It’s always so sad to say goodbye

Even though hardly anyone reads this, I do feel like I should say goodbye on this blog, on the off chance someone finds it.

This is only a young blog, but I started it to record my gardening progress.  However, I feel that now I would like people to use it, to download freebies, to be inspired about gardening.  So I have moved it hook, line and sinker to  a new place called Out from under my hat.  This will mean that it is under the umbrella of my other blog and therefore will probably get more readers.  Which will make it feel less self-indulgent and more useful.

Garden work … or is it?

Click on the image to enlarge.

To me working in the garden is not a chore.  Sometimes I look out my bedroom window into the walled garden on the land owned by the body corporate (the group of owners of our townhouses, of which I am one of six) and wish I could get out there for more than a harvesting stroll, a watering stroll or an admiring stroll, but paying work or whatever other busyness keeps me from it.

But this last weekend, curiosity got the better of me.  Such deep and meaningful questions arose, like, whatever happened to those carrots and onions I planted several weeks ago?  Are they under all those weeds?  And, how can I help the tomatoes along in this cooler than the coolest of summers the whole of New Zealand is having right now?  The answer came to me, in a flash.  I’ll get out and do some good, old-fashioned weeding.

This was rewarding in many ways.  For example, weeding usually turns up a number of what I call “free gifts”.  I found self-seeded silverbeet, spinach and lettuce, which I was able to rescue and put elsewhere, in the area reserved for silverbeet, spinach and lettuce.  I was also able to harvest a lot of silverbeet, spinach and parsley, with which I concocted several new recipes (post coming soon) including a delicious silverbeet and potato soup (like leek and potato, only different).  I made a huge pot of that, which is now in single servings in the freezer.  I also had a lot to offer to the neighbours, in the spirit of sharing, which always feels good.

I also gave my compost a good turn over, in my hunt for some ready compost, that luscious soil from the bottom of the compost pile, which I lovingly put around my just-weeded and growing plants to encourage them on, and thank them from the bottom of my heap (sic).

To help the tomatoes, I removed the lower leaves so that more sun gets to them, and staked them to the archway and a peice of string I have tied between the archway and a post I put in to tie string to.

I have heard that gardening is good for the soul, because it inspires hope.  I just love my garden and thank God for it every moment I think of it.

BTW, if you are interested in the image I made above, it uses the Classroom colour scheme, which I made at colourlovers.com.  At some stage I will make the layout available from my artmama blog as a freebie, so please look out for it.  The same image but with a different background was used for my post with My Miracle Cream moisturiser recipe.  The handwriting font I used is JULES P.C. WIMMIN which I sell in my shop.  That particular font only uses capital letters and has dingbats in place of lowercase letters.

How I like to eat

I want to eat healthy, planned meals based around what is growing in the garden.  My goal is to inventory the freezer and the shelves every couple of weeks, and stroll around the garden at the same time to see what is ready.  This cuts supermarket costs, but it also means that food ready to harvest doesn’t go to waste, and we are eating fresh, organic, and in season.  Sometimes the overpriced organic food I see in the stores looks like it is days old.  I like eating food the same day I pick it.  It is infinitely better for me, and of course the taste and texture is also beyond compare.

Soon I will be having salads with tomatoes, orach, rocket and cos.  Coriander, zucchini, silverbeet, carrots, onions and leeks.  Dwarf and climbing beans, as well as digging up three different varieties of potatoes, purple, red and white.  Not to mention the strawberries and raspberries.  No cucumbers this year though.  Oh and there is already delicious asparagus.

So I should be able to create something beautiful with that lot.  But still, I want more variety.

Afterword: if you happen to like the image at the top of this post, a blank version is free for download from my artmama blog here.  The font I used for the hand writing is jules-te-reo which is sold in a pack of 8 fonts here at my shop.  And yes, that is my own handwriting.

The charms of silverbeet

I love silverbeet, or is it swiss chard?  Here in New Zealand we call it silverbeet.

I have so much of it in my garden and it just keeps popping up.  Instead of weeding it, I transplant it – I consider them free plants.  I do the same when I notice lettuce plants or other plants popping up.

The problem with silverbeet is that most people don’t know what to do with it, and they may have memories of having it plain and boiled as children.  Understandable then that they don’t find the thought of it appetising.

