Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Some Meditations

I receive daily emails from the Australian Meditation Society. Here are a few recent ones for you:

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 - Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. - Martin Luther King Jr

Sunday, 28 September 2008 - Live simply and take life more easily. Happiness lies in giving yourself time to think and to introspect. Be alone once in a while, and remain more in silence. - Yogananda

Saturday, 27 September 2008 - The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends upon the way we occupy that place. -- St. Thérèse de Lisieux


love and light

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Happenings in the Garden

After surviving (cross fingers!) two exams today, I wandered out into the garden to clear my head late this afternoon. Here are some of the things happening . . .

Here is the first purple asparagus spear of the season. It may just find itself being eaten tomorrow night! This is the fourth season for the purple asparagus in our garden. Given how much it produced last year, I'm already thinking of preserving some.

And here is the first Greenfeast pea flower of the season. The Red Flowering Peas are yet to produce any blossoms, but when they do, I'll post a pic.
Some beautiful broad bean flowers . . .

And the first of the Solomon's Seal rhizomes that I planted a while ago is off and running.

Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) is a magic herb. Its tincture, made from the root, can be used to heal ligaments and tendons. Somehow, this amazing plant knows how to shorten stretched ligaments and tendons and lengthen short ones, bringing the body part (eg, ankles) back into perfect alignment.

Some people refer to Solomon's Seal as the "herbal chiropractor". Matthew Wood calls it the Indispensible Muscular and Skeletal Remedy.

Some blackcurrant cuttings I took a few weeks ago (from the prunings off the blackcurrant) now have little roots attached to them. I'm hoping they'll develop further and I can obtain some more big blackcurrant bushes.

Marshmallow seeds I planted back in Autumn have sprouted when I had almost given up on them (shame on me!). Here are some of the little darlings I hope will soon grow into rampant plants.

Marshmallow (Malva sylvestra) is great for treating dry irritating coughs and as a mild astringent for gastroenteritis.

Happy Gardening!

love and light

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Herbs to Plant

Many of you are looking at being self-sufficientish, so thought you may be interested in hearing about some basic herbs to plant in your gardens you can use to treat simple ailments.

Borage - for the worn down person with just too much to do (sound familiar? :)); include chopped leaves and flowers in salads and drinks for a refreshing cucumber flavour, but don't eat too much!

Calendula - such a gorgeous sunny plant, great for burns, cuts, grazes and nappy rash. The petals are also great in salads. Essential if you have children. Will post soon on making ointment of this - really I will :).

Aloe Vera - use the juice for burns, especially sunburn. Again, great when there are children around.

Thyme - fantastic for sore throats and chest colds. In some cultures, they drink a cup of thyme tea every morning during autumn and winter to strengthen their bodies against lurgies. To make the tea, simply place 3 or 4 sprigs in a small tea pot, add boiling water and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Delicious with juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of honey, especially Manuka honey.

Sage - also great for sore throats. Make an infusion with thyme and gargle to aid a sore throat. And you can swallow this gargle if you like. Breastfeeding mums may want to avoid sage, though, as it will dry up your milk.

Parsley - chock full of vitamin C and iron, a great pick me up for everyone, especially those with heavy periods or anaemia.

Rosemary - great for soothing furrowed brows and aching muscles and for aiding the digestion. Also good for memory and a bee food in late winter.

Garlic - fantastic to eat whenever your body is struggling with an infection, it may also help some people during times of hay fever. Slice up fresh cloves and add them to your cooking in the last couple of minutes - this gives you the great healing properties of raw garlic, while reducing the breath and body odour. Don't ask me why, but it really seems to work.

Elder - see recent post.

Dandelion - don't pull them out, let them grow (well at least some)!! Use their leaves in salads as a bitter herb to aid digestion, brew up a tea of the leaves for fluid retention and dry and roast the roots for a coffee substitute, which is also good for your liver. Just make sure you have positively identified the plant as dandelion and it is not something that merely looks like it.

Chamomile - the flowers are great for soothing teas for people who find it difficult to relax and good for helping babies and children during teething; great for babies of all ages.

Feverfew - if someone in your house gets migraines, this may be the very herb they need.

Basil - a good digestive aid, it is also very effective at relieving some headaches. I combine it with lavender and peppermint to help reduce the severity of migraines.

Lavender - as well as being beautiful to look at, lavender oil is great for healing burns and the flowers can be used in combination with basil and peppermint for migraines.

Peppermint - great for colic and digestive upsets, but don't use for someone who gets oesophageal reflux; helps cool and soothe hot heads.

