Scented Rice Pack, Ribbon Gift Bag and Flowering Rosella

Today, I made up an organza bag to go with the hot rice pack I made last week. Well, I don’t think it’s proper organza, just a nice white sheer fabric I’ve had hanging around for ages. I finished it off with some of the new pretty deep pink ribbon I got from Lincraft the other week. My old machine did catch on the fine fabric, so I’ll probably have to get around to that service soon.

To make the scented rice pack, I used a cup of rice (I got 10kg when on special), and added a tablespoon of dried lavendar petals, some dried homegrown marjoram, basil flowers, and lemon myrtle along with a drop of rose fragrance oil. I used more of the soft red cotton material, although I know red is not the best colour for a relaxing eye pack, but it is nice and soft. And it smells simply divine, if I do say so myself! It would be handy as a relaxing eye pack, or you can heat up it up in the microwave for a minute on high to use as a soothing hot pack. Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer to use as a cool pack. These rice packs are very handy to have around!

Flowering at the moment is our new rosella plant which is really taking off in this humid weather. We can’t believe we picked this one up in the bargain bin at our local nursery for only $1! Its got a heap of fruit on it now, and also some optimistic white meally bugs. I sorted those bugs out, so hopefully we will have some fruit to try and make rosella jam in a month or so.

Baby Basils

We have three types of basil growing in our garden, the ‘all-year-round’ variety is doing very well. The sweet basil does not survive the winter, and the thai basil is currently looking a little sad.

Because the all-year-round basil is doing so very well, I researched how to propogate basil, which turned out to be a simple matter of taking some cuttings and putting them in some water. I had these on the kitchen window sill for a week or two, and they madly put out a bunch of roots. This morning I decided it was time to plant them, as the roots were starting to push the plant out of the glasses, making them fall over.

I’ve decided that whenever planting into an empty pot that is black, I shall first decorate it! I find the black plastic garden pots quite depressing looking and have been trying to work out how to paint them. I thought I could paint them with some acrylic paint I have, which turned out to be “epic fail”, as it just washed off in water. Finally, I found some Paint Markers from the newsagent that do the job. This is my first successful plant pot decoration, a very simple red, blue and gold design. Now the healthy basil has two new babies to grow and shelter under its wings.
/awwwwww

Love Sprinkles and herbal Love Tea

I’m working on some herbal combinations, one is a herbal tea and another is some herbs to add to pasta sauce. I’m also working on a mix of herbs to add to a relaxing hot rice pack. All the herbs I’m using come from my garden and, according to tradition, are good for love and weddings!

Marjoram is thought to be the herb for ‘marital bliss’ and should be added to food to strengthen love! It has a very subtle flavour, so it will be the main ingredient of my Love Sprinkles. I’ve read marjoram is best dried, then elsewhere I read it’s best fresh, so who knows? I’ve dried a bunch already by hanging them up in a paper bag. I’ve started to remove some of the leaves to test how it holds its flavour. To that I’ll add a little rosemary, which is a strong flavour, and some flecks of chilli flakes for a bit of spicy passion! These herbs would be good added to pasta sauce or maybe vegetables. I hope to try it out very soon.

For a herbal Love Tea, I use peppermint, lemon balm and pineapple sage. This makes a subtly flavoured relaxing tea. As I used fresh herbs for this, it needed to be steeped quite long, about 10 minutes. Lemon balm is well known as a good herbal tea.

Here are three ideas I’m working on for herbal combinations which are good for love and weddings.

good for herbal tea (Love Tea)
pineapple sage – weddings, wisdom
lemon balm – love
peppermint – love & sleep

good for food (Love Sprinkles)
rosemary – weddings, memory
marjoram – weddings
chilli – passion

good for rest (Hot Love Rice Pack)
lavendar – love & sleep
lemon myrtle – love & sleep
oregano – weddings & sleep


The Herbs in Our Garden

One of my greatest simple joys at the moment is our cute little herb garden. Although it was a challenge to get established, it’s finally starting to become productive.That might be because our companion plants like basil and lavendar are growing nicely and their smelliness is discouraging pesky pests. Taking care of these herbs is a sure-fire tonic for keeping the blues at bay.

