Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grow your blog party January 2015

Hello!  Come on in   ... dont be shy!


I am once again joining with Vicki at Grow your blog to discover more wonderful blogs to read and follow and also to expose my blog to more readers.  thanks so much for hosting this, Vicki,
 I did it in 2013  and it was such fun!

Firstly, an introduction:
My dear hubby and I (my name is Gillian) live in the tropical north- east of Australia.  We both grew up in South Africa, lived our separate lives for 20 years, and then "found" each other 10 years ago.
7 years ago we moved in to a unit with a very small backyard, which was dominated by a huge lychee tree, and nothing else.  Slowly I have added more and more small fruit trees, anything that flowers, and a food forest.  I am lucky enough to be able to tuck orchids into the trees, and they often surprise me with their flowers:

There is nothing I love more than wandering out into the garden and picking some eggplant, sweet potato, ginger, lemongrass, tumeric and a few curry leaves, and then coming inside and making a curry for dinner!  Once that is simmering I will nip out and pick a few salad greens and some cherry tomatoes, and voila we have dinner.  I share some of my recipes on the recipe tab of this blog.



We walk every day, mostly on the beach, and love to explore the local area we are lucky to live in, you can see some posts on the explore the tropics tab.


I hope you enjoy finding out more about life in the tropics from my blog, and I look forward to discovering even more exciting blogs to follow worldwide.  It is a little like armchair exploring.

I love to sew, craft, knit and crochet whenever I get a spare minute.  I like to make things that are useful as we live a clutter free life.  You can find some projects on the crafts tab on this blog. I recently made this quilt for my grandson created from heirloom garments from past generations of his family.  As I was sewing it, I felt that all these women represented would be hugging and nurturing our new little arrival.  I felt truly blessed while I was making this.


 I have two step grandchildren here in Australia and a grandson in America, and occasionally will post about grandparenting from afar.  I really love finger puppets, in person or on skype, in fact any time I am with the grandkids I turn into a rather silly grandma making rhymes or stories about anything and everything.

Sooo.... a giveaway!   I have this set of duck finger puppets, hand knitted by me.
the rhyme goes like this:

Five little ducks went out to play,
over the hill and far away.
Mother duck said quack, quack, quack.....
Four little ducks came running back.
Four little ducks went out to play,
over the hill and far away.
Mother duck said quack, quack, quack.....
Three little ducks came running back.
Three little ducks went out to play,
over the hill and far away.
Mother duck said quack, quack, quack.....
Two little ducks came running back.
Two little ducks went out to play,
over the hill and far away.
Mother duck said quack, quack, quack.....
One little duck came running back.
One little duck went out to play,
over the hill and far away.
Mother duck said quack, quack, quack.....quack quack QUACK......
Five little ducks came running back. :)

 This giveaway is open worldwide, and please just tell me in your comment if you want to enter.  I know it takes forever to go through all the blogs on grow my blog but all the giveaways are to be announced on the same day - February 15th, so make sure you get your entries in.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One year in, an update on my in ground worm buckets

I realized lately that when things are flowing nicely I really dont think about them much.  Point in case is the worm buckets that I started out back in November 2013.
You can read about that here: My start in worm worm farming. Just over a year now, so they have run the cycle through a wet season and a dry season.
I also put some little worm tubes into the wicking beds, but they dont seem to do very much, although I place a few bits of fruit or some scraps into them every now and again.  They might need to be emptied out and re-filled.....

 The in-ground worm buckets on the other hand - oh my!  they are a wriggling mass of healthy fertilizer manufacturers! Here is the one bucket in the sweet potato bed.


I think two are just perfect in my little garden, as I like to have kitchen scraps to put into my compost tumbler as well.  Since I started the buckets I notice the same tiger worms in my compost tumbler, so not sure how they migrated there, but they do make sure it all gets broken down very quickly, and it stays lovely and moist.



