Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Extravagant Imagination

It would be wonderful to have a lifestyle in which I no longer need to work full time in a job I don’t enjoy. Part of the (romanticised) appeal of self-sufficiency and frugality is to have more freedom to explore the things that interest me, providing an avenue to do something creative. But straight away I hit a problem – my imagination and its creative urges are not exactly frugal in nature.

What do I mean? Well let me point out some of the creative (and other) pursuits in which I’d love to indulge.

Music. For years I’ve wanted to play the fiddle. I have a large collection of recorded fiddle/violin music, mainly folk and traditional but including a little classical. I love the sound of the instrument and the variety of sounds and styles that it can create. A cheap “students” fiddle seems to cost a couple of hundred dollars but on top of that I would need lessons; but would it be worth it when I wouldn’t have anywhere to use those newly learned skills on a regular basis? I’m also not so sure I’d be satisfied with a student’s instrument. I’d want something a little classier that could double as a decorative item at home when not at use.

Astronomy. I’d love to have a decent telescope and a very dark place to use it. Unfortunately my house is exposed to a lot of artificial lighting from a nearby hospital car park so finding a good clear unpolluted spot isn’t easy. Also those decent telescopes can be very expensive. I still kick myself for not taking advantage of a very good discount being offered by Australian Geographic several years ago when I could have got a very good telescope for around half price. It even had an inbuilt computer to make the finding of stars and planets much easier. It was still expensive, but far more affordable than at full price.

Glass. Gloria has been collecting pieces of art glass for a while now and I’ve been trying to find out more about Australian Glass artists. We’ve visited the studios of some local glass artists and the creative process is fascinating and varied. From slumped glass, utilising a kiln and moulds to hot glass in which molten glass is blown or rolled into required shapes the results can be stunning.
It’s the kind of artwork I’d love to try for myself, but I’m sure the costs of setting up would be enormous. Not the kind of thing you could start on a whim.
Some glass artists offer short classes and the Glass Works in Canberra gives the beginner the opportunity to make their own paperweight or glass beads.
But returning to my extravagant imagination, I would not be satisfied with the short term solution of using someone else’s equipment. My dream would be to have my own studio and creating masterpieces that can be sold for a fortune. Definitely not practical – but that’s why I’ve been writing about an extravagant imagination instead of an extravagant reality.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eventful Weekend.

Often weekends merely provide us with a welcome interruption to our weekly work schedule – replacing our days at the office with household chores; but some are more memorable than others.

Last Saturday and Sunday threw us a lot of surprises.

We drove to Wollongong to visit my parents. For most of Saturday nothing was out of the ordinary until a power cut interrupted our TV viewing. This would normally be a minor inconvenience, but my semi-invalid dad found himself stuck in his reclining chair. Stuck because it is operated electrically and he couldn’t lower the chair to allow himself to get out. It does have a battery back-up for such occasions but he had never bothered to install the battery.
Three of us had to wrestle with him (and the chair) to help him out.

Even though the power returned less than an hour later, we all decided to go to bed anyway. Gloria and I found it hard to settle because of a strange noise that repeated at regular intervals. We were staying in a room usually used by my young niece who has several talking toys in the room so we though one of them may have been playing up. Every 13 minutes we heard something/someone saying “Aha!!!”

After about an hour of puzzling over this our attention was drawn elsewhere by a series of loud explosions. Gloria opened the blinds and for the next 15-20 minutes we were entertained by a spectacular firework display courtesy of the nearby Buddhist temple as part of their Chinese New Year celebrations.

The next morning the mysterious “Aha!!!” was back and after another hour of investigation we discovered the culprit. There was an automatic insecticide spray on top of a book case and every 13 minutes it would attempt to expel a dose of its poison. However it seems to have been empty and could only emit a dry gasp.

We drove home later that day and ran into the kind of downpour that causes nightmares on the road. And it was a nightmare for some. We saw two separate accidents where cars had aquaplaned from the road and into the ditch between the northbound and southbound lanes of the Hume Highway. One the cars had rolled onto its roof and was being attended by an ambulance crew. We saw the Police Rescue racing to the scene a few minutes later.
Despite the obvious dangers due to wet roads and very poor visibility we still had trucks racing past us at high speeds.

The rain eased and the sun came out about half an hour later when we pulled off the Highway to visit the town of Gunning. We’d noticed a sign advertising an antique shop so we decided to have a look. Next door to that shop was an old movie theatre now being used as a book shop and art gallery. I can never resist looking for treasures in old book shops so we went in and looked around. Just inside the door was the old ticket office that the shop owner was using as his office/counter. He didn’t look up when we walked in.
To the back of the room was a set of stairs going up to the old projection room and we followed the signs that told us there was more to see upstairs. I brought Gloria’s attention to a painting by someone famous, Max Cullen, a man perhaps better known over many years for his acting rather than painting. The name wasn’t familiar to her but I said she’s definitely know him if she saw him because he’d been in a lot of Australian films and TV series.

We went back downstairs, Margaret left the shop and I spent a few more minutes looking. On the way out I looked across again at the owner. This time he looked up at me with a big bearded, smile – and it was Max Cullen himself.

The final surprise came when we arrived home.
It wasn't unexpected considering the downpour we'd experienced on the road. There was 67.5mm in our rain gauge.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Results

My other two blogs have been getting more attention than this one recently. So what have I been doing this year so far (apart from writing elsewhere)?

I haven’t been doing much in the garden apart from collecting a few veggies as they appear. Our yellow button squash are by far the most productive thing and I’m keeping work colleagues well supplied as well as having plenty for personal consumption. However it’s the worst zucchini year I’ve had – but there have been plenty for our own use at home so I can’t complain.

Corn has been a failure with maybe only six half decent cobs being produced, however I’m hoping that the late sowing of the last of my seed may produce a bit more.
This season I tried purple beans for the first time and had a reasonable supply for a couple of months, but there haven’t been any to pick for a few days now and the plants are starting to shrivel up. I had a much better crop from my regular bean – the Lazy housewife, but again there has been little to pick recently. But those bushes are still very healthy looking so I might get some more out of them.

The plants I’ve been most concerned about are my tomatoes. They’ve had an abundance of fruit but it’s been very slow ripening. I’ve mentioned before that they were grown from seed given away with Burkes Back Yard magazine. Maybe the biggest disappointment has been one called Yellow Stuffing. They are refusing to ripen on the bush and so far I’ve seen only one fully ripe example – one I picked early and kept in the house for a couple of weeks.
I wasn’t impressed with the resulting fruit. It had hardly any flavour and was quite dry in comparison to the other varieties. If we had more ripe fruit to try we would put its name to the test. It is clearly a fruit created for stuffing, consisting mainly of a firm fleshy shell, hollow except for a small ball of seeds in the centre. It is very capsicum like in appearance.

Another type I’ve been able to pick is a large orange/red variety whose name has eluded me at the moment. It has a large pumpkin shape fruit. The ones that have ripened on the vine have been quite soft. I’m not sure whether that should be the case. I tend to get worried about soft tomatoes after a fruit fly infestation a couple of years ago. So far we seem to have avoided that problem – although I think I did see a fruit fly inspecting the fruit a few weeks ago. I also salvaged a couple of fallen fruit that were swarming with tiny little maggots. They were quickly dropped in a plastic bag and left in the sun for a couple of days.

Gloria has been making good use harvested tomatoes, using them in salads, on sandwiches and for a salsa-like creation for use on pasta. I’m only hoping she is being vigilant enough to notice the presence of grubs should they be in the fruit. But as the old saying goes, what we don’t know can’t hurt us and maybe the addition of a little protein to the vegetable pasta would add to the nutritional value.

I also planted a Black Russian tomato purchased from BigW – but the fruit from the plant has not been the right colour. It has remained a common red instead of the darker colour expected of a genuine Black Russian. Most of the fruit we’ve picked so far have been from this pseudo black Russian plant and most of it needed to be picked earlier than I’d like because the blackbirds quickly attack the red fruit.