Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Whooper Egg!

This is the biggest egg yet from our lovely ladies - usually they lay small - medium (around 50-60 grams) but this was a whopping 80 grams - we coudn't even close the egg box!

(Show here in my daughters hands next to a littley!)

Turned out to be a double-yolker of course. Went down well for kids scrambled eggs tonight!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Thought I'd share this - I found this recipe for homemade laundry detergent quite a while ago on ALS, and finally decided to give it a go.

My motivaton is that I don't like the chemical cocktail that goes into commercial powders, for any of us, but our son especially gets skin irritations from some of them, and the couple that are OK for sensitive skin cost a fortune.

So here is the recipe for my 'gloop' - makes 10 litres ----

1 cup Lux pure soap flakes

1/2 cup washing soda


Melt the soap flakes in 1 1/2 litres water, in a big pot over medium heat.

When dissolved add the soda, mix until thickens.

Remove from heat and pour into a bucket (normal 9-10 litre size) and top up with hot tap water.

Can add essential oils at this stage if you wish.

Leave overnight to thicken and it should come out as a thick gel consistency (called 'gloop' in our house!)

I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and it is great! I use 1-2 scoops in our top-loader for a full load, and considering we have 2 active 3 year-olds I am very impressed with the results.

The equivalent amount of laundry liquid (10 litres) would cost us around $50. These ingredients cost around $2 to make the same amount, and cleans at least as well without the nasties.

The only thing I would change next time is I will look for non-perfumed soap, as lux smells very 'soapy', (though less when its made up) and I will add eucalyptus oil which also acts a softener. Oh, and a bucket with a lid would be better!

Weekend gardening update

Well I hope all you blog-readers had a lovely Christmas, I have been out of the blog-osphere the past week but we all had a great Christmas, lots of excitement with our children on the big day and enjoying some family time off together.

The summer garden however, stops for no-one! So after a few days neglect it was back into the gardening ... actually never feels like a chore as its always enjoyable.

Firstly, we collected a wheelbarrow full of compost from our first compost bin - it was the really slow type, cold as we filled that bin before the delights of chook poo! Since then we have a second bin full of hot compost (the holy grail of gardeners!) almost ready, and have re-filled the first bin which is also now hot too.

For those non-gardeners amongst you, our compost is made up of garden waste (grass and tree clippings, dead leaves and bark etc) some kitchen scraps (veg peelings, tea bags, eggshells etc) and lately whatever gets cleaned out of the hen house (newspaper, woodshavings and manure).

The kitchen scraps are becoming less as scraps go to chooks and the worm farm, but at least we hardly have any rubbish going out each week.

The resulting compost comes out as a fabulous nutrient rich soil, great as potting mix, topsoil for the veggie patch, seed raising ....

If the carbon : nitrogen mix is right, it will heat up and be ready in a couple of weeks (and no it doesn't smell!) If its cold compost, it takes forever but gets there eventually when the worms move in.

Other garden news - planted out into the patch a row of capsicums and row of beetroots I have been neglecting in small pots for a while. Also a couple of tomato plants to replace the ones that gave themselves up. Zucchini plants are HUGE- now with fabulous flowers which look glorious in the mornings. Purple King beans now are growing up a teepee frame made of bamboo stakes, and Blue Lake beans doing well in their box.

Over Christmas we used our own salad greens for salad with lunch and dinner (can't get fresher than that), and used some of our hot chillis for garlic and chilli tiger prawns on Boxing Day..... OOOOH, YUM !!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Aussie 12 Days of Christmas

There are a few different versions of this round, but we have this one out from the local library at the moment, and our kids love it (and so do we!)

So COME ON .... you know you want to sing along!

And don't forget when you get to five, its "five---kang----a---rooooooos" !!!

On the FIRST day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
A kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the SECOND day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the THIRD day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the FOURTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the FIFTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the SIXTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the SEVENTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the EIGHTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the NINTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Nine crocs a-snoozing?
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the TENTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Ten wombats washing,
Nine crocs a-snoozing?
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the ELEVENTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Eleven lizards leaping,
Ten wombats washing,
Nine crocs a-snoozing?
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

On the TWELFTH day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Twelve possums playing,
Eleven lizards leaping,
Ten wombats washing,
Nine crocs a-snoozing?
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

Great singing! xxx

Free trees for carbon offset

Blue Mts council are currently giving away 2 tree seedlings per household to encourage local planting as a 'carbon offset' initiative. Organisations can get up to 20 - which our native gardening course have already claimed and planted, but I did want to get our 2 for us- so we collected them this week.

