Saturday, 30 November 2013

Oh Lordy, I killed my Worms

You know how last week i confessed that my interest in gardening was a bit skewed and that i spent alot of time creating my garden, growing veggies, taking photos and then forgetting to harvest? Well I'm a shocker.  I've been feeding my worms and keeping the mat moist for months and months and i never thought to turn on the tap.  I have looked at them several times and thought, Jeepers, you guys aren't being very productive.  All those banana peels and coffee grinds seem to have disappeared.  Where are my mounds of castings and why haven't i had to put the second layer on yet?  Well that might be because I've killed nee drowned most of them in their own pee.  What a way to go.  DOH!

Did they make a game out of my stupidity - By the way this game is so cool.  I haven't seen No. 2 but No. 1 has us in hysterics.  

I'm not sure what made the light go on but i grabbed a bucket when i got home Friday and turned on the tap.  Now that's a big nappy bucket in that picture and as you can see its still running fairly strong.  It stank, which means it must be good, right?   I have bottled up some as gifts for a friend and then diluted the rest of the bucket and put it all over the garden, including the compost bin.  Lovely aroma out there.

Oh, that's right.  When i was buying my umpteenth cup of coffee on Friday, i asked for their coffee grounds and received a huge bag full.  This set me thinking about all those great tips and tricks i had learnt from Shoestring Gardening and subsequently posted about only to have forgotten to do them.  Shit! The Worms!!!!!  

I picked this up in the morning and it sat in the sun in my locked black car all day (not sealed) and oh my, was i on a coffee high all the way home.  Its still got that heavenly aroma.  Its from a fair trade organic coffee dealer cafe, so you know that this is good wholesome stuff.  I spread it all over my beds to deter all those nasty slugs and snails, topped up the worm farm hoping the remaining survivors will forgive me and then sprinkled the remainder into the compost bin.  Now the garden is a combination of worm tea and coffee, delightful!  

Its all go out there and i managed to clear out a few of the old plants going to seed.  The dill , parsley and mint were wandering too far and i lost interest in the silver beet (no one would eat it) so out it came as well.  Someones chooks will be happy.   This has cleared a lot of space for more things i do eat which is plenty of lettuce and basil.  I could live on homegrown tomatoes with basil, lettuce and feta cheese with a splash of balsamic on baked ciabatta.

Speaking of tomatoes....
Do you think this little bush could get anymore on it - Its called Cherry Falls and i think it was meant for a hanging basket.

For those who think i am anal about neatness, here is evidence of my recent slothfulness while i declutter the house.

Thistles !!!!   In my dark past i would have sprayed all these with the much maligned Round Up but with little Tilly using plants as toys, i think these will have to meet the end of a shovel.  That post with the red flag is the marker (1.5 X 1.5) from the fence where a post will go for the chook house.  Tilly thinks this is her personal tug of war post and goes nuts trying to pull the red rag off.  So so funny.  She is very little (now 3.5kg at 5 mths) and growls like she is a lion but its really just a squeak. 
Decluttering still continues and finally, finally, the two big cupboards in the back room are empty and going to new homes tomorrow.

Yep, that's literally a wall of storage.  Each one is 210 H X 40 X 90cm.  They are lockable and have adjustable height shelves.  It has a very thick veneer that can be sanded back to change the colour by retaining.   These and the desk  ( also huge and destined for freecycle or hard garbage) were part of a consignment of over $50,000 worth of office furniture custom built for a previous employer over 20 years ago.  I remember he didn't like the tint (too pink) and so it all went back for restaining again.  They have certainly lasted.  
Bugger that husband of mine.  Here i am thinking that Blogger has lost the plot and the screen is jumping all over the place and he is sitting in the next room with a smirk on his face controlling my screen with his Samsung Note.  Cheeky bugger is way too clever.  Oh, for those OS, "bugger" is not what you think it is, its used as a term of endearment here, really!.

So at the end of Saturday its been a full day.  Ive gardened, decluttered and been invited and partaken of a BBQ lunch for my Bestie's kids (Miss Mirandah is 19 and B Boy Brenden is 17).  Tom went to creche with both of them when they were all in nappies.   Check this card out that we gave Brenden....

I have a 16 yr old and between him and his friend Brenden, i spend my life telling them to "Pull Their Pants Up".  A couple of months ago, Brenden thought it was cool to put his jeans down under his butt cheeks so that you saw almost all of his undies.  It looked so uncomfortable and it drove me mad.  Lucky, he seems to have woken up to how ridiculous it looked  and perhaps it wasn't so Cool afterall.  
Lunch was lovely and i was asked to make trifle.  Since her hubby likes it plain his was just jam rolettes, fruit, custard and jelly.  The other was for the kids and so it was chocolate sponge, morello pitted cherries, chocolate custard, chocolate ripple biscuits smashed and covered in cream and strawberries. They were made last night so the flavors could really soak into the cake.  I didn't actually have any (aren't you proud of me) but i believe it tasted good.  I also banned any leftovers from coming home.

Time for bed, another big day tomorrow.  Tom has early start at work and i have visitors in the afternoon. Planning to very quick de-thistle in the morning (no, not my legs or chin but the garden).  Goodness, what will she think........

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Monday, 25 November 2013

Decluttering - 20 Yr Old Wedding Cake & Dress

So what does a 20 year old cake taste like? Well i cant tell you because i wasn't game.  Plenty of people were saying "Go On, it will be OK" but i wasn't up for it.  It did smell divine.  Every bit as much as it did on our Wedding Day, 20 years ago.  

There comes a time during the process of "decluttering" you occasionally have to put all sentiment aside and just toss it.   I am gifting some very large cupboards to a friend and had to empty them by next weekend.  Lord, the stuff i had in there that had not seen the light of day for well over a dozen years.  All manner of stationery items, all our received greeting cards (and i do mean all) boxed and labelled by individual, dried up paint, a gazillion staples (why?), used manila folders and paper of every conceivable colour and thickness.  Anyone would think that i ran a stationery shop at some point, but no, i think it has more to do with a certain fondness for stationery.  Some people like shoes, some like fancy knickers, well i like stationery.  Its just the kind of girl i am.  I also love containers of any kind but usually matching ones that come in all shapes and sizes.  In the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom cupboard and and and......   we are talking about decluttering, aren't we?

See, its official, stationery lovers have their own week.  I must remember to do something special next year.
So, on top of these two cupboards were many rolled up posters of various school projects, world maps, astrology charts, aboriginal art posters, you know really important stuff that must be kept.  NOT any more. All items in and on top that i deemed worthy for use by someone else (perhaps a budding SAH Mum that has plans for homeschooling)  have been boxed for collection.  Now why am i giving you such mundane detail of the contents of my cupboards?  Because, right on top in one corner, not the one furtherest away but the one right near the door and the place most likely to just throw something up to get it out of the way as you walk in, sat the top tier of my wedding cake along with the sugar flower bouquets that draped from one tier to the next (there were 3).  There it sat, all these years, and no one, not even accidentally, caused it any harm.  Amazing, as it was totally invisible, not only for short arses like me but even tall ones.  

Covered in a thick layer of dust.  No special covering, just cling film.  No critters had a nibble, no ants invaded, i must show this to Glad, good advertising material.  
Pretty amazing, isn't it.  Only the marzipan icing on the cake was slightly discoloured and the flowers still had their apricot highlights. 

My mother commissioned all three cakes and the icing from a lady in Leeton, NSW.   A true artist and no doubt the winner of many ribbons at the local shows.  The brandied fruit certainly contributed to the cakes preservation.  You could still smell it.  I just spoke to Mum and she was disappointed i didn't eat it or at least have a nibble at it and im kind of sorry i didnt.  

