Friday, 31 March 2017

A Peek Into Permaculture: Principles

Throughout the day yesterday, the wind swirled and howled outside and torrential rain, from the lingering "remnants" of a tropical cyclone that crossed the coastline much further north, drummed heavily and loudly on the roof. Our region had a month's rain in just one day!

Pouring, drenching rain falling from the heavens.

During this unusual rain event, as I watched gutters and drains overflowing with precious water, I have been thinking about what happens to all the "liquid gold"  that falls on our property.

Water lost as it flows downhill into gutters and drains.
(Our house is at the top of this little street.)

In the Introductory Permaculture Course I recently attended, taught by the enthusiastic and inspiring Morag Gamble, who writes over at Our Permaculture Life, we were introduced to David Holmgren's twelve design principles. One of those principles encourages you to think about how to catch, harness and store energy; energy that is embodied in things such as sunlight, wind, seeds, food and water.

Water gushing from one of our neighbourhood's storm water drains.

A lot of rain fell in our area, over our land, yesterday. Looking out my misty windows to the street, venturing out to the soggy backyard and beyond under umbrella cover, there was much that I observed. While some of that rainwater poured off our roof and into our tanks, there was much that pooled in the circular "impression" where our old trampoline used to be, that trickled along the edge of the veggie patch like a little mini waterfall,  that flowed in under the house where it will no doubt be very muddy for a while, and that was lost as it gushed downhill into our street's gutters and drains. 

Yesterday's rain turned a dry brook into a swift stream.

The challenge as I understand it, remembering that I am just beginning to develop my understanding of Permaculture, is to find ways to capture more of the different energies that fall upon or move across/through your land. For example, when the sun is shining, we have solar panels to capture the sun's energy though the cost of batteries prevents us (at the moment) from storing that to use at night or in times of heavy cloud. We have a worm farm and compost bins that capture the energy stored in our food scraps and convert it into a form we can use in the garden. Our large sash windows, glass sliding doors and french doors help to harness the breezes we get here and bring them inside. In terms of the precious water that rain brings, we have one large tank under our house and another much smaller one under our back verandah. Water that doesn't fall on our roof and into our tanks, flows downhill as our land slopes sharply at the front and gently at the back. Some of that water soaks into our soil but a lot is lost in run-off. So I need to think about how to:

          *  slow that water down to give it more time to soak into our soil;
          *  use areas where the water naturally pools on our block of land;
          *  direct water into drier areas;
          *  direct water away to stop it flowing under our house.

One of the many large mushrooms popping up in moist soil.

I like the way in which the different Permaculture principles provide a framework for me to think about things and they way they throw up questions about how to build sustainability practically into our life here. I think they are applicable as much to my little suburban home as they are to the largest property. I think I'll sit with each one for a while, ponder them, learn more  and then see to what decisions they lead.


p.s. If you experienced the wild weather over the past few days, here in Queensland or Northern NSW, I hope that you are safe and dry this morning. My best wishes and thoughts to all those whom Cyclone Debbie impacted this week.  Xxx

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Peek Into Permaculture: A City Farm

Over the weekend, I spent my days immersed in an introductory Permaculture course within the surrounds of an inspiring and abundant city farm

A city farm statue 
(with wicking bed, chicken house, fruiting tree in the background)

Permaculture's emphasis on Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share resonates profoundly with me so learning more is something that I have been looking forward to for a long time. I have been reading books, articles and blogs, viewing online videos and talking with staff at the city farm nursery whenever I visit to buy garden supplies, seeds or seedlings. For me though, reading and talking can't take the place of practical, hands-on experience and, while I'll write more about what I learned from the introductory course later in the week, I thought first that I would show you why I found the city farm the perfect place to learn:

An abundance of food growing in a raised bed.

 Passionfruit growing up a trellis on the side of a building provides food and shade.

 Fiery orange marigolds deter pests with their distinctive scent.

 Pigeon pea is one of the many important & useful perrenial species.

The blossoms of the Carambola tree offer up the promise of Star Fruit.

One of the much-valued city farm residents.

 A chicken house for the city farm's chooks.

 A "motel" too for the solitary bees.

 Recycling waste to return goodness to the soil.

 A heavily laden lime tree.

 One of many juicy, fragrant limes.

 One of several different types of spinach varieties called Ceylon Spinach.

 The tall, mulit-purpose & spectacular Canna Lily.

One of the No-Dig Garden beds that we helped to build and plant out.

The city farm, with its people, plants, animals, Sunday market, little nursery and community atmosphere, allows one to see a practical application of permaculture. While there learning, I could see, touch, smell, taste, reach and experience real examples of what I was learning about. I left with an enriched understanding, a desire to learn even more, ideas and more ideas and an impatient "itch" to apply what I learned.