There was a huge range of natives to choose from in either tube-stock or small pots. We chose Eucalyptus Sieberi and Eucalyptus Oreades, both beautiful but will become huge trees, so we will plant them up on our land at Blackheath where they will have plenty of room. Both trees are found naturally in that area too.

Anyone local interested in getting your trees- more info here

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Veggie garden December update

Just realised I haven't posted about the patch/pots etc for a while - other general life stuff taking up my time! So here is the latest with some new pics ....

Strawberry seeds germinated and growing well in their lovely blue pot- just need some juicy red strawberries in there now - C'mon!

Zucchini have grown enormous, no flowers yet (so no zucchinis) but this big in just one month ... hmmm... thinking now that 5 plants may be far too many!

Chilli plant is doing well, ripening from green to red. Either colour- they are HOT !!!

Potatoes growing really well, 'hilled up' against the fence. With all the rain and heat lately I am 'hilling up' every couple of days. Need to just trust though that there are actually some spuds under all that straw.....

Tomatoes, like nearly everything else, growing lots of lovely green leaves, but nothing edible yet. There are some little yellow flowers though, so hopefully soon.... I have 12 plants in these pots, if they all fruit at once we'll be living on salads and pasta sauce! The black crate is full of my 'rogue' tomatoes - ones that just turned up by accident from old seeds in the compost - will be interesting to see what comes of them!

And lastly 'the patch'. Fabulous salad greens at the front- we have salad with dinner most days (all 4 of us) and there is always more again the next day. This has been my most successful and reliable crop.
Also growing here - carrots, silverbeet, zucchinis, beetroots, capsicum, eggplants, more tomatoes, cherokee wax beans and purple king beans.

So happy with this new hobby! Slugs have gone elsewhere too- thanks to a few tips from others. Broken eggshells and wood shavings (we use as chook litter) work well between plants, and traps made from vegemite /sugar get them in but not out ..... like the beer traps but cheaper!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Aussie Jingle Bells

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust, esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine's getting hot; we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard, he is welcome too.
All the family's there, sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way, by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon, Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce, are swimming in their clothes.
The time comes 'round to go, we take the family snap,
Pack the car and all shoot through, before the washing up.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Friday, December 12, 2008

'The Future' as seen through 11 y.o. eyes

We received this poem by email yesterday - our 11 y.o. neice in UK wrote it for a school project (she won 2nd prize overall, and came 1st of the girls)

We are very proud of her, although a little shocked at how much insight she has - the poem is quite dark but just goes to show that children are not sheltered from what is going on in our world.


Welcome to the future, the world is under the sea,
The human race has died out - no more you or me.
Global warming melted the ice caps.
It was too late, we could not turn off the taps.
Rain poured and caused a flood,
Mountains fell and turned to mud.
World sobbing,
Hearts throbbing,
People dying,
Children crying.
Panic sets in,
This battle we will not win,
There's no way out, there's no escape,
Stop global warming now before it's too late.
Caitlin, Year 7

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chubby gingerbread boy & girl !

Made some ginger biscuits with the kids today- loads of fun (and mess!)

Used this recipe (adapted a bit from Renee at green tardis blog)

Ginger biscuits

125g butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 egg, beaten (I used 2- ours are very small ones!)

2 cups self-raising flour

3 tablespoons grated preserved ginger (I used 1 tsp ginger powder)

Mix it all together, roll out, cut into your fav shape and put it in the oven. 180 Celsius for 15 mins.

Made 30 biscuits of various shapes (using play-doh cutters!) and 2 ENORMOUS gingerbread people - I had no idea they wold spread THAT much !!! (would make maybe 40 biscuits normally?)

The shapes looked much better before they baked- the girl had a triangle skirt and dainty feet - but they somehow baked into obese thighs and stumpy feet !!

Oh well, the biscuit recipe tasted delicious so I'm sure they'll be eaten anyway!

