Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Beginnings

Things have been extra busy around here. I've been putting off an announcement for a while now, which I can't delay any longer. It's like If I don't write about it, it won't happen. But it is happening. It has happened! With good intentions yesterday, I wrote a rough copy which I had planned to publish yesterday afternoon. But alas, I still could'nt bring myself to complete and found other things to be doing.

My husband is/has flown out to Mackay today for a new job he starts on Monday. He will be working at Peak Downs Mine in Moranbah. With Moranbah being roughly 1800km away from home, it will take the whole day to get there via train, train, plane and coach. He will be tired by the time he arrives.

Two years ago Hubby was working in the Steel Industry here in the Illawarra and was one of 38 employees to lose their jobs when OneSteel closed their Steel Tubing Plant in Kembla Grange. It took Hubby 5 months to gain employment with another company. His work involved visiting industries to pick up their waste products to be recycled correctly. The hours were long with non-paid overtime, the work was very heavy and the company had no plans to buy a forklift or a trolley to help manouvre the +200kg steel barrels of waste. There was no room for improvement or promotion to climb the company ladder. My husband is used to being able to excel and grow in the work he does, and this was not the case. OH&S and WorkCover would have a field day at his previous place of employment.
Knowing he could never be happy there, he began training in his holidays to gain the necessary qualifications to gain employment in the Mining Industry.

Many Illawarra small business's depend on the Steel Industry here in the Illawarra and with the news of BHP closing down, they have had to re-evaluate their job security. You only have to turn on the news to see how tough it is at the moment to gain employment in the Illawarra. Hundreds, if not thousands of people will be looking elsewhere for work, and that often means relocating to another part of the country.

The original plan is to:

  • Travel where-ever necessary to gain employment in the Mining Industry
  • Once he gains roughly 12 months experience, then he will be able to get work closer to home. (At the moment, the local mines are not hiring people with no experience, so we do what we need to do) 
Hubby was originally supposed to begin work last week, but dates were doubled up, and he isn't able to complete the necessary Sight Induction until this week....so we have been extra busy around here trying to complete other things in that extra week together.  

On top of all that has been going on, my niece (Sh) fell critically ill with pneumonia while recovering from having her tonsils removed. She lives in Victoria and her sister (M) came from Queensland to help with her children and her recovery. Luckily M was there with her to notice her health deteriorating and got her to the Emergency Department with only minutes to spare. You must be very ill to have your clothes cut off you, so the doctors and nurses can work on you. 

I'm pleased to say that Sh is recovering well now from both traumas, but she still has a way to go. While visiting I have also built her a pot garden (pots because she rents) with lots of veg and herbs and flowers. Her back yard is not so empty now, and will look great when the plants begin to grow. I grew most of them from seed here at home and took them with me in the car. 

Here is a photo of the Rosemary I planted at the Bookham toilets on the highway to Victoria. I planted them on the way there, then watered them again on the way home...I also scattered Gazania seeds from Poppy's garden. If you have ever stopped there, you will know that the area needs a bit of colour. 

 Back to my Hubby! This is a whole new adventure for our family. While it isn't our first big change, I'm sure it won't be our last. Plan 'A' involves shifts of "5 on, 5 off". This means he will work 5 days, then have 5 days off, but I really don't expect him back for a few weeks first up, as I know he will take any work he is offered to 'learn the ropes'. He has already been told that he will be offered the chance to train in other areas, so I'm sure he will enjoy any work he gets.

I know the extra income will be a great help with the mortgage and a lot of much needed repairs on the house too. The ideal plan would be to pay off the mortgage sooner, and there's been a lot of talk around here with what to do with the extra income but.......
  • I'll still be me! 
  • I'll still be doing things from scratch. 
  • I will still do all the things I enjoy. 
  • I hope to have more time to commit to the Down to Earth Forum and my Blog, which I have been so horribly absent from lately....(Sorry Rhonda and sorry readers) 

There's going to be a lot of changes along the way, 
but I hope you will still follow with me in my/our journey. 
Please be patient with me!
People who have made recent requests, I will get to them shortly.
I haven't forgotten about that giveaway I spoke about recently either....

Here are a few photos which brightened my day a little, 
after saying goodbye to my husband this morning.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gardening 101 for November

I have signed up for a 12 month Gardening Course. You can view previous months by clicking on the month of September and October. It's early days in the course as yet, but before I know it, I will have a whole year of local knowledge up my sleeve....which is Brilliant, I must say. 
Richard the Practical Gardener is the best teacher. I always come home with lots of notes, and lots of homework for the following weeks....until we return for another lesson...... If you don't have a similar course where you live, ASK for one...I'm sure if enough people keep asking, something is bound to happen. It never hurts to ask!

