Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winter garden blues ... again

As usual, this blog is getting neglected in the cooler months. It's not even THAT cold here; I mean, I'm freezing but people from more southern latitudes would laugh at me!
It's so wet and soggy outside. I've been thinking about re-designing the garden beds for better access but every time I go down there it's so muddy and depressing that I just trudge my way back up to the house and dream of summer. I can't even bring myself to put up a photo of it because it's so muddily-depressive!
On a brighter note ... we've decided to take another road trip up north in mid August, so I only have to complain for a little while longer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some Writing from Indi

I'd just like to document a bit of Indi's literacy journey, as crude as it may be. I'm terribly disorganised (which I'm pretty sure is an unschooling family's prerogative) so I think I should at least start photographing and trying to blog about our little adventure in learning-without-schooling. It's pretty likely that these documents will go missing in the massive pile of 'stuff to sort through' but at least I'll have a digital version now :)

This one is from a few months ago. Mostly copy work and asking 'how do I spell ...' 

She copied these from reading eggs about a month ago. We have a couple of phonic-based programs on the computer and the iphone that she is free to use as she pleases.

This was from last week. She was nagging me about making a cake and wanted to make sure we had all the ingredients. Flour, eggs, milk, custard, cake, cupcakes. 

This was thrown at me a few days ago. For those not fluent in inventive spelling, it reads: 
Mum. I love you so much but I wish we could go on holidays. 
(Me too baby girl ;) )

She has also started reading everything in sight; street signs, food labels, catalogues etc. 
We have been reading some books together, just the regular simple beginner books, Fat Cat and that sort of thing. 
We also found a couple of Dr. Suess books in a second hand shop today (who get's rid of Dr. Suess, honestly?! One of them was even in the freebie bin!) and tonight she read a few pages from 'Ten Apples Up On Top!' which we have never read before so I know she actually read it and didn't just repeat from memory. WOW! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I've started a Facebook page showing off some of my crocheted stuff. Here's the link if anyone wants to take a look :)


Monday, March 14, 2011

Today's Classroom

Indi practicing her writing in the sand

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Yep. It's popcorn.

But wait; before you all go and call welfare and dob me in for bad parenting, have a think about it ... it's probably a whole lot healthier than what a lot of kids have for breakfast. 
No sugar, no preservatives, no colourings, no added salt. Just air-popped corn kernels with less butter than you'd spread on your toast :) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

While we were feeding the guinea pigs last night, Indi noticed different types of seed in their food and decided she wanted to plant some. One type were sunflower seeds but we have no idea what the other type are. She is really keen on writing and sounding out words at the moment so I suggested she write down some info about it. She wrote the day and date, and the type of seeds she planted. Because we didn't know what the seeds were, she wrote down a description of them.

Indi raked away all the mulch she'd spread a few months ago and pulled up the remains of the corn stalks and most of the weeds. She was happy to find a Jade plant growing from a snapped branch that she'd chucked on the ground.

Planting the sunflower seeds along the wire fence

Planting the other seeds in a row behind


Once she'd planted and watered, Indi drew a map of her garden and marked in where she'd planted the seeds so she'd remember not to step on them (this was interspersed with yells of abuse at the dog who decided to tramp all over her freshly watered beds!)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Perks of Being a Lazy Composter

Every green person knows that compost is awesome. It's beautiful and dark and crumbly and.....well..... earthy. It's pretty much the best stuff for the garden; it nourishes and conditions the soil, it feeds the plants and it puts to good use waste that would normally be taken to landfill.
Good compost has a nice carbon-nitrogen balance, keeping the bacteria and microorganisms that break it all down happy and working hard. Good compost gets nice and hot; hot enough to kill weed seeds and some plant pathogens. And when it's all finished, good compost smells sweet and moist.
It's not hard to make good compost. But it requires a bit effort. It requires having certain ingredients available to you. And, most frustrating of all, it requires time. Those of you who know me know that patience and I don't get together too often ;) I want results and I want them now! 

So I build a pile in the usual way; a bit of this a bit of that. We have guinea pigs and a rabbit and their manure keeps up the nitrogen content, along with horse manure (Indi goes horse riding once a week) and we've just acquired some pigeons, so that mess gets chucked in too. I usually give the guineas some pea straw or sugar cane mulch for bedding, so that gets chucked in when it's spent, adding a bit of carbon to the equation. Add the odd newspaper, clumps of seaweed, vacuum cleaner stuff, occasional grass clippings and weeds pulled up from the garden ... etc etc.

