Sunday, 29 June 2008

Happiness is . . .

. . . a car boot full of cow and poultry manure and three new fruit trees for my garden.

This morning I popped into Bunnings to get some manure for the garden (I'm using the liquid gold, but I also like manures to build up the soil a bit) and some bolts to put together the swing set frame for the kiwi fruit.

As well as these, I came out with three new fruit trees:

"Preston Prolific" fig - you can never have too many fig trees (confession: I've already got a couple, a Black Genoa and another) - they are so good for fresh figs, dried figs, stuffed figs, fig jam and I'm starting to think about figs in brandy and what about fig wine???

Feijoa (pineapple guava) - been wanting one for ages and there it was and it just screamed out "pick me, pick me!"

"Sensation" pear - these are red pears (a bit redder than the picture, actually) that stay a bit crunchy and are really sweet and juicy - been looking for one for about three years and never found it, but there it was! (mind you, we already have a Williams (double-grafted with a nashi), a Josephine and a Buerre Bosc.

The trouble is - where will I put them? I'm sure I will find a spot (or three), maybe over near the apple trees and the mulberry, but I just couldn't resist. Maybe I'm turning into a fruit-tree-aholic?

Well, that's my retail therapy for a while. To be honest, I generally am not enamoured of shopping and try to only do what is necessary. But it felt good to leave the hardware with my little finds today.

love and light

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

This Morning in the Garden

This morning was lovely - we are having a relatively mild winter so far, but there's plenty more time for the cold. I had such a great time in the garden this morning, I thought I'd take a few happy snaps to share - they are nowhere near as beautiful as Cheryl's or Herbwitch's photos, but here they are.

Baby Olive, who was given to me by my dear friend, The Crone, before she moved to WA a couple of years ago, has now grown up enough to be put in the ground. Here is a picture of her after transplanting. She is about 90cm tall now and doing very well. Under the mulch are some Calendula seeds, which I'm hoping will form a nice drift of flowers for the bees. And in the bed behind them are some Oregon Giant snow peas just starting to grow.

The early peach is starting to bud up and almost looks like she's ready to flower, although it will probably be a few weeks yet (at least I hope so - I want to clear away the grass growing underneath and give her a good dose of manure and mulch).

Underneath another peach tree, a jonquil is preparing to flower.

Beside the fence, in the square holes of the Besser bricks forming a raised vege bed, the nasturtiums are still smiling, despite the cold.

Here's a fine head of broccoli ready to be picked.

And here's a cheeky potato plant, thriving underneath the protection of the dead asparagus ferns I am yet to clear away.

This patch may look like grass, but Molly assures me they really are oats.

And here's the rhubarb, looking incredibly healthy for this time of year.

There was also a willie wagtail flitting about the garden, but alas he was too quick for me!

love and light

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Winter Solstice, Calendula, Oat Cakes and Corn Chips

This weekend, yesterday morning in fact, was the Winter Solstice. So good to know that the days will be getting longer now and spring will be here in no time. In celebration, I dug over a new area of the garden in preparation for planting Calendula there soon. It is in a lovely sunny spot and will form a nice little patch of flowers for the bees (when I get them), as well as providing blossoms for ointments and salads.

I've been using oats a lot lately in my cooking and my sister gave me a recipe for Aberdeen Oat Cakes, which I will share with you:
Place 250g fine oatmeal in a heat proof bowl, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt. Melt 50g butter in another pot or heat proof container and make up to 300ml with boiling water. Stir boiling water and butter into the oatmeal to form a stiff mix. Leave until cool, then roll out, cut into squares and bake in a moderate oven (180C) until crisp. Lovely!

