Friday, 30 March 2012

Cool Season Gardening

We live in South East Queensland so are in the sub tropical zone of the country, but we are also about 100km inland from the coast so during to cooler months we have more of a temperate climate but with warm daytime temperatures. This means we get 2 distinct season's, a winter with mild days and cold nights with frosts from June - August, and hot wet summers where we can grow things like bananas, paw paws and mangos.

Summer for us is actually a challenging time to grow veggies as there are usually endless fungal problems and the good chance of plants drowning.  For this reason I plan to fail between mid December and March and if I do get crops they are a bonus.  I also use this time to clean out garden beds and plant green manure crops to be dug in at the end of February.
From April till September we get our version of Winter.  I say from April because that is when you can feel that a change is afoot and the night temperatures start to drop.
For me March marks the start of my growing season and because our winter only has a couple months with really cold night temperatures you have to be organised.
So in late February I get my seeds sorted and planted out in seed raising mix.  I know that I am gong to prick out the seedlings as soon as they pop up so the other thing I have to do is wash out all my pots with soapy water and leave them to dry.

 Once they are potted on they spend some time in the shade house getting established so that they get a head start and during this time I also prep the garden beds.

There are some things however that did not go as planned.
My Bok Choy for example.  I planted it directly into the soil and it all sprouted beautifully.  Oh the stir frys that we were going to have.
Some nasty little critter decided to dine on all my little seedlings leaving me a few stalks.  Most of these seedlings will not recover as they had no leaves left. some not even stalks.  Bloody critters!

There have been a few bonuses though.  Some of my beans that started to rot on the vine self seeded and now we are having a late run on beans.

Next week i hope to get some of the first seedling in the garden, although i might have to do some critter proofing first.

What's growing at your place?

Thursday, 29 March 2012


Our local green grocer often has mixed boxes of over ripe and slightly damaged fruit and veg out the front and going cheap.  When ever I see these boxes I snap them up as even if you cannot use everything in the box (and some goes to the chickens) you still come out ahead.  

Yesterday for $3 I got:
1 Overripe pineapple, 2 over ripe mango's, 2 apples with marked skin, 800 gm of button squash, 3 small zucchinis, 7 carrots with their tips snapped off, 2 kg of onions that had lost all their papery skins, 2 kg of stone fruit that had small soft spots in places, 2 capsicums with soft spots and 11 Lebanese cucumbers.

I also got a second $3 box of apples, at a guess about 7kg in total. Most are starting to go a bit soft but they will all stew up nicely.

The one thing you have to do is be prepared to sort it all out asap.

So first thing was to juice the the pineapple served chilled over ice this made for a refreshing drink as I dealt with the rest.

Stone fruit shortcake

Stewed Apple
Most of the veggies went into tomato based pasta sauce for dinner and the cucumbers were made into bread and butter pickles.

I tend to shop on the same day each week so the green grocer knows that I will pretty much always take one of their bargain boxes.  Because of this if they have fruit and veggies that are just a little bit past it they will box them up for me and put them aside till I come in.  Last week I was also lucky enough for them to put aside 2 trays of very ripe mango's for me priced at $3 a tray.  Now I have containers of mango flesh in the freezer just waiting for smoothies, cakes or cheesecakes.
It just goes to show that it really does pay to get to know your local shop keepers and support the small independent retailers.    I would be very surprised if you would ever get this service from one of the big supermarkets.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Thursday, 22 March 2012

New Life on the Farm

This week we had 2 little bundles of fluff join us here at the farm. 
Sadly one of them did not make it : (
These little guys however were not destined to be pets, they are destined for the freezer.  And yes that sounds very harsh when they are such cute little fluff balls.
Originally "Bubble " was sitting on 6 eggs but one got broken and 3 were not fertile.  So now we will have to wait for our other bantam to go clucky again because we really want about 10 chickens for the freezer.

We have been discussing the idea of raising meat chickens decided  for a while now and have decided that now is the time to give it a go.  We both like to eat meat and we believe that learning to raise and butcher our own chickens in an ethical way is a skill we should learn.

I grew up on a hobby farm and we used to butcher our own chickens and turkeys so I am not completely unfamiliar with the process but I am not sure that using an axe to remove heads is the method I want to use.  I suspect it would not be the safest method and am concerned about it not being a clean kill so to speak.

I have been looking at different methods of butchering chickens and there seems to be a lot of information on the Internet but I would really love some thoughts from those of you who have undertaken this process before.
What method did you use?
Do you have any tips?

Monday, 19 March 2012

And We Have A Winner

Over the weekend using the extremely sophisticated method of "names on folded paper in a hat" a winner was decided to my handmade card give away.