Native slope regeneration

This week saw the end of year for our native gardening course. It is run by TAFE NSW as an outreach course one morning each week, which has been perfect for me as I wasn't able to attend the college. Our small group has been weeding, planning, planting and mulching on a steep slope, which was initially covered thickly with weeds.

As well as the practical work, we spent time each week in the 'classroom' learning about and discussing native plants, soils, pests (the garden type!) non-chemical weed control, encouraging wildlife, choosing site-appropriate plants, pruning, composting, seed saving, water issues, mulching etc.

I have learnt so much this year, and met some lovely people too. I will be going back for one term next year, as I started in term 2, and hope that we can finish the site.

The photo shows some of the site - a 'swale' area was incorporated to reduce soil erosion and water runoff, and has worked really well. There is an area beyond the native grasses almost as wide as the front area, also planted with appropriate native trees and shrubs.

Unfortunately I don't have a 'before' photo, but the whole hillside was thick with coreopsis, dandelions and other weeds.

No chemicals were used as the area is adjacent to a pre-school and other childrens services, and is home to numerous wildlife such as lizards and frogs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Little Dragon

Spotted this cheeky Mountain Dragon (or is it a Water Dragon?) on my back deck today- on the side of a planter box eyeing up my lemon balm!

(Luckily for me it didn't want any, it took me ages to grow) It was only around 10cm long including its tail. Hung around for ages, posing for a few photos!

I also saw a swamp wallaby on Thursday morning, right on the side of the road only a minute away from our house! Looked a little lost there .... but bounced off happily into the bush as we drove slowly past.

Mountain Wildlife's Wildlife in the Mountains!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

WOO HOO! We got an egg ...!


At long last .... Emily the australorp decided we had waited nice and patiently, so today was her day. I took the side off the chook house this afternoon to clean it out - no egg, but holy cow what a mess in there .....

I knew something was going on, one of the lovingly-prepared (!) laying boxes was a wreck, the wood shavings all over and the newspaper underneath shredded to bits and thrown all over .... the laying box was actually moved (how strong are these chookies?)

So while we were pottering around the garden doing lots of planting, Emily started acting oddly, kept jumping back in her house instead of free-ranging. When she started re-arranging the eggbox I knew what was coming. And crikey I think the whole street knew when she was laying- what a noise!

She emerged triumphant and we rushed like mad people to check out the box- there it was, our very first home-grown, perfect little light brown egg! Maybe only fellow chooky-people will get how excited we were, others maybe think we've gone a little loopy?

Anyway, we were very proud of her, and I was so impressed she even used the 'other/nice' laying box (they one they don't sleep and poo in!)

Hopefully the other 3 will catch on soon - one egg between 4 of us is a little meal !

Our clever Emily :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Photo Tag

I've been 'tagged' by Lucy at Blue Mountains Menagerie (a local lady who also loves her chooks and other animals!) to do a photo meme - so here it is.....

Instructions are -

Go to your sixth picture folder in your picture file on your computer

Pick your sixth picture

Try to remember the details

Post it on your blog

We bought ourselves a new you-beaut digi camera for Xmas 2003, (now ancient and outdated!)

This was taken Jan 2004, when I was trying some of the features and doing arty-farty pics.

Its B&W, on macro or maybe super-macro, and although I can't remember taking it, it looks like lichen growing on a tree trunk? The rest of that folder has pics of Lawson bushwalk, so that must be where it was.

Thanks Lucy for the tag :-) in turn I am tagging -

DL at dl's trials and tribulations in the garden
and Julie at towards sustainability

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend Update...

Bits and pieces this weekend ...

Gardening update - planted some seeds yesterday into containers, I'm getting a bit annoyed with disappearing seedlings just as they are coming up (although the beer trap has worked wonders with the slugs!) so put this lot into pots first .....

Climbing beans -Blue Lake
Zucchini -Black Beauty
Beetroot - Rainbow mix
Cape Gooseberry - chooks ate all my little seedlings last time :-(

Also put lots of Cos Lettuce & Meslun mix into a broccoli box, which will hopefully fill the box in a few weeks.

Really imressed with the beans I planted last weekend
(cherokee wax and purple king) - have come up great in 7 days!

Also re-potted some 'grosse lisse' tomatoes which actuallygerminated this time (too cold earlier?) Got 10 decent plants out - can't believe these were in 1 strawberry container 2 days ago!!!!