Yarrow - magic for deep cuts and wounds which are bleeding freely. Stuff some leaves into the wound to stop or slow the bleeding, while you seek further medical attention.

Melissa (Lemon Balm) - lovely soothing tea to help those "busy bees" in life calm down and relax.

Marjoram - as well as being a culinary herb of merit, some marjoram oil on the temples, a cup of marjoram tea or even a generous sprig under the pillow will help people get a restful night's sleep.

These are just a few of the wonderful healing herbs suitable for a domestic garden. As always, this information is intended for general interest only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your health professional for assistance with any health issues.

love and light

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Using Less and Valuing More

Well, the energy and water bills are in for this quarter, so it's time to make a comparison with the same period last year. Our consumption of:
  • Gas is down by 8.5%
  • Electricity is down by 15.5%
  • Water is down by 8.9%

I am absolutely thrilled! And the best thing is that I don't think it has impacted on our lifestyle at all. We have simply tried to be mindful of what resources we are using. It's amazing what we can all do if we try.

So what have we been doing?

  • Not having mega showers, although from time to time we have to remind someone who is taking a while
  • Not heating as much - we reduced the temperature by about 2 degrees and covered up a bit more; we were still comfortable and upped the heat a little if people were sick
  • Consciously turning off lights and unplugging appliances not in use (except for the TV which is always plugged in because it's too hard to get to the plug and the clock radios and things like that)
  • Turning off our computers when not in use
  • Cooking some foods such as oats and rice by bringing them to the boil then turning them off and leaving them to cook in their own heat

Things we could do to further reduce our energy and water consumption include:

  • Eat more raw food ;} and/or obtain a solar cooker
  • Have shorter showers (we try to keep them short, but we're not turning the water on just to rinse or anything like that yet)
  • Install a grey water recycling system - we do put the water from the laundry out onto the garden (only with low sodium detergents, of course!) but we are not harvesting the water from the shower yet
  • Mulch more in the garden

I'm sure there's a lot more we could do; I don't think we are really doing the hard yards yet.

As for other areas of resource consumption, such as transport - we are using the bus more, but because my partner's children's other home is 90km away, trips back and forth do add up to a bit of petrol. Even so, we have reduced our petrol consumption to one tank or less per week. And growing some of our own food and trying to eat as locally as possible, means our food miles have come down as well.

The other side effect we've noticed over the past year is that we are generating a lot less rubbish. We no longer put our bin out every week and even when it goes out it is generally only half full. Most weeks we would only generate about two shopping bags worth of rubbish. Even the amount we put out for recycling has reduced, as we are endeavouring to re-use things before recycling - most of my purple asparagus seedlings are quite happily growing in tin cans and the potatoes are coming up through a cover of shredded paper.

The way I feel about all this was summed up nicely in an email from the Meditation Society of Australia the other day:

How inspiring it is to walk all day in the sunshine and sleep all night under the stars. What a wonderful experience in simple, natural living. Since you carry your food, sleeping equipment, etc., on your back, you learn quickly that unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. You soon realize what the essentials of life are - such as warmth when you are cold, a dry spot on a rainy day, the simplest food when you are hungry, pure cool water when you are thirsty. You soon put material things in their proper place, realizing that they are there for use, but relinquishing them when they are not useful. You soon experience and learn to appreciated the great freedom of simplicity. - Peace Pilgrim

love and light

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Many people can have problems with candida (yeast) infections without knowing it. Symptoms can include recurrent thrush and/or urinary tract infections, fatigue, malaise, lack of concentration, etc.

Candida Saliva Test
Here is a free and easy home test to check your system for a yeast/candida infection:

When you awake in the morning, before you put anything into your mouth, work up some saliva and deposit it into a clear glass of water. After about 15 to 30 minutes, look through the side of the glass. If there are strings coming down from your saliva, or if the water turned cloudy, or if your saliva sank to the bottom... you may have a yeast or fungal concern!

This site has another quick test you can do to see if you might fall into this category.

If, after doing these tests, you think you might have an issue, please see your health professional.

love and light

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A Couple of Recipes

Wheat-free, Dairy-free, Sugar-free Date Loaf

This sounds somewhat impossible and you may wonder if it is actually edible, but I assure you that this recipe is not only edible, but quite delicious.

1¼ cups chopped dates
1 cup fruit juice (I use grape or apple, but any sweet juice will do)
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ cup oil (I use rice bran or macadamia oil)
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 large eggs
½ cup oat bran
¾ cup wheat free flour (I use a 50/50 mix of Orgran and FG Roberts plain gluten free flours)
2 teaspoons baking powder

Place dates, juice, spice, oil and bicarb soda in a saucepan (large enough to mix everything in) and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until dates are soft. Stir well and cool.

