Holiday reading

Thank you for helping us welcome amazing Gracie into our lives. She's quite mischievous but utterly adorable, a giant personality in a tiny package.

This will be the last post of the year. It's been a tough year for me and I'll be pleased to see the end of it. I'll be back in January with new posts about cooking and baking, living a good life, cutting back, budgeting and the work we all do in our homes. Thank you so much for your visits and comments during the year. Your comments convince me that even after almost 10 years writing here, there are still things to say and connections to be made with readers all around the world. Thank you for being part of my day and adding your voice to a growing number of people who realise that our world has changed and we have to change with it.

I hope you have a wonderful time over the holidays and that you rest and take time to put your feet up and read a good book. If you're travelling, be careful, I want you to be here with me next year.  ♥︎ 🐾 ♥︎

Recycling in Sweden
Beginners Sewing Course - Day 1 - The Basics - you tube
Happiness in Australia
Happiness depends on health and friends, not money, says new study
Those who hate cleaning their oven will love this trick - you tube
Hanukkah recipes - 24 December
Christmas recipes - 25 December
Christmas leftover recipes
The lives they lived and the rooms they left behind. American readers will most likely know most of these people but even if you don't know them, this is interesting.
Eight things you need to do right now to protect yourself online
Is This the Top-Secret KFC Recipe?
The grief of losing a pet is traumatic and universal. So why don't we talk about it?
Arctic ice melt 'already affecting weather patterns where you live right now'
Science confirms turmeric as effective as 14 drugs

πŸ”ΊπŸ”»πŸ”Ί

50

Travelling around and coming home

I visited my dear friend Rose in her home town over the weekend. It was a long drive so I had a lot of time to think about Rose, my family, my online family, my home, little Gracie and what I want to do next year. I need to be alone when I think about important and complex issues and it takes me a long time to sort out how I feel and what I should be doing. But the end result for me is that I go forward with a clear plan in mind and, usually, the belief that I'm doing the right thing.

A nurse took a photo of us and when Rose looked at it she asked me to share it with you.

The afternoon I spent with Rose was a delight. She didn't know I was coming so when I walked in she was surprised. We talked all afternoon, we laughed and read some threads on the forum, Rose's mother, Mavis, and husband, Tony, came in for a short visit and we carried on chatting.  Rose is in a good room. It has a balcony and it overlooks the Pacific Ocean and although she is confined to bed she can look out onto the wide blue yonder.

A country pub in Queensland.

Many people have said that it was a long drive for such a short time but I don't look at my trip that way.  I believe that good friendships and family relationships need help to survive and flourish and when that happens, especially during difficult times, it strengthens the ties that bind more than anything else. I don't care how long it took, how difficult it was, how much it cost, it was worth it to be with Rose when she needed another friend at her side. I believe it was time well spent and that our friendship and the physical demonstration of it, will help her in coming days. It will help me too.


Rambling along the backroads is such an interesting way of travelling. You see people, animals and places you never see along busy highways. The interaction of people in and with their home towns is an inspiration to me. As you know, I often stay at home for weeks at a time so it is important for me to get out occasionally and experience community life as it unfolds. Driving through small towns and sometimes stopping to have a break or a cup of tea, gives me valuable time to observe ordinary folk like me going about their days. Seeing people out and about, sitting on verandahs, at the farm gate, shopping, gardening or playing with children in the yard confirms my belief that it is strong families who make a country strong and resilient. And as I travel onwards, it reminds me that home is the most important place for all of us and that returning home is an important and significant part of every journey.

And when I returned home, Hanno and Jamie were here and when Gracie saw me she ran around with her ears down and tail up, making funny noises and not really knowing what to do next.  I slept well that night. I've spent time with a good friend, looked around this great country of ours and had many hours to think of today and tomorrow.  What had been unclear in my mind about the coming months is now clear, I have a firm plan for the coming year and I feel enthusiastic and primed for what's ahead.

30

Sewing, baking and travelling

Hello my friends. I've had a busy week here working on Christmas sewing, mending, gardening and ripping out most of our tomato bushes, tidying up my workroom, cooking and baking. The main event though is preparing to drive to Wollongong to visit my dear friend Rose who is very ill.  Hanno will stay at home with Jamie and Gracie. Consequently, there will be no Weekend Reading this week because I haven't had time to do much reading. This will be my last post until mid next week.

A little bunny in sundress and undies for someone special.


I thought I'd share a very simple but versatile recipe with you today. It's something I whipped up during the week and it fed us for three meals.  It's a pastry-free quiche.  




The basic recipe is a mixture of: 
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • 250ml (one cup) cream
  • crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper
Into that mix add whatever vegetables you have on hand that you like the taste of or need to use.  I had some asparagus that sat on top of the egg mix. In the egg mixture, pre-cooked in a frying pan, were:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
but the choice of vegetables depends on what you have on hand. It will work with most vegies. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof container and bake in a 170C oven until it's golden brown on top and still has a slight wobble.

I also like to use cooked sweet potato or potato with a scattering of peas. It's delicious hot but I prefer it on the following days, cold from the fridge.  It would be an excellent lunch box meal because it travels well.  


Above is a photo of the last ginger syrup I made. I made an interesting discovery with this syrup. I left it on the stove top, covered in a saucepan, for 48 hours instead of the 24 hours I usually leave it. They were warm days. When I poured the liquid into the storage bottle I noticed a few bubbles and was pleased that it had started to ferment. After two days in the cupboard, there were more bubbles so I released the gasses in the glass bottle and moved it into the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. I always use plastic bottles when I make ginger beer. When I made it up and tasted it, it was delicious! It was smooth with a more complex, slightly alcoholic flavour than the ginger syrup I usually make. Now I have two bottles - one my usual syrup and one that has natural fermentation. I think I'll put in some more work on the next batch of ginger syrup and see where that takes me.

And finally, I realised a couple of days ago though that the second instalment of the Great British Sewing Bee wasn't shown here last Saturday, so I wrote to the TV channel and asked why.  Email back today says it continues this Saturday at 7pm. It will be followed by the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. If you live in Australia, was it on where you live?

Don't forget, I'll be away for a week. I'll see you next Wednesday.


27

Weekend reading

Gracie with her favourite toy - a piece of linen.

I'm looking forward to my talk at the Caboolture Library today. There's a big crowd booked in and I hope that if you come along you introduce yourself. While I'm out I'll go into the mall πŸ˜³ to buy a couple of books. It's the only Christmas shopping I'll do in a shop. I'm hoping the rain stays away and it's not too humid so that I survive the shops and arrive at the library looking reasonable.

Thanks for your visits and comments this week. It is one of my weekly pleasures to read them all. ♥︎ 

The beauty of knitting
Pet sounds: why birds have much in common with humans
Dutch spiced biscuits (speculaas)
13

Foxes and chickens

This is a cautionary tale about being over confident about providing a safe place in the backyard where chickens and pets live. I've always known that the most fundamental part of keeping animals is proving a safe place for them. We live in a small rural town at the end of a dead end street so we don't have a lot of passing traffic. The main threat here are the wild things that come into our yard or fly overhead.
We have a large backyard and that strip of trees along the back are growing on the side of a creek. That is where the foxes travel.  The lattice on the left, right near the house, was where Patrick was attacked.

As you know, we have a flock of chickens here that keep us in rich golden yolked eggs most of the year.  I've fallen into the habit of thinking the chooks need the most protection during the night. And we do get a lot of night visitors but most of them are harmless. I hear them out there most nights. They're looking for water, something to eat or a place to rest and I'm happy for them to find all of that here.

Patrick, our warrior chook.

A couple of days ago, Hanno and Gracie were sitting on the back verandah, I'd just let the chickens out to free range in the back yard and all was right in our world.  I came inside, Hanno yelled "FOX!" and in a few seconds, our beautiful Plymouth Rock hen, Patrick, was gone. The fox was gone too and the only thing left there was a spray of Patrick's feathers. Patrick was our fearless warrior chook. She was always the first one out the gate, she was always the first at the food trough, and she didn't flinch when I was convinced she was a he and named her Patrick.  πŸ˜‡


I called the local council and reported the fox attack to the Feral Animal Response Team, got some advice, requested the team visit our home to see if we could do anything else to deter foxes and started to think about living life without Patrick. The following morning, I let the chickens out later than normal to avoid having them roaming free when the fox did an early patrol. I checked the chicken run for signs of the fox and slowly opened the gate to the coop. The first chook out was Patrick!  She had a bite mark on the back, was missing a lot of feathers, but she was there, safe and almost sound. She must have escaped and run into a clump of close-growing palms and hid there until she felt safe enough to run back to the coop. Hanno didn't see her when he herded the flock in for the night.

