Saturday, 28 November 2015

Cool Cucumbers

It makes sense to grow some of the vegetables you like to eat. I grow cucumbers in the warmer months here because we eat lots of them in salads, on sandwiches and in wraps. It saves me money to grow them rather than buy them and, straight from the garden, they are super-fresh and crunchy. I know there are no chemical sprays used on them either because I'm the grower!

Cool cucumbers harvested from our veggie patch...less than a minute from our back door.

A few of these cucumbers were chopped up and added to a crunchy salad for lunch. Refreshing cucumber in our weekend salad was just the thing on what was a rather warm day here.

A healthy lunch featuring lettuce and cucumber from our garden

To make our weekend salad, wash and chop some mixed lettuce leaves and peeled cucumbers. Add sliced avocado, grated carrot, chopped green beans and crumbled marinated feta. Sprinkle with a few cashew nuts to emphasise the crunch even more and you have a delicious lunch. You could add some grilled chicken on top or some sliced ham on the side. I dressed this salad with the herb-infused oil the feta is marinated in. Yum!








Friday, 27 November 2015

Sunflowers in the Morning

We were greeted the other morning by the first yellower-than-yellow bloom in a row of towering sunflowers. 

The full, happy bloom of our first sunflower .

My boy and I had "tucked" the seeds into our soil as the days started to warm and then watched the new plants emerge and grow, their stalks gradually inching their way skywards. Each day, my son measured himself against these sunflower rulers until he was no longer taller. He watched as their heavy buds formed and waited with great anticipation for the day when a bloom was fully open.  There was much excitement when that first open bloom greeted him and further joy every morning hence until every tall sunflower soldier in our row was blooming. 

Sunflowers turning their faces towards the horizon, tracking the sun.

Now, we watch our sunflowers and marvel at how each one turns its wide, open face to follow the sun. As they are growing so close to our back ramp, we have been able to reach over and touch their petals, peer closely at the perfect arrangement of the seeds in their centres and watch as tiny little native bees buzz happily collecting sunflower pollen. 

Gazing at sunflowers simply makes me happy. They are such bold and optimistic blooms that surely no-one could frown in their presence.








Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"Bluey"

Look who we discovered peeking out from underneath our hardwood steps...

"Bluey" (What else do you call a Blue Tongue Lizard?)

... a shiny and scaly Blue Tongue Lizard, promptly christened "Bluey"  by our rather excited boy. Each afternoon now, after school, our son jumps out of the car to go and peer in this garden bed hoping for a sighting. Should Bluey be about, much haste is made to find his camera and capture an image of this new garden resident.

 He looks rather well nourished, doesn't he!

Bluey seems to have made himself at home in our garden. We think that's wonderful because our suburban yard is proving to be a suitable habitat for native wildlife. It's wonderful too because it allows our child the chance to discover, observe and learn about  native animals like Bluey.

p.s. All photos taken by our beautiful boy. He's proving to be handy with a camera!

Friday, 20 November 2015

After the Rain

A stunning arc photographed by our young boy after a recent storm.

All three of us stood out on our back deck, gazing skywards, in awe of this wide arc of shimmering colours. We stood quietly contemplating it until the colours slowly dissipated and were gone. Such beauty after the rain!



Thursday, 19 November 2015

Clay Leaves

While flowers often enchant me with their colourful blooms, heady scents and amazing forms, I find leaves, in all their amazing shapes and shades of green, just as captivating.  

So, a little while ago, when asked to work on an Art project with a beautiful class of children who were learning about all of the different leaf shapes, I was rather excited to share my enthusiasm for leaves with them. 

Inspired by the beautiful clay leaf garland I found here, the children collected different leaves from around their school. (Passionfruit vine leaves were very popular!) After identifying the different shapes of their leaves, uisng this chart, they pressed them into the air drying clay they had rolled out. Very delicately then, they lifted each leaf out of the clay to reveal the intricate prints left behind. With great care, they cut around the margins of their leaves and left them to dry. A few days later, using various shades of green and brown watercolours, they painted their dry clay leaves and watched with fascination as the watercolour spread out following the impressions left by the veins of the leaves. Once dry, each leaf was given a protective coat of a sealant I made with a mixture of PVA glue and water. This made their colours darken and shine. When dry, each leaf was then strung onto a garland and secured with two tiny wooden beads I reclaimed from an op-shop necklace.

Lovely leaves in an old cane basket.

The children were so excited to be part of this project and became so much more aware of the very simple beauty and diversity in the leaves that surround them.  They were so proud of their individual leaves and delighted by their collaborative garland when it was put up in their environment. It's rather beautiful, don't you think?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Star Weaving

A few weekends ago, I went along to my local community centre, along with many other women, to learn how to weave a very special star. 

My very first 8 point star...

The symbolic 8-pointed woven stars I learned to make are for Maryann Talia Pau's inspirational 1 Million Stars to End Violence Project. You can read more about this amazing project at http://www.onemillionstars.net/ 

If you would like to weave your own stars, there is a video tutorial at the site above that shows you how to make them. And, if you'd like your stars to shine alongside so many others, in a message for non-violence and peace, then you can send them to Maryann at the address provided on the same website.

Hand-woven stars in the late afternoon light.

My stars, and all the others woven that afternoon, will form part of Maryann's final installation of one million stars come 2018.  May all the love and hope woven into each and every star shine very brightly; into the darkest of hearts and during the darkest of hours. 