Add eggs to the date mixture and beat with a wooden spoon. Add the oat bran and stir in. Finally add the flour and baking powder and mix with wooden spoon until well combined.

Pour mix into a well-oiled loaf pan (about 21cm x 11cm) and bake in a moderate oven until a skewer comes out clean (about 45 minutes). Leave in pan until cool before removing.

This cake will last for up to a week in a sealed container.

Note: the presence of oat bran makes this recipe not gluten free, but it is wheat free. If this is an issue for you, simply replace the oat bran with gluten free flour. I like to include the oat bran as it is great fibre for our bodies, assisting our intestines and helping to clear out excess cholesterol.

Soy Eggs

Hard boiled eggs
Soy Sauce

Peel hard boiled eggs and split lengthways. Scoop out yolk halves and mash together. Place whites on plate.

To mashed eggs yolks add about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce for every 6 eggs. Combine together until smooth. Add more or less mayo or soy to taste (especially as I cannot remember the exact proportions). Finely chop chives and parsley and add to mix.

Place teaspoonfuls of mix into the whites and they are ready to eat.

Bon Appetit!

love and light

Monday, 8 September 2008

Pics from the Garden

I snuck out into the garden this afternoon after class and took a few snaps to show you.

In the vege patch
Here are the snowpeas ready to get climbing. They are Yakumo Giant snowpeas and they can get as long as 12cm or so and still be lovely and tender.
The unidentified leafy green, which I think is English spinach. Its leaves are thicker than usual. Consulting my open seed packets reveals it may be Mediana variety.

The artichokes are really getting ready to go forth and multiply when the warmer weather hits.

And you can see the baby beets around them, gradually getting chubbier and ready to munch.

But what has been eating my baby artichoke?

And here's one of my purple asparagus seedlings. Doesn't look very purple at the moment, but it does have quite a way to go . . .

Meanwhile in the herb garden
The Tarragon is just peeking through after its winter sleep . . .

And Yarrow has produced some babies!

Sweet Violet has just started to bloom . . .

And Melissa is growing under cover of last year's growth, yet to be removed.

The Applemint is creeping outwards . . .

And Pennyroyal is consorting with some mint (haven't worked out who just yet)!

Lovely Angelica has survived the winter thus far

And Rocket's in flower

Next to a self-sown seedling

And here's the first Comfrey leaf of the season

Over to the fruit trees
The nectarine is in blossom . . . .

And the quince is about to burst into leaf

For the soul
Gorgeous, fragrant blooms - Daphne, Jonquil (Erlicheer) and Hyacinth - what a lovely trio!

Hope you enjoyed your little visit to my garden.

love and light

Sunday, 7 September 2008

This Weekend in the Garden

I didn't get done anywhere near what I had wanted, but the snow peas are now weeded, hilled and mulched, with a few parsnip seeds and carrot seeds planted to keep them company. I also managed to put some wire between the stakes we put in a little while ago, so they now have a trellis to climb as they grow.

Excitement set in last week as I noticed that the purple asparagus seed I planted a few weeks ago has mostly germinated. Today I counted 44 baby asparagus plants, out of 65 seeds sown. Given they are just emerging (the tallest one would only be about 15mm high), I'm hoping for more little asparagus babies over the next few weeks.

Didn't do quite so well on the artichoke front. To date, only three seedlings have appeared, but there's still time for more. The seed was over a year out of date, so I'll try some fresh seed and see how that goes. Meanwhile, in other parts of the garden, the artichokes are growing well, so I'm sure we'll have heaps of artichokes to eat later in the season.

Wandering around, I noticed a couple of leafy green plants in one of the beds. Unfortunately, when sowing the seed I didn't label it, so was not so sure what it was. It looks like spinach, but maybe it's some sort of turnip? A quick feel underground reveals no tuber; a quick munch reveals spinach. Wish I could remember what type it was; I think it was something a bit different. The leaves are thicker than usual, but just as yummy. It's now three hours later and I haven't dropped off my perch, so I'm guessing it's OK.

The potatoes I planted about a month ago when I was planting the kiwi fruit have now made an appearance. They get a bit of protection where they are, so I'm hoping they will be OK if we get any late frosts.

Checking on the carrots led to three lovely long ones being pulled up and grated for lunch, alongside one of our winter lettuces. The beets are coming on and I must start pulling up some of the larger baby beets to thin the rows out for the others.

