Sunday, 27 April 2014

Repurposing and Renewing Projects Continue

OK, you cannot wipe the smile off my face at the moment.  I'm pretty pleased with myself.

After last weeks project of turning pallets into strawberry beds, I'm at it again. I looked around the factory for something else to renew and repurpose and discovered this.

Its a wooden cable drum but that's not what i saw.  I saw a rolling table for plants.  Hopefully one that Tilly wont jump up onto.  It certainly needed some work on it first if its going to pass muster and Hubby's no junk policy.  The drum was sitting outside in the weather in the lock up yard.  No idea how long it had been there.

I first gave it a sand down and knocked back a few nails that were sticking up.  Next I painted it with an external paint to make it weather proof.  I hope you like this colour because you are going to see a lot of it.  I bought it to finally, finally paint that ugly grey weathered fence that spoils all my garden photos.  Its called Ironbark from Walpamur.

Big Big Improvement.  Test board.  I can imagine my strawberry beds from last weekends project up against this colour with red cascading strawberries everywhere (i have a good imagination).  
I also thought that having a few pieces around the same colour (like my table) would help tie it in with the rest of the garden.  When you put pots on a table, its gets heavy and so i asked hubby to screw some swivel wheels to the bottom.   This was my only expense on the table - 4 X $2.28 and a packet of screws for $3.48 = $12.60.

Once it is loaded you can just wheel it around to catch the sun or rotate it to give the back of the plants some sun.  The next part is my favourite part - decorating.

The two white "french provincial" pots at the back are both chipped.  There was one on a bargain table at Bunnings for $5 and so i found the display of them and guess what, another pot was chipped.  Amazing!  Right next door to this display there was one lonely white pot with the Dairy Fresh Milk on it.  Hubby gave me one of these for Valentines Day and so i asked how much this one solitary pot was worth.  I knew that Hubby paid about $25 for it and so i told them id pay $20 for it. He came back and said i could have it for $15 and then when we picked it up we saw a hole in the bottom (bigger than it was suppose to be) and i got it for $8.   Plants don't care about chips and holes - that's just extra drainage and soon fixed with a piece of cloth and some stones in the bottom.  The flowers were also on special with Mothers Day coming up and so i told the boys they could consider this my gift.  Boy, were they relieved - they hate shopping for my gifts. There are some Lobelia seedling in the pots so they should grow over the edges, covering any chips.  

I added a few items hanging around (Ella's chicken and my coffee watering can) for interest.
Oh, see the mirror, funny story.  I am still waiting for the fence to be done and for some mounting supports to be added to secure this amazing birthday gift from the boys at work.  Remember, its not an actual mirror, its polished stainless steel mounted in a custom metal frame made by our sheetmetal guys.   Usually i have it leaning up against the wall with the polished side facing the wall so Tilly cant scratch it.   Hubby was standing on the concrete talking to me in the garden yesterday when he yelled our "Ouch!".   The morning sun at hit the stainless steel (the dull side) and reflected back onto his tracksuit covered bottom.  It burnt him in only a few minutes.  I came over and put my hand in the reflection and it really was hot.  So, when we finally do mount it with the polished side out we are going to have to enclose it with maybe an arch so that the sun doesn't actually hit the metal.  Who knows what could be set on fire otherwise.

Kitchen antics this weekend were varied.  Thursday night saw a slow cooker go on with forequarter lamb chops, can of tomatoes, garlic, carrots, baby potatoes, and lots of herbs.  By midnight it was all soft and gooey and dare i say, YUM!.   This ended up lunch on Friday.

Served on steamed cabbage.  
During the week, my Bestie and I were discussing all things Lentil and she said she had a favourite recipe.  Well today she turned up with a large pot, just for me before she scuttled off home to watch her beloved Collingwood play the ANZAC match of footy.  It was super thick and so i blended it with a bit of hot water.  I think i might also try a batch with some coconut milk just to be different.

Lunches at work taken care of. 

