The Garden

I really like the garden at this time of the year – Winter. We live 691 metres above sea level and with this comes cooler weather in the winter. Also, we are able to enjoy the changing of the seasons – the deciduous trees lose their leaves creating a carpet of colour. There is also the opportunity to walk through Queen’s Park or Queen’s Park Botanic Garden and shuffle through the pile of leaves covering the pathways. Yes, I really like the garden at this time of the year.

We have this beautiful tree in our front garden. It is a Maidenhair Tree – Ginkgo Biloba. It comes from China. The foliage is very distinctive, yellow in autumn/winter and lime in spring. There are a number of great specimens of Ginkgo Biloba in Australia. There is a 100 year old tree in Kingston Terrace and another in Medole Court at the University of Adelaide.  I don’t know of any notable specimens in Queensland. Though in the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, probably due to the colder weather have street and park Ginkgo specimens. In Weston Park, Canberra there is a beautiful male Ginkgo in the grounds of Hobday’s Cottage (Yarralumla Gallery and The Oaks Brasserie) where you can sit under it and enjoy lunch. We can also do this at our place. Maybe we should!

The Ginkgo Biloba is our front garden

Even though our climate is colder than places closer to the coast we can still grow tomatoes all year around. Our enclosed veggie garden is proving very successful. All the wild life, including birds, possums, brush turkeys, cats and bandicoots are no longer able to venture into our veggie patch. Recently through one of our windows I saw a cat get a surprise when it wandered up to our privacy screen (inside our boundary) to find a barrier. It wandered around for a while and then put its nose up to the timber boards and peered through. That was as much as it could do and then take a new path back to where it came from.

The Veggie garden is thriving now that the wildlife are prohibited from entering

My “One & Only” (O&O) tending the plants. Once we had the veggie garden enclosed he got very enthusiastic. We have heaps of tomatoes growing, capsicum, chilli, peas, beans, garlic, carrots and lettuce. Even in a small space we can grow some of our own food. We moved most of the herbs to an open area of our garden. The wildlife are not as interested in herbs. This created more space for the veggie’s.

It is very satisfying growing your own veggies and herbs. It does not take too much effort. If you mulch it cuts down on having to deal with the weeds. Then there is the watering. My O&O installed a watering system above the garden. See this black tube in both photos. After that all we have to do is watch out for the random bug, that manages to get in and munch on our veggies, before we do! Happy gardening everyone.

Too Much Apple Pie!

Who is eating too much apple pie? Not at our house. These days we prefer or our digestive system copes better with savoury food. This is working in our favour, keeping us healthier than we would be if we ate apple pie. When I was growing up apple pie was often on the table and even today it is popular. As we grow older the better option is to eat fresh wholefoods, when we can. My continual mantra is – where we can, we should grow our own food. At least, some of our food and certainly herbs.

When I see a person in the supermarket with herbs in their trolley I want to take them aside and have a little chat. On second thoughts, maybe this is not the best way to approach the subject. It is so easy to grow herbs. Even if I did not grow anything else, I would have to grow herbs. I remember back to my first attempt at herb growing when I was much younger! I did not have great success. The reason is I did not give them enough water – enough said!

Eating too much apple pie will put on the kilos and potentially create obesity. There is a large (word chosen carefully) obesity problem in the western world. Over half of the population in Australia is overweight. Too much apple pie or too much fast food or the wrong food, will increase our weight.

We have plenty of sweet basil at the moment. I used this and other herbs to make another batch of tomato and herb sauce. This sauce gives a wonderful aroma to our Sunday night pizza and adds great flavour to a pasta dish. Maybe throw in a few prawns and bellissimo!


Tomato, herbs, onion and garlic together with a touch of red wine make a great home-made sauce. Mix with a hand blender after cooking and bottle.

I am no different to many others, in that I need to lose a few kilos. Although, my weight gain is not caused by too much apple pie! I thought I was at a healthy weight for my height but I find that I am not as tall as I used to be. Or should I say that I am shorter than I was? Therefore, to be healthy, I need to lose the weight. Losing weight is not easy. This probably explains why so many people are overweight.

Being overweight is not without its health dangers. Through our eating habits we create a lifestyle. What we eat, drink and/or smoke can result in a lifestyle disease. It is entirely up to me to make sure I eat healthy food, to have a healthy lifestyle. No one else will do it for me. Hence, setting up our Mediterranean garden so we can grow more of our own food, even in a small space, is a good start.

Our Meyer Lemon has fruit!

Our dwarf Valencia (seedless) orange tree is flowering profusely.

It will not be long before we are eating our home-grown Tahitian Limes.

If you are thinking of growing some of your own food don’t put it on hold, start this weekend. Buy a punnet of lettuce, a tomato plant, a few herbs and put in a planter at your backdoor. Keep watering and before long you will have your very own mini Mediterranean garden. Apart from being rewarded with watching your plants grow you will be building a better and healthier lifestyle. No one wants to be weighed down with a lifestyle disease.

Lifestyle diseases include heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and premature death. These are all the things I want to avoid. I think we made a good start by giving up apple pie. While some of these diseases have a genetic cause, most of these diseases can be prevented through modifying our lifestyle. This is much easier said than done. It takes time and effort to overcome lifestyle habits.

Our way forward is to:

  • Eat breakfast (when starting the day with breakfast we are less likely to fill up mid-morning with unhealthy snacks)
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts
  • More fish and less meat
  • Cook more meals at home
  • Cook meals from scratch (avoid packaged sauces and canned food, apart from tomatoes!)
  • Reduce our daily intake of sugar and fats
  • Drink more water (a little soda from our soda stream in the water and a twist of lemon or lime helps)
  • Find healthy snacks
  • Exercise more

If we do all the above we will improve our chances of keeping healthy and limiting disease. Being within our healthy weight range is a serious matter, even a life changing matter.