Moved all the potatoes from the side of the house, just as they are starting to grow, as I remembered that we has termite treatment in the soil underneath their patch (OH OH !!!) Definitely don't want to be eating that thanks. Luckily they hadn't sent roots down so should be fine....

Chook Update-
Lady (the II !) is doing really well, has really grown since we got her, fattened out a bit and is definitely the most daring of the bunch. She is the only one who will actually approach us and doesn't carry on too much if we want to hold her! She is always the first out of the chook house and always comes up to me when I say hello in the mornings (ok, probably just wants the food, but still she is cute!)
The others are getting used to us more, the reds still flapping around if go too near, but yesterday we managed to have all 4 of them eating grain out of our hands!! Hooray! ('course I didn't have the camera handy)
Still no eggs ...... only the plastic ones I put in the nest to give them a clue!
Kids Crafty time -
kids craft this weekend was actually more mine - I made this wall chart for them to learn days of the week, and hopefully so they will stop the constant "what we doing today?"
I had looked around for something similar to buy, but the only couple I found were a) very expensive, b) had pre-made labels that didn't suit us, and c) really small.
So I came up with this- big sheet of card from local post office ($1.20) and some scraps we had from other projects, made lots of labels that just stick on with blue-tack and can change each week. Kids stuck various stickers here and there, and it now lives on our pantry door!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road?

(Long .... but funny !!!)

SARAH PALIN: Before it got to the other side, I shot the chicken, cleaned and dressed it, and had chicken burgers for lunch.

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken doesn't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart-warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken 2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken 2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never crash or need to be rebooted.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

:-) :-) :-) :-)

Taken from Backyard Poultry forum here

Monday, November 10, 2008

Slug results !!

OK, so if you didn't read my last post about beer traps- go there first!

I was pretty pleased (though also nauseated) with the results this morning - 32 slimy slugs, drank their last VB last night .....

Quite disgusting, but it beats having them all over my lettuces.

Not wanting to spend $2.5o buying them drinks every night, so slugs went in the compost and the beer back out in the patch again. Did fleetingly consider asking for the leftover dregs at the local pub, but worried about getting reputation as alcoholic/deranged-slug-killer-woman (besides, probably not the first person to ask!)

Hmmm.... Monday morning - strained dead slugs out of beer traps. Must get more hobbies.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

This weekend in the garden ...

Gardening update- planted some more seeds into containers today. My original plan was to plant something every week to make sure there's always something on the go at various stages.

Planted -
Bush Beans -cherokee wax (black beans in cream pods)
Climbing Beans - purple king (purple pods)
Watermelon - Moon and stars
Peppermint, hopefully to make tea (smallest seeds I've ever seen!)

.... all in recycled containers until they germinate (yoghurt pots, strawberry cartons, snow pea cartons) as the slugs are feasting here on my veggie patch this week, so much rain, they have eaten ALL my Blue Lake beans just as they were getting big, they've also had go at all they leafy veg, zuchini, tomatoes .... aarrrgggghhh ! This way I'll grow them big and strong before planting out.

So we are trying an organic method of slug control- the BEER TRAP! Hubby bought a bottle of VB tonight (quite weird as we don't drink, so had to shell out $2.50 just for the slugs) and I filled some containers and have set my traps! The idea is they will be attracted to the beer, crawl in and then get stuck and drown.

Either that or they will invite all their mates round, order pizza and start playing AC/DC at 2am .......

Yesterday made another no-dig bed at the sunny side of the house, (couple of metres long x about 50cm wide) to plant the next lot of tomatoes into (have about 11 seedlings waiting squished in a strawberry carton).

Did it like this -

1. roughly clear weeds/ grass from area
2. cover ground thickly with newspapers for the base (at least 6-8 sheets thick, overlap the edges)
3. build up with lucerne mulch to about 15cm deep
4. next layer was a load of fine wood shavings/shredded newspaper/chicken manure (just cleaned chook house out!)
5. layer of straw about 10cm deep

Water each layer in between, esp paper or it will fly all over your garden!

When I'm ready to plant I will just put small piles of compost, soil, or potting mix to plant the seedlings into. Maybe some blood and bone too. By the time the plants are putting down roots, the manure will be composted and the whole pile will be settling.