Then I leave it. It starts to warm up a bit, and I might even turn it once if I'm feeling energetic. After about 4 weeks it usually settles and shrinks to about two thirds of the size. This is the point where I should probably turn it and allow it to heat back up and finish the job. Alas, this is the point where I decide it's DONE and start shovelling it onto the garden as mulch. The way I see it, half-cooked compost has multiple benefits (besides me not having to wait another month or two):

More soil critters: spreading compost over the garden at this stage brings the worms up for the feast. Worms coming up from the deep ground aerate and loosen the soil, help to munch down the organic matter and then poop it all out, leaving wonderful rich castings. Especially useful when starting a new garden; the busy little soil critters do the hard work of breaking up the ground for me :)

Heat: Because it's still working, breaking down, heat is being generated. I find this especially beneficial when planting out before the ground has really warmed up, as it helps to spur my seedlings on.

Volunteers: By far my most favourite side effect! Plants popping up here there and everywhere from seeds that haven't broken down in the composting process ...

A cucumber wandering its way around the dwarf beans

A beautiful avocado seedling, one of 9 that have sprouted so far! 

A delight to my eyes ... a tangle of of volunteer pumpkins and tomatoes growing among the corn. 

I may not have neat piles of deep, dark, rich humus waiting to spread over my garden, but I do have lots of warm soil, lots of life within the ground and best of all, lots of healthy plants. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Powdery Mildew

I've not had much luck with zucchinis this year. Snails and slugs devoured the first, second and third lot I planted, and now that I've finally got a few going (in a different garden that the snails obviously didn't smell out), they've been hit with powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew shows up every year on all the cucurbits, but it never seems to get out of control or weaken the plants too much, so I've never bothered doing anything about it. This year though the zukes have really taken a hit. They took off quickly, growing strongly and producing lots of fruit but then went downhill just as fast. Even the leaf stems were covered.

A quick visit to Dr Google came up with this basic spray; a tablespoon of bi-carb soda, a tablespoon of oil and a few drops of washing up liquid all mixed up in a litre of water. It seems to have done the trick. I sprayed them weekly for three weeks and I think I've beat it, or at least got it under control. Although they look a bit bare where I've pulled off all the damaged leaves the new growth seems unaffected and there are lots of new shoots ...

... Hopefully to be followed by lots of yummy zukes :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Lammas has been and gone, and I've really not bothered too much acknowledging this sabbat :(

This is the time of first harvest; the turn from summer to autumn. The period of growth and abundance begins to slow and withdraw; as the strength of the Sun begins to wane, the Elderly Lord slowly prepares to be one with the earth again.
(Interestingly, this coincides with 'back-to-school' which to me usually seems like the end of summer and fun holiday time, where everyone falls back into the hum-drum routine of daily life. )

But I'm just not feeling it.

I guess it doesn't help that we have been experiencing gorgeous 38+ degree days, and the plants around me are literally growing before my eyes. Seeds are still sprouting like crazy and as I type this from my back verandah I am deafened by the sound of rain on the roof, which I'm certain is only going to spur the garden onward and upward.
It probably doesn't help that my kids don't go to school either, so we just keep on keeping on with the 'swim until 10:30 at night' holiday lifestyle!

BUT MOST OF ALL, I think I'm just realising that the traditional northern hemisphere Wheel of the Year just doesn't quite sit with our wicked Australian climate.
I've spent the last few months quietly trawling the online world for more info about the indigenous seasons (probably not the best way to find it, I know) and spending that bit of time up in Tropical Queensland last year was really really informative and inspiring.
I just feel like there is something missing ... something deeper in this great southern land that I'm not connecting with ...

So I'm not saying goodbye to the ancient ways, just looking for a deeper and more relevant path to follow :)
I'm halfway through writing two blog posts but ...

My stepson is in Townsville

If anyone reading this blog isn't aware of the humongous cyclone that is hitting the far north coast of Queensland, click here

Please be safe Scott xoxoxoxoxoxo

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Trip Around The Sun

My little boy turns two today :) 

Such a beautiful, kind, gentle little soul.

