Thursday, 29 January 2015

What Sherri Did - In January

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

In General

I have had a couple of meetings with work this month regarding a 'return to work plan'. I also had to obtain an updated medical certificate from my specialist which took about a month to come through.  My GP has reviewed and approved the return to work plan. So I am due to make a staged return to work beginning February.

My niece came to stay the long weekend. One of the activities she enjoyed very much was hand sewing. The inspiration for the activity came from this blog.  I bought some brightly patterned material from Spotlight and my niece sewed around the objects on the material.  I found this activity thanks to a link on Nanna Chel's blog Going Grey andSlightly Green.  Many thanks Chel, my niece really loved this activity, and I wouldn't have found the activity without your link.

I also had other activities planned, but it was too hot for many outside activities. Renese hosed our dog a few times to cool her down, and we went for a walk into a local environmental park to take some photos. We did a little bit of cooking together and I gave her a new book. The book was one of the Famous Five books.  I also had the first set of the Little House on the Prairie series and she watched a few episodes. However the sewing activity was the big hit of the weekend and she kept returning to that.

 We celebrated Australia day with family and friends by hosting a BBQ Australia Day brunch. I think next year might be a buffet brunch rather than a hot brunch.

I created my own bullet journal to help keep me organised and so I remember things. You can find out all about bullet journals here.  The website recommends a certain type of book to use for the journal. I prefer to use an A4 exercise book, I also bought a cover for it at the same time so it would look prettier. I also use post it notes tabs to help me find certain pages easily. And I use other post it notes for carry to the shops info - like grocery lists, or garden centre lists. I have only been using this system for a few weeks but it is working well for me.

I bought some small white plastic baskets for my pantry. I am storing my unopened packet goods in the baskets. It really has tidied up the look of my pantry.

I was dismayed to read that health insurance costs could increase this year by up to 7%.

I haven't done much at all in the garden this month. It has been way too hot and muggy and energy sapping.

Thriving through thrift

This is probably something many people do, I keep used envelopes and use them as jotter paper. I write notes to my husband on them, or shopping lists etc.

This month I bought bulk supplies of washing powder (on special) , plain flour, and tomato sauce. I bought extra coffee, toothpaste and ice-cream due to specials, some being half price. I also bought milk powder to make up for cooking, so when a recipe calls for milk I add made up powdered milk.

I had a lot of eggs on hand so I made my lemon and coconut slice which takes six eggs.

My husband really likes corned silverside. The other week after cooking a piece I decided we were going to have a lot left over and it might go to waste. So I made some meat paste for sandwiches by dicing surplus corn silverside and whizzing it in my food processer with some diced onion, and some tomato chutney. Which has got me wondering what other ingredients could I turn into sandwich paste? Hmm I ponder, as my sister used to say when she was little.

Last Friday I bought a second hand book on freezing foods and cooking for the freezer which will be a big help to me.

My husband Don and I found a new to us second hand/antique store that sells a lot of tools and garden equipment. I bought a light, second hand garden hoe at a great price and the owner gave me the book I was going to buy at no charge. The book was  Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Simple Abundance – a day book of comfort and joy”.  Have you ever read it? It is a wonderful book. I gave this copy to my sister as I have had my own copy of the book for many years .

I learnt how to crochet granny squares by following along with a youtube video. Many years ago I taught myself how to crochet around the edge of doilies that I had embroidered but I never really went any further with crochet. Hopefully I will be able to increase my crochet skills and go on to make some clothing at some stage in the future. This is the youtube video   Please note that American crochet is slightly different to the instructions given in this video.

We bought the second hand bar stools I mentioned in an earlier post.

I bought my niece a new quilt cover set at Spotlight. It was on sale the price reduced from $89 down to $15. I also used this example to talk to my niece about wise spending.

Certificate iv in Permaculture

  • I have submitted an assignment/paper my property's ecosystem including information on regarding energy flow, food chains and webs.
  • I have submitted another assignment/paper on ecology - habitat, successions, stacking and disruptions to ecosystems.
  • I also submitted a third assignment/paper on climate change and peak oil.
  • My compost is still breaking down.
  • In my next unit of study I start work on preparing a base site map for my property. I am talking to my tutor later today about how to go about this. However the course information said a base map could be done using Google Earth. So I have been busy learning how to use Google Earth and also the Queensland Globe. The Queensland Globe is part of the Queensland Government's open data strategy and allows one to access maps and data of places in Queensland. The application is implemented inside Google Earth. You can find more information on the Queensland Globe here. I also used this youtube video to learn how to use Google Earth.

