Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blogger Burnout

Lately, blog writing has become a task on my to do list. It used to motivate and satisfy me and make me smile. It's not doing that as much for me lately. And I can't help wondering if I might get more checked off my to do list if I spent less time sitting at the keyboard.

So I've decided its time to take a blog holiday.

Of course, I'll still be reading what's going on in your gardens and getting inspired and being reminding of the things I should be planting.

I hope I will be back... but I will let autumn pass first and then decide.

So I'll leave for now with a couple of snaps of the garden mid autumn. Weeds and mess and all.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Garden Gobbles

There's not much producing in the garden at the moment. Although I'm still getting Summer stuff - beans, chillis, basil. And I've got green capsicums. I wonder if they'll ever turn red? I really am not keen on green capsicum.

Anyway, today's garden gobbles is a bit lame I'm afraid. I sometimes make a vegetarian sausage stew - you know those veggie sausages you can buy in the supermarket? Well I let them simmer away with a tin of tomatoes and other veggies and serve it all with rice. Our whole family likes veggie sausage stew. Well the next day I ate the leftovers but I made it with some zing - chilli. And I bulked it up by chucking in a handful of yellow beans. So that's what I'm presenting for today's garden gobbles... leftovers. Hopefully next week I can manage something a bit more inspiring.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Aloe Vera & Other Air Improving Plants

aloe vera plant
Over the last couple of years I've been filling my house with plants. And attempting to keep them all alive. Not just 'cos they look good, but also because it's been proven that some plants actually improve the air.  A NASA study found that some plants remove as much as 87% of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours.

Plants can remove the chemicals:
Trichloroethylene (TCE) which is considered a potent liver carcinogen found in such things as inks, paints and glues.
Benzene an eye and skin irritant which can be found in, for example, paints, plastics, and rubber.
Formaldehyde which is found all over the place in the home. It is used in particle board and pressed wood products, paper products, cleaning products, carpets and cooking fuels like natural gas. Formaldehyde is an irritant which in high exposure can cause headaches. Asthma has been linked to formaldehyde exposure.

There was a study of plants in an office building in India that found the incidence of eye irritation reduced by 52%, lower respiratory symptoms by 34%, headaches by 24%, upper respiratory symptoms by 20%, lung impairment by 10-12% and Asthma by 9%. You can read about that here.

A list of air filtering plants can be found here. They include: Mother-in-Laws Tongue, Peace Lily, Heart-Leaf Philodendron, Bamboo Palm and Spider Plant.
Mother-in-Law's Tongue & Peace Lily
Anyway, I have plants in my lounge and kitchen and bathroom. All over the place in fact. But not in my bedroom. I did initially have a couple of beauties in there. Until I was reminded on this very blog by something I think I learned in high school. That plants do something tricky at night time - photosynthesis shuts down and they produce carbon dioxide just like us. So it's probably not a good idea to have them in your bedroom.

Then, last week I read that aloe vera plants are a bit different to others in that they do produce oxygen at night ... and so do Mother-in-Laws Tongue and cactus.

This news excited me greatly because I just happened to have an aloe vera plant in a pot outside that has been multiplying and is looking rather healthy. So I thought I'd clean up the pot and pop it beside my bed.

And that very night I jumped into bed and started to bore Monkey Man with my limited scientific knowledge about plants and how I was sure I could already breathe easier in this room. And I instructed Monkey Man to suck up that fresh super-oxygenated air that was being produced by the magic of aloe vera. And then I looked at my lovely, oxygenating aloe vera plant and noticed something that shut me up rather quickly. Three fat, slimy slugs and a snail were slithering their way all over my plant, only a few centimetres from my face.

It seems that those stupid self-watering pots with the little hole at the bottom probably ought not to be put outside and then brought back in a few months later. They provide lovely daytime hidey holes for creatures.  Icky creatures that do not belong in the bedroom. So after begging Monkey Man to dispose of the slugs, I stuffed the hole with tissues and tried not to think of the possibility of red back spiders creeping out of the plant hole and into my bed while I slept a sound sleep sucking up that super fresh air.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Garden Gobbles - Basil Pesto

Monday, April 15, 2013


Note to self: Start Labelling.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a frenzy of garden activity - planting seeds all over the place, pulling out weeds, digging up new beds, re-potting pots and laying out mulch. And now I am starting to reap the rewards with little seedlings popping up everywhere. Problem is I can't quite remember what everything is. I know I planted peas and snow peas in front of all the trellises. But whether these are snow peas or snap peas or ordinary peas I couldn't say.
 And I know I planted carrot seeds in this whopping big basket. But I also planted something else in there... dill? coriander? And I'm not sure if those seedlings are carrot or some other sort of herb?
And I know for sure that this is where I planted broad beans. But what on earth possessed me to plant them in rows? I never plant in rows. I really confused myself when they started popping up in such an orderly fashion. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Garden Gobbles - Rosemary Oat Biscuits

Rosemary Oat Biscuits
The other week I disclosed that I was on weight watchers. Well, today's Garden Gobbles features a weight watchers recipe using rosemary from the garden. I am always looking for a savoury snack that will hit the spot in the afternoon. I often find myself eating those rice crackers that are loaded with salt. And I know they're not good for me. I just don't usually get around to baking savoury snacks.

Anyway, I came across this recipe and thought I'd give it a go. Even though it did look rather bland. And a bit wholesome-hippy. It tasted however, surprisingly good to me. Especially with a smidge of low fat feta. And it filled me up. And it was only one weight watchers pro point per bikkie.

Rosemary Oat Biscuits

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch bicarb soda
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1tbs olive oil
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 140C . Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Combine oats, salt, bicarb and rosemary in a bowl. Mix and add black pepper.
Make a well and add the oil and 1/3 cup hot water. Using wet hands mix it up and squish it together until it makes a ball. Turn it onto a baking sheet and squash it til it's about 7mm thick.  Using a 6cm round cutter, cut rounds from the dough. Squish together the scraps and repeat to make 12 biscuits. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The recipe says bake til they are crisp and golden... I don't reckon these biscuits are ever going golden. But I was happy with chewy and holding together.

What have you been cooking from the garden?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Five Broody Chooks

Last week every single one of my chooks was broody.  Three of them squished into the two nesting boxes and two sitting nearby doing nothing all day and all night. Silkies I'm afraid are notorious for going broody. But usually I have one sitting about wanting to be a mum not all five. 

Anyway, I've heard all about cures for broodiness but I tend to just let them be. I've found that eventually they get bored and come out to play. But after the fourth day I got fed up with them. So I moved their food and drink outside, kicked them out of the coop and locked the door. Boy did they get cross.

There was a fair bit of bokking and pacing and looking rather put out. And then they got a bit cranky with each other. If Golden Girl got too close to Puff she'd get a peck and a chase about. And then Fluff wanted a bit of the action and she started to squawk and chase and peck Beverley. But I didn't have too much sympathy for them considering they'd forced me to go buy a dozen eggs down the shops. And I kept them locked out of their coop for the entire day.

But it worked.

At least for three of them.

The next day Fluff, Puff and Beverley decided it was more fun outside scratching about. So now I only have two broody chooks. Still no eggs but at least three of them are seeing some daylight.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Garden Gobbles - Spaghetti Squash Fritters

This week I used the last of the spaghetti squash. Sounds impressive doesn't it? Like I had oodles and oodles of spaghetti squash just hanging off the fence over summer. Nope. Actually I had just the two.

Anyway, after the first one I wasn't all that impressed with the flavour. I'm not a squash sort of girl. Nevertheless I reckon I'll be growing it again next year. 'Cos it was easy and filling and I've collected the seeds. So I let the last of the squash hang about on the trellis for a few weeks while I figured out something appetising to do with it. I reckon that anything tastes good fried. (I would think that at the moment while I'm dieting!) And my little monkeys love anything squished into a circular shape, fried and called a pancake. So I made these fritters. But I called them pancakes when I presented them. I think if I was doing them again I would add a bit of flour (maybe pea flour or gram flour) to make them a bit more solid. You need to be careful with these ones and not fiddle about with them in the pan - only flip them when they're brown or they'll break.

