Monday, May 31, 2010

Never touch a caterpillar. I know from personal experience that this is a bad thing. We went for a walk around the block and I must have brushed against a tree and got a caterpillar on my shirt. While walking along I was brushing my arm against my shirt and therefore the caterpillar, and ended up with a lovely, incredibly itchy, lumpy, red rash. And it is still a little itchy nearly two days later.

We have had a few foggy mornings in the last week, and it looks very Christmasy, even though it is not Christmas and we live in the tropics and so would not get snow or anything. But with the fog and all the dew on everything, all the grass and trees look white and shiny.

There are spiderwebs everywhere on the grass.

And spiderwebs all through the trees.

I guess at least I can see them so I don't walk through them. Not that it actually stopped me from walking through them mindlessly.

My partner in crime and life has finally come home from Tamworth but may be going away again soon. So this week I am going to try and have a normal week, try not to be too busy just getting on with the stuff I need to do without having extra stuff going on.

Last week mum went home on Tuesday, I spent a lovely whole day with girlfriends on Wednesday, Tai Chi on Thursday, Friday I picked up my partner in crime and life from the airport then we talked all afternoon. All day Saturday was spent in town as our number one and only son plays war games, and Sunday was at home resting a little, and finishing the gaps in the boundary fence that hadn't been done.

So this week I just want to write, wash, garden, do Tai Chi classes, mow, cook and do some planning of stuff. Not too much really :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haven't blogged in about ten days as my mum has been visiting and I realised that I have to blog in private. Don't know why, I just have to. So now she has reassured herself that we are not living in a tent and knows that we go to bed early, get up in the dark and have a snake living in the roof, she has gone home.

While here mum got me an early birthday present of a Carombola tree, a trailer load of dirt, chives, marigolds and when we went to the markets, a dwarf mulberry tree. So we have done some gardening :)

While at the markets I also bought some strawberry plants, six for ten dollars so I got six. They have survived so far, I have not had a lot of success with them before, but they are in pots and I am determined they with thrive.

The other thing I got at the markets was chokos, already sprouted and ready for planting, four of them. We planted them on the fence of the house yard, I have never grown these before so I am going to be doing some research. It also nearly killed me digging the holes for the chokos, the ground is hard and there are also some rocks, so they had better do really well :p

The rest of the garden is going well, some seeds haven't popped up so I am going to put some more in and do some fertilising and hopefully the blank spots will fill. I am hoping to build another garden bed in the next few weeks and get some more stuff in. For now, I am off to research chokos :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

The dog woke me before the crack of dawn again his morning, and again I refused to get up until it at least got light. Not too cool this morning which is good, but I guess it will consistently get colder as we move further into the dry season. The little sprinkle of rain that we have had hasn't put any water into the tanks.

My mum is arriving this afternoon for a visit, I still think she is just coming to make sure we aren't living in a tent. She will however have to sleep in the lounge room as there is nowhere else.

Of course, because we are having a visitor, there is a dead mouse in the kitchen. We had one in the bedroom and I couldn't find it, so it must be behind the wardrobe which I can't move. The one in the kitchen must be under a cupboard as I can't find it either, and of course you can't move kitchen cupboards. Though I am sure we will one day find their little mummified bodies :)

We are just about ready to move forward with building our number one and only son his own room so he doesn't have to sleep in the corner of the shed. We just have a few things to organise and decide where exactly the windows and doors should be, a bit of disagreement there but I am sure that my partner in crime and life will see that I am right :p

I am hoping when I go out to the garden this morning that some more of my seeds will have come up, it really is the slow way to grow things but it is the cheap way. It is just that there is not a lot of greenery out there yet.

We have decided to put up trellis, probably in the form of short fences, to grow passionfruit and granadilla on. We will put these up behind the garden, having been motivated (and we always were going to do this but really want to do it right now) by one of my friends from Tai Chi who brought in these lovely passionfruit. They are so full and just taste gorgeous YUMMO :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The men have come back from their weekend away and while they enjoyed it, our number one and only son got sick. He already had a cough but then we think he got a bit of food poisoning and is still sick in the stomach. So unfortunately he is off for the rest of the week and missing a lot of school but it can't be helped, at least he is doing a little school work quietly until he needs to lay down.

