Tuesday, December 30, 2008


In our garden we have 12 palms. They are planted in a cluster around the pool area and are all mature and tall. So tall that now when the palm fronds die it is impossible to reach them without a ladder. Two of the palms are Bangalow Palms and have self shedding leaves but the rest don't. Now if I was planting palms I would choose all self shedding varieties because it is a pain in the but to cut the dead ones off. Eventually, after a few months they break off the tree and come crashing down to earth. By this time they are very hard and dry. The palm fronds are are real nuisance. They are too big and woody for the compost and take hurculean strength to cut through them. But on saying that I do love the palms, I love laying in the pool and looking up at them and imagining being on a tropical holiday.

Up until recently the fronds used to get broken up and put into the compost or we would wait until there was a bulk garbage colection and put them out for that.
But now that I am now longer throwing garden waste into the bin (gulp) I have found a use for them.
They are the retaining sides to my no dig garden beds. As more fronds fall down I raise the sides. I am working on my third no dig garden now. All green waste like fern fronds, grass clippings and other prunings gets thrown into the bed.

Speaking of the beds, the no dig garden beds are going wonderfully. The first one I made is growing pumpkins and there are a few pumpkins growing nicely. The vines have gone crazy and are rambling everywhere.
The second no dig garden has watermelon growing. In the photo above you can see the pumpkins at the back and a watermelon plant towards the right bottom of the photo. There are more plants there no since this photo was taken. No watermelons yet but the plants are growing nicely.
The no dig beds are on the other side of the fence (not our land but a council walkway/reserve). There is no water supply other than rain but every couple of days I have been taking a bucket or two around the side and watering them. Mainly though they are going well with the little rainfall we have had.

I am so pleased with this reclaimed area being put to good use. And I am dreaming of all the pumpkins and watermelons.

M xx

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have never tryed growing gourd before. So this year I brougth a packet of seeds from Eden seeds. They were easy to grow from seeds. I grew 8 seeds and planted four into the side garden.
The side garden was an unused area - tree prunings, lawn clippings etc would be thrown into this area. Soon weeds grew over the rubbish and then nasturiums grew covering the heap. Finally Guitar Dude decided this garden area would be his. So full of very short lived enthusiasm he levelled the area, weeded and dug over the soil. He dug in dynamic lifter and ocvered the new bed with mulch. Then after doing the hard work he left the garden bed for me. So in went the 4 gourd seedlings. And along with the nasturiums they have covered the area.
Some of the leaves of the gourds have powdery mildew. When it gets cooler this afternoon I am going to remove the worst affected and throw them in the rubbish bin. Then spray the plants with the mixture below. I haven't used this spray before so will let you know if it works.
1 tbs baking soda
1/2 tsp liquid soap
1 tbs oil
1 gallon water ( being of the metric era I had to look up a conversion and 1 gallon is 3.78 litres)

I have a number of gourds growing. I have no idea how big they get or what to do with them. I know people dry them and carve them and turn them into bowls and bird feeders and other ornamental things. But I don't know when to pick them or how to dry them or how to carve them. Any ideas would be welcome.
In this garden bed I have also planted 4 rhubarb plants. And they are all thriving. I am very happy about this. Growing up in Tasmania we always had rhubard growing in the garden. It seemed to love the cold and thrived down there. So I assumed that rhubarb wouldn't grow here in Newcastle and never bothered trying it. MMM - I am looking forward to rhubarb and apple pies.
And in my seed raising area I have these red kidney beans growing very quickly. Also cherry tomatoe seedslings, chilli and some more watermelon seeds too.

M xx

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creating Memories

This time of year is so very busy. We have had Christmas concerts, morning teas, presentation days at the boys schools (I have one at high school, one in primary and one in preschool) , parties ... and the list goes on. I have visited the shops more times than I would have liked buying presents, food etc. While I love this time of the year I also look forward to the pace slowing down a bit.
I really do enjoy this time of the year. The thing I enjoy the most is the creating of memories and the continuing on of traditions. I want the boys to look back on these years and have very fond memories of fun family times and warm fuzzy memories.

There are things we do year after year at Christmas time. We put up the tree and decorations as a family.
I get out all the craft things - papers, glue, glitter, stencils etc and the boys make Christmas decorations. This year the two youngest spent a whole afternoon cutting out stocking shapes and gingermen shapes and decorating them.
I have an advent calendar with a treat in it for each day of December. Each morning the boys check it.
We make lots of delicious Christmas yummy foods like rum balls, Christmas rocky road, ginger bread men. Guitar Dude is a whiz in the kitchen and often gets in there and cooks. He uses every bowl and every spoon and makes a hell of a mess but the end result is usually delicious.

Of an evening we go for walks around the area to admire everyone elses Christmas light decorations. We don't put up outside lights so we walk the streets looking and admiring other peoples homes.
The boys make or buy each other and their grandparents Christmas presents. Mr Gadget and I really want them to enjoy the giving as much as the recieving. They take this very seriously and have made some wonderful gifts over the years.
We go to Carols by Candlelight each year at the local park and watch the fireworks.

Christmas day is sometimes here with just our family, sometimes with Mr Gadgets great big family and sometimes we travel to my families. But no matter where we are santa comes and leaves them a present by the end of their beds.

The other presents are opened later in the day one by one. We read the labels and a helper hands out the presents. There is no mad rush and ripping open of presents first thing of a morning here. We play games together and eat too much.

I have such wonderful memories of Christmas and so does Mr Gadget. His favourite memory is of playing cricket, Christmas afternoon at the beach. Mine is the delicious food and family time. I dont remember any specific presents and neither does Mr Gadget. I hope our boys will have equally fond memories too when they are adults.

How do others celebrate? What special traditions do you follow?

M xx

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I first tasted Dukkah about a year ago. For those that have never heard of it -it is a delicious Egyptian spice blend made by mixing toasted nuts and spices. Traditionally it is eaten as a snack by dipping flat bread into extra virgin olive oil and then into the spice mix.

It is delicious!
So after a bit of experimenting I have made some for Christmas presents with a little help from my very eager assistant Super Boy.

Here is my version of the recipe.
1 cup pistachio nuts
1 cup almonds
2 tbs dried parsley
1 tbs mixed herbs
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp five spice
1 tbs coriandr seeds

Roast nuts in a hot oven for 15 min., mix often to ensure they don't burn.
Roast seeds.
Cool nuts and seeds.
Process in a food processor and combine with other herbs and spices.
Store in sterile glass containers.
This recipe made 2 1/2 jars.

M xx

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