Having had success with the oat cakes, I thought I would apply the same principle to corn meal to make Corn Chips. I mixed corn meal 50/50 with polenta (to get the equivalent of freshly ground whole corn type meal). I used oil instead of butter and needed to make the water/oil mix up to 350ml. The dough was rolled out really thinly and it worked! The only problem with these corn chips is that they went soggy after a couple of days in a container, but a little while back in the oven refreshed them. However, I would recommend eating these on the day they are made - I think they were better then.

love and light

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The Power of a Rainbow

Normally, when I'm out for a walk, saying hello to passersby doesn't get too much of a response. Most people pretend they didn't hear or give a grunt at best, with only the occasional fellow walker responding. I've often thought this a sad reflection of a society in which people live in fear of those they do not personally know.

This morning I was feeling the cold, didn't want to put the heating on, and so put on my beautiful rainbow striped jumper. I still had it on when I set out for my walk this afternoon. I stopped to talk to a passing dog and his owner said hello and discussed his sore paw. She then said, a bit shyly, that she liked my jumper.

A little further on, I met up with two young girls returning from school with their mother. As they approached, the girls both enthusiastically said hello. One then said "cool jumper!" and she watched me as I went past. A bit closer to home, two teenage lads were walking their dog and they both greeted me.

I was, quite frankly, surprised at the attention and the reactions of people. I don't think I changed anything in the way I approached or greeted people on my walk today, but somehow a rainbow-coloured sweater broke down barriers. Did the bright colours touch a little child within them that instinctively had them responding to a stranger? Did I seem less threatening to them, simply because of my attire?

If this is the case, maybe we all need to be knitting rainbow jumpers for our politicians and policy makers. Maybe, if they all wore them when considering actions such as war or refugee status or environmental issues, they would see each other and the leaders of other countries as fellow human beings and we would get some real progress happening. Maybe we could feed the world, house and clothe the poor and share the wealth. Maybe we could stop the damage to our fragile planet and return her to her former glory. Maybe all it will take is a rainbow sweater . . .

love and light

Monday, 16 June 2008

Liquid Gold = Water Saved

My darling man came home from his weekend away to the bucket in the loo, ready to collect all our liquid gold. In discussing the whole issue, we did some rough calculations and realised that we'd save in excess of 20,000 litres of water each year by collecting rather than flushing.

Here are the numbers (based on old loo - we estimated 6 litres per flush):
Weekend days: 12 less flushes = 72 litres saved
Week days: 8 less flushes = 48 litres saved
Weekly total = 384 litres saved
Yearly total = 19,968 litres saved

These are only our flushes and are not counting the children's contributions when they are here. That means for our family alone, we will save more than 20,000 litres of water per year and probably more like 25,000 litres. I wish we'd done these calculations a while ago. It is quite staggering.

love and light

Garlic Time

Someone once told me that you plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. For those of us here in Oz, this weekend is garlic planting time (Saturday is the best day as it is in a fertile time) and for our friends in the Northern hemisphere, it is time to harvest yours.

Garlic is a fantabulous herb. It is used both herbally and homeopathically to treat a variety of ailments. It helps to lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it boosts the immune system and is anti-microbial. It is fantastic for colds and flus.

In the garden, garlic can be planted in among roses to help keep down aphids, under apple trees to help reduce apple scab and around peach trees to assist in the prevention of curly leaf. Garlic also assists tomatoes and potatoes. But don't grow garlic near your peas, beans, cabbages or strawberries as it will inhibit their growth.

Many people get concerned about garlic breath. One way to reduce this is to add the garlic at the end of your cooking, rather than the beginning - just stir it into your meal a couple of minutes before you turn off the heat. Also, parsley can assist in neutralising the odour.

So go and get some garlic (I bought about a kilo of cloves today) and put it in the ground this weekend. Yes, you can use the garlic found in your greengrocer's store (or supermarket), but I always try to get Australian grown garlic. Apart from my views on imported food (that's another post!), the imported garlic may be irradiated and therefore not viable for food production.