The egg stealing goanna climbing over the old coop fence. Modifications were made after this.

That made me think about the other times we've had sudden attacks on our chooks.  One time a stray dog wandered in and because it was a very small dog, it got in through the gate. She killed three chooks.  Twice we've found pythons in the coop. Once a hen was sitting on the nest, the top of her body was wet, she was dead and we worked out that she'd been gobbled up by the snake but was too big to swallow.  Eagles have swooped in to take small chooks. We had a goanna lizard climb the coop fence to steal eggs. All day time attacks. The main threat is not at night here, it's during the day. I've stopped thinking that extra protection is necessary at night - the chooks are locked in then and they're fairly safe. No, here we have to remain on alert during the day too and now when I hear a chicken squark, I'm out there quick smart to see what's going on.

Patrick is okay at the moment but she's not out of the woods until that bite on her back heals. Chooks can die of shock a few days after a stressful event too, so I'm looking for those signs. But she seems fine this morning.

Are your chickens at risk too?
27

The Great British Sewing Bee

I've never watched Game of Thrones, the Kardasians or a hundred other popular TV programs, but give me The Great British Sewing Bee and I'll be sitting there, glued to the screen, until the cows come home. This wonderful show started here last Saturday night with the first series. I've watched a few episodes on YouTube over the years but I've never seen the first series and I've never watched a full series. As is my habit, I don't watch live TV. I record what I want to watch and look at it later when I can fast forward through the mindless advertising, or stop at certain places to examine what's been done and listen, again, to an explanation.



Sewing Bee is a sister program of The Great British Bake Off. That program has lured non-bakers into baking and helped with the overdue resurgence of scratch baking and cooking. And just as in the Bake Off, Sewing Bee has an elderly woman and a younger man as judges. I love seeing older women on TV or anywhere in the public domain. There is so much wisdom there to be shared, and they usually do it with grace and tender care.



On the first Sewing Bee program, contestants were asked to cut an A line skirt using a pattern, change the neckline on a shop-bought blouse and make a casual dress to fit a live model. There were explanations about why, what and how all through the show, as well as the judging of each garment. There was also an excellent tutorial on how to make a laundry bag which demonstrated the ease of the process.  Watching competent sewers choose fabric, pin and cut darts, insert invisible zippers and listen to them discuss why they do what they do, is inspiring and thought-provoking.  It was wonderful seeing the detail of the stitching, the seams and darts being constructed and the fabric patterns up close on the big screen. I also loved looking at the personal bits and pieces each sewer brought with them and how they organised their sewing spaces.


When you see expertise, creativity and work of this standard, it's so inspiring you just want to get your scissors and needles out and start a project.  I often wonder why it is so that we are often inspired and motivated to get up and work when we see others working. It must have something to do with our collective past of working in groups to survive.  Whatever it is, I hope some of the people here who don't sew watched the program, or may have watched it in the past. If ever there was a program to light the flame of sewing inspiration and see the end results of methodical creation, it is this program.



I'm comforted by shows like this. They're heartwarming, generous and valuable to those of us who aspire to live by the work we do with our own hands. They show me that what many of us are doing in our lives is becoming increasingly popular and that mindfulness, appreciation of simple things and traditional skills are needed in today's world just as much as they ever were.

Did you see it?



44

Weekend reading

This WAS predicted by Hanno, MrHM and others πŸ˜‰ - I'll be speaking at the Caboolture Library next Friday, 9 December at 12 noon. Bookings are necessary and can be made here - the talk is free. Please come along if you can, I'd love to meet you. This WILL be the last one. I agreed to this talk because the Caboolture Library is celebrating it's fifth birthday, they have wonderful people there and I wanted to be part of the celebrations. 🎈

Here is Gracie trying to work out what I was doing with the camera. She'd been playing with her favourite toy - a three metre piece of linen that we call her "ribbon". She runs all over the place dragging it and trying to entice someone to pull on the other end.  Naturally, there are two suckers here who are happy to oblige.

