from little things, cucumbers grow

These are my baby cucumbers which have been grown from seed. I stuck them in egg cartons with some propagating soil, into an old plastic box to nurture them through the initial part of their life. The water in there is from the luscious rain that we have had here. They have actually been flooded a couple of times & I have had to rescue them by bailing out the box. Today I am going to separate the sections of the egg carton (now quite soggy) and just stick the whole thing in the ground. This means that the roots will not get disturbed and hopefully lead to a happy and productive life.

Giving Christmas Trees

(Image borrowed from the Oxfam website)

I just placed the order for our Christmas tree from Oxfam.  It will be delivered for free somewhere between 12 & 15 December by volunteer drivers of 4WD club.  You can too if you live in metropolitan Melbourne.  Check them out.  Maybe you could volunteer as well. 

By buying a tree from Oxfam you will help them to provide long-term solutions to people experiencing poverty and injustice. Good one.

Beautiful fresh potatoes

Ok, do you remember when I decided to try planting potatoes in a tyre on top on concrete?  With newspaper on the bottom & just some compost...

Well, finally the plants have died off, so I decided to do a treasure hunt on the weekend to see what I could find.  To be honest, I wasn't actually expecting a lot.  I was beginning to think that the potatoes were all rotten as well because it has been so hot here, so you can imagine my excitement when I came across all of these little beauties!

This was just one tyre's worth of potatoes, I left the other tyre for the boys to do their own treasure hunt (much to their glee!).  So all in all we were left with double this amount of potatoes, by only planting 10 seed potatoes in 4 tyres on top of concrete.  We neglected it for the 4 months that passed, and were well rewarded.  The taste is quite different to the bought ones - better, sweeter, tastier, more solid.  We were eating by the bucket load.

Do the math and you'll see that it really is worth planting your own potatoes, even if you live in the inner city like I do! (you just might want to plant more if you have a bunch of hungry kids like I do ...)

Lessons to be learnt from rubbish

We just had our hard waste clean up this weekend just gone & I was really excited as it was a great way to clear out some of the crap that had accumulated around the edges of our life that we really didn't need anymore. We always try to be very careful with our decisions on what we purchase, we barely buy new, unless we really have to (knickers & food etc), and only buy when we really have to (the decision process, "do we need it, or do we just want it").

When we are getting rid of things, we look at their reusability, is there someone else that can use this, can we pass it on, op shop it, change it & reuse it, or is it past it? If it is past it, then out it goes.

So, that is how we got to have a bunch of stuff for the hard garbage. Not many people would pick up stuff from our pile, however, regretably there were a few things that I did put out, that probably could have still had a bit more life in them. I did put them out thinking that someone might chance upon them & take them away. They did not. They have now gone to landfill.

So on Saturday morning, I woke to the sound of the garbage truck scraping the old trolley that was ugly, but had really good wheels still (just took up too much space in my laundry) being broken & squashed, & my bubble burst as I imagined my muck becomming a blob of landfill that would never go away. I realised that I could have done better - with that & with other things.
  • All of the metal could have been taken off things and taken to metal scrap yard.
  • The timber - I am not sure, but maybe some of it could have been used be a salvage yard.
  • The chairs might have been picked up by someone on Freecycle.
  • The window frame could have gone on Freecycle too.
  • The shopping trolley really should have gone to the op shop, the wheels were great, the handle great, it didn't even need new vinyl, I just didn't like the colour of it.
The only positive was that the table frame was picked up by someone - my neighbours across the road. They will hopefully make a top with it a little faster than we didn't (it has been waiting for us to do it for 3 years!).

We live, we learn.

Like your parks & got some time to spare?

Our parks are beautiful places to visit and enjoy, however this doesn't just happen without the help of volunteers. An email came my way that provides plenty of opportunities for people to either get their hands dirty and help in the parks or in the office to help. So, if you live in Victoria, and have the time to help out, give them a call or an email. If you are living elsewhere, check out what is happening with your people and parks to see how you can help out.

Start of email from People & Parks Foundation:

Victorian People & Parks Foundation Volunteer Help Needed
Field Day VolunteeringIf you would like to assist out in the field, we have the following events running. You don’t need any specific experience, just a happy disposition an interest in conservation and wiliness to pitch in.
This is a great opportunity if you wish to gain experience in community environmental work. A free Working with Children Certificate can be obtained for volunteers.
Please let me know which of the following days you are available:

WED OCTOBER 7 GREEN CONNECTIONS School group Royal Park (9:15am – 3:00pm)
WED OCTOBER 14 GREEN CONNECTIONS School group Blackburn Lake Sanctuary (9:15am – 3:00pm)
WED OCTOBER 21 RETREAT ASSISTANCE Corporate Volunteers Caitlin’s Retreat, Eltham (9:15am – 3:00pm)
FRI OCTOBER 23 GREEN CONNECTIONS Corporate Volunteers Albert Park (9:15am – 3:00pm)
WED OCTOBER 28 GREEN CONNECTIONS School group TBC (Eastern Suburbs) (9:15am – 3:00pm)
WED NOVEMBER 4 GREEN CONNECTIONS School group Blackburn Lake Sanctuary (9:15am – 3:00pm)
WED NOVEMBER 11 SEA SEARCH School group Ricketts Point, Beaumaris (1:30pm to 4:30pm)
THUR NOVEMBER 12 RETREAT ASSISTANCE Corporate Volunteers Caitlin’s Retreat, Eltham (2pm – 4pm)
TUE NOVEMBER 17 GREEN CONNECTIONS Corporate Volunteers Werribee (9:15am – 3:00pm)

* Green Connections days consist of working in the environment with revegetation, planting, clear up etc
* Sea Search days consist of intertidal marine monitoring
* Retreat Assistance days are held at our retreat centre for special needs children and involve activities to improve the property
Email if interested

Friends of Caitlin's Retreat Volunteers
We are starting a Friends of Caitlin's Retreat for those that are interested in helping out on the Eltham property. Roles can include hands on assistance in the grounds, permaculture gardening, helping create programs for special needs children, networking with the local community and many other activities. The group will meet once a month at the Retreat Centre in Eltham. It is envisaged that this will be a working bee day for those that can participate and a general meeting. You can just attend the meeting, it is not necessary to assist in the working bee.