Plant the individual garlic cloves about 5cm deep, 10cm or so apart, with the round part to the bottom of the hole or trench and the pointy bit to the top. Cover it over and let it go. You'll have lovely garlic for Christmas.

love and light

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Today's Fun

Some of us should never be left to our own devices. This weekend, my darling man has taken the children to visit his sister and their children. In the meantime, I am meant to be studying for my upcoming exams, which I am, but you need to take a break every now and then . . .

Since he left, about 27 hours ago, there have been a couple of changes around the place. A bucket has taken up residence in the toilet for all that "liquid gold" (thanks for the reminder Crunchy and Crone!); there are now mung beans growing in our bathroom (thanks to there being too many in the sprouter to go in the stir fry the other night and which have now sprouted roots) and I've been cooking vego food again.

I used to be a vegetarian and have spent a good deal of my life either completely or mostly vegetarian. However, because of some serious health issues several years ago, I had to start eating meat again and then I fell in love with a darling man who loves his meat. I've been wanting to go back to being (at least mostly) vegetarian again for some time and have been able to slip in the odd vegetarian dish on occasion, but not on any regular basis. Well, I'm going to make a concerted effort now to have a higher proportion of our food vegetarian fare. I just hope he's ready for it!

For dinner tonight, I made a gorgeous variation on a dahl:
  1. Saute 1 chopped red onion in a little oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin seed, coriander seed, mustard seed, tumeric and one small dried chilli and continue to saute until you hear the mustard seeds popping.
  3. Add 1/2 cup each of red lentils and barley (both unsoaked) and saute for a few minutes before adding 2.5 cups water and some of your favourite vego stock powder.
  4. Bring to the boil, then add two fat cloves of garlic (sliced), turn the heat off and leave for 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Add 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, then simmer until everything is soft and the consistency is to your taste (about another 20 to 30 minutes).
  6. Serve with garden fresh steamed broccoli.
This recipe is probably enough to feed 3-4 people, depending on how much veg and/or rice you serve with it.

The other fun thing I did today was go for a walk around my neighbourhood to see what was in flower at the moment. There was Italian lavender, Westringia (native rosemary), rosemary, gazanias, erigeron, roses, early sweet peas, potato vine, dandelions, a couple of bottle brushes, some kind of yellow daisy bush and a stunning flowering cherry/plum/peach with a most beautiful scent.

I was looking for potential winter-flowering bee plants should I get a hive, as I don't want the little dears to starve over winter. Yes, I know you supplement their food in winter, but it would be so much nicer for them to have real bee food within bee flight of their home. Our garden will be fine as it is from spring through to autumn because of the fruit trees and veges, but winter might not be so wonderful. Guess I'll have to plant them some winter food crops.

love and light

Friday, 13 June 2008

Native "Stingless" Bees

I've been doing a little research into native bees, which you may know are actually stingless. I found heaps of good information on the Aussie Bee site. They list different types of native bees and provide contact details for obtaining hives, etc.

Unfortunately, here in the ACT it is not recommended to keep them as it is outside their natural geographical region and the cold winter can kill the little creatures (they are more tropically inclined).

Native beehives are generally kept in hollow logs and you need to protect them from predators and extremes of temperature (both heat and cold). There are quite a few varieties and the ones that looked the cutest to me were the "Teddy Bear Bees" - soft furry looking bees (pictured).

I also read the other day that apiarists sometimes wipe the inside of a new hive with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Apparently, the bees really love this plant and wiping the hive with it will help a swarm settle into its new home. I'm not sure if this works for native bees or only for honey bees. But the principle might be the same - if you rubbed the inside of a log with a plant the native bees liked (and you are in a native bee area) would they come and live there? There are quite a few native bee plants listed on the Aussie Bee site if you are interested.

So for my own garden it looks like I'm back to honey bees. Apart from the lemon balm, so far I've found they like fruit trees, herbs, veges, tree lucerne (tagasaste), Queen Anne's lace, alyssum, phacelia, cottage salvia, white cosmos, lawn thyme, bronze fennel, daisies, roses, stocks, wallflowers, poppies, gazanias, forget-me-nots, portulacas, sunflowers and cineraria.