So they got back late on Tuesday afternoon and as soon as they walked in the door my partner in crime was repacking to go to Tamworth for work. They booked him on a flight at 6.15am the next morning, which meant we were back up before the crack of dawn. Of course the headlights in the car blew, so we had to take the truck which I then had to drive back home in the dark up the mountain. Not what I call fun, driving an unfamiliar vehicle in the dark up a mountain, but I didn't fall of the mountain so obviously I am not too bad a driver :)

The v on the keyboard keeps sticking so every time there is a word with v in it, I have to keep going back and pressing really hard to make it work. Stupid thing.

The dog woke me up early this morning and I thought she just wanted to go out for a wee, but no, she didn't want to do a wee, she wanted to go for a walk. It took me a while to figure this out as it was about 5.15am, so I laid in bed a bit trying to go back to sleep. However, I was obviously meant to go for a walk as I couldn't get back to sleep, so at 6am (which is quite early enough) I got up and took her for a walk.

So coming back from my walk the sunrise looked like this.

It also looked like this, quite pretty isn't it?

Monday, May 10, 2010

I have decided to leave my washing trolley outside the house yard. I am not big on leaving things outside, I do like them away, but it is living outside anyway so it may as well be in convenient place. So now I don’t have to drag it in and out the gate all the time, and it is not as if anyone is going to steal a washing trolley out here, but I think I will bring in the peg basket.

I have pulled out my yam beans at long last and am going to eat them. I had them planted at the other house and they were going so well that I couldn’t leave them. If they taste any good I will plant more.

There is not a lot of information about the yam bean, not in my books anyway. The only book I have it in is my “Tropical Food Gardens” book, which is a really good book to have in the collection. It is about growing fruit, herbs and veges in the tropics and sub-tropics.

So, a yam bean is not really a yam, and you eat the bulb, apparently it tastes like an apple when raw and a water chestnut when cooked. You can use it in Asian dishes as a substitute for water chestnut and bamboo shoots; you can also eat it raw with dip.

The seeds and leaves are poisonous, and the flowers are lovely, they are a vine and I had one of the pots near the outdoor shower and it climbed up that. I have grown mine by seed but apparently you can also use pieces of the tuber, I have more seeds so will just run with that.

So, I made a stir fry and added in the yam beans, they do taste apple like when raw. Of course I made too much as I am used to cooking for three, therefore I couldn't eat it all but it was yum.

I had home grown yam beans, of course, home grown kang kong, betel leaf and abika. Locally grown zucchini and homemade mango sauce from home grown mangoes (from the other house), all this with free range chicken and brown rice. There were other things in it but not home grown or locally grown or home made :) The yam beans where the highlight and today I am going to find space in the small garden and plant more, if I can. Gotta try new things or life gets too boring :p

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I am at home alone. The men have gone to a family birthday party down at Goulburn, so I dropped them at the door of the airport and went home to the quiet. I can read in the quiet, and can think in the quiet, and be on the computer in the quiet and not go anywhere in the quiet. I do of course miss them but sometimes it is nice to have alone time.

So this morning I have been to the tip to get rid of our rubbish. When you have to dispose of your own rubbish it certainly makes you think about it more. Cardboard in this bin, general rubbish in that bin, and recyclable stuff to be separated into individual bins for glass, aluminium and plastic. We don't have a lot of rubbish, but I don't like going out, I think that is all it comes down to, so if I can have less rubbish then I don't have to go over quite as often. Though it only takes maybe ten minutes all up, but still, I could be doing something else. But we have to do what we have to do :p

The above photo is of a flowering paperbark full of birds though you can't see them :)

The lovely flowering paperbarks that I have been admiring are still lovely, and now I am taking more notice, the large paper barks are flowering too. You just have to look harder as there are not so many flowers on them and they are high. The bats are coming in at night to feast on them, and during the day a variety of birds are making a racket eating them including parrots. They are all competing with each other and make such a noise pushing each other out of the way.

Some more seeds are pushing their way through the soil, though looking at them six times a day does not make them grow faster :) I have forgotten what I planted so am looking forward to them coming up so I can identify them :p

I have Gota Kola growing in a lot of my pots with other things so it is good to get some of them out of pots so they can all start to spread. I actually have two pots of Gota Kola just by themselves, but having in the other pots means eventually I will have more (I was also afraid of not having any, so went a little overboard with bring it up here).

There is actually a fair bit growing around the property, in the wetter spots like the gully running into the dam. However it is not as good looking as mine as it doesn't get looked after, but I like knowing it is there.

Gota Kola is a ground cover, very easy to grow and have a lovely shaped leaf. It contains vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, B17 C, D it also has calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc. It is good for arthritis, to increase brain capacity and for longevity. It can be added to salads, which is what we do, or cooked.