Growing your own herbs is a very simple and satisfying way to save money too. If you love good food, you would know having fresh herbs at hand is always best. Buying a bunch of herbs from the supermarket is wasteful, expensive and just not as good as growing them in a pot at your back door and taking a sprig or two as you need it. The absolute essential herb as far as I’m concerned, which is the first one we were able to successfully grow and harvest, is parsley. It’s very healthy, versatile and hardy. But now we have a bunch of other herbs that are turning out to be real joys, for example, having three types of basil and mint on hand is just wonderful!

Here is a quick break down of the herbs currently in our potted garden and what they are good for. Many also have traditional ‘magic’ properties too, which I think is nice to just keep in mind, even if you don’t fully believe in that kind of thing. After cross referencing several websites I found common themes amongst them using various words meaning basically the same thing. So I came up with three practical catergories that are meaningful to me.

aloe vera – skin (burns and rashes), “health”
basil (thai, all-year-round, sweet) – relative to peppermint, antioxidant and antibacterial, add last to hot food, “health & passion”
chamomille – flowers make a relaxing tea, also good for the skin “health & sleep”
chilli – antibacterial, good for nasal congestion, migraine relief, high blood pressure, good in winter, increases metobolism, “passion”
chives (garlic, onion) – like garlic and onions, antibacterial and antioxidant, but milder, fresh is best “health”
coriander – wonderful fresh herb for salads, “health & passion” (weddings)
lavendar – relaxing tea, migraines, insect repellant “health, passion & sleep”
lemon balm (a type of mint) – relaxing tea, stomach aches, pre-menstrual cramps, headaches, overuse can cause insomnia “health & passion”
lemon myrtle (eucalyptus, part of the myrtle family) – a relaxing tea, good for headaches, used in cooking for a mild lemon flavour, antioxidant “health, passion & sleep”
marjoram – food preservative, relaxing tea, good in cooking, upset tummy, headaches, mild antioxidant and antifugal, dried is best, “health & passion” (weddings) “add to food to share with your object of affection to strengthen love”
mint – good with peas, juices, punch, tea, icecream “health & passion”
oregano – antioxidant rich, antibacterial, close relative to marjoram, makes a good tea for nasal congestion, dried is best “health & sleep” (weddings)
parsley – high in iron, good for high blood pressure, tummy upsets and uti, breath freshener, toothache, constipation, detox, salads “health & passion”
peppermint – tea, indigestion, tummy upsets, IBS, cough suppressant, morning sickness, relaxing herbal bath, “health, passion & sleep”
pineapple sage – tea (with lemon balm), anti-anxiety, “health, passion & sleep” (weddings & wisdom)
rosella hibiscus – native bush fruit for making jam “passion”
rosemary – food preservative, cook with lamb, good for upset tummy, relaxing baths, may protect against cancer, use liberally in food, “health & passion” (weddings & memory)

resources
http://www.global-garden.com.au/gardenherbs.htm
http://www.scribd.com/Herbs-and-Their-Magickal-Properties
windspirit57.tripod.com/id4.html
http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html
http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/pagan/articles_magass.htm
http://www.gardensablaze.com/HerbMarjoramMag.htm
http://www.herballegacy.com/Branca_History.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_4436311_oregano-tea-rid-sinus-problems.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtaceae

What's flowering ATM

Although its a small thing, our single bunch of mondo grass is in gorgeous bloom at the moment, and it’s something I think can only be truly appreciated close up! We also have a second clump of miniature mondo grass which is flowering as well. These plants are in the ground and form part of the garden of our rented property.

Something else thats flowering at the moment is our eldest chilli plant, whom is also heavily laden with bright red fruit! It’s quite pretty, imho. I caught David looking up the internet yesterday to find out what can you do with recycled pistacio nuts. Tucking into a couple of handfuls of the yummies must have prompted the idea. He found a forum thread discussing it, which was quite funny (sorry, no link). Apparently, you can even put a small piece of water soaked cotton wool in a shell, place a bean sprout seed on it and wait a couple of days. If you have a bunch of these, you can float them in a dish of water as a table centre piece. The display of tiny floating boats, each with its own mini-tree has, apparently, earnt the contributor much praise from guests. How ridiculous! Do you seriously have nothing better to do with those brain cells? How about devoting that intellectual capacity of yours to World Peace? One of the more practical suggestions was to use it as garden mulch, as they can have the appearance of sea shells. So that’s what we did, and because the chilli was looking particularly spectactular at the moment, I decided he deserved it. And there is even more room in there for the rest of the shells… after we eat up the emerald-green nuggets of pistascio! (nom nom nom)

And I can’t forget our garlic chives, who are very happy nowadays and currently in full flower. No seeds as yet though, from what I can see. I checked the internet for images of garlic chives seeds and they will be little black seeds. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of these new babies so we can plant lots more chives for yumminess!