What I have been reading

My reading this month has been lighter than it often is.

  • The mist in the mirror by Susan Hill
  • Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fayles-Hill
  • And, Five go off in a caravan by Enid Blyton

What I have been watching

This video discussing the Edo period in  Japan and how they brought their society back from the brink of environmental collapse.

Homestead and Farm Resiliency - Principles in Practice by Ben Falk

A Good Home Forever is a 22 minute video on retrofitting a house in the suburbs. 

The things I read on the web this month that I liked best were:

This article on transitioning to a mostly home made wardrobe.

Six great vege for shady spots, from the Real Men Sew Blog. I just love the name of this blog, it makes me smile.

And this post fromMr Money Mustache that I need to read a few times to wring all the good points out of it.

I found myself agreeing with Don Stewarts comment on Our Finite World where he wrote, "I think that advertising is also used to keep people in debt-serfdom." Which got me thinking about the debt-serfdom - very descriptive and apt term. 

My Top pick of the month is this article. " Imagine your life 5, 10 or 15 years from now: Do you want to be dealing with the same money struggles you’re dealing with now?" That would be a resounding no. Next question " Do you want to be in the same place….?" No, I want to be in a much better situation. I am grateful for all the good in my life that I have now,  but I do want to be able to save more,  and be more productive at home.  I own the book mentioned in this article, - The millionaire next door.  And, "it's not how much you earn but how much you save," has been a personal mantra for over a decade. So perhaps 2015 is the year that I take my head knowledge and put it into hard core practice? Hmmm. 

For Nikki

The recipe for the tomato scrambled eggs came Leanne Brown's cookbook which you can find here I also have the same recipe in another cookbook but I like Leanne's instructions best.  I think I originally found the cookbook via a link from Rhonda's Down to Earth blog.

What hubby did

This month we hired our neighbour to erect our front fence, and to keep costs lower Don worked alongside him. It was hot, heavy work and I am amazed that they kept at it in the awful heat we had. So now we finally have a front fence. Hooray!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Core of my heart, my country!

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

~ My country, Dorothea Mackellar

As Aussies know, Australia day holiday is a day to come together and celebrate our country and culture. 

Our culture could be defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviours that are particular to us Aussies. This definition is painted with a broad brushstroke. The patterns in the mosaic that make up our culture are endless. 

However we typically identify ourselves as having a relaxed and informal lifestyle. Which is ironic as our lives generally revolve around rushing to work, rushing through work, rushing home and then rushing around home to get things done. No wonder we like to relax a bit on Australia Day.

What do you appreciate most about being an Aussie? For me, Australian humour, is the best feature of our culture.  Would you agree? Australian humour is often characterised as dry and ironic and at times irreverent.  We Aussies are also good at having a laugh at ourselves. However you might think that it is our battler spirit, or our spirit of mateship or the Aussie "fair go", that is the best thing about our Aussie culture. No worries mate. There's a lot of things to appreciate about being an Aussie.

 For me Australia Day is a time to appreciate the good I have in my life. 

This Australia Day my husband and I are planning a nice Australia Day Brunch and inviting family and a few friends to join us. If you are an Aussie how are you planning to spend Australia Day?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Op shop til you drop

I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living.
~John D. Rockefeller

Last Friday I had to go into town for a blood test. So being in town it was a good chance to complete a couple of other errands. First I went to Big W and spent a gift card I received at Christmas. This is what I bought.

Obviously if you can never have enough books, then you can never have enough book ends. The other thing I bought using my gift card was, drum roll...........that's right, a 12.5 litre capacity container for bulk food storage in my pantry. 

I am currently following along with Annabel's (The Blue Birds are Nesting) preparedness challenge. This is the link to the first post in Annabel's preparedness series. Buying staple food in larger quantities is something I have wanted to do for a long time. But it kept getting pushed down the priority list as other things cropped up. So now I am using Annabel's challenge as my source of motivation to slowly build my pantry stores.  

Big W also had a really good special on washing powder so I bought a bulk supply of that as well, 15 kilos. So that should last a while. Then off to the hospital for a coffee, ....and then my blood test. 

Back in the car outside the hospital, my husband said, "Where to next?," and we agreed that it had been a long time since we had been op shopping. We decided to go to the Guide Dogs for the blind op shop. We bought four of  these bar stools.