Isabell Shipard has written quite a few pages about this herb in her book so really worth looking up.

So I guess I had better have a salad with my meal tonight. I haven't used too much out of the garden as it all still getting established, but seeing as it is just me, a few leaves here and there won't hurt :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

I do have a plan for the garden, though it doesn’t really look like it. It is not written down anywhere but is in my head. Well, it is a kind of plan, and so far it is working.

I have realised that random gardens don’t work very well, for me anyway, and it really does need structure so you can reach everything and nothing is clashing too much. I like the whole companion planting thing but a lot of those herbs don’t grow here, or certainly not all year.

I decided on a square plan (never done that before) with long rectangle gardens each with about one metre square sections. However now, after talking with a friend, I also want round gardens made from old tyres, each tyre will have something planted in it, all those tyres are in a circle and then a garden in the centre of that. My friend also has a few acres and plans on doing this, so I am unashamedly stealing the idea and want to do it too.

I have always wanted gardens in tyres but my partner in crime and life doesn’t want anything so messy (he doesn’t always have an imagination), so anyway, I am going to incorporate this into “The Plan”. The only thing is I have to make so the ride on mower can still get around it all.

So far I have the square marked out with pots (and some plants in them) and I have one long rectangular garden. The clothesline is off to one side so I can admire the garden while hanging the washing out, and the hose from the tap at the dam can reach when three hoses are joined together, and I can use bore water for the garden to my hearts content.

A plan to have long and short term edible plants in the garden. The short-term plants are the usual things like tomatoes, cucumbers, some herbs, lettuce (if the grasshoppers don’t get them), pumpkins, stuff like that.

The long-term plants are the tropical ones that will survive all year and can be eaten all year. So far I have:

1. Sweet leaf – the leaves can be thrown in salads, sandwiches, curries, stir-fries etc. Vitamins A, B, B1, B2, C. Good source of potassium, good for circulation and detoxing the body. Easy to grow and little plants just shoot up everywhere (well, they do for me)

2. Abika – New Guinea Spinach. I just use it like any other spinach. It grows from cuttings and can get huge leaves.

3. Kang Kong – Chines Watercress. It is related to the sweet potato and spreads across the garden, easy to grow in warm climates. Vitamins A, B, C . Has Calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium. Good for colds, anemia, boils and insect stings. Used in salads and sandwiches, stews, stir fries, soups and curries.

4. Sweet Potato – way better for you than white potato.

5. Betel Leaf – Easy to grow, puts out runners. It is a digestive, stimulant, antibacterial, antibiotic, and tonic. It is used for headaches, arthritis, joint pain, toothache, coughs, and asthma. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

6. Lemon Grass – Vitamins A, B, C. High in iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, calcium. Easy to grow by root division. Can be used to treat fevers, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and headaches. Is used in soaps, perfumes, food and drinks. It is used as a tea, in curries, fish and rice dishes, and stir fries.

7. Kaffir Lime – Vitamins B, C. It is digestive, antibiotic antioxidant. Used for coughs and colds, chest congestion, sinus, sore throat, aids digestion. The leaves are used to flavour Thai cooking, flavour meats, curries, herb vinegar and when crushes have a lovely smell.

8. Bay Leaf – It is antiseptic, diuretic, stimulant. Beneficial to health coughs sore throats, indigestion, and stress. Used as flavouring in meat dishes soups.

9. Stevia – Sweetener.

10. Galangal – Is a root spice and looks like ginger, is spicy but not as hot as ginger. Used in curries, stir fries. Good for stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting.

11. Aloe Vera – used for burns, insect bites and so many other things. Is a healing herb.

12. Mother of all Herbs – Also called “five in one herb”, “five spice herb” and other names. Vitamins A, B, C. Calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Used for sore throats, coughs, indigestion, stomach cramps, pain relief. Use chopped leaves with meats, vegetables, stews, stir-fries.

These are the permanent plants I currently have in the garden. They are so useful, and I often forget just how useful, I usually only think about what meals they can go in and forget about the medicinal uses.

All the above information has come from my very handy book “How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?” by Isabell Shipard. I also have her other books which are very useful, easy to read wonderful books. If the house was burning they are one of the many things I would grab.

I am thinking about purchasing her DVD’s one day when we are financial again and the money tree grows, she also has a website, with information and you can buy her books and DVD’s from there too. They really are great books.

So that is my sort of plan, of course ever evolving, but trying to plant the most useful things for our climate. There is more but I think that is enough planning for one day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We had a cool morning this morning, when we went walking I didn't even take off my long sleeve top, though I did pull up the sleeves. So the rain has gone for today, leaving it a lovely sunny day, good enough to catch up on the washing which has been piling up a bit.

