Thursday, 5 November 2009

Of Things Leguminous

Out in the garden last weekend, I took a few snaps of our current leguminous crops.

The Golden Podded Peas are indeed golden. They are quite tasty when young and can be eaten whole like snow peas. As they get older, however, they tend to get a bit starchy and so I'll be leaving these to dry. The flowers are a lovely purple colour, so they are a very pretty pea.

The chick peas are flowering .....

And the first few pods are appearing ...

The broad beans, looking luscious, just before they were strip picked and cleared to make room for some new veges.

Legumes are such a good food for us. Just as they prepare the soil to support good growth, so do they help cleanse and prepare our bodies for good health.

Beans are the same shape as our lymph nodes, spleens and kidneys and they help keep these healthy.

Beans love to grow in amongst corn. Beans and corn together provide all the amino acids we need - that is, they are a perfect protein.

Alfalfa is also a legume and it is a fantastic lymphatic cleanser and body alkaliser.

All of these are good reasons to include legumes in your diet, but they are also very yummy and children just love to pick and munch them. Enjoy!

love and light

Monday, 2 November 2009

Busy and Exciting Times

I can't believe it's over two weeks since I posted anything. Have been busy with assignments, work, the garden - just the usual. We've got about three and a half weeks to go now and study will be over for another year, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time.

But there have been a few exciting happenings and a bit of progress in the garden while I've been silent ...

The large bed in the front garden has been completely renovated, with weeds removed and new plants inserted, its also been fed and mulched, and an arch has appeared to train roses on one side and a jasmine and gelsemium on the other. This bed is about 12 or so square metres and it was rather neglected, so it was quite a job.

I've managed to find the time to make some more mint jelly and start a batch of elderflower champagne ... recipes coming soon.

We've started dismantling one of the raised garden beds in preparation for conversion to a wicking bed. This particular bed has a slight problem with couch grass, so we've been sieving all the soil. Ugh!

A couple of weeks ago, I was awarded a prize for "Excellence in herbal medicine" where I study. I was surprised, but very happy, especially since it came with a voucher for some herbal extracts from my favourite herbal company. :)

And best of all, on Saturday we picked up a new nucleus colony and so now we have two hives in the garden. The new bees seem to be settling in well. And next year we can probably split the older hive, so we'll have a total of three hives. Haven't harvested any honey yet; just letting the hives get stronger for now.

Now I'm off to have a look at what you've all been up to ....

love and light

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hugh, Chickens and Mint Jelly

I've become a bit of a fan lately of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage. The ABC has been showing the River Cottage Spring series and starting next week will show River Cottage Autumn. Top viewing, if you have the time on a Wednesday evening ...

Today I ordered the cookbook, which apparently has been around for some time; I'm just a bit slow catching on to some of these things ...

Last night, they had a session on the difference between organic, free range chickens and massed produced chickens. A British professor has been conducting research into their nutrient value.

Here's some chicken factoids:

  • Compared to the chicken available to consumers 50 years ago, today's mass produced chicken has more fat and is no longer the lean option many people think it is - 12.9% fat comes to mind, but I didn't write it down, so I could have it wrong.

  • Chicken used to be considered a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids - essential for good brain function, lowering high-density cholesterol, reducing inflammation, etc, etc. Modern mass-produced chicken has very little Omega 3. In addition to the added fat, it seems modern mass-produced chicken is not at all good for our arteries.

  • Corn-fed chicken did not fair much better than the mass-produced stuff, but it did have slightly more Omega 3, although this was accompanied by extra fat.

  • The supermarket purchased organic, free range chicken tested had more than 10 times the Omega 3 fats, was leaner, older and had more flavour.

So, if you weren't eating organic, free range chicken before reading this, you might like to reconsider. Yes, it's more expensive, but what price the health of your family?

So, to the mint jelly .....

We had a minor culinary crisis in our house the other day when we realised that we were out of mint jelly. I mean totally out, not even a bottle in the cupboard, a most unusual event in our household. So, my darling man went to the shop and bought some.

I have not eaten shop-bought mint jelly since I don't remember when. I have obviously been very spoilt. The shop bought stuff was not only coloured green, it tasted disgusting - something akin to a bad tube of toothpaste. Ugh!!!! Can't wait for the mint to be big enough to pick. Mint jelly making is definitely on my culinary horizon in the near future.

love and light

Monday, 12 October 2009

Passionfruit Butter Recipe

This one's for Sage...