My main concern will be to have food for the bees over winter, as the fruit trees and veges will probably keep them going at other times. Apparently the tree lucerne, which can be hedged and is a good fodder plant, will provide some food over winter. If anyone knows of plants that bees like and that flower over winter, please let me know.

love and light

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Timely Reminder

A friend sent me this in an email and I was so moved I thought I would put it on my blog. This is a video of the then 12-year old Severn Suzuki addressing the UN Conference on Environment and Development. The speech was in 1992, but it is even more relevant today.

The question is: what kind of world do we want to leave for our children? For that matter, what kind of world do we want to live in when we get older? We need to take action now (actually, a long time ago) and address our overly consumptive patterns of behaviour. They are simply just not sustainable.

Please take the time to view the video (some of you may have seen it already) and think about what actions you can personally take.

My own list will be something like this:
  1. Use the bus more often, even when inconvenient
  2. Walk more or ride my bicycle
  3. Increase our level of self-sufficiency as far as our food is concerned
  4. Grow open-pollinated varieties of food crops (instead of hybrids) and save the seed
  5. Decrease the amount of meat we eat (it wll be fun convincing the carnivores around here!)
  6. Implement some more grey-water recycling solutions in our household
  7. Install rain water tanks
  8. Reduce our energy and water consumption further
  9. Think before buying - we already have too much "stuff"
  10. Free-cycle or sell the "stuff" we no longer need
  11. Be grateful for what I have
  12. Simplify, simplify, simplify
  13. Spread the word, educate and lobby
  14. Have FUN doing the above (don't want to die from crawling seriousity LOL!)
What's on your list?

love and light

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Weed Tea

On Gardening Australia last weekend, they had a story about brewing a fertiliser from your weeds. It is especially good for those weeds you don't want to put in the compost because the compost doesn't get hot enough to kill off their seeds. I've already started some brewing and have added some dead comfrey leaves for added nutrients and speedy breakdown. Click on the link to read the story.

love and light


Here I am at home, with a raging sore throat and that mown-down feeling, but instead of being tucked up in bed I'm surfing the internet. I went looking for a different story on the Gardening Australia website, but found this one on bees and backyard beekeeping instead.

Inspired by Cheryl of My Wildlife Sanctuary and also by Hedgewitch, I'm thinking of putting a hive in my garden this spring/summer. It would be great to just build something for the bees and have them take up residence, but I think I probably need to get a hive. Have a look at the story and read about it - maybe keeping bees is something we all need to consider?

love and light

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Energy, Food and Water

Given Molly's post on Peak oil? Peak Food? .....and now peak water?, I'd thought I'd do a little comparison on our energy and water consumption with where we were at this time last year. We've been trying to reduce our consumption over the past year and we've just received our end of financial year bills, so it is a good time to compare.

Water - over the past 12 months we have used 58% of what we used the previous year. Most of this saving came from over summer, when our water consumption fell to less than half of what we used the year before. Given I've got more food growing, I'm rather surprised at the result, but very, very pleased.

Electricity - comparing this quarter to the same one last year, we are using 59% of what we used the previous year. A lot of this saving is probably due to installing a solar hot water system and replacing our old electric oven and cooktop with a gas burner, electric oven stove (which is also lovely to cook on!).

Natural Gas - we are using about the same amount of gas as we did in the comparable quarter a year ago. However, since we are now using gas for cooking, this means our heating usage has definitely gone down.

Petrol - I don't have any accurate figures on this, but judging from our budget spreadsheet, we were filling up two to three times each fortnight and now we are filling up mostly only once and sometimes twice. We have been making a concerted effort to use the bus, so obviously our strategy is working.

