Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend outing and festival

We had a lovely day today. We decided to get out of town for the day and took the boys down to Phillip Island. We went to Smiths Beach and they all had a swim and surf while I read my book on the beach - very relaxing! We ate too much, but it was fun! We stopped at this cool market on the way and I bought a beautiful dahlia - lemon with an apricot centre, very pretty. I hope it will grow ok in our garden. We seem to have been having really busy weekends recently, so it was nice to do something just with the family.

The Western Port Festival has been on this weekend as well, I was manning a stall there yesterday for Crib Point Community Garden. It was great to get out there and let people know what's going on. There was lots of positive interest and I think we might have hooked a few new members (cross our fingers) !
We went down and picked a heap of tomatoes, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, parsnips and herbs early yesterday and sold nearly all of it, which was great!
There were lots of carnival rides and food stalls - the boys had fun, and last night they put on a great fireworks display, we took the boys to watch; it was really good to see so many families out enjoying the occasion, there was a nice sense of community which is sometimes lacking in Hastings. (It is definitely on the improve)

These are the seeds we have been saving at the garden which we packed to sell at the festival.
I am planning to do a garden update post one day this week, so hopefully I'll have lots done by then, It is a good day for sowing root crops tomorrow according to the moon planting guide, so I will try to get some late carrots in and some beetroot. Happy gardening!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

back to basics update 2

We have had a slightly cooler last few days, which has been really nice. It has been warm enough for the boys to enjoy their outdoor swimming lessons, but not too hot, so I feel like I'm actually achieving some progress in the garden preparations for Autumn planting.

What I've been up to recently - Back to Basic Challenge Update 2.

*Cherry tomatoes

Sowing Seed/ Planting
*Sowed seed of 5 different kales, broccoli - Albert, Green sprouting Calabrese, Cauliflower -Early Glory, Cabbage - Sugarloaf, Snowpeas - Oregon

Garden Maintenence
*Weeding out empty garden beds
*Mowing around vegie beds
*Mulch up sweetcorn plants burnt in heatwave, add to compost heap

Planning for the future
*Worked out a priority list for what we want to do to this place this year
*Got a quote for the painting of the extension.

Working for the future
*Bought 2m of compost to top up summer beds for autumn planting
*Bought 4 bales of mulching lucerne to spread over brassica beds
*Mowed Community Garden and used some grass clippings for the chicken yard deep litter

Building Community
*Made donations to fire appeal
*Joined the Parents and Friends group at Jesse's high school
*Worked in Community Garden

Learn a new Skill
Didn't learn a specific skill, but did buy a moon planting guide for 2009 and figure out how to use it (I'm going to use it for future sowings for the market stalls)


I am having a bit of trouble at the moment with one of my goals for this year - saving some money and becoming a bit more frugal. I feel like I am bleeding money and I feel a bit guilty when I see how much some of my friends live on. I think we are going ok on food spending , which has reduced; but it is all the other little incidental things, the boys activities, socialising, and yes, I have to admit my garden is taking it's fair share of the booty.
I think it is time for a spending audit. I am going to try and track where our money goes, and really try to get rid of some of the unneccesary buying that we (I) do. I think we have a lot of "treat" spending, that might need some adjusting, starting with myself - NO BOOKS!
I am a sucker for a beautiful book, or an interesting gardening/self sufficiency/cook/knitting book and will have to be disciplined to resist the lure of the bookshop!
I must use the library more!!!!!!

I am really inspired by a lot of the fantastic blogs I read who have great information, and have been living simply and richly and having great life experiences along the way. I am going to keep trying to lighten our lifestyle, it is slow going, but each day brings a new joy to be thankful for, and I think we are getting somewhere!!!
I am going to try to add some links to some blogs that inspire me. ( Still not very techno savvy so will see how we go)

Down to earth
Simple Green Frugal Co Op
The Compostbin
One Green Generation
Towards Sustainability

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fire update. Still burning.

The fires are still burning out of control, but at least it is much cooler today. There were flare ups in the Bunyip fire this afternoon when the wind changed, more scary times ahead.
Meanwhile the death count continues to rise. It is just so sad.
On the other hand, the public outpouring of support for all the people caught up in the fires has been truly amazing. It does give you hope for the human race when you see how everyone is working together and doing whatever they can to help.
My thoughts are with everyone suffering loss and with all the volunteers doing the best they can to ease that suffering. You are all amazing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

bushfire nightmares

It is hard to believe what has happening in Victoria in the last few days. The fires have just been totally terrifying, and that is just watching it on the news, I can't begin to imagine how scary it would have been to have been in one of the towns that where caught in the path of such a powerful and devastating fire. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost everything and lost family members. I don't know anyone directly affected by the fires, but still find myself crying listening to people on the radio desperately searching for missing loved ones, it is seriously sad. There are many people who are living their worst nightmares and as a fellow Victorian, I feel very powerless to do much to help.
I have donated money to the Red Cross appeal, and our local school is organising a collection of basic toiletries and school supplies, so I've got some things to add to that collection, but it feels very insignifigant in the face of so much loss. I think I will give blood too, apparently they are going to need a lot more to cope with the burn victims and injuried people.
It is so sad to think that with 131 people already confirmed dead, they think they are going to find still more people who have lost their lives when they finally get into areas that are still too hot to investigate. More grief to come. The fires are still burning through the north so it will be a while until the crisis is over, I guess that is when the reality and magnitude of the destruction will really sink in for a lot of people.
Until then I hope all Victorians stay safe and get through this together. Watching the TV and listening to the radio, there is a strong sense of community from the whole of Victoria, and it seems that we all feel compelled to try and help in any way we can. It is strange how it takes a tragedy to really bring people together and unite everyone.
Anyway, I just hope no more people die and the fires are brought under control.
The terrifying thought is though, these fires could really have happened anywhere in Victoria, the conditions are so dry everywhere. Very, very scary stuff.
( Cheers to the brilliant CFA people who fight these fires, without them it would be 1000 times worse)
At least the weather has been a bit cooler today, so hopefully that will help the firefighters.
Thinking of all the people suffering such loss and sending out our support to the them all. We feel your pain.

