Urban honey


Urban honey in action

Sometimes a project comes along that immediately I want to be part of. Canberra Urban Honey is one such project. When I found out we could have a bee hive in our backyard I jumped at the chance.

The Honey Delight beekeeping family have a long and rich tradition of producing excellent honey. With four generations of beekeepers they have a wealth of experience. One thing they had noticed was the declining numbers of bees in the Canberra environment. As Carmen Pearce-Brown tells it she kept hearing people talk about the lack of bees, and of low fruit harvests in their vegie gardens. She decided there was a very practical way the Honey Delight business could help bring bees back to the city. In response to declining urban bees, to promote the wonders of bees and their fundamental role in the environment, the Canberra Urban Honey project brings bees to the urban setting. With her considerable passion for bees and excellent social media skills, Carmen crowd-sourced the funding to get the Canberra Urban Honey project off the ground. She also talked the rest of her extended family into participating and helping her select and prepare hives to be hosted in the city. Not to mention sharing the long drives to country NSW to collect the hives.

With the funds raised, willing hosts lining up to participate, late last year the first hives were placed into Canberra gardens. Hives which are specially selected and prepared and transported from the country to the host gardens of Canberra. There is no work for us, the beekeepers come and do everything. It’s honey for nothing!

All jokes aside, the Canberra Urban Honey project is not profit making for the beekeepers, as the honey yields are lower in the city, but it is all about raising awareness, about supporting the urban environment and sustainable ecosystems. The project now has a waiting list of people willing to host hives in their gardens. Luckily we got in early.

After a heatwave delay when it was too hot to move ourselves, let alone the bees, last Friday our hive finally arrived! Great excitement as the truck pulled up and unloaded our Urban Honey hive. Bees right in our urban setting. Right behind our enormous banksia rose, and next to the vegie garden, rests the Honey Delight hive. Repainted, with fresh healthy queen and bees who can’t wait to experience the city, the hive which a few days ago was deep in the country is now flying around our garden and beyond. I say our bees, already they are a part of the fabric of our garden, even if we are only hosting them.

We planted a new herb garden in their honour, full of flowering medicinal herbs like comfry, feverfew and plants like artichokes. We also let some of our vegie garden go to seed, like the fennel above in preparation. We will need to do more of this, all of us, to sustain a healthy urban life. While we were originally customers of Honey Delight, to attempt to keep up with our prodigious demand for honey (where does it all go, Benedict?) we are now thrilled to be part of an important community sustainability project. It is yet another way to show Benedict where food comes from and receive the benefits of pollinators buzzing around while we contribute to the health of the urban eco-system.

To me this is just the start. Soon the chook shed (which is really a palace for chickens) will be in place and we will be using our large backyard well, and making a contribution to sustainability that goes further than buying organic, supporting local growers and recycling.


Here they come

Here they come

Hive Hosting

If you’re interested in hosting a hive, see details at Canberra Urban Honey or see Honey Delight at the Capital Region Farmers Market every Saturday.
Hive Hosting is managed in a similar way to Honey Delight commercial beekeeping:
Honey Delight relocate the hive to your property but maintain ownership of it, they manage the hive and the colony.
When there is honey to harvest we manage the honey extraction process and share the honey with you (3kg per harvest).

You can also contact Carmen on twitter or facebook.

How to menu plan

Planning is ever so important

Planning is ever so important

Buy deliciously cute weekly dinner plan pad from fancy stationers.

Think about what you are doing in the week or two weeks ahead.

Write a sample menu for a week.

Invite people over, then make sure they change the day at least once. Then immediately forget the new arrangement and fail to write it down on your super cute new planner. Colour yourself surprised when they turn up with champagne while you are collapsed on the couch. Send man out to get pizza. Read More

I might just be addicted …

IMG_2739Maybe it’s the heat? It could also be the cold. Or perhaps the non-summer we had in 2011-12 in contrast to the scorcher this year. But I have a problem. It’s getting serious. I can’t leave it alone.

More than anything I need to how what the temperature is. Right now. All the time. From the crack of dawn till I fall asleep. Not only that, I also really have to know which way the wind is blowing, and what’s happening in Braidwood. Yes, Braidwood. For Braidwood it is the weather vane, the lead indicator for when Canberra will cool down. Once that easterly air hits Braidwood, it is only a question of when. Yes, when? Exactly when? Read More

Talk so I can know where we are going

I can do it by myself

I can do it by myself

One of the best parts of being a parent is watching your child acquire knowledge and know how. Eating with a knife and fork, putting his own undies on, drinking from a cup one handed. He has been so determined he will insist on doing something himself, refusing all assistance, no matter how difficult it is, even to the point of sheer frustration, he rarely gives up.

Together with personal competence, we have reached a stage now where patterns of activity are well understood by our boy. What follows dinner is teeth brushing and story. If it’s Saturday, then its markets and not kindy. The carpark at the shops means cheesy-mite scroll, trolley ride, car parking ticket and change retrieval. He knows. He can anticipate what will happen next. He knows where the money goes in to release the trolley. He knows that change comes out in the slot after the parking is paid. He knows that the faster he can put his hand into the slot, the more chance he has to get the coins into his pocket and keep them. Cheeky minx.

The best part, is of course messing with those expectations and patterns. Sometimes this is his decision. Like refusal to ride in the trolley, or rather insistence on pushing the trolley at the supermarket. He insists he is a big boy and only babies go in the trolley. He is right of course, but it is daunting watching him practice not crashing while remaining calm, apologising to anyone and everyone who he runs into and continuing to shop. Life skills, I tell myself.

Competence. It’s important.

Sometimes it is my decision. Add new things. Add new challenges. Open your own door kiddo. You can get your own shoes on. You can be tricked and surprised. This is my new favourite element of parenting. Carefully withholding information to ensure surprise. At our place, we call these adventures. We have had a few lately. Some big adventures; driving to Melbourne, driving to the coast for Christmas, swimming lessons. Some small adventures; visiting friends, trips to the shops just for ice-cream or coffees. Holidays are great like that. Spontaneity is much simpler.

Didn’t take long, but he’s on to me. You were tricking mama he says, when I pretend not to be tickling, but sneak one. Or when he sneaks one over me and I am forced to relent and admit I was being tricky. He listens all the time. All the time. To everyone and to everything. The other day, I planned a swim and early tea at a friends while he was asleep and then we he woke up, announced an adventure! Where are we going? It’s a surprise, I said. As we set off, Robert and I talked of other things, careful not to let slip our destination.

Then from the back seat a voice, Talk! Talk so I can know where we are going.


Death and other friends

In 2007 while Helen was dying, I was torn. Torn between wanting her to die, and not wanting her to die. Sounds simple now, easy almost. A or not A. When she died, we would stop suffering, but we would stop having her too. We would sleep, rather than fret, but how selfish I felt.

Death however, has other plans for us all. We become the worst version of ourselves when we are dying. The selfish, bitter, mean and egotistical selves that we spend a lifetime from early childhood trying to repress, trying to pretend we were not, we are. Death makes fools of us all. Read More

First Day of the Year


Happy new year. Welcome to 2013. Centenary of Canberra and the year I will turn 40.
Today some teddies had a bath, Benedict booked in for swimming lessons, some naps were had.

Tonight I watched Casablanca. The story telling, and the scenes all lead to an ending we all know is coming but are not sure how it will arrive. Maybe that’s just me; in a sentimental mood.

I have many many plans for this year. In fact, I feel already like I am behind. Chief among them is to be myself. It’s about time.

I want to take the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge again, and perhaps complete it this time.

I will clean up the study and find some space for all my writing stuff. I might even have a crack at clearing out some junk. For now, I am going to read Back to Blood and revel in classic Tom Wolfe.

Fresh starts. What’s not to love?

Memes, themes, dreams … 2012


I cannot wait to see the back of this year. Cannot wait. From its inauspicious beginning, to the never-ending sick of May to September, the drama, madness and chaos has continued relentlessly. It has featured extremely difficult parenting moments, and pseudo-parenting of the big kids, who while not my direct parental responsibility, still have a big call on my emotional resources. It also featured a seemingly endless stream of challenges.

Benedict turned three. His celebration was joyous and it made my festive season to see him dive into his cake. At least I held my promise of always doing a special celebration for him. Read More

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six other countries.

Burkina Faso is also my default answer to any question which includes the word ‘Africa’.

For as long as it has existed,  I have been doing the quiz in the back of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend section. Now Robert and I do it together. We can judge how the weekend will go, just by how many questions we get right. Lots of right answers? Cracking weekend coming up. There are always geography questions. I get every single one of them wrong.  Robert gets about 90% right – occasionally he gets them wrong, but it is rare.

I know nothing about the geography of the world. Practically nothing at all. I have to think very hard when trying to imagine which side of the country the west coast of the US is and what cities that represents. I know nothing of the geography of Asia and only have scant understanding of the countries, coast lines and seas that make up Europe. Read More

Blogvember post the last … what no one tells you ~ part one

What you must not do, is reach behind you into your past and try to drag parts of it with you.