We have been looking for some bar stools for a while. We were happy to see that we could buy these four for around the same price we would pay for one new one. They just need new fabric on the seats. It will probably take me a  while to find the time to re-cover the seats but I will try to remember to take a photo when I do. Unless of course I muck it up and in that case we'll never mention it again, ok? ;-)

I also bought four books and only paid $2 for the lot.  These are two of the titles I bought. I am hoping that "Cooking for the Freezer" will help me improve my food storing skills. This will mean reducing food wastage. Again, Annabel's blog has been a great source of information for me on using food on hand and dealing with gluts. 

I bought the microwave cookbook because I have never had one and thought it was high time I used my microwave for more than re-heating food.

Of course we were out and about on one of the hottest days of summer so far. Whilst at the op shop I had to keep plodding back to stand in front of one of their industrial fans. The last couple of days have been much cooler here, and for this I am very grateful.

Do you ever shop at charity stores?

Monday, 19 January 2015

Permaculture Principles

"The greater number of self-supporters, the faster will be the rate of improvement, that creation of technologies designed to lead people to self-reliance, work-enjoyment, creativity, and therefore the good life."   ~ Dr E.E. Schumacher

Last month  I wrote about the ethics of permaculture. From next month I want to start  a series writing about one of the principles of permaculture each month.  There are 12 principles so the series will continue through until January next year. 

The ethics and principles of permaculture can be applied in our daily lives to help us build resilience and abundance. The principles are:

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

In my opinion knowing there are ethics and principles underpinning permaculture is so important.  Why? Because I think a system of practices, or a way of doing something can easily become prescriptive. "You must do things this way", or "you can’t do that". Contrast this with a design system based on principles – it allows for the individual to follow their own path. Using these principles people can solve problems based on what will work in their situation – not based on a 'one size fits all' solution.  Principles provide scope for positive action.  On the other hand prescriptions or recipes may provide positive action for some people, but be misleading or oppressive for others, as one size never fits all.

Are you familiar with permaculture? What are your views regarding the permaculture principles?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

What's your type?

"Try to live an authentic life that feels true to yourself - which means living as yourself, not an imitation of anyone else, and the reflection of yourself in anyone else's eyes."
~ Maria Shriver

Have you ever done those quizzes in magazines that are supposed to reveal your personality type? I enjoy them  but they rarely reveal any insights about who I am or why I think and behave the way I do. However some years ago I found the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI and I found it really helpful. Why? Because for the first time ever I discovered I was an introvert. Now like many people I thought being introverted just meant being shy. Some dictionaries still define introverted as being shy. Here is a good definition from the Urban dictionary, it emphasises that introversion does not equal shyness. In fact there are people who are extroverted and shy.  

This is a link to "11 comics every introvert will understand", for those of you who are interested in the subject.

If you are an introvert you may also find this article and this article interesting. 

"No Stop!  - I told you I was the no shampoo type".
I digressed a bit from personality typing to writing about introversion, but it seems to me that introverts are well represented in 'blog land', so the digression may be of interest to some.

Anyway, it can be fun to discover more about yourself by taking an MBTI quizz. This is a link to one site. And this is a link to a different site, and there are many more on the internet to choose from.

I am an INFJ.  Did you try any of the quizzes? What's your type? 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Plant Profile - Calistemon

Many a tree is found in the wood,
And every tree for its use is good;
Some for the strength of the gnarled root,
Some for the sweetness of flower or fruit.
~Henry van Dyke, Salute to the Trees

Newly planted callistemon aka bottlebrush

Last month I planted three callistemon that I bought from a nearby nursery. So in order to give them the best start possible, and the best ongoing care, I have prepared a plant profile. The three I bought were Reeves pink. Reeves pink has beautiful, bright pink flower spikes with golden anthers in spring and summer.  I look forward to the time when mine are flowering! The Callistemon is a hardy, quick growing, many branched shrub. It grows to between two and four metres with a spread of between two to four metres.  Some varieties have two flowering seasons a year.

 As well as being decorative, callistemons can also be used as a low screen or hedge plant.  It is a forage plant for nectar eating birds and it attracts bees.

It's hard to see from this photo but the stake  in the foreground is where I planted another callistemon

The natural habitat of callistemons is moist, sunny areas. However they will grow in most soils and climatic conditions, though they can be slow to establish.  They will tolerate poor soils and can be grown in full sun to part shade. Callistemon spp cope with light frost but need protection from strong winds. Mulching will keep the plants happy. The plant will tolerate short periods of dryness as well as short periods of wet soils.

