Colourful ABC 123 Cube for a Baby

Here is an upgrade of my first attempt at a baby block. This one is for a gift, as we are part of a Kris Kringle this year. This cube has numbers and letters on it, as well as a bell inside to make it jingle!

I find our culture of gift giving at times very challenging. I’d rather give gifts as a matter of course, when things arise that someone needs or wants, then you give it to them if you can. I don’t like having to wait for a special occasion, then there is this culture of having to give a gift,  giving gifts the receiver does not need or want. This, in turn, increases the consumerism and rubbish that piles up on our planet. But unfortunately, I am a social creature, being a mammal and all, so I’m compelled to participate in this ritual and not cause offence to my friends and family. But sometimes I just wish we would get more practical with this gift giving thing! I think even gift vouchers are better than an unwanted gift, but for some people this is not in the spirit of it, and they don’t like it. I just loathe to see people on modest incomes waste their money on expensive gifts that are not needed.

A month or so ago we had a hail storm here in Brisbane, which caused some damage to the roof of my friend’s house. She lost her potted basil plants, so a perfect gift for her (I think, anyway), is a new basil plant! I took a cutting from my youngest plant, and put it in a vase on my kitchen sill. Now it has lots of nice new roots and is ready to plant in a nice pot. I just have to get some more potting mix and it will be ready for its new home.

Yet another Christmas, here we come!

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Our Potted Garden, Spring Update 2011

Every spring I like to do an update on our potted garden, to look back and see what has survived the winter. Each year, we’re learning which plants are worth investing effort so we get as much enjoyment out of our garden as we put in. Here’s a link to last year’s update. During last summer, our baby son arrived 2 months early and I was also very ill, so our garden was severely neglected. But some plants really hung in there and have perked up after some recent tender care. The pumpkin and chamomile didn’t survive the winter though, and a new addition that’s been a success so far is the capsicum!

BASIL
I still have the three bushes of all-year-round basil. The eldest just doesn’t seem to want to give up, I keep removing the flowers, it keeps going on. Last summer the basil was very neglected and ended up very scrawny. I pruned it harshly, and now the three bushes are looking much better, even the eldest is still producing fragrant leaves. This is a surprise, as it must be 3 years old by now. The second season of sweet basil that the landlord Rose gave me finally died, but David’s father gave us some basil seeds planted in a pot when they last came to visit. These are now sprouted and David has planted the biggest of these into pots, we now have several new sweet basil plants for this season.

CAPSICUM
We collected some seeds from some capsicums and planted them in some pots. The strongest of the seedlings were planted into bigger pots, three to a pot. Now they are growing  fruit for our cooking! David keeps up the seaweed fertiliser on these, as with all the other flowering plants, to encourage them to keep fruiting and stay healthy.

CHILLIES
We’ve discovered to keep the chillies really happy, they simply need to be re-potted into new compost rich pots every year. We had several 2 and 3 year old plants that were looking terribly miserable and sure to die, we replanted half of them and they have done amazingly in a very short time. There are 3 very small 2 year old plants left that are in desperate need of a re-pot, which we hope to do this weekend. Even when they are scrawny, they still keep producing the red fruit so we always have some for our cooking. David’s father gave us a new variety of chilli plant, which now has its own large pot and is doing exceptionally well and is full of white flowers.

CHIVES
When the garden was being neglected, the chives suffered from a terrible case of a pest infestation, we think they were tiny black aphids. David had to spray them several times with pyrethrum until now they finally have perked up to their former happy selves. The problem though is that I’m guessing its because of that they haven’t flowered this year. Hopefully they will flower next season so we don’t loose our crop. David’s father has also given us some new chives, so we should be ok.

LAVENDER
After I pruned it last year, it has grown back and is flowering nicely, but now has some more branches growing in odd directions. It looks like it needs another prune, but I’ll wait till after the summer to do that. No cuttings of this bush have ever taken, so I still have just the one plant which is now 3 years old.