Has it been 4 weeks since the last gardening meeting? So much has happened since then...and not just in the garden either....I sometimes feel like a chook running around with it's head cut off....never knowing which direction I'll be going in next. I've been to Brisbane for a week, and soon I'm off to Victoria for a week...I need to get as much done as I can in the garden before I travel.

My Liquid Fertiliser is doing great......
You may already have one started and not even realise it. Have you got a bucket laying in the back yard, full of the last episode of weeding...and it's rained since.....and it smells as if you are actually avoiding tipping it out, because you know how much it's going to stink.....????

Yep that bucket is full of Liquid Fertiliser.....How many of you have poured your money down the sink or into the compost, then gone to the nursery to buy the same product in a fancy bottle?  I know I have tossed a few in my time,....but up until now, I've never been vigilant enough to keep feeding my plants on a regular basis as yet....so at least I haven't spent more money too.  
I'm making my own  Searles Liquid 5IN1 Plus® which is suitable for all plants, including vegetables, fruits, flowering plants, indoor plants, ferns, orchids, roses, lawns etc......So you can see by the list, that once you make your own, you will never need to buy ANY fertilisers ever again! It covers everything in your garden!   .............
I've added to my Liquid Fertiliser ...

  • some 'ash' (potash) (from the neighbours fireplace)
  • some 'blood and bone'
  • some 'manure' possibly sheep, cow and horse (only use the ones you already have) 
  • some 'fish meal' possibly just a fish carcass, (although Lake Illawarra prawns are cheap at the fish market now, so maybe just some prawn shells.)
  • some 'seaweed' from the beach.....(I have my own seaweed solution) 
  • some 'worm castings' and 'worm tea' from my worm farm
  • some lime to neutralise the mix so not to burn the foliage
  • milk thistles on top are supposed to stop the stinky smell....so I'll try that too. 

I keep adding my weeds to the mix. It's a good way to USE your Wandering Dew, Onion Weed, Oxalis and other nasty weeds in your garden that you don't want in your compost.
Yesterday I strained a jug of this stinky liquid into a container....(to remove the larger particles, so that it will go through the pressure sprayer). Once strained...I used just over half a cup of 'MY 5 in 1'.....to a 5 litre pressure sprayer. I then went around the entire garden and sprayed all the leaves of all the plants.  Even though I can't verify the manures...I can honestly say it is the closest I can get to an Organic Liquid Fertiliser....and it's free! 

Macadamia trees 
If your Macadamia leaves are looking a bit yellow, it may be lacking in Magnesium
now is the time to fertilize with Epsom Salts by adding 1 teaspoon to a bucket of water
then water the tree with the entire bucket.

Rock Orchids are placed in a container with wet cotton-wool. This allows the roots to develop.
Established plants can now be mounted onto timber for Hanging Displays.
Rock Orchids flower for about 2 months.
The plants only need to be wired or glued until the the roots establish a firm grip to the timber.

It's also time to prepare for those nasty bugs visiting in your garden...If you haven't already put up your DAK pots to trap fruit fly....It's best to get it done now. I still have a few more to hang in the back yard.
From an earlier post ......Set up DAK Pots about 2 - meters from your fruit trees to deterFruitFly , use soft-drink bottles and add Vegemite, Sugar & Water. The male fly will hang around the DAK pot trap, and get tired and drown....The female can only lay eggs in your fruit if she is mated....So if all the males are hanging out at DAK City....there's no hanky panky and egg laying. 
 Molasses, Water & 2 coffee beans..one lady in the class suggested this recipe
as the female is attracted to the coffee.....
Thanks Sonia...I'm going to try both and watch closely.
Vegemite, Honey, Sugar and water....to attract male Fruit Fly.
Coffee Beans to attract the female fruit fly.
These two Dak pots will help the Feijoa tree and the Berrie's bed (hidden from view in this pic)

To deter Cabbage moths on your brassica's...make up a spray by pouring boiling water over leaves of the Pyrethrum plant...and leave to steep overnight. 
Decant into a spray bottle and spray both sides of your Brassica (Cabbage family) leaves. 
Clearly label your jar and your spray bottle.
The spray won't kill or detract the Cabbage moth, but when the moths' eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, it is them that will be killed by the Pyrethrum. You need to keep this up fortnightly.

I will also be tackling aphids and scale today.(the sap suckers)..
with a mixture of .........
2 cups of vegetable oil to 1 cup of pure liquid soap, blended two together until the emulsion becomes white. Dilute 1 tablespoon of this to 1 litre of water and spray over 
insects such as scale and citrus leaf minor. 
It is recommended to only use this in milder weather as the oil film over the plant can burn the leaves. 
My Fejoa tree has some scale, so it will be treated appropriately and also a ring of Vaseline added to the base of the trunk...to prevent scale climbing up the tree.