Besides making a cheese and silverbeet sauce to have with pasta, another thing I often do is grate it in the food processor, mix it with eggs, grated potatoes, some wholegrain oats, salt and pepper and a bit of flour to bind it together and frying them as patties or fritters (the difference is the amount of flour added).  Absolutely delicious.  In fact my daughter made these today for lunch.  She commented that it was so lucky that we have some silverbeet that has grown in the gap between the paving and the wall, because it is so convenient for harvesting.

It’s a miracle! Divine skin from marigold, olive oil and beeswax, my recipe for moisturizer…

You should be able click on the image to enlarge, I’m not sure if wordpress can do that here.

I have posted before about using calendular to make a toner for skin or a tonic to drink, and now I’m going to post my recipe for my miracle cream, a moisturiser.  Expect to make a lot, and keep it in the fridge and it should last a while, or put it in jars and give it away for Christmas.  I did that a few years back, and friends still tell me about miraculous healings, scars disappearing etc.  It’s really very encouraging.  I wrote about that in the other post.

I use this as a night cream.  It is either too greasy or too sticky to use during the day or under makeup, but you may want to experiment with the ingredients and you may find the right consistency.

I recently made two different batches and they both had different amounts of wax and one was very thick and stiff, mainly beeswax, but worked a treat.  Actually the other worked a treat too, which had slightly more olive oil.  The stiffer recipe can be used as lip balms (my first ones were quite stiff) and the looser mix is fine as a lotion.  The stiffer the mix, the longer lasting it seems to be.

Here is my the recipe for Julianne’s Miracle Cream.

(About a month ago, I picked lots of marigold heads and thoroughly washed and dried them, then stuffed them in a jar and covered them with olive oil, so that I could use the oil in this recipe.  I left the jar outside in the sun).

Put 45g beeswax in a glass bowl with 200ml of olive oil* or grapeseed oil or a combination of both.  Microwave on  your lowest heat for however long it takes to melt the beeswax.  Beeswax can catch fire otherwise.  Once it has melted, if you like you can add a drop of fragrant oil, like lavendar and mix it in.

* There was about 100mls of olive oil in the jar once I had removed as many of the marigolds from it as possible.  I topped it up with grapeseed oil.

Meanwhile, in a pot on the stove, I put the marigolds I got from the jar, added about 150ml of water and simmered them for a bit.  I then removed the marigolds, and added a bit more water.  I simmered that and dissolved a teaspoon of borax.  Borax is a preservative, and when you add the water mixture to the oil/wax mixture it will turn the whole thing creamy.

Which is the next step, combining the water mixture with the oil/wax mixture, which will be melted.  I prefer to add the water to the oil/wax.  Then you have to beat *very* fast, I use a hand-held cake mixer.  In the old days, I used to use a fork, but try as I might, my arm could not work fast enough or long enough, and in the worst cases, the wax would harden into tiny bits of wax before I’d mixed it all together.  But that was in the very early days when I would be working at a leisurely pace.

Pour them into sterilised Agee jars and keep them in your fridge, or use little jars.  I am in New Zealand, and the Christmas I made them for friends and family, I ordered mine from Arthur Holmes.  I used glass jars.

BTW, if you are interested in the image I made above, it uses the Classroom colour scheme, which I made at colourlovers.com.  At some stage I will make the layout available from my artmama blog as a freebie, so please look out for it.  The handwriting font I used is JULES P.C. WIMMIN which I sell in my shop.  That particular font only uses capital letters and has dingbats in place of lowercase letters.

Making me crazy

Please click on the image above to see it more closely

The builder did a few renovations this year, such as extending my balcony rail of the upstairs balcony which overlooks the courtyard, building a pergola in front of it, and moving into the courtyard corner my “bus shelter”, which is a wee trellissed sitting area that resembles a bus shelter in shape and size.  So this meant that he had to pull up some pavers and pour in concrete.

I have already made a mosaic garden table top on an old concrete paver (enormous and heavy) and a few other pavers here and there my daughter and I have made together, one in the middle of the chamomile lawn, which tells the story of “our little white townhouse with the chamomile lawn” and another is in front of the gate leading into the vegetable garden, the gate which was built this year while the other renovations were being done.

At the moment, there are a few places in the garden waiting for concrete to be poured in so that I can mosaic on the top.  There is a trick to it, efficient work is needed.  Once the concrete has been poured, one has to work fast before it sets which is a challenge.