Passionfruit Butter
Juice of 8 oranges
Juice of 3 lemons
Passionfruit pulp - 340g
6 cups sugar (about 1.5kg)
12 eggs
350g butter

Put it all in a small boiler with a heavy base. Heat while stirring until it simmers and thickens. If it's not thick enough, you can add 1 tablespoon of cornflour that has been dissolved in a little water.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. Makes about 6 x 500g jars.

love and light

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Natural Woman Network and Rad Pads

A friend of mine has recently become the Canberra facilitator for the Natural Woman Network ( One of the roles of the Natural Woman Network is to provide a vehicle for the spread of information about women’s and family health and sustainable living.

One of the products the Natural Woman Network promotes is Rad Pads, which are reusable cloth menstrual pads. Here is a link to the website

For those of you in Canberra, Cathy will be at the next Tuggeranong Homestead Markets on Sunday 11 October (9am – 2pm) with a stock of Rad Pads for sale, along with other information about the Natural Woman Network. She will also have samples of the Rasasara ayurvedic skin foods.

You can also arrange to have a gathering at your place where Cathy can bring samples of Rad Pads and show you the Rasasara skin foods and Chi cleaning cloths. If you are interested, contact Cathy on

love and light

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Buying Local and Loving It

One of the benefits of buying local produce is that you're never quite sure beforehand about what might happen in your kitchen that week. It keeps things from being routine and boring and surely that's a good thing!

Yesterday morning, my darling man and I went to the local Farmer's Markets, which set off a chain of culinary events ....

Finding some beautiful strawberries at good prices not only meant fresh strawbs to eat (yum!), but four pots of strawberry jam, which should last us several months.

Purchasing fresh, sweet, juicy oranges gave rise to me juicing the old ones and cooking up six pots of passionfruit butter, something nearly-teen-boy loves on hot oat cakes. The recipe also used a dozen fresh local hens' eggs.

Duck eggs reminded me of the moist coconut cake that a neighbour used to make from my brother's spare duck eggs when we were teenagers, so of course, that had to be made as well.

Fresh fennel, artichokes and sweet potatoes were roasted and added to fresh fish to produce a lovely meal.

And another meal of a thick vegetable soup was graced by the addition of locally produced chorizo sausages sliced on top (which, incidentally, gave off no fat while cooking and tasted amazing) and slices of toasted gluten free Crunch bread (a seedy concoction held together with a bit of gluten free flour).

OK, some of the supplemental ingredients were not local, but the majority of ingredients were. My point is that by shopping this way, you eat with the seasons, stock the cupboard with the seasons, and generally eat much tastier and healthier food (well, except maybe for the added sugar.... ;)).

I hadn't planned on making jam or a cake this weekend, but it sure was fun. And the fresh produce - simply delicious!

love and light

Thursday, 1 October 2009

First Asparagus of the Season

Last night we had the first of our asparagus for the season - three fat purple stalks. Yummy!

This is a photo from last year, but hopefully we'll be getting this much again soon.

Just love asparagus!

And did you know that asparagus is a source of the trace mineral chromium? Chromium helps to balance our blood glucose levels, as well as helping to reduce our cravings for evil sugar.

Just love asparagus!

love and light

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Real Reason the Chicken Crossed the Road

At last, an answer to that burning question.....

Just had to share this one with you .... apologies to any vegetarians ...

love and light

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Ah, Spring!

Outside in the early morning

The others still tucked up in bed

Picking lettuce and rocket for our lunches

My breath of fresh air before the busy week begins.

The kale, which has fed us so beautifully over winter

Is heading upwards now, soon to flower

To provide food for the bees.

The first couple of broad beans

Not enough for a meal

But a contribution to a stir fry.

Breathe in deeply, feeling the cool air rush into lungs

Too long kept in the stuffy inside air

There's nothing like the clean fragrant air of spring

With promises of all that is to come.

Ah, Spring!

love and light

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tomatoes and Basil

You know the warmer weather is approaching when you start planting your tomato seeds. Here in Canberra, we have to start our tomatoes under cover, transplanting out after the last frost in late October or early November.

