Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Bessamer Cookware

Last weekend a friend who is uncluttering her kitchen gave me a Bessamer dutch oven.  I didn't know much about this cookware, so of course I googled it and found that the majority of recipes and instructions are on their website.  I watched a few cooking demonstrations on their site and realized that this was quite a wonderful gift.
 The best way to describe it is a stovetop oven.  There is a vent that you keep open if you want the steam to escape and you close it is you want your meal to steam.  It seems this might just replace my aging crockpot which no longer works on low.  There is even a recipe for beer bread, so am anxious to try that, and a roast.  The pot is super easy to clean, and seems to cook really fast..
Last night I tried cooking in it for the first time, and made pork chops with roast vegetables.  I pre-heated the pan, and then put the seasoned pork chops down, but they seemed to be sticking, so I added a tiny bit of oil.  Oil is optional.  I cooked those for 10 minutes, then turned the chops, which by now were a lovely crispy brown, and distributed sliced pumpkin, eggplant and beetroot around the chops.  Back went the lid for another 10 minutes.  I could have cooked the chops for a little less, and the veggies for  a little more, because although the veggies were cooked they were not browned.  It was all very tasty though, and I can see I am going to have fun experimenting with this new cookware.

I cooked the broccoli, sweet potato, and greens and mushroom mix separately.  I have a cast iron  baking tray where I normally roast my vegetables in the oven, and must say that they come out of there lovely and browned and crisp.  I do want to try bread in here, and also some type of stew or curry.
Do any of you have bessamer cookware?  If so what are your favorite recipes? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Crafternoons - rag quilting

I have mentioned before that once a month I have a group of friends get together and we do some sort of craft and share a cup of tea.  I do love these get togethers and so far it has mostly been me sharing some sort of craft.  We have done t shirt necklaces, crocheting granny squares, crocheting net bags, and sometimes we just bring along whatever we are working on at the moment.
Last Saturday we made rag quilt bags.  You might remember me making a memory quilt for my daughter here that I will be taking to her in September.

the weekend before I made up two different types of bags - it is so much easier to do them if you have one in front of you.   My rotary cutter decided that it had done its time, and there was no replacement in town, so I was beginning to get a little worried.  On a whim I asked my neighbour, who luckily had  a spare that she had picked up at an op shop ages back.  I was all set, I had a bunch of spare fabric, some already cut up into 5" squares, some bigger pieces, and the ladies also brought a selection of their own fabrics.
This one is more like a handbag, I think I am going to take it overseas with me.  It is light and roomy.  I am going to try to only take items of clothing that are black white and pink, so this will match everything. This is the link to the instructions that I used, I added another square on top so I could close the bag, and made different handles.

The other bag is a tote bag.

We had a little seven month old at crafternoons and she was so good - slept in her stroller for a long time, and then just sat and played with my old tape measure!  Her Mom decided to make a quilt instead of a bag, so we had fun cutting out squares and seeing how it was all going to work out. 

Has anyone else done rag quilting?  I really love doing it - so quick and easy and forgiving of uneven seams.  Next month we will be making bowl cozy quilts - I am thinking they will make great Christmas presents. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Garden update - orchids and butterflies

The lady slipper orchid is beginning to flower again!  I have a few dichondra in a hanging basket, and like the way this is becoming the "hanging garden"!  I never tire of these beautiful flowers, and the fact that they are growing in my garden fills me with such pleasure.  The vine needs to be cut back so that it doesn't take over the entire garden.  I want light to be able to get in, and it also strains the branches of the weeping tea tree it scrambles over.

In other orchid news I cut back the plants around the back fence, letting in more light and neatening it up a bit more.  Often when one does such a thing though it can still look a little messy for  a while until new shoots start to fill in the bare areas.   All my orchids need a bit of TLC, but they have survived the neglect pretty well. My phalanopsis has two flower spikes!  yeah!  They all got a good dunking in some seaweed solution.  

