Monday, 21 November 2011

Recycled prayer flags

Recycled t-shirt prayer flags
What do you give a friend who is a twin soul, for her 40th birthday?  A little thought, and hey, why not twin prayer flags??
So I set about this week, creating my gift for Tangiahua (that's her Maori name).  A few old t-shirts cut into equal sized squares.  I decided to keep the ideas simple, so I chose 5 qualities to focus on - peace (it's what we all want), love (makes the world go round), respect (of one another, the earth and our culture - the picture is Maori), life (celebrating our time here) and gratitude (for all we have and are).
I cut out the names of the qualities on laminating plastic, then stenciled them onto the squares with fabric paint.  A few designs sewed on by hand, decorative embellishments and they are ready to be hung.  One for me, and one for my special friend.

Tangiahua's prayer flags
This week has seen tremendous growth in all my little tomato plants!  Wow, I find I have to pinch out their laterals and tie them up every 2nd or 3rd day! It never ceases to amaze me how tomato seeds have such incredible will to survive our compost bin for over a year, and then sprout up all over the garden in the strangest places!  Between pavers, under trees, in the pathways.... I call them God-planted.  I sow my tomato seeds with such care, prick them out into pots with compost, plant them out, stake them, pinch out their laterals, tie them to a stake for support................. God does no such thing and yet His tomatoes produce prolifically, unaided or attended!  Thus, we usually have such a glut of tomatoes.. I still have a few bags of frozen ones in the freezer from last summer!

We have been enjoying our little Lady's Finger bananas - well worth the space bananas plants take!  Creamy, smooth and super-sweet.  They even taste great on a piece of toast, smeared with honey and almond butter, sprinkled with sesame seeds for good measure!  A highly nutritious snack when on the run.  I have harvested the last of our Globe artichokes (though 2 new little bushes may yet produce a few new flowers) - we celebrate our last meal tonight.  That's the joy of eating seasonally - you eat your fair share and then go onto the next thing just as you start to take that food for granted!  Same with the asparagus - still harvesting the spears, always such a treat!  They are also nice to eat raw - great in salads - taste like peas.

Our broad beans are probably doing their last dash too.  They are a good source of protein, before our runner beans start to fruit.  But oh, what a labour of love!  Shelling them and then skinning them (the outer skin is super tough) takes the patience of Sister Theresa!  The epitome of Slow Food.  Not your meal choice when in a hurry!  I have found a good solution to the tedious job - get your teens to shell them while watching television!  
The last of the citrus are being harvested, amidst a mass of newly set, heady-smelling flowers.  What an intoxicating experience, I can't get enough of them - no wonder the bees are in a feeding frenzy around the citrus trees at the moment!  The feijoa trees are in bloom - and the birds are pollinating them.
Saturday's harvest - spring onions, fire-cracker radishes, broad beans,
oranges, bananas and artichokes

Our home-grown, spray-free, organic strawberries!
On Saturday morning, a local church had advertised earlier in the week, that they were holding a market of  used goods, food, tombola etc.  So off we set, tongue in cheek, "to find that elusive something that we never thought we needed until that moment we set our eyes on it"!  Well, imagine my sheer delight at discovering a dusty old infra-red lamp for the grand sum of $3!  I truly have wanted one for many years but they are so expensive, I have never committed to buying one!
Infra-red lamps can be used for a variety of healing - including sore muscles, wound healing and back ache.  Yeeha!  My son has been unwell and lying in bed for 2 days has translated into a sore neck.  So after a quick neck massage, he very skeptically sat in front of the infra-red lamp "but it's just a hot lamp!" for about half an hour.  Not so skeptical afterwards!  He claimed (with great surprise) that it was much, much better!  Here's to a host of infra-red healing!  3 cheers to recycling!  Hip, hip, Hooray!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Aromatic Heaven

Shayni, Bird Girl.  This is one of the tame doves that visit each day.
Nirvana!  Sunshine!  A good morning to collect herbs.  I felt like Julie Andrews, wanting to burst out in song "The hills are alive....", substituting "garden" for "hills".  Sitting outside this morning, in the warm sunshine,  with a gentle breeze tugging at my light cotton top, picking herbs for drying.  I marveled at the heavenly aroma wafting up on the breeze, as I picked leaves of thyme, rosemary, sage, horsetail, rose geranium, parsley, oreganum, chives and bay leaves.  The bees buzzed around the herb garden, occasionally alighting on me to sniff and see if I was any good for a pollen collection, then buzzed off to the sage flowers for a good suck of the nectar.  At one with nature.  Every now and then, a little fat bumble bee would land on a quick-drooping flower nearby and I noticed with amusement, how heavy they are!  And for the rest of the day, the strong waft of herbs fill the house as I dehydrate the collected herbs in my trusty second hand $20 dehydrator.  Indespensible when you have a productive garden.  I dry much of our excess fruit for winter consumption.
Mike with our giant silver beet!  Appropriate t-shirt. Te mahi kai.
The abundance of food.