So in this case I already had the crockery broken and cut into usable shapes.  I put them into colours so that I could grab them as needed.  I always save broken china, because I love being creative in the garden with mosaics proper and crazy mosaics, and some crockery is just so beautiful it is a shame to throw it out.  See the top of the broken dark blue vase in the pile?  My mother made that, so naturally it is a treasure to me, and I am delighted to be able to remember her beautiful work when I look at the way I have recycled it in the small crazy mosaic.  Life is good.

A winter overing

A winter not in the gardenIt has been a sad time over winter.  I wasn’t sure if I would get to garden in the bigger spot next to my townhouse again.  Some new owners bought a place in our body corporate (the body corporate is the group of the six of us owners who own a townhouse each) and the new owners were keen to assert their part in the ownership over the bit of land next to my house.  There was talk that the garden my daughter and I had lovingly worked in and shared produce with the other owners from in the last nine years should be converted to lawn, so that everyone could use it. 

That’s how it was when we bought our townhouse, it was lawn, which everyone could use.  No one came and sat in it, or helped maintain the hedge, or helped cut it down, or paid for the fence, or mowed the lawn.  It was all left to me.  It was too much hassle for anyone else to do anything, and they weren’t interested in sitting or standing or doing anything in it.  So my daughter and I painstakingly converted it to garden, a patch at a time.  A season at a time.  A mosaic paving stone at a time.  What fun. 

When talk of the garden being converted to lawn was first floated at the AGM, I was so shocked, hurt and outraged, when I got home that night I cried.  Various options were suggested.  I put forward the idea that we could all have a vege patch each, or have a garden committee of keen gardeners to work in it.  This was considered but then decided that it would take too much commitment and no one was really interested.  It took till winter of email discussions before the lawn idea went down the river too, because it would cost too much to do and too much to maintain.  My heart by then had gone out of the garden, I was okay with whatever everyone decided, lawn, carpark, whatever.  Although I was broken hearted.

So in the end, the cheapest option for the body corporate is for me to continue to care for it for free.  Although, the body corporate has now agreed to paint the wall and fence which is much needed.  So last weekend, I began again in ernest, patch by patch.  As I weed, I plant and the compost heap gets bigger.  Within a month, the whole lot should be weeded and planted.  The compost from last year is the most beautiful, wormy compost you could imagine.  Birds watch me, waiting for me to leave so they can be the earliest ones to get the worm, although I covered last year’s compost with old carpet to stop them.

By the way, if you like my picture above, you can get the template and put your own pictures and words in from my Art Mama blog here.  Great for recipe books, gardening records, brag book photos, visual journals etc etc.

For us, life is good.

Saving Seeds

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

One of the very cool things about gardening is that you get so much, if you are kind to the earth, and thoughtful of your plants, keeping them out of harm’s way, praying for perfect gardening weather and in a place where they are happy.  Then, when they have served you well by producing so much that you have to give a lot away, and toil in the kitchen preserving for the winter (I used to preserve in Agee jars, now I freeze), they turn into seeds.

Because I like to save seeds, I make sure that the plants I am getting the seeds from were grown from heirloom seeds themselves.  Hybrid seeds, which usually come from the big seed producers, have been altered for their own purposes, and do not reproduce accurately as the heirloom seeds, which haven’t been cross-bred or anything, do.

Before the seeds are in the right state for saving, there is some “unsightlyness” in the garden that must be overlooked.  For summer crops, this usually happens at the end of the season, after the lettuce, silverbeet etc has bolted, the beans have gone stringy and the sunflowers have turned their heads down and drooped.  At this stage, non-seed-savers normally go around their garden and pull stuff out for their composts or green waste collection bins.  But not me, I look on gratefully as my vegetables carry out their final act of generosity.

Obviously, I do not have enough land to grow all the new seeds that I save.  I have oodles of them.  In the photo of the marigold seeds above, there are enough to grow a whole field of marigolds, or at least ring a large garden with  marigolds.  And those are just some.  In my last post, I put the call out to anyone wanting some.  Because, really, the humble marigold is very, very valuable.