This little butterfly was happy on the pepper plant.

There are tons of bunches of yummy peppercorns, which I find happily wait until I am ready to pick them.  Mmmm I think I see some steak with peppercorn sauce in my future! 

I dug up the turmeric that had taken over my asparagus bed and planted out the tiny little plants that I have been growing from seed. these are Mary Washington.  It will be nice to have an entire bed given over to asparagus. I dug a sheet of tin into the end so that the pepper plant does not encroach into the area.  

 The cucumber is still producing even though it is struggling with downy mildew.

Lots of little green tomatoes which I hope are going to start to ripen soon. I put a wire grid in front as the plants  kept falling into the path.

The antirrhinums just keep on flowering, what a pleasure they are. 

 In fruit salad alley my lemon tree is looking good with lots of little baby lemons, although the caterpillars have been munching on the leaves.  Never mind, that just brings more butterflies!  It is the circle of life!
I have not updated my gardening exploits for  a while, so thought I would just have one long photo heavy post to bring it all up to date. 
I do hope your garden is bringing you much pleasure.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A little girl busy book

I showed you the busy book last week that I made for my grandson, and now here is the one I made for my granddaughter.  They are both the same size, a bit bigger than the original one I made a couple of years ago.
 She loves to play peek a boo, and giggled when I showed her this page on skype
 We keep gathering ideas for a fairy garden, and they have an awesome fairy garden that we visit every time I go over there, so of course I had to have  a fairy page.  the little one doesnt quite fit into the door!

 On the opposite page is a branch with little caterpillars that hatch out of their chrysalis.
 I might make a few more fairies.  I love the tutu - my granddaughter wears a tutu every week on tutu Tuesday!

I also found a very simple teddy bear pattern, but it is still too big for the teddy bears picnic page.  

In the end I settled back on this one again - it is such a great pattern and adapts to all sorts of ideas.  I have used the same pattern for the fairy, teddy bears and even a couple of story bots.  I like to sit and knit while I am watching tv in the evenings, so dont like to do anything too complicated.

I love the fact that my daughter appreciates all the effort that goes into making things for the kids, and it warms my heart when I see them still playing with things I made them over the years.  Handmade gifts have love sewn into every stitch. 
I have been waiting to take better photos for this post, but have run out of time - I leave on Saturday!  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The eternal microgreen quest

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I have been on a quest to grow consistently healthy happy microgreens.  During the wet season, anything I leave outside in the weather is going to flood, get attacked by bugs, fungus and all manner of other afflictions.
I tried growing microgreens in the tray from MrFothergills, which only grow in water, no soil or soil type medium.  Standing water in the tropics is calling for disaster, attracting mosquito larvae at the drop of a hat.  I tried it again with coir seed raising mix, but I think in this climate I need drainage.
MrFothergills kindly sent me a multi layered seed sprouter and I have been enjoying sprouts with regularity, but wanted more....
I purchased some different microgreen seeds from the seed collection, and tried them outside under the shade cloth, but it is already too hot and humid, but then I thought to try them in the greenhouse. and aha!  this may be the answer.   Look at my snowpeas - they are no longer microgreens, more like young plants, and I love them like this in wraps or salads.

The greenhouse is good for keeping the plants in a  controlled environment,

I dont know why I didn't think of this sooner.
Little plastic containers that apples and pears come in are great for growing  microgreens, and those that come with a lid are even better. as they create a more humid atmosphere.  I am trying hard not to buy plastic but these days everything comes in plastic, so I guess the next best thing is to make some use of the containers.

Over the weekend I prepared some boxes with half coir mix and half compost.  That only needs to be about 5cm deep as they will be harvested within a week or two.  Spread the seeds fairly thickly, but you dont want them to be on top of each other.  I press a chux cloth onto the top and this makes sure that the seeds have good contact with the soil medium and that they stay nice and moist.  I have also read that the growing seeds like to have a bit of resistance as they grow because they anchor better in the soil.  These rocket babies are only two days old. and at this stage they are uncovered.  Tatsoi takes a bit longer.