Have got a few no-digs on the go and they seem to work really well. This is my biggest though. Its next to a small bed of potatoes that have FINALLY surfaced ... hooray!

Quite a productive weekend !

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Think Global, Act Local

I had the privilege of being present at a talk today given by Lis Bastian, a truly inspirational woman who lives here in the Blue Mountains. She was trained by Al Gore when he visited Australia and has been spreading the message ever since about the current global crisis, the urgency with which we need to act and what we need to do.

While some aspects of her talk left our group feeling somewhat dismayed about our planets future, she also gave us hope that positive changes could be made at 'grass roots' level. Some of the topics covered included 'big-picture' topics like de-forestation, peak oil and effects of climate change, as well as things WE can do to counteract negative effects - planting vegetation, soil improvement, returning carbon to the earth, recycling and waste reduction..... a real confirmation of 'think global, act local'

It was also heartening for me to realise that some of these things we are already doing here at home. Things that a lot us do - recycling, re-using, composting, planting, growing food, seed saving, supporting local businesses rather than multi-national companies- all contribute to a better environment for ourselves and future generations.

It is easy to become overwhelmed and powerless at the 'bigger picture' and disheartened at the doom and gloom of it all, but it is also easy to make ONE change to your lifestyle every now and then, and in doing that feel you are making a difference.

Wow, I think this morning was pretty big for me. I'll get off my soapbox now!

Check out Lis Bastians blog - http://www.stoplaughing.com.au/wordpress/

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lazy Days skirt

So now I'm really discovering my inner-domestic-goddess!

I've seen this skirt pattern in a few places- first on aussies living simply (my second home!) and then on a couple of blogs ... so I thought I'd dust off the sewing machine give it a go.

The pattern is online from Oliver + S - click here for the link and its so simple even I managed it. (I did have a couple of unpicking/re-sewing moments but I have trouble doing straight lines!!)

The fabric I have had for ages (see? hoarding bits of stuff really does come in handy!) I knew I would do something with it some day. Its a really pretty pink cotton with rosebuds, very girly! Bought some bright pink ribbon for the bottom edge, (just over 1 metre) and some new elastic - total cost would be around $2. Not bad eh?

My daughter (3) loves it - said "I'm really happy about that skirt mummy!" so got the ultimate seal of approval.

Now we just need some warm days again .....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meet the girls ....!

It's almost 2 weeks since we got our first chooks, and we are loving them! We bought 4, all around 16-18 weeks old, so nearly laying age. We have 2 Australorps, called Lady and Emily and 2 Rhode Island Reds, Rosie and Ruby-Lou. They are lovely!

We have never kept poultry before so its all a bit new, but there are plenty of books and websites with loads of info that has helped us a lot.
Both Australorps and RIR's are known to be friendly, sociable birds, not flighty or nervy (all important when you have kids wanting to handle them all the time!) and very good egg-layers.

I am hoping they will start laying soon, but in the meantime they are lovely pets and giving us plenty of manure for the compost!

Only problem is our dog who thinks we have bought him some new toys .... or lunch? Was hoping the chooks would free-range and he would ignore them, but no. So taking turns who has the back garden for now....

Choc-chip cookies

Mmmmm.... choc-chip cookies ....!

Made these yesterday with the kids, really simple and quick (my kind of recipe!)

Got the recipe from the side of the carnation milk tin-

180g butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup carnation milk
1 1/2 cups SR flour
250g dark choc chips
1/2 cup white choc chips

1. preheat oven to 180c. grease 3 oven trays.
2. beat butter & sugar til creamy, add carnation milk and flour, stir till combined.
3. add choc chips, mix well.
4. spoon mixture into small balls onto trays
5. bake for 15 mins until golden

I used about half the dark choc chips and didn't bother with the white ones (not a fan), seemed like enough. Used baking paper instead of greasing tins. After the butter/sugar bit, kids can 'help' with the rest of the mixing (we did have a bit of a flour incident :-) and they did have to 'test' quite a few choc chips first!

Supposed to make a whopping 48, ours did about 40 but they were big. I think hazelnuts added would make them even better....