Anthony Bourdain's Raw Craft on Tailoring - YouTube
If you're struggling with the Christmas season, there is a complete 28 day challenge on the forum, written by Sherri, that many members have been helped by.  It is a simple step-by-step guide to how to prepare yourself and your home for the holidays. Click here to go there.
7 alternative baking flours and how to use them
There are hundreds of small black mosquitoes here since the rain and we've got mosquito coils burning when we sit outside.  I did a bit of research and found this: Are mosquito oils making us sick?

Thank you for the beautiful and interesting comments you leave here during the week. Hanno and I enjoy reading them very much.

15

Growing and using ginger

Ginger is one of those plants that fits easily into the kitchen for cooking or making drinks. Many of us use ginger in our cooking or to make ginger beer and ginger syrup, which are both healthy drinks for for summer or winter.  In summer drink we drink our ginger drinks with ice, in winter I add one or two tablespoons to black tea to add warmth and spice.


Above: the first batch of ginger syrup yielded 2 litres. Below: the second batch gave me an extra 1.2 litres.

Ginger syrup is the easiest drink to make and it's a great addition to your drinks menu over the Christmas holidays. Simply grate or finely chop a large piece of ginger root, you'll need at least a cup full of ginger. Don't get too precious with the amounts - it doesn't have to be exact.

To 2 litres of water add two cups of sugar and bring to the boil. When the sugar has dissolved, add the ginger and simmer the mix for an hour.  Turn off the heat, put the lid on the saucepan, and leave it sitting on the stove overnight to develop flavour.

The next day, pour the mix through a fine strainer to remove the ginger pulp and store the liquid in a sealed, sterilised bottle. Use this mix as you would use any cordial - a small amount mixed with cold tap water or mineral water. Generally this is about one part syrup to four parts water but the amount you use will depend on your own taste. Experiment until you find the right balance. It can be stored in the cupboard or fridge.

Don't throw out the ginger pulp, you'll get a second batch from it.  Collect the used ginger, add it back to the saucepan and use half the amount of water and sugar you used for the first batch. The process is the same - bring to the boil, simmer for an hour, turn the heat off and leave the mix on the stove overnight. Bottle the following day.

And because we are the people we are, let's try to grow our own ginger.

Ginger is one of those plants that can be grown in almost all climates and although it's easy to grow, it  grows slowly. It will take almost a year to grow a crop. The most difficult part of growing ginger is finding the right spot for it to grow. Some of you will have to grow it in a pot but if you're in a tropical or sub-tropical area, it can be grown in the ground as long as it's protected from wind and it gets afternoon shade. You must plant the ginger in spring.

Find some fresh, plump ginger at the shop, if there are buds already forming, that's a bonus.  If the piece of ginger is a large one, you can break off segments as long as they contain at least one bud and have 4 or 5 cm of rhizome under the bud.  Soak the ginger overnight in a bowl of water.

Warm climate
If you're planting in the ground, prepare the soil by adding compost and digging it in. Plant each piece of ginger about 5 cm deep with the shoots facing upwards and water in.  Make sure the area you pick is protected from winds, has good drainage and gets afternoon shade.

If you're not in a warm climate or if you want to plant in a pot
To plant in a large pot, fill the pot with good quality potting mix and plant the ginger 5cm deep with the shoots facing up. Water it in. If you're in a hot climate, the pot will need afternoon shade, in a cold climate it might need to be placed close to a wall for extra warmth but it certainly needs to be out of the wind. When it gets cold, take the pot inside to a warm sunny spot.

Don't let the plant dry out but don't over water either - the ginger will rot if it sits in water for too long.  After a couple of weeks, when shoots start growing, apply seaweed concentrate made up according to the instructions, or a weak liquid fertiliser. Comfrey tea is ideal. Continue to fertilise with a weak mix every two weeks until the green shoots start to die back in autumn/winter. When the shoots are brown and shrivelled, it's time to harvest your ginger.

