Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Berry, Berry Smooth!

Home-grown bananas
Wowee!  Heaven!  I think I just invented our own new mind-blowing health drink that tastes sooo good, it tastes like it must be bad!  How can that be?
Well, I had a basket-full of fast-ripening home-grown bananas, what to do with them?  I hate to waste food, especially stuff that we grow ourselves.  Banana bread has been the obvious answer in the past but I just did not feel very breadish-bakerish, so I thought - "SMOOOTHIES"!

Strawberry-Banana Blend
I have spent a week making a recipe of sorts, which I tended to repeat, based on it being much like a mousse pudding rather than a smoothie.  It went something like this:
2 hands full of brazil nuts - blended till fairly smooth, then add:
8-9 bananas (3 of our small ones equal one large store-bought banana)
One cupful frozen strawberries (from last summer's surplus)
1 TBspn honey
1/2 tspn stevia powder
1 TBspn LSC (linseed, sesame seed and chia seed, ground)
1 TBspn wheatgerm (optional)
1/2 cupful preserved feijoa puree (optional)
1 cupful of soya or oat milk

Blend all together until smooth.  Most of my smoothies had to be eaten with a spoon as they were fairly thick!  Hence, the mousse idea!

Chocolate Heaven
Fast forward to Sunday and I had just used up the last of the frozen berries to make a gooseberry/strawberry jam when I got the inspiration to do a chocolate smoothie instead.  Here it is:
(or otherwise to be known as Feckin' Delishus Smoothie at home!)
2 hands full of brazil nuts, blended till smoothish
Add 9 small bananas (or 3 large store-bought ones)
1 TBspn honey
1/2 tspn stevia powder (green leaf)
1TBspn LSC
1/2 tspn vanilla essence
3 heaped tspn carob powder
1 Cupful soya milk
Blend all above ingredients till smooth.

Be prepared to be blown away!  Such decadence and opulence!  Ought to be banned!  It tastes fattening!  Utterly insane, to drink something that you know is packed with such a powerhouse range of nutrients, but your brain is telling you it tastes too good to be healthy!

It's been such a good roll, these smoothie mornings, that Mike eked out my secret recipe (wouldn't even wait for my blog to spill the beans) and took over.  Even when we ran out of home-grown bananas - now he's buying them from fair-trading, organic Ecuador or some-such-place!  And he's added blueberries the last 2 mornings - takes like dessert!  It's a hit!


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Food for the Soul

Oh, what to do with old sneakers long past their Best Before Date?  Garden Art.  Simply screw them to the fence and hey, presto!  Instant garden artwork!  Maybe a little bird might even eye them out for a birdie condominium.  Who knows?
Garden Art
More inexpensive garden art -
shells threaded onto thick wire.

The garden is actually starting to spring to life (s'cuse the pun).  I eagerly waited and watched with bated breath - I was given 4 orchids which I had planted at the back of the house in a shady area, and one was promising to bloom. Now orchids fit into a strange category for me - I don't immediately feel drawn to orchids in the way I am to lavenders and freesias (nice smelly olfactory highlights), or dahlias and daffodils (bursts of brilliant colour, candy for the eyes) or even chammomile and rose geraniums (edible delights).  They fit in the category - "soooo ugly that they are rendered exotically beautiful!"   Well, I waited for the flowers, which took a week to open..... and between my snapping of this pic below, and picking the bloom - the bloomin' snails decided to snack on them!  To the point that they were rendered really, really just plain ugly!  Lots of frilly holes, which all edged up in oxidised brown, like a floral rust!  I was not impressed.  Note to self:  lay snail-fighting Quash thickly around the orchids!