And the winner is...
 AA commented "If I won I would order a card for my daughter who loves pink, and cats, and lives on the other side of the world..... Her birthday is the beginning of April so this would be very timely"

Congratulations African Aussie!

Please email me with your details so I can send you your cards.  Email is

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A Crafty Clean Up

Things have been so busy lately I have hardly had time to blog.  But yesterday I found time to do a job I have been putting off for ages, cleaning out my craft cupboards.
Hidden behind these benign looking doors away from visitors eyes lies a disaster area, a dirty little secret that threatens to expose it's self should you decide to investigate further.
All tidy from the out side
This is the state of things before I started in the right cupboard, not too bad but it is the lesser of the two evils and was not my major cause for concern.  This cupboard is for non scrap booking supplies, gift bags and boxes.
This one below, on the other had was my cause for concern.  Scrap booking supplies gone crazy.
Really I had no idea some of what was buried amongst some of these piles, and this was not all of it either.  On top of the fact I had just been poking stuff in and quickly shutting the door, lest it should want to jump back out, there was also the pile on the floor (no photo sorry) of all the other things that needed to be sorted and stored.
Part of the problem with scrap booking is that you get into the habit of saving everything that you could use in the future.  The big issue here is that almost everything could be used if you are creative enough and knowing where to draw the line is challenging, well for me anyway.
But I was determined to get it into some sort of manageable order so I sorted and at times even threw out (reluctantly) but it was all for the better in the end because now I know exactly what I have and can find things easily.
Now below is the result of my efforts and while it may still not look like the picture of perfection this is about as good as it gets.
While I was sorting things out I found I really needed a couple of storage methods for quite specific things, rolls of ribbon and scrap booking papers that are 30x30cm.
These storage containers can be purchased, at a price, from most big scrap booking stores and on line but I really was not prepared to outlay the money.  So I got creative and made my own.
I turned and old shoe box into a ribbon box by threading a piece of dowel through the middle threading on the rolls of ribbon and securing each end with rubber bands, then I made a slot for the ribbon to come out the front.

For the papers I picked up some stackable fruit boxes from the supermarket and cut one of the sides out leaving just enough to lock into the box below. 
Now things are a lot tidier (for a while) and I found a whole lot of stuff I had forgotten about.
Do you have cupboards like this at your place?

PS while on the topic of craft, don't forget today is the last day you can enter my birthday giveaway so make sure you comment on that post from earlier this week.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Harmony Day Festivities

Things have been so busy lately I have hardly had time to blog.  Over the weekend the Harmony Day community event I was managing was held and it was extremely successful.  It had kept me very busy, hence the lack of blogging, but now it is all over for another year.

The message for Harmony Day in 2012 was that Everyone Belongs, which means all Australians are a welcome part of our country, regardless of their background.
It is all about reflecting on where Australia has come from, recognising the traditional owners of this land to all of the different cultures that now make up each of our communities. It's also about community participation, inclusiveness and respect – celebrating the different cultures that make Australia a great place to live.

We are only a small community of 3000 people including the surrounding areas so most events that are held in the community involve all the small organisations getting together and helping out.
Harmony Day was no different.  We had different groups helping with setting up and packing up, other groups lent chairs, tables, marquees and display boards, and some groups helped out as volunteers.

We had Tai Chi, Singers, Poets, Belly Dancers, Bollywood Dancing, Face Painting, Henna Hand Painting along with Markets, Food, Drink and Cultural Displays.

It was a very frantic day for me and would you believe that I did not take a single photo, opps.
The local paper were there and thankfully they going to send me some but sadly I have none for my blog so for now you just get a copy of the ad from our local paper.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Birthday Post And Gift For You

Well how on earth did we get here?  Has it really been a year already?  Apparently so.

Well Happy Blog Birthday to me!

And what would a birthday be without cards?  So for you my followers, instead of cards for me, there will be a cards for one of you.  There will be hand made cards (made be yours truly of course) up for grabs because your support and feedback is very much appreciated.
In addition to the cards I have already made, I will make the winner a card with a theme of their choice.  The winner will be able to nominate a card of their choice.  It could be a wedding, special birthday or event coming up, it's up to you.

If you would like to be in to win these hand made cards all you have to do is leave a comment about which post you have enjoyed from my blog.   
Then just tell me what kind of card you would like your special card to be. 
You can leave a comment anytime until Friday midnight.  I will then draw a name out of the hat over the weekend and post the results on Monday.

Until then here are a couple of the cards up for grabs.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Chocolate & Beetroot Cake

This cake is so simple to make and I am yet to meet anyone who does not like it.
This is not the kind of cake you can cut into slices and pick up.  It's rich, really more of a brownie and best eaten with a cake fork, possibly with some double cream, ice cream or yogurt in the side.
It's also a great "mystery ingredient cake" that will have friends and family guessing.