We are deciding whether the meeting will be held on a weekday or a weekend. If you are interested in being involved specifically in the Friends of Caitlin's Retreat please let me know your preference by emailing

Office VolunteersDo you have a day or two spare and would like to volunteer? We have the following skilled activities that require volunteer assistance.
Event Calendar Creator Volunteer needed for 1 day to conduct internet research and put together forward calendar of environmental events that People & Parks Foundation can participate in.
Park Database Creator Volunteer needed for 2 days compile information on Victorian parks and community groups including maps, photos and contact details for future volunteer projects.
Graphic Design Brochure Volunteer needed for 1 day to create brochures for volunteering days.
Writer / Marketing Volunteer needed for 1 -2 days to write copy for corporate and school volunteering programs.
Survey writer Volunteer needed for 1 day to write survey questions for volunteer groups
eLearning Creator Volunteer needed for 2 days to create induction PowerPoint for volunteers. Option to evaluate interactive elearning opportunities if interested
Data preparation We are transferring to a new CRM system(salesforce) and would like 1 days assistance in preparing and cleaning our data for this

If you are interested in any of the above activities, our preference is for volunteers to help on one or more of the following weekday dates during business hours.
October 9, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 29 or November 6, 9, 10, 13, 20, 27. Email if interested.
** Please note that we have attempted to have volunteers work remotely, however, with a small staff we have found this difficult to manage this successfully and projects have become drawn out. We realise that this is not ideal for volunteers and I have therefore set the above dates aside to work with volunteers directly on projects in our offices.

Current Volunteers
Thank you for to those volunteers who have been helping us out already. We are working through some of the projects that people have started for us and this assistance has been very useful for us.

Next Volunteer Meeting
Our next group volunteer meeting is at 5:30pm on Wednesday 28th October at Level 10, 535 Bourke St. This is a great opportunity for you to meet other volunteers and to find out about the work People & Parks Foundation will be undertaking. Please RSVP to if you are attending so that I can ensure there are enough biscuits!

End email quote from People and Parks Foundation

I hope that you can find something interesting in there!

Ad hoc planting

I love holidays, especially as the boys are getting slightly older (10, 8 & 6), and are happier-ish, to play/fight amongst themselves and we regroup as a family. We have been having some brilliant spring rains here and I have been really enjoying my gorgeous bulbs that I stuck all over the place, in the middle of the lawn and in the vegetable gardens. I really do love taking advantage of the weather whilst it is here so the boys and I have been madly sticking vegetable seedlings in before they die (I forgot about them for a couple of weeks), and then we started going crazy with all of the seeds that I have lieing around the place. Part of the thinking was that because we are going to be travelling around Australia for most of the year next year, so let's use up those seeds, and part of it was over zealous behavour from the younger members of the family (I'm not going to stop planting power), and part of it was a curious thought of mine.

This curious thought went a little something like this. I was wondering what would happen if all of these seeds did just happen to get planted all over the place (did I mention that they were not planted into garden beds?) and it ended up looking like a bit of wild meadow of herbs and vegetables... That is the visual artist in me, I just wanted to paint a wonderful picture! Yummy and crazy?!!?! I was also wondering whether if there is more plants then, perhaps, just perhaps they might support each other through the drought of summer...? I love to test things out... I will have to wait and see : )

Get your Trashbag

Trash bags! I love these bags for many reasons and one of them is because by buying, you would know that the money goes to the people who have laboured over it, and it would help support the communities throughout the Asia Pacific region who are using recycled materials to make these fantastic useable (and some of them very flashy) bags. The bags grew out a very important problem in the Asia Pacific region which was the rising amount of garbage. This is just one of the many bags that they have on offer on their website or at some of the retail outlets.

The company has very strong ethics with the bags all being made using fair trade practices (ensuring amongst other things fair pricing, fair pay, prompt payment, gender equality, safe & healthy working conditions) and an active role in environmental sustainability. Something that we can get behind and support. Thanks to Amber for pointing Trash bags my way!

save your seeds

I don't know about you, but I am always stuffing seeds in paper bags and old takeaway containers, either because I'm or because I love growing from seed. Anyway there will be some experts talking about, and showing how to become a seed saver if you are at all close to Randwick in NSW this weekend. If I was up there, I would go and then maybe more of my seeds might actually work!

Here are the details.

Introduction to Seed Saving Workshop
This is a rare opportunity to learn everything you need to know about seed saving from two of Australia's best...
Jude & Michel Fanton, Seed Savers' Network, Byron Bay -

WHEN: Sunday 20 September 2009, 10am to 3pm
WHERE: Randwick Community Organic Garden
Northern End Paine Reserve Cnr Rainbow & Botany St Kingsford (enter via Botany St)
BOOKINGS: essential as numbers are limited.
Contact Emma Daniell on 9371 1602 or mobile 0402 287 393 or
COST: $60 - please pay cash or cheque upon admission at the workshop.

You will learn about:
seed identification & collection
seed gleaning and storing
germination testing & isolation
and much more

a plate of food to share for lunch (morning and afternoon tea provided)
BYO hat, water, gloves and secateurs (optional).