Absolutely delish, I am so not a biscuit-baker but these were so easy I will definitely make them again. Probably very soon.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Veggie Patch from scratch

We started this only last month- and have already eaten some of our efforts! We picked a small area (2m x 3m) of weedy lawn where the sun hits most of the day. I marked it out roughly and started to dig.... really hard work, the ground was so hard, dry and full of weed roots if was like digging carpet.

There was no way anything would grow in that, it was actually repelling water, so I dug in a bag of compost, 2 bags of cow manure and 1 bag blood & bone.

Eventually it looked like something like soil ....

(no need for gym membersip this year!)

We made a border with some recycled timber sleepers, then topped them with some mud bricks, bushrock and old house bricks (total cost - nil)!

Some cheap lattice things at the back from the reject shop as trellis for climbing plants, and hey presto !

I had been trying my hand at seed raising for the first time (not fantastic results but enough to have something to plant! ) so some of them went in, and some seeds direct to the soil.

I have bought seeds from a few sources who sell 'heirloom' or 'heritage' varieties, sometimes organic, but always open-pollinated and non-genetically modified. These are the varieties of foods that used to be around generations ago, but have been 'culled' by supermarkets nowadays if they don't travel well (think hard strawberries!) or withstand extended periods of sitting in warehouses. (Did you know supermarkets generally won't stock apple varieties that have a shelf life of less than 4 months? Wonder how long it takes from the orchard to your fruit bowl?)
Heirloom varieties do however, have better flavour and extended growing seasons, so ideal for small home-veggie-gardeners!

There are plenty of online companies in Australia, but the ones I like are:


I also got some seeds from my native gardening tutor, and some from a swap I did on Aussies Living Simply http://aussieslivingsimply.com.au/

So.... what did we put in???

Broad Beans
Peas (greenfeast)
Tomatoes (2x full size, 2xcherry size and 1 xplum type)
Pak Choy
Cos Lettuce
Mesclun Mix
Radish (kids project!)
Beetroot (rainbow)
Zucchini (black beauty)

hmm ...think thats it .... oh, and a big flat rock in the middle so I can stand on it to reach everything!

We later put more stakes in the front and planted some climbing beans (Blue Lake) in front of the border wall (making use of all spaces!)

It's all doing pretty well , considering our local water restrictions and our lack of experience!

Have eaten the radishes (very proudly harvested by our kids) and bits of various lettuces.
Its still only mid Spring so the best is yet to come.....

(7 weeks after sowing!!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Growing Veggies -1

We decided to have a go at veggie gardening (like most people I know) because of the rise in chemicals/pesticides and other toxic substances used now, as well as the rising cost, and the fact that what is available to buy in the shops is often weeks or even months old (even if it looks lovely) and is often tasteless. We wanted to grow a few things as organically as we could to see if there really was a difference, and also just to see how easy/difficult it was.

So we started growing our first veggies in the winter... perhaps not the wisest but hey, its all an experiment! Besides, there was a 2-for-1 special offer coupon from oasis seedings (and I do love a coupon) so we bought -

Rainbow silverbeet
Mixed lettuce
Snap peas
Flat parsley
Curly parsley

and planted them into recycled polystyrene boxes (pick up free from fruit/veg shops), some old plant pots and also used our old recycling crate that the council had just replaced.

Ended up looking like this - note the colourful 'artwork' on 2 of the boxes, courtesy of our lovely kids. (note for future- kids paint will run everywhere whenever it rains outside!)

We planted into organic potting mix we bought in, as well as some of our own compost we make from garden waste and kitchen scraps . No chemicals or pesticides as we want to keep the food as 'clean' as possible.

Well, to fast forward a bit .... 4 months later and the herbs are going great, rocket and silverbeet did well too though nearly finished now. It seems the lettuces and broccoli were just there to provide food for the snails/slugs and keep them off the other stuff!

Anyway,we were pretty pleased with our initial efforts so decided we would GO BIG in Spring and do a real veggie patch! More about that later ....

Hmmm ... where to start?

Well the idea of creating this blog is to document some of the things we are doing here, like a journal, for ourselves and anyone else who is interested.

I am planning on recording our efforts at food gardening and keeping chickens (both of which are new to us!) and anything else interesting that comes up.

Hopefully I will get the hang of this blogging business, and after going over what we have done in the past few months, I will be writing in 'real time' and hope to upate this blog at least a couple of times a week.

OK, here goes .....!