There is just a slight breeze which is coming through the shouse and freshening everything up, and the dog is lying in the open doorway in the sun.

Some of our paperbark trees are flowering. I don't know if there are different types of paperbark trees as not all are flowering, but the smaller ones are. They are a lovely pale yellow and look a bit like wattles, and from a distance are quite snow like.

When I got up close, I could see (what looked like) MILLIONS of bush bees. I love bush bees, they are little and cute and don't sting. I did also see some regular bees. This is a good thing with the world bee crisis and everything, I am also happy to see them around some of my flowering herbs in the pots :)

So lovely to see all these flowering trees, very pretty and very Australian bushlike, which I love. Not sure if they smell at all, I don't want to get a bush bee up my nose :p

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We have done a fair bit of cooking the last few days. We have had the fire going outside to put the camp oven on, and then we got cravings for sweet things. We actually persevered without anything sweet, as I didn't want to drive into town and spend money, though I nearly caved in.

On the campfire, we made a stew the first night in the camp oven. The recipe came from one of our camp cooking books, and had a stubby of home brew beer in it and I can’t remember what else, I think some mustard. Just threw in some stewing steak and stacks of veggies and put the camp oven on the fire, my partner in crime and life also made some beer damper which we ate after the stew as we were very full.

We decided to have another fire as it will be a while till we can have another one due to the men going away to a family function. When they get home, my partner in crime and life then goes off the next morning to Tamworth, NSW for work for three weeks. So we decided to make the most of it and made meatballs but not with tomato soup as we usually do but with vegetable soup.

Seeing that my partner in crime and life had some arthritis, and things like tomatoes make it worse, we went with vegetable soup instead and it was lovely. We cooked our veggies in foil on the fire including beetroot. Sooo YUM.

It has been raining on and off here for a couple a days, I have gone between "YAY" the tanks are filling, and then when the sun comes out "YAY" the solar hot water system is heating. Between all this we have fenced and mowed and gardened and cooked.

The other things we have made are chocolate biscuits and a chocolate cake, both without butter, as I wasn't going to drive anywhere just to get butter. One of the recipes is from the Simple Savings Book “The $21 Challenge” and the other one I am pretty sure I got from the site from one of the lovely people who contribute there. I tell you, they certainly fixed the cravings.

The other thing we made was Microwave Chips, don’t know where this came from, I usually write these things down so I remember, but maybe Simple Savings from a long time ago, I just can’t remember.

So these fixed the chip craving. I have a slicer thingy that I bought from a show and has been one of the better handy things I have in the kitchen. It has a few different slicing thingys (wish I could think of the names) and so I can slice the potatoes thin enough to be like potato chip in the packet.

I then just put a bit of salt (only a bit as they can be very salty) or other seasoning, we used garlic salt, and into the microwave for five minutes, then one minute bursts if needed, we didn't need it. It does take while to get a bowl full but everyone can just have less and appreciate it.

We have also made, actually my partner in crime and life has made, sour dough bread, though we haven’t got the taste right yet so need to work on that. We have the plant going and the bread works well but not much sour taste so we will keep researching. He also made two loaves of regular wholemeal bread for lunches this week, he is such a good husband :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

We have had a busy few days building a fence around the shed, so now we have a house yard and the dog can roam in it. She was getting stressed not having any boundaries and no area that is hers. It also has the added benefit that no-one can just walk through the open doors, they have at least go through the gate first.

We spent two days building the fence, we bought an Auger, which is the fancy name for a post hole digger, and there was a fair few rocks in some of the holes. It is very dirty work and my partner in crime and life did most of it until he let me have a go.

It was very hard on the hands and shoulders, so my partner in crime and life had very sore muscles and finger tips and also a ripped nail.

We also got dirt over the weekend to fill the garden, so at long last the kang kong has been planted out, it was fairly root bound. I planted some more seeds and also dug another hole and planted the sweet leaf, it was also looking a bit sad in the pot.

I planted were more Lebanese cucumber seeds, in hope these will do better than the others. I planted snake beans , rocket (also hoping that these will do better too), shallots, basil and another one which I can't remember. I never write these things down and get a surprise when they come up, if I recognise it :)

The abika plants aren't going so well, one isn't too bad, so I took two of them out of the pots and cut them and put them into the garden and hope they will take.

So it is back to work tomorrow for my partner in crime and life, and I get to go back to my regular life too :)