Thursday, 28 August 2008

Flea Collars

My dear man asked me why I had a ready supply of vodka that I could use for the strawberry liqueur. Well, the answer was for herbal tinctures (although I mostly use brandy for those) and for flea collars. The thought struck me that others might like to know about them also, so here is the recipe.

For each collar:
  • 2 teaspoons vodka
  • 1 drop cedarwood essential oil
  • 1 drop lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop citronella essential oil
  • 1 drop thyme essential oil
  • oil from 4 garlic oil capsules
Blend together and allow the collar to soak in the solution. Lay the collar out to dry, before putting on your pet's neck.

The collar should be an absorbent one - I found some suede looking ones at the pet shop that seem to do the trick for the boys.

The recipe is modified very slightly from the one in The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood. The author says that the collar should be effective for about a month, but I've found that after a few treatments, the collar is effective for up to three months.

The cats seem not to mind this collar anywhere near as much as the commercial ones. They've been wearing these for about five years now and I've not seen a flea yet.

love and light

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Strawberry Liqueur

We picked up some strawberry "seconds" at the farmer's market last weekend and I thought I'd make a few pots of jam. Well, I didn't get a round tuit on the weekend, but the berries (what we hadn't eaten) made it to the pot early this evening.

The strawberries were in the pot, simmering away when I noticed there was a fair amount of liquid in the pot, even though I'd only added the juice of a couple of lemons. The evil plan was hatched (tee hee :)). If I only potted up the berries and some of the syrup, I could use the rest of the syrup for strawberry liqueur.

Quick trip to the liquor cabinet revealed a bottle and a little bit of vodka. Some quick calculations and 800ml 40% vodka + 500ml strawberry syrup = 1.3L strawberry liqueur at 25% alcohol. Should work.

Scurry back to the stove, skim off the fruit and some syrup - two pots of strawberry jam. With assistance from my dear one, we strained the syrup, mixed it with the vodka and bottled. Taste test (of course!) revealed a fruity drink, obviously quite alcoholic. Will taste sooo great this summer on ice with a sprig of mint!

Oh, and we are so having oat cakes for breakfast to check out the jam.

love and light

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Shredding and Milling

Inspired by the Crone's Mount Mulch, I decided to get the shredder out of the shed on the weekend and convert some prunings into mulch. Well, I ended up converting Mount Prunings to Mulch Molehill! It is absolutely amazing how much the pile shrinks when shredded.

On a totally unrelated note, I finally got back to milling some soap a little while ago and thought I'd share the results with you.

I know a lot of you are making basic soaps, but I'm not sure how many of you are milling your soap. Milling soap is when you grate up your basic cured soap and remelt it. You can then add all sorts of things and they don't react with the soap ingredients, so you don't lose the fragrances, colours, etc.

To mill soap, add 3 parts of water by weight to every 4 parts of grated soap, eg, to mill 600g basic soap, you add 450g water.

Slowly remelt it over a low heat, stirring occasionally but not too much or it will go frothy (if it does, you can always turn it into floating soap by giving it a good stir to incorporate lots of air).

When the soap is remelted, add whatever ingredients you like, eg, nut butters, pureed fruits, oatbran, honey, etc. Remove from the heat and stir gently until the soap stops shrinking and is relatively thick. Pour into moulds. Lightly tap moulds on the bench or table top to remove air pockets. Place in a warm spot. Remove from moulds in a day or two, then leave to dry for a couple of weeks before using. You can trim off any little extra bits if you like to neaten them up, but I don't usually bother.

Most authors recommend milling within a few weeks of making the basic soap. I've found, however, that if you are patient with the remelting process, that you can mill soap at any age. The older the soap, the drier it tends to be, so you may need to add a bit extra water, but it still seems to work. For example, the soap I used recently was actually about 8 or 9 years (yes, years!) old. Admittedly, there are some white parts in the finished soap where the base soap had not melted completely, but I think that just adds to the charm.

For moulds, I use whatever little containers I can get my paws on - generally the little plastic containers they put camembert in are a good size. You can also use milk cartons, then cut across to make soap slices.

Now, to satisfy your curiosity - the soaps are (clockwise, from top left) mandarin and passionfruit (pulped mandarin and passionfruit fragrance); pawpaw (pulped pawpaw skin); jasmine scented yoghurt soap (out of date berry yoghurt found in back of fridge); and shea nut butter and honeycomb (from bees, not confectionery).

Milling soap is such a fun thing to do from time to time that I recommend you try it! And the finished products make great gifts.

love and light

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Lunar Eclipse

While I was taking the cats for a walk early this morning (between about 5:45 and 6:15am), there was a partial lunar eclipse. The earth was blocking the top part of the full moon. This is roughly what we saw.

love and light

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Solar Rooftops

From the latest Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) bulletin:

Take action: 1,000,000 solar rooftops in 15 years!

ACF wants to see a million solar rooftops within fifteen years. To do this at least 1000 Australian households need to install solar panels every week. An excellent way to achieve this would be if households get paid for all the electricity their solar panels generate. Send an e-mail to Environment Minister Peter Garrett now, asking for the introduction of an effective national solar feed-in tariff by July 2009.

This sounds like a great opportunity to lobby for solar subsidy.

love and light

Monday, 11 August 2008


Lots of us try to be careful about what we put on our skin for many reasons - our health, the environment and our finances, to name a few. But what are we really using?