Anyway, i tossed the cake after taking photos and a ceremonial cutting and sniff with the family.  I have arranged the sugared flowers around a wedding ornament, also given to me by my Mother, in my display cupboards.  

Now ladies, what to do with my wedding dress?   I haven't looked at it for 14 years now and its up there on the top shelf of the walk in wardrobe along with my veil, garter belt and wedding "stationery" (now shopping for that was a good day).  What would you do?  Its too out of fashion to sell.  Its a large size (18). 

See, there was a husband there that day. 

Do i need to tell you this is my Mum (20 yrs ago).   Mum went all out on my wedding (though we shared costs) because the place where i was married and had my reception was socially out of her reach when she was young.  She was pleased i picked it and we really showed the locals that she/we were just as good.   There were orchids eveywhere that Mum had grown.  My bouquet was from her conservatory and is now named "Lynda's Orchid".  

These are photos of photos so excuse the quality. We are not all red in the original.   Do i keep it forever or do i really declutter?  It would be nice if another bride wore it but like i said, its out of date.  I even still have the choker.  

Thanks for Living In the Land of Oz

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Spring Time Pleasures - Gardens, Food, Concerts...

We have had some heavy rain early this week.  It didn't stop for days and the forecasters have declared that Spring is officially one month late and this is the coldest November in 30 Years.  Well someone had better tell my garden because it all go go go out there.  I can't afford to not go out every couple of days because things are just growing gang busters. Ive discovered a truth about myself i cant deny.  I like the growing and the caring part of being a veggie gardener but i like it so much i don't harvest enough.  So many things go to seed simply because i cant bring myself to mess up my beautiful garden.  Its sad but true.  No one warned me about this affliction.

Lettuce, Corn and just at the base of it you can see a bean seedling that will use the corn as a trellis.  I did notice that some of the lettuce are starting to be munched on by snails and slugs so I'm using an homemade organic spray made from (wait for it) 1 part espresso coffee with 3 parts water.  You have to repeat it after rain or over exuberant watering but i like the idea of coffee infused veggies - i have a bad bad coffee addiction.    Seventh heaven is picking up a bucket of coffee grounds for my garden from my dealer   supplier and letting it sit in an enclosed car all day, getting in at the end of the work day and smelling it all the way home.  

There is about 20 tomato plants growing in this bed - most of them are freebies I've transplanted near trellises.  
There has been no much rain that i have noticed some powdery mildew creeping in on my zucchinis.  Today i made up a mix of 1 part cows milk and 10 parts water and gave them a light spray.   I love zucchini flowers (on the plant, not on my plate) 
Just in case you are impressed with my knowledge of homemade organic sprays ill let you in on a secret.  Its called the latest edition of Organic Gardener (Nov/Dec) and it has a A-Z List of Summer Problem Solvers using conventional organic methods (bought stuff) and homemade alternatives.  This is a very enjoyable magazine to read.  So full of helpful tips and interesting stories.

Cordyline - I love this colour when the sun shines through the leaves.  Notice something missing - the chook house which use to be behind this plant.  :( 

Cottage Pie with hidden Spinach (under the Potato).  The small one is for Tom, no extras added.  He doesn't like the texture of sloppy/wet food so i drain as much sauce as possible and make him a separate one.  He didn't eat it as he said it taste like wine (how would he know what wine taste like) but i think he was tasting the turnip in the sauce.  I just keep trying.   He did eat his veggies though.  

This arrived Thursday from my work.  I bought it last Saturday from Harvey Norman discounted by $150 as floor stock.  It was bright lolly pink.  I mean really bright fluro pink. I took it straight to the factory from the shop and chose this blue from the powdercoating stock.  Pink would have clashed with the Tuscan theme Ive got going on.  