You are not that person anymore.

Let me tell you a story.

This is a story about ‘everywoman’. She’s you, she’s me, she’s your wife, your sister, you lover, your friend. Let’s call her Stella, although that isn’t her real name. Stella lives in a world where the truly important and transformational aspects about her life are hidden, not discussed, not for public consumption. She lives with a haze of unspoken thoughts and fears hovering just out of her grasp.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

What no one tells Stella is how much of herself she will lose. Or about how much she will lose control of perfectly simple things, like getting in the car and driving away. Or about her bodily functions and how they will betray her while she is trying to get on with life. Or the boredom, or the self loathing, or the sheer frustration of trying all day to something easy and minor and trivial that cannot be achieved while holding a baby that won’t sleep.

No one tells her that everyone, every woman feels like this. In Stella’s mind they are all coping and it is only she who is paralysed standing next to your car for an eternity trying to decide if you should just carry the baby into the bread shop or whether you should get the pram out of the boot. As she stands there a stranger approaches her gently to ask if she is ok because she is concerned that Stella has been standing there for such a long time.

In Stella’s mind everyone else loves making craft and cuddling tiny babies while not reading their book. In her sleep deprivation addled brain, it is only she who is monumentally incompetent and you are the only one you who can’t do all the housework and cook the dinner and look after the babies all day.

What no one tells you is that this is the last bastion of the secret club that you can only enter by having a baby. A secret door that once you pass through it you can never go back. The changes are profound and you can’t know this from the outset. The mechanical details of having a child can be taught and explained but no one will tell you what it feels like. Not often does anyone try to speak honestly about the grind and the isolation, and if they do soft words in rosy colours are applied over the hard messages to soften, to conceal and to temper the blows.

If Stella is lucky she will be well supported. But no amount of support and encouragement is going to silence the noisy voices in her head telling her that she should love this, that it is natural and easy and that if it isn’t, that it is her fault. If she is unlucky she will not be supported. She will be bullied by doctors and nurses and her pain from the birth with never leave her. If her expectations, no matter how unrealistic about her birthing experience are not met, she will feel like she has failed in some way, and no one will want to talk about it. Not her friends, not her partner, not anyone; because after a while someone else cannot hear her tell the story over and over again without wishing it would stop.

Sometimes Stella will feel like she is surfing the wave to the shore and that soon, she will get up on her feet on the wet sand and walk, free from the clinging water. Other times the tide and the gritty irritating sand will trap her, pulling her back under. She will occasionally try to feel herself again. She’ll try to read the New Yorker or the Paris Review but the page will swim beneath her eyes and she will struggle to hold a coherent thought and then the baby will need a feed or comfort or the toddler will pull all the books off the shelf and Stella will leave the page there only to have to try to tidy it up later.

No one will tell her that it will take years before she will successfully drag some part of her past into the light and reconnect with it. If she is lucky she will know women with children older that her own, to give her glimmers of hope that one day she might be able to do these things again. The things that make her feel whole again. But today is not the day this is going happen. Today Stella will start at 5-30 and keep going till she collapses in the evening, only to have to get up during the night over and over.

Sometimes other women will tell Stella about the joy. The sheer bliss of newborn smell or rosy sleeping cheek or smiles. The telling won’t be enough to convey the heartrending and the unraveling of which will go with these. Or forever living with your heart outside of your body.


Welcome. Here is your life changing gift.

Blogvember post 29 … the penultimate post

With much fanfare and as much excitement as the finish of NaNoWriMo, I present the penultimate post of blogvember.

A quick recap if you’ll indulge me.

I wrote a blog post a day for the past 29 days.

I will write one more tomorrow and that will be a blog a day for the month of November. I wrote each post on the day they were published. I didn’t prepare in advance. I had a few prompts from my good friends on twitter, but otherwise I made it up as I went along. As with my writing for NaNoWriMo, I am a pantser with these challenges. Hardly any preparation, just a shell of an idea. See what happens.

I managed to write over 9 000 words. Not all of them are great words, some of them are out of order.

I did write over 1200 words about gin, which was a surprise. So few words?

A few posts were totally fantastic and a delight to write. I particularly loved post 28 for the reactions and for the joy of recognising a fantastic person. I also enjoyed writing everyday. Some posts were painful and were affected by tiredness. You can work out which ones those are for yourself, I am sure.

Only one day was I totally unable to write anything at all. The dog ate my homework post on day 17 features, The Kinks and well, sometimes that’s all you need. Well, The Kinks and rosé. I also wrote about a wide range of subjects, many of them close to my heart. And there is still one more post to come. Stay tuned.