Good luck, ginger lovers. 🌿 
11

They come down, they get put up again

We've got a thing about fences and I bet if you're trying to work your land in specific ways, you'll have a thing for fences too. When we arrived here 19 years ago, the only fences on our land were the two separating us from our side neighbours. There was no front fence and the back boundary was marked by an ever-flowing creek.

In the photo above, the fence with the green and blue gate is the one I'm writing about today. Below is a selection of older photos and one new one to show you the configuration of fences here.

When we moved here we brought Murphy, our Airedale Terrier, with us, so one of our early priorities was to fence the entire yard so Murphy didn't wander off. Then we added a chicken coop with another fence. When the chickens were free ranging, we wanted to stop Murphy harassing them so another fence was built which divided the back yard. On one side there was Hanno's big shed, one tank, several fruit trees and the chickens, on the other, smaller side, the vegetable garden, a small run for Murphy, garden shed and garage. We had to then further divide the small side to keep the dogs from the vegetable garden. That fence - a picket fence, stayed through Murphy's life and served the purpose again when Rosie and Alice lived with us. When they died and we decided we'd have no more dogs, the fence came down and the backyard started opening up again.

Above, where you see the orange tree, is the fence that protects the vegetable garden from the chickens. Below is the fence directly opposite that - it protects the fruit trees from the chickens. The second fence is now gone.

Looking out from the fruit tree area towards the house.  This is one of the fences we've removed.
And the view from the other side of the yard.
The photo above was taken yesterday with Hanno erecting another fence to keep Gracie from the vegetable garden.

And this photo, taken a few years ago from the other side of that fence, is looking towards the house.

A new wire fence went up yesterday. You might imagine that Gracie would run though the gardens and maybe dig every so often. Well, she doesn't do that. No, our puppy picks vegetables, and then she pulls out the vine or bush they have been growing on. It's very frustrating to see perfectly good vegetables shrivelled up on the lawn and the dead plant beside it. We knew we had to put up a another fence but we'd used the original pickets for something else, so Hanno decided on a puppy wire fence with star pegs. We also needed another gate but a quick look on Gumtree helped us with that for just $15.

Above and below is Hanno building the extension to the chicken coop fence a few years ago.

Gracie will still be allowed into the garden, but only when someone is with her. Believe me, she needs supervising. If ever there was a puppy who will get up to mischief, it's her. And even though her naughtiness is annoying at times, it's also kind of endearing and reassuring that puppies never change.  Let's just hope the fences stay like this for a while.


8

One stop shopping at Biome Eco Stores

Biome Eco Stores have been a sponsor of mine for many years and I'm very proud of that association. There's a lot happening for Biome at the moment with the opening of a new store and many new environmentally sound products coming into the stores in time for Christmas.  
They also have a great mail service so if you're near or far you can shop online. Tracey has given Down to Earth readers a special 10% off discount, valid until midnight on Christmas Eve. Use the code DOWNTOEARTH on http://www.biome.com.au to receive the discount. There is free shipping on orders over $99, or for people living in Brisbane you can shop online and elect to pick up in store at no cost.  Be assured that when you shop at Biome, it will be a calming and pleasant experience - either in the store or online.

Naked Beauty Bar

Tracey has launched Australia’s first zero waste beauty bar with the opening of Biome Eco Stores’ fourth Brisbane store. Located in Brisbane’s eastern suburb Balmoral, Biome Eco Stores’ Naked Beauty Bar offers customers the opportunity to make their own natural zero-waste beauty products.

The Naked Beauty Bar takes a back to basics approach, which helps customers understand the ingredients in their products. It offers a natural alternative to chemical produced products and reduces waste, providing a healthier alternative for people and the planet. 

A range of natural and sustainable ingredients are available at the Naked Beauty Bar. Customers can bring in their own reusable jars, select a beauty recipe to try, and take home the ingredients to make their own natural beauty products.

From lip balm and body scrub to deodorant and toothpaste, customers can make various beauty products from natural ingredients including clay, salt, avocado oil, ground coffee, shea and cocoa butter, honey, vinegar, sugar, soap berries, charcoal, essential oils, petals and herbs. Customers can also view a range of environmentally friendly body loofahs, brushes, face washes and soaps.

The Naked Beauty Bar is at Biome Eco Store Balmoral located at 216 Riding Road, Balmoral.