MINT
The mint was not happy at all after last summer, we lost the lemon balm and also the peppermint that was in the same pot. Luckily I had some peppermint in another pot and that is going fine. The mint looked awful, so we bought a special pot for it, a self watering one, because it really wants to be in the sun but also to be kept moist. Now the mint is doing great! These mints all used to be in hanging pots, as well as the strawberry, but we’ve given up on the hanging pots. They were the kind that has a coconut fibre lining which turned out be way too dry, all the moisture just seeped right out. The lining has been thrown into the garden for the birds, in case they want to use it to line their nests like they did last spring, and the metal cases are stored in the garage. Maybe one day we’ll live somewhere where they’ll come in handy.

PARSLEY
I don’t know what to do with our parsley! Its become very thin, with just a few individual plants, it doesn’t seem to be reproducing. It was supposed to flower and seed, which it has never done, and some of it is now 3 years old. David’s father has given us some new parsley so hopefully that will grow a bit better. Its so sparse at the moment that we can hardly use it in our cooking.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I still only have the two plants, one of each. They are looking very modest, but at least they survived last summer! They are now out in the sun with the rest of the plants. We’ve put all our pots where they can get rain, so no more pots under the roof. The oregano and marjoram are still in the same small pots on the shelf, which is now by the fence where they can get some sun.

DWARF LIME TREE
David’s mum helped him prune the lime tree when she visited us in the summer. This spring, it has sprouted shoots all over, even in the bare section that’s persisted all this time. Last season we did get a few more limes than the 3 we got the year before, and these got used in David’s cooking, mainly his spaghetti and meatballs. We lightly top dressed it again this winter, as we were just not brave enough to prune the root ball. Looks like it is doing fine without us doing that!

ROSEMARY
The rosemary is doing so well that I decided to invest in two new big pots for them. These plants seem very tough and managed the major neglect just fine! They were just kept in the sun the whole time, had good drainage, and didn’t complain at all.

ROCKET
Our amazing crop of rocket seeded in the winter, and we just finished collecting the last of the seeds. We have many, many seeds from the rocket now, it did so well. Now we don’t have to always wait for the rocket to flower and can keep up new crops for eating. I’m looking forward to making some salads, instead of just having rocket on sandwiches.

TOM’s GARDEN
When David’s dad visited us, he brought with him many seedlings from his home in Stanthorpe where he grows his own food. He also made a special planter box for Thomas with all sorts of plants in it, like beetroot and broccoli. There is lettuce and spinach, which we eat and there is plenty for us, as well as David has used the shallots in his cooking. Its busting with plants right now, and is a great addition to our potted garden.

Homemade Quilt for Thomas

On the weekend, we got a visit from Nanna and Poppy (David’s dad Brian and his wife Freya) and they came with many gifts, including this special handmade quilt for Thomas!

How very special this quilt is, including a lively print of playing frogs and a print of blue hearts. I’m sure this quilt will get some use, probably in the cot as it’s a bigger size than a bunny rug. Freya is very good at making lovely quilts. I think they would be too tricky for me to try, whenever I cut material it always comes out wonky. And once you cut it you can’t save the material. That’s why I like to crochet, any mistakes I make I can just undo and retry. I guess everyone gravitates towards the crafts that suite them the most.

Besides the quilt, Nanna and Poppy also brought a lot of fresh produce from Stanthorpe, including these tomatoes and zucchinis home grown in their very own garden. We’ve already eaten some in the few days since their visit, but I’m a bit worried that some might waste there is so much! They also gave us several jars of home-made pickles, again using fresh veggies from their garden. It must be so satisfying to eat from your own garden. I know it is and our own garden only has herbs and a lime tree!

They also brought this lovely posey of roses from their garden, now my kitchen smells like roses again! It’s a pity they live so far away, it’s a long three hour drive one way. Hopefully we’ll see nanna and poppy again before too long.

Racey Rocket!

David and I are so very keen on our rocket this year! Last year we had just 6 plants from a nursery which seeded at the end of summer. We planted those seeds and are now starting to harvest our first crop! <<< Here is a photo of those very first 6 plants we bought from the shop. We didn’t get much harvest from these 6 little plants, but we did enjoy immensely what we did manage to get.