Spaghetti Squash Fritters

• 1 spaghetti squash
• 100g ricotta cheese
• 2 eggs
• a bunch of herbs from the garden
• oil for frying

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Bake face down on a tray in the oven for about 45 minutes.
When cooked, scoop out the spaghetti using a fork and plonk it in a bowl. Add to the bowl the herbs, ricotta cheese, eggs and a bit of salt and pepper and mix it all up.
Heat a fair bit of oil in a fry pan. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan. When they are golden on one side carefully flip them over (watch out they are fragile).
Drain on paper towel and serve with salad.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Solar Pond Pumps?

It's been a frenzy of gardening this Easter at my place. Well, a frenzy in my terms. Probably actually a slow sort of dig, dig, ponder, plant, pick out a weed, dig, contemplate...

Anyway, the first garden job I got cracking on was the pond. Remember how ugly it looked a few weeks ago? I dug up all the weeds - well most of the weeds and then they grew back again! And I pulled out all the cack that was growing on the bottom of the pond and I contemplated for a few days. Then I filled it up with water and contemplated some more. But the next day the water level in that pond was suspiciously low. And the next day I realised that I did indeed have a slow leak. Shouldn't have surprised me seeing as it has been sitting there for a couple of years and was made with plastic liner and there are rocks and things all about.

Problem was that after all that contemplation, I had set my heart on a pond and was determined to make it work. So I pulled the lot out went and purchased a pre-fab little pond from the local big barn. And plonked it in.
I also created a little bog garden with the kids' old wheelbarrow and some carnivorous plants. I love carnivorous plants and have a little jungle of them on my kitchen windowsill but I've never tried them outside so I do hope this one is successful.
Now I have been contemplating and googling a bit more. I haven't yet purchased the fish (goldfish this time) because everywhere I've been reading says that fish need pumps and filters in their ponds. And I am lazy and not inclined to do anything tricky and I especially don't want to waste electricity. I do have a couple of oxygenating plants in there but I don't think that will be enough. So I thought I might go for a solar pump. But when I went and priced one from the local big barn I nearly fainted on the spot. And then the helpful assistant at the local big barn told me that solar pumps are unreliable. 

I'm pretty sure that pond has only a few more days looking this good and will then turn a slimy green and become a nursery for baby mozzies. So what should I do? There are little solar pumps for a reasonable price on ebay. Whether they would do a good enough job of oxygenating the water and keep fish alive I'm not too sure. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Garden Gobbles - Salad Dressing & Weight Watching

So I have managed to gain on an additional 10kgs over the past year. I do love my food. I realised a couple of weeks ago that it was time to get serious about getting it back off. I did manage to lose a lot of weight on weight watchers a few years ago. And I kept it off for about 3 years which I will pat myself on the back for. But I am sick of feeling cranky with myself lately for overeating. So I'm back to tracking my points and throwing my money at the massive money making machine that is weight watchers.

I resent some things about weight watchers. They change their system every few years even when it worked perfectly well before. And it's obvious to me that they do that because they make oodles of money when they change things around because people purchase all their new cookbooks and products which have the new points system in them. And although I know those meetings work I really have to block my ears and take deep breaths when the leader tries to flog the latest weight watchers chocolate bar or whatever. Those products may not put much weight on but they are full of crappy chemicals and non nutritious stuff. I hate listening to advertisements which is why I mostly watch ABC TV. Anyway, that said. I know that weight watchers does work and that basically they do promote eating nutritious food in moderation and exercising more.

So my garden gobbles this week is a simple salad dressing. A bit of zing in a salad makes everything good. And a salad is even better with some protein like a little bit of crumbled feta or some lentils. I've been eating a lot of salads lately and I do love this dressing which if you happen to be at all interested in weight watchers is only 2 points on their new pro points system.