Also, flowering at the moment is the native grevillea the landlord planted some months ago. Nice, and flushed with colour. How flourid.

Lucky Ladybug Pincushion

Oh yes, according to the pattern, this here is a Ladybug. As the last project of the day, I had to have another go at it because I had trouble with it the other morning and that … bugged me! After two days of reading crochet patterns, surely I’ll be able to do this.

Well, what I was doing wrong had nothing at all to do with the different crochet languages. Like almost all patterns I’ve read so far, this one is English. After the reading of the last two days, when I came back to this one I found it was very simple, just a small round ball really. What gave me the problem was I thought the “sc 3” in  “sc 2, sc 2 in 1, (sc 3, sc 2 in 1)” meant “three single crochet on one hole” which of course is wrong and was why I ended up with a hyperbolic shape. I don’t know why, but after reading crochet patterns for two days, when I came back to this I saw it simply as “single crochet three stitches each in its own space” lol. It’s good to know my feverish production of small crochet projects over the last two days has helped my poor reading skills to improve.

The pattern called for glueing, felting and attaching, but I did none of that. I simply chain stitched the attennae as part of the chain stitch that goes over the top between the two colours, and used embroidery stitches for the eyes, dots and fine line at the back. A very simple project I’m unlikely to do again unless someone requests it as its a bit fiddly, fussy and not a particularly useful object. It felt like a primary school project to me. What practical use for something like this? Either a pincushion or a little critter for the kid’s guest room. On the other hand, if I made this one out of plarn and filled it will plastic, it could go in the garden. We do need a Lucky Ladybug charm for our garden, to eat up all the nasty bugs that the real ladybugs would normally eat, if our landlords hadn’t poisoned them all away. So that’s where I decided to take the foto, in our garden the next morning. I can sense all the nasty bugs quivering with fear at the prospect of a Ladybug moving in!

Lavendar Afternoon

Last Easter, when we visited David’s father and his fiance in Stanthorpe, we stopped by a lavendar farm and got our very own lavendar plant to grow. So far it seems to have adjusted to the climate change (it can get very cold in Stanthorpe). We gave it a good sized pot and put a lucky grow charm at the base. I’m trying to shape it by pruning lightly. I’m supposed to do this after it finishes flowering I know, that’s why there aren’t as many flowers on it as there otherwise might be.  After the flowers finish, I deadhead them and keep the dried flower. It prefer’s a sunny spot and a good water, but doesn’t like to sit soaking.

After the stresses of the morning, I knew I had to take my stress management into my own hands and decided to make a lavendar bag! I made this one in about 30 minutes and did it by hand, not machine, as I did it for relaxation more than anything. It’s quite easy, this is how I did it.
Fold a scrap piece of pretty material in half with the back of the material on the outside, the front facing each other inside.
If a seam of the lip will fray, hem it first using blanket stitch and some matching coloured thread.
Using backstitch hand sew down the side of each of the two edges.
Turn the bag right way out.
Fold a scrap piece of thin white ribbon in half, put a knot in the end.
Sew the half way point of ribbon about an inch down from the top of the bag.
Put some tablespoons of dried lavendar inside and twist the ribbon around the bag to close it.

On one of our trips to Indoorpilly with David’s mum and his sister Michelle, we stopped by the T2 Tea shop, which is full of relaxing teas.  While we were there, some tea cups and saucers fell from a high shelf, as if of their own accord. One tea cup remained intact, so I declared it a lucky tea cup and bought it! I also picked up a packet of dried lavendar from there. Lavendar tea is very good for stress management and soothing migraines. I didn’t know you could drink lavendar tea like that, and through trial and error this is how I’ve come to prefer my lavendar tea.
Add 2 teaspoons of dried lavendar to a small tea pot with a removable mesh cup.
Fill with boiling water for no more than 2 minutes.
While waiting, jiggle the pot!
Test the colour every 30 seconds to make sure its not too strong.
Add 1 teaspon of sugar per teacup of tea before sipping.
Enjoy!