When they seeded I carefully harvested all the seeds and put them in a brown paper bag to wait for the next spring. We ended up planting them on Sunday 24th October. They astounded us by shooting up within three days of planting, the weather was very warm and humid at the time. Here are our rocket babies at 5 days old. >>>

<<< But alas! Grubs were eating our rocket by 3 weeks! We decided the safest, healthiest way to remove them was by hand. The rocket should be ready to eat in just a few short weeks and we really didn’t want to put poison on it! The grubs were a pretty green colour the same as the leaves so they were hard to spot. In the end we found them all but it took a few days, we guess we found about a dozen grubs.

>>> Here is our rocket at 4 weeks, you can lightly run your hand across the leaves and the smell of fresh rocket wafts up to you straight away. Its very fragrant and fresh. We made a chicken wire cage at week 4 in case any bigger predators like birds or lizards decided they wanted to eat our rocket. It’s sitting on our outdoor table at the moment, so we can keep an eye out for any more grubs!

<<< At 5 weeks our rocket looks good enough to eat, so we did! It’s best you don’t leave it too long, or the leaves get too bitter. But we like the peppery taste to the crisp leaves. It’s just so much nicer to pick a few leaves of greenery from the garden as you want them, better than buying a lettuce from the shop and having it wilt on you the very next day. I hate buying lettuce, it just seems like such a waste. Over the last 5 weeks, I think David fertilised a couple of times using an organic seaweed mixture.

>>> Here is our very first lunch with our first rocket of 2010! My sandwich is the one with the cucumber, David hates cucumber! What’s up with that? Who knows, but at least we both love rocket!
/nomnomnom

Aloe Vera and other succulents

I have a modest collection of succulents, including some thriving aloe vera from Freya and Brian’s garden in Stanthporpe. They’re so easy to grow and take no fuss at all.

Aloe vera is an essential plant for any herb garden, as it’s just so easy to grow. You just basically chuck a bit in a pot and pop it in a sunny spot. And if I ever have the poor luck of pulling something out of the hot oven anytime soon, I’m almost guaranteed of burning my hand, so a little aloe vera can help. Although I haven’t had a chance to try this out yet, as David likes to do all the cooking at the moment, which is just great of course! Apparently you can break a leaf off and use the clear juice from inside to rub on the burn to give relief. This plant is the major ingredient in the aloe vera gels I used when I got sunburnt when I lived in the territory. You know, back in the days when I didn’t have a vitamin D deficiency!

This jade money plant is very special. It was one of three plants left by my grandmother, one went home with my mum, one with my aunty and I got the third. I think my mum’s plant has been eaten by her pet peacocks! I haven’t done anything to this plant, just the occasional light fertiliser, and it prefers full sun. These plants are considered to be lucky for prosperity, due to the shape of the leaves, which is said to resemble coins and money.

I’m not sure if a ponytail fern is technically a ‘succulent’, I don’t think it is, but I keep it in the same area because it prefers the same conditions – full sun and not too much water or fertiliser.  I used to have a big ponytail plant in Darwin which I bought as a tiny plant in 1990, and carted it around for nearly 15 years so it grew quite big. In the mess that became my life when I left, I think my ponytail plant ended up in the garden of my friend’s house which she sold during that period of time. This plant I have now is a special consolation, it’s a pair bound together and they have actually produced an offspring which now has it’s own pot.

The other succulents I have are plants that have kind of ‘migrated’ to our potted garden, and thrived, most coming from Dave’s mum’s garden. These plants are very hardy, and other than the aloe vera and the jade money plant, I don’t even know what they are! They seem very prolific too, taking to a new spot without any fuss at all. Sometimes, I simply put cuttings  and shove it in a pot with the other succulents, not even bothering to plant it in, and it still takes! Our other plants which need more care have decided they would not grow in pots that are too dry and hot with too much sun, so I have shoved some of these succulent cuttings in there to fill the fallow spot!

I am also trying some small cuttings of these in two bonsai pots I have, and they seem to be going well. I planted a tiny piece of jade money plant that broke off last year into the green bonsai pot, and it’s slowly growing and will make an attractive bonsai plant. I will have to learn more about repotting bonsai at some point, as the roots will become bound. The root ball will need pruning at some point, hopefully later rather than sooner!