So today I put some seeds in pots for both tomatoes and basil (the two just have to go together!). I've recorded below the characteristics of the tomatoes, as best I know them from seed packets and other information. I'm going to see how the crop goes and compare it to the information supplied. Hopefully, we'll have lots of salad and cooking/bottling/paste/sauce tomatoes this season. I'm going to rely on self-seeding for the cherry tomatoes and yellow egg tomatoes...

The basil varieties I planted are: Lettuce leaf; Small leaf, ball-shaped; Classic Italian; Holy Basil and Thai Basil.

I'll keep you posted on their progress over summer.

love and light

To Be Fifteen Again!

Scene at the breakfast table ...

Dad: "Julia Gillard was impressive last night on Smarter Than a Fifth Grader."

TeenGirl (with a roll of her eyes and that tone): "She is the education minister, Dad!"

Had to stop myself rolling around laughing (no offence, Julia)! Oh, to be fifteen again and know everything.

love and light

Saturday, 5 September 2009

I Love Soapnuts!

After seeing Molly's post on soapnuts, I decided to buy some - I got mine from Eaternal. The service was terrific and the soapnuts arrived in a couple of days after ordering.

Today I did my first big wash with the soapnuts and they are absolutely fabulous! Everything came out clean and bright and the wash water went out on to the garden. I did my usual trick of saving and re-using the "suds", which further reduced the amount of water needed.

This morning we also worked out a plan to convert our raised garden beds into wicking beds, so hopefully we'll start work on that next weekend. By using the washing water to recharge the wicking beds each week, we're sure to be saving on water this summer.

Out in the garden today, I completely weeded my long herb bed and planted some of the new arrivals. Others are inside awaiting the last frost. I'll post some pictures when they grow up a bit; at the moment, it is hard to distinguish the herbs from lucerne mulch!

While weeding the bed, I also found a couple of parsnips missed last autmun. No problem, they'll make a great addition to the roast vegies we're having for dinner tonight :).

Talking to my neighbour this morning, who was also out in his vegie patch, I was delighted to hear that he had a better than usual crop of pumpkins last autumn, which he attributed to having the bees nearby. I too had noticed an increase in production, but it's really nice to have it confirmed. Our dear bee friends are proving to be very popular. Can't wait to get more.

love and light

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Herbs and Seeds are Here!

We arrived home from the food co-op* this evening to find a fruit box full of plants awaiting us at the front door - it was my first herb order from All Rare Herbs.

Everything arrived in good condition and was solidly packed so that nothing had spilt or been damaged.

Included in the order were:
Golden Alpine Strawberry
Ammi visagna (seeds)
American Wild Yam
Self Heal
Sweet Annie
Woad (I'm dyeing to try this when it grows up! :))
American Arnica

Also this week, my first seed order from The Italian Gardener turned up. Everything was well packed and the photos on the packets have me drooling and keen to get growing, even though some of them will have to be raised under cover to protect them from any late frosts.

I'm in plantaholic heaven and there's not much chance of anyone keeping me out of the garden this weekend....

.... although, I must confess that I'm going to visit the bee man on Saturday morning to get a spare hive box, just in case the bees decide to swarm in the next few weeks. Also, I'm going to check out about getting another nucleus hive and am keen to get a proper protective bee suit (my white pyjama pants aren't really that suitable LOL!).

I'm also toying with the idea of a smoker, but it seems a bit cruel to smoke the bees and so far they've been pretty mild-mannered. Has anyone got any experience with this? I'd love some thoughts on the practicality and ethics of smoking the bees.

*The food co-op we go to is the ANU Food Co-op. For anyone living in Canberra interested in organic food, with deliveries of fresh produce twice a week, I highly recommend it. They also have a wide range of bulk flours, grains, cereals, dried fruits, nuts, fair trade chocolate, eggs, milks, breads and grocery items. You take your own containers and bags and so help to reduce the wastage of excess packaging associated with our food. There are discounts for members and workers, which make the products very affordable.

love and light

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Food Forest Fun

This morning, when I should have been finishing my presentation for tomorrow morning's class, I escaped into the garden. It was simply too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside staring at a computer screen.
And there was the rest of the strawberries to plant. These runners have been languishing in a dilute solution of seaweed extract for about six weeks now. They've been outside under the mega kale leaves, so they've been aclimatised. They've survived remarkably well and are now happily nestled in the beginnings of our food forest.