Food - this is pretty hard to judge, as the children are getting older and are therefore eating more. However, I have more weeks where I don't need to buy any supplemental veges and so we must be heading in the right direction. Also, there are definitely less processed foods entering the house - we are pretty much cooking from scratch these days and snacks tend to be raw nuts and dried fruits or homemade treats, rather than stuff that comes in packets. Which reminds me - we often shop at the co-op where you supply your own containers, so we've reduced our packaging that way, too.

I know we still have a long way to go in terms of saving energy and water and growing our own food, but I'm feeling pretty pleased with what we have achieved this year. It will be interesting to see what our consumption is this time next year.

So here's the challenge - get out your energy and water bills and, if they record the information for you, see if your consumption has decreased. I think we will be trying to set ourselves some goals each quarter.

love and light


Every year, when I plant my Brussels sprouts, I do so knowing that most of them will be fodder for the aphids. Still, I plant them because I know that by the Brussels sprouts being sacrificied to the aphids, they will leave my broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages alone.

Until now. This time the aphids have gone too far - they have started infesting my baby savoy cabbages and my newly formed cauliflowers. So, as much as I hate to say it, this means war between me and the aphids.

I've decided to launch a three-pronged attack:
  1. Feed up the broccoli (as yet unaffected - thank you, garden Goddess!), the cauliflowers, cabbages and Brussels sprouts. The idea is to improve their vitality and their natural defences.
  2. Make up some garlic spray. My father used to make this - blend up 1kg fresh garlic, pour into 20L drum and fill with water. Leave for three weeks (by which time it pongs!!!!), then strain, add some detergent as a wetting agent then dilute before spraying on affected plants. I'm not doing 20L, but am trying 2L (with 100g garlic) and won't leave it for the full three weeks - I'm hoping a few days will do.
  3. Pray to the nature spirits to bring little silvereyes or finches or wrens to my garden in the middle of winter (please, please please!) to do a clean up.

If anyone has any other ideas that might help, I would most appreciate it. I don't normally launch an attack on common garden pests, but happily share my produce with them. This time, though, they've gone a little too far.

love and light


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Weeds or Useful Plants?

Seeing Cheryl's gorgeous photo of hypericum on My Wildlife Sanctuary had me thinking about all the beautiful plants that nurture us by providing us with foods for the body and soul, as well as giving us valuable medicines.

Hypericum is one such plant. The scrappy looking wild form found around the ACT and other parts of Australia, Hypericum perforatum, is also called St John's Wort. It is considered a noxious weed because of its ability to invade pastures and it causes photosensitisation (sensitivity to sunlight) in stock who eat it. However, Hypericum perforatum is also a valuable healing herb that can be used for many modern diseases.

Many of the plants that grow wild around us are, in fact, plants that can be used to heal all sorts of maladies. They can give us a clue as to what is wrong with us. For example, if you have heaps of dandelions growing in your garden, it may be that someone in the house, someone living nearby or someone who regularly visits needs a liver tonic (read cleanse!) or a diuretic. The dandelion is there for a reason!

My father used to leave strips of "weeds" around his farm "for the bugs". The "bugs" did go to the strips of "weeds" and they did largely leave his organically grown crops alone.

So next time you see a "weed" consider its purpose. Is it telling you anything about your health or the health of those around you? Is it diverting the hungry insects from your vegetable patch or fruit trees? Studying our weeds can help us connect back to nature and understand her in many ways.

love and light

Sunday, 1 June 2008

In the Garden Today

It's a bit overcast and chilly outside today, but I did have a little visit to my garden to check on it. The oats have now emerged (at least I hope they are oats and not sprouted grass seed!). The peas (Green Feast and Red Flowering) are starting to break through the soil and the Asian greens are ready for eating, along with the cauliflower and broccoli. The maize is continuing to struggle on and some of the cobs are looking promising, although it must be hard for them just now.

I also took a couple of photos of my fur-children and have posted them in the sidebar. They love being out in the garden with me and are great companions.

love and light

Moon Gardening June 2008

I've decided to put the moon gardening guide in my sidebar. That way you don't have to scroll through posts to find it through the month.

love and light