If anyone knows any common names for these other plants, please let me know! These cosmetic plants I tolerate in our potted herb garden, only because they are so very easy to grow, take no fuss at all and fill empty fallow spots where other plants won’t grow.

Our Potted Herb Garden, Spring 2010 Update

My spring update for our potted garden is a bit late, as summer feels like it’s already here! Here I like to keep a note of what the garden is doing, what’s flowering now and how it went over the winter. This information is specific to where we live, on the mid-east coast of Australia in Brisbane.

What didn’t last the winter? Well, we have decided that as a potted garden, we shall only grow that which wants to be grown and will not fuss over ‘sooky’ plants anymore! The rosella we picked up for $1 died after one crop, as good as it was, we got just one jar of jam out of it! We have also decided to give up on tomatoes. For all we have heard about how easy they are, we have not found that. It may well be they just need too much fertiliser to make the crop worthwhile. This is why we’ve decided to not bother with most fruit and vegetables, and to concentrate mostly on herbs. Herbs have given us the most success, are easier and cheaper to grow, are more suited to a potted garden and give us the most joy. Also, the cost of growing herbs is much better than buying them fresh from the shops, which can be expensive.

BASIL
I was expecting the sweet basil to die right back, but it now has some young shoots at the base, so after some pruning, it looks like we will get another season out of it. I have now three pots of all-year-round basil including 2 large bushes, which all seem happy and look to last. Although the eldest is showing signs of age with smaller leaves, I do still remove all the flowers to see what it will do, and these flowers are still very fragrant and are used in our cooking.

CHILLIES
Most chillies in our potted garden seem very happy, returning a good crop even in the smallest of pots. We use the red fruits in our cooking, well that is, David does! He makes a most excellent chilli jam with it. A few of the smaller seedlings did die over the winter, it may have been due to where we had them. I’ve moved them near the rosemary and lavender, as these are good companion plants because their scent confuses pests. The chillies like full sun and don’t like to sit in water. We are hoping to try capsicums this season, as they are related to chillies so we should (hopefully) have more success with those than with the tomatoes.

ROSEMARY
Our second rosemary plant had a case of white mould just like the 1st plant did last winter, so I treated it the same way by rubbing off as much white as I could and made sure it was getting full sun. It’s now looking happier, I’ve also staked it to stand more upright, and I’ve planted a 3rd shoot for hopefully another bush. Our eldest rosemary plant is looking much happier this year, I’ve been pruning it into shape nicely, and it’s giving us a good crop for kitchen herbs.

POTTED DWARF LIME TREE
The lime tree had some yellowing of leaves at the base which turned out to be a vitamin deficiency so we treated with extra fertiliser. Also, we were more vigilant with making sure excess water is tipped out of the base, as citrus hate to have their roots sitting in water. We did some minor top dressing this spring, gently removing as much soil from the top as we could and replacing with some fresh potting mix. The roots do look quite bound, so we will have to prune the root ball next winter, which I am very nervous about. When the tree was up against the fence a whole section of leaves went strangely missing. I guessed it was a rodent nibbling on it so moved it away from the fence and we haven’t noticed any more mysteriously missing leaves.  At the moment, the lime tree is flowering, and it also has some tiny fruits developing. To keep the tree happy during this fruiting we really need to maintain the fertiliser, and watch the water. We pull it under the cover when it rains so it doesn’t get too much, and pop it back out into the sun. This seems to keep him happy, at least for now. Last season we got just 3 fruit of it, we’re hoping we get a bit more this season.

CHIVES
The chives seeded late last summer, so I collected them and planted them out in early spring. One of the older pots also got pulled open and re-potted in spring. The chives do very well in the sun, those in smaller pots need more water. David really likes to trim a bit off for his cooking, they go especially well in his dumplings and dampers, and because we have a fair bit now, he can chop a bunch off without any worry.