Spray with water up to twice a day - depending how wet they are - you want them moist but not wet. You can pick them as soon as the little leaves come up and those will be true microgreens, but I harvest them whenever I need them for salads or wraps and sometimes they can get to a fair size.  When done, tip the soil and seeds onto the ground in your veggie patch, and you will often have plants growing up out of that.  Microgreens and seed starting all in one!  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Another busy book for my grandson

As you know in 2016 when I went over to America I took a busy book for my grandson. Here it is. Now he is turning four and that busy book has been busy being played with by both him and his little sister.   My daughter insisted that they both need a new busy book when I go over in May!
He loves ducks - he has a favourite to sleep with, a favourite to carry around all day, and then hundreds of other options,   even so one of his pages is the mother duck and five little ducks that go out to play. (they slide under the fabric on either side) 
 I rather like the way the little ducks and their mom turned out - I adapted it from a paper pattern.
 Then he has a pizza with different amounts of pepperoni so he can learn to count.  They are attached so that they cannot get lost (also to make it a little easier for him, but dont tell his Mom that!
 I coudnt resist making this monster that you feed with pom poms (or anything really!)
 Then there is this tetris type game with multiple options.
I think that will keep him busy for a while.  I never start with any set ideas or a pattern, so these turned out bigger than I had originally intended.  The other one was intended to keep them busy in the car and go on their laps.  These I think will be played with in their rooms.
I do enjoy making these busy books, and ever so soon they will have grown out of this stage.  Does anyone else make busy books for their children or grandchildren? 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Trees in my food forest - Moringa

Living on the edge of the Daintree forest I can see firsthand how forests are such an awesome self-sustaining culture.  The leaves and fruit drop on the ground and breakdown to form a wonderful thick rich humus. It makes sense to try to replicate that system in the area of our gardens where we grow food.  That is where the idea of food forests in permaculture was born.
I like trees that just give a little filtered light because the fact is that sometimes I still do need to have some sunshine. Living in the tropics, full sun is just too much for most plants.  I find that I am continually cutting branches back to let light in or planting new shoots to create more shade in another area.  Those branches that I cut back are returned to the floor of the food forest, either as green mulch or into the compost and added later.  I am going to focus in the next few posts on each of the main trees I have as the upper layer in my food forest.
A while back I planted a moringa tree in the herb spiral, which  I purchased at the local markets.  I didn't realize that it would grow quite so tall, and so quickly, and a couple of weeks ago I cut the branches right back. Already it has lots of new growth as you can see in this photo.

So far I have just been grabbing a few leaves here and there to nibble on, but this time I landed up with a bunch of leaves, so decided to dry them and make some powder.  I used the same method that I did for drying the rosella for tea, simply spread them out onto the reflective windshield car mat, although this time I didnt park the car in the sun as that can affect the nutrients that are retained during the drying process.

 I made some delicious bliss balls and used this recipe.  My food processor didn't get it that fine (plus I had a few stalks left in there!), so I didn't exactly get a powder.  I don't really drink smoothies, but have stirred some into my oatmeal after cooking and it just blends right in.  It also makes quite a nice tea.  I am looking for other ideas of how I can incorporate this into my diet.

The Organic India site has lots of information about Moringa, and it seems to provide a vast amount of beneficial vitamins, and minerals. It grows very quickly in my climate from a branch, and so I am going to propagate a few more trees.  It provides that filtered light and yet it just has a tap root that means you can grow herbs around its base, so it is fast becoming my favourite  tree in the food forest. Every branch I cut has now started shooting out new little leaves - even the ones I just lay against the side of the fence, thinking I would use them later for stakes.

If you want to know more about what climates Moringa can be grown in look at this site: Moringa

What small trees do you use in your food forest?


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