Wide Arse Seat - now you know why i bought it.  Its very sturdy and unlike the flimsy sets mostly sold out of the box and assembled.   Not bad for $199. It will last for many years.  
Lucky me had a a guest sleeping over last night.  My sister stayed after a long night of watching concerts in our media room.  Its so lovely to wake up to family and chat over breakfast.  We went to Bunnings to buy a metal watering can (so sick of broken plastic ones) and then i introduced her to Aldi.  Big Sis is new to the city (the big smoke for country bumpkins like her) and so I then took her to the local fresh food market and meat wholesaler conveniently side by side.  The fresh fruit & veg comes straight off the farms at Werribee South and is far cheaper.  Its not perfect in appearance but that's because its real food.  The stuff that is uniform in colour, shape with no marks gets shipped off to several cold stores, held in suspension by gas or frozen and then sold at the big supermarkets, somewhere.

How come they can grow paddocks of this stuff (broccoli) just outside town and i have so much trouble in my back yard.  It keeps going to seed before the heads form?

Oh, back to the concerts.  Remember that clever husband of mine, well he goes through periods of interest and for a few years many moons ago it was all about audio.  The result of which is a media room with digital projector and a very large screen with AAA Hi Def surround sound.  Many of the speakers (centre channel & sub-woofer) he made from the components put into homemade wooden boxes.  Some of them are over 20 years old and sound perfect today as they did then. Gosh you can save some money in this area when you know what you are doing.  Did you know that the difference between a cheap brand and an over the top audiophile level piece of stereo equipment worth thousands could be just a few electronic components upgraded on the circuit boards or to replace the cone on a tweeter or sub or to add some filling to absorb the vibration in the box - all of which are worth only few dollars.  The result is sound so pure you can hear fingers coming off the guitar strings yet with an action film the sub frequencies so deep and loud that the glasses rattle in the cupboards in the kitchen.  Thank goodness this room has insulation in the walls.

So what was last nights choice?

Isn't he just gorgeous.  His voice makes me swoon (it was all in Italian) and cry with the tears of a music lover whose soul is being caressed by a lover.   This is our screen, and with the lights off  and surrounded by speakers its probably better than being there.  Mind you, this concert was filmed outside his village in Tuscany and in truth id much rather wake up the next day  in my villa and walk to the local village piazza and visit a local trattoria for a morning cappuccino with the locals.  Later that day i would gather with the neighbours for a 3 hour lunch under the vines and  Oh, are you still there..... you lost me for a minute.  
Who are these people?   I dont know but they keep reappearing (or someone like them) in my dreams....... I must say though that there are no plastic chairs in dream land.  Its wrought iron and checked tablecloths and somewhere is a heirloom demijohn of fresh pressed olive oil a mama that cooks for 30 each Sunday and  and and   - at least the vines are there. 
Of course, once you are in the zone its hard to bring yourself back so despite it being passed Cinderella's going home time (we already looked like two pumpkins recessed into the couches) we went for a second concert.  David Foster & Friends.  David also produced Andrea's concert so it was kind of a theme.  We were definitely showing our age singing along to old favourites from Earth, Wind & Fire, Barbara Streisand etc.  David Foster has/does manage and produce so many artists that this concert has Michael Buble, Babyface Edmonds, Josh Grogon, Andrei Bocelli, Kenny G,  Boz Scaggs, Blake Shelton......  like i said, amazing concert.   We dont buy many movies but we do buy blurays with well produced and recorded concerts.   I havent been to a real one for many many years and would rather lay back on my couch, with legs up and a coffee watching Andrea a few feet away than be crammed into a concert hall, wedged into a tiny seat and then have to contend with parking to watch someone the size of an ant over the sound of the crowd.  For less than quarter of one ticket i can have a private viewing in my front room and invite anyone i want to.   Mind you, we saw World War Z a few weeks ago, and those Zombies were just too too realistic for my liking.  It felt like they were all over the room.  I felt sure one was going to jump up behind me.