Happy Monday to you. I hope your weekend was as inspiring as mine.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Mini Quiches

Filled with the goodness of fresh eggs, grated or leftover veggies, tasty bacon or ham and a little flavoursome cheese, mini quiches are a great bite-sized lunchbox, picnic or weekend-at-home snack. I make them often!

A batch of mini quiches ... bacon and zucchini OR leftover roasted pumpkin. Yum!

These little quiches are quick, easy and versatile.  To the eggy filling you can add, in any combination you like, some grated zucchini, kernels of corn, diced capsicum, chunks of leftover roasted vegetables, thin slices of tangy tomato, some cubes of bacon or a little ham and/or a scattering of chives or some spring onion. A sharp, tasty cheese like Parmesan, grated and sprinkled on top, gives them an inviting golden topping too.

Just out of the oven ... 

Little Mini Quiches

2 sheets ready-made Puff Pasty 
4 large eggs
2-3 Tablespoons pouring cream
a selection of some fresh or leftover veggies, as suggested above, grated or diced/chopped 
2 rashers bacon or 2 slices ham, chopped to small size
a twist or two of black pepper
grated tasty or Parmesan cheese 

1.  Preheat oven to temperature recommended on puff pastry packaging.

2.  Defrost puff pastry sheets and cut each one into 9 smaller squares.

3.  Line each muffin hole, in non-stick silicone muffin pans, with a square of pastry.  
     (Alternately, you can place each pastry square on a slightly larger square of non-stick
     baking paper, and then line each muffin hole.)
4.  Beat eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the cream until combined.

5.  Mixed in your choice of grated, chopped fillings except for the cheese.

6.  Transfer eggy mixture to a large pouring jug and 3/4 fill each pastry-lined muffin hole.

7.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top of each little unbaked quiche.

8.  Carry carefully to the oven (I place my silicone muffin pans on baking trays before I fill
     them otherwise I find I can't move the pans without the eggy mixture spilling over.)

9.   Bake until the egg is cooked through and the cheese is golden on top.

10. Allow to cool a little before devouring! 

A homemade and scrumptious snack.

These scrumptious little snacks quickly become lunch or dinner with the addition of a simple salad and some fresh bread. Enjoy!


Monday, 13 March 2017

Here & Now 10

My week days here have been busy of late but now, come the weekend, I've relaxed back into the happy patterns of home. It's so lovely to slip into the comforts and corners of one's own home after spending some days working. Even when that work is fulfilling and joyful, it is still wonderful to come home.

A beautifully stitched project bag that inspired me to make one of my own.

So many good reads from my local library.

Refreshing, invigorating and simple Foot Scrub.

Loving //  Leisurely reading through all the wonderful books I have borrowed from my local library.
Eating //  Small slices of this lovely, simple Lemon Crumble Slice. (Sorry, no photo, we ate it all!)
Drinking //  Fresh, clean, filtered water 
Feeling //  Inspired by the tiny, botanical stitchings of Melissa Wastney
Making //  Minty and invigorating Magnesium Foot Scrubs for friends.
Thinking //  Of all I'm going to learn when I do an Introduction to Permaculture course in a couple 
                         of weeks time. (Hooray!)
Dreaming //  Of all the abundance I hope to grow in my Autumn veggie patch.
                          (That's if Autumn ever arrives as it's 32C again here today!)

I love the simple and happy rhythms of our home that create a here & now that is like a soothing balm, a warm hug and a refreshing reminder of what matters most. You can share your own simple pleasures and projects, with Sarah and all of us, over at Say, Little Hen.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Late Afternoon in Noosa

Late afternoon by the sea is such a lovely time to be outside. That time of day when the light begins to fade, when the sea breezes refresh your skin, when the fine sand is cooler underfoot and when shadows and silhouettes are shaped by the setting sun. Our little family enjoyed just such an afternoon last Sunday, up in Noosa, a popular beachside town not far from here.

A golden sunset over the waters of the Noosa River.

We made the trip up to Noosa,  a couple of hours to the North, to watch the Surfing Dog Spectacular, as our boy loves anything and everything related to our canine friends. Together with their surfing buddies, quite a few cool, well-trained dogs caught some waves off Noosa's Main Beach and rode them in. (Our Sir Steve dog was not among them...we all agreed that he would sink a surfboard should we ever manage to get him up on one!)

 Heading out past the breakers...

...and riding a wave back in again!

After such a funny event, we wandered back down the beautiful beach and over to Noosa's river, a spot so close to where it meets the sea. We wallowed contentedly there until the sun began to set. As the last rays of sunlight signalled the end of the "day", we reluctantly dried off before we set off in the twilight to a favourite picnic place.

Twilight over the Noosa River.

We spread out our simple picnic dinner, upon our little red rug, at the entrance to Noosa's National Park. There, as "night" settled around us, we listened to the commencement of a chorus of cicadas and watched the last-of-the-day's surfers ride their last waves in to shore. 

 My picnickers looking out over the ocean.

Night descends over the ocean.

The drive home was a happy one. Salty and sandy and content from an afternoon spent together, in Noosa. Bliss!

I hope you will spend your coming Sunday afternoon contentedly too.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Leaves on Linen Project Bag

A scattering of embroidered leaves, stitched upon soft and worn linen, becomes a sweet drawstring project bag. 

A handmade project bag.

This is the first project bag I have made after admiring for so long those stitched and sewn by the very talented Melissa Wastney of tiny happy.  While my stitches are nowhere near as fine or as tiny as Melissa's, I am happy all the same with my simple leaves on linen. 

 Pieces ready to be sewn up into a project bag.

The pattern for my project bag came from Melissa's book, Sweet and Simple Handmade, which I borrowed from my local library. The fabric came from my stash: with the leaves embroidered on the aging linen of a very old tea towel; the lining is a very soft cotton printed with tiny fruits; the casing made from scraps of silk that I dyed in a workshop on natural plant dyes. I used a sheer gold ribbon I had here too for the drawstring though I think I will replace this with a much narrower, silk ribbon to make the bag close more readily.

A handmade linen bag lined with a soft printed cotton.

This project bag is large enough to hold a small knitting or craft project, a gift for a dear friend or a good novel and one's reading glasses (if, like me, you need them). I plan to make several more, just like this one, but instead of leaves I want to stitch feathers and flowers, berries and butterflies, maybe even mushrooms!


Monday, 6 March 2017

Little Fruity Cupcakes

My favourite cupcake recipe is one I've been making since my boy was very small indeed. I first made them to form the "body" of the cakey caterpillar that was his first birthday cake. I still make them now and they are a lovely treat.  

Sweet, fruity cupcakes with a swirl of white chocolate on top!

The recipe for these fruity cupcakes comes from Lizzie Vann's "Organic:  Baby and Toddler Cookbook". The pages of my copy are a bit "splattered" now as it's been open on my kitchen bench, in the midst of cooking and toddler mayhem, many a day. And, while my boy is much older now, I still cook a few of the recipes from its pages.  

As is my way, I have tinkered a bit with the recipe though very minimally by adjusting quantities slightly, leaving out the sultanas (as no-one in my family eats sultanas) and adding tinned pears as well as banana for the cake batter. This fruit takes the place of refined sugars in this recipe which is one of the reasons I like it. (Less guilt when adding that swirl of white chocolate on top!)  Here's how I make them:

Little Fruity Cupcakes

80g softened butter
1 ripe mashed banana
6-8 slices of soft tinned pear
1 egg
1 Tablespoon honey
100mL milk
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

1.  Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Cream the butter with the banana and the soft tinned pears. (I do this in my Thermomix 
     but any food processor should do the trick.)

3.  Blend in the egg.

4.  Mix in the milk and honey.

5.  Sift the flour and baking powder.

6.  Gently mix the flour into the wet ingredients until the batter is just combined.

7.  Spoon the mixture into small cupcake cases leaving a little room for them to rise
     while baking.

8.  Bake for approximately 15minutes until a skewer, inserted in the middle of a cupcake, 
    comes out clean.

9.  Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy fresh for morning or afternoon tea or freeze them for later!

These little cupcakes can be iced very simply. The original suggestion in the cookbook is to top them with some fresh fruit, like sliced strawberries or kiwi fruit. I melt a little white or dark chocolate and swirl that on top. You could also make up an icing, tint it with a little food colouring, and even add a flurry of sprinkles, if that were your preferred cupcake style. 



Friday, 3 March 2017

Common and Beautiful

Resting upon a leaf, of the star jasmine that runs itself rampant along one of our fences, was this brown-winged butterfly. It is a Common Australian Crow Butterfly (or Oleander Butterfly).

 Common Australian Crow Butterfly rests on our star jasmine.

While not as colourful and boldly patterned as its showy cousins, and a much more common sight in our garden than some others, it is none the less beautiful. Fine and delicate with white spots that look like a painter has dabbed them on, oh so precisely!

Flying away.

It might be common but, like so many things, very beautiful too when one looks closely and with wonder.

Have a lovely weekend.