Salad Dressing for One:
1/2 red chilli from the garden (or more if your tongue likes more zing)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice & some zest
1 tbs chopped herbs from the garden (I used parsley this time).
a pinch of salt

Mix up your salad dressing, drizzle it over the salad in a big bowl and then use your hands to mix it all through.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Snapshots from the Melbourne Garden & Flower Show

Last week I went to the Melbourne International Garden & Flower Show.  Here are a few snaps of things that inspired me.

Now that is a hanging basket. I never think to fill a hanging basket with loads of different flowers. Mine start off good and then develop to a few half dead sticks. 
One day, maybe when I'm a nana, I will learn to grow orchids.

This is something I am aspiring to - loads of flowers. I especially love the cone flowers.
I wouldn't actually like this in my garden but it is kinda cool.

I really like this upcycling garden idea.

And this one. We have an old loo that I've been thinking of doing a bit of mosaic on and using as a feature in the garden.
This was a whole bunch of plastic drink bottles that had been filled with a little coloured water. If it had been a sunny day it would have been making a bunch of lovely reflected colours everywhere. And I suppose it'd be quite warm as well as colourful in this sitting spot. But I couldn't stand to look at those horrid plastic bottles in a garden.
I'd love a pergola at our place. And I love the garden shelves here with plants on them. And the lights. Of course we'll never manage anything nearly as fancy at our place but it's nice to dream.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pigeon Poop & Wise Words from Jackie French

Jackie French - Soil Food
I've been re-reading this book by Jackie French that I received last year (as a gift when I ordered a bunch of seeds from Green Harvest). I must say I was a bit under-whelmed when I opened my seed parcel and saw the free gift. Couldn't someone have prettied up that cover? So brown and ... dirty. And soil. That doesn't really sound like a good read.

But anyway I was so completely wrong.  This is one of the greatest gardening books I've clapped eyes on. Loads of inspiring soil improving ideas. Probably I'll divulge a few words of wisdom from Jackie in the future, but today I thought I'd share just one.

Make friends with the birds in the garden and encourage them in. They poo - and if you've ever owned a budgie you'll know that even little birds poo quite a lot. Provide water and perches and shelter in your garden for the wild birds.  'Cos the more wild birds, the more free fertiliser.

After reading this book I am never looking at a bird in the garden the same way. My Monkey Man gets very annoyed by the little miner birds that mess up his front garden and toss twigs all over the path. Goodness knows why because we have the messiest, most jungle-like front garden in the entire suburb. You can't walk down our front path without tripping over a loose brick or getting poked in the eye by a wayward branch. And if you do manage to get to the front door there's a whole bunch of boxes still waiting to fit into the recycling bin and an umbrella that someone was supposed to collect a month ago and some political posters that need to be returned to political offices... and a whole big bloody mess. But Monkey Man only seems to notice the twigs and leaves the miner birds toss on his path.

Anyway,  I must admit it doesn't make my heart sing to see birds feasting on my fig tree. Or sneaking into the chook shed to steal their food. But I've changed my way of thinking after reading Jackie's book. And since doing so I've started making more watering spots for them.
Like this little old fry pan in a hanging basket where I very often see a pretty bird with a yellow breast come and have a drink. And probably a poop.

And I've been looking with new eyes at all this pigeon poop under the railway overpass that we walk along on the way home from school. I've been thinking that maybe I will be a little bit kooky and sneak out to that underpass with a bucket. And a shovel. At some time when nobody's about. And I will scoop up all that free pigeon poop to deposit on my garden.
free fertiliser - pigeon poop under a bridge

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Garden Gobbles - A filling salad

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Garden Gobbles

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Whitefly Success

Image from here
Do you remember in late Spring when I was lamenting my swarms of whitefly? Well I actually had completely forgotten all about the whitefly problem until I was reading with amusement and complete agreement Liz from Suburban Tomato's post on the worst things about Summer.

I had forgotten all about those pesky little flies because I somehow managed to get rid of them and had moved on to whining about other things - the heat and the weeds and the mess and the mice. I forgot that I no longer had a whitefly problem.