I also have some silverbeet seed to give away (both the red and green stalked variety), some runner bean seeds, some asparagus (a perenial) and a small amount of lettuce.  I also have some delicious rocket.  And not to forget the sunflower seeds, but I am planning to try eating those (I bake a lot of bread, and like to make my own muesli, and organic sunflower seeds are quite pricey and goodness knows how far they travel).

So, with all the talk of a global recession, isn’t it nice to have a store of something  which will only increase by 1000% or more in this day and age.  And isn’t it great to know that if things get really bad, at least you’ve got some heirloom seeds to use to grow food.  And isn’t it just beautiful to have something this beneficial to share.

Life is good.

Post Script: The fonts I have used are my own.  “Marigold” is written in my own handwriting font, julesgirltalk (free for personal use) and my very newest font, JulesScribble, is used to write SAVING SEED.  Any feedback is gratefully accepted.

That scruffy flower? Calendula and what I do with it

calendula tonics

Calendula and marigolds are some of my favourite flowers.  The variety of  common calendula (C. officinalis) that I grow looks like a bright yellow or orange daisy.  Apparently marigold is slightly stronger than calendular, but both are edible, so to put the petals in a salad or on top of a (chocolate?) cake adds a gorgeous appeal, as well as being healthful.

I was told that calendula was used in the American civil war and the first world war for its healing properties.  I make a tonic from it to drink or to use on the skin (after cleansing, before moisturising).  If you want to use my recipe, please do, but note that I am not a medical professional so in other words, take what I do with a grain of salt as the only animals this particular batch was tested on are myself and my daughter (consider that a disclaimer), or you can see how e-how recommend using it.  Also, you may be interested to read some reviews by users of a commercial product and note that there are various reactions to their calendula toner.   Also, I found an article on the interweb that had some interesting information about the beauty and benefits of calendula.

However, speaking of animals, I did make up a batch of calendula moisturiser a few years back, and gave it away to friends as a lip balm for Christmas.  I got a lot of good reports, one person told me they used it on a scab on their dog’s leg which wouldn’t heal, with the result that it healed within a few days once using my calendula balm.  Another friend had a burn on her arm which she used it on – apparently instant relief and fast healing (Weleda mentions usefulness for burns in their info page on Calendula and so does medfinds).  But I’m already a believer.

Besides looking impossibly cheerful despite being discriminated against (the scruffy flower) and rejected by people, calendula is good as a companion plant in the garden, working for us to protect our plants.  Apparently certain parts of it repel insects which want to harm veges like potatoes and tomatoes.

So it is so versatile and useful!  And how about drinking a nice cup of calendula tea when you’ve just come in from the garden?  Or if you need to put your feet up after a shopping expedition at Harrods (check out the price of their calendula tonic and see if you don’t feel cheered after making up some of your own).

If you want to grow calendula but don’t have any seeds, I have lots because I am a seed-saver, (look out for an upcoming post on seed-saving) and I am happy to send you some.  Please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with a note reminding me you’d like some marigold or calendular seeds.  My address is:

Julianne

PO Box 30048

St Martins 8246

Christchurch

New Zealand

Cooking homegrown kohlrabi at the bach

From garden to table

From garden to table

Remember that patch of Kohlrabi I planted and posted about here?  Well, just before we left for a week at Little Akaloa (we went there the day after school had finished for the year, and noone was there yet – it was like having our own private beach, but that is another story*) I checked the garden of course and saw that the kohlrabi were a bit crowded.  So I thinned them and we took them with us.

Don’t they look funny, like little aliens?  And the salad spinner on the left has the leaves, which I did use in a salad, but also chopped up and made a pasta/cheese sauce dish.  Very nice.

By the way, the font in the image here is one I have just created, and will soon be released at my shop.  Also, the layout, minus the photos and text of course is available as a 300dpi 6×4 png with transparent bits for popping your own photos in hereFree.  It’s a wee brag book page.  I also used it with a photo of my daughter and her sports trophies, that is zipped up with it, as well as a discount coupon for my other fonts (just thought you may be interested).

Anyway, the recipe is a freestyle adaption of one I posted here.  You can do it with whatever you have.  Do let me know how you get on.

* Little Akaloa was where we were over Christmas.  No, this year I did not get to have a traditional Christmas day swim – Felicity did though, with Hambley the pug, but I was too busy gathering heart-shaped stones – so many at Little Ak – and an abundance of gorgeous, coloured, worn bits of glass.  See where Little Akaloa is here.


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