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?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A memory quilt from my Moms fabric painted cloths

As you know, I really enjoyed making the two memory quilts for my two grandchildren. Here is the one I made for  my granddaughter , and I do not have a photo of my grandsons quilt.  That will have to be rectified when I go over in May.
 I was left with a few table runners and tray cloths that my Mom had painted.  She did that later on in life at the retirement village where she lived.  Such a lovely lady did the classes, and I remember how she included everyone and worked with them according to their abilities.  My Mom made some lovely tablecloths and place mats that I use often.  I really wasn't using these.
My older daughter said she would not mind a light summer quilt, so I laid out all the bits of tray cloths and some other quilting fabrics I had lying around.  At one stage I had a bit of a swap here on the blog, exchanging fabric squares so that we could all make a "blog hug quilt"  I never got enough to make  a quilt, but those pieces have been stashed in with all my other fabrics, so this was a good time to use them up.  I knew at this stage that I needed to add a plain border or something, some of the colors were very different.  I asked my daughter what her favorite color was.  Green she said - I would never had guessed that - just as well I asked. 

I came up with a sort of plan, and worked out how much of the plain fabric I would need.  I have always liked narrow strips of different fabrics and managed to gather together enough for three strips.

I purchased a sheet set and then used the flat sheet as a backing - with just two strips of a paler green fabric.  The dark green fabric I found is called Home sweet home.  I thought that was appropriate. I like the fact that it is a mottled green, and it seems to match the flowers theme well.  Other than the multi colored strips all of the seams were sewn with an exposed seam.

Then it was a case of binding the edges and then lots of snipping.  Into the wash and plenty of shaking outside to ruffle the seams.  It will probably get another wash before I leave.  I don't have  a dryer - think that works well too. 

This will be going with me when I visit her in September. 

Monday, January 15, 2018


Some things I just keeping trying even though they have never worked in the past.  Are you like that?
One thing is grafting -  I tried both a lime and a lemon tree grafted onto a citrus that grew up from the rootstock of a lime mandarin.  I cut a pointed edge on the scion and then inserted it into a slit.   I rested a moist bit of coconut husk into the branch above the graft to allow some moisture and then placed a plastic bag over the entire thing.   Tied up nice and tight with grafting tape.

The other thing I have not always had success with is pollinating pumpkins.  I see lots of bees and flying insects, but supposedly pumpkins have to be hand pollinated.  I have let a volunteer pumpkin have its way in the back veggie patch because at least it shades the ground.  I have heard young pumpkin leaves are very tasty, but I have never tried them.  This little thing was right beside the path so I got a female flower and broke away the petals then sort of dabbed it all over the stamen.  I hope I wasn't too rough, but I was too lazy to go and get a paintbrush.  It looks like a cute little stripey butternut.
 I thought my cranberry hibiscus had totally disappeared, but it has sprung to life again!  This has lovely zingy tasting leaves - great in a salad mix. It is supposed to be perennial, but in my climate sometimes things just dont survive. I dont blame them, summers here can be cruel.  We have had record high temperatures and record low rainfall.
.... which brings me to my flowers.  I have noticed that the flowers on the anthiriums

 and peace lillies (spathiphyllum)  all green or very pale.  I gave them all a foliar spray of seaweed with a bit of epsom salts and sulphate of potash mixed in.  That is my goto mix for any struggling plant. THEN I check Mr google!  They could either be older flowers that are turning green or heatstress. I think I know which one gets my vote! I dont know if these are the older flowers, but I dont think so.  Anyway, I will cut them all off, that will give the plant a bit of a rest anyway.

 I found a little orchid on clearance at the supermarket so it had to come home with me, and it seems quite happy for now. 

I hope everyone's new year has started off well.


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