I grew up on Earth Wind and Fire - I'm showing my age.  
Big thank you to my hubby not only for making it possible to have my own private concert hall but for not complaining about the volume level we had it at in the middle of the night while he tried to sleep in the next room.  (CPAP machines help with sound absorption).    He was happy that i was happy and that, my friends, is love.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Natural Dog Repellent

I came home this evening and after the usual rush of affection from Tilly we went out into the back yard to take the washing off the line.  With my back turned for only a moment, Miss Tilly had jumped my bamboo fence (which i thought would be high enough and a visual deterrent) and was standing there with a mischievious look on her face as if tosay "What"?

Needless to say i had a fit and used my biggest, deepest voice to yell a big NO!   Nothing appeared to be damaged but if she did it while I'm standing less than a few feet away you just know that she is in there while I'm at work and she is unsupervised.  Either that or she connects me being out the back with "gardening time" and she was helping.  Somehow i don't think so.....

So that got me researching natural deterrents.   Im not interested in the myriad of chemical sprays, granules, sonic devices or motion activated water sprinklers that flood the market.  I mean really, she is in the yard most of the day, can you imagine how much water would be wasted everytime she passed in front of a sensor. What fun!  So i have ventured into Google land and looked for more natural deterrents that might also help as pest control.  This is what i found:

Vinegar -  this is effective but vinegar or ammonia can harm plants and are sometimes used as weed killers. There is also the problem that i can smell them too and it not meant to repel me.  Aspie's are very sensitive to smells and I'm not allowed to even use vinegar in the house for cleaning. If you are going to use it then it is suggested that you soak cotton balls in vinegar and put around the garden avoiding contact with plants.

Citrus - I'm going to try this one first as i  think it will be the most pleasant for all - except Tilly. Dogs hate the smell of Citrus.  Orange, lemon, grapefruit, limes, tangerine peels scattered among the garden beds (or the house for that matter) or pure citrus oils or juice in a spray bottle of water is natural and readily available.  I'm not sure how this works but Citrus (in particular Lemon) can also be sprayed on a dog as a natural mosquito repellent.  Given that a dog doesn't like the smell of citrus I'm not sure if it wouldn't rather be bitten.

Pepper - dogs hate chili/pepper as it irritates the eye's, nose & throat.  Pepper is commercially available from the supermarket and relatively cheap.  You can make a mix of ground black and cayenne pepper and sprinkle it around the garden where they are not allowed or it can be added to water in a spray bottle.  You could also mix the pepper with coffee grounds and have a dual purpose deterrent.  Win, Win.

I don't know why but Tilly likes to poo on the carpet under the gym in the pergola.  At least it is outside the house but I'm sure its not doing the rug much good.  I might try a citrus spray in this area first (it feels kinder) but if it doesn't work, ill go for the pepper spray. Oh, this doesn't relate to me but if you have very young children you might not want to spray where they play.  They might not be so happy with pepper in their mouths transferred from busy fingers.

Plants & Herbs - Many plants have strong smells that repel cats and dogs: Plant in borders around beds, sprinkle dried among the mulch or put in a spray bottle and spray where you don't want them to be.

Coleus Canina (Scardy Cat)
Marigolds  (Great companion plant for tomatoes)
Mustard & Curry Plants
Pepper or Chili plants
Anise, Bergamot, Castor, Calendula & Chives
Rut, Canina, Citronella, Lavender & Rosemary

So lets say you are no so fussy about your pet or doing things naturally.  Here in Oz you can buy a myriad of commercial products that are dog and cat repellents.

The active ingredients in these products are usually Methyl Nonyl Ketone and Citronella.  Lets just say that you are not an animal lover and just want to rid your yard of every living thing.  I actually went to the trouble of checking out this chemical concoction and its toxic not only to pets but humans too.   It has links to carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity.  So why the hell would you use it. Huh !!!! The MSDS on this stuff is full of warnings or it tells you that there is no data available.  I'll leave the choice up to you but why would you choose this when there are simple everyday household products that do the same job.  

