Tuesday, 9 April 2019

This Autumn in the Garden

It was a long, dry and very hot Summer here but we've had rain. There is just nothing like heavy, soaking rain! Everything is lush and green again. I lost a few plants over this past Summer; even a tough and hardy salvia. My avocado tree didn't make it either but it was looking sickly even before the Summer began so we made the decision not to waste any more water trying to get it to "perk up".  I won't replant another avo but will reinvigorate the soil with our compost and worm tea and then try a second citrus tree in that same spot. While a few plants didn't survive the Summer and have been duly composted, there are some, like my pineapple sage, that are showing signs of new life after pruning and rain. 

New leaves on the pineapple sage.

The pots of Portulaca that I planted, to cheer up that oppressive Summer and thus myself, are blooming beautifully. I have not grown these before but I am loving their gorgeous colours. I have a creamy yellow, a sunny yellow and a deep pink one. 

Pretty Portulaca in a pot.

Our little native bees carried on with their work while we carried on with ours. They love the Portulaca flowers too!

A little native bee on a Portulaca flower.

Our hive of native bees withstood the Summer heat; its position under the shade of the back deck keeping the hive cooler. Native bee hives can perish in high temperatures.  The entrance to their hive has been a busy one at particular times of day and, as always, they remain fascinating to watch. I often get distracted from my gardening chores and find myself resting on my shovel watching them!

 A salvia popular with all kinds of bees.

We've also been watching all the different bees that have been attracted, like bees to a honeypot (Sorry...couldn't help putting that in!), to this vigorous flowering salvia. It's been very popular with our tiny native bees, visiting honeybees and even a single teddy bear bee. What surprised us though, as we've never observed it before, were the dozens and dozens of native blue-banded bees that have been foraging in its flowers. These native bees are solitary so seeing so many on the same plant at the same time sent me off to research why. It seems that, while they are solitary, they will build their little nests very close to one another, sometimes in the same spot, burrowing into clay beside one another. There's always something new to learn from observing the garden! 

I plan to take cuttings and plant more of this salvia around the garden. It grew vigorously during our hot, dry Summer so its hardy and it provided lots of flowers for lots of different bees to forage in. It's a great plant!

A honeybee clings to one of this salvia's many little flowers.

While most of the salvias did well in our garden, our veg patch produced next to nothing all Summer. That's because I didn't plant anything much in the heat and neglected it as I seemed to lose my enthusiasm when I found, all bar one, of the Lebanese Cucumbers I was looking forward to munching on had been munched on by something else first. A gardener's heartbreak!

Leftovers in our veg patch.

Yesterday, before the sun was too high in the sky, I cleared out what was left in the veg patch and was pleased to see that the rain has left the soil crumbly and moist. I will prepare our little patch, the same way I always do, and plant soon. Better late than never! I want to grow what is tried and true here. Some silverbeet, lettuce, Tuscan Kale, beetroot, perpetual spinach and leeks. I will start with seedlings and I will put in some sweet peas too. I always have to have flowers!

Yesterday too, I was reading (because when I'm not gardening, I am dreaming about gardening) about urban flower farming in this Planthunter article and then read Dahlias at Dusk, over on Kate's blog, Foxs Lane. Oh, my! I would love my own little urban flower farm and I've never grown Dahlias and now think I must one day.  I have also enjoyed reading what some of you are growing in your gardens and what your veg patch plans are. Inspiration everywhere! 

Better get on with the turning of garden dreams into reality! 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Chocolate & Oat Cookies

On a Sunday, I bake lunchbox snacks for the school and working week ahead. This saves us money and time as we are not buying prepackaged snacks and popping a slice of homemade cake or chunky cookies into a lunchbox is very quick and easy of a weekday morning when everyone is trying to get to where they need to be on time.

 Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips!

Recently, I came across a recipe for a scrumptious version of chocolate cookies. They are flourless and include almond meal. (My son can now take foods with nuts in them to high school whereas his primary school had a no nuts policy.) The nuts in them make them unsuitable for those with an allergy to nuts.

The original recipe, which I have tinkered with very minimally, comes from Amanda at Running with Spoons.  I simply reduced the sugar content a little more and used dark chocolate chips rather than mint chocolate chips. There are very simple cookies to make:

Chocolate & Oat Cookies
*Unsuitable for those with a nut allergy.*

1 cup organic quick oats
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large or 2 small eggs
3 Tablespoons coconut oil (melted if it is not in liquid state)
1/4 cup of tiny, dark chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 170C. Line a large baking tray.

2.  Mix all the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips, together in a large bowl. 

3.  Add the coconut oil and beaten egg to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

4.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

5.  Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls, placing onto baking tray so there is room for them 
     to spread. Flatten top of each one slightly with your fingers.

6.  Bake for approximately 10mins (but keep an eye on them as they may cook faster in 
     your oven.)

7.  Allow to cool for 10mins on tray before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

8. Store in an airtight container (I put them in the fridge) for up to a week.

A chocolatey bowl!

These cookies are very chocolatey but not overly sweet. A more wholesome take on a chocolate cookie that is simple and delicious.

Do you have a favourite recipe for chocolate cookies?


Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Bee's Honeypot

My Sunday morning began with a slow stroll through the park and along the streets with Sir Steve dog. The quiet of the morning was all ours! Both of us contentedly ambled along; my elderly statesman taking his sweet Labrador time to smell every tree trunk and blade of just-the-right-type of grass (and munching on the occasional one too) while I soaked up the early rays of morning sun that cast such a gentle light.

Bees on a blossom.

I heard the industrious hum of these bees, and all their companions, well before I saw them. I too caught wafts of the sweet and slightly vinegary scent of the pale yellow blossoms they were plundering.  Such hard work on a Sunday for these little bees. 

I guess bees don't have weekends ... I'm very glad I do!