Snail Fodder

The rosemary bush has gone BUSH!  It is as tall as I stand, and covered in tiny little purple blossoms which the bees just love!  So why is mine so large?  My rosemary is hugely under-utilised, given the fact it has so many properties to stimulate hair growth and condition (an infusion can be used as a hair-rinse), a mouth wash, it is a liver and gall-bladder stimulant and helps aid digestion and circulation.  I guess one can't keep up with all their is to do, with part-time home-steading! 
Rosemary blooms

Spring is a time to start thinking about the birds and the bees, the butterflies and the trees.  I have planted many chamomile plants out for the bees, and my lavenders are showing signs of new growth.  I watered the bird bath yesterday and was amazed to see a brown bird happily sipping from it this morning.  I have begun to refill the bird feeders dotted around the garden, to encourage the little winged creatures back.  The next day, they are empty!  I think it is mostly the little house sparrows we seem to be feeding.  The kowhai trees on our south side have already attracted a few sweet-singing tuis (also known as the parson bird).  And I have put out a pheromone trap for the coddling moth, to lure the males to a sticky death, so they can't mate with the females who lay their eggs in our pip fruits!  I have also added corrugated cardboard collars around the trunks (so the females, who manage to mate the only few viable males, can migrate up into the cosy nest of cardboard and lay her eggs there instead of in my apples and pears!!).  Set!

Kowhai flowers hanging in clusters brighten any dull day

An A-Frame feeder with spikes to impale fruit for
fruit-loving birds like wax-eyes

The fig and lemon tree reflected in the cottage window
The garden is again producing enough food to harvest every week.  Broccoli, lettuce, peas, jerusalem artichokes, yacon, citrus, silverbeet, parsley and kale.  We still have heaps of yams, a few leftover pumpkins and frozen beans in the freezer.

Beautiful vitamin C and fibre-rich broccoli

Plum tree candyfloss

Little blue-centred beauties

Slow-growing Viniglia  Acid-less Orange - looks like an orange but inside it's pink!
Tastes like a watermelon.  Strange but true!  A very old Italian heirloom variety.
Cat-ching Gardens for Felines
Our cat is a born garden fiend.  She's lazy and if left alone, will gladly choose the Snooze Option (or catnap) unless cajoled into a walk in the garden. 
Shanti at one of her many natural scratching posts outside
 She follows us like a dog, stopping to sniff things on her way, or playfully hide-and-seeking herself in a bushy caryx grass like a kitten.  She hides and then runs at you, at the last minute, avoiding a head-on collision with a deft alteration of her course, like a stunt pilot.  She will patiently sit and watch me sow my seeds, sometimes choosing to sit right in the pots I am working with, or just jump from raised veg bed retaining wall to the next, like an agile gymnast.  And lately, I've discovered her newly emerged legal cat high - catnip!  I wondered what it was that she was sniffing continuously, like a drug addict, and then remembered that I had sowed some last summer and forgotten about it.  It must have died down and then re-emerged in the warmer weather.  It is highly entertaining to watch!

The cat looks on to the garlic crop

Mmmmn, Love this smell!

Catnip up close - a cat's eye-view.

Weekly harvests looking like this at the moment
I am loving the colour in the garden.  Below are a few captured images to whet the appetite.......
The double beauty of freesias - to smell and to see




Shade-loving Cyclamen

Early Cheer

Little Turkish fairy lamps (fuscias)
There is even beauty in the edibles.......
The edible beauty of calendula

Red-stemmed silver beet (bright lights)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Spring's Sprung

If you are not looking closely, you might miss it.  The little swollen leaf or flower buds one day - which blossom quickly the next day!  Then it's definitely in-your-face-all-over-the-place!  Signs everywhere.  Colour.  Sunshine.  A feeling of lightness and hope.

Time to open the shutters and let the sunshine in!
All our citrus that wasn't hungrily devoured in winter are pulsating with colour at this time of the year!  Yellows of the lemonades, lemons and limes.  Oranges of, well, oranges, grapefruits and mandarins.  Nothing like a vitamin C boost - a freshly squeezed glass of citrus juice.  I like to combine 2 grapefruits, several oranges and/or mandarins.  Then I throw in a few frozen cubes of guava juice (frozen in autumn when there was an abundance).  Bliss.  Powerhouse of vitamins!

