Monday, 29 May 2017

This Gardener's Greatest Thrill

There is so much about our garden that brings me joy but the thrill I get, when I take an empty basket out into the backyard and fill it with a variety of fresh, nutritious food that we can then eat is just beyond compare for this here gardener. 

There's a lot in the fresh food we grow. There's the warmth and light of the sun, the water that falls from the sky, the goodness in the soil and in the compost we make, the work of the bees and worms and other little critters too. Our work (though I have to admit that much of the time it doesn't feel like work to me) is in this fresh food too and baskets full of our own just-picked, homegrown goodness make that effort feel so worthwhile.

Picked fresh today from just outside our back door.

I love growing some of our own food. We are nowhere near self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables but we can often include something from our garden in every main meal during the milder months of the year. Today, there were the shredded leaves of silverbeet in our morning omelettes, mixed lettuce leaves in our lunchtime wraps, juicy mandarins plucked from our tree for afternoon tea and lettuce (again), spring onion and herbs in our evening salad. 

Growing food in our garden provides not only delicious nourishment but great joy as well, not least of which is in the eating!

Meg












Thursday, 25 May 2017

A Garden Visitor 10

A quiet presence watched us shyly as we worked in her garden. 

A shy resident of the city farm.

Usually, I write about the beautiful animals that visit our garden but, this time, I was the visitor. Nestled in under the roof of one of the buildings of the city farm, this beautiful little possum watched as we worked in the Permaculture gardens nearby. All of our work and our chatter was probably keeping this sleepy nocturnal animal awake!

We have our own possum here who trundles down our back fence, along our side fence and up into the plane trees that overhang our fenceline. The sounds of his nocturnal nibblings often draws us outside, torch in hand, to see if we can spot him...and we often do...munching away happily on what the trees and our garden have to offer!

I love to see native animals in my own suburban garden. To me, it means that our place here offers a bit of a haven for them in the midst of all these houses, roads and cars that have replaced the natural bush and reduced their habitat. Yes, our resident possum does nibble on a few things I'd much rather he didn't (most recently he made a meal out of the new leaves on every single one of my broccoli seedlings:( but there is room and enough for us both to share. I'll just have to plan a bit better when I replant the broccoli!

Do you have native animals in residence at your place?

Meg



Monday, 22 May 2017

Jelly Bush Honey

Every year, I always bring home a few treasures from the little monthly market on beautiful North Stradbroke Island ("Straddie") where we go for holidays every year. There's always a few bars of handmade soap, a bargain from the secondhand stall, something knitted or woven or sewn by a local crafter and we never leave without some island honey. 

The honey stall is my favourite among all the little market stalls. I love to chat with the beekeeper (whom I've affectionately nicknamed "The Bee Man") about all things bees and I never fail to learn something new about these amazing little insects and their honeys. This year, I brought home a rather special honey too.

Jelly Bush Honey from North Stradbroke Island.

Jelly Bush Honey is thick, oozy honey. It comes from a tree in the Leptospermum family as does New Zealand's medicinal Manuka Honey. The Jelly Bush Honey I bought has an activity rating of 20+.  This rating reflects the antibacterial level determined by tests in a laboratory. As I understand it, the higher the total activity rating, the higher the antibacterial level in the honey. On the side of my little pot of this special honey, it says it can be used as an ointment for wounds and ulcers and that it can be taken to soothe sore throats too. 

As we often soothe our sore throats with a teaspoon of honey or a warming honey and lemon drink, I thought bringing home a little pot of this Jelly Bush Honey may come in handy during the colder months. I used it recently, when I developed a cold, and I found that it did soothe my sore, scratchy throat. And it tasted lovely too!

Jelly Bush Blossom (Leptospermum polygalifolium)
Photo credit ~ John Tann via flickr.com

Straddie's bees forage in a beautiful place and they make beautiful honeys. When we return this Summer, they'll be busy collecting pollen from the Leptospermum's flowers and turning that in to this amazing Jelly Bush Honey. I will bring some home with me again, across the bay.