A labour of love - shelled broad beans.  Note, a job that can
 be done whilst reading a good novel.
I sneak moments to browse magazines while drinking my morning cuppa on weekends - this morning started no differently.  I was browsing (eek!) The Australian Women's Weekly and in it was this great article  about living sustainably (actually, there were a few good articles!).  I liked the comparison made about being frugal and being cheap.  Being cheap is going to the shops and buying up cheap-as-chips bargains, just because we can.  Being frugal is scrutinizing the need to buy when we can make do.  "It offers a new - or rather recycled- philosophy for living, which is to spend less, live more, reduce your possessions and increase your self-sufficiency."  I like it!  It goes on to say "A cheap person doesn't consider the full ramifications of his consumption and will consume things just because the price tag is low.  A frugal person will consider whether he needs the item, rather than just purchasing it because it is cheap." (Australian Women's Weekly - New Zealand edition, October 2011)
Our strawberries now require daily picking.  A delight when sliced ,
sprinkled with a smudgeon of organic sugar and topped with yoghurt!
Am due to make some more household cleaners and thought I would share 2 of my cost-saving options:
  • Window and glass cleaner
Combine 1 cup white vinegar with 1/4 tspn dishwashing liquid soap and 1 cup warm water (you can add 2 drops essential lemon oil for better smelling cleaner!)  Pour into a spray bottle, spray onto windows or glass, and I use scrunched up newspaper to clean/dry at the same time.  Messy for hands but non-streaky for windows.
(Oh, and just in case you were wondering - my windows are cleaned 2x a year!  I have much better things to do than being anal about clean windows!!)

  • Leather Conditioner
Grate 1/4 cup beeswax and melt over low heat, add 1 cup olive oil or coconut oil, stirring quickly and then add 10 drops lemon essential oil and 10 drops lavender oil (or oil of your choice).  Pour into wide-mouthed jar, pre-heated or else it will crack, allow to cool and then wipe on with a cloth and allow to penetrate leather then buff excess off.
(Play around with amounts, use more beeswax if you want more waterproofing quality, say for shoes, or less if you want it to spread easier, say for a leather upholstered couch.)

The mid-week harvest from our
garden supermarket

Asparagus spears waiting to be eaten
Did you know:

1 - can detoxify our system
 asparagus has 288 milligrams of potassium per cup. Potassium is known for reducing belly fat. It also contains 3 grams of fiber which cleanses the digestive system. It has virtually no natural sodium so no bloating during PMS, has no fat or cholesterol, and one cup has only 40 calories. 
2 - has anti-aging functions
asparagus is rich in potassium, vitamin A, and folate. It is also very high in glutathione - an amino acid compound with protent antioxidant properties; a must as an anti-aging deterrent. Glutathione (GSH) is an antioxidant that protects cells from toxins such as free radicals.
3 - is considered an aphrodisiac
wait -  the asparagus is considered a psycho-physiological aphrodisiac because of its shape. It is said to trigger the mind to have a physiological response. The French word for asparagus is asperge; asperge is a slang word for penis.
4 - can protect against cancer
 asparagus in high in folate which is now known to be an important protection against cancer. Note: Folate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, and citrus fruits. Folic acid is said to be the same as folate, in the supplemental form.
5 - reduces pain and inflammation
it is the folate that helps reduce inflammation.
6 - can prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
 asparagus has vitamin K which studies have shown can help prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Vitamin K aids in bone formation and repair. It is also necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is the protein in bone tissue on which calcium crystallizes. Asparagus has been listed as the number one source of vitamin K.
7 - reduces the risk of heart disease
 it is the folate that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
8 - can help prevent birth defects
getting enough folate (doctors often recommend the folic acid supplement) is especially important for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Having a folate deficiency has been correlated with increased risk of Spina Bifida (a spinal cord birth defect) and also anencephaly (a neural tube defect). Folate helps to regulate embryonic and fetal nerve cell formation and may also help to prevent premature births.
Additionally, studies have shown that the nutritional benefits of asparagus can help prevent and treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Overall, asparagus is rich in potassium, vitamin A, folate, glutathione, and vitamin K. It is high in fiber, has no sodium, is low in calories and has no cholesterol or fat.

While there is every kind of supplement on the market to address these health issues, too often we turn to pills as a main source of nutrition. In the interest of good health, whole foods are always recommended before supplements.

On the garden front, we spent Saturday laying cardboard on the pathway to our wood shed, then covered it with sawdust, saving us many hours of summer weeding agony.  What a wonderful gift to be able to source all that wonderful chemical-free sawdust from our cabinet-maker friend.  He has piles of the stuff and hardly gets to use much himself as he is so busy creating the stuff.
Shayni with labour-saving device, Spence!
I love labour-saving options when it comes to house-keeping or gardening!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Cat, the Mouse and the Computer that got away.