I think I will do my Back to Basics update later in the week when I'm not so preoccupied.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot and apricot jam.

It is 45 degrees here at the moment, with a vicious north wind howling through the place as well. I was determined to try and save a few of the vegie patches from the heat after the really hot week we had last week, and how frizzled everything got over the 4 days of40+ heat. I gave everything a good water this morning before the wind started, and put up the beach umbrella over the tomatoes for a bit of extra shade. Unfortunately, the wind keeps blowing the umbrella over, so I don't know how effective that strategy has been..... Also gave the chooks extra water and periodic spray down with the hose to keep them cooler, luckily their pen is mostly in shade and they have made lots of dust wallows under the bushes which must be cooler. My friend had 7 of her chooks die from the heat last week, so I am really aware of the poor dears on days like today.

All you can do on days like this is try to stay out of the heat, our house is starting to heat up (we don't have air con), so we will probably go to my parents place and have a swim for a while. There is supposed to be a cool change around 5 or 6 this evening, so we will look forward to that.
There are quite a lot of bushfires around today as well, which is worrying, there is a fairly bushy area nearby, so you just have to be aware of the risk of fire. The Bunyip State Forest is burning apparently; I have cousins who live in Bunyip, so I hope they are OK. I guess we will hear if they are in trouble.wWe going on a rare Adults Only outing tonight ( usually everything includes the Kids), we are going to see a band called "The Waifs" play at The Peninsula Lounge in Moorooduc. It should be a great night, they are a really cool band and we are going with heaps of friends which will be lots of fun! They have sold out the show so we will be part of 700 other fans, so there should be a great vibe! The boys are staying at my parents, so they get a special treat too!
Everbody's happy!!!


Thought I'd post how I made some apricot jam. It was my first attempt and I was pleased with the results.


*Weigh about 1.5kg slightly under ripe to ripe apricots.

* Wash the apricots and cut them into quarters, I discarded the stones, but you can bash them with a hammer to get the kernel and add a few to the pot for a bittersweet flavour. Put the apricots in a wide bottomed saucepan with a cup of water and the juice of 2 lemons (to help with setting)

Bring this slowly to the boil, and simmer till the fruit is tender, or longer if you don't want chunky jam. Meanwhile, put 1.5kg of sugar in a baking dish and warm it to hand-hot in the oven.
Add warmed sugar to pan stirring until dissolved then boil rapidly for about 15 minutes or until setting stage. ( put a small spoonful on a cold plate and put in freezer for a few minutes, if the surface wrinkles and has firmed up, it is ready)

Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal. There you have it! Apricot jam easy peasy style!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Seed to seed update and back to basics challenge

I have joined The Growing Challenge from Seed to Seed, which is an extended version of the normal challenge to grow your own food, where you try to save your own seeds from the best of your plants. It should be fun!


I have saved about 30 seeds from this gorgeous crimson flowering broadbean I grew in Spring.
The pack of seed I bought originally only had 12 seeds in it so I am slowly increasing my seed so one day I can put this everywhere in my garden just for it's decorative value, the braodbeans are an added bonus!

* I have decided to let the rest of my bean crop go for seed. The heatwave last week really savaged my bean plants and the beans are not much good for eating now, they have gone all rubbery and soft, so I will let them dry out and save the biggest, fattest pods for seed.

* I have found a few spinach plants that have gone completely to seed, so I will collect it and have a go at growing it again later in the year. I have heard that spinach doesn't set fertile seed very often, so it will be interesting to see if it germinates or not.


I have also joined up for Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge
This is a challenge to basically get organised and record your progress for a variety of different focuses.

Back to basics update #1

Sowing seeds or planting -
Bought some silverbeet seedlings to plant as soon as we have a cooler day.

Harvest - Zucchini, Bok Choy, Beetroot, Beans, Carrots (Community Garden) Spring onions (Com. Garden) Eggs, Apples, Apricots

Maintenence - Spread sugarcane mulch around corn and cucumbers. Tried to keep things watered through heatwave.

Observing - The garden suffered badly through the heat, and I think I've lost the early beans which were cropping well. Other things seem to have bounced back ok. The sweetcorn leaves are totally burnt to a crisp, but I can see new growth, so will see how they perform for the rest of the season. The apple tree in the front yard seems to have suffered the worst, with badly burnt leaves and sunburnt fruit, I guess the chooks will get most of them.

Planning for the future - Have decided to look into getting some solar panels for electricity.
With all the blackouts due to the heat, it would be good to have our own source of energy.
Same thing with another water tank, we have 9000 ltrs, but I need more if I'm going to grow alot of our food.

Working for the future - I made apricot jam with some of the apricots. I cleaned out the chicken pen (delightful work, I must say) to form the basis of a new compost heap for the winter veg.

Building Community - Organised our tennis team for the summer season. Had coffee with a group of school mum friends to mark the return to school. Supplied eggs to a friend. Picked up tickets for a group of friends to see The Waifs.

Learn a new skill - I made jam for the first time!