Monday, June 21, 2021

Growing from seed

 

Here in tropical North Queensland I am so happy with my raised beds to grow my vegetables this year.  I grow from seed so didnt want to miss the beginning of the growing season.  Of course we never really know when the wet season is going to end, but most people rely on April or May being the time when one can plant out seedlings.   I started early, but wanted to stagger my plantings, so started off a few each weekend The greenhouse where I start the seeds is semi shaded, and I am made sure to water every day. 

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The greenhouse was a great buy, and I have had the first one for about three years.  I recently purchased a new one and then took the plastic off this one and added shadecloth so that is a place teenage seedlings go, where they have a little more freedom and exposure the wind and the rain, but not the hot sun.

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I mostly order all my seeds from https://www.theseedcollection.com.au/ - below is the list of seeds I recently received. They have a bit of a backlog at the moment because everyone has now decided to grow vegetables. This is not a bad thing! Their seeds are heirloom, open pollinated non hybrid and non GMO, plus their prices are great. Even if you only grow microgreens or sprouts, you will be eating fresh food in no time at all.

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Even though I live in a hot climate and dont need it for the warmth, my greenhouse is perfect for keeping my seedlings all together and away from bugs and too much sun.  I use seed raising mix that you buy in a block and then it expands when you add water.  It is mostly coir based.   I had an old yogurt container that I cut up into strips and they are working perfectly for labels!  re-use :) My neighbour had this interesting system that she picked up at a thrift store - underneath the pots is a piece of felt that wicks up moisture. This means the growing seedlings have access to moisture but have to pull it up through the seedling mix by wicking it themselves, thus less chance of getting over watered.

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Other seeds were planted in assorted containers and are all tucked up cosily in the greenhouse.

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Some seeds were planted straight into the raised beds, I do this with greens like tatsoi and bokchoy as I start picking them small as microgreens as they grow, and this thins them out at the same time. I spread a little of the seed raising mix down, and then scatter the seeds evenly. Press down firmly - you just want to connect the seeds to the mix, not bury them too deeply. Then lay a piece of cotton fabric, or shade cloth over the top and water in well. This makes sure the seeds stay moist and protected, and forces the roots down deeper.

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Keep moist and after a couple of days you will see the little plants starting to push the cloth up. Slowly remove the cloth, making sure you don't pull the plants out of the ground and you will find all your happy little seedlings reaching up towards the light!

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Tatsoi seedlings

I will be going through a series of gardening posts within the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned and sign up to be notified of new posts. Watch out for posts on making your own seed tape, composting and feeding your soil, growing microgreens and making wicking beds. I will slowly add posts in different categories - In the kitchen - and in the home. Right now though we all need to be planting our victory beds!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Botanical Fabric Dyeing

 

Most people that grew up in the sixties would have explored the world of tie die.  Our tie dye t shirts proclaimed to the world that we were a new generation.

Peace and Love!   

Unfortunately, that dye was not very environmentally friendly and so I started researching the world of botanical dyeing.  

Fabric choice:

It turns out that fabric is either cellulose (plant based) or animal based.  Cotton and linen come from plants, and silk and wool come from an animal – the silk worm, or wool of an animal.  Animal fabric accepts dye much easier, and so does not need to be scoured, just washed gently.

Scouring:

In order to open the fibres to ready the cloth for dyeing, it has to be scoured, which means the fabric needs to be boiled in a mixture of washing soda and soap.  

Use a large pot, preferably stainless steel, and only do as much fabric as will allow movement. In my large pot I scoured 5 dishcloths, 5 tote bags and one cushion cover.  I half filled the pot with water, then added 2 Tablespoons of grated sunlight soap, and 2 Tablespoons of washing soda. Once that was dissolved, I added in the fabric, topping up the water, so that the fabric could move freely.   Using a wooden spoon to stir, I brought it to the boil, and then simmered for 2 hours.  As you can see the water will become quite yellow, as this removes any impurities.

Then I removed the fabric and put it into the washing machine for a quick rinse. At this stage you can move  onto the next step, or put the fabric aside until you are ready to dye.