Free Computer, comes with keyboard and mouse,
cat not included.
Getting rid of that old hunk of geriatric technology was more difficult than I thought!  We had this trusty old home computer for 15 years (several upgrades) and when I finally succumbed to owning a laptop this year, the decision was made - the computer must go!  This is the age of the Modern Family.  Mike has his work laptop, Cam has his laptop for university (I think he puts it to better use as an entertainment centre for games and watching DVD's), Shayni has a second hand (now slowly dying) laptop for online social networking (we originally thought it would be good for home-schooling! Ha!) and now I am the owner of a 4 month old laptop!  Yeeha!  Sometimes I laugh at the idiocy of it all - each member can be working separately on their laptops, at the same time!  So much for Family Time!
Anyway, I tried "giving" our old (cleaned up) computer to elderly neighbours who scoffed at the idea, young kid neighbours as a starting point - "nah, thanx!"  I even phoned a computer geek who takes computers apart and shows school kids how to put them back together............... apparently they are as prolific as the stars in the skies.  I rang Habitat for Homes which have just opened up a shop in Tauranga, taking old clothes, furniture and building materials to recycle for economically challenged families.  They too, apparently don't take computers as the families would then need technical assistance to use them and set them up - a service they can't provide!  I know that the bigger centres like Auckland,have computer and technology recycling depots but too far to drive (2 hours away).   I considered running an ad in the local newspaper with the above pic .................. then I noticed the Athenree Voluntary Fire Services were running a garage sale to raise funds.  I phoned the fella listed and he was most enthusiastic.  He seemed to think someone would take it for a few bucks!  So we dropped it off, and the garage sale proceeded that next day.  I wonder if they managed to sell it or give it away.................

I tried to think of alternate ways to recycle that old computer, and short of a door-stop, there was not much else I could come up with.  It's a real problem!

On the domestic side, we have been using up all our Lady's Fingers bananas which I harvested a few weeks ago - hung up in our warm garden shed to ripen.  They were frost-damaged with the Spring frosts, but most survived to  make a lovely nutritious snack or yummy eggless banana cake - I managed to make several loaves!  The banana plants are making a slow recovery and will soon be covered in wonderful tropical-feel green leaf fronds they still look war-torn and battle-weary!

Our tasty little frost-bitten home-grown bananas.

A smaller variety orange which is planted at our entrance, nearly
ready for harvesting, now that the other citrus is finished.

The last of our giant, sweet grapefruit which we love to juice in
the mornings.  The longer we leave them on the tree before
harvesting the sweeter they become!

Sadly, the last of our delightful elliptical garden treasures..... Liz
and Spence have been clucky for the last 3 weeks and prefer to sit
all day long in the nesting box.  Spence has only just "come out" again!

Our netted sunny strawberry patch which is providing daily treats.
Loosely adhering to the lunar calendar, I have planted out yet more tomatoes, basil, radishes, spring onions, pumpkins, beans, courgettes, corn (both black and sweet), artichokes (for next year's harvest), and sowed more veggie seeds, seeded more wildflowers to replace weed cover.  I think I overdid the gardening yesterday, moving the chook tractor, digging up two new pathways................ ended up in bed at 8pm last night!  Nearly got myself 12 hours of sleep!!  That's what I need to guard against - weekend gardening creates a sense of urgency to do everything on one or two days............... the body can take a beating if you succumb to the self-imposed pressure of getting it all done!

On a lighter note, I just thought to add these photos taken 2 weeks ago, at a restaurant in Rotorua,  called Abracadabra Cafe and Bar.  The owners also have an outlet store selling all the Morroccan delights at a veritable Aladin's cave of wonders, called The Souq!  When I enter the shop or restaurant, I enter the Dream State world, one where I feel I have arrived!  My kinda stuff!  We purchased a gorgeous little coffee side table for my birthday, to go with my Alibaba-type lantern my mother bought me when she came to NZ.

The glow from this lamp is an ethereal, out-of-this-world,
church-zone kinda light!

We have a simple little wall fountain, nowhere near
as exotic and aesthetically delightful as this one!

The portal to the can almost hear the cicadas
and the breath of the camels as you walk through.......!
The saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world" has suddenly taken on new meaning for us!  Walking through one of our little "reserves" a couple of weeks ago, Mike and I commented on how sad the stream looked.  We thought it would be great if someone would come along and really love and care for it.  But who...............hey, why whine about what the council are failing to do, and why not jump in boots and all, and offer to do the job?  Crazy idea, but it might just work!
So I rang up the Environmental officer at the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and he didn't laugh outright at my idea!  In fact, his curiosity was ignited, he wanted to come out and meet us to discuss our plans and to investigate more about the reserve.

Turns out, that the little reserve and stream is as yet, unnamed!  Or at least, the council are unaware of any name!  We discovered that the source is really an underground spring!  He thinks it would be fine for us to go ahead and care for it.  He thinks there could be financial support  in the form of grants.  It looks daunting, but we have the rest of our lives and only the first step to take, one step at a time.  If we can transform our backyard into an edible organic paradise, why not an extended area.......  The kindergarten I work at just may be interested in a restoration project like this. We can teach our children to really care for Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) and her waterways. Big project.  Little time.  But many hands make light work.  So watch this space.................. early days.

My daughter goes green for the cause.  The face of the Restoration Project!
Not really!   (Actually, she went to a fancy dress ball as Poison Ivy!)