In late November I resorted to vacuuming the garden in a crazy attempt to be rid of those pesky little flies. You may think I am a bit kooky but I truly didn't think up this idea myself. I'd read about it. From reputable sources including wikipedia. But I only vacuumed a couple of times because as you no doubt know, I am lazy. And I hardly even get around to vacuuming my house let alone starting up on the garden. So I can't attribute my outdoor housekeeping to the whitefly elimination success.

We have been having a very hot summer in Melbourne. In fact it is the hottest on record so it is possible that my garden is less lush and less attractive to sap sucking whitefly and this has helped to eliminate them.

But my whitefly disappeared in late December before it started to get too stinky hot. Nope, I think the success was due to the three sprayings I carried out. Now I am not a fan of using spray concoctions. I garden organically. I am too lazy to mix up chilli and garlic and soap sprays. I squash snails and chuck green caterpillars to the chooks. But I did go out and buy some eco oil and neem oil. And I sprayed once with eco oil.  A few days later I did the neem oil and a week later I did the eco oil again. And then I think it was just about crazy Christmas time and I went on a little holiday and forgot all about it.

And now I realise that I haven't seen whitefly since then.

So the moral to this story - it's a whole lot easier to find things going wrong and to whine about them and if you keep it up you will forget to look at all the things going right. Aah yeah I'm an expert whinger.

Things going right in the garden...
We are getting a couple of eggs a day from the fuzzy chooks

The herb spiral is still alive and filling out

I have managed to find a good spot for clematis and haven't yet killed it

I have grown my first ever spaghetti squash

Last year's flower has self seeded in the watering can

And I am getting self seeded silverbeet too

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Breakfast Garden Gobbles

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bring Back the Pond?

Time for a public shaming. I have let my pond die.
Shame pic 1 - inside the pond. Dead.

Shame pic 2 - view from the window with discarded chook feeder, toppled garden ornament and dead sunflowers up front
Shame pic 3 - view from above
Look at it. It's been in this dreadful state all summer. Every plant dead and not a drop of water left.

We built this pond back in November 2010. Here's a littler Littlest Monkey releasing a couple of Murray Darling Rainbow fish. Oh happy days. Sigh.
The pond in its early heyday
Well I never saw those fish again. Those native fish were teeny and silver and despite peering at the pond til I was cross eyed I never saw them again. I couldn't say how long they survived but they are certainly not swimming about in that dead hole now. And the whole reason I hunted about for those teeny silver native fish was to keep down the mozzies and attract frogs. Well we never got frogs either. What we did get was a slimy pond that needed constant topping up and became strangled with duckweed.

Sigh. I am a pond keeping failure. Not only have I allowed everything to die in the pond, I have also allowed weeds to grow up all around it. And there is some rotten wandering jew that is starting to wander out of control and cause Wokee the puppy to get all scratchy and itchy. But mostly to my annoyance it is a bloody eyesore and a reminder of my failure right out the back window.

Anyway, I'll stop my whining and let you know that I have decided to clean up that area this week. But I'm just not sure about the pond. Should I give it another go? I love the idea of a pond. I think water in the garden is good for the environment and I know it attracts birds and bugs and dragon flies and all that. But I'm not sure I can be trusted to make it work.

Part of the trouble is this pond is located in a bit of a tricky spot. Lots of shade in winter but quite a bit of sun in summer - which is not good 'cos the sun creates algae. It's also in a spot that in my fantasy ideal garden brain I can imagine a pizza oven... but that isn't going to happen in the near future. I could do a better job with some shading plants I suppose. I also worry about all that water that needs to be used to keep topping that little pond up. And I don't want to spend a lot of money to make a pond work. I won't use electricity, but am not averse to getting a little solar powered pump to aerate the water. And should I risk the lives of some harmless fishies again? Ponds without filters probably do need fish to keep the thing working. Ah decisions. Maybe I should just ditch the whole thing and pop in some plants.

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