Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Caterpillar to Chook Chuck

I do so want to grow a broccoli. Or a cauliflower. But I have never had much success. Mostly because I'm new to this veggie growing business (how long do you think I'll get away with that one for?) and I keep making mistakes. And also because I am a lazy gardener.

Since I started growing stuff from seed I'm realising that I'm almost always putting seedlings in the ground too late. I have managed to get in about half the brassicas I want but there are still weeny seedlings in my little greenhouse that aren't quite ready. Purple sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower and regular brussell sprouts. The brussell sprouts is risky but I'm thinking that home-grown stuff fried up in butter might just work. Surely someone besides me will eat them without scrunching up their monkey noses?

Actually, my real problem with brassicas is the white cabbage moth and their rotten green caterpillars that munch on the plants. I am becoming a bit less squeamish. I remember last year hunting down those green caterpillars that live on the brassicas and squishing them. But only with gloves on. I couldn't bear the thought of caterpillar squish on my fingers. In fact I couldn't even bear the thought of live, unsquished caterpillar on my fingers. This year I've grown up a bit. I have managed to pick off the caterpillars ungloved and chuck them to the chooks. Who surprisingly love a bit of caterpillar for brekkie. I say I'm surprised because I have fluffy, sometimes called "ornamental" chooks who don't seem to make much of a job of garden pests. They will give a snail the sideways stare and then move on. Fortunately, little green caterpillars seem to appeal to their delicate tastes.

But I'm not efficient enough at the caterpillar to chook chuck. My brassicas again this year are shamefully full of holes. Thing is, several weeks ago I decided my do-nothing approach had to end. I went out and bought some dipel. And it has sat in my shed ever since. I'm not quite sure what has prevented me from giving the brassicas a dose of dipel - it is an organic insecticide that my conscience will permit. I can only put it down to my garden laziness. Fortunately, I am also afflicted with a condition called blogger-do. If I blog about it, I will force myself to do it. I wouldn't want to let down the blog reading community. Once my fingers have put the nagging thought into words and then the publish button is pushed I am compelled into action. Finally.

So today I am obliged to go to the garden shed and mix up a dose of dipel to save those poor plants. Thank you again dear blog world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ridding the Fridge of those Leftover Easter Eggs

My littlest Monkey is a real fussy eater. He wouldn't even touch a potato until a few months ago.  Then he was tricked into trying my delicious, crispy roast potatoes after being told they were actually chips. Naturally, he loved them. And that's all he requested for his special birthday lunch on the weekend. And that and bread and birthday cake is pretty much all he ate.
Yesterday I showed him the banana I was about to pack into his lunchbox and he had a hissy fit. Seems bananas with the teeniest bit of brown on the skin are not worthy to be eaten. So at the market I bought more bananas - green ones and decided I'd best make muffins or something with those browning ones. And then I remembered the leftover Easter eggs I'd stashed at the back of the fridge.

After the first few days of Easter egg gluttony, I take all chocolate and conceal it at the back of the fridge in the hope that the monkeys will forget about it. And surprisingly, they do. In fact this year, the day before the Easter Bunny was to pay a visit, I discovered last year's stash at the back of the fridge (not that I never clean there mind you - I wouldn't want you to think I was lazy or anything).

I never quite feel right about Easter. I love the hunting and their excited little faces, but I hate all that chocolate gluttony. And Monkey Man insists that the Easter Bunny leaves lots and lots of little Easter eggs all over our front garden. The Monkeys collect them in a communal basket and then they gobble them all day long 'til they feel a bit sick and/or start climbing up the walls. A couple of years ago the Easter Bunny must have had one too many asprins when out shopping because he not only left a bucket-load of little eggs but he also left a couple of whopping big rabbits. And now the Monkeys also expect something big every year.
A couple of days after Easter Sunday, we have another hunt with a few neighbours. It's a lovely little meet up in the park where the kids run wild hunting and the adults laze about catching up. Then we divvy up the loot and I start to feel anxious about even more chocolate that is being consumed. So for the rest of the week it's nothing but soups and fruit platters and veg, veg, veg.

But yesterday a half-eaten rabbit was shining at me from the fridge and I knew there was still a bag full of little eggs hidden up the back. I decided to use up that chocolate and the browning bananas in one hit. Naturally I wanted to blog about it ... only trouble is this blog is supposed to have recipes that are made with stuff I've grown. And chocolate easter eggs don't grow on trees. But after some consideration and searching for recipes I managed to sneak around that loophole. Banana Bread with Leftover Easter Eggs is made with lemon juice! And I have loads of lemons growing all year round on our two lemon trees.
 Now I must confess that I felt a tad uncomfortable as I was smashing up the eggs. I wasn't sure how well the monkeys would take to their chocolate stash being stolen. As I was making it I was rehearsing a little porky pie about the eggs being leftovers that had been given to me. I was feeling rather guilty about stealing their stash and then telling a porky. But then I remembered the whole easter chocolate bunny business is built around one big porky pie. And I decided a porky pie lie is OK if it's for a child's good. Fortunately, when the monkeys returned from school and smelt banana bread cooking they got so excited they didn't even ask where the chocolate chunky bits came from. And I doubt they will.

Banana Bread with Stolen Leftover Easter Eggs (and a bit of lemon juice)

• 3 ripe bananas
• juice of 1 lemon
• 2 cups SR flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 150g butter, softened
• 75g brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• leftover smashed up Easter eggs - as many as you have (see how many I used in the picture)

Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC. Mash bananas with the lemon juice. In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add eggs beating well after each one. In a separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder and then fold this into the egg mixture. Fold in the mashed bananas and the smashed chocolate. Pour into a greased baking loaf tin and cook for 1 hour.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nature Strip Garden Sculpture

We had a tree out front on our nature strip that died a few years ago. And Monkey Man had an idea to turn it into a garden sculpture.

First we chopped it down to a manageable level and used two big branches as an arbor in the back garden.

Then Angie the Chainsaw Chick came along and set to work with her chainsaw.
When it came to painting, she employed the monkeys to help.
And we had a few lovely weeks to admire our little bit of artwork. Evidently, someone in the neighbourhood did too because we kept finding cute little toadstools deposited secretly at nighttime by a guerilla knitter.
Then one Saturday night I heard a bit of a drunken hullaballoo out front. Which I ignored because we are on a thoroughfare to the station and I'm often hearing a drunken hullaballoo out the front. But in the morning we discovered our sculpture had been ripped apart! Half of it was missing - fortunately discovered and returned by a passer-by at the station. So for over a year it sat a maimed broken colourful stick.

Until last week when our plumber decided to fix it for us.
Yay! Happy dance.

If you'd like to see my favourite, naturestrip garden in our neighbourhood, check out this previous post.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Terrariums Part 2

I saw this idea while googling a few months ago and finally found some hanging glass containers to make my own. Trouble is Monkey Man keeps wacking his head and grumbling every time he goes out the back door so no doubt I'll need to do a re-locate.

They are air plants. They don't need soil. But they do need water. And not direct sunlight. So I thought this was the perfect spot until the head-thwacking business. That long dangly one is called Mister Whiskers and naturally I've forgotten the names of the other two. But if I'm lucky and don't manage to kill them they will grow beautiful flowers. They need a dunk in water a couple of times a week so I've hung them on little hooks. This way I don't need to get up on the ladder and can leave them in their glass containers to water.

Cool aren't they?

You can see my first terrarium attempt here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Aphids & Ladybirds

My eggplant bushes are being devoured by aphids. They are absolutely covered in them. Which is a bloody pity because I've only managed to harvest two eggplants and there are still flowers and growing fruit which I was hoping would eventually get big enough to cook up before the cold sets in.

Naturally when the aphids first appeared, I did my usual trick of completely ignoring them in the hope that things would fix themselves. Only to discover a week or so later that the aphids have been sucking their way through my crop and killing the plants off one by one. And they're moving on to my capsicum plants.
Now it may not just be aphids that are doing the damage because I do have some swarms of teeny white flying insects that have been hanging about my beans and have migrated to the eggplants too. I don't have a clue what they are but they don't seem to be up to mischief. So I've been ignoring them as well.

Fortunately, there are a few ladybirds there too. I spotted about eight while I was taking these snaps. Different sorts too - black ones with white spots and completely black ones with one yellow spot and your regular orange ones. I even spotted what looked to my untrained eye like a bit of ladybird hanky panky. Which pleased me immensely. But I reckon it'd take a swarm of ladybirds to make a dent on these aphids.
Ladybird Hanky-Panky

Now the eggplants and capsicums are at their end and I would probably have pulled them out to make way for some winter veggies anyway, but now I'm not sure what to do. I have thought about giving the aphids a squirt with a garlic solution or neem oil or something but I've heard that this would kill the ladybirds too. And who doesn't love a ladybird? It'd be nice to attract a few more to my garden - and a feed of aphids will surely do the trick. So I'm tempted to let the ladybirds feast and breed and see what happens. But I'm a bit frightened of all those aphids and their potential damage.

I even looked into buying some ladybirds and setting them free. That would be a lot of fun for me and the monkeys. But I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do. And it is autumn - soon those ladybirds will be going into hiding.

What do you experts in blogland advise?
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