ROCKET
Last summer we bought one punnet of rocket, which had 6 individual plants. These got planted, and provided us with a very modest crop in the summer. It was so very pleasant to have fresh salad leaves on our sandwiches, we only wished we had more. Thankfully they all seeded late in summer and into the winter, so I diligently collected the seeds. About 3 weeks ago we planted about half of our stash of seeds in a new, large rectangle planter box. We couldn’t believe our eyes when within 3 days the shoots started to appear! The weather had been humid, warm and wet. Now we are very hopeful to have a more substantial rocket crop for salads this summer!

PUMPKIN
With several small pots fallow due to the plants that didn’t last the winter, we popped some pumpkin, watermelon and capsicum seeds in to see what would happen. So far the only thing that has appeared is this gainly and enthusiastic young pumpkin! Like the rocket, this handsome specimen appeared within the week. We are thinking we might be game enough to just chuck him in the ground, middle of the courtyard. What else can we do with a pumpkin? He needs to grow across the ground, doesn’t he?

MINT
The mints spent the winter out in the garden sun, but when the heat returned we popped them back in the shade. Since being moved to their summer spots, the mint has perked up, as has the lemon balm and peppermint. We just have to keep the water up on these and they will be happy there.

PARSLEY
I thought the parsley would flower and die off, but it hasn’t. It’s just bubbling along not doing much at all. I still have 3 pots of that and it doesn’t seem to have changed.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I pruned these when they got too big for the small pots I have them in, and they look quite attractive. I wash and dry, then de-stem the cuttings for our kitchen. They prefer sun, so I put one of the oregano plants in a pot we had hanging on our fence, but it was too dry, the pot didn’t hold enough moisture and the plant died. These might prefer sun, but they also need regular water, especially if they are in small pots that dry out. I’ve since started again with that pot, emptying it and lining it with a plastic bag. Then I chucked in some cuttings of the hardy cosmetic succulents that have ended up here from David’s mother’s garden. They can try their luck in that pot as nothing else likes to grow there!

LAVENDER
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how harshly to prune my lavender bush. I pruned it too hard last summer and didn’t get much flowering, so left it and now it’s been flowering fairly steadily for several months. But it’s getting quite big and hanging down below the pot and leaning over in what appears to be a very uncomfortable position! I’m waiting for it to stop flowering so I can prune it back. None of the cuttings I’ve tried to plant have taken. That’s a shame as I’d prefer to have a backup plant or two, as I just love having lavender in my garden!

CHAMOMILE
This is one very lucky plant indeed. When we got it last summer, it was part of a punnet of 4 which included the peppermint which was what I really wanted, and the chamomile was looking very droopy and sad. I had a spare pot left over at the end so gave it a chance and popped it in that. It’s now a year old, and has been in a sorry state. It’s had a case of persistent white mealy bugs, well that’s what I think they are anyway. But it didn’t die and seemed stunted, it’s stems growing in twisted bunches curling back upon itself. David has been occasionally spraying it with confidor, and just recently it decided it should perk up, which was a surprise! And now at last, the plant is showing it’s first flowers on a long normal looking stem, after having a good old boohoo for 12 months! It’s lucky, because we had decided not to fuss over high-maintenance plants, so we shall see how this one goes. Maybe I will be able to make my own chamomile tea afterall!!

Birds of Paradise

I made this mosaic hotplate at a community craft group about 4 years ago. It cost me $10 to attend and the materials were supplied. When my sister saw it she said ‘what is it?’ LOL! Why, it’s meant to be a bird of paradise, of course!

I’d like to try mosaic again one day and plan to keep shards of broken ceramic to use for it. I don’t see the point in buying over priced new materials to make things with designs that were origanlly intended to recycle scrap.  So if any of my nice coloured ceramic breaks, or should I say ‘when’ as glassware afterall is a consumable if you use it, I will try and put it aside.

Throughout the summer many clumps about our garden sprout spectacular birds of paradise. I took some photos of them to enjoy, some with our resident birds who hang around! Whenever these are flowering, we try and put some fertiliser on them regularly, liquid fertiliser should be applied every fornight while flowering. It encourages them to flower more!

I hope you enjoy my images of birds of paradise!
❤ ❤ ❤

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