Blogvember post 28 … good friends, good life

Not often do you met someone who shares many of your hopes and dreams, who is also different enough from you to keep it genuinely interesting. One such person for me is the reason I wish I lived in Melbourne. There are other people too, and you know who you are, but there is one particular person who I wish I lived nearer to, because then I would live closer to them all!

Melbourne ~ home to many fine people

Yesterday this fabulous person wrote one the most important pieces I’ve read for a long time. Really, it is that important. Learning resilience, she says, has far greater merit than being a winner.

When contemplating this, add to it, the idea of finding balance between supporting, caring for and nurturing your family, while looking after yourself and perhaps even finding something to do that financially contributes without taking away from everything that is important to you. Then add the pressure, to love what you do. There are more threads to this blog post that one of Ruth’s pom-poms and it knots around the core of our well-being and happiness. You can read Ruth’s post Finding balance here.

Sometimes people think our family is unconventional.

 It’s true we do some things differently to others.

While I don’t think Ruth’s family is like everyone elses, for a start it is much bigger than ‘average’ whatever that really means, and it has more boys in it than I can think about without just feeling overwhelmed, I think she has crafted her family in a way that few people can manage. With a deliberate care. With mindfulness. With consideration of her impact on the world and on others.

Ruth has supported me in ways she couldn’t possibly imagine in the first three years of mothering. And in life in general. She’s provided me with inspiration, with recipes and ideas. We’ve talked about the downsides of homework, or the upsides of food markets, of love of music and family and making your own way.

This has been invaluable to me as I balance, work and mothering and all the rest of it. She has very clear views about children and food. These helped me beyond measure when I was getting myself into a lather about weetbix for dinner and worrying about fussing over food. She has written sincerely and in a helpful fashion about her family and what they eat on her blog many times. When up against it, more than once, I’ve just checked the recipes on her blog so at least I know what to make for dinner. It is not all about the food. There is a shared love for and striving for a happy home and a heart full of joy.

@ and that is the key! we don't have to do things the same to be happy. beat your own drum. trust yr heart. live with courage

Ruth has helped me to see what was really important about parenting and living.

Courage. I wish her luck as she thinks about how to prepare for the next phase.

A song. For all the songs we have shared.

Who inspires you? Who helps you to see what’s truly important?

Blogvember post 27 … NoNoNaNoWriMo

One of the reasons for starting blogvember, is to continue writing everyday, even through I couldn’t commit to NaNoWriMo this year.
I have watched with envy the tweets about other writers success and word counts. I’ve focused on blogging and stayed away from writing anything else. But I’ve missed the camaraderie. Part of the excitement of NaNoWriMo is the boost you get from being part of something larger than yourself. NaNo is a movement. It’s not just you and your macbook or your pen and notebook pulling words and placing them down. You are doing it along with everyone else who is undertaking this mad endeavour. There are books to help you out, produced by the wonderfully titled Office of Letters and Light.

Aside from the companionship, the thing I miss the most about NaNoWriMo is the latitude I gave myself, to spend all the Tuesdays last November writing. In the coffee shop. Often accompanied by @eatshootblog, who is an excellent writing companion and writes at EatShootBlog. We were a good team. Good at drinking coffee. Good at sitting side by side madly typing and ignoring each other, for the most part. We did have conversations about what we were writing, sometimes. We also talked about a good many things, but not on the Tuesday in November last year. It was a NaNoWriMo 6000 words a day catch up and talking was a waste of precious writing time.

Over many, many Tuesdays long after NaNo was finished, we had perfected the art of the writing meet up. We met most Tuesdays when I wasn’t working full time, and it was a standing date. We’d write, we’d chat, we’d engage.

When it wasn’t possible anymore, around July when I moved jobs, I missed it. I missed the companionship, the shared goal to write, and to drink coffee.

It was my only tandem writing activity, the rest of the time I wrote alone.

Most writers write alone. It is a solitary activity. Some writers can’t write in noisy places. Some can’t write in quiet places. Some have to write first drafts long hand.

Blogging is solitary and yet immediate. Unlike novelists or philosophers, or writers of other published works that are actually printed, who have to wait months and sometimes years for the final product, bloggers can publish now. And promote and get reviewed. Almost immediately. Not so the NaNo novel. That takes a long long time. At the end of November you are left, if you’ve managed to keep your story under control, with at best a first draft. One that needs a lot of work. And that work is the hardest work of all.

The editing. The re-writing. The killing your darlings. This is the writing you must do alone.

Corrective pencil at the ready