I made some veggie stock on Thursday from peelings and on Friday i added a chicken carcase with the scrappy bits left over.  This had quite a bit of meat left on it and so once removing bones i added grated carrots, the beans Tom didn't eat for dinner, and some rice.  It smelt so good i would have eaten it but it was portioned into small containers for Miss Tilly.

The worms didn't miss out either.  Given that i don't have a mortar and pestle, my new Tupperware "rip cord thingy" came in handy to crunch up the eggs shells.  Add that to the coffee from my saved coffee bags and they had themselves a real treat.

 and out from the bottom of the worm farm comes.....

Worm Pee
Saturday night saw chicken schnitzels all round but the piece de resistance for the weekend, was breakfast Sunday morning at Ella's.   She made pancakes with a fresh banana butterscotch with brandy sauce served with cream.  Oh my my ......

So on that note its been a pretty good weekend.  How was yours, any projects on the go?

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land of Oz

Monday, 21 April 2014

Church Newsletter Funnies

Church Ladies With Typewriters
They're Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins! Thank Goodness for the church ladies with typewriters. These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:    

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals. 
Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help. 
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. 
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs. 
Next Thursday there will be try-outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get. 
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow. 
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday. 
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM . Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM .. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
And this one just about sums them all up
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday:
'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.'         

Hope these gave you a laugh.  

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land of Oz

Strawberry Pallet Garden - Easter Weekend

OK, so this is what kept me busy on this 4 day Easter Weekend. Needs must because in order to pull one of my garden beds apart to remove the Kikuyu runners from the soil i needed to replant my strawberry plants.   I'm lucky that at our factory many of the electrical components arrive on pallets.  The larger ones we can reuse to send goods out but the smaller ones are not much use.  I don't know what happened to them in the past but more recently they've been put aside for me.  I've got a pile of six there now and so i brought a few home this weekend to start this project - Operation Strawberry Pallet Garden.   Oh before i move on, can you see that the grass is starting to die, Yippey!! , said no one ever except me.

This is what they look like when i get them.  4 evenly spaced cross planks on front with 2 on the back (which would really be the bottom)
First job is to remove the two centre planks and to move one up and one down to make two double planks. For someone that is a handyman that might seem a simple thing and yet for others you might just wonder how to go about doing that.  These were new pallets and so they are newly nailed and quite strong.  Under the guidance of one Hubby, I used a pinch bar and and a hammer to wedge the bar between the plank (above the nail) and the upright support. Give it a gentle tap first to open it up and then you can give it a good whack and then lever it away from the frame.  I did this on all three sets of nails across until i was able to lever the whole plank off cleanly.  This left the nails in fairly good order. Hubby hammered them back through and i used the claw on the pinch bar to pull them out without bending them too much.  Once Hubby straightened them, i was able to use the nail holes already there and drive the same nails back into the new position using a hammer.  I am repurposing the pallets and reusing the nails.  

Are you wondering why I'm being a trades assistant and doing most of the manual labour.  Hubby had surgery last week on his foot and will be out of action for up to 12 weeks.  Using open surgery they cut his plantar fascia (the Arch Tendon) leaving just enough to support an arch.
Don't you just love his scooter (hired).  Instead of using crutches you kneel with your sore leg on the seat and scoot with the other.  The injured foot never touches the ground.   As we have no stairs he can get around quite well inside the house.  
The bottom plank at the back also has to come off and be moved one plank space up.  This forms the back of the bottom planter.

Now do i make sense?
Next was a paint job.  Use a good exterior paint as its going to be in the sun and watered regularly.  Don't worry the soil or growing medium wont touch it.  Lucky we are mid way through painting our front fence and so i already had exterior paint on hand.  Being raw, the wood really soaked it up.

I'm doing this on the deck so you can be sure i was being extra careful where the paint landed.  
I feel like I'm being too simple with these instructions.  I know you are all smart individuals and i apologise if you think i am treating you like simpletons.  Since so few readers leave comments i don't know who is reading my blog (but my views are up to 35000+ in 14 months) and they are apparently from everywhere and so I'm hoping that if you cannot understand my words or my poor grammar (lets face it, I'm Australian) then at least the pictures will give you a clue.  As always, my posts are for beginners, like me.

Next step is to make pockets within the frame to hold the soil and plants.  I had a choice of using the weed mat im using out the back or some scraps of shade cloth i had left over in the shed.  I chose the shade cloth and using scissors i cut two strips.  This is hard to explain and so look at the picture first.

In hindsight i should have just pulled out the sewing machine and run up the seams but i wasn't in the mood.  I used one wide piece (with a 3cm allowance on each side) and a staple gun (HD) to secure it at the top on one side (turning a small hem over to make it neat) and then leaving enough cloth to reach the bottom of the bottom plank and back up to the other top.  Once again turn a small hem and staple.  Because there was an allowance on the side you can now fold that towards the centre and staple.  You could leave it at the point but i wanted more strength in the bottom so i took a thin strip and did it the other way round (L to R) ending up with a double layer on the bottom and the sides covered up edges and making it neat. Phew, not sure if that made sense.

This is what it looks like from the back.  Yeah, i would definitely sew them next time.  Do you think the strawberry plants will notice the substandard work?

OK, we are getting there.  Now, everyone tells me that because the vessel is free draining that I'm going to have problems keeping it moist.  What to do?  Look for a very moisture retentive medium to grow in. Featuring...   coconut coir.   I bought a small block that grew and grew and grew and grew until it filled the wheelbarrow.

When you are using this stuff, make sure you do so over grass and use gloves.  You add water (30L) to the block to make it expand and any leaking liquid will contain tannins that could stain your hands or concrete.

This one came from Bunnings and it had added fertilisers and was suitable for planting directly into it.  This is of course, is just an experiment on my behalf but I'm hoping that when the pallet gardens are mounted that they will have a drip watering feeder to each plant.  I do know that when i watered the top level it dripped down to the bottom level and very little escaped out the bottom.  These will however be mounted over a ground level garden bed and so any moisture dripping below will water the plants below.

Looking Good.  I certainly didn't leave it this way though.  Any plant that's been ripped out of it nice warm bed and replanted is going to be stressed.  So to minimise this and to allow the plants to recover i ate these strawberries (someone had to do it and they were so so sweet) and trimmed the leaves back to the next layer of growth which was about 10cm from the roots.  After a thorough drink i had to place them not on the intended mounting spot (its not built yet) but into one of the raised beds not being used.  Someone else likes strawberries and digging - i wonder who?

Tilly watching me do all the work.  On the left are the remaining strawberry plants.  
I may have to resort to Styrofoam boxes or giving them away.  There are so many plants in this small area and I've run out of pots.  Jessie!  Ella!  Sharon!

I haven't finished them yet but with it being Easter the tile centre was closed.  Ive found what i want online but I'm hoping there is old stock at the local place. I'm hoping to add a feature tile to the front to decorate the pallet gardens.

Check out other fantastic tiles here.  The Tile Mural Store has some great murals and feature tiles.

I love strawberries and I'm looking forward to a summer of my favourite strawberry salad.

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar is a match made in heaven. 

You dont think all this was enough to keep me busy do you.  I read two wonderful books.  The first one, Souvenir (Therese Fowler) was a debut novel and is very good.  I wasnt planning on reading but my Bestie dropped it off for me and that was it.  I looked at it for a few hours and then i was gone for the rest of the day.  Yep, im a book a day girl.  The second novel was a light Australian yarn about a Dr working FIFO on a mining site.  Ive read Charlotte Nash's other books and they are a good read when you dont want anything heavy (i was suppose to be gardening, remember).

The rest of the weekend was spent doing the usual, housework, shopping and cooking.  Hubby is feeling quite depressed at the moment being injured and unemployed.  A big steak always picks him up, maybe its the extra iron.

Yes my beans.
Oh and for the gardeners, this is the last of the tomatoes till next season.

I first posted a pic of this bowl with tomatoes on the 15th December here.  Mid Dec to Mid April, that's not a bad season.

Hope you all enjoyed your Easter Break whether it was a Staycation like me or a trip away.   Since Anzac Day is next Friday, we have a 3 day weekend next week.

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land of Oz

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Garden Do Over - Minus the Grass

Take a look at it now because this Kikuyu grass is going going (soon to be) gone.  I know its lush and soft to walk on but its a right royal pain in the butt.  It runs everywhere and through my beds, despite the layers of cardboard and newspaper that were put down when we built the beds. It steals all the moisture from my veggies.  I will miss being able to garden in bare feet but I'm sure ill manage to find a comfy pair of garden shoes.  The plan is to add lots of vertical beds using pallets and gutters supported by upright poles along the fence, some of which will have espaliered fruit trees between them.  With a solid ground cover (probably Tuscan toppings like the front nature strip here)  ill be able to group pots together giving me more growing space and soften the look of the garden.  Its looking like an accountants garden, all straight lines.  

 As you can see once the surrounding iron was removed (surprisingly easily) the grass has well and truly taken over.  I'm getting ready for winter crops and i couldn't imagine planting in this nor continuing to pull the runners out every few weeks.

Step 1 - Shovel all this soil onto a mat for cleaning up later.

Step 2 - Use the dreaded Roundup to spray all the grass up to 2m from the bed.  I know, i should do it all at once but its such a big job and well, i finally ran out of the stuff which I've had for years.  Tilly has been locked in the house for the day so that there is no danger of her coming into contact with the poison.

Once I've killed it all, anything that pops up with be dealt with using a kettle of hot water - tip from Gavin (Greening of Gavin).  We were joking a few weeks ago about how if anything green started coming up in the wrong place id be out there like a female warrior with a garden wand raised in my right hand and a kettle in the other.

This is how i picture myself !!!

This is more like reality!!!

Step 3 - Put down weed mat.  Ive doubled mine and pegged it down tight.

Eventually this will go everywhere under the gravel.  
Step 4 - Return the iron surround and put a layer of strong cardboard down.  More Roundup in corners where i had to cut the mat to put the legs into the soil.

Lucky i have skips full of this stuff at work
So, do you think I've gone overboard?  I don't, this stuff would still be around after a nuclear holocaust.

Step 5 - I then filled the bottom of the bed with a huge pile of leaf litter.  Food for the worms and hopefully a moisture layer.

I sprinkled pelleted organic fertiliser right through this layer and watered it in.

Step 6  - This one took some time.  I shovelled that grass ridden soil into a wheel barrow (make that about 15 of them) and went through by hand and broke up all the clay lumps and removed every rock and runner i could find.  It took a while but this soil was worth keeping, take a look at all the worms.

Seriously, this wasn't staged.  This is how many were in there.  Every time i broke open a clod it was filled with worms.  I felt like a worm condo wrecker.  
Step 7 - As i refilled the bed, Hubby was catching any i missed and generally having fun playing in the dirt.
He even said it was therapeutic running his hand through the soil and talking to the worms.

Got to admit this soil is looking pretty good.   Lots or organic matter and a blend of both my clay and introduced soil and compost.   All ready for some plants and mulch.  
I have a lovely collection of onion bulbs that were plaited by Jess from Rabidlittlehippy and an onion bag full of garlic bulbs just waiting for the bed to be ready.  Next will be the other low bed which is 2m x 1.25m.

The lettuce bed is still flourishing.  

As are the zucchinis and peppers.


Just in case you think I'm neglecting my family, despite my aching feet i did some cooking with whatever i could find.  I had a full dozen eggs and some staples only - after yesterdays disaster i didn't feel up to shopping.

Always, always, always have home made pasta sauce in the freezer.   Hubby's (son wont eat it) and another serve in the fridge for tomorrow.  

Bacon and cheese quiche for the young man.

Onion, potato and bacon quiche served with my zucchini relish (here) which i made in January for me with lots left over for tomorrow.  
Zucchini Slice - Still using them up.  Good for the freezer.
So have i redeemed myself from yesterday's wimp of the year?

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz