Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Ice Man Cometh

No, these are not ice ghosts hanging about in my garden . . . .

The last two mornings we've had frosts! Not good for someone praying to the gardening angels for time so her maize crop can mature.

This is when I give thanks to my hoarding ways and drag out the old sheets from the shed and cover up the maize. So far, so good. The maize is still surviving.

Tonight is meant to be 2C, so should be OK, but I've covered up just in case the Bureau have it wrong.

I really, really, really want the maize to survive. Wish me luck!

love and light

Living Simply and Being Grateful

Given all the current issues around food, energy and the future of our planet, you might like to read this
Molly has expressed it all so beautifully.

I was reflecting on this and thought that one of the keys to living simply, sustainably and reducing our consumption and load on the planet is to be grateful. The rationale behind this is that if we are grateful for what we have, then we are less likely to "want" other things (stuff!) and therefore to consume less and live within our planet's means.

So I thought I'd start by writing down ten things I am grateful for:
  1. my loving partner, family (including the cats!) and friends
  2. being able to go to bed each night, knowing all my loved ones are safe, fed, clothed and housed
  3. being able to see, hear, touch, feel, taste, walk, talk, laugh, sing, dance, live
  4. my back yard in which I can grow food and muck around in the dirt
  5. my income
  6. living in Australia and all the good things that brings with it
  7. my old sewing machine (it's 26 this year, but still a trooper; last year I had a serious case of sewing machine envy when a dear friend bought a new machine (she really needed it!), but I got over it)
  8. the fresh air I breathe every day, just by opening a door or window
  9. the stash of fabrics and wool I have for quilting, sewing, knitting
  10. sunshine and laughter
So here's the challenge - what are ten things you are grateful for? Would love to hear.

love and light

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Back at Home

Been on holiday for the last couple of weeks, enjoying the sun and surf at the Gold Coast. Great fun, but sooo good to be home.

While we've been away Autumn has well and truly arrived in the garden. Most of the summer crops are now dying back and I'm not certain if the cold weather will hold off long enough for the maize to crop - guess I'll have to get it in the ground earlier next season.

Good news - some lettuce and Asian vege seedlings have emerged and the winter brassicas and beets continue to do well. My herb seedlings are continuing to grow, too. I'm leaving a couple of mega zucchinis on the bush to see if they ripen fully so I can save the seed for next season. Surprise in the garden - a little artichoke plant, which must have come up from some artichokes I let go to seed more than a year ago! Oh, and our one pumpkin from a self-sown vine this year was ready to pick when we got back, along with a heap more tomatoes - pumpkin and tomato soup anyone?

Have a herb exam to study for now, but will try to post later on this week.

love and light

Monday, 7 April 2008

Moon Gardening for April 2008

The New Moon at 1:55pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on Sunday 6 April sees the start of the lunar planting cycle for this month.

Leafy annuals (eg, broccoli, spinach, cabbages) can be sown and seedlings can be transplanted from 11:21am Monday 7 April to 11:27am Wednesday 9 April and from 12:45pm Friday 11 April to 4:33pm Saturday 12 April.

The First Quarter will occur at 4:33am Sunday 13 April.

Fruiting annuals (eg, beans, peas, corn) can be sown and seedlings can be transplanted between 8:10am Friday 18 April and 8:25am Sun 20 April.

The Full Moon will occur at 8:25pm on Sunday 20 April, so remember to put your crystals out overnight to recharge.

Root crops (eg, carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips) can be sown between 8:25am Monday 21 April and 7:08am Wednesday 23 April and from 7:48pm Friday 25 April to 7:27am Monday 28 April.

The Last Quarter wil be at 0:15am Tuesday 29 April and the New Moon will occur at 10:19pm Monday 5 May. Between these times, weed your garden and make compost.