My Rose bush has recently developed a type of powdery mildew and black spot as well. 

To treat Black Spot on Roses....use 1 litre of soapy water and 1 litre of skim milk mixed together well. Spray on the foliage every couple of weeks, covering both sides of the leaves and the stems.

To treat Powdery Mildew on Soft leaf vegetables .... mix the following
4 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
50ml white oil
4 litres water
Mix well, and spray on foliage when needed.

A Garlic Spray can also be used as a general insecticide.
Crush several cloves of garlic and mix with 2 tablespoons of Paraffin Oil. Leave this to steep overnight. In a separate container, mix 500ml water and 1/3 cup of grated natural soap. Strain the garlic mix into the soapy water. Store in a glass jar, preferably refrigerated and clearly labelled. 
This needs to be diluted as 10 to 1 with water (1 part garlic/soap mix to 10 parts water) then misted over your plants. If you find this is not effective, dilute it less. It is not a contact spray, as it needs to be eaten by the pests. It can also work as a deterrent.

Here's some other things happening around here at the moment.

New beginnings

 Khol Rhabi can be planted out into larger pots before going in the ground.

Don't use the original Vodka bottle like I did.
It's too hard to get the rind out.
Rejuvenated Lemon Extract using fresh lemon rind.
This will make lovely xmas presents
along with my Vanilla Extract
My Lemon Extract       has been strained and rejuvenated with fresh lemon rind

My Citrus Cleaner is ready to be strained....so all I do is strain the old peels out of the vinegar, decant that into the container I have in the laundry marked Citrus Cleaner....and begin a new jar.

Here is the bottle of ready made Citrus Cleaner...plus the new jar of citrus cleaner in the making. The lemon juice is frozen in muffin pans which fit half a cup...once frozen, the half cups are added to a plastic bag in the freezer for stockpiling, ready for jam making in summer.

When harvesting worm castings be careful to gather any worm eggs you may find....here is a close-up of what worm eggs look like...they are easy to spot once you get 'your eye in'......also

I'm slowly harvesting my Calandular petals to make tea and my Calandular Cream for cuts and scrapes.....Once the flower is in full bloom, I just pick the petals, leaving the head of the flower behind to grow into a seed head. Every few days I am picking more petals...and I only started with two small plants.

This basket is where I let the petals dry....I just keep it in the dining room near the window....You can see the petals at the back are fresher than the ones in front....When the whole basket is dry, I decant them into a glass jar. I've nearly filled a jar already...and the plant still has a long summer ahead.

My Mini dumpling pumpkins...and Mini golden pumpkins have been planted out. Old Tyres cost nothing at your local tyre store.....I've also collected more tyres to begin another planting of potatoes after harvesting my potatoes a few days ago.

Mulch everything, this helps keep the moisture in the soil on hot days
My Currant vines are only new....as the fruit appears and ripens, I am picking each one and storing them on a saucer in the kitchen....once they all dry out (dehydrate) I will store them in a glass jar to be used later in one batch of cooking....at least I will have a small harvest to use in baking later...rather than just snacking on them while working in the garden. (There's plenty of other snacks in the garden)

Long Beetroot...more slices per root. which is great for smaller spaces

  Lettuce can be planted out into larger pots before going in the ground.

Celeriac (root veg)..great for salads or as a mash
Above...the first planting..Leave unused seedlings in a bunch to slow their growth,
and plant them out at a later date for a later crop.

My one Poppy plant is out in flower with another bud on the way.

Are you going to make your own Liquid Fertiliser in the future? 
Maybe you have other natural recipes for treating your pests and diseases, that would like to share.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On my mind...I'm joining Hugh's Fish Fight

Hubby and I are off to Brisbane for a week or so...and I probably won't be blogging until I come back. While away I'll be supporting hubby in his new employment; which I will tell you about at a later date.
So until my return, I'm leaving you with something I think is a good fight.  

On my Mind.........I find myself glued to the television by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and his Fish Fight in European Waters.....Six months ago Hugh began the fight to stop the outlandish numbers of discarded fish being thrown overboard.......and while my blog is not usually of the demonstration variety...
I do think he is doing a wonderful job....and that's why I wanted to bring it to your attention.

Did you know that HALF OF THE FISH TRAWLED IN THE NORTH SEA WERE BEING DISCARDED? It was actually illegal for the fisherman who catch these 'discards' to keep the fish on-board their trawlers....No matter how upset they (The fishermen) were about it, the fish HAD be returned to the sea, in what ever condition they may be. 

In the footage you can see his passion for the vast waste of fish. When a grown man can proudly display his passion on International Television by shedding tears for the overwhelming numbers of dead loss....well; what else can you do, but support him. You can do this by becoming a fish fighter yourself here.

Hugh's Fish Fight battle continues....and you can read more here.
By supporting the Fish Fight Campaign, your name is added to a letter to be sent to Commissioner Maria Damanaki, members of the Common Fisheries Policy Reform Group, and all MEP's.


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

760,218.....    what number are you?

To Commissioner Damanaki, Members of the European Parliament and all member state governments, 
I have seen images of dead and dying fish discarded in European waters.
I understand that the current Common Fisheries Policy leads to discarding on a vast scale; for example, half of all fish caught in the North Sea are being discarded because of the current quota system imposed by the CFP.
I want this senseless waste of food to end. I want you to use your influence to  stop this unacceptable  and shameful practice.
I am supporting the Fish Fight campaign to help bring about this vital change in our seas.
While I make a list of things to pack for our trip...and wonder where I put the other hot water flask....
I also want to take special time to thank all my readers for their wonderful comments, emails, letters and thank-you's...I truly am blessed to have such lovely people supporting me. I will be back with more recipes, more gardening tips, more stories and even a give-away that I have mentioned in the past. So explore some of the older posts, look around, have a read....and try something new!
Here's hoping everyone has a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gnocchi - Gourmet style

We've had a few visitors lately....and one has stayed for a lot longer than the others. She is most welcome to stay any time......and will probably be moving in with us some time in the future. I have told her she is more than welcome.
I'm talking about my DS20's girlfriend 'K'. K was here for his birthday and has to return home on the weekend to rejoin her family. She loves cooking when at home....and while her mother is pregnant, both her younger sister and herself are the main cooks for the family.
My DS20 and his girlfriend K 
While staying with us, K has mentioned several times how she loves to make Gnocchi. On talking more, I realised that she makes it by buying it from the store in packets, which is great, but I had a surprise for her......together, we would have a go at making it from scratch!

K found a recipe here....and I already had some leftovers from a gravy and a lavish tomato based sauce used to make Chicken Parmigiana one night. We'd use these to make up a sauce for the Gnocchi...so it was all systems go....

With her love of Gnocchi making...I new she would like the Gnocchi board I found earlier in the week at a new kitchen shop I discovered...but it wouldn't be at home that she used it for the first time......
You will see them in the photos.....(Well, I had to buy myself one too...lol)

Together we made a double batch of the Potato Gnocchi using 2kg of Potatoes.

 Here is all the Gnocchi we made. 

To boil the Gnocchi in batches it was best to transfer each batch onto a small dinner plate to drop them into the boiling water.....by the time you had the next batch on the dinner plate....the ones you dropped into the water were beginning to float...It's just that quick.....So have your pan of sauce ready to drop the cooked gnocchi straight in.

After folding the two together, grate some cheese into the Gnocchi and Sauce......We used grated Tasty cheese, as we already had this cheese in the fridge....No point buying the fancy stuff...lol

Ooooh Lah Lahhhhhhh...Gourmet Gnocchi....
light and fluffy
This would cost a fortune in a restaurant! 
We served 6 adults....and there's enough to go
in the freezer for another meal.

Will I be making it again?
You betcha!
Special thanks to K for giving me the inspiration to have a go at something new!

Some reading from FreeCycle

Jess and I have exchanged a few things now through FreeCycle............here is some light reading material which will be great benefit on my long drive to Brisbane on the weekend.

I think I remember taking this photo of Ester Deans' 'Growing without Digging' not so long ago......
If I hadn't made a request from Jess for her books, If I hadn't decided to go for a drive to see what the blow-hole was doing; I would never have had this book either.
Found this at the local Kiama markets..
who would imagine that there would be a back yard
A trip to Kiama after picking up the books revealed that the Markets was on,

Back to the FreeCycle books....You can find a local FreeCycle maybe in the link on my blog. If there isn't one in your area, there are many guides on how to start one up.

Add caption

Looks like there will be some great reading here as well....Jess even put in the Choice magazines from couple of years ....There's heaps! Thanks Jess.

I know it's our choice when buying foods, produce, and other items, but I also know that it is our choice what we do with it . We just need to be aware of the 'behind the scenes' ingredients....and the terminology and codes on the labels....I'm pretty sure these Choice magazines will help me with some of those decisions.

Click on the photos to reveal a larger image, so you can view the headlines on the front covers...some very interested copies....but

Have you received any books lately from FreeCycle? 
If so, what were they?
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