I planted and mulched to the accompaniment of bees buzzing, blue wrens singing and magpies carolling. It was simply divine.

So here's a couple more pictures of our fledgling food forest. The stepping stones are four pavers placed closely enough so that we don't have to stand on any plants. But in between the trees and the pavers will be solidly planted.
I've sprinkled lemon balm and borage seeds in between the strawberry runners. These will provide food for the bees, as well as herbs for me.

Elsewhere in the garden, the rocket, the broccoli and some Chinese cabbages are in flower, adding a little variety to the bees' current feast on plum, nectarine and peach blossom.

love and light

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs

Hello. My name is naturewitch and I am a plantaholic. I feed my obsession in many ways - visiting nurseries (when I have the time and the transport), reading about plants, or buying them online.

I have just discovered a new place to buy plants and they are ones especially dear to my heart - herbs. All Rare Herbs has an amazing collection of herbs, herb seeds and dried herbs for sale. They have specials each month - to tempt you further - and are lovely to deal with. I have placed my first order this week and eagerly await its arrival. I'll let you know when it arrives.

love and light

Monday, 24 August 2009

Microclimate Gardening and Food Forests

After last year's hot summer, I've decided to take a different approach this year - microclimate gardening.

The raised beds in our garden are made from Besser blocks, which is great for winter vegies as they retain the heat. However, they can be a bit warm in summer (last year I had to put this canopy up to raise the carrots), so this year they are going to host all of the heat-loving vegies, such as corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, melons, eggplants, etc.

The less heat-tolerant vegies, such as the leafy greens and root vegies, are going to be planted under and between the fruit trees. They'll still get enough light, but they'll also get protection from the hot midday sun; in other words, it will be the start of a food forest.

And I saw a neat idea on Gardening Australia the other day - pots with frames in them for growing Ceylon Spinach or Malabar Greens. These could be really useful to move around the garden to act as temporary shades and I'm also thinking of other plants we could grow in these pots.

I've moved the Queensland arrowroot from the garden into a big black bin under the eaves and it's put its first couple of leaves up already, about 2 months or so ahead of usual. I'm going to try this technique for also growing sweet potatoes and chokoes, so will tell how that goes later in the season.

We've worked out a site for a water tank to collect the rainfall from the roof and have finally agreed a site for the chook pen. It will mean moving the current compost heap, but that's OK with me. I'm also thinking about establishing a pond/bog area to house plants like water chestnuts (currently in buckets) and cranberries (currently in the bath tub); don't know if we'll get to it this year, but it's in the plan!

I lost a lot of time in the garden this winter due to illness and busy-ness, so I'm a little behind the eight ball. But on the weekend I got out in the garden and started weeding, feeding, fertilising (don't you just love chook poo!), planting and mulching under the fruit trees - twenty strawberry runners in so far. Haven't taken a photo yet, but will when I get a bit more done - hopefully next weekend (depending on the weather).

And last, but certainly not least, the bees have survived the winter (I was worried we might lose them when it was very cold and wet for a while) and we're thinking of putting in another hive. It is so terrific to see them around the garden and I'm planting up some extra herbs and flowers just for them.

love and light

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Italian Vegetable Seed

Some women have shoe fetishes; I must admit to seed, book and craft fetishes. But the one I write of here is unashamedly seeds.

Last week at work, one of my colleagues said that she'd managed to obtain some Italian vegetable seeds for her father (who is Italian). Of course, at lunchtime, I simply had to investigate! I happily returned with no less than eight packets of Italian vegetable seeds and a website to look at -

I am absolutely thrilled with this find as they have seed available that I've not seen in any other Australian seed companies. They also carry some organic seed stock.

Here's a picture of one of their tomatoes which I will try to grow this year. It is supposed to yield 400g fruit, which are very fleshy, with very few seeds.

So, if you share my addiction to trying out different varieties, have a look at what they have to offer.

Happy gardening!

love and light

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Hello World

No, I haven't fallen off the planet; just been busy with life.

After dealing with the end of semester rush with study, got a dreadful lurgy - don't worry, haven't started oinking nor felt like rolling around in mud ;)

Then there was the end of financial year rush at work . . .