Happy gardening!

love and light

Knitting Bug

If you are looking for top quality wool at reasonable prices, have a look at Bendigo Woollen Mills. I got their new shade card in the mail today and am resisting the urge to buy more wool (have heaps in the cupboard I really need to use first). They have a range of products, including alpaca, cotton and baby wool. Their Classic wool is probably my favourite - it is machine washable, has a wide range of colours and is akin to Patons wool. I would recommend asking for a shade card (free), as the colours on your screen may not always be accurate.

love and light

Glut Cooking

You know the signs - they start groaning any time you produce yet another dish containing that magical vegetable or fruit you happen to have in excess. Sometimes, they actually leave it on their plates (as my beloved did last spring when he simply couldn't face anymore asparagus)! So the solution is what I call glut cooking.

My current glut is zucchini and tomato, so I have been cooking up things like zucchini, tomato, onion and herb chunky mixes to freeze for the winter months when I will use them in stews, casseroles and soups. But the freezer can only hold so much of that - it's got to have enough room for other glut cooking, like pumpkin soup.

So yesterday I made The Chutney. I love this recipe - you can use it as you normally would or just throw it in with spare ribs or any other cut of meat you like and bake for about 1.5 to 2 hours - superb and oh, so easy.

Zucchini and Tomato Chutney
1.5kg zucchini, diced
1.5kg tomatoes, roughly chopped (or just use the little ones whole)
750g onions, diced
500g apples, peeled and diced
250g raisins
15ml paprika
15ml cinnamon
5ml mixed spice
30ml salt
125ml water

Place all of the above in a large pot and cook over low heat for a couple of hours until everything is soft and pulpy. You'll need to stir it occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add 400ml vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, but you could use malt vinegar) and 500g sugar. Simmer until thick like stew (it never gets as thick as shop-bought chutneys). Ladle into sterilised jars and cap while very warm. As it cools, you will hear the satisfying pops of the vacuum forming. This recipe is enough to fill four large and six medium jars.

Note: to sterilise your jars, wash thoroughly and place still wet jars and lids on a tray in a 120C oven for about 20 minutes. Use jars with metal lids if possible, as you can achieve a good vacuum seal with these if you put them on while warm. Fill straight from the oven, wrapping a damp teatowel around the jar. Place lid on top and screw down while placing your knuckle in the middle pop-up thing (you might need to use a teatowel so you don't get burned).

love and light

More seedlings emerge

More of the herb seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago are coming up. The calendula certainly won the race, but the chickweed (Stellaria) and the marshmallow are now showing as well.

love and light

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The "What's in my garden?" dinner

Simple yummy dinner - find the following ingredients in your garden:
1 small eggplant
1 medium-large zucchini
about a punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
1 bunch English spinach
1 bunch amaranth leaves
2 sprigs basil
1 sprig marjoram
4 cloves garlic (hiding in the cupboard)

Slice eggplant, place in bowl, salt and leave for half an hour. Rinse well and dice eggplant and zucchini (medium-sized chunks). Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or pan. Put in eggplant and zucchini and stir fry for a few minutes. When about half cooked, throw in tomatoes and spring onions. When close to done, drizzle with balsamic glaze (OK, this is from the cupboard, too!), then add spinach, amaranth, chopped herbs and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then serve. You can serve this with pasta, rice, meat, vege patties or just have it on its own. Delicious!!!

love and light

Better Butter

Have to share this one - good way to get saturated and unsaturated fats together and it tastes great.

250g organic butter (there's an Australian one now - Tatura, from Victoria)
1/2 cup (125ml) rice bran or safflower oil
1/2 cup (125ml) water

Put water and oil in food processor and blend together for a couple of minutes on high. Add the room temperature butter and blend until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Put into container in the fridge and use like butter or margarine.

This tastes rather like butter, but you are getting some unsaturated fats as well. It is definitely better than margarine, as margarine has lots of different additives and the oils are heated during manufacturing, which can lead to some nasty by-products. So, Better Butter is a win all round.

If you don't like cleaning out the greasy mess at the end, simply leave some in there and make a treat for the family, like some home made bikkies or cakes. Speaking of which, I substituted half the flour in a banana loaf the other day with oat bran - worked a treat and we got the lovely insoluble fibre to help reduce cholesterol and fats!

love and light

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Calendula's up!

Went to water my herb seed pots tonight and noticed the calendula is just emerging - v happy!

love and light