Meg


Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Saturday Stroll

Saturday often begins with a long, slow stroll along neighbourhood paths. I love setting out to explore with the warm sun on my shoulders, bright blue sky overhead and our Sir Steve dog by my side. Occasionally, I take the camera too and photograph some of the beauty we spy along the way...

 Vibrant Golden Penda 'pompom'.

 A jewel-coloured Hibiscus Beetle.

Seedpods decorate the leopard trees.

The scent from these blossoms perfumes the air.

Autumn yellow tree leaves.

Blossoms and blue sky.

 Zingy limes overhang a neighbour's fence.

 Gorgeous Gordonia or "Fried Egg" plant.

My beautiful walking companion.

Steve dog and I are just about to set out for another walk together. After waking to gentle rain early this morning, the sky is now its Autumn blue and outside beckons. Perhaps you'll have time for your own Saturday stroll sometime today.

Have a lovely weekend.
Meg


Monday, 15 May 2017

Here & Now 12

Autumn has now settled gently around us. Here, our days feel slower with later dawns that 'encourage' a lingering under warm blankets before rising, an indulgence very hard to resist! Autumn's colours, rich golds and oranges and dusky pinks, warm the sky at dawn and dusk and are woven through much of this beautiful season.

 A fiery Autumnal sunrise.

Freshly baked golden pumpkin scones.

Autumnal colour in a Gazania bloom.

Loving //  The breaking dawns of Autumn that set the sky on fire!
Eating //  Pie! Anything piping hot with flaky pastry really...
Drinking //  Frothy hot chocolates in my pretty tea cup. 
Feeling //  Indulged after a lovely breakfast in bed for Mothers' Day.
                         (Avocado on toast and crispy bacon made by my boy and his Dad.)
Making //  Simple crafts like these with materials we have here at home.
Thinking //  Deeply about what sustainability really means after reading this book.
Dreaming //  Of marshmallows for my hot chocolates!

Autumn is my favourite season. I love its slower days, glorious colours, warming foods, turning leaves and crisp mornings. Others are sharing their own Here & Now lists over with Sarah at Say, Little Hen. You might like to join in too!

Have a lovely start to your week.
Meg

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, it's the simple pleasures that sustain us ...  

 A simple pleasure in a pretty tea cup.

I think we all have those times when overwhelm threatens; when the world seems to be spinning just that little bit too fast; when one feels at odds with that world; when a problem seems so complicated; when too many thoughts impose themselves at once or the to-do list has grown so long that it's run off the end of the page. During those times in my life, I find that it's very simple pleasures that help to restore calm and put things back in perspective.

Here are some of my simplest pleasures. 

walking 
(with Sir Steve dog, on the beach, through a forest..)

reading
(preferably curled up or stretched out with a pillow under my head)

pottering in my garden
(visiting with flowers, watching the bees, planting in the soil ... )

stitching & knitting
(just concentrating on one stitch at a time)

a slowly sipped drink 
(currently a frothy hot chocolate in a pretty tea cup)

listening to music
(anything that's my favourite)

home picnics
(on the grass in my own backyard)


What about you? What would be the simple pleasures on your list?

Meg




Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Most Moreish Popcorn

Sweet, salty, nutty, homemade caramelly popcorn. A most moreish snack. It was so yummy, in fact, that it was impossible to photograph in any kind of stylish way because it was gobbled up so quickly. Popcorn elves! 

A most moreish snack.

I tinkered just a little with this recipe, for a Salted Caramel Rocky Road Popcorn, from Jemma over at The Healthy Journey, to get a more simplified version to work in with what I had in my pantry. 


Caramelly Popcorn 
*not suitable for those with nut allergy*

Ingredients:

6 cups freshly popped popcorn
4 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons crunchy peanut butter  (or smooth if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

1.  Place freshly popped popcorn in a large bowl.

2. Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan.