And my partner's teenage daughter has moved in with us, so we've had to do things around that, including settling her into a new school.

All is good and hope to be back more regularly in blogland real soon.

love and light

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Flu and All That Jazz

There's been plenty in the media about the latest potential influenza pandemic. the question is: do we need to be concerned?

According to Dr Mercola, probably not. His current influenza article is a little long to read, but quite informative and entertaining. I recommend it.

To stay well during the flu season, he recommends that we:
* keep up our vitamin D levels
* avoid sugar and processed foods
* get good rest each day
* exercise
* have plenty of omega-3s (eg, fish oil) and avoid trans fats
* wash our hands
* eat garlic regularly
* avoid hospitals and vaccines

Sounds like a pretty good list to me. To this I would like to add:

* drink a cup of thyme tea first thing each morning, preferably with one teaspoon of manuka honey and juice of half a lemon (unless you are allergic to thyme). The thyme boosts your immune system and helps prevent you succumbing to viruses. The manuka honey also contains immune-enhancing properties and the lemon juice will help to alkalise and cleanse your body. To make thyme tea, pick 2-3 small sprigs and infuse in 1 cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and honey and drink. Delicious!

* keep up your zinc status - around 85% of Australians are deficient in zinc and it is essential for the proper functioning of the digestive and immune systems. You can get zinc tests at health food stores to check whether or not you are deficient and one bottle will do the whole family.
If you find that you need to take a zinc supplement, take it after you have eaten, as you might feel nauseas otherwise. Also you might take a lower dose 3-4 times per day, rather than one large dose.
Aim for 100-200mg per day for adults; you probably won't need to stay on them forever, just top up every now and then. Children under 10 need about 10mg per day and over 10 about 15mg per day.
Or you can get your zinc from foods such as beef, baked beans, cashews, egg yolks (soft boiled eggs), ginger, herrings, liver, milk, lamb, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, yeast.

* think about including vitamin C as a supplement, or including vitamin C foods in your diet, such as blackcurrants, broccoli, citrus fruits, guava, parsley, peppers, pineapple, potatoes, raw cabbage, rosehips and strawberries.

* the bioflavonoids can be really useful in building your immune system as well - enjoy plenty of buckwheat, citrus fruits, green growing shoots, skins of fruits and vegetables.

Look to nature for guidance - in these cooler months she supplies us with lovely fresh citrus, tropical fruits, broccoli and cabbages which are all good foods for building our immune systems.

And remember to stay active, stay warm and stay healthy. Bugs just love stagnant bodies to grow in, kind of like weeds growing in neglected gardens. Look after your body garden and you will stay well this winter.

love and light

Monday, 6 April 2009

Autumn Gardening

Autumn is such a wonderful time to be in the garden. Although some plants are finishing up their main season and may look a bit tired, it is a great time to plant perennials. The soil is still warm enough and the weather cool enough to prevent major transplant shock. And Autumn is a great time to plant spring flowering bulbs.

This morning before class, instead of hitting the books (like I should be!), I escaped into the garden to put some plants into the ground. Quite a few of these are bee plants and many of my specimens were ones I salvaged from the sad bench at our local Bunnings store, although you wouldn't know it by looking at them.

Here's the newly planted lavender hedge. It's an Italian lavender, Avonview. The plants should grow to 80cm tall and 60cm wide. Apparently, it has a long flowering season, so I'm hoping to see lots of happy bees buzzing about the blossoms.

The lavender hedge was planted in a bed previously occupied by camellias. Although they were meant to be sun hardy, the camellias never thrived in the full sun position, so they were moved about a week ago to a partly shaded position. Although reasonably advanced, they moved very easily and look happy in their new spot. Now they're not getting so much sun, I hope they'll bush up somewhat.

This little hebe just moved into its new neighbourhood this morning and looks settled already.

The Chinese Star Jasmine was planted a couple of weeks ago and will soon be ready to zoom up the trellis.

Now, I know we're not meant to have favourites, but I just love this Gentiana scabra. The photo is quite washed out compared to the intense purplish-blue colour of the flowers. They truly are lovely.

I've listed my plantings in the side-bar. It was a very satisfying morning's planting.

