Saturday, 29 April 2017

Making More Mulch

Laying down mulch over the soil in a garden has many benefits but it can be quite expensive if you have to buy it in regularly to cover a large area. The solution to cutting down that expense is to grow some of your own mulches.

Sugar cane mulch helps to protect the soil around seedlings like this little lettuce.

At our place, we have regularly used (and had to buy) sugar cane and lucerne mulches for our garden beds and veggie patch plus a coarser bark for laying down around native plants. We are hoping to cut down on how much of this mulch we need to buy, especially for the garden beds where shrubs and flowers are the predominate plantings. We are going to grow and make some of our own mulch instead!

The long, dry leaves of lemongrass laid around the base of a native raspberry plant.

I learnt a lot more about plants that I can grow for mulches at the Introduction to Permaculture course I completed in at the City Farm recently. Our teacher for this course, Morag Gamble, has this great list of plants you can grow as/for mulch over on her blog, Our Permaculture Life. At our place, in our suburban garden, we've chosen to plant more lemongrass and to start growing Canna Lily (Queensland Arrowroot variety) to increase the amount of our own mulch available for use in our garden.

One of many newly planted lemongrasses in our garden.

Lemongrass and Canna Lily grow quite abundantly in our climate so they are very suitable as "chop and drop" mulches, where you simply cut back the plants and let the leaves/stems fall to cover the soil. 

A new Canna Lily leaf emerges just weeks after planting divided rhizomes.

We also have an abundance of prunings, from the shrubs that grow well in our garden, at various times of the year. To make better use of these for mulch, we decided to invest in a little mulching machine. We used some gift cards we had been given by family last Christmas to put towards the cost of our new mulcher. 

Our new mulching machine.

By growing more plants for mulches and by putting suitable garden clippings through our little mulcher, we should save some money and also make better use of the organic material our own garden supplies us with. 

Do you grow plants for mulch in your garden?


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ginger Anzac Biscuits

Each year, on ANZAC Day, I make a batch of Anzac biscuits.  In traditional recipes, these sweet biscuits are made with oats, sugar, flour, butter and golden syrup. It seems the origin of these biscuits is unknown though it is said that they were made and sent in the care packages that the first, far-from-home ANZAC soldiers received from their loved ones and families. 

A batch of Ginger Anzacs & the cookbook that inspired them.

The biscuits I baked yesterday, for my family, add a little hint of spice with a recipe that pays a nod to the traditional but uses healthier ingredients. For her wholesome and beautiful cookbook, Wholehearted Food, chef Brenda Fawdon created a recipe for Ginger Anzac Biscuits where she uses preserved ginger and its syrup to flavour the biscuits. While that would be delicious, I didn't have any preserved ginger so I just used ground ginger and maple syrup instead. This is how I made them:

Ginger Anzacs

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
150g unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons bicarb soda

 Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.

 Melt the butter with maple syrup and water in a saucepan.

 Remove melted butter mixture from heat and add in bicarb soda.

 Stir gently until mixture becomes frothy.

Combine melted butter mixture and dry ingredients.

 Roll tablespoons of mixture into little balls. Flatten slightly after placing on a tray.
(Leave enough space between each biscuit as they will spread as they cook.)

Bake at 170C until golden ...
... then remove and cool on oven tray before transferring to biscuit rack.

The subtle hint of ginger spice in these Anzac biscuits was a nice twist on an original Anzac biscuit. If you really love ginger though, you might like to try making them with preserved ginger and its syrup instead. I imagine they would be .... well...more gingery!


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Hope on ANZAC Day

Here in Australia today, it is ANZAC Day. A day of solemn remembrance that has its origins in a hopeless World War 1 Allied landing and ensuing battle, fought over 100 years ago, on a distant shoreline from which many never returned.  At a place now known as Anzac Cove, on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, on the 25th April, 1915,  so many Australian and New Zealand men lost their lives and many more, on both sides, would do so before the eventual retreat was completed by the end of January, 1916. 

Rosemary, a herb for boosting memory, blooms in my garden.
(Sprigs are worn on ANZAC Day & it grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula.)