I like to collect the kitchen scraps in a newspaper package and then just place it into the bucket.  The worms find their way in and I dont have a problem with other insects like flies or cockroaches.  I also generally have a layer of shredded newspaper on the top of the bucket.   There is always a lot of talk about supplying bedding, but I reckon the shredded newspaper serves that purpose.



I am not sure what all these little white spots are? - are they worm eggs or baby worms?  I think I have the right mix of creatures, bedding and rotting food, as it never smells and I dont have fruit flies or vermin.



 Recently I "harvested" the castings from one bucket and spread it around my hungry plants.  One extra bucket goes back and forth between the buckets as the top layer.  So now the bucket in the perrenial bed has an empty bucket placed on top of the bucket in the ground.  I slowly start to add my little newspaper wrapped food packages, and the worms migrate up to the top layer, leaving behind nice worm castings. The top bucket then becomes the new bottom bucket. I normally just add a few shovelfuls under the mulch to pots, or any plants I feel need a bit of a boost. I dont collect any leachate as that just naturally flows into the ground around the buckets.  I have also used some of it to make a worm casting tea to spread the goodness around.



As the wet season is here I realize I need to drill a few drainage holes around the edge of the lids so that they dont collect water, as we are in a dengue prone area so have to watch out for anything that could contain standing water.
All in all I am really happy with my system, and just so grateful for all the information out there so that we can learn and then adapt our knowledge to our own particular needs.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I made cheese!

I had a cheese making kit from Gavin at the little green cheese on my Christmas wish list, but the local pharmacy had another brand on special so that is what I got.  The day after I got the kit I was busy in the kitchen sterilizing everything and starting my first batch of cheese.  How exciting!  This is something I have wanted to try for ages.

Firstly, this takes time!  You can do something in between, but you are going to keep going back and checking on it.  I used the local supermarket milk - four litres of it, and it just fitted nicely into my biggest pot.


Once the feta was done, I made whey ricotta.  You still end up with a lot of whey and I drank a bit, but it doesnt taste that wonderful. I made the feta brine with whey - it supposedly adds extra flavour.  I used some for soaking beans, that releases enzymes and helps with the bloating that comes from eating beans.  The rest went into the compost.  The ricotta was yummy with some fruit.
I made two nice big blocks of feta and marinaded them in brine for two days, and then removed them, thinking that I didnt want it to get too salty. In the meantime I had been adding it to salads, wraps and even with roasted veggies.  It is so yummy and tasty!  I am not really sure how long you can leave it in the fridge in brine, next timeI will leave it longer, probably up to a week.. I  froze some of the drained feta and that will be crumbled over salads etc.   I also marinaded some in olive oil, with fresh rosemary and lemon zest added.  It is very yummy.   


Feta is one of my favourite cheeses, and I think I will definitely be keeping fresh home-made feta in the fridge and freezer from now on.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

The first Garden Share collective post of 2015!

Happy New Year to all of you!  I wish you all lots of Health, Wealth and Happiness!
Dear Lizzie at  Strayed from the table  has her post up and running ready to link up to.   I really enjoy seeing how everyone elses garden is faring, although I must admit after looking at Lizzies okra I have okra envy - I really thought okra would grow well here, but mine is struggling.
The humidity and heat over the Christmas season was really oppressive, and then over the weekend it rained!  When I aded these stones last year I dug a bit of a ditch on the outer side, but clearly that was not quite enough for the quantity of rain that we have.
 I started to make this path a little lower, hoping that the water would run down there and soak into the ground to be used up by the plants.  I discovered that the asparagus roots are reaching out into the path, so moved the side of the perrenial bed over a bit, but probably need to make another plan, maybe just a skinny little path here.  I also cleaned out the gutters, and cut back some overhanging branches so that the leaves dont fall into the gutters.