Another of our bottlebrushes
Regular feeding with a native plant food should see the plant receives the nutrients it requires. However I have dug some good compost through the back fill soil at planting, so I am hoping they will have the nutrients they need for now.

Tip borers and caterpillars can attack callistemon plants, but apparently they very rarely need any intervention to help them recover. If I do have a problem with webbing caterpillars, I will prune the affected area and bin it.

To maintain a nice shape they can be pruned after flowering. They are apparently easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings, but I have never tried. Reportedly they cross-breed easily, and there are many varieties available from nurseries. It would probably be easy enough for me to establish a large collection if I ever wanted to in the future.

Tim Marshall, The New Organic Gardener

Tom Wyatt, All your gardening questions answered.

Monday, 5 January 2015

In my garden in January

"So pick up your spade and live!" Will Sutherland

Garden Watch  

Our frangipani trees are coming into flower and I can often be seen burying my face into the flowers to draw in their rich, creamy scented deliciousness. Some of our palm trees are in flower and this draws the bees in humming droves. Our passionfruit vines have their first fruit for the year ripening with many more appearing on the vine as the days tick by. The mangos are bearing a lot less this season and the wildlife are greedy so we may not pick many this year. I don't know why the mangos have less fruit this year, perhaps the flowers earlier in the season were mostly male.  We are having the same issue with the lychee tree, not much fruit at all. Our lemon tree has quite a few lemons coming. The same can be said for our mandarin tree. However I don't think the mandarins will be as good as last season due to my not being able to look after them last year.


I will apply dolomite and magnesium to my low chill stone fruit. I have read the correct rate is 200 grams per square metre applied at the drip line.

It is also time for me to apply potash (which contains potassium) on the citrus trees, bananas, lychee tree and mango. Potassium is supposed to improve fruit flavour and juiciness as well as general plant health. Potassium reportedly improves a plants resistance to foliar fungi.

After the mango trees finish fruiting - which may not take long given the little amount of fruit, and the King Parrots rampaging appetites - I will feed and mulch them. (The mangos not the King Parrots. Do you have King Parrots at your place? They are a really beautiful bird.)

King Parrot in one of my Mango trees.


Hopefully I will get around to pruning the spring flowering shrubs as the flowers finish.

I need to skirt my Carambola and cut back and open out the crown and clear any inward facing branches.

I need to continue pruning (to control height) or tip pruning (to encourage lateral growth) our native plants that have finished flowering.

Remove banana suckers so that the energy is redirected into forming fruit, and cut off dead leaves.

As our mango finishes fruiting we need thin out the canopy to improve air circulation and allow sunlight in. I am hoping my husband will cut back the largest one quite a bit even though this will reduce the fruit next year. It is growing too big to be harvested easily. 

The passionfruit are coming along nicely

Pest & disease management

I am regularly collecting the fallen fruit and binning them in an effort to control fruit fly. I must admit as yet I don't know how to recognise fruit fly, nothing I have seen in photos looks like anything I have seen in my garden. Perhaps it is because I don't wear my reading glasses in the garden and cannot see properly to identify the fruit fly.

I am keeping my beady eye open for scale problems. Yes well, maybe I do need to take my reading glasses out into the garden with me. I usually see the black sooty mould way before I see the scale. Anyway, I have white oil in my garden shed should I need to spray.

Picking and Eating

Mangos and lychees are ripening this month, so get ready for picking!  That is if the wild life has left you any. Now as we are entering mango harvesting season. You just may have more mangos than you can eat or share. So why not have a go at making mango chutney? If the wildlife leave me enough I will use this recipe found here

So what can you do with mango chutney? Well it is great on sandwiches with ham or leftover roast chicken. You can use it as a dip.

Do you have a favourite recipe using mango?


If, and it is a big if, I have the time I will try and propagate some new plants from cuttings. I am going to try with camellia, justicia, and crepe myrtle. I wonder if I will have any success. I might try the cuckoo propagating method. That is dipping the cutting in rooting hormone and potting up in good propagating mix, and slipping the potted up cuttings next to some pot plants my husband is looking after. That way they will not be neglected as they are likely to be if they are left to me to look after. For a real explanation of how to propagate cuttings you can go here
King Parrot eating my guava's

Also if the wildlife leave me any mangos I am going to try growing one from seed. Our mangos are the old Bowen mango now known as Kensington Pride. They will always be Bowen mangos to me.

What are you doing in the garden this month?