Now that I've got the shrubs in place, though, the area under the trees looks like it needs some sort of ground cover. I'll have to do some research on suitable ground covers that bees like. And that will mean a trip or two to plant nurseries or at least online . . . ;)

Hope your Autumn gardening is going well.

love and light

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Yesterday's Adventure

Yesterday, a friend of mine ran a gorgeous workshop - How to do an Aromatherapy Facial.

It was absolutely delicious and the very best facial I have ever experienced. We also learnt how to make a few products.

Now that I know how to do one, friends around Canberra can expect to receive these for pressies. ;)

For those of you in Canberra looking for a lovely body work therapist in Canberra, have a look at Vanessa's website:

Apparently, her hot stone massage is divine. I'm thinking of booking one for my birthday coming up soon.

love and light

Sunday, 29 March 2009

What Did You Do for Earth Hour?

Last night, our lights, television and computers were turned off for Earth Hour.

We chose to go for a walk to our local oval, mini telescope in hand, and lie down on the grass and watch the stars. It was quite magic.

On our way to and from the oval, we walked past many houses with their lights still blazing. My partner's eleven year old son summed it up with "I reckon about 80% just don't care". Unfortunately, I think he was right.

While some people in our neighbourhood, like the lovely peeps next door, had their lights off, about 4 houses in 5 still had their lights on. Some people are elderly and I can understand why they wouldn't turn out their lights - falling hazards and all that. But some appeared to have all guns blazing, almost as a defiant gesture. What will it take for them to learn?

We thoroughly enjoyed our Earth Hour, with the trip to the oval to watch the stars being something we want to do again.

How did you spend your Earth Hour? What was it like where you live?

love and light

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Simple Things in Life

I catch the bus most days to and from work and study. I enjoy catching the bus, but sometimes the experience is less than optimal. Yesterday afternoon, suffice to say that the ride home was not the most pleasant, in terms of odours emanating from nearby passengers. I was very glad to alight and of course, spend some time in the garden breathing in the lovely fresh air.

While watering the garden, I refilled the bird bath. A short while later, a family of small birds were drinking and bathing in the water. It was a lovely sight and fully restored my humour. Such a simple thing and yet so powerful.

At the moment I'm on an elimination diet trying to work out what foods I keep reacting to. Now me and the word diet just do not go together (it's up there with jogging and photos! NOT something I do), so I was a bit apprehensive as to how this would work out.

Well, I have surprised myself. Not only am I not craving chocolate and other sweet treats, I'm really enjoying the food I'm eating. The diet works on a four day rotation plan, with meat (or other protein source), fruit and a carbohydrate source specified each day. To this you can add certain amounts of specified foods such as cabbage, lettuce, celery and plain rice cakes, etc.

Today I get to eat pears. Pears have never tasted so good. Tomorrow it will be pawpaw. The point is, by appreciating what I can have rather than concentrating on what I can't have, this diet is not the horrible beast I thought it would be. I'm really enjoying the plain simple tastes.

It's really all a matter of your attitude, I think, and you can gain pleasure from even the most mundane things. By appreciating what you have, you lose the desire (well, quite a lot of it ;)) for what you don't have. It really is the simple things in life that matter; we just forget sometimes.

love and light

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Bee Update

The weekend before last I opened the hive to notice that the bees were still not moving into the top box, so I removed the queen excluder between the two boxes.

At this stage of the season, they really need to get in as much honey as possible to feed themselves over winter. We won't be getting any honey this season, which doesn't bother me as long as they have enough to survive over the winter.

Last weekend, I noticed quite a few bees near the front of the hive and I was concerned that they might be getting ready to flee, rather than move into the top box. So, I donned the gear and opened the hive to find a squillion bees in the top box, as well as a squillion in the bottom box.

Sooooo, I'm guessing the little darlings have had another hatching. Yippee!

The weekend before last also saw me on a nursery crawl to find bee plants. We came home with more herbs (rosemary, mints, lemon balm, pineapple sage and winter savoury), native bushes (leptospermum and banskia) and flowers (lupins, salvia and columbines).

Putting the plants into the garden proved to be fun, especially when the bees started to take a keen interest in the lemon balm I was planting near their hive! LOL! While I moved away from the hive, I still had some lemon balm seedlings in my hands and the bees followed. I eventually shook them off (out of my hair, actually) and planted the lemon balm a little further from the hive (about 3m). They're just going to have to fly for it!