Both my son and I share a love of history and sometimes he asks some very complex questions to which there are no easy answers. This morning, before I'd had my breakfast and was not fully awake, he had asked me, "Why are there wars, Mum?" In answering him, I told him of battles over honour, power, religion, land, oil and those that will probably come over food and water. We spoke about World War 1 and Gallipoli. I showed him images of the cliffs that tower above Anzac Cove and explained why it was such a futile landing. And then I played him Eric Bogle's haunting anti-war ballad, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". 

For me, it is in the sobering, honest words of Bogle's ballad, that never fails to leave me quiet and goosefleshed, that the lessons of history and war reside. While, at the end of it all there may be a victor, so many lose so much. 

A peace lily flowers in my garden.

Why write about something so serious on my blog, where the word hopeful features prominently in the banner? Because, just as it does in my son, with his inquiring questions, I truly believe that in every child there lies the hope & potential for a peaceful future. 

Peace is what every human being is craving for,
and it can be brought about by humanity through the child."

                                                                                              (Maria Montessori)

So, as I remembered today, I also wished for peace; for my son and for all of the world's children.


p.s. There are several videos of Eric Bogle's ballad on You-tube. I chose one without accompanying photographs because I think the words alone are enough. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Friday Frittata

A simple frittata, made with the vegetables languishing in the crisper of your fridge just before shopping day, is a healthy, delicious and economical meal. Using up those veggies, before they go way past their best, is not only frugal but it stops the contents of your crisper adding to the shameful piles of food waste thrown away by many households every year. It's a great dish for using up leftover roasted veg too!

The recipe, for Roast Vegetable Free-Up the Fridge Frittata, comes from Melissa Goodwin of the blog, Frugal and Thriving.  All you need to do is: 

Liberate any languishing veggies from your crisper. Cut them into chunks & roast them.

Gather some simple ingredients for your frittata.

Add your roasted veggies to the whisked eggs & cream.
Put in some cubes of ham or bacon if you want to.

Top with some grated tasty cheese.

 Bake your frittata until cheese is melted & golden.

This tasty frittata makes a delicious lunch or dinner. Leftovers are great for a veggie-laden breakfast or to take to work or school in the lunchbox. (It makes a nice change to sandwiches or rolls.) Best of all, it's a dish that's good for you and, if you use up veggies you might otherwise have thrown away, it's good for our Earth too!

Have a very happy weekend everyone.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Beautiful Botanic Gardens

Last time we explored our city's Botanic Gardens, at Mt. Coot-tha in Brisbane, it was Summer time. Our visit this time, during our recent school holiday break, was an Autumnal one. On our wanderings around these sprawling gardens, that encompass a water-lilied lake, Japanese garden, tropical dome, rainforest and more, we found a Chocolate Tree (that I wrote about in my last post) and many other amazing plants, animals, sculptures and spaces. These were some of my favourites:

An unfurling magnolia bloom.

A soft, delicate pink & open bloom.

 The beautiful roof of the tropical dome reflected in its pond.

Lush planting in the tropical dome.

A towering cactus in the arid garden.

Vibrant red flowers reflect the heat.

 Carefully shaped azalea shrubs in the peaceful Japanese garden.

A tranquil trickle into a Japanese water bowl.

 A panda sculpture in the bamboo grove.

A mother ... and her cub!

A pretty, deep pink salvia.

A sweep of deep purple salvias.

Tiny native bees at the "door" of their hive.

 A honey bee & native bees working on a sunflower.

A mass of lily pads floating upon the lake.

 A sleepy turtle sunbakes on a warm rock.

And ... a gorgeous camellia flower.

I can lose myself for many hours in these gardens. Wandering from plant to plant, picnicking under a tree, breathing in deeply the scent of flowers and herbs, listening to the trickle of water or the call of ducks. They are a peaceful, green haven and a soothing contrast to the constant bustle that is our city. 


Monday, 17 April 2017

The Source of Chocolate

From the Amazonian rainforest comes the tree that gives us the raw ingredient from which we make chocolate, one of the world's most beloved foods. Its scientific name (Theobroma cocao) is loosely translated, from its Greek roots, as "food of the gods" (Theos meaning God & Bromas meaning food). Chocolate lovers the world over would surely agree it's an aptly named tree!

 Ripe yellow pods on a Chocolate Tree.
(Theobroma cocao)

On a recent trip to my city's Botanic Gardens, we found a Chocolate Tree growing in the warm and humid environment of the Garden's tropical dome. Inside the ripe, yellow pods, are the seeds (beans) which, once processed, will yield the nibs from which cocoa liquor  is made. This liquor (which contains cocoa mass and cocoa butter) is the basis for making the chocolate so many of us love.

The tree's sign in the Mt. Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane.

The commercial production of cocao beans is very labour intensive. Growing and caring for the trees, harvesting and the early stages of processing the pods and beans, is done by hand. For example, the ripe pods are picked and opened by hand, the beans inside are scooped out by hand & dried beans are sorted by hand. Much of the world's cocoa beans are produced on small family farms in West Africa, where the farmers live well below the global poverty line of less than $1.90 per day. To me, that's a sobering "cut-off point"  given that a single chocolate bar can cost more than that here in Australia.

Recently, I have started learning about Permaculture & have been considering simple, practical ways/actions in which to integrate its three ethics of Earth Care, People Care & Fair Shares at our place. Choosing fair trade chocolate would make sense because it encourages the ethical growing and processing of cocoa beans and the provision of a living wage to farmers, farm workers and their families.  

Delicious dark chocolate ... the end product we buy.

Considering the source/production/impacts of the foods we buy, such as the chocolate that is made from the beans of these Chocolate Trees, can certainly raise some questions, issues and ethical dilemmas sometimes. 


Friday, 14 April 2017

Teacup Maple Syrup Puddings (Microwave)

Autumnal nights, crisp and cool, are perfect for puddings. And, a sweet & saucy pudding, in a teacup, not only warms your heart but your hands too as you wrap them around your chosen mug (after it's cooled down to a safe hold-able temperature, that is).

A sweet and warm teacup pudding with a dollop of cream.

I only acquired a microwave a short time ago. I typically use it just for reheating leftovers but occasionally, I'll make these little puddings. The original recipe, for a Butterscotch version, comes from Lucy at Bake.Play.Smile.  As is my way though, I have tinkered with the recipe a little and toned down the sweetness a lot in the process. This is how I make them at my place:  

Teacup Maple Syrup Puddings

CAKE:                                                                SAUCE:
100g butter                                                       1&1/2 cups boiling water
1 egg                                                                   1Tablespoon cornflour
1/2 cup milk                                                      2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract                              1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup                           thick cream for serving*
1/2 cup SR flour 

 Melt butter in your microwave.

 Whisk in milk, egg, vanilla & maple syrup.

Blend in flour by whisking gently.

 Divide the batter evenly to half-fill greased teacups.
(Recipe makes six.)

 Mix cornflour & coconut sugar together in a heatproof jug. 
Whisk in boiling water and maple syrup.

Pour sauce from heatproof jug very carefully over the top of the cake batter in each cup.
(Pouring the sauce over the back of a spoon helps:)

 Place cups (three at a time) on microwave plate & cook for 2minutes.
 Tops of puddings should be firm and a little springy. Cook further 30seconds if required.

During the cooking time, the teacups become quite hot so you need to be very careful when handling them. Allow each cup/pudding to cool before serving so that they merely warm the hands that hold them (rather than burning them).

A beautiful sauce forms underneath the cakey top during cooking.

If you would like to serve these with white chocolate chips, jersey caramels and/or ice-cream, as is Lucy's tempting suggestion, then you can. I just dollop a lovely scoop of thick cream on top before I sit myself down to savour spoonfuls of warm and gooey pudding. Delicious!

Do you have a favourite pudding recipe that you like to make? 


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Here & Now 11

It is Autumn now for here it is decidedly cooler in the mornings and quite crisp in the evenings. These Autumnal days are just glorious and such a welcome sigh after the heat and humidity of our Summer. Outside beckons often, be it the garden or a bit further afield...

A meandering boardwalk.

A tiny pink star.

Wetland mangrove spikes.

Loving //  The softer light of Autumn, my favourite season.
Eating //  Frittata filled with delicious leftover roasted vegetables. 
Drinking //  The first of this year's hot chocolates! 
Feeling //  Beautiful soil in my hands (and under my fingernails) as I plant out seedlings.
Making //  A sailor top in black linen.
Thinking //  Of just how lovely and exciting it is to collect freshly laid chicken eggs.
                          (Our boy helped friends collect their eggs today.) 
Dreaming //  While snuggled in under warm blankets.  Zzzzz...

If you would like to share snippets of your unfolding season then you can join in with Sarah over at Say, Little Hen too.   It's a lovely link up!