Thursday, 12 November 2015

Nature's Gems

Sometimes, when I am out in my garden, I come across a leaf, a flower or an animal that makes me stop for a while and forget the weeding, watering, pruning or mulching that had been my intention.  Instead, I find myself still and observing, listening, smelling or holding something truly beautiful.

The first magnolia flower to open this year in my garden made me pause in such a way. Its large, creamy petals and its distinct, gentle fragrance reminded me that nature can offer us glimpses of perfection.

The unfurling white bloom of Magnolia "Little Gem".

My beautiful boy was not struck however by its size, its colour or its fragrance. Instead, when I took him down to show him the "treasure" I'd found in the garden, he instinctively touched the petals to his face and said, "It's soft like a blanket!" When I then cupped it in my hands, I felt that softness too and marvelled at it. Something precious indeed!



A Simple Birthday Tradition

My husband loves cheesecake and each year, on his birthday, I make him some version of his favourite dessert. This year, it was cheesecake slice.

Strawberries, cream and one candle...instead of 44!

Donna Hay's recipe for this slice can be found here:

https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/sweets/slices/passionfruit-cheesecake-slice

Her recipe was easy to follow and the slice was creamy and moist, not too dry like some of the other baked cheesecakes I've attempted before. I reduced the sugar content and only used 1/3 cup of raw sugar instead of the 1/2 cup of caster sugar in the original recipe. I just blitzed the raw sugar in my Thermomix before blending with the cheeses. Instead of folding passionfruit pulp through the cheese mixture before baking, I simply topped the slice with strawberries from our garden and fresh cream before serving. 

A very simple recipe for continuing a special birthday tradition. There were leftovers too for prolonged indulgence!





Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A More Productive Patch

When I first began gardening here, I knew very little about soil. Our land here is rocky and, if you dig down deep enough, you hit clay under that. So, all of the original garden beds were constructed with soil that had to be brought onto our site from our local landscape supplier. I knew very little about feeding that soil; improving its structure and its water-holding capacity. Eventually, the plants we put in started to struggle and the veggies I tried to grow were underwhelmingly productive. 

After realising I needed some help, and because we wanted to grow more of our own food more reliably, we decided to call in someone who knew what they were doing; someone I could learn from. Lucas, whose flyer I found at my local organic nursery, was that expert. I watched, listened and helped as he worked and we talked about gardening, food, seeds, climate, water and community.


Sunflowers, cucumbers, spring onion and more!

I keep on learning too from the garden itself:  from my successes and failures; from watching the changes from season to season; from observing how plants grow in particular aspects and with particular companions and from how they respond to nourishing compost, worm tea and seaweed extract...not to mention RAIN!

A young cucumber on a healthy vine.

I am very grateful for everything Lucas taught me because now I have the knowledge and the skills I need to grow a productive garden, to grow some of the food we eat. There is a deep sense of satisfaction in that!



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Gifts for Giving

Look at what arrived in our mailbox recently!

Washcloths, all knitted with love, by my beautiful boy's Grandma. She's been recuperating from a heart operation and in so doing has had to be much less of a whirlwind than she normally is. Instead, she's been knitting up a storm!

A woolly rainbow!

These handmade, colourful cloths are for our teachers' gifts this year. I'm sure our boy will pick different colours to reflect each teacher's favourite and that he will choose the scent of the soap just as carefully for each recipient. To this, he'll add one of his own hand-rolled beeswax candles that smell of delicious honey. He will wrap each gift with painted brown paper, tie it with ribbon from my stash and add one of his own hand-drawn tags.

He will give each teacher her gift quietly, as he has always done, but there will be that little smile as his gifts are acknowledged and he experiences one of life's great joys...giving.








Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Fragile Life

About a month ago, my beautiful boy and I were lucky enough to spy a mother Tawny Frogmouth sitting on her nest in the fork of a gum tree near the entrance to our bike path. She was trying so hard to look like the ragged end of a branch as she sat on her precious eggs.

Each day, when out walking Sir Steve dog, we'd look up to see if her eggs had hatched. Not long ago, we were lucky enough to spy two tiny balls of fluff poking out from in front of their mother's breast. Chicks!

Not long after our discovery though, we had an intense storm here with whipping winds and driving rain. The following morning, while my husband was out walking Sir Steve dog, he noticed that one of the tiny chicks had been blown from its high nest. What to do?

Wildlife rescue advised that the chick's best chance was for us to construct a makeshift nest and to place this in the fork of another tree close to the original nest. So, our boy and his dad constructed a nest from an old plant pot, filled it with mulch and leaves and secured it in a tree. They tenderly transferred this fragile baby bird into the little nest they'd made for it.

Beautiful boy was full of questions:  "Will it survive? Will Mother Tawny come down to it? What will happen if she doesn't come?"  To all these questions, we had to give measured answers and ones that didn't offer any false hope. The chances were very, very slim and we told our boy that because that was the truth and because we have always told him that death is a part of the cycle of life for all living things. We crossed our fingers and hoped.

 The tiny Tawny Frogmouth waiting for its Mum ...

This tiny, beautiful chick didn't survive away from the love and warmth of its mother. Its lifetime was very short but it taught our beautiful boy so much about nature, about tenderness towards other creatures and about the fragility of life. Those are very special and important lessons that no child can learn from a computer game. They only come about from a close interaction with nature.

P.S. We are still keeping a close eye on Mother Tawny and her remaining chick. Mother Tawny continues to sit, patiently protecting her baby. The baby chick is healthy and strong now; seemingly growing bigger every day.