This autumn and winter, I'm going to start work on a hedge full of bee plants. This will be within about 10m from the existing hive, so there should be plenty of food for them close by. The trick is finding plants which are evergreen, suitable for hedging, which the bees love and which flower over different times of the year. I have a list of potentially suitable plants and have started getting them. This will mean, of course, numerous trips to online and nearby nurseries - a difficult job, I know, but someone has to do it! Maybe I need to talk to the Evil Plant Buying Alliance to get some ideas??

love and light

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Does Pampering Lead to Miscontent?

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of going to a hair and beauty establishment to enjoy one of my Christmas presents - 3.5 hours of pampering. It started with a Swedish massage, followed by a facial and hand and feet treatments. Then a hair cleanse, cut and blow dry. The people running the salon were very professional and really lovely and the whole experience was utterly delightful.

Enter evil little creature from stage left, who suggests "wouldn't it be great to be able to do this all the time!". Mmmm - if I booked in every couple of months and limited my expenditure to say $150-$200 each time (which includes the hair cut, etc), I may be able to afford it.

Enter rational brain from stage right - "but then you'd end up spending in excess of $1000 a year and isn't that a lot simply to spend on vanity? And what about important things like water tanks and chook sheds and wicking beds, eh?"

"Oooh, but I do work hard and study hard and then juggle all that with home, don't I deserve a little pampering every so often?"

"Well, you could do your own."

"But it's not the same."

How often do we all have conversations like this with ourselves? How often do we deny ourselves some pleasure in the pursuit of the bigger environmental sustainability picture? Are we doing ourselves a disservice?

Or is it simply that having been pampered, I want more and the consumerist devil which lurks somewhere beneath the surface of all of us is just too ready to emerge at the slightest provocation? Does pampering lead to discontent? After all, I probably would never have entertained these thoughts except for being pampered.

love and light

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Blogging Mojo and Beached Whales

I've felt like I've lost my blogging mojo the past few weeks. I thought maybe it was to do with all the events over summer (which are still continuing - fire and floods, etc), but just now reading the Crone's post, I realise that she has expressed my feeling exactly. Something is up with the world and we'll find out soon.

Speaking of which - recently, very sadly, there was a mass beaching of pod whales on King Island, off Tasmania. I've often noticed that when the whales beach themselves there is an earth quake or similar disaster shortly afterwards (up to 2 weeks). It happened before the Tsunami and the quakes in Pakistan and now there have been quakes in Victoria (although reasonably mild).

One of the theories for the latest beaching was that some dolphins herded the whales into shore. Can you imagine a whale being intimidated by a dolphin? Seems a little far-fetched to me, but then again I'm no expert on marine animals and their habits. Personally, I think that the whales are sending us messages; it's just that we don't know how to interpret them.

love and light

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Handmade Help

If you're looking for a more practical way to help people affected by the bushfires, check out the Handmade Help blog:

There are three main streams of help being organised:
  • Craft - restash a crafter, quilt making, toy making, fund raising, etc
  • Cooking - submit recipes for a book
  • Gardening - this is currently being formulated, but a separate blog will be available soon
Have a look and see if any of it appeals to you.

love and light

Around the Garden and in the Kitchen

Remember Kale Cauli? Well it grew up and was duly harvested. Kale Cauli ended up being a bit green and a bit purplish.

The texture was similar to cauliflower and the flavour was something akin to the taste of very mature kale leaves, ie, a bit strong. Kale Cauli was edible, but not sure if I'd want to eat it too often.

There are a few more baby Kale Caulis in the garden at the moment, so my thoughts are going down the pickles track at this point.

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, in the kitchen drawer where I keep potatoes and onions, a sweet potato decided to sprout. This is the first time I have ever seen a sprouted sweet potato in Canberra - must have been the hot weather.

The sweet potato is growing well and I'll have to put it in a pot and see what becomes of it. Because the cooler weather will arrive before it's finished growing, the bathroom is starting to look good as a new home.

Have still been bottling like a crazy woman and last weekend I made my first tomato paste. Sure, I could have bought the same quantity of thicker paste for just a couple of dollars, but at least I know where this lot has been.