Apart from all that, the deciduous herbs are starting to wake up, with one of the comfrey plants, a French tarragon and some of the mints sporting green leaves again. It won't be long now before spring really will have sprung!

love and light

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


A few of you are planting Elders and I am soooo glad. They are a veritable medicine chest, although not all parts are used these days. Here are some bits and pieces about Elders for your amusement and general information.

Elder is a smallish tree up to 10m tall, which generally has several hollow stems arising from the base of the plant. The leaves have 5-9 leaflets, which are ovate-lanceolate and lightly toothed. The small creamy-white flowers have 5 petals and are held in an umbel about 20cm across. Sambucus is fast growing (eg, my four year old plant is over 3 metres tall) with thin, spindly growth in the first few years. The trunks and branches thicken only in later years as the tree matures.

In Australia, Elder has the status of introduced weed and it is prevalent in cooler regions of southern Australia where it has been spread into bushland by the aid of birds. Elder enjoys high rainfall and rich soils, often colonising low ground. Low lying ground naturally attracts moisture, frosts and cold air, which tie in with the Elder's Underworld connections.

Elder has been used since prehistoric times. It was well known to ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates, Plinius, Dioscorides and Galen and was purported to be the tree upon which Judas hung himself and that Jesus was crucified. Pan pipes made from Elder were considered to produce the most haunting music and so the Elder was linked to Pan in Greek mythology. [Pan, in his pursuit of Syrinx, is left holding nothing but a reed when the nymphs turn Syrinx into a reed in order to protect her. Pan then takes seven reeds and turns them into the first pan pipes.]

In northern Europe, the Elder was linked to the Elder Mother (aka Hylde-Moer or Lady Ellhorn), who needed to be offered something in return for a part of the plant. In western Europe, the Elder was considered to be the door to the underworld and the fairy realm. Cradles were never made of Elder wood for fear that the Elder Mother would steal the baby away into the Underworld. Hans Christian Anderson used the Elder in stories such as The Daughter of the Marsh King and The Little Elder Mother.

Elder commands great respect. You should always ask respectfully for a part of her, be it the flowers, berries, leaves or cuttings. It is also prudent to offer something in return. So for example, you may acknowledge her importance, ask for her permission to pick her flowers and state that you will one day pass on and your body will be returned to the soil to nourish her kind and others in the plant kingdom. Above all, thank her for anything you take from her. You will generally find the Elder to be quite agreeable to your requests if stated in this way.

Many authors follow Mrs Grieve in stating that the word Elder comes from the Anglo-Saxon word æld, meaning fire. But latterly, Wood suggests that the word Elder comes instead from hulda, as in the Icelandic huldafolk, meaning the “hidden people” or fairies. The Elder is therefore associated with magic, fairies and Pan, Lord of the Underworld. In fact, my Elder is planted at the bottom of my garden, which is where the fairies usually reside. . .

Charlemagne (Charles the Great), who ruled the French empire from 768 to 814CE, decreed that every household in his empire have an Elder planted in the garden, to be readily available as a “medicine cabinet”. Parts of the Elder were used wherever bodily channels needed to be opened, eg, as a purgative, diaphoretic and diuretic, as well as an emetic, emmenagogue and expectorant.

Elder is traditionally used as a diaphoretic in fevers, colds and influenza; for sinusitis, nasal catarrh with deafness, pleurisy, bronchitis, sore throats, measles and scarlet fever; and topically for treatment of inflamed eyes, skin disorders, wounds, burns and liver disorders.

Constitutionally, Elder is a great infant remedy, especially where there is pale blue swelling across the nose and red, dry irritated skins on the cheeks and cheeky parts of the body. It is also suited to elderly people with blue swollen ankles and anywhere there is stagnation of fluids and blood with pale blue swelling and red, dry irritated skin. Elder is also well suited to sanguine children with strong personalities, who may be poorly socialised and resistant to taking directions and may be classified as "hyperactive".

In modern herbal medicine the main parts used from the Elder are the flowers and the berries. The fresh flowers are highly purgative and so they are generally dried before use. The fresh berries can also have a purgative or laxative effect, so I wouldn't recommend "pigging out" on them.

As well as making tinctures from the flowers and berries for medicinal use, you can make elderflower cordials or elderberry wine. Some good recipes for elderflower cordials are on the Selfsufficientish site. Elderflower cordial is very refreshing in summer, especially mixed with mineral water.

As always the information supplied is for your personal interest. You should consult a professional herbalist if you think you are in need of any herbal treatment.

love and light