Sunday, 24 August 2014

Steam Cleaning

Seems like every man and his dog has one of these lately and they have been recommended to me over and over again.  I waited because surely you don't need another contraption to do what women have been doing for years with a mop and a bucket, a wipe and a spray and a good dose of elbow grease.  Well, I'm not saying i need it but bloody hell its pretty good.  I got one this week and though I'm still feeling the guilt of being a consumer, yet again, its had a pretty good workout this week.  

I like the idea that it comes with handy accessories that we will actually use.  The hand nozzle has been most used as it allows you to clear the grout between tiles (and i mean really clean them) with just water in the form of steam under pressure.  This one comes with a continuous flow water holder so you just keep pouring the water in, even while its going.  It takes 6 min to heat up.

Now before you all start saying how disgusting, this was a previously clean floor, or so i thought.  20 years of build up grime in the grout between the tiles, simply wasn't being removed by mopping.  I don't know why i am apologising but i work full time and i do not have the time and inclination to get down on my hands and knees with a scrubbing brush each weekend, each month or for that matter, each decade. If it got mopped it was lucky.  As usual, if there is a new toy going, the boys are all in.  Hubby after a full day's work, managed to spend several hours walking around the house testing it on this and that until i had to take it off him and send him to bed at 11.30pm.  Enough Already!!!

Now this one look really bad.  Honest I've got it under zoom.  No one would have thought my cupboard doors were so dirty.  But with steamed water only, they've come up almost new and instead of replacing them, i might just change the handles for a complete makeover (when funds allow).

As i said, its got a real workout this week and its been tried on windows, wooden architraves, tiles, white goods, honestly Tilly was lucky she could move fast.   Tom did the entire kitchen floor one day and so this weekend, after a sweep, i just steamed it and all the other hard floors clean in minutes, with just water.  It will come in really handy when the carpet has been replaced with bamboo (one room down, many to go).  It uses less water than a bucket with soap/vinegar and then another with rinse water.

The cloth on the end of the head needs to be changed regularly and they have provided one cloth which looks like a piece of nappy to me.  So instead of racing off to buy a box of them i tried a micro cloth folded into 3 lengthways and it fitted perfectly, giving a much better finish.  I will run up a packet of them in different colours for kitchen and bathrooms.

There are many brands to choose from in different price brackets.  I went to one store that was advertising them on TV and they were only interested in demonstrating one that was $1600.  WHAT????   This was a mid range one and it cost $340.  Hubby like the Karcher brand and he is a firm follower of German engineering.  We use a Karcher pressure washer on the cars and have always found them reliable.  So, though i know you can buy cheaper ones, i would recommend this one.

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The Diggers Club with a RabidLittleHippy

St Erth's - The Diggers Club, Blackwood, Victoria
Honest, its her blog name and if you haven't had the pleasure then here is the link to rabidlittlehippy.  The post I've linked was a catchup post and I'm expecting a similar one very soon as Jess has been a bit quiet lately on the blogging front.  The lack of a phone with a camera (I've remedied that today) has been an issue but i think she also just needed some time.  There is so much going on in her world i don't know how she keeps up.  A simple life can also be a hard working life and when you are still in the first few years there is a lot of that hard work to do building the infrastructure and waiting and waiting and waiting for things to grow. Add doing all that with three little ones, blogging time disappears or loses it priority.   So no guilt Jess, we are all just patiently waiting for you to be ready.

I grabbed the opportunity for a break away from the family today.  All women should learn to read "the signals" so that when an opportunity such as this arrives you can grab it and run before it disappears. All family members must be well fed and have planned activities.  Snacks must be available throughout your intended period of absence and there be some sort of resemblance of order to the house. Knowing of course that when you back it wont still be that way. Just Breathe. You have to be prepared for the odd phone call although it helps if you drive into a mobile reception black hole like we did today.

Despite an afternoon of chatter (i seem to have that effect of people) Jess has Laryngitis so it was like spending the afternoon with Demi Moore beside me, though way more interesting.  Once we escaped her family as well (I'm getting good at this) we took a quick drive to Blackwood to visit St Erth's, one of The Diggers Club's gardens.