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

250 gm Good Quality Dark Chocolate
250 gm Unsalted Butter
3 Eggs
250 gm Castor Sugar
150 gm Self Raising Flour
250 gm Peeled & Grated Beetroot

Grease and line a 20x20cm cake tin.
Heat your oven to 170 degrees.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat stirring to mix.
Beat your eggs and sugar.  Whisk the chocolate butter mix into the egg and sugar.
Grate beetroot and mix it with the flour then fold into the chocolate mix.
Pour mix into cake tin and bake for 1hr or until skewer come out clean

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Change of Season

We are now officially on day 3 of Autumn but I am not feeling it yet.
Our days are still over 30 degrees so with fingers crossed I am doing some plant experimentation.

I planted out seeds for both summer (watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, artichokes) and winter veggies (leeks cabbage, kohlrabi, silver beet) plus some mid season lettuce and rocket on Wednesday...

And they are sprouting already, well the rocket and cucumbers are.  I would show you a picture but am having some camera issues.

Our Cherry/Strawberry Guava (not sure which) is loaded with fruit and the branches are bending under the weight.  I saw a recipe for guava jelly the other day but what else can I do with them?  Any ideas???
Last year I planted a fig because for me having grown up in NZ this is one of those fruit that are still the epitome of exotic. 
It has only been in the ground 12 months and it has decided to fruit so I am waiting with baited breath till those little fruit ripen and can be eaten with ricotta and honey, roasted with blue cheese or poached in port and served with icecream mmmmm I should stop now. 
Evey time I walk near it I can smell the sweet musky fragrance of figs.  They are hard and green still so where does that lovely aroma come from?  No wonder the critters out there love them.
I have been out there inspecting the tree every day, squashing the caterpillars that are trying to eat the leaves along with any other bug that happens to be there that I cannot identify.  Sorry bugs if you are good guys but I am taking no chances.  Hmmm I wonder if I am being obsessive?

My little Fig Tree with a bit of wind protection
 I also have a whole lot of beans planted out for drying but after this last lot of rain some are looking a bit worse for wear.  Well best be off to try and sort it out instead of sitting here.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Slow Living 2012 - Month 2

Linking up with Christine today for a look back at Slow Living in February.

This is a great way of reminding yourself of exactly what you have achieved during the month and even though some things are just small steps they all build up to make a much bigger picture.  If you want to join in head over to Christine's blog to find out what Slow Living Month by Month is all about.

Nourish - February saw me working on my Sourdough skills.  I have tried a lot of different recipes and am trying to find one that suits my baking style and our bread eating habits.  I also tried out new recipes (chocolate beetroot cake, and velvet cupcakes) and we had an entirely homecooked month other than a birthday lunch out.

Prepare - More bottles of diced tomato's were prepared in my Fowler's Vacola Unit as well as pears and some home made cordial.

Reduce - There were a few books that I really wanted to buy but at $40 each it was not a wise spend.  In the end I asked my local Library to buy them and I was first on the list to borrow them.  Now I know they will be on hand if I want to ready them again in the future.

Green - Well this one just snuck in for the month of Feb as I only made it last night.  I have had a go at making liquid soap for pump bottles.  So far it looks good, very soapy but good.  Until I give it a decent run I will not say it was a success but it is at least a start.  I have also been training Hubby on cleaning with Bicarb and Vinegar.

Grow - February was a pretty dud month for growing things.  We had such a wet month that a lot was pulled out, but at the end of the month I got a few seedlings in for Pumpkin, Rosella's and herbs.  I also planted out beetroot seeds because I accidentally watered the paper packet they were in and then they were just going to rot if they didn't go in the ground.

Create - I am always crafting away on something, this month it was mainly scrap booking.

Discover - A friend and I found out that our council was funding an event management workshop at a local artists studio.  For the grand total of $5 we were provided transport to and from the workshop, the workshop itself and a BBQ lunch.  The artist studio was a great find as they hold other classes there as well which I might attend in the future.

Enhance - I have spent over 100 hours in February working on different community projects and boy am I pooped.  Plus it is not over yet.  We are celebrating Harmony Day in my town on March 10 and as the event manager my to do list is as long as my arm.  I also have 2 other projects on the go..  It is very rewarding but the process of applying for funding grants and managing a couple of different groups of people on top of full time work is very tiring.

Enjoy - Oh I very much enjoyed the birthday lunch with my best friend.  There are many small things that have also brought me joy like catching up with friends and family, and spending time with Hubby and the pets.

Well enough said about last month.  March is already here and there are jobs to be done.