Happy Birthday Baby! 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Summer Harvest: Carrots

I thought it might be time to start pulling up some carrots. I can't remember how long they've been in the ground ... 6 months? Maybe longer.
They're pretty hard to get out, that's for sure. They kept snapping off in the ground! It's very dry though; we haven't had any rain here for about 3 weeks and they are in the newer part of the garden that is still a bit clayey.

Nevertheless we managed to get a few out in one piece. I fed the broken ones to the guinea pigs; they are carrot junkies :)

Roasted with some potatoes, they made a delish side to our quiche, which incidentally was filled with tomatoes, silverbeet, zucchini and spring onions ALL home grown :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tiny Winged Creatures ...

Or at least they will be in a few more weeks :)

Check them out, destroying a lime tree

These fantastic little creatures are Papilio aegeus, caterpillars of the Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly. We discovered them on a lime tree that's been sitting out the front for months (I sort of forgot to plant it and it got shoved into the corner behind some other pots).
The one on the right in the top photo has just begun to pupate. Apparently they take anywhere from one to six months to emerge, so you'll have to wait a bit longer for those pictures!
We remodelled Indi's butterfly enclosure to contain them, which we made from a camping mosquito net.

Notice the lack of leaves on the poor old lime tree LOL!
This butterfly house has been loads of fun for us this summer. Mostly we've just hatched cabbage white butterflies because there are so many of the hungry little buggers hanging around the cabbages!

Indi also made this little booklet about the life cycle of the butterfly

She has also added words like 'pupae' and 'proboscis' to her vocabulary :)
If you want to see a picture of these butterflies, this website here is excellent. We use it all the time to identify creepers that we find about the garden.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Beans beans everywhere! I can't stop planting them. What's not to love about beans? 

Twisting and twining over anything in their path

Beautiful buds

Bursting into pretty, petite little flowers

I've just planted some at the base of the corn

Indi planted some along her garden fence
The thing is with beans, they don't like to be too wet until they sprout or they might rot in the ground. I left half a packet in the rain the other week and they got drenched and were already starting to swell by the time I found them. I chucked them down in the space between the patio and the fence, just to see what would happen ...

They just grow anywhere! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Indi's Place

My cool little pixie living down the back

Hot summer days mean lots of swimming around here. They also mean that by late morning, we need to seek out some shade else we turn into lobsters. 

Lucky for me, there's a little elfin child who welcomes us into her cottage down the back.

She makes us lunch ... mmmm avocado and vegemite sandwiches

Then takes us on a tour of her garden

Sometimes we even get to sample some fresh produce

After all that we like to go back inside as relax in the comfy corner (note the authentic crocheted rag rug, made by yours truly ;) ) until the sun passes enough that we can head back out to the pool. 

Oh how I luuuurve summer! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sew Cheap!

I've once again dragged out the sewing machines in the name of 'upcycling'.
After much hinting, harassment and outright threats my mother FINALLY cleared out the ten-years-worth-of-crap that was clogging up her wardrobe leaving me with a veritable gold mine of material in the form of old clothes. After I dragged them all downstairs I decided it was time to hit that towering 'clothes-to-refashion' pile. Waste not, want not! :)

These shorts came from an old pair of jeans with various scrappy odds and ends making up the appliqued tree on the leg. The top is actually for Indi and was made from an old singlet top of my sisters. I'm incredibly impatient and lazy so I made the whole lot on the overlocker, except for the stitching around the applique.

These shorts were once a button-up shirt belonging to my brother. I actually stuffed them up a bit making them too low-rise but my good friend Karisma suggested just taking the waistband off and replacing it with a thick band of ribbing. Great idea me thinks! They are really light and cool so I think with a soft ribbed waist they'll make great pyjama pants. The top was an old white t-shirt. Again, all on the overlocker. Even the neck hole and arm holes have a rolled edge to save me having to concentrate too much in sewing a proper hem!

These shorts were a pair of women's stretchy brown pants. The singlet is a combination of a long-sleeved top, a couple of old sheets and a scrap of brown corduroy I found in the remnants bin at Spotlight  a few months ago (ok, so this one isn't ENTIRELY recycled ;)). I love love love the way it turned out!

Gratuitous 'gorgeous baby' shot ;)