Monday, February 23, 2009

Reading and watching

Everyone that knows me knows how I love to read. With the hot weather this summer I have been staying indoors more and have had a great chance to read some terrific books. So I thought I would share a few of my latest reads.

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF VEGETABLES, HERBS &FRUIT by Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar & Bob Flowerdew.

I got this book for my birthday and I love it. It is Australian (there is a UK edition due out soon) so all the plants and climatic conditions refer to here. It is divided into three sections - veges, herbs and fruit as well as a section at the back titled Practical Gardening. This section deals with such topics as planning veg, fruit and herb gards with some great plans, crop rotation, pollination and companion planting, mainenance and weeds and pests.

In essence it is like four books in one. I love the info given to each vege, herb and fruit - species, cultivation, medicinal, culinary, pests/diseases etc. There are lovely photographs and some delicious recipes. I like how the veges in the book are not only the common ones (carrots, tomatoes, cabbages etc) but other lesser known ones such as Cardoon (spanish thistle), Purslane, Samphire, Scorzonera (vegetable oyster). This is a book iI can see myself referring to time and time again. I have already made a list of the fruit trees I want after reading through this book.

ONE MAGIC SQUARE by Lolo Houbein

I found this book in the local second hand book shop. Lolo is encouraging everyone to grow their own veges, starting with one square metre of soil. Houbein includes designs and instructions for more than 30 different one-square-metre plots, including salad, soup, pizza and anti-oxidant plots. One Magic Square is Australian and written for Australian conditions. With chapters describing the vegetables, fruit and herbs that can be grown, as well as sections on compost, pests, mulch and seeds, there is everything included that anyone would need to start growing their own food in temperate Australia. I love how passionate Lola is about her subject. The book is full of wit and wisdom with gems of information—like placing a tile under a developing pumpkin to prevent rot. She writes in a chatty, rambling style. This book will appeal to both gardeners and non-gardeners, encouraging them to take the first step to growing their own nutritious, organic food.


This one I borrowed from the library to read. It is like a How To guide to transforming the average garden into a tranquil eco paradise and wildlife oasis. The author exposes some unpalatable truths about everyday gardening practices, and examines eco-friendly alternatives and their advantages. This book packs a wealth of information on biodiversity, conservation, soil and plant selection – interwoven with personal recollections – into one slender volume. Definately worth reading.

Watching on tv.

A new show on ten (Wednesdays) called Guerrilla Gardeners. A group of six young landscapers and renovators who strike ugly public sites and spruce them up without any municipal approval. Last week they tackled a corner block sandwiched between a train station, bus stop, crowded road with gas and electricity wires and dirt with a very low ph. Too barren to grow anything. They made seating, raised beds with hardy plants, painted the electricity box, made a lovely sundial and bike rack. The transformation was good -very good. I will be interested to watch this weeks episode -evidently there is some sort of strife with the local council.

Also heard of another show on Fox starting up March 29th called ALTER ECO It is a 13 part series about ways people can live a more earth friendly lifestyle. During the series the ALTER ECO team renovate a 1920's house making it green and showcasing new options available to builders/renovators. The house acts as a base for the crew but it also features food and gardening tips, creative ways to make the green shift. Sounds worth a watch.

M xx

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Mmmmm, I love eggplants! This year I planted two different types. Got lazy and brought seedlings. I planted eggplant Bonica which is a F1 hybrid. It produces oval shaped fruit. These have been slow to grow and ripen. But finally I picked the first of these today.

The other eggplants I have are mini lebanese. They grow long and elongated and are great producers. Each plant has quiet a few growing on them.

The eggplants are growing in my front yard vegetable garden, the path in the picture leads to the front door. I have lost count of the amount of people who have asked me what these are. No one recognises what eggplants look like it seems. In this garden I also had tomatoes (all ripped out now), okra (will post about these another day), red kidney beans, basil and a border of thyme. This front yard vege garden was going to be temporary (because Mr Gadget was under the impression that front gardens are NOT for vegetables - too unsightly). But low and hold, he has been swayed after seeing how all the vegetables have flourished here and how peole haven't gasped in shock but have commented that they look great. And of course I was a little bit shifty and planted some of Mr Gadgets favourites here too - the basil, tomatoes and okra. So the vege patch will stay - hurray, I say!
My very favourite way of cooking them is to cut in half length way, rub cut surface with garlic or lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil, season with black pepper and sea salt and then roast in oven for about 20 minutes. Delicious! They are also wonderful cooked on the bbq. And a grating of mozzarella cheese melted on top is a bit divine too.

Monday, February 9, 2009


The bills come in and I gasp at how much health insurance costs, at the latest gas or water or electricity bill. I pay them by the due day and then don't give them too much thought until the next time they arrive in my mail box.

Not today. Today I decided to review my bills and find cheaper options or way to save.

I started with the phone bill. I rang them up after checking online for their best advertised packages. Straight away I found I can save $4.00 each month by electing not to get paper bills and therefore cutting down on admin cost. and also by paying by direct deposit each month. Then I saved further by asking what the best plan was for me. I combined home phone and a mobile and saved a further few dollars each month on phone rental. We have a silent number which costs $2.66 each month but I opted to keep that as is for the time being.

Feeling inspired by the success with the phone bill I decided to check our health insurance. I have a condition that requires me to pay $120.00 each 3-4 months for health aids. These weren't covered under the old plan. But after asking to be insured for this cover the lady on the phoned asked if I stillneeded obstetric cover - my three munchkins are more than enough so the answer was definately no. And since no one suffers from pshyciatric conditions she suggested we stop that part of the cover and add health aids which worked out cheaper. So another success.

Next car insurance and home and contents - I worked out that I wasn't insured enough to cover contents so upped that. Found a cheaper car insurance as we live in a suburb that is deemed safer and I have a good record so that slashed that bill.

Now feeling happier about the days savings I looked at the gas and electricity bills. This summer our electricity bill is higher than it has been for the same periods in the last two years. Not happy about that and I have decided to get back on my bandwagon with the family about saving electricity - simple things like turning off at power points, lights off etc.
The gas usage is good and I have made another aim to reduce the use more.

I have also made a chart of when major bills are due so I am prepared for them. I am so glad I bothered to ring around today and ask if they could offer me better fees and services. It has really paid off.
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