I noticed that one of my eggplant is yellow - not sure if it has gone yellow from age or it started out that way.  I might have missed it as I thought that box just had purple ones.
Like this one - I love having eggplant again!  
This is the other kind that I have - little round white ones - I think they are Thai as I bought the plant from a Thai lady at the markets.
 I also have coffee beans :)
My avocado tree is not looking too happy, and I have sweet potato growing as a ground cover over the middle bed.
All my spices are doing well, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric.
The wet season is a time when I dont plant or harvest much although it does look as though I will have quite a few eggplant through the season.  Maybe Lizzie will send me her okra secret and my okra will take off :)  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Christmas and enjoy your time with family and friends

Last weekend I was busy baking and tidying up the garden.  Hubby has erected the new gazebo that we bought.  Almost the same as the last one we had which lasted a good five years, so hopefully this one does the same.
I felt a bit guilty inside with the aircon on, while he was outside in the tropical heat.  We both achieved what we had hoped though, and this week I will be able to give out some of my home made Christmas treats.  Next weeekend I will bake some of the more delicate items to be served at Christmas. These bliss balls are what I have in mind for dessert ..... recipe
A new recipe I tried was the Gingerbread Mocha biscotti:  recipe here at kitchen simplicity.  They are lovely, and perfect with my little teabag idea that I already posted about. Rooibos chai cookies which I dont really have the recipe for as I swayed so much from the original recipe. Here is the original recipe.  I made the chai mix and added it to some rooibos tea, and that was when I decided to add the rooibos instead of the black tea.  The cookies are great, and it was a nice tea to sip while baking. Gingerbread men and trees.  I made a million of them, and had a hard time herding them into the boxes before they ran out of the door :)  Run, run, as fast as you can......

 
 Here are the gingerbread men all dressed and ready to be packed up.  I use royal icing as it sets hard.
 I also made some christmas trees this year with green icing and sprinkles.  The stars are more like blobs, I have no idea what happened to my proper nozzles...

I will be taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks and will see you again in January.

Happy Christmas
and
A Very Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A German Nativity Pyramid in the Tropics

I received an unexpected package in the mail this week.  A pyramid nativity!  It turns!  It comes with love from my daughter who is living in Germany at the moment!  She knows I love nativities, and this is unlike anything I have ever seen before.
The theory is that in a small, cold  draught free room the heat will rise and send the windmill spinning, which in turn will rotate both of the platforms.  At first it wouldn't work - firstly it is hot here, secondly we have the fans going, and at times the aircon, and it is in the middle of an open plan kitchen living area.
My dear sweet patient, persistent hubby has made a plan.  I hope you can see this little video.


It is now a tropical Nativity pyramid!  With the fan on it goes around like crazy - probably too fast, but once the fan was adjusted it settled down to a nice easy rhythm.  
Down the bottom are Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Three Kings.  On the Top level is a shepherd with some sheep.  The craftsmanship is just amazing.  It looks so pretty with the candles lit too!



My daughter sent me this photo, so you can see they come in all shapes and sizes. 


I love seeing all the different ways that people celebrate Christmas all around the world. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Keeping in touch over Christmas

I have friends and family all over the world and love to make some sort of special connection over Christmas.  The best things is to pop something special into a Christmas card.  Something light and flat that can be considered part of the card.   A couple of times I added crocheted snowflakes and angels, once a little felt needlecase.  On my searches I came across this lovely little poem

On Christmas day at
half past three.
Brew yourself a 
cup of tea.
I'll think of you,
you think of me.
Underneath the
Christmas tree.

I loved it immediately - just the sentiment I wanted to express.  My daughter informed me that with all the different time zones I will be drinking lots of cups of tea :)
 I found these awesome little envelopes at Kmart that perfectly fit a little teabag.   They look like the old fashioned aerogrammes and many of my friends have received aerogrammes from me over the years.
I am using the idea for friends locally too and attaching the package and christmas card to some home baked goodies.  I will be baking gingerbread men and christmas trees, chai cookies, gingerbread biscotti and chocolate fudge, also a selection of bliss balls. What are you baking?

We are getting rain!  The frogs are happy :)



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