Anyway, i know which way i am going to go.  Would you hurt this little bundle of trouble (and love)?

 Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Monday, 11 November 2013

Look Mum We Are Eating Our Veggies Now

I received an email today with these photos from my friend Ella,  foster mother to my Girls.  Yes, they are eating veggies now!!   How annoying.  I tried so many times to get them to eat scraps from my kitchen and veggies from my garden.  It would just sit there all week becoming a limp and yucky pile that had to be scraped up and put into the compost.  I even cut them up into little bite size pieces and still they wouldn't eat them.   Traitors!!!   Perhaps they needed a little competition from a larger flock.  Still they are looking very healthy and happy in their new home and spending some quality time with a certain handsome fellow. I know a Mother shouldn't have favourites but I'm looking forward to seeing Lacy's (the grey one) chicks one day.  

That same Ella commented recently that she liked the tea set photographed in a newly organised wall unit and asked when we were having Tea.


Sunday seemed like a good idea so we enjoyed playing ladies for the afternoon.  Ella managed it quite well and i gave it a good try.  Its funny that all visitors these days get to waltz around the veggie patch before being seated for refreshments.  Lucky for me, Ella is one of my gardening gurus as she has the same type of raised beds as i and started quite a few years before me.  She is the Queen of Seed and has much knowledge which i found particularly helpful given that I'm currently at war with a few garden pests.  I did get to gift her a Lemon Balm plant that was a freebie.

When it came time to raid the garden for a small posy i had to really think hard and came up with dill and garlic chive flowers.  I added some random pink thingys hanging in the fernery which i don't know the name of.

Not flash but it did give me motivation to plant some flowers soon.

So what does a visiting garden guru, seed queen, foster mother to random chookies and ducks (I'm not the only one) bring to a ladies afternoon tea?

Take a look at the size of those eggs.  They are certainly not my girls little bantam eggs that's for sure.  It use to take around 15 of them to make a decent breakfast (for 3).   The blue one is a duck egg and im looking forward to trying it on toast with some hollondaise sauce and dill.   I only just learnt (since I'm such a beginner, at everything) that you don't wash eggs.  Just brush to poop off and let them be.  Apparently water gets in through the shell and spoils the egg.  Well who knew?  Probably everyone but me.

This space is where my piano use to be (now moved into front living room) and this bookshelf (there are two) will be turned horizontal and the shelving moved around to create a long thin shelf  at the bottom for DVD's and Blurays on this side of the room and on the other wall Tom's PC Games.   There will be a large shelf area above this for storing my sewing things and bibs and bobs.  
Work is still progressing with the decluttering and on the weekend Hubby built a new desk (there will be two in a galley style study) that sits in what should have been a formal dining area.  Who needs one of them?  The desk is 2200mm long and is made from a $99 kitchen bench top from Bunnings.  He added a baton to the wall, two legs ($24 each) and a side panel for support.  Its very strong.  He is now oiling it three times over the next couple of days (it stinks) but it will be stain resistant and food grade.  This side is intended for the office computer (currently in a back bedroom where i am currently locked away as i type this) and a spare workspace for ad hoc activities like sewing or soldiering (yeah right bud - that's banished to the garage but ill tell him when he finished).  The bookshelf will soon be turned sideways and mounted on the wall above the desk with some led lighting installed underneath (he is an electrician).

The desk will have cable holes cut into it to eliminate the usual cable mess and the monitors will be mounted on the walls with brackets.  Hubby is intending switch the current behemoth PC cases to mini ones (he has built all our computers) and mount them underneath so we don't see them either.  Nice and clean....    Once the PC and printer are installed we can start emptying the back office turning it back into a spare bedroom and things like old desks and massive cupboards will actually start leave the house along with alot of paperwork.  Gosh, this is such an exhausting process and all so we can achieve the final result of turning two bedrooms into one large one for a growing teenager.

Time to play with Tilly and do some housework before bed , so.......

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz