Thursday, March 7, 2019

Time to get the veggie garden going again.

I am very excited to be preparing the raised beds to grow my vegetables this year.  I grow from seed so do not 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 being the time when one can plant out seedlings.   I might be a little early, but want to stagger my plantings, so will only start off a few each weekend.
I did go a little crazy with seeds, but will share around some of the seedlings with friends and family.  I am starting out marketmore cucumber, San Marzano and Tommy toe tomato, Tsakoni eggplant, and rainbow chard.  The greenhouse where I start the seeds is semi shaded, and I am making sure to water every day.  This is an old greenhouse, and the zipper no longer works, but I dont think I want it zipped up tight anyway because I want the fresh air inside.

It was a great buy, and I have had it now for about three years.  Even though I live in a hot climate and dont need it for the warmth, it is perfect for keeping my seedlings all together and away from bugs and too much sun.  My little seedlings are doing great.  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 think.   I had some plastic cutlery that was just hanging around and it is working perfectly for labels!  re-use :)

I hope to have lots of compost to add to the beds, the hughelkulture bed has broken down a bit, but will not need topping up.  I will have to dig up the sweet potato and cassava, but only when I am ready to plant out seeds.  Pumpkin, zuchinni, carrots, beetroot,beans, lettuce and rocket I find do better when the seeds are planted directly into the beds.  I think I might leave a couple of cassava in the back corners so they can provide a bit of shade.  Since I put in the raised beds I dont have the trees that used to provide shade.  The shadecloth tends to be put up and down depending on the wind.  Not perfect, but I cannot think of any other options.

The other bed with the ginger has compacted down a bit but it was never as high as the hughelkulture bed anyway.  I have amended the soil with a little lime and also a bit of trace elements. I will also pick up some manure, I like the five in one.  Also a bit of compost, maybe blood and bone?

I have been growing sprouts and microgreens during the hot wet season.  I really loved these fenugreek  microgreens, and planted a few little plants into the herb spiral to see if they will grow there.  I am growing them in flat plastic trays with half compost and half seed raising mix.  One thing I have found really helps to give them a head start is to lay a piece of thin fabric (I have muslin) over the top,  this forces the seeds to anchor themselves firmly in the ground as they are starting out.  You take it off as soon as the seedlings start to push it up.

Very exciting news this morning - we are having another garden competition this year, and Costa is coming back. Yeah!  Even more reason to get my garden up and pumping!  :)
My garden adds so much sweetness to my life, and I love to share it!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life - colour matching

Jenny of elefantz
This week on  Jennys link up we are talking about colour again, and it seems the more the better!   I remember making a crocheted blanket just like Jenny describes with an outline of all the mismatched squares joined together by black.
During our storm a while back, while we were stuck at home for five days due to flooded roads,  I decided to do something with my hands and dragged out my bits of baby yarn.  I remembered that my daughter-in-law had some framed prints of squirrels and foxes in pink, cream and brown hanging up in the nursery.  At first I really wasn't sure about that combination of colours, but it grew on me as I worked the repetitive rows. .  It is just a little blanket - will be perfect in the stroller I think. I simply repeated the below pattern. 
 I do struggle with colour matching, and as most of my quilts have been to use up old fabrics and embroideries and painted cloths, I have to use what I have on hand and make that work.  Luckily my younger daughter is available to give suggestions, - thank heavens for my camera on my phone.  It gets a good workout as we mull over which colour will look better alongside which! When I made the quilt for my older daughter last year, I laid out the fabrics I wanted to use, interspersed with the fabric painting my mother had done.
 After lots of to and fro, and sewing and cutting - this is what I ended up with.  A quilt that connects the memory of my Mom with my daughters and me.  These are the legacies that I want to leave behind.
Funnily enough the thin multicoloured strips I just started sewing together without thinking much about which colour matched and that worked out so well.  Maybe a bit of spontaneity is good! 
Our living room definitely needs a re-do, but in the meantime I just add colourful red and yellow cushions to brighten up the drab brown couch.  Colour definitely lifts the mood of a room, but I do get nervous when trying to re-plan a whole room in a different colour. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

A little art in my garden

The fence outside our living room has been bothering me lately.  I have been toying with making it a green wall, and then I had the brainwave of moving the mural that my younger daughter made for me many years ago.  I think I have found the perfect spot for it!  It is semi protected by the tree above.

It is so nice to look out on something pretty.  We are still on the lookout for another gazebo - just watching the sales and clearance racks as they seem to have jumped up in price.  I attached some plants on the sides.  My dear hubby spent hours during the week pressure washing all the pavers, since they get mouldy and slippery. 

  While I was cutting back the mandevilla on the back fence - Gosh that grows like crazy! - I discovered a hanging basket of orchids had tipped over because the plant was so heavy and the branches were reaching out and hooking into other plants.  I could not straighten it in the basket, so decided I would try it on a stand in one of those plastic baskets.  Filled with gravel and a bit of soil weighs the pot down nicely. It would be nice if it flowers!  We will see if it stays there - it still looks a bit messy.

I had to put up the big umbrella for shade while I worked on the other area that has needed work for some time.  Hibiscus does not do well in my garden because I have erinose mite which I just cannot get rid of.   I removed two dying hibiscus bushes, the bleeding heart vine which is far too invasive for my liking, and the passionfruit vine which has been in that area for a couple of years and is no longer at its peak.   Luckily our neighbour's passionfruit vine is now climbing over our back fence, so we still have passionfruit. :)   It really is still too hot to be out working in the garden, but I kept up with lots of water, and then thoroughly enjoyed a swim afterwards! 
I have ordered some cosmos and zinnia seeds, and hopefully soon that area will look like a cottage garden!  Wow! that was a busy weekend.!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Home veggie gardens can save the world

I have been following the articles posted on The Conversation.   Research from The Food and Agriculture Organization has discovered that in actual fact three quarters of the worlds food is grown in family farms.  I get quite frustrated when I hear of all the food that is actually sent to landfill from large scale agriculture.  I know that each little deformed tomato or spotty cucumber out of my garden has been loved along its growth journey and gets pride of place on my plate, but I certainly don't grow enough to feed the family.  I think Morag Gamble at our Permaculture Life has done some marvelous work in introducing permaculture classes to families in Kenya. Every little family farm and home veggie garden should be inspired and helped in every way possible.

I am a great believer in building up healthy soil in order to produce lots of healthy produce in my little garden.  There is so much conflicting thought on the matter, and in fact without planning it I have ended up with one no dig garden bed, one perrenial bed and one conventional raised bed. The one right at the back that started out as being a hughelkulture mound was contained into a raised bed, then I laid a thick layer of newspapers on top and covered with a thick layer of council mulch.   I cut slits into the newspaper to plant out a few cassava plants, because I had nowhere else for them to go.  Then as I noticed more and more volunteer sweet potatoes coming up, they were also moved into the bed.   That is what grows best here in the tropical wet season. I think when it comes to planting season, I will have to dig up the cassava and sweet potato, but might then cover with newspaper and mulch again, simply cutting out little slits to plant the seedlings into. I like this system.

For now though, I cannot grow much in the garden as the                                grasshoppers and numerous other insects seem to be very                              hungry.  I am growing microgreens and sprouts inside,                                   while I plan what I will plant outside once the weather                                                                             cools down.

The other bed has the few little volunteer plants that remained from my old garden.  The lettuces that keep going to seed, and then reviving themselves.  The everlasting rocket, cast iron parsley, and of course all the lovely ginger.  Every time I found a little bit of ginger I would pop it into this bed, and my gosh I think I am going to get a bumper ginger crop.  I have been digging out the turmeric volunteers as I always have way too much turmeric, but last year I got a bit low on ginger, so am making sure that doesn't happen again!
Of course with all the rain there is lots of colour in the garden - this is off to the side, outside the bedroom window.

Farmers footprint is a short film about how regenerating the soil is helping farmers to move away from heavy chemicals.  Well worth watching.   In the meantime I am working on creating lots of compost to add just before our growing season starts. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life - week 5

Just as well Jenny is spurring me on weekly to do a blog post, and she is the one going through the extreme rain event in Townsville.  My best wishes to everyone affected by the flooding.  May the sun shine on you and the spirit of community lift your hearts.

It is nice to have a theme and this weeks theme is  Playtime, or informal play - something I always struggle with.
I always want what I make to have  a purpose, to be useful, even before re-using and re-purposing became a "thing"  I was doing it! 

In journal writing, when told to just write without thinking, I have a blockage.  When told to just paint without a plan, all I can think about is the waste of the paint and the paper.

I think frugality holds me back a bit from spontaneity.

I love shows like Escape to the Country or Songs of Praise, and the James Herriot series.  I really enjoy seeing the English countryside, so a trip to the English countryside is on my one day bucket list.  Then again, armchair travelling is suiting me quite well - the weather is climate controlled!  I am a sucker for stained glass, and even tried my hand at it for a couple of years, and I must say thoroughly enjoyed it.  Last year I had an amazing trip through Spain and France with my older daughter and her husband.  It would be hard to top the stained glass I saw in Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Gardening and cooking shows are also a big favorite, and I was even blessed with a visit from Costa to my very own garden when we had a local garden competition! 

I guess what I like to watch is things I could imagine myself doing.  Really it all boils down to living the gentle domestic life the best way we know how to. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life week 4

 Week four is here already in the living the domestic life series hosted by Jenny..  A subject close to my heart is reading, and reading about other women's lives is my favourite way to while away an afternoon.
I remember been totally immersed in books such as
Ann of Green Gables,  (remember when she dyed her hair green?)
Daddy long legs by Jean Webster.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
One pair of hands, by Monica Dickens
After seeing, and loving, the series Call the Midwife I managed to get the book out of the library.

I think the trend I see here is following along on a woman's journey, growing up courageous.  I dont actually keep a lot of books, being a bit of a minimalist, and with libraries able to find any book I find that frees up a bit of space.

Well, it is the end of the week and I am only just getting back to this post.  Everyone posted pineapple upside down cakes, I just eat my pineapples cut up in chunks - especially the free ones that I grow from old pineapple tops! 
We had the heavy monsoonal rain last week, and now it seems to be heading down and settling around where Jenny lives.  The garden loves all this rain, and all my landscaping around the veggie patch seemed to work well as the excess water drained away from the house.  (Well most of it!)
 Lots of colour bursting forth.  the tsliandia above and the lipstick plant below - the flower pops out of the tube like a lipstick. (sorry about the photo quality)
 Since I had tons of free time and we were marooned for four days I started a baby blanket for our new little grand daughter.  I just love this pattern, no big holes for little ones to poke their fingers into!

Hope everyone stay dry and safe this weekend as another wave of the monsoon washes over our area!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Living the gentle Domestic life week 3

I dont know if it because I am slightly older and seeing retirement edging ever closer, or if something else has shifted.  I suddenly feel the need to simplify things.  To make only useful things, things that bring joy.

The gentle domesticity book study is right in line with those thoughts. and this week we are in week three. Link to Jenny's post here, for some lovely insights and her thoughts on the subject.

This week we are thinking about inspiration.  Being aware of ones surroundings, and using those thoughts and ideas to carry on into the rest of our lives.  This does not mean that you have to make something every time you see something beautiful.  Rather I think it means that you carry those little bits of beauty and joy around with you.  Hold onto those moments and let them become a part of you.  Sometimes that memory will come back and inspire a deed or action, sometimes it will just sit with you forever and make you happy.  This is one of my favourite quotes:

I loved the Summer in Cumberland painting by  James Durden, painted just after WW1.  What a wonderful time to be painting a scene of joy and calmness.  I love the light in this painting, and the way her legs are crossed as she sits holding the tea cup very properly.  I noticed myself sitting up straighter (and taking a short break to make myself a cup of tea).  I also home schooled my two girls for much of their schooling, out of necessity, because we lived and traveled around the world on a sailboat.  My youngest went on to achieve a PhD in Art History, and yet I don't remember even once studying the arts with them!  From her I have learned a lot about looking deeper into paintings to see the hidden meanings.  I see a lot of circular things happen in our lives, and learning from the children I once taught gives me such a feeling of joy and pride.

Every afternoon my hubby and I go for a walk on the beach and every afternoon the beach is different.  The gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore is mesmerizing and calming.  We often think to take a photo, but then find that yet another photo has not captured the essence that we feel.  Often we pull the folding chairs out and sit and watch the sun set.
Sometimes I bring bits of the beach back with me, this early morning photo just as I was leaving for work sets up my day:

 I picked up a palm tree seed pod on the beach to use one rainy day when I need to occupy the grand kids.  We will paint it and then use it for candles, or fruit or wherever their imagination takes them. Since they like to use their ipads I might get them to look up ideas on pintrest.  We have often used items from the beach to make up different crafty garden decorations.


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