 You Tube - The Diggers Club

See my gorgeous blond companion.  That bag looks like its full already but its full of empty bags in anticipation of  of a splurge.
Lucky for me she was there to let me know what will and wont grow and what to buy and what not to buy. I bought a Thornless Blackberry "Waldo" and a Thornless Loganberry in anticipation of my fence garden.  I also bought small bags of seeding potatoes (Buy 2 get 1 Free - Gotcha!!! - Nicola, King Edward and Kipfler) and a bag of climbing Sugar Snap Peas.  Jess added to the mix from her private collection at home some corn (six different colours) and purple cauliflower.   She knows how i love colour in my garden.

Jess browsing the wares.  
There are beautiful gardens to explore but i think we will come back and do this in spring when everything is in full bloom and the Cafe is open with coffee.  

We spent quite a bit of time in the car park talking, admiring the split paling fence and chomping on contraband.  

With Jess and I its a bit of a challenge to out gift each other.  I think she won today and apart from the excellent company i came away with some seriously big potatoes (that had been gifted to her), seeds, a bag of wood that Martin kindly sought and delivered to the car and some prize winning turnips.

I'm encouraging Jess to take this one on as a gift for the future.  It smelt divine but I'm not paying $7 a block.  Looks like something she could learn at Gav and Kym's advanced soap course coming up.    

Advanced Soap Making - 31 August

Once back at Jess's she took the lemons & butter i had brought, added some of her eggs and sugar whipped up some Lemon Butter.  Its took minutes of standing there watching (not stirring) in her Thermomix.  Do i need another reason to get one?  The price is not falling fast enough for me.

Look at the colour - you know it was her fresh eggs don't you?  
Several pretty jars later and i am stocked for not only myself but gift giving as well.   We had a lovely afternoon together and we are already planning a sleep over at my place.  Just the girls, Jess and Allegra.

Cheeky girl, i took seven photos before i got won that wasn't a blur.  Such energy!
Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Noelle's Funny - Mans Love of Balls

Have you ever noticed?

1. The sport of choice for the poor and under educated is FOOTBALL

2. The sport of choice for maintenance level employees is BASKETBALL

3. The sport of choice for front-line workers is RUGBY

4. The sport of choice for supervisors is CRICKET

5. The sport of choice for middle management is TENNIS


6. The sport of choice for corporate executives and officers is GOLF.


The higher you go in the corporate structure, the smaller your balls become.

There must be a ton of people in the Government playing:  Marbles

Don't blame me, I'm only her conduit.  After the title of the last post being Spanking The Tomato some might suggest I'm letting my inner naughty girl out to play?

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Spanking Tomatoes and Other Beginner Tips

I know, it sounds really silly but it seems like it might actually work.  I've been browsing You Tube articles on growing tomatoes in readiness for the coming season and came across this character called Reaganite71.

Click here for link.

He rambles on a bit at the beginning so jump in at 2.26 min.  Once he gets going he's full of helpful tips and i warmed to him so much i subscribed.

Spanking (or a gentle tapping) is done with a small roll of paper, to gently help the process of pollination. With the shortage of bees globally this maybe a skill we gardeners all have to learn. It should be done early morning.  Pollination occurs wholly within the flower of the tomato.  The pollen from the anther in the stamen (male) is transferred to the stigma inside the pistil (female) and thus pollination occurs.

For more sex talk refer here.  Did you know that each grain of pollen has two sperm cells that travel down the tube into the embryo sac inside the ovule of the ovaries.  This fertilised ovule will become the seed of the tomato.  Is this all sounding familiar?

Tomato Embryo
Don't stop there, this is more exciting than Sex Ed at School.  Go on, you know you want to look.   I made my Hubby stop and listen to my new found knowledge on the sex life of a tomato and he looked at me kind of strange as if to say "didn't you know this?"  Well sorta but not the specifics.  Stop laughing at me!  At least i don't walk around thinking i know everything.

I'm Clueless
In a perfect world this pollination would be done naturally by airflow (wind) or by bees.  I'm increasing the number of flowers in my veggie patch this year to give the bees more incentive to visit my garden.  My fence and house fully surrounds (how i wish it was a stately English walled garden - dream away) my veggie patch and i cant guarantee that the wind will be present when pollination is needed.  Reaganite71 also believes that gentle spanking stimulates growth in the roots and leaves.  He does this with a number of plants including peppers. You'll need to watch the You Tube link to see how it's done.  Proof is in the pudding I guess and he certainly has some amazing crops grown in a very short time.