Randwick Community Organic Garden (RCOG) -
Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network (ACFCGN) Sydney -

A win for Fairtrade and Cadbury Australia

On the weekend I got an email from my mother who was part of a group who campaigned very hard for Fairtrade chocolate from Cadbury's, and from my brother whose company helped Fairtrade to negotiate the outcome. Following is the statement from Danielle Johnson, Community Program Coordinator, Cadbury ANZ that she made on Wednesday:

"(Today) Cadbury Australia and Fairtrade Labelling Australia & New Zealand have announced plans for our Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate to achieve Fairtrade Certification by Easter of 2010. This move will more than triple the amounts of Fairtrade product sold throughout Australia and is part of Cadbury's ongoing global commitment to Fairtrade. Consumers in Britain and Ireland are now able to buy Cadbury Dairy Milk Fairtrade Certified chocolate in store and today's announcement coincides with confirmation of similar plans for Cadbury Dairy Milk in New Zealand and Canada.This groundbreaking move means cocoa farmers and communities can look forward to a better and brighter future as Fairtrade cocoa sales increase in Ghana and new Fairtrade opportunities open up for cocoa growers across South East Asia and the Pacific.I have personally been privileged enough to visit Ghana and see first hand how we are working with the local farmers to help their communities provide a sustainable living so I am extremely proud of this milestone.The uniqueness of the Fairtrade system will provide them with a fair price for their produce, increased funds to grow their businesses and a better deal for their families through the Fairtrade 'social' premium - which delivers additional investment in schools, healthcare and other much needed infrastructure within their communities. "Fairtrade Certification enables Australians who buy Cadbury Dairy Milk to make a real difference for cocoa farmers with every purchase." Steve Knapp, Fairtrade Executive Director.Our Managing Director, Mark Callaghan, had this to say "Cadbury has a long tradition of being pioneers in sustainable chocolate production and using Fairtrade Certified cocoa for our Cadbury Dairy Milk products is another example of this commitment."So, by Easter next year you will be able to purchase a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk, knowing at the same time that you are supporting Fairtrade.I have attached a fact sheet on some of the more commonly asked questions around Fairtrade although I am sure you are well conversed on the subject. For more information on Fairtrade Certification please go to Kind regards, Danielle Danielle Johnson Community Program Coordinator Cadbury ANZ "
Great news for chocolate lovers, and even better news for those who farm cocoa.

All power to you...What is the best source of power

This is something that has really been bugging me, and I haven't any answers yet, in fact, I feel like there are so many answers out there that I am overwhelmed by them. What I am talking about is, what is the best source of power. My first choice would be to have our own solar panels to provide us with sufficient power for our needs. After that, what is next and how do we choice the right provider? All providers seem to say that they are providing renewable energy. But are they really? And how much are they?
The Green Power site (which is a government website) provides all of the information about, how to "buy in" to the green power, either as a home or as a business. As a Green Power user you can choose how much green power you would like to buy (between 10-100% of your electricity account) and this will then be offset by GreenPower. Obviously, the more you buy, the better for the environment.
There are labels with different percentage amounts help you to work out what you are happy to "buy into". This is the percentage of your household’s electricity consumption your accredited GreenPower your energy retailer is buying on your behalf that will be renewable energy.
ie. You choose 10% GreenPower you can offset 10% of your household’s electricity consumption with renewable energy. This 10% is added then to Australia’s electricity grids. The more people who choose to buy GreenPower the more renewable energy Australia can produce.
If you live in Victoria, you could go to this page and find all of the retailers who supply GreenPower. When you then click on their logo, it will then take you to their website where you will be able to see the different percentage choices that they have on offer. They have listings for every state in Australia. I suspect that other countries may have something similar?
The green power comes from sources like mini hydro, wind power and biomass which produce no net greenhouse gas emissions.
But, what is the cost? Well, I am not exactly sure about this. The GreenPower site tells me, and I quote "the few cents extra you pay in addition to your electricity account each day is invested in the renewable energy sector." I suspect that each energy company charges their own investigation is going to be key. Watch this space!
So, now I just have to look at the choices between AGL, CountryEnergy, SimplyEnergy, Australian Power&Gas, Jackgreen, powerdirect, EnergyAustralia, Red Energy, Origin, Momentum, energy, neighbourhood energy, Victoria electricity, TRU energy....shouldn't be too hard ;)
Does this help?

Monday night rush - Dinner in a hurry - Sausage and Chickpea casserole

Monday nights are a little crazy in our house. One kid goes one way, another stays to eat, then goes, whilst the third tries to eat in all three shifts of tea. I have had to learn how to make dinner that can be ready for a 5pm shift, 6.10pm shift and still ok for 8.2opm... Tonight it was sausage and chickpea casserole that I made up on the fly because I always seem to run out of time as well. You can make this really, really quickly.
less than 1kg sausages chopped into smallish bits
3 cloves of garlic chopped up (this will help keep them healthy)
Chuck these in a heavy saucepan (I use the cast iron pot), and brown them off.
Then throw into the pot:
800g tin of diced tomato
4 carrots chopped up
1 head of broccoli chopped up
4 or 5 stalks of celery chopped up
2 tins of chickpeas (if I had thought of it earlier, I could have used dried chickpeas)
Pop the lid on & leave for about 1/2 on med-high heat on the stove top or pop it into the oven on 180 degrees celcius.
Serve it up with couscous. Boil the kettle. Throw 2 cups of dried couscous into a big bowl, and pour 2.5 cups of boiling water over the top of the couscous. Cover with a dinner plate until you are ready to serve up dinner, then fluffy up with a fork.
Done. Iron, vitamins A & C, protein...and many more things, good flavour, lots of colour & everyone is happy.