I remember a song my dad used to sing to me when I was little…
“Lavendar blue, dilly dilly, lavendar green.
When I am King, dilly dilly, you shall be Queen.
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so.
Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, who told me so.”
/awwww

Buzzing Bees and Greedy Rats

I’m feeling quite stressed this morning to think we have pests here and our landlord’s only solution is to keep poisoning the crap out of everything!

Three nights ago we noticed something had nibbled at our strawberry plant, this morning it is completely devoured! I’ve mentioned the rodent problem to the landlord before, I’ve seen a large rat on two seperate occasions, so that must be it. We also recently caught a small mouse trapped inside a chip packet in a waste paper basket, inside the house! (We should’ve taken a photo, silly me just released it into the garden). The landlord’s response was to say he’ll lay some rat poison. Well, if he got around to it, it hasn’t worked.

We also have this morning, buzzing outside our house again, a large swarm of bees. This is despite a pest exterminator knocking on our door last Saturday wanting to spray yet more poison. I did express my preference for keeping the poison out of our veggie garden, but the guy was there to do a job. We could see the poison dripping down our walls onto the glass of our kitchen window. And yet the bees return. They must be considering building a nest in between the brick walls, getting in through weeps holes, or perhaps they are already in there. Now I’m worried the landlords will want us to move out because I was slightly difficult with the exterminator last weekend, but I fully realise we can’t have a bee nest within the walls of the building. A beehive laden down with kilos of honey could do structural damage!

Our backyard has been poisoned in the last 12 months at least 4 times now. Once for termites, twice for bees, and another time it was sprayed for weeds, although I did say I could pull them out myself. No bloody wonder we don’t have any lady bugs here. Last winter our plants really suffered from aphids and scale infestations, things that can easily be controlled by natural preditors. But not if they all keep getting killed off by this obsessive compulsion to poison everything.

And who knows what this poison does to people in 40 or 50 years time, or even 20? They don’t think of that, all they think of is to lay poison all around me. It’s like parents poisoning their children because they actually think that will do less harm than a couple of nits! When I was a school teacher I remember our school council having to explain to parents who were washing their kids’ hair in poison every single week that the packet does say ‘do not use more than once every six weeks’ and that they were poisoning their children. But seriously, these parents still believed poisoning their children and making them sick was better than them having nits. No wonder our world is so screwed up.

I’ve found websites that say poison does not remove rats, nor does it solve the problem of a swarm of bees. The best and only solution, some say, is to get specialists in to remove them. But as a renter, I feel trapped as I can not make any choice whatsoever about the amount of poison my garden or my family is exposed to. I have to just go along with whatever the landlord wants to do.

Well, this is one point in favour of home ownership. I don’t know if having a mortgage is worth it, but I really don’t like all this poison when we are trying to grow food in our humble garden.

EDIT:  It’s not even midday and the keen exterminator is back. He didn’t knock on my door this time, just started up his machine. When I heard it, I closed the sliding door that was open to the garden. I’m going to assume he thought I wasn’t home and that’s why he didn’t tell me to close my windows like he did last Saturday, this being a weekday, and not because he just couldn’t bare to face the crazy lady in number 31 again. And so that brings my count of garden poisonings in the last 12 months to 5. /sigh

Good Luck Charms for the Garden

The ritual of placing good luck charms in the garden is a way to remind yourself to do the best you can as it’s caretaker. There is no voodoo or magic involved, other than the magic of self-motivation. I made up a little ceremony where David and I each chose a pebble from the collection of smooth river rocks sitting with my pony-tail palm. We then gave our pebble a peck and wrote the word ‘grow’ on it with a laundry marker. We then chose a plant to pop the pebble under and whispered ‘grow’ as we placed it. There is no witchery behind this, just a little ceremony to help us try hard while looking after our garden and to help us do our best. I believe it is a powerful thing indeed to convince the mind to have faith in something such as a little magical help in the garden.