Also in the kitchen, I've started a couple of batches of wine brewing - one with elderberries, blueberries and plums and the other with peaches and rose petals. The first one will be a red port-style wine and the second will be a white/blush dessert wine. Drinking will be a while away, but it sure does feel good to be making wine again!
And yes, dear Crone, I'll put up a post soonish to tell you how to go about it.

love and light

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Preserving to Recession-Proof

During the great depression in the 1930s in Australia, housewives were urged to bottle their own fruit and make their own jams in order to help their families survive the times. Fowlers Vacola bottles experienced a surge in sales during this time, as their icon, Mrs B Thrifty, helped to spread the message about preserving.

This summer in Australia, we have experienced heat waves, fires, floods and drought, as well as a declining economy. The federal government is implementing policies to hopefully soften the economic blow and the Australian community is rallying like never before to assist those in need. But it strikes me that we all need to ensure we have adequate supplies in our cupboards to get us through potentially tough times ahead.

One way of achieving this is to bottle or preserve food while it is abundant and relatively cheap. Many in our blogging community are already bottling their produce or are contemplating it, so I thought I'd share a couple of tips handed down to me - yes, I'm a second or third generation bottler, depending on the family line.

Vacola bottles and preserving kits can be found from a range of sources: new - online and in hardware and kitchen ware stores; or used - via local classified ads, garage sales, deceased estates, etc. I assembled my collection over a few years by scanning the classifieds every now and then. By all accounts it is getting more difficult to obtain bottles this way because people are realising the value of them. Most importantly, make sure your bottles have chip-free rims and no cracks.

There are basically two types of lids - the cheaper ones and the stainless steel ones. The cheaper type is shown on the left in the photo. These are OK for bottling fruits such as peaches and pears which are not highly acidic, but I wouldn't use them for tomatoes or for anything I wanted to store for a long time. If you can afford them, invest in the stainless steel lids. They may be double the price, but they will last forever. Well worth the investment.

The clips placed over the lid will exert a little more pressure and help the lid to seal better if there is a small coin placed under them. A 2c piece is ideal for this, but if you can't find any, try a 5c or 10c piece.

Now to the seals. These are designed to be single use only. It is important that they are placed in the groove around the neck of the bottle without any twists. Wetting them prior to placing them on the bottle helps and I usually get the twists out by flicking or gently rolling the seal with the fleshy pad of my thumb. Do NOT use any sharp instrument or fingernails, as doing so may damage the seal and compromise your preserves. Also, make sure the groove is clean before you place the seal on and that there is no food caught underneath.

After the bottles have been processed and have cooled for a day or so, you can remove the clips (and the coin). Immediately turn over the bottle and inspect the seal. If all is good, you should not see any leakage. If you spot any leakage at all or there is a break in the seal (which does happen occasionally, although I can only remember a couple times in nearly 20 years of bottling), put the bottle into the fridge and eat within the next few days.

Hopefully, you will end up with a collection of bottles like these.

If you do not have a bottling outfit and cannot afford one, do not despair - you can still bottle food. In this case, use glass bottles that have metal lids with a rubber seal and the pop-up thing in the middle. Prepare the food as usual (with syrup, brine or vinegar) and secure the lid on the jar.

Place in a large pot (eg, boiler) and fill with cold tap water to the neck of the jars or just below. Bring the water to simmering (NOT boiling) point over about 45 to 60 minutes.

For peach, pear and apple slices in syrup, leave at simmering point for about 20 minutes; for tomatoes or tomato based products, leave at simmering point for 50 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave to cool in the pot before removing. You should find that the centre area pops down when the bottles are totally cooled and you'll have a good seal.

Whether you are using Vacola bottles (or similar) or reusing glass jars, you should hear a hiss or a pop as air enters the bottle when you open it. If you do not, check very carefully for signs of food spoilage and if there are any, discard the contents.

Now here's an offer to any Canberra (or nearby) bloggers who are interested in getting started in bottling. Email me ( and we can arrange a time for you to drop over and have a bottling lesson. Over the next couple of months, I'm likely to be bottling from time to time and am more than happy to show you the ropes.

Edited to add: Forgot also to say to make sure the lid is on straight and not skewed to one side. You can use just one clip and I do if I don't have many free because of processing lots of batches on the same day, but my preference is definitely to use 2 clips. With 2 clips you can get the lid on straight in two directions and you get less failed seals.

love and light