Mordant:

This next step concerned me.  A mordant is required to open up the fabric to receive the dye, most instructions use a product called alum.  Warnings alarmed me that if you use a pot for this step, you should not use your pot for food preparation!   Whoa!   Warning bells ringing!   One option, which is not considered a mordant, but does the same job, and opens up the fabric so that the dye will bind to the fibres, is to soak the fabric in soy milk for a day. Of course, I went that route.   As I live in the tropics I kept it in the fridge for a full 24 hours, and then rinsed the fabric.  You can dry the fabric at this stage or use it straight away in the dye pot.  

Dye extraction:

I decided to use natural products to dye with, and funnily enough the kind of products that you would think would be best do not actually create a long lasting dye.  Turmeric, beetroot etc.  On the other hand, onion skins and avocado pits and shells came with good recommendations.  I decided to use those for my crafternoons.    They needed to be soaked overnight and then simmered for at least 2 hours.  You need at least an equal amount of dye material as dry weight fabric.   Mine was twice the weight of dye material to fabric, just to be safe. I simmered both pots for a good hour, and then left to cool before straining.  The plant material and used dye can be composted – I love the circular methods of doing things…..




 

Dyeing:  

When everyone arrived, they each chose two items, and then folded, tied and experimented with rubber bands, string, popsicle sticks etc.  



Everyone chose which dye pot they wanted their item to go into, and then we sat and had afternoon tea while we waited.  


Afternoon tea:

I had seen a TV show featuring a little country town where lonely older people had got together and donated all their lovely old tea cups and teapots to the town.  Every fortnight volunteers would serve afternoon tea to the “oldies”.  I loved that idea and decided to use their scone recipe, with a few tweaks of my own.   Scones with jam and cream are always a winner in my book!

 SCONES

 

1 egg

 1 cup milk

¾ cup Greek yoghurt

1 tsp vanilla

60g chilled butter, grated

500g plain flour

2 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder

 

Preheat oven to 180*C.

Whisk wet ingredients in a bowl. 

 Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, and gently rub in butter

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix lightly into a ball

Transfer to flour dusted chopping board, and pat into a rectangle.  Cut into 12 squares, and place onto a baking tray, fairly close together.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with jam and cream.

The big reveal:

After we finished our tea I picked up the dyed items with tongs and placed them onto an old piece of cardboard. As they cooled down, we began to unwrap our treasures.  They can be rinsed at this stage, or dried and then ironed before rinsing as I find that sets more dye into into the fabric.   Look at them drying in the shade!   Success!

 


From the left, calico dishcloth and silk scarf dyed in onion skin dye.  A selecti on of silk scarves dyed in avocado skin dye.  To the right is a calico dishcloth dyed in avocado skin dye.

 


Onion skin and avocado calico dishcloths.

 


These were dyed in a selection of leaves from the beach, mostly  Eucalyptus.

Have you used natural botanical dyes before?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Living room changes, and a giveaway!

  For a while now I have been wanting to liven up the living room.   We recently purchased new furniture, but I was looking for a bigger change, and somehow thought that I wanted to incorporate the garden more into the room. Here you can see the garden through all three sliding glass doors in the room, but I wanted to bring that inside as well.  


I began to bring more plants inside, but then what to do about the artwork?    I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago that seemed to be the answer to my searching.

Photowall, a Swedish company, contacted me and asked if I would like to try out one of their products.  I had been mulling over wallpaper or canvas prints, so to say I was super excited was putting it mildly.  In the end I decided on a canvas print to install behind the couch.   I thought committing to wallpaper was something I might regret, although looking at their gallery I was very temped. Our combined living/ dining room is rather small and I think a whole wall might be overpowering and make it seem smaller.   Look on the link below and see what an awesome selection they have.  (This is a link specific to me so that you can get the discount applied and they will see it has come from me)

In anticpation, I started washing the walls and curtains, so that I could start fresh.  I have always had an African theme and want to incorporate a nature theme.  The walls are a pale yellow, and curtains are a pale grey, and the furniture a deeper grey.   Obviously green is a colour I am going to include by default.  In the end I decided on a forest canvas print, and thought I would order one that would look like a window behind the couch so it seemed like a window out to the forest.  The other wall that needed some artwork was on the wall above the TV.  The shipping was amazingly fast - 12 days later the box arrived via DHL.  

 


I opened the box on my large outdoor table and laid it out per instructions. The quality was immediately apparent, everything slotted in so perfectly.  The brackets that hold the frame in place are very solid, and I loved the easy to use screws, instead of searching for a screwdriver or alan key.

Then the big reveal!   I first placed it on the original hangers from the prints that had been there before, although I was thinking it would have to be lower to have the full effect.   Oh dear!   I had not really thought about how big that wall was.   

Then I tried it on the alternative wall - bingo!   I love the way it pulls in the plants that I have incorporated into that area.   It really is more of a feature wall since everyone sitting in the living room looks straight at it.  Something lovely to look at instead of the TV!  I couldnt be happier. 

I really do love my African Batiks that I purchased in a market in Tanzania, so was happy to re-install them above the couch.   
Photowall has generously offered a discount  for any of my readers who order from May 28th through August 1st..  Use code africanaussie2021 for a 25% discount for any product on their website.

 Hop in quick because an offer like this does not come around every day.  There is a huge variety of items on offer, and they will even make products from your own photos!   
Do you have an area that needs an upgrade? Let me know what you order, I would love to see your big reveal!







Thursday, May 20, 2021

Beeswax wraps

 

I have been making and using beeswax wraps for about a year now. Reducing plastic in our lives is so important. Plastic never goes away, and it is really worrying to think about that fact. Micro-beads of plastic are showing up in the fish we eat, and the only way we can stop this occurring is to STOP USING PLASTIC. One way is to use beeswax wraps instead of cling-wrap. Choose pretty 100% cotton fabric, and cut it into the sizes you desire. You can pink the edges, or sew with a three point zig zag as I do.

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I buy my beeswax locally from a dear friend who sells honey, and I love the fact that it is a little bit rustic, and even sometimes has the odd little bits of unknown objects in it! I used to grate it but find it is easier to take a large knife and just shave pieces off it. If you get natural beeswax like this, then I would suggest you select fabric that does not have a lot of white background, as the wax tends to yellow it. You can buy beeswax pellets that are white from echo warehouse. https://ecowarehouse.com.au/products/beeswax100purerefinedpelletsper100g?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Google%20Shopping&gclid=Cj0KCQjw2PP1BRCiARIsAEqv-pRYGNQC3Hp9Y5Dts21Xjm7v2qaPo8cshFI4IPhgkTqNMhCiq3aqAXkaAmO9EALw_wcB

The other product you are going to need is pine rosin, this is used to create the tackiness. You need twice as much beeswax by weight as pine rosin.

https://ecowarehouse.com.au/products/colophonypinerosinpineresinper100g?_pos=1&_sid=9dc273c15&_ss=r

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These need to be placed into a double boiler, or a bowl on top of a pot containing water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl, but make sure you have enough water that the pot does not boil dry. Add jojoba oil or coconut oil, this keeps the wraps a little more pliable.

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Once the mixture has completely dissolved ( the pine rosin takes much longer than the beeswax) you need to paint the mixture onto the prepared fabric. I put the fabric on a baking tray covered with wax wrap, for larger wraps the material can be doubled over. Then I pop the tray into the oven, set on low or 100*C for a few minutes. Take it out, and check that all the fabric is evenly coated. When well coated, lift the wrap up and gently wave it around until it starts to dry. the wrap can then be place on another sheet of wax wrap to harden and dry.

You have just completed your first beeswax wrap.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mulch - how important is it in the garden?

Living in the tropics, I find that the soil must be covered at all times, either with plants or mulch. 

The pine bark mulch at our local supermarket was on special, so I rushed in to get 14 bags.   I tend to switch what type of mulch I use in the garden over time. Last year I used hay mulch, and the time before it was peanut husks.    Of course, all the time I also have lots of leaves falling from my lychee tree.  I do pick up a lot of those leaves for the compost, but plenty lie under tree slowly forming leaf mold.   They can draw nitrogen from the soil as they break down, but I find a sprinkle of home made  compost on the leaves every now and then seems to fix that problem.  The first area I added the mulch was the little bed right outside the bedroom window.  I had weeded that bed the day before, and removed the mondo grass edging as it was getting too invasive.



I think the ground orchids will grow well in that area now. Those are pink and purple, and I just noticed how much red there is in that area.  Next I moved onto the area under the lychee tree and near the gate.  The fern forest I have now named it.   I like to name areas of my garden, and this used to be fan palm corner, until the fan palms got too big, and I had to chop their heads off!   I now have a selection of tree ferns growing there and have added my orchids to the fence, and also hung some on the fan palm trunk.  The pots of rex begonias form the edging.

On the other side of the big gate is the entrance, and I tidied up that area, moving the desert roses over next to the pathway, while I work on that bed, but might keep them like that, as I do love the flow of the path.   



The other area out the front needed lots of weeding, so hopefully the mulch stops the weeds growing up again.



I still have half the bags left, but will add compost to the pots in fruit salad alley before I mulch them.   The area where the lady slipper orchid resides will be a big job cutting back and weeding.   It is just starting to flower, and I have been vigilant this year in keeping it contained to one area.    (I think!!!, you never know where it will pop up next!)

Do you tend to stick to the same colour grouping in areas?

What mulch do you mostly use, or do you chop and change like I do?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

My happy place

 Just over a year ago I published a post here on this blog that announced I was moving to wordpress.  I had lost my job, the pandemic was big news, and I was feeling quite vulnerable.   I thought I would monetize my blog, and change to wordpress.   I gave it a bit of a try, but never really thought of that blog as "home"  After about 6 months I just stopped blogging.  I ventured into other avenues, and then eventually this year I officially retired.   

Life changes always make me re-think every aspect of my life.  I needed to assess where my happy places were.   One of them was writing this blog, so I am hoping I will slowly gather back the old readers and maybe add a few more along the way.   Turns out I didnt need that fancy monetized blog, I just needed a place to share my gardening, crafting, cooking ..... whatever struck my fancy, and blogging ticks all the boxes, so I am back!   😊😊

One of our favourite things to do is to walk on the beach every afternoon, and that has not stopped.  Sometimes now though I can go for a sunrise walk!


Yesterday when I walked at midday (gosh, it is awesome to be able to walk at different times, when my schedule is my own!) I noticed how clean and clear the beach is.   I dont know if people are using less plastic, but there was nothing on the beach other than one little piece of glass which I removed.  Awesome, pristine and so soul inspiring!


It is just the start of our cooler season, in the tropics you cannot really call it winter, but this is the season when we grow most of our vegetables.   I added some nice new raised beds against the fence this year and filled them using the lasagne method, slowly building up some good soil.  I think the garden is now looking so much neater and tidier, and wow, it looks as though the plants are loving it.


I have also been holding regular crafternoons, and realise that being able to create useful items, mostly fitting into either reduce, re-use or recycle categories makes me feel fulfilled.   Sharing those ideas with you enables me to keep a record and maybe inspire others.  (There might even be a book on crafternoons one day - save this space!)  This last crafternoons was basket weaving, and I will write a post on that soon.   It is amazing how many people come to crafternoons saying that they doubt their ability to create something.   They all leave with something they have been proud to create, and a greater sense of their own self worth. 


It also has to be said that my happy place is also in the kitchen, creating healthy meals.   Making up a meal plan and shopping list for the week so that I know in advance what I will cook.   Even more exciting is when I can pick something out of the garden for dinner.   At the moment it is just rocket and herbs, but there is nothing that beats going out into the garden with my harvesting basket that I made, to pick a few greens for my salad!  


I do hope that you all have lots of happy places, do you want to share yours in the comments?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Moving to wordpress

After being with blogpost for many, many years I have decided to move over to wordpress.  My!  what a learning curve!  Bear with me as I muddle along.  I want to be able to sell my beeswax wraps, and post on sustainable living. I have a lot of loyal followers so dont want to lose you.  Please make sure to click over to my new blog and follow me there.
africanaussiegoesgreen.com

These are unprecedented times and staying home and keeping social distancing  is a whole new thing to learn.  Lets still stay connected as much as we can.   

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