New Curtains for an old cupboard

This is the horrible old cupboard that we have in our kitchen that I really cannot bear the look of. It once had doors on it, however, they were even worse, so they were removed. We have looked at this for a very, very long time and I hate it. I hate looking at everything in it & I hate the dirt that gets into the things. I know that we could go & get the kitchen "redone", however, we always want to find a way around things first, so as the sink is still kinda working, and the shelves still work, I came up with an alternative.

I have a mountain of well made, well loved and handed down hand embroidered tableclothes that I couldn't have enough tea parties to even start getting through (and in reality, I probably wouldn't use them with my three boys around!), so I came up with this idea of the "changable curtain". I have use that plastic covered spring curtain wire (I am not sure of the name of it - it's about 4mm wide) and put that across with hooks. Then I simply hung a couple of tableclothes over. When they get dirty-ish or every week or so, I will just give them a wash.

I think that it has brightened up a pretty dreary place in our house & I don't have to look at the stuff in the cupboard & it is no longer getting dirty. Yay! What are you doing in your place?

Green Cleaning Day

Have just finished cleaning the house & by the sound of this blog, you would think that I really like cleaning. In fact, I really don't like cleaning. I dream of have a cleaner, a genie, a magic wand, a self-cleaning house, or a house that just never needed cleaning. I do also sometimes get hooked on the idea that maybe it would be easier if I used bottles of this that & the other to help me clean the house. A spray of this, a squirt of that & ta-da, sparkling clean. But no; I always come back to the choice of walking out of the supermarket with just 3 items to help me clean, vinegar, bicarb & borax for a few reasons:
  1. everything else seems really complicated and I would need a different bottle for everyroom & every surface
  2. everything is artificially fragranced and after years of not using it, I really notice the fragrances in other people's homes & find it quite irritating
  3. it is unneccessary having so many bottles, and those bottles add up to so much wastage...
  4. having kids with asthma & ezcema, things with chemicals & fragrances may make things worse for them
  5. I don't want to be putting unneccessary chemicals down the plughole when there are other choices
and at the end of the day, I actually find it really easy to just:
  1. dust all the surfaces with my damp cut up nappy with a few drops of cedar essential oil & orange essential oil (to ward off the beasties - moths, beetles, bugs - & make the room smell fresh & happy)
  2. whip around with the HEPA vaccuum
  3. and then follow with the microfibre mop that only water with it.

I use the vinegar & borax to clean the toilet, spray the vinegar wherever I see any mould, and use the bicarbonate soda to make a paste with water for cleaning kitchen benches & sinks & oven & stoves. The bathroom I use the microfibre bathroom cloth that I have with water I find that works a treat.

Simple, but easy, and it works, every 7 days.

I think that if I, the housecleaner hater, can do it...then...

Cool! Somebody likes what we are doing

Woohoo! We are now listed with the Best Green Blogs under the Editors Choice as they liked what they saw. So, if you also like what you see and read, why don't you become a follower to help you keep up with the posts that we put up.

Don't forget that if there are any other issues that you would like us to look at, or any questions that you have, please feel free to send us an email on

The real good sink bucket

Last year we were really lucky to be involved with getting this video presentation made for this really cool water saving product. Great way to involve your kids in saving water

Coffee time for the compost

A friend of mine told me that she never puts the coffee grounds into the compost & I was incredibly surprised. We have always found it to be wonderful for the compost and for the worm farm. So much so we really should be drinking more coffee so that our worms are a little happier. They also don't mind a cup of tea (or the dregs of, the leaves, or even the tea bag).

A few things that you may not have thought about putting into your compost:
  1. ripped up newspaper soaked
  2. toilet paper rolls soaked
  3. kitchen paper rolls soaked
  4. used tissues
  5. paper napkins
  6. cotton buds (remove the stick if it is plastic)
  7. cotton balls
  8. hair trimmings
  9. nail cuttings
  10. timber saw dust (needs to be dug through and not MDF)
  11. path sweepings
  12. wrapping paper ripped up & soaked
  13. hay and left over vegetable scraps from animals
  14. poo from herbiverous animals (non-meat eating)
  15. dog poo can go into a worm farm or into the garden have Eco Organics sprinkled over it & it will disappear in a few weeks (I believe that some people just put the poo into their normal worm farm with no probs anyway)
  16. garden clippings
  17. all food scraps (except for meat, cheese and bread - unless you want to attract vermin)
  18. milk (helps with the acidity levels)
  19. ...what else do you think?

Scrub your body down, naturally

I have just started the day with a lovely scrub down & there is nothing more refreshing than scrubbing off all the dead skin & feeling really fresh again. I make my own scrub with mostly items from the kitchen added with some aromatherapy to give me those benefits & smell nice. Make your own as well. You can make it as you need it, or make it in a jar to store for when you need it. Once a week is great, or twice a week if you have rough or dry skin.

This recipe will do for about one body scrub (depending one how much you use, etc)
100 gm Table Salt
Olive Oil (just enough to make the salt moist)
1 tbs Jojoba oil or wheat germ oil
2ml Vitamin E oil
5 drops Lavender oil
5 drops Frankincense oil
2 drops Chamomile oil
If you wanted to use different essential oils to suit your mood, personality, then this is very adaptable
Mix it up with a paddle pop stick, rub onto your body & use circular motions to get your blood circulation going. If you can, get someone to help with your back. Pay close attention to your elbows and knees and feet. Make sure that you are standing in the shower recess (no water yet) whilst you are doing this so that it doesn't go everywhere. When you have finished rubbing, turn the shower on & wash off (no need to soap up). You should feel lovely & moist & smooth.
Please leave a comment to let me know that you have come by!

