side of the road we headed home.

We detoured past Lismore on this trip. Lismore needs a half day to itself. The city is laden with awesome food, artful eye candy and an extensive op-shop trail. Next time!

Lismore-Street-Art

We got home as the sun was setting across the vineyards. It is a long day of driving. Once the girls were in bed, we unpacked the days bounty and spread a bit of the hippie love around our home. Little token memories of the day, sweet reminders of a different way of living.

Road-Trip-Bounty

Road-Trip-Goodies

Homebody

 

 

Herman The German Friendship Cake

Hello my name is Herman, read the opening line of a letter I received. The letter was accompanied by an ice-cream container holding a bubbling yeasty batter.  This strange gift came from a friend of my father-in-law. I was so intrigued. It appeared to  be the culinary equivalent of a chain letter with a sourdough starter in tow.

I looked at the bowl of unsightly fermenting dough, read through the letter containing the instructions and curiosity got the better of me.

The letter read:

” Hello my name is Herman. I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your bench for 10 days without a lid on. But you can cover me with a tea-towel. You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling I am dead.

Day 1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea-towel.

Herman-1
Day 2 – 3: Stir Well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well

Herman-4
Day 5 – 8: Stir well each day.

Herman-5
Day 9: Add the same as Day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep fourth portion and make more of me.

Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:-

1 cup sugar, 2 cups plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2/3 cup cooking oil, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 2 cooking apples (cut into chunks), 1 cup of raisins, 2 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 tsp bicarb or baking powder.

Herman-6

Herman-7

You can add any dried fruits or essences (lemon, blueberry and coconut make a nice cake)
To bake: Place all ingredients together, mix then place in a large greased baking dish, using a 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of melted butter. Bake 45 mins at 160 degrees. Test middle with a clean knife. You need to cover in foil and bake for further 20 mins, make sure its cooked in the middle. When baked Herman can be frozen.

Herman-8

Herman-10

Herman-12

I have to admit that for those ten days, Herman owned me. I had to keep him alive, even just for experiment sake.  Every day I nurtured him the anticipation grew.  Herman has been baked and passed on into the world yet again, multiplying each time. He truly was delicious, heart warming and rich with intrigue and story. Just my kind of thing.

You can start your own Herman starter, follow the link here for instructions.

Or you never know, he may just turn up in your life randomly, like he did to me.

Nicklup Orchard

        Nicklup-Orchard-1

Yesterday we visited Nicklup Orchard to buy local stone fruit. We are on holidays again in Albany, the beautiful coastal town in the south west corner of Western Australia. Nicklup Orchard is located along Moonlight Road,  Lower Kalgan in Albany.  Turn down East Bank Road at the eastern end of the Lower Kalgan bridge, follow this for just under 2km before turning right onto Moonlight Road. The orchard is clearly signed and for a while the road meanders alongside the Kalgan River.  Nicklup Orchard has a small rustic farm shop situated on the family orchard that grows stonefruit, apples, pears and quinces.  The orchard shop is only open in the warmer months, closing in April each year.  During our visit, there was a number of varieties of peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums, macadamia nuts in shell, handmade jams and dried peach fruit leather. I love the old vintage cash register, artwork and the view of Lower Kalgan River and Oyster Harbour from the orchard car park. It is a fun outing for small children too as you can wander down to the chook yard, watch the speckled hens and roosters or have a peek into the orchard itself. The stone fruit was a flat $5.50/kg for all fruit. This is an easy way to try different heirloom varieties as you can mix stone fruit in the one bag for weighing.  The love for growing and preserving heritage stone fruit is evident and the owner was happy to share knowledge about the fruit – for example the Tatura Clingstone peach is crisp and firm whereas the Loring Freestone Peach is soft, juicy and sweet. Definetely worth a stop over if you are in the area but bring cash as there is no EFTPOS facilites.

Nicklup-Orchard-2Nicklup-Orchard-6Nicklup-Orchard-9Nicklup-Orchard-10Nicklup-Orchard-8Nicklup-Orchard-3Nicklup-Orchard-7Nicklup-Orchard-2Nicklup-Orchard-4Nicklup-Orchard-5

Blackberry foraging in The Summit

Foraging for wild grown food is frugal and nutritious. Since the start of summer I had been watching the various blackberry patches growing along the train tracks and road sides up here in the Granite Belt. I had romantic notions of me skipping along filling up buckets and my mouth.  As a child I used to pick blackberries in Albany, WA.

I love summer berries but even when in season, a punnet can be expensive.  The prospect of filling a whole bucket of blackberries for free is awesome.  I watched the patches eagerly for weeks. Finally a few days before the end of summer, the number of berries turning from red to black was at an all time high. It was harvest time.

Originally I planned to wander a 1-2 kilometre stretch of barely used railway track that runs parallel to Granite Belt Drive, in The Summit. This path was dripping with berries and fairly accessible.  Even though I had not seen any active spraying in the area, I had a few concerns about weed control spraying. It is easy to spot signs of weed kill after a few weeks but not easy to detect recent spraying. Blackberries after all are considered a prolific weed in Australia.  Eating recent sprayed berries (even after washing) is not advisable and particularly so for me being 7 months pregnant with the twins at the time.  Lucky for me, I found a spray free berry patch on private property behind our studio shop.  If you are looking to pick on public property,  contact your local council for spraying information.

EquipmentArmed with basic equipment, I told myself I would be cautious and stick to the edges. Despite my husbands disapproval, I wore a dress and thongs. I did bring gloves, but quickly abandoned these in favour of bare hands. You need to be able to feel the softness of the berry to ascertain ripeness and this is hard to gauge with gloves. I started smugly, with a sense of propriety, managing to avoid scratches, falls and stains. That lasted all of 5 minutes, before the lure of the big berries deep in the patch got too strong. I was balancing on bits of half buried wood, stomping through long grass, getting rips and scratches and pink stained hands but it was so satisfying seeing my bowl quickly fill up.

Blackberry-picking

Brambles

Blackberry-pickings-in-progress

A few blackberry picking tips:-

  1. Pick as long as can from the one spot. Try looking from different angles. You will be surprised how much you can pick if you stop to look properly, checking under leaves and down low.
  2. Only pick ripe berries. Unripe red berries will not ripen once picked.
  3. Blackberries are easily squashed. If you plan on picking more than a few cups, bring different trays. Berries on the bottom of a large bucket will get bruised and squashed.
  4. Do not wash the berries until you are ready to use them or freeze them.
  5. Refrigerate after picking and freeze any surplus for later use.

VistaAfter about 1 hour,  I had a bowl full ( 2 – 3 cups worth). If I was feeling more adventurous, more could be picked. I was happy with the mornings effort.  My husband and I washed a few handfuls and ate them fresh and I saved the rest to make a pie.

Blackberry-up-close

Blackberry-PlateWhen I got home I realised we didn’t have a pie tin.  I made mini pies instead using a muffin tray. Earlier in the week I found an old 1970’s Margaret Fulton recipe book in an Op-shop. I used to pour over this same book as a child and the dessert pages were thoroughly stained with cake mixture.  Purely for nostalgic reasons,  I used the Margaret Fulton Lattice Apple Pie pastry recipe. I made the blackberry filling by boiling the blackberries with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves. As usual I did not follow any recipe but let the berry mix simmer down like jam for half an hour.  I rolled out the chilled pastry, filled up each pie with filling and baked for 30 minutes.

Thick buttery pastry with  rich full blackberry flavour – country home cooking at it’s best.

We enjoyed these pies for  morning tea the next day.

Cook-book

Home-made-mini-Blackberry-pie

Late summer coming into the start of autumn is the best time for blackberry picking in the Granite Belt.  You can’t miss the berry patches as you drive around the country lanes. I am looking forward to next season already!

Blackberry-tea-towel

Blue sky, mussels & ocean

Middleton beach boardwalk, Albany, Western Australia

Middleton beach boardwalk, Albany, Western Australia

April this year was spent hanging out in Albany, the town of my childhood.  I grew up in this beautiful place, nestled on the wild and wooly south west coast of Western Australia.  Albany is classified a city. It is about 400km south of Perth. It is a major regional centre and visitor hub but has managed to avoid taking the tacky tourist path and has mostly kept it’s sweet fisherman town vibe. My husband and I stayed right in town along the historic terraces that face out to Princess Royal Harbour.

The south west corner is full of wonderful memories and dearly treasured friends. It is also full of succulent seafood, local produce and wine. The air is fresh and salty. The harbour reflects the different colours and moods of the Albany sky. I love it.  The ocean is a huge part of this town. You can smell it in the air and riddled along the coastline are so many secluded bays, beaches and coves to explore. I spent my childhood rock hopping, sailing, fishing, swimming and exploring.

Princess Royal Drive, Albany, Western Australia

Princess Royal Drive, Albany, Western Australia

Winters can be a bit long, wet and cold. The wind blows in straight off the Antarctic ocean and can rip through you. On days like these you are better off inside, curled up with a book in front of a roaring fire.

During our stay it was mostly grey days with the occasional glorious day of sunshine where the ocean sparkles.

It is different over here, rugged and beautiful. Hardy dune plants and huge granite boulders decorate the isolated coastline. You should visit this corner of the world at least once.

Sandpatch

My parents live out of town on a private rural property. Mum has a flourishing garden with some produce and loads of basil.

Fresh-parsley

Basil-bees

Country-cottage

I was busy or out of town each Saturday when the Albany Farmer’s Markets were on.  These markets have been gathering fame for years and for good reason. It is a brilliant, genuine farmer’s market and should be on your itinerary. I have visited these markets many times before on earlier visits.

Since my last visit (in 2009), a new market has opened up called the Albany Boatshed Market. It is held every Sunday at the boat shed on Princess Royal Drive. This was a hop, skip and a jump down the hill from us. It is a small market with a smattering of produce, craft and food.

Sunny-harbour-time

Market-Trading

Mariners-tale

Down-by-the-harbour

local-honey

Fresh-produce

Local-fresh-mussels

I bought a kilo of  blue mussels. The mussels are farmed in the intertidal waters of Oyster Harbour which comes off King George Sound in Albany.

store

Mussels are marine bivalves that need to be treated with culinary respect. Mussels are best cooked the day of purchase.

They will keep a few days in the fridge and should be kept in a colander, covered with a damp tea-towel. Mussels are cooked while still alive and should be disturbed as little as possible until cooking.  Clean them only when you are ready to cook.

Mussel shells should not be open prior to cooking. If any are open, tap the shell gently on the bench. If the mussel does not close up then this mussel should be discarded.

Mussels cook by steaming, not boiling. Be mindful of how much liquid you add. Mussels release water when cooking, enabling them to steam over heat, without the need to add liquid. I like to cook mine with a bit of white wine for flavour.

Clean mussels under running water, scrub gently and pull out the hairy beard with a few twist/tugs or cut with scissors. Mussels should have a pleasant fresh ocean smell not a strong fishy odour.

For my lovely bag full of fresh mussels, I wanted a dish with simple ingredients that allowed the mussels to be the star.

In olive oil – I fried up garlic, red chilli, red onion and diced tomato.

Add-thyme

Once the onion was soft, in went a cup of white wine.

Once boiling, I placed the mussels in a single layer in the pan then tossed in a handful of fresh parsley and thyme (from my mum’s garden of course).  The mussels will open once cooked. This takes about 3-4 minutes.

Mussels-1

Mussels-6

I served the mussels on a bed of spaghetti tossed with homemade basil pesto. The broth is divine and I spooned this over the dish.  I would have preferred to cook alfresco at the beach with our little camp cooker, but it was raining at the time. Instead we had 3/4  of a bottle of white wine left and a very cosy couch.

Pesto

Mussels-7

Mussel-shells

 King-George-Sound

I highly recommend a visit to Western Australia, particularly the south west corner. If you are up for an adventure, you can drive across from the Eastern States. It only took us 10 days and 5000km from our home in Stanthorpe, QLD.