This pair of lovey-dovey puppies started off the whole business of me placing lucky love charms. They were a gift from my late grandmother, and at the time I really wondered what I would do with such an impractical gift. I was in an unhappy relationship at the time and the significance of these puppies were lost on me. Now, I’m very grateful they take pride of place in our garden.

My granny also gave me a couple of windchimes, one year after the other, perhaps because my response to the first one must have seemed very positive. At the time, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with such things. But now one hangs from the pot plant hook with the newly planted peppermint, which looks as if its going to take off, and some lemon balm for herbal tea. Last spring I saw some crows pulling the coconut fibre from our hanging pots, presumably to line their nests. I hoped the sound of the chime as they tugged at the pot would scare them off, and so far it seems to have worked. But perhaps nesting season is over and the real telling will be if they come back next year. The other small and cute windchime hangs on the back sliding door that opens out to the courtyard. A soft pleasant ringing sound nicely reinforces a trip out into the garden before engaging in some pottering.

After some recent trips to the beach near David’s mum’s house, we couldn’t help ourselves but to pick up some rocks from the sand that we thought looked like love-hearts! Of course, in some cases you need a good deal of imagination to see it, not unlike being able to see things in clouds. But that is part of the fun! One person insists a rock is shaped like a heart, when for another the connection is dubious. We have a few little rocks placed around our garden, that with some stretch of the imagination resemble love hearts. Here are a couple I think look like hearts!

We almost never walk into what we call a ‘junk shop’, shops that sell poorly made bric-a-brac cheaply so those on a tight budget can get some retail therapy. But one day we were on the hunt for ‘lovey-dovey’ stuff to decorate our home, and we found this cute little piece to pop in our garden. I insisted a junk shop would have heaps of lovey-doveyness and I was right!

Here are two more  examples of lucky love charms in our garden. We got the love-heart bird house for $1.79 at Bunnings, it’s so cute! The dragonfly love charm was $2.95 from Turner’s Nursery and sits with our new Thai Chilli plant.

Homegrown Potted Chillies

We are really enjoying growing fresh herbs in our garden, so far we’ve had the most success growing chillies. We have not yet realised the full potential of our potted garden, and are still in the process of exploring what we can successfully grow here and how we can make practical use of the produce we grow.

The chilli pictured was grown from seed we bought from BigW last year so I think this plant must be a year old. We have already harvested it once or twice, this might be the 3rd batch.

Our first harvest was turned into what I called ‘Chilli Toffee’ as it was very sticky, although very nice to put on sandwiches. We removed the seeds to try and grow more plants. It was funny how David told me not to touch the seeds with bare skin but silly me, I didn’t think it could hurt so I removed seeds with my bare fingers while Dave carefully removed the seeds by just using the tip of a knife. Well I suffered for not taking his advice for the next couple of hours, as the skin on my fingers tingled with a hot burning sensation!

The second harvest made a very scrumptious tomato chilli relish, which was delicious on sandwiches and excellent when there were no fresh tomatoes left in the fridge. We want to make future batches with the tiny home grown tomatoes we occasionally get, probably supplimented with some more tomatoes from the shops. We need to relocate the recipe for this yummy relish so we can make more next time!

All of our chilli seeds have germinated very easily, a lot easier than any other types of plants we’ve tried to grow from seeds. A couple of batches of chilli fruit have yielded more seeds which we collected and planted, not thinking so many would take. Now we have many chilli plants after only about 12 months!

We have so many chilli plants, some should have festive-coloured fruit in time for next Christmas, which would make excellent gifts for those who like chillies and cooking. Even if they don’t, they make quite a handsome plant for the garden.

On a recent trip to check out a new nursery for us called Turner’s Nursery we saw an excellent Thai Chilli plant which looked very happy and was full of bright fruit, so we bought our own to bring home in a pretty ceramic pot! I put the dragonfly charm we bought there in the pot for goodluck!

Chillies enjoy a sunny position and don’t like to sit in water. The small square pot above comes with a tray which I detach and turn upside-down so it doesn’t hold water. We also give the chillies a light seaweed fertiliser when we do the tomatoes. For more details on growing chillies check out these websites
Tropical Permaculture – chillies
ABC Gardening Australia – chillies

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