A couple of friends have recently emailed me about a cosmetics ingredients site that may interest you as well. There is an American site: which tells you the possible effects of ingredients in cosmetic products. Although the site is American, because a lot of cosmetics companies are multinationals, you'll find heaps of familiar brands.

I looked at a few items and it was scary what they contain. My favourite body butter (my main cosmetic indulgence), for example, contains ingredients linked to cancer, developmental / reproductive toxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, etc, etc. And it is one touted as being "natural"!

Well, it looks like it's back to the kitchen for me - I've never quite managed a moisturising cream that's completely satisfactory, but I'll give it another go.

love and light

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Are Animal Manures Organic?

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other night about organic gardening. He maintained that the animal manures we can purchase (eg, cow, sheep, poultry) are not truly organic products because of the hormones and/or antibiotics the animals are fed.

However, most advocates of domestic organic food production seem to use them, as I'm sure do most of us. The person I was talking to said that he considered the only "organic" fertilisers commonly available to home gardeners were fish emulsion, seaweed extract and home-made compost.

Granted, the fish emulsion and seaweed extract probably are "organic", but we know our oceans and waterways are often polluted and are therefore contaminants will most likely be present in the fish and the seaweed. As for compost, how many of us manage to have the only components in our compost fully "organic"? For example, I add shredded paper to mine, which I would almost guarantee is not totally "organic".

Which leads me to wonder about the time it might take for "non-organic" components to break down to the point of being relatively harmless. If this break down does occur within a reasonable period of time, maybe the manures we buy are OK, as they tend to be heat composted.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

love and light

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Another Fun Day in the Garden

Today was another productive day in the garden. I dug over a neglected area of the garden to plant my red pear and put the mattock through a dock. I decided to try to identify what sort of dock it was and I think it may be yellow dock or Rumex crispus, which is the medicinal dock. Before getting too excited, though, I'm going to confirm with my herb teacher tomorrow.

Yellow dock is great for a host of ailments such as liver congestion, gall stones, spleen and lymphatic conditions, psoriasis and constipation, as well as promoting the flow of bile and cleansing the blood. (As always, this information is intended for interest only and any treatment of these conditions should be done under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.)

Apart from the great find, I planted a few things today:
  • 20 Lily of the Valley pips
  • 40 Solomon's Seal tubers
  • the red pear
  • a female and a male kiwi fruit
It started to rain at that point, so I had to come inside, but the rain will water everything in nicely. Don't you just love the way that nature provides us with what we need?

love and light

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Delightful Day in the Garden

I cannot be cooped up for too long, so I've found the past couple of weeks or so very frustrating, as I've recuperated from my horrible lurgy. However, this morning dawned beautifully fine and feeling somewhat recovered, I headed for the garden.

The first delight that greeted me was a lovely buzz coming from our early flowering peach - about two dozen bees were already at work, drinking the lovely peach flower nectar. I tried to take a photo, but alas it didn't come out very well. Actually, this peach tree was one I bought from someone at the local farmers' markets. It was supposed to be a yellow fleshed bottling peach, but turned out to be a white fleshed eating peach. It has some of the best peaches I have ever eaten, so the mix up is long forgiven. Can't wait for the new crop.

Another delight was discovering some little waxy potatoes in an area I was preparing for kiwi fruit. I had planted potatoes in this area the summer before last and apparently, a few have continued to grow. They made a lovely warm potato salad for lunch, accompanied by fresh herbs, baby beets, carrots and winter lettuce, all from our garden - not bad for the middle of winter!

While I worked in the garden today, I was serenaded by a local family of magpies. The song from Australian magpies is indeed unique and is especially beautiful on a Sunday for some reason. I found a lovely fat scarab beetle larva while digging and threw it to one of the magpies who then watched me keenly for the rest of the day, awaiting further treats. No more fat grubs, unfortunately, but the family did come down and dine from our compost heap, as well as checking over my diggings.

During the day, I was also talking to my neighbour and saying that I wanted to get some bees. Apparently, he has had the same thoughts, so a hive in the back yard should not present any problems. I just have to source one now.

And at the end of this gorgeous day was a chat with my sister, a lovely hot shower and dinner with my darling man. Hope your day was just as great.

love and light

Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Joys of a Hot Shower and a New Desk

I stood under the shower late this afternoon and gave thanks to the sun for heating the water and thanks to our local authority for having dams that supply us with running water. How luxurious that shower felt! And how many people don't have that luxury?

The truth is that I have been a mad woman today, rearranging bookcases and other furniture about the house, all because I got a desk for my study so I don't have to take over the kitchen table any more. So I was tired and dusty and the shower went down a treat.

When I went looking for a desk the other day, I decided to check out the local classifieds first (always been a fan of second-hand items and op-shops). There were heaps of second-hand desks, many of which people were struggling to sell. I guess that people in Canberra generally just go out and buy things brand new. Anyway, I found the perfect desk in the next suburb for the bargain price of $60.

This got me to thinking about what will happen to all those other desks on the classifieds? Will they all find new homes? Will they eventually be dumped? How much are we, as a society, reusing items for which others no longer have a use and how much are we just going out and buying things new, just because we can? And what is this costing our planet?

I'm pleased with my desk. It meets all my needs and fits the space we have beautifully. The "desk miles" were not that many and we are using something that someone else no longer needed. It was a great purchase for us and also for our planet.

love and light