Shop online

When you visit Biome's website you'll be opening up a shop full of environmentally-friendly, useful, motivational and beautiful products. This is the store I get my organic makeup from, I also use their water bottles, balms, reusable produce bags and many other things. The staff are friendly and helpful and their products are good quality and ideally suited to simple life.  



If, like me, you don't like buying plastic toys, there is a good range of wooden toys and puzzles as well as books for toddlers through to teens.  They have kitchen gadgets, blenders, mason jars, water purifiers, cheese, ginger beer and beer kits. There is makeup, books, organic cotton sheets, skin care and a whole lot more. This is a shop I highly recommend.  If you do some shopping at Biome, don't forget to claim Tracey's generous discount for Down to Earth readers. 

And here are some staff suggestions for us:

Simple Living
Gifts that add a special touch to the home will leave a lasting impression for years. Whether it is a beautiful banksia sent pot or a Mad Millie cheese kit. The gifts below are perfect for any person that loves to make their house a home.

For the home:

For the Garden:



0

Weekend reading

I've had a miserable week with allergies causing my asthma and eczema to flare up. I'm looking forward to the end of the week and the beginning of a new one with no wheezing or scratching. Things seem to be improving slowly each day so I'm hoping for a return to normal soon. It's been a bad year for hay fever, asthma and eczema, which is probably due to the weather. I fear we're on a collision course with the weather and too many people don't believe the science of climate change or don't think they have to change their ways to help remedy it.

Thanks for your visits this week and for the beautiful comments you leave scattered here. ♥︎  

Homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it
How to make a succulent wreath
Wartime Farm - you tube, parts 1 - 8
A homemakers attempt at the Ivy Lee Method of organisation. I like this!
Free range egg and chicken guide
Tiny treasures basket and tray pattern - free pattern
Growing ginger in the backyard
Mom's apple pie - you tube
Upland blog
Amish recipes
I've shared my tomato relish recipe in the past, check out Pauline's blog with her Spicy tomato relish recipe.  There are some good recipes there.

10

What I'm grateful for

Soon our American friends will be waking to one of their major holidays - Thanksgiving. I want to wish you all a happy day and hope your get-togethers are full of love and make fine memories for you.


I'm not about to jump on the Thanksgiving bandwagon because I'm an Australian, but I do want to use this place marker of a day to recognise that I have a good life and I'm grateful for all I have.  First and foremost, every time and always, I'm grateful for my family, especially Hanno, my sons and DILs: Shane and Sarndra, Kerry and Sunny and Jens and Cathy. I'm grateful to have lived to see my grandchildren - Jamie, Alex and Eve. And of course, you all know I have a special place in my heart for my sister Tricia and her family. Every single one of those people has enriched my life and made me happy in more ways than I can count.  Thank you.

I have a fairly small group of close friends - people I've known for many years and a few I've met in the last ten years. They've all made a beautiful and significant difference and I can't imagine life without them.

And then there's this blog. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think the people I connected with online would become real and important to me. When I started my blog I guess I thought it would be a mostly one-sided affair but as you all flowed in, bringing with you your own blogs, emails and comments, I did connect with many of you, relationships built, and I found myself thinking of so many of you as I made the bed or mopped a floor. Now we have this magnificent network of women and men who know about each others families and care what happens to them.  It's a strange new world we live in, friends. A world where we don't have to see, touch, smell and feel other people for them to make their way into our consciousness and sometimes our hearts.

So I'll just take a little bit of the Thanksgiving day to acknowledge and honour the gratitude I feel constantly, and to thank you all - near and far, for being part of my life.
27

Being a bit cheeky

I'm going to be a bit cheeky here and suggest that one of my books might make a good Christmas gift. All three are on special at Booktopia, at good prices.  For my UK and European friends, Book Depositary also have a special price on all my books.  And for everyone in northern America, Amazon have the three Kindle versions. You still have time to order the books online and have them delivered before Christmas.