Citrus harvest and my first broccoli.

My $15 second hand juicer takes the strain off the rotational wrist movement!

Grapefruits bowing the branches.  Golden orbs full of new sunshine.
 We have just had help from our German Helpxchanger, who weeded our garden from north to south, east to west!  Saved me heaps of back-breaking work.  All that is left is to sow some seeds and watch them grow!  He was keen to learn to sew (not seeds but with a sewing machine) - ala-recycled style, so a quick 5 minute crash course ensued, with him creating an over-shoulder "tablet" bag out of coffee bags and an old t.shirt.  Quite impressive, really!  He also learned how to play the ukulele in 20 minutes and has subsequently emailed to say he now owns his very own bright yellow uke.  Look out for a German Vegan, Gluten-free, super-eco-conscious hitchhiker with a great smile, and a yellow ukulele tied to his backpack!!  He could be anywhere between Cape Reinga and The Bluff!
Alex learning how to sew.

The masterpiece!

Silver Beet Bright Lights....... aptly named.

Not sure if my wood fungus is edible.  It sure is fascinating!

A NZ grass - what stunning patterns in Nature!

And in the Kitchen:
Having frozen 2kg of chillies at the end of summer, I finally found some time to turn them into a year's supply of Sweet Thai Chilli Sauce.  It is so deceptively simple and yet, would rank as one of my top 3 favourite sauces.  It spices up any old tired meal!

2kg frozen chillies

A year's supply of oh, so nicey, sweet and spicey sauce!
 At the moment, I have 4 BIG bunches of parsley in the garden.  I am up to my eyeballs in the green fluffy stuff and there's only so much you can add to dishes and salads.  And in Autumn, I dehydrated a whole heap, so have plenty dry herb too, for lean times.  Aha, but then there is always a barter system to take advantage of excess!  There is a local coffee shop in our village, run by a fierce little Vietnamese woman who runs the tightest ship ever!  The crew are all her nieces and nephews and their extended families.  They are worked hard and there does not seem much time for frivolities.  I occasionally pop in for a bag of their old coffee grinds, which one of the nephews always runs to collect for me.  They know me by face, and when I enter, they know I am not a customer but really just an annoying lady who always asks for their used coffee grounds, and without having to ask, the ladies in the kitchen yell out for the guy who always collects the sacks for me.  

The owner, scowls at me each time but I smile and greet her.  A couple of weeks ago, I went in and my contact was nowhere to be seen, so timidly, I ask her for some coffee grinds.  She snarls and says she's too busy.  One of the nieces in the kitchen scurries off and collects the bag and hands it to me, head bowed.  The owner says in an annoyed voice - that they are all too busy to stop and get me the coffee grinds (which is really just outside their back door!).  I apologize for the intrusion, grab my coffee bag and hurry out.

So a plot is hatched.  I realise that although I think I am doing them a favour by collecting their "waste", there is really no visible advantage to them.  A bunch of parsley is tied with a piece of string and I breeze in last week with my green bouquet and I march right up to the grumpy mole and smiling sweetly, hand her the parsley and say, that's what I grow with your coffee grounds!  She looks dumbfounded, accepts the bouquet and I march out the shop.  This morning, I was set to do the same thing just before heading to work.  Hand her the bouquet and march out again.  But this time, she smiles, takes the bouquet and as I am about 3 steps away, calls out and says: "You want coffee?"  Before I can say yes or no, she herself has walked the few steps to the back door, uplifted 2 sacks of coffee and brings them to me!  I thank her and she smiles and says she will fetch a third sack for me!! I sadly decline the offer, saying I will be late for work if I take the 2 sacks to my car and come back for the third.  She laughs.  I ask if she would like more parsley and she nods yes!  A deal is struck.  Parsley for coffee grounds.  I think I just made a friend!  Mission Accomplished.  Weekly nitrogen source for my compost secured!

I have also discovered yet another use for my parsley:  pesto!  Hmm.  Hmmm. Hmmm!