Fresh from the garden to the kitchen

We ate these the other night, and they seemed to taste all the better because they came from our garden. Our middle boy declared that he will only eat broccoli that comes from our garden. Our youngest boy is always stealing the broccoli and cauliflower from everyone's plates. I am now wishing that I planted the whole backyard with broccoli and cauliflower. Next year I will grow more. No bugs and the possums didn't eat it. Maybe the plastic snake hanging on a stake in the garden worked.

Bugs and Keeping your house free of them naturally and organically

Photos Images of Japan: Sugidama (cedar ball) outside Sake brewery, Yunotsu, Shimane, Japan. © Jake Davies

I found a bug. A carpet beetle bug. Now I know that not many people know what this is, so I had to do a lot of research and talking to people on the phone to find out how to deal with this bug because, whilst I love nature, I don't like things that could destroy any fabric or timber in my home. So what I did find out was that I had to go through every single piece of fabric in my house (a very big job for me) and "protect it" (put it in sealed containers, drawers, wardrobes) and wash at 60 degrees, freeze for 2 weeks or chuck anything that had the bug in it.

Fortunately, it seems that I caught it quite early because I didn't find many at all. It really only seems to be able to eat through felt or wool and likes to sit in old cotton and then die. I have wiped every surface with lavender and teatree oil, we have vacuumed over and over, then thrown out the vacuum bag. Now lastly to protect what we do have, I am putting cedar balls in every single cupboard, box, shelf and drawer. Obviously not as big as that ball in the picture, although, if that could protect me, I would.

From here, we will continue our once a week (wet cloth dust, vac, and mop), check the clothes, air out the cushions, pillows, doonas, and soft toys (which we do anyway for dust mite protection & it makes them smell better). Every 6 months I will put more cedar oil in the cedar balls to make sure that they are fresh to keep the moths and beetles away. Better than spraying with insecticide. Hooray!

Make your own Aromatherapy facecream

It really is very simple, and cheap to make your own facecream & your face will be thanking you for it for years to come. This cream is lush and smells simply fantastic. This cream is great for the more, ahem, mature skin, however, any skin will love it.
You will need a paddle pop stick (you can get these from the art shop) & a glass jar (I got mine from the chemist really cheaply)
100 grams plant based cream or aqueous cream (I get a big tub of this from the chemist)
5 drops of vitamin E oil
5 drops of evening primrose oil
5 ml of jojoba oil or wheatgerm oil
20 drops of rosewater
10 drops of frankincense essential oil
25 drops of rose essential oil
5 drops of jasmine essential oil
5 drops of neroli essential oil
Mix these all together with the paddle pop stick & spoon into the glass jar. Massage into your skin twice a day after cleansing your face. Be careful to only use cleanser on your face in the evening as hot water is ample for your skin in the morning.
Make sure that you use essential oils as the fragrant oils do not contain the necessary aromas needed to help your skin. If you find that you do not like particular oils, you can play around with the mix. I have found that this mix is quite good for my skin.

Grow Potatoes in a tyre

We have planted many things in many places in our small block in the inner city of Melbourne, so when my mum rocked up to my place about a month ago with 8 seed potatoes that were excess to her needs, I was a little dumbfounded as to where I could actually use them.

6/5/2012 Please note:: I used this method once (for this year 2009) and have since found out that it is not such a good idea to use tyres for planting (or compost), even though they are so effective.  The reason why you should not use them is because of the possible lead leeching that may happen.

We do have some old tyres that I had picked up for free from the tyre shop that I had previously used for composting (very successfully), but now we have built a big compost bin, we don't need them. So I decided that I could use the tyres and do the old "stack-as-it-grows" method, hopefully giving us a greater yield of potatoes in the end.

I have actually combined a bit of the no dig garden bed theory in here as well with layering a thick wad of newspaper down on the bottom as I did put them straight onto concrete. I then pulled out the compost from the compost heap and combined it with some sheeps manure that had rainwetting agents through it. I filled up just one tyre high. I then place one potato at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock inside the tyre (not right on the edges though). Then I waited, until the week before last.
I was very excited to see some green foliage which is the signal for me to get the next tyre and some hay to layer around the foliage. I have done this and it is all looking really good, in fact, I am now going to have to get another bale of hay as it is already peeking through with all this great rain in the last week.
If you live in a temperate zone in Australia (Melbourne), you could plant potatoes in August for eating in Nov - Dec
We did just eat our first broccoli tonight! It was delicious.
Other vegies to plant now in July in a temperate zone in Australia:
Beetroot (seed) to eat in September - October
Broad beans (seed) to eat in October - January
Cabbage (seedlings) to eat in September - November
Lettuce (seeds or seedlings) to eat in September - October
Mustard greens (seed) to eat in September.
Onion (seedlings) to eat in January - March
Parsnip (seed) to eat in November - December
Peas (seed) to eat in October.
Radish (seed) to eat in September.
Shallots (also Eschalots) (seedlings) to eat in October - November
Snow Peas (also Sugar Peas, Mangetout, Chinese Peas) (seed) to eat in October - November

Save money, make chicken and lentil casserole on the weekend

We are both doing the work thing at the moment & so are having to plan a little ahead so that we don't suddenly find ourselves buying food on the way home to feed the troops. Tonight we are eating Chicken Casserole that I made on Sunday & have kept in the fridge. We are eating it with couscous. All I had to do was pop it in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius & boil the kettle for the couscous (1 cup of water for 1 cup of couscous, put it in a bowl, fork through it & pop a plate on top of the bowl. By the time you sit up, it will be ready)
Chicken Casserole
Saute 1 clove of garlic & the white end of a leek in a tbs of olive oil
Add 1kg of chicken casserole pieces and stir around until they are "browned" off
Add a generous dash of cumin & stir around
Add a good splosh of white wine or chicken stock (whatever you please)
Add a good handful of red lentils
Add a heap of chopped up veggies (whatever you have on hand). I put in carrots, sweet potato, beans, peas, zucchini and broccoli.
Throw in some marjoram & thyme & let it cook for about an hour, then let it cool for another night, or eat up!
If it is getting dry, then add a little more liquid, if it is too wet, turn up the heat.
Serve with couscous, pasta, potato, toast, or whatever you please!

Buy seasonal gardening supplies

For those who are unable to get to their local nursery & have a great conversation (the best way) about what is best to plant where & what....there is always the online shopping way. I have just stumbled on an online aussie site Green Harvest Organic that provides info about seasonal, has kits, books, school gardens etc.

Active Transport

Melbourne train cramming, originally uploaded by lantrix.
I'm helping my sister-in-law out for a couple of weeks in her office in the city and have opted for the "Active Transport" option to get there and home.

Benefits are aplenty!
After so long not travelling in peak hour:
1. it is quite fun (yes, it is!),
2. I get to people watch,
3. smile at unsuspecting people,
4. get a little incidental exercise,
5. get to work quicker,
6. cheaper than parking,
7. less fumes for the environment (probably would be even less if I rode a bike, but I don't have anywhere to shower),
8. and occasssionally I see someone I know!

Get into it, walk, run, skate, roller blade, skip, kayak, row, swim, ride, bus, train or tram your way to work! Active transport is good for you & the environment!

Recycle This

Junk Vista, originally uploaded by Jack of Nothing.
Got stuff you don't need anymore? Clear your house & your head of these things and try your hand at getting rid of them by selling or "freecycling" them. It puts them back out there for other people to love and admire, and you get your space back!

One of the Australian websites for free recycling is OzeRecycle.
Ebay is one way to sell as is having your own garage sale.

To Market, To Market, To Save on your Money...

Five different pears - in season now

...and buy the best produce there is to find. Every week you can find us down at the Queen Vic Market buying up big on our fruit and veg for the family (we do buy up big). I have been going there for the last 12 years and couldn't imagine not going there for few reasons.

One is the camaraderie from all the stall holders who have gotten to know me over the years and the recipes that they will give me and hugs and the stories they share
Two is the smell of the fresh produce - nothing beats it
Three is I always know what is in season by seeing the fluctuations in price
Four is that I can choose to get the best of the best by being picky about what I will put in my trolley
Five is the coffee at the end
Six is the borek that I have with it
Seven is all the friends that I bump into there
Eight is knowing that I will not get it any cheaper anywhere else in Melbourne
Nine is coming home with a trolley that I can hardly lift out of the car and knowing that it will all be eaten by the end of the week

using cake stands on cake stands for new season apples

Feed the troops with Spaghetti Bolognaise

I have very hungry boys & I like to feed them good food that will keep them going for a long time and that is also filled with lots of good stuff. As they have been getting bigger, it has been getting harder to fill them up, so I have been having to get smarter about how I do it without busting the budget. This is my bolognaise sauce recipe with a difference - fleshed out and added to, but no flavour has been sacrificed.

Spag Bol to feed a family

Saute in big pot (15 litre) that has about 1 tabs of olive oil:
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
leek chopped finely (you can use brown onion - it give me migraines)
1 kg of lean mince (you don't need all of that fat)

Then add and keep stirring around:
1 large or 2 small grated zucchinis
1 large grated carrot


2 x 800g tins of diced tomatoes
2 x 400g tins of brown lentils
1 big handful of red lentils
1 generous handful of freshly dried oregano crushed
1 generous handful of fresh basil ripped
Give it a good stir & let it come to the boil and then let it simmer for about 20 min - 30 mins or as long as you want. The long you leave it, the better the flavour. Everyone will be begging to eat this. Serve with a grating of Australian Parmesan. Tuck in!

It's all gone to seed

A great way to save of money is to let your herbs go to seed.
You then get many, many more all over the place and they fill in all of the gaps, and you don't have to buy the herbs, or the seeds.
Let them go to seed!

Something else that is worth checking out that a friend of mine, Shell, stumbled upon is this great website, Gardenate. This site guides you through your planting calender for your particular climate zone. You can subscribe to it and get emails about when you need to plant what vegies and herbs...worth a look. If you are in Melbourne, you are in the Australia - Temperate zone. There is information in there to guide you through it. Thanks Shell.

Clear it out & make some money!

Well there comes a time in everyones life when you look around and realise that you are completely surrounded by "stuff". Some of it is good and, some of it is just too much. So this is the time to make the decision as to what you are going to do with it.

It happened to us because we now have an extra house worth of "stuff" in ours due to the emptying out of a grandparent's house, and it is really hard to let go of most of it. That being said, we can't actually keep all of it. So, it is time to clear out. Lots has gone to the op shop, we already had a GS (garage sale) and now, after the third shipment from Wang we are selling some of the "stuff" on ebay.

So if you like "stuff", get into it! If you need to clear stuff out, set up your own ebay account, and sell off. Too easy. Hot tip is: always start at $0.99. Whatever you make from it is more than you would have made if you didn't sell it - don't be greedy because you probably won't sell it. It really is just another way of recycling.

Environmentally Safe Oven Cleaner

I have realised that I didn't tell you how to clean the oven the the cloudy omission. I am sorry. Here it is.

You need:

1 cup of water & 1/2 cup of cloudy ammonia. Mix them together in an oven proof dish or bowl that you don't use anymore & place them in the warm oven for 10-15 mins or longer if the oven is like mine & REALLY dirty. You could always just leave it in overnight & clean it the next day if you can't be bothered.
When done, wipe off the burnt scum and grim with a scourer (use elbow grease...muscles...if you have to) and bicarb.
Give the oven a good wipe over with a clean damp cloth. We use old nappies (nice & soft) cut into 4 and overlocked.

A few things that you need to know about cloudy ammonia. It isn't damaging to the environment and is quickly converted to natural salts, however, the vapours are highly irritating to the eyes and nose. People who have chronic respiratory problems should not use it. Don't use it in enclosed spaces. In high concentration, it attack the lung membranes. Wear a surgical mask when using.

Save Money and Save the Environment Cleaning your Kitchen

When you are cleaning the kitchen, you don't need all of those bottles of cleaners, sprays, sanitisers and sprays. You can keep your kitchen clean and healthy without them and keep the environment healthier, and know that you are keeping your family healthier without all of those chemicals.

You will need a stock of :
  • Bicarbonate Soda (bicarb) - cleansing agent
  • White Vinegar - it has antimicrobial properties & effectively removes soil and mineral deposits such as hard water films.
  • Cloudy Ammonia - use this in the oven as an alternate to the highly toxic oven cleaners.
  • Pure Soap
Tables and Benches
Use bicarb and a fine scourer and a damp cloth to give it a really good clean and then give it a final wipe over with the vinegar.

Sink and Stovetop
I rub the sink with bicarb on a damp cloth for a lovely bright shiny and clean finish. The stovetop may need to have a paste of the bicarb left on the burnt bits for a little while with a very damp cloth to loosen them up .

This just needs a wipe down with bicarb & damp cloth and then finish with white vinegar. I also leave an open box of bicarb inside the Fridge and Freezer to absorb the odours for about 3 months. You could also wipe over the inside with vanilla.

These can be wiped with white vinegar on a cloth & use bicarb first if there is a lot of mess to clean up.

Burnt pots
Put some bicarb in the bottom and leave to stand, then wash. OR Fill up the hot saucepan with cold water immediately, wait for this to cool, then scrape, then put the bicarb in & leave to stand.

I hope this helps your kitchen to smell a little better. If you find you are still reaching for a chemical, email me & I will find a solution for you.

Save Money on Muesli

Make your own muesli and have a healthier household and a healthier wallet.

Meg's Muesli
1.1 kg of whole rolled oats
1 kg of processed bran
500g fresh nuts (crushed)
200g pitted dates, chopped (can be changed with other fruit)
200g dried apricots, chopped (can be changed with other fruit)
small handful of sesame seeds
small handful of linseeds
small handful of pumpkin seeds
small handful of sunflower seeds

Toss this all together and put it into a sealed container & enjoy.

See over here for my toasted muesli recipe.

How to eat cheap organic vegetables

the sticks in the garden were used to fend off the birds whilst the seedlings were little

Yesterday after the kids came home from school, while the wind was gusting around I took the time to fertlise the winter vegetable plants (that are planted in my organic compost and hay no-dig garden beds) so that hopefully they will be a little more productive. I then got a little overexcited and fertlised all of my new bulbs, my herbs, my old tree fern and all of my pot plants.

I used the worm juice from the worm farm (which is the best fertiliser because it is free) and diluted this with water in our watering can, and when I ran out of that, I used Seasol which is an Australian made 100% organic seaweed fertliser.

Such a good feeling knowing that the vegies that you reap have been grown with organic processes.

Snip Snip Snippetty Snip

I snip snipped, chippety chopped the boys hair and my hair on the weekend. We set up the kitchen as our own little salon & put the music on & talked about interesting things that we have been doing. The kids wriggled on their stool. I asked them what they had come into have done today.... Meggie Scissorhands went to work! Then I relaxed & created my own little hairstyle.

Ta Da!

Here are some tips for the home hair cutting.
1. Be brave: hair will grow back

2. Start with small amounts: you can always cut more, but you can't stick it back on.

3. Do what the hairdresser does: you've seen them do it a squillion times, just copy them. If you are doing your own hair, I suggest using one of those bag clips (like the red one in my picture) to hold your hair either horizontally or vertically or diagonally whilst you snip, depending on what effect you are after.

4. Use water: it helps to hold the hair down

5. Get good tools: you will need

a) a mirror,

b) hair cutting scissors,

c) fine comb,

d) bag clip,

e) hair thinning scissors (it helps to "blur" the lines in the cuts),

f) spray bottle of water, and

g) a cape to keep the hair off you

6. A sense of fun: it is a lot of fun cutting your own hair, it is just another way to express your creativity. Get into it

Good ol' fashioned Corned beef

We had corned beef for tea last night and it was a hit. It was really easy to cook & even easier to eat.

about 1.5kg of Silverside from the butcher (any leftovers are great for lunches)
3 cloves of garlic, whole
2 sticks of celery, chopped roughly
6 carrots, chopped roughly
1 onion whole with skin on
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of peppercorns

First of all pop the silverside in a really big pot & cover it with cold water & bring it to the boil then turn it off & discard the water. Then cover it again with cold water & add the vegies & herbs and bring to boil again, then turn down & simmer. Let it simmer for about 1 hour.

Whilst this is simmering, boil up some potatoes and cauliflower to go with the meal and make some white sauce (add a teaspoon of mustard for extra yummy flavour).

Pull the meat out & slice it up & pull out the carrots & celery with a slotted spoon & dish up on the plate. Pour white sauce over the cauliflower & the meat. Yummitty yum. Comfort food.

Granny knows best

Did you see the article in The Sunday Age yesterday talking about how more & more people are harking back to thrifty ways of living? It's becoming more of a norm. It's OK to be thrifty. We don't have to be ashamed of saving the leftovers and remaking them into a pie, or only wearing clothes that came from "handovers" (that's for when you have actually stopped growing and people donate you clothes), op shops or garage sales. 

We are now Proud of Thrift, because it is actually a smarter, more creative way of living. Jump on the bandwagon and join in the fun. This is how our Grandparents all did it and I am sure that it made them better people.

Yummy Baked Beans

This is something that is really filling and warms up the house as it cooks, is really cheap to make, tastes fantastic and fills the house with welcoming homely smells. It is really easy to make and any left overs can be frozen or stored for up to seven days in the fridge (I'm having some for lunch today).

375g dried cannellini beans (or red kidney or borlotti beans) soaked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion diced or 20cm of leek diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 carrots diced
2 rashes bacon diced
2 red capsicum diced
1 green capsicum diced
1 400 gm tin diced tomatoes with juice
2 generous tablespoons ajvar (paprika relish which you can get from your deli)
2 generous tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
enough water to cover the beans
1/4 cup maple syprup (or treacle, golden syprup or honey)
Pop the oven onto 160 degrees celcius. Rinse the soaked beans, put them into a pot covering them with cold water, then bring it to a boil, then strain & rinse with cold water.

Whilst the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a a large cast iron casserole dish and saute onion/leek, garlic, carrot and bacon for 5 minutes, then add the capsicum. Puree the tomato with a stick blender and add to the casserole dish with beans, ajvar, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, sweet paprika, coriander, salt & pepper. Mix well and add enough water to cover the beans by about 5 cm. Put the casserole dish into the oven with lid on & bake for at least 4 hours stirring at least every 2 hours. Make sure that it is not getting too dry, if so, add a little more water and turn the temperature down a little.

After 4 hours, add the maple syrup and any extra salt & pepper if needed. The sauce should be nice & rich by now.

If too thick, add more water.
If too runny, increase oven temperature and continue to cook.

We like to have it with baked potatoes that I pop into the oven 40 minutes before it finishes cooking, coleslaw and grated cheese. What would you like to have with it?

Easy cleaning

I don't really like cleaning & our house is usually chaotic, however, cleaning doesn't have to be a big chemical smelly meltdown. I gave the bathroom a quick once over this morning before the boys went to school and it took me all of 10 minutes to do & I only needed 4 things.

1 microfibre glove

1 old cloth (a quarter of an old nappy)

1/2 cup of borax

1/4 cup of white vinegar

...and a little bit of elbow grease!

The borax (doesn't harm the environment) and vinegar are for the toilet only. I sprinkle the borax into the toilet bowl and then spray the vinegar all around inside the bowl (I have the vinegar in a spray bottle marked "VINEGAR" for any of those dirty marks on the walls etc. It's a really good cleaner.). This I then leave for about 1 hour whilst I do other things in my life (sometimes longer as I often forget about it). After about an hour, I pour a kettle's worth of boiling water into the toilet (don't breath in) and then using the toilet brush, I scrub. Miraculously, it becomes a beautifully white toilet again, and loses the odour of four boys! Hallelujah

The rest of the bathroom gets the treatment with the microfibre glove (any of the bathroom ones that you can get from the supermarket are fine) with cold water & I rub & rub until it is all clean. I then follow myself around with the dry cloth (old nappy) and dry it up. All done. Clean bathroom. Wallah!

"I don't like green soup"

They were the words from our youngest when he saw this bowl of soup last night. After a little encouragement, we get him to take a taste & the next words were, "I do like green".

This is a good soup to make because it is cheap, full of nutrients, quick and easy. If I can make it, anyone can.

We have now christened it Green Soup (it did used to have a fancier name of ...Green Pea Soup)

Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic and about four sticks of celery.
Saute them in a splash of olive oil.
Put a good sprinkling of cumin in the pot & stir it around
Chuck in about 2-3 litres of chicken stock. If you have homemade chicken stock, this would be grand to use, however, bought stuff would be just as good.
Add about 1kg of frozen peas and bring it to the boil

Once the peas are all mushy, blend together with a stick blender
Add a tin of chickpeas or any other legumes
Smash up some pasta (about 300g) and add this too, bring it up to the boil again and then make sure that you stir it so that it doesn't stick to the bottom.
Serve it up with a dollop of natural yoghurt, grating of parmesan cheese & cracked pepper.
Yummy & green

record and save your water

A great way to help save on your water bills is to take a record of your water meter every day in a book. This will create a great awareness of how much water your household is using each day and help you understand when you are using excessive amounts of water. You will need a column for:
  • date
  • water meter reading start of each day
  • total litres used for each day
  • litres used per person (make a note if this changes)
  • extra detail (ie washing, watering, etc)
This is a copy of our book with our scratchy columns - not fancy, doesn't need to be, but it works. It helps us to save water.
What we found is by the simple act of recording the numbers and aiming for 155 litres per person a day, it became a game where we all wanted to achieve the goal. There were days that we were unable to meet it, but it has enabled us to look at the month overall.
There will be three benefits to this. One will be saving water. The second will be saving money and the third will be a real awareness and education about water - especially if there are kids in the house. Get them involved. If they like maths, let them do the sums, graph it...etc, to see how you are going. This is their future. Make them proud of what they are doing in order to save the water. Make it all worth while. It isn't that hard to use less water when everyone gets involved.

If you have concerns that there may be a leak in your pipes at all, you can add another column for a water meter reading at the end of each day to see if there is any water being used whilst everyone is sleeping.
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