Megan at Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores has passed on their Christmas delivery deadlines: Christmas postage deadlines are Friday December 9 for WA, NT, SA, TAS and QLD, and Friday December 16 for NSW and VIC.  So you still have a couple of weeks to make your selections and get those parcels in the mail

If you intend doing some Christmas knitting this year, or want to learn how to knit, the week after Christmas is the ideal opportunity to take some time for yourself and develop a new skill. Salahan at Eco Yarns, one of my valued sponsors has an excellent range of good quality of eco-friendly yarns that suit most purposes. Put your order in now or by early December to make sure you have your wools, cottons and knitting needs before Christmas.


Next week I hope to have information from the lovely Biome stores about their Christmas trading and gift ideas.

15

Do you know what to plant?

We've reached the point in our gardening year when we've stopped planting. We still have a fair bit of gardening to do but there will be no new plants added. Our leafy greens finished early because of the large numbers of insects this year. We don't fight them with insecticides, we just stop growing what they eat. The tomatoes and cucumbers are in and mulched, now I have to keep the water up to the citrus and berries so that in a year of less rain than normal here, we'll still have a good supply of fruit in the coming autumn and winter. Thank heavens for tank water.

We're always working for now but planning for what will come later in the garden. It makes things easier when we know what's ahead and are prepared for it. And that applies to our general lives too. We're always planning ahead, always wanting to arrive at a new stage of life with at lease some of the preparation and thinking done so it's not a struggle or a burden.

 Always lurking - the black shadow, ready to bite any toe at any time.
 And here she is playing with Jamie.

Always add flowers to your garden because they'll attract beneficial insects. Purple, blue and yellow flowers seem to be the most attractive to insects where I live but all flowers will lure bees, wasps and hoverflies in.  Above is The Fairy rose and below is a blue sage that grows two metres high. It requires hardly any watering and is a great plant for dry gardens.

I often get emails asking about this and that relating to gardening but one of the most often asked questions is: What should I grow?  I can never answer that question because my climate might be totally the opposite of yours, our tastes might differ and I have time whereas, you might not have.  When planning your garden, grow what you eat.  Make a list of every vegetable you eat.  Research what season each plant grows in and what conditions they need, discard those you can't grow, then divide your list into seasons - that is your planting list.  If you've got too many on the list, work out which vegetables are the best picked and eaten straight away. For example, both corn and peas should be eaten within a few hours of harvesting if you want to experience the best of them. After harvesting, corn and peas start converting their natural sugars into starch and that affects the taste and texture. So if you love corn and peas, plant them. You could also select the most expensive vegetables to buy at the market and grow those because they'll be cheaper and better grown at home, or if you're a new gardener, choose the easiest to grow - lettuce, Asian greens, carrots, radishes.

The first of the tomatoes (above) and capsicums (below).

And don't forget herbs. I routinely use parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and mint in my cooking. All of them are easy to grow here and one plant will last at least a season, often two seasons, so it saves me money to grow herbs. I also grow Welsh onions which are perennial green onions. I use them in the same way I use chives or spring/green onions. If I were to buy all those herbs every week, it would cost me at least ten dollars just for herbs. Planting half a dozen herb seedlings in Spring, or keeping perennial or biennial herbs going through the year, is wise economy.

The berries are growing well this year. Here is the second flush of blueberries (above) and the Young berry is starting to climb the trellis (below).  A farmer in Maleny gave my the Young berry. It's native to northern America and is very similar to a raspberry.

Don't forget fruit trees, passionfruit vines, and berries. These are longer term plants and will cost more than a seedling but they'll produce fruit over a number of years. I think of fruit as an investment. As long as they're fed and watered, they look after themselves. They'll need mulching if you're in a hot area, and pruning occasionally, but they're easy care plants once they're in the ground and growing.

In The Simple Home I wrote about container gardens. They're great if you're renting or don't have much land or time. You'll still get a crop and although it will probably be smaller than an in-the-ground garden harvest, the work load is smaller too.

There is no doubt that you'll reduce your grocery bill and improve your health by growing organic food at home. Some gardeners are held back by doubting their own abilities and some don't know where and how to start.  But there is help. There is a large group of gardeners at the forum who will help you with any question you may have. So if you're tempted and have been putting it off until now, start planning what you'll grow. It's a great skill to have and there are many of us older gardeners who will help you get started and then ease you through the first few seasons. πŸ„

ADDITIONAL READING
Two guides I've written
How to start a vegetable garden - part 1
How to start a vegetable garden - part 2

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