Other Helpful Tips from Reaganite71

He has red Christmas balls hanging among the plants to deter birds.  They go for the red coloured balls (thinking they have aced the largest best tomatoes ever) and when there is nothing to gain they move on leaving your actual tomatoes alone.  Can you imagine how this would look.  Too cool - more garden art for not much expense.  I'm sure i have old ones stashed away somewhere.

Another trick he uses is to remove all the stems up to the first blossom thus concentrating all the plants energies to this point and upwards.  He then removes all the suckers all the way up to just under the canopy.

Once again this is to move the energy on up and to drive it to the fruit bearing stems.  This also help keep diseased leaves away from the dirt so disease cannot be splashed up onto the plant.

Pruned Bush with Lots of Fruit

In the same bed, unpruned plants with no fruit
Setting the blossoms -  Reaganite71 suggests using 100% apple juice in a spray bottle and whenever he gets new blossoms, he sets them by giving them a light spray.  The apple juice gives off methane which acts as a ripening agent and that helps set the blossoms.  Setting the blossoms stops them from falling off before they can be pollinated.  If its really hot and humid, try shading the plants and this might keep the blossoms on.

Question to the blogosphere - does the apple juice have to be organic, or freshly squeezed?  Does commercial apple juice produce methane?

Excess leaves and falling blossoms may be too much nitrogen in the soil and not enough phosphorous and potassium.   Rather than using fertilisers, use compost and compost tea to balance this out.  I had a friend last year who had 6 foot giant plants that looked amazing but only one or two fruit on each plant.

Here's one I've never heard, smokers need to ensure that they wash their hands and the tools they have been touching prior to touching plants, especially tomatoes.  Burnt smoke or nicotine on fingers can cause Tobacco Mosaic Virus disease on tomatoes.   Read about it here.

Blossom Rot due to calcium deficiency in the soil can be easily fixed with milk/water wash sprayed on the root zones.   I had this my first season and I didn't have a clue what id done wrong.  I added a light sprinkle of calcium powder (as advised) to the soil fairly early in the season and it fixed the problem and the plants continued to crop (after i had removed all the spoiled fruit).  Sometimes they don't and you are better off removing the plant.

Blossom Rot
Here's  another link where he shows you how he does this milk wash.

OK, this is a biggie for beginners - WHEN DO I PLANT TOMATOES!!!!

It really does depend on your climate.  I live in a temperate climate in Southern Victoria.  Its pretty traditional down here to transplant established tomato seedlings on Melbourne Cup Day weekend.  That makes it first weekend in November.  However, if you have a protected spot that get warm sun, maybe against a wall, then you can put them in as early as September and get that first early crop in December.  I did this last year with cherry tomatoes and i had my first crop quite early.  The North sun points directly onto the back wall of our house and so the bricks hold heat for them.  Later in mid summer this becomes a problem and i have to shade the beds.

First week of December 2013
Of course, I've kept lots of seeds from my plants last year so I'm starting to plant them now and will find a nice warm protected spot for them to grow.   Last year i had lots a freebies come up from the year before but I've replaced a lot of soil in my raised beds while in the process of removing Kikuyu grass from everything so I'm not expecting them to pop up this year.

Gardenate -  I use this iPhone App to tell me when to plant most things.  It tells me when to plant seeds and when to plant seedlings.  It also gives you masses of information of how too, companion planting and even cooking suggestions.  Go get it - you wont regret it.  Link here

Gardenate tells me that in August and September i should be planting seeds in trays undercover. Transplanting seedlings should start in October.   Note, this is for my climate but you can change the settings to your own.   You can also record on this App what  and when you have planted under My Garden.  This is a great reference tool.

What i can tell you is that i was at the garden centre the other day and people were buying up big all the tomato plants that were ready for transplanting now.  Unless they are going into a hot housed (i doubt it) they wont do much. There was ice on my car this week!!

I hope I've been able to give some general advice for beginners starting out growing tomatoes.  The tomato season is an exciting one (I don't get out much) and I'm looking forward to my third season.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Pain Free and Back In Action

Not a great opening shot but hey, if it works then I'm certainly one happy girl.  For months now I've battled with Tennis Elbow and I've been totally frustrated by not being able to do anything too physical on weekends. I sit at a desk all week and on weekends i want to move.  I tried physio with massage and acupuncture twice a week for about a month and while it relieved a little of the pain, i was still stuck with a weak elbow and even weaker hand.  Bla Bla Bla (insert whining noises and boo hoo comments about how much it ached at night trying to sleep and how i cant open bottles or press a spray can nib).   Well Friday I had a cortisone injection into my elbow under a guided ultrasound and two days later it feels great.  It did hurt (like Wow) after the anaesthetic wore off Friday evening but dosed up on pain killers the next day it was all good.

Yes, Fiona, i will be more careful in future.  I've discovered I am not a human excavator or forklift after all.

So feeling great how did i celebrate?   Since Saturday found me still doped up i had a Nana nap and then spent an entire evening following this blog about a family from Daylesford, Victoria that have cycled all the way to Northern Queensland, foraging and promoting the free food that surrounds us. They did this with a pre-teen, a breastfeeding toddler and a Jack Russell in tow, camping in free sites and the generosity of people along the way.  Its a great adventure.  Thanks Jess for the referral.

The Artist As Family 

Fuel for a night (and i do mean a night) of blog reading.  I might have filled that mug a few times. 

Tilly my constant companion, asleep on the chair beside me.  If she could she would be attached to me permanently.
I've been out in the garden again and tidied up some rubbish and tools lying around and finished filling one of the low beds against the back wall all ready for the beginning of the tomato season. I was at Bunnings today aghast at all the people buying up tomato seedlings and foot high plants. They were going mad buying up big black pots with trellises about two foot tall (way too short).  Ummmm did any of those people have to get the ice of their car this week like i did?   I doubt that there are that many greenhouses in the neighbouring backyards.  Silly people.  Yes, even the salesperson agreed with me but what can she do?

I picked up a new mint.  Both Hubby and son crushed a leaf and we all agree that it smells like chocolate mint slice.  Not such a leap as it is a Chocolate Mint.   It will make a lovely tea and i can imagine it in drinks and with fruit salad.

My small blueberry bush is covered in flowers.  Everything was watered and given some fertiliser today.   The terracotta pots dry out quickly.

 I see lettuce salads in the near future.  This top corner of the lettuce bed has garlic chives, thyme, parsley, and dill all in together.  Top left you can see that there are broken eggs shells all through this bed along with coffee grounds to discourage slippery snails and slugs.

My leek and kale bed has more peas plants coming up from the pea straw than anything else.  I've also planted lily bulbs in the corners of these beds to bring some colour and bees in summer.  These pea plants are great nitrogen fixers so i will just cut the tops off leaving the nodules in the soil.

Speaking of micro greens, I'm growing some sprouts in the strawberry container left over from my blog snack above.  I just used 2 layers of moist paper towel underneath and one on top and put it in the pantry which is cool and dark when my son shuts the door.  Once small seedlings start to grow i will move it into the light (kitchen windowsill) to bring colour to the small leaves.  You harvest them when they are between 2.5 - 5cm.  I throw them in salads and on sandwiches.  This mix is Alfalfa, Radish and Broccoli.  

I love Lobelia, so dainty and definitely in my colour pallet.  

Daisies are just starting to bloom.  
In The Kitchen 

Spinach, Potato and Bacon Quiche served with Relish
Preserved Lemons - see previous post here
The makings of a meat sauce to be used in all manner of dishes.  
You guessed it, its now bubbling away several hours later over the edge and onto the counter.  Oh well, it washes.  This might have a little kick as i kept on browning mince and made taco meat to be frozen for Tom to use during the week.  Since the pan was full of chilli seasoned oil I cooked the onions in it.  There is about 1.25kg of browned mince and two bottles of passata underneath this lot.  Plus herbs both dried and fresh.

Taco Mince  - just regular mince and seasoning.
Its amazing how much oil comes out of the mince.  I drain it off before freezing.  

Dinner tonight was some sliced roast beef reheated in a mustard gravy, green baby beans and smashed rosemary baked potatoes.  Par boil the potatoes, drain and smash (i used a meat mallet being careful not to hit the dish) and then drizzle olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt before baking in hot oven.  Even better there is enough of all to make up a lunch for Hubby tomorrow.  His work colleagues will be jealous.

OK, time to put my energised self to bed ready for a 3 am wake up when Tilly tries to take on the milk delivery man through the door.  At full volume she certainly makes a good alarm clock.   Then up again at 5.30am to get hubby ready for work (not a morning person).  Lucky his lunch is already made.

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