27 February 2011

Keeping the birds at bay

This summer, I have discovered that those mesh fruit bags you get in the supermarket are great for keeping the birds away from your fruit and seedlings. I first saw something similar being used at the Alcoa bauxite mine in Western Australia en masse to protect native seedlings from wallabies. The seedlings are grown right into the mesh bags, and apparently they biodegrade over time (I'm dubious about that). I looked into it recently for a large project near Winchelsea for rabbit and hare protection, but apparently they eat right through the mesh. So if you have birds or wallabies (could work for roos too) in your garden, this may help. I'm not sure about deer - are they grazers like wallabies or gnawers like rabbits?

My apple tree looking like an alien's Christmas tree. Note the CDs - they did not work.

A mesh bag cut open and tucked under seedling punnets in a tray.
The mesh is flexible, so it moves with the seedlings as they grow.

Does anyone have any other clever tricks for keeping seedlings alive? If you have any tips for repelling earwigs, I would be especially interested. They love gnawing at the stems of seedlings and kill them in a single night. I've tried crumpled newspaper traps in plastic pots with limited success. Diatomaceous earth (kitty litter) spread around the plants or mixed as a spray is supposed to help, but we have had too much rain lately to try these. All ideas and kill-methods are welcome! Please remember that even some organic pesticides, like Pyrethrum, can harm beneficial insects like bees and often have a withholding period in the garden (a period of time that you have to wait before it's safe to harvest). Also, read the warning labels and instructions and wear suitable gloves and protection. A chemical is still a chemical, even if it's organic! It simply means that it is plant or animal derived instead of synthesized in a laboratory. I try to avoid any chemicals - even organic ones. I'm sure I have a lower yield in my garden but it's my preference. Lately, my neighbor's 3-year old has developed a keen interest in picking snails and pill-bugs out of the veggie patch. She's my best weapon in the garden this summer!

21 February 2011

Shiitake Yum!

Look what appeared last week after the big rain storm...!

04 February 2011

Summer Vintage

A vintage-style handbag based on this version of the Estelle bag on the BurdaStyle website.  I made this a few weeks ago, so it doesn't really count as part of the Colette Spring Palette challenge (I may include it anyway!).

The fabric is from Kelani Fabric Obsession's beautiful on-line fabric store.  I was very chuffed (and hugely surprised) to hear that I was a winner in her Gallery Inspiration Competition a few months ago. I used my gift-certificate winnings to get this fabric for myself and purchased some fabric for a bag for my sister-in-law (below).

Pattern: Butterick B5505, view B

I have been looking for a pattern that would complement the mega-size flower scroll motif and be able to accommodate some 70's bamboo handles I scored from a vintage crochet bag (the bag was dirty and damaged beyond repair but I loved the handles). I ended up using the freely-downloadable Estelle Bag pattern and modifying it to suit the motif (see cutting board pic). There were a lot of great project photos of the Estelle bag, but I especially liked the one by valesparza that had circular handles attached by tabs and looser pleats.
Spot the seeds in old spice jars on the table? My two hobbies live all over my house.
I had to do some extra sewing to keep the handles from slipping around, so I decided to embellish. I used a running stitch with some mustard coloured embroidery thread from my stash close to the handles and the bag edge. Then I embroidered french knots on every other dot on the pattern in between.  My embroidery is a little wonky, but it's only noticeable up close, not when it's swinging from my arm (handles like this MAKE you swing your arms when you walk...or there's the hooked-over-the-crook-of-the-elbow 'I'm so posh' stance... hehehe).

03 February 2011

Beetroot and Ugly Carrots

 I love this time of year when I can go out into the garden and pick my dinner. It makes me feel much more like cooking interesting things. I made the roast veg tonight and the salad a few weeks ago.  I made way too much of the salad - grating really increases the volume of the veggies. I gave some to each of my neighbors, one of whom has a 3-yr old, so I kept the dressing pretty basic. You could also put in spring onions or Tabasco. I discovered that my other neighbor is a magician! The bowl I gave her the beetroot salad in appeared at my doorstep a few days later with Ferrero Rocher chocolates inside! I wish I could turn beets into chocolate (wouln't that be something to blog about)!

Here are two recipes I have made using whatever I had available in the pantry and the garden. Feel free to experiment and create your own flavors! I tend to use cookbooks for ideas and not follow the recipes exactly. I never would have thought of putting citrus in with the beets and carrots and it was delish! I used the herbs I had available in the garden and kitchen which meant some substitutions - like ginger instead of garlic. I planted about 20 cloves of garlic in the late winter and spring and they are GONE! Aaargh! Rotted, birds, who knows....? I have dug down to where they were and they are gone. I'm going to have to buy garlic

These colours are AMAZING! The only way to see carrots this colour is to pick them.  I wash and scrub outside in a bucket or big bowl and put the water right back in the veggie patch. The carrots are Nantes and the beetroot are Bull's Blood and Chiogga.  I thought my soil was super-friable but I still have split uglies. It could also be too much compost - they don't like nutrient-rich soil. The previous crop in this spot was tomatoes, and then the green manure over the winter.  I would have thought that the tomatoes wouldn't have left much in the way of nutrients after harvesting, even with the green manure crop.  I think I may try growing carrots in a big pot with lots of sand in the potting mix next time.

I also cooked the beet greens and stems separately by boiling for about 3 minutes - they're my favourite part of the plant. I find myself strangely not eating enough vegetables when there is nothing in the the garden because supermaket ones have no flavour to me. I put individual portions of the cooked beet greens in ziplock bags and froze them for later consumption.

recipes follow after the jump..