Monday, 31 August 2015

Wood you, could you?

Reduce, reuse, recycle.  The "Green" mantra these days.  Well, I love being able to avoid unecessary  waste heading off to landfill.  Trying to be mindful and less wasteful, I try to see the possibility in normal end-of-use throw away items.  Recently I made enough cleaning clothes out of an old threadbare winter sheet.  Long past it's use-by date, with a threadbare middle where bottoms lie, tossing and turning the night away, week after month after year!  Usually, sheets maintain their fluffy integrity all around the sides, so I cut the sheet in intervals, tore them into strips and sewed them into user-friendly-sized cleaning clothes.  If you use 3 or 4 layers, the cloths are padded and extra strong.   I even managed to make a couple for each of my kids to use in their flats.  These flannel winter-sheet cloths make for excellent cleaning and leave very little (if any) lint on windows, kitchen and bathroom surfaces or benchtops.  They are soft and do not scratch delicate surfaces.  
Sold?  Next time you're about to throw away that old sheet, think again - a couple of year's supply of cleaning cloths lie in them thar unused sides!! 
Great little soft housekeeping helpers at hand.

Another fun scrap crafting project is to buy hemp string (I buy mine from the $2 shop).  Hemp is a rough string and when knitted into a 24 stitch square, it makes an excellent dish cloth.  The roughness of the finished knitting makes it ideal for scrubbing plates, pots, dirty cutlery etc. needing a scrubbing brush or extra muscle power.

Down in the garden shed, I have been a busy little bee, enjoying using the cedar scraps which Mike collects for kindling.  I sort through them first and squirrel away pieces for my little woodwork projects.  Made a few items and working on another scarecrow at the moment (Josephine, our old one, needs a mate).

Little Bay Leaf storage box.

I tried to copy a Star of David design which a helpxchanger, Marcus Sykora, made us, many, many years ago.  I added a little scrap focal point from an aluminium piece of a "V" can I picked up on the road.
A recipe book holder

Holder with recipe book.
A wooden coddling moth pheromone trap, now's the time to hang it, just before bud burst (well, I may be a little early, hopeful really) to monitor the moths and snag some of the lusty males.  It's made from scraps - an old sheet of perspex, blind slats, old curtain wire and voila!  Should do the job nicely.  It pays to change the pheromone plugs after 5 weeks (available from farm supplies).

Coddling Moth Pheromone trap

On a wet and dull day, non-stop raining, I have been stuck inside making sweet treats today, so I shall put on my raincoat and head to the garden shed to continue to make Josephine's buddy.  Sweet!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Seedy Side of Life

Seed Cups
Anyone for a cuppa seeds?
Yay, for the World Wide Web of shared ideas!  I came across this idea, of creating a feeder for wild birds in the garden.  Down to the Opp Shop (second hand store) I nipped and came away with 3 pre-loved tea cups for the grand total of NZ$1.50.  Once at home, I threw some rather old coconut oil (that I usually use for oiling my wooden creations) in a pot and melted it, added wild bird seed and tossed that into the cups.  It took less than 10 mins!

Next, I rummaged in my sewing box and came up with some old lace and fabric tape to tie around the handles of the tea cups. waiting rather impatiently for the coconut oil to set hard! As soon as this was evident, I whisked outdoors to hang the seed cups in a tree right in front of our kitchen/dining windows so we could easily view the feeding birds.
This seed cup had the remaining melted coconut oil poured over the top to form a hard seal.
I waited and watched.  Nothing.  De nada!  Nil.  No birds came.  The next day I watched, still nothing!  Bugger!  They don't work, I fretted!  All that for nothing!  
Then later in that day, we saw some sparrows hanging upside down trying to get to the seed and I felt a whoosh of joy!  It took them a while to get the hang of feeding upside down!
2 feeding cups placed at eye level for easy bird watching from inside our house.
And then we were truly rewarded, when we spotted a little Silver-eye, or white-eye hanging upside down and feeding with relative ease, like it was used to eating upside down!  I ran for the camera and thanks to a zoom lens, was able to capture these images from about 3 1/2 metres away, through double-glazed windows!  Hooray for modern technology!
Yummy Bird Treats

Look at this gem - wings beating at a 100km per second, this little guy selected exactly the seeds he wanted!

I see my cat scheming, thinking of ways to reach the seed cups, but I think I can rest easy, these are cat-proof!  She often eats the bread or left-over cooked grains I put out for the birds on the grass!

Do I look like a bird?  Maybe I'll get fed!

Guess not....  I'll just have to wait till dinner-time!  

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Healthy Soil, Healthy Food

Ending of Winter.  Time to prune and tidy up the garden for the Big Spring into Action!  We end up with unsightly heaps like this below.  Bring in the trusty little home gardener Masport mulcher.  It is the Winter gardener's Best Little Helper.  Chews up branches and spits them out in teeny little pieces which can be spread on bare ground as a weed-suppressing mulch, which ultimately breaks down over 9-12 months to feed and condition the soil.

What a mess!
Chewing through the fallout, one branch at a time.
The only downside of this exercise is that our little mulcher takes branches no bigger than 4cm diameter.  And often gets jammed, so I have to wait for the branch to dry out and shrink a bit before I can pull it out and start again, sometimes waiting 2-3 weeks for that process!!
The bigger branches which can't go through the mulcher are chopped up with my electric chainsaw, for firewood.
Smaller branches are chopped to size to keep as kindling for next winter's fires.

Mulch is distributed on cardboard for walkways, or straight on the ground around fruit trees etc.

I leave the mulch to stand for 5 weeks before distributing, as it can leach nitrogen from the soil as it decays.  It works to suppress weeds and over time, fungi decompose the woody chips and help to condition and enrich the soil.  We are also lucky enough to have a local tree chopper guy who dumps fresh wood chip for us when we ask, as we would never be able to produce enough on our own.  We used to have to pay for loads, so this is a truly valuable contact!  If he is in the area, it saves him travelling to dump it.  We both win!!

Before: A mess!  Weeds have overgrown this area of the orchard over winter!

Day 1, halfway weeded.
Day 2, job complete and area is mulched for weed suppression.
Asparagus bed and path weeded for spring growth.  I have been busy!  This area will need mulch too, if I am not to weed it all over again in 2-3 weeks time! 
Untreated sawdust makes a good "floor" in front of the bee hives.  It suppresses the weeds and is soft and spongy to walk on.  Mike occasionally collects a large bag-full from a local woodworker.

Peach tree weeded and pathways mulched.

Bee foraging garden weeded and mulched.  Note how the frosts have killed the grassed area!
All  those weeds and prunings end up returning to the soil as wonderful rich compost!
Time to sort out seeds and plan for a busy sowing season ahead!  Yay!  Love this activity!  A time of planning, renewal and growth.

Compost feeds the crops

A brown seaweed sits in water, steeping out all the goodness.  I use this, highly diluted to feed food crops, also use it concentrated, in the compost bin to help accelerate the decomposition process.  Every couple of weeks, I head down to the harbour and collect a bucket full.
Sea lettuce collected from the shores of our harbour, steeped in water or added directly into the compost bin provides a good source of sea-rich nutrients.  It can be used as a direct mulch on garden beds, however, I do not collect enough at any one time to put this into practice.

The worm farm in the foreground, provides vermicast and worm-wee tea, which is also diluted and fed to hungry growing food crops.

Winter crops fastapproaching harvest.
Celery looking good.  Healthy soil = healthy plants.
The citrus is looking good; lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruit and oranges all ripening nicely, thanks to healthy soil!

Recently I have enjoyed making a couple of log bug-homes.  It's a simple idea I found on the World Wide Web.  Drill several different gauge holes into a section of log.  Add a hook on the top, some rope and hang it in a tree.  Now I just need to wait and see who takes up residence.  I added a roof of old floor vinyl to protect the top from rain.

I spied this wonderful sight below, while out walking in Katikati.  Someone has used big water bottles with the bottoms cut off, as mini glass houses to protect his/her new seedlings in the veg bed.  Brilliant recycling idea!  Love it!!

And lastly, talking about healthy soil, healthy food..... we are enjoying our smoothies most days - I throw a bunch of garden produce into the blender and whizz away.  Simply deliciously healthy kai!
I freeze fruit when it's in glut, for lean times like in winter - frozen blueberries and cubes of feijoa pulp.  Our one frost-surviving bunch of bananas is slowly ripening in the garden shed, fodder for smoothies over the coming weeks....

Monday, 3 August 2015

Oat-so Easy!

Oat-so Easy!!
Packaging.  The evil villain in planet destruction.  So much of it, we are literally drowning in it!  For a long time, I have raged against Tetrapak packaging.  In New Zealand, we do not have the technology to recycle it (it is made up of 3 or 4 different layers heat-bonded together.  So everything goes into landfill, clogging up the earth for the next few decades.  I have tried to recycle them myself, after someone shared this idea with me.  Make them into wallets.  Trouble is, many people no longer use cash, so a wallet is a thing of the past.  Recently, I hit on the brainwave of making them into sewing kit travel packs.  Inside, I store a selection of buttons, cotton, pins, needle and safety pins (for emergency mending while on holiday).  They may make great little gifts to give away for that person heading off on a tropical holiday.....
My husband is moving away from cow's milk, preferring to use soy, oat or rice milks.  Trouble is, these all come in non-recyclable tetrapaks.  And there is only so many tetrapak wallets we can recycle (I don't know that many friends who travel)!  So I was mighty fine excited when I discovered Megan May's recipe for making oat milk.  Easy Peasy!  Reduce the load of landfill stockpiles of Tetrapakaging!!  Yay!  I have tu-tu-ed with the recipe to make it suit our palate.
Soak 1 1/2 cups oats for 3-4 hours in 6 1/2 cups water.  We use organic rolled oats.  Add 1 heaped tspn honey and a generous pinch of salt.  Optional: add a few drops vanilla essence.  Blend everything for approximately 30 seconds.

Sieve it once, then pass it a second time through a nut bag to remove all oaty residue.

The residue makes this a slow process, so one can hasten it by squeezing the bag to extract the liquid.

Voila!  Oat milk, beautiful waste free oat milk!  I have also experimented with freezing, and yes, it freezes well!

Why waste the oat residue?  Google an oaty raisin biscuit recipe and use these to dunk in your morning cuppa tea!
 At the end of the day, it is a hassle to remember to make the oat milk for a constant supply - but the process is easy and apart from the soaking, takes about 15 minutes.  I can do it blind-folded now!  And I love that we are reducing waste - AND  saving heaps of money in the process!