If you want to find out your healthy weight range click here!

The Naked Retiree, Depression and the Mediterranean Garden

The Naked Retiree, getting older, tired and depressed should now be creating a Mediterranean Garden. There is more than one reason that the naked retiree must get out in the garden. Already, many retirees have felt the heavy hand of the Federal Government changes to the age pension. That is, those that have less in their pocket. A few naked retirees have a little more, but not much more! Around 170,000, to be more precise, will receive $30 more in their fortnightly pension payment. Though for many of those, this small “leg up” will not make much difference when many are already living on “struggle street”. There are hundreds of thousands of older Australians who have a new title – the “losers”. That is the title that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conferred on older Australians. The ones that are helping the government manage an unsustainable budget with debt and deficits none of us can begin to imagine.

Now there is talk about the family home being included in the assets test for the age pension. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) is the latest body to call for the change. It may happen or it may not happen but with all this media publicity it creates a sense of foreboding in retirees. All of which has the potential to exacerbate the symptoms of depression or cause those who are depression free to feel miserable about what the future holds. If you are feeling depressed beyondblue has a support service that will help you. To counter the symptoms of depression it becomes even more essential for the naked retiree to get out into the garden, a Mediterranean Garden!

It may look small but when we do the garden makeover it will be big enough!

Many of us have heard about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet or eating regime. This includes, improving cardiovascular health, less chance of developing diabetes and increased longevity. An Australian study at Deakin University has discovered further benefits. The findings were encouraging after only 12 weeks of eating a Mediterranean-style diet. In that time, one-third of the participants showed a significant improvement in their mood and depressive symptoms. There was never a better time for naked retirees to start a Mediterranean Garden.

Very soon our herb and vegetable garden will be increased in size and fully enclosed.

The benefits are many if you grow some of your own food. Firstly, you will save money at the supermarket check-out. Then, if you follow the Mediterranean eating regime you have less chance of developing diabetes. Now the naked retiree is feeling a whole lot better about themselves and life in general. This is of course, if they do not worry too much about their “long life” and how they will manage financially as they age. So, what is in this Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean way is to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; olive oil and canola oil; using herbs and spices to flavour food; limiting red meat; eating chicken and fish at least twice a week and red wine in moderation. To get the lifestyle really working combine the food with exercise. This is the Mediterranean Way and it is now “our way”. We have this type of diet and it will be even better when our food is fresh, straight from the garden, as soon as we make a few changes to our garden.

Our garden makeover includes an enclosed herb and vegetable garden. We must go down this track to keep out the possums, brush turkeys, birds and bandicoots.  Our lovely plump “Grosse Lisse” and cherry tomatoes are under attack by predators.  Tomatoes are a basic of the Mediterranean Diet and that suits me perfectly as I love tomatoes. This week I made a “Garden Herbs and Tomato” Sauce. We have a small supply ready for any pasta dishes or pizza’s over the next month or so.

This is our tomato crop that the birds and brush turkeys have been enjoying!

It does not take too much effort to make your own pasta and pizza sauce. This batch of “Garden Herbs & Tomato” Sauce has tomatoes, organic garlic, onions and herbs. Only the herbs came from our garden. The combination works well for a great taste!

We have planted citrus fruit trees that already are bearing small fruit to be harvested in the winter months. Once we have our enclosed herb and vegetable garden we will be able to dig and plant with more vigour and confidence knowing that we are protecting our small crop. Getting out in the garden, digging and weeding is also good for our health. It takes time, space and effort and not all naked retirees have the agility or health to create a garden. If you are older and you can’t manage a garden, then find out about a local farmer’s market and get your produce from there. You will find it fresher and cheaper than in the supermarket.

Naked retirees, the cohort also known as “losers,” are the older Australians, many of whom went through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. After living through the “Great Depression” they and other retirees are now living through the “Great Oppression” of the Turnbull Government. When will this cease! And where are the most brilliant minds in Australia, the ones that can get us all out of the “budget blackhole”? At the very least, without penalising older Australians. There must be another way. In the weeks and months ahead I will look at more statistics about how other countries are beating the “budget blues” without beating up on their older citizens.

The Rosemary Bush has flourished with regular watering. Growing your own herbs is so much cheaper than buying them at the supermarket.

While I am writing this, I am listening to Plácido Domingo Encanto del Mar, a collection of Mediterranean Songs, which is a coincidence. I really enjoy the Mediterranean music and listen to it often and very soon we will have our very own Mediterranean Garden. The way things are going politically and the decisions that are being made we “need” our Mediterranean Garden.

Our house has Mediterranean influences. We have arched windows and the brick entrance is arched. We also have a water fountain out the front. Once I get the solar worked out, instead of running this with electricity we will hear the gentle sounds of running water. Maybe then I could start a tradition with neighbours, friends and family. Every time we have a visitor they must turn their back and throw a coin in the fountain! Just like at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. These coins can pay for our new seedlings for the Mediterranean Garden! Will that mean we will have “less” visitors? A funny statement I read recently was from an older woman who said to a visitor “please visit me again when you have less time”. The naked retiree must maintain a sense of humour as life can be difficult in difficult times!

It is difficult to “fly with the eagles, when we are stuck on the ground with a bunch of political turkeys”. Despite this, we are a resilient bunch, us older Australians. If you don’t feel as resilient as you would like, go out and find a group to support you through tough times. You could also join me and join National Seniors Australia. It is an independent voice to ensure the views of older Australians are heard by governments at all levels.