Parsley Pesto Recipe
(off the top of my head)
1 cup of Brazil nuts, ground in blender(recipe called for walnuts)
2 cups parley, chopped and then placed in blender
1-2 cloves garlic chopped and added (I used 2 massive ones for a garlicky hit) 
1/2 cup olive oil drizzled into mixture as you blend above (I added a bit more)
Salt to taste
Finally, I added juice of half a lemon (not in recipe) to add zing

The best-ever Parsley Pesto!

 Finally, in the Creative Realms:
I cannot believe that I have nearly finished knitting my woollen sock!!  All's left to do is sew up the tootsie side!  Very impressive indeed!  I never thought I had it in me to finish! It was seriously doing my head in!  And while sitting in the doctor's waiting room (my daughter - another very long story), I was knitting (sock homework) and an elderly gentleman opposite me tried to hit on me, I swear it was the knitting!  He asked what I was knitting...... "a sock",  then said I was doing well............."no, actually it's doing my head in!"  Oh, he said, he was one of 8 boys who grew up in the South Island, and they had all learned to knit.  Great, I said, focused on my knitting.  Then he said he liked my hair!  I didn't know if I had heard correctly!  Other than my husband (and it's expected of him), no-one has ever "liked" my Cruella d'Ville style hair! I put down my knitting, looked at my daughter with amusement, then looked him in the eye and said - "you mean my daughter's hair?"
No, yours, he said.  "What do you like about my hair?", I asked with amusement.  Uuuh, well, I don't have much myself, he said, so I really appreciate other people's hair!?!! 

I think it was the sock that attracted him.  Made him feel all homely and familiar!   When I told my office  colleague at work, she clapped her hand over her mouth and said, oh God! I hope it wasn't my dad!  We laughed.
The next morning she came and said, "Phew!  The guy at the doctor's wasn't my dad!  I asked Dad and he wasn't at the doctor's night before last!"  What a hoot!

My Doodle Art has gathered momentum - I have added some more tools of the trade to my cornucopia of art materials ..... pastel chalks, gel pens, water-colour pencils and Japanese collage paper.  All been hiding away in dark cupboards, long forgotten once the kids had left behind the creative tools of childhood.  My score!  Yeeha!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Cat-astrophes and doodle-bugging Hair-Raisers

Pre-Loved Art
We have some pre-loved art hanging on our walls, like this beautiful wooden platter with inlaid shell and bone in intricate patterns.  I picked up 3, all very different patterns, for $2 each, at an Opp shop.  I am guessing they are Moroccan or African.  Perhaps someone can put me right here.  They invoke the sense of rich ethnic time-honoured  crafts passed down from generation to generation.
Inlaid shell and bone platters
Lately our cat has been scratching and preening more than normal.  After a while, I become concerned with her over-grooming habits and tried to stop her.  I became aware that she had developed little bumps all over where she was biting the fur.  Knowing that it was not fleas (for the first time in 5 years, I applied a horrible conventional flea treatment, delivered over 2 consecutive months.  Was it nervous habit or was she just nibbling the irritated bits as they were bugging her?  Not sure.
One night, I was sitting by the fireside when I had a eureka moment.  A cat collar!  I remembered how she had had a cat cuff after surgery to stop her from pulling at the stitches, so I hastily reached for the plastic sheet that I had collected from a lamination shop, cut a big circle, with a smaller one on the inside and then cutting down from the outside to connect the middle one.  I overlapped the two pieces till it formed a cone around her head and taped it in place.

I expected her to freak out and scratch it off but it made her calm down and she simply went and laid in her box (my cat loves boxes!).  I left it on for 3 nights but then took it off as it seemed a little cruel.  She would bump into things a lot.  And not be able to get passed an object in her way.  It was a little tragic-comic and we had a few belly laughs watching her bump, reverse, forward march, bump, reverse etc.  She seems to have stopped that excessive grooming now, and the fur hasn't regrown yet.  But a great, cheap solution to incessant cat grooming.  