3.  Add maple syrup, peanut butter and salt.

4.  Combine over a low heat until blended into a smooth caramelly sauce.


Little crunchy peanut pieces in caramelly sauce
because I used crunchy peanut butter.

5.  Pour sauce over freshly popped popcorn.

6.  Mix until popcorn is coated evenly with caramelly sauce.

7.  Spread out evenly on a lined tray and place in freezer until set. 
     (This doesn't take very long!)

8.  Remove from freezer once set. Break into small clusters and keep in airtight container
      in the fridge. 

     * Keep a close eye on it because it will otherwise disappear.*
Popcorn elves!


Meg














Monday, 8 May 2017

Flower Pot Hearts

Pretty beads and some thin, flexible wire is all you need to make whimsical flower pot hearts. (A pair of pliers comes in handy too!)

A flower pot heart ... in a flower pot!

I came across this tutorial, for Whimsical Floral Sticks, when searching for something my son could make for his Grandmothers for Mothers' Day with materials we already had here at home. 

The pretty beads we used for our flower pot hearts.

We made our flower pot hearts with beads, rescued from broken bracelets and last Christmas' fancy bonbon ties, and some wire from hubby's stash. (Pliers came in handy for cutting and twisting the wire.) This is the result of our crafting:

Two pretty flower pot hearts. 

This is a very simple idea that is easy for a child to make with minimal help. They make a sweet little gift and add a touch of extra love to a potted flower or herb. 

Meg






Friday, 5 May 2017

The Work of the Bees

One of the things that gives me the most pleasure in my garden is the sight and sound of bees working among the flowers.  Our teeny-tiny native bees take flight from their hive each morning on a trajectory to their favourite exotic and native blooms. Larger and solitary native bees, like the beautiful Blue-banded Bee and the noisy Teddybear Bee, find their treasure here too. Honeybees stop by to plunder the flowers and fill their pollen baskets before taking off to somewhere new.

A honeybee upon a salvia flower in our garden.

While they may be only small, the work of bees is of such huge importance. As they go about their work, they pollinate a very significant percentage of our food crops. (80% of Australia's fruit, vegetable, grain and nut crops according to Michael Mobbs in his book, "Sustainable Food"). In our own garden, the evidence of their "handy-work" is everywhere. It's in the newly forming passionfruits that hang like baubles from the vine that runs along our back fence. It's in the ripe mandarins that grew after the sweetly-scented blossoming of our backyard tree. And, it's in the beginnings of a destined-for-soup pumpkin forming on our "volunteer" vine. This is food that we can harvest and eat because of the work of bees. 



Evidence of the work bees do grows in our garden.

Bees do so much more than make honey!  Unfortunately though, honeybee populations are in decline around the world because of a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. It seems that a number of factors may cause this dramatic collapse/death of a hive: pesticides (with much focus on a group of chemicals called neonicotinoids), habitat loss, disease and varroa mite infestation. With these threats impacting upon their populations, bees need all the help we can give them. We can:

Grow flowers and other bee-friendly plants!
(habitat & food)

Avoid using chemicals and insecticides!
(on lawns & gardens)

Provide water for bees to drink!
(A shallow dish with a stick or stone bridge so they don't drown.)

Construct a bee hotel

Write to councils to ask them to stop spraying implicated insecticides/pesticides.
(e.g. on parks, roadside kerbs etc.)

Buy raw, local & untreated honey.
(Get to know the beekeeper & their ethics.)

Grow some of your own food without using chemicals.
(The bees will help you with pollination!)

Adopt a native stingless bee hive for your garden.

Read more about bees and their importance to our food supply.

Tiny native bees at the "front door" of their hive in our garden.

If we pondered, just for a moment, what could happen to our food supply without the pollination of crops carried out by bees, supermarket shelves might look like thisThat's only one sobering example of just how much our food supply is reliant upon the work of the bees. 

The next time I see a honeybee loading up its pollen baskets in my salvia flowers or see one of our tiny native bees atop a passionfruit bloom, I think I'll whisper a quiet, "Thank you" and I'll promise to do more.

Meg

p.s. ABC TV's Catalyst program has this story on colony collapse disorder if you are interested in learning more.






















































Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Pumpkin and Perpetual Spinach Cannelloni

The Perpetual Spinach seedlings I planted not that long ago are now producing an abundance of delicious green leaves. Perpetual Spinach is not a true spinach but a type of chard with young leaves that resemble baby spinach and that have a taste more like spinach than chard. The best thing about this amazing green is that the more you pick the leaves, the more the plant produces. It's a pick and come again leafy green which is such a generous thing to have growing in the veggie patch.

Perpetual Spinach growing happily in my garden.

I have been picking these highly nutritious leaves daily and using them in the meals we eat here. I shred them for wilting in breakfast omelettes. I toss them into healthy lunchtime salads. I combine them with other vegetables in our evening meal as I've done in this delicious cannelloni.

A delicious vegetarian cannelloni.

This recipe is an adaptation on Kate Di Prima's  Three Cheese and Pumpkin Cannelloni in the recipe book, "Kids Meals the Whole Family will Love".  If you don't have Perpetual Spinach growing in your garden, you could just as easily use baby spinach or some young silverbeet leaves.


Nutritious ingredients for a delicious cannelloni.

Pumpkin & Perpetual Spinach Cannelloni

80g cold mashed pumpkin
generous handful of fresh perpetual spinach leaves, chopped
200g fresh ricotta cheese
1/3cup grated tasty cheese
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon nutmeg
8-10 cannelloni tubes
500mL tomato passata
small handful fresh basil leaves
* finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)


1.  Preheat oven to 200C.

2.  Mix together the cheeses, pumpkin, spinach and egg yolks in a large bowl. Season with 
     nutmeg. This is the filling for your cannelloni.

3. Scoop the filling into a piping bag and set aside.  (If you don't have a piping bag, place the
    filling in a clean plastic freezer bag and tie a knot at the top, later you can snip corner off 
    for filling to squeeze through:)

4. Finely chop basil and mix this through the tomato passata.

5. Cover the base of a greased or lined rectangular baking dish with about a third of the     
     passata. (* Make sure your can fit up to 10 cannelloni tubes side by side in your dish.)

6. Carefully pipe filling into each cannelloni tube laying them side by side on top of the
    passata that covers the base of your dish.

Filled cannelloni tubes in the baking dish.
    
8.  Pour remaining passata over the top of the filled cannelloni tubes so they are completely covered.

9.  Sprinkle finely grated parmesan over the top of the passata.

10. Bake in oven until cannelloni tubes are soft and top is golden brown.

Serve with a tossed salad or some steamed vegetables for a healthy, homemade meal. 

Perpetual Spinach is so easy to grow and it's such a versatile veg. There are so many ways that you can use it once you have it growing in your garden. Omelettes, salads, pies, stir fries, soups, spanakopita or ... cannelloni!

Meg



















Monday, 1 May 2017

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Fragrant flowers, that fade from an intense violet to a softer lavender blue and then to white, are such a sweet  feature of the old-fashioned shrub that I know as the Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia) bush. It is the way in which its flowers change colour from day to day that give this shrub its common name.

From violet ...

... to lavender blue ...

 ... & then to white.

The young Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow bush growing in my garden was covered in masses of these blooms after the recent soaking rains we had. It is slower growing and it does need water, especially in the drier months of the year. After flowering, it's important to give it a light prune to encourage new growth and to keep the shrub bushy.

Flowers and raindrops.

My Grandmother grew this shrub in her garden, my Mother grows it still and now I do too. The fragrance of its little flowers brings back memories of the gardens I played in when I was young. It's amazing how fragrance can do that in an instant:

"Smell is a potent wizard 
that transports you across a thousand miles
and all the years you have lived."

                                                                                              ~ Helen Keller

Do you grow fragrant plants in your garden and do they take you back in time too?

Meg

p.s. You need to be aware, if you choose to grow this shrub, that parts of it are poisonous to dogs.