"Not sure about this............"

"May as well just sleep it away......"
I have the Doodle-bug.  My friend Sue in Fiji, gave me a book entitled: "Art.  Doodle.  Love."  It is like an adult's activity book, with provocations on each page.  I am having SUCH fun!  The inner child is smiling - I have a newly purchased pack of metallic gel pens which are such a blast to play around with!  I forgot how I love to colour in!  I have been dedicated to being true to myself and giving myself a half hour creative time every now and then.  I am sure I will become more creative as the book progresses - right now it is all about words and symbols.  It slows me down.  A lot.  Allows me to think and just be.
I highly recommend a little inner-child time for all!

Love.  Peace. Travel.

Sunshine.  Family.  Grow.

My daughter came home one day with her hair on fire!  Her friend is practising to be a hairdresser and needed a hair model for a competition.  So with her Flame Girl look, she headed off in her little Jellybean car for the Hamilton Hair Comp.  Only thing is, she didn't quite make it.  It was raining, and she negotiated the treacherous Kaimai pass only to take a bend on the flat, sliding out in the wet conditions and colliding side-on with a one day old brand-spanking new Jeep Cherokee!  We got the call from Matatmata police.  The car needed extensive work and they weren't about to let her drive it.  We picked her up and after taking a photo of her between the two policemen (she was taller than both), we drove back to Tauranga and celebrated her being alive, with a meal at a Mexican restaurant!  Luckily she is a good little saver (best parental advice) and was able to pay for her car to be fixed. The driver's door and front is a nice contrasting green to the little red Jellybean body. Quite an eye-catching revamp!  Like her hair.

Below is what we were doing when the call from the police came in:  swapping our weekly reflexology sessions.  At least we were calm and relaxed on the ride over to Matamata!  She commented on how calm we had taken the news!

Reflexology room with Infra-red lamp
My favourite orange tree has died!  Sob!  Not sure why.  This is the last of the harvest which dropped prematurely as the leaves just shriveled up and died.  Odd.  But that's gardening for you - some things can't be explained.  They just are.  Accept and move on!

Last orange harvest

Our orange tree that was, now a  garden sculpture.
The rest of the garden is coming up daffodils (still - the late ones).  I have been harvesting yacon.  A beautiful sweet apple/nut/potato tasting root vegetable that is a great addition to salads or cooked in stews and soups.  It has a high sugar content, but because the sugars are complex, the body can't process them properly, making them ideal for diabetics.  Sweet without the nasty after-effects.

Our peas have sprung into urgent fruiting action.  What a treat to grab a few fat pods on the way past, and gobble down the delicate orbs of sweet goodness!  Like a lolly from the lolly shop! Guilt-free!

Pea trellis

Small pods can be eaten like snowpeas.

Peas make the perfect vegetable lolly for the kids garden
Fond Farewells:
So much has happened in the last couple of weeks!  The biggest change is that we have given up our chooks.  Lux and Blackboy had only just begun to lay eggs (2 a day) but they had also just begun to make a hellava racket!  We had swapped them for our old bantam hens who we thought were noisy.  We had hoped these girls would be the quiet sort - but not!  Mike and I were becoming really paranoid that the neighbours would complain!  So it was decided that a new home need be sought - did not take long!  One of my kindy kid's mums took them the day I asked.  They have a couple of hectares and they say they have not noticed them being noisy at all!  They also promised they wouldn't end up in the pot.  It was with mixed feelings we parted - I loved the idea of having chooks to help in the garden but hated the noise!  "Paaaaaak!  Paaaa-aaak!"

It's been much quieter here the last week.
Good bye Blackboy!

 Blackboy Beauty
And where would Spring be, without the characteristic daffies?  Such a lovely sight.  We have had daffodils flowering from mid-winter, it's been a mild winter.  There are already blossoms on our peach and plum tree!  I declare, I do feel a spring in my step!  Happy Spring New Zealand!