Autumn and the Herb Garden

I cannot believe it’s the first week of Autumn here, summer seems to gone so fast! We have had a very dry summer, officially reaching drought conditions a month ago and there have been fires in our area this summer for the first time in quite a few years. With Autumn comes the dying off of the garden and I have been busy preserving all the herbs as they also reach their end. This year we extended the herb garden with our last ornamental garden pulled out and planted. I LOVE the herb gardens and learning more about their uses – love cooking with them, using them in soaps and herbal creams and skincare….I still have much to learn but I really enjoy it! This year we have had Mint, Soapwort, Parsley, Feverfew, Nasturtiums, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Peppermint, Comfrey, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Echinacea, Rosemary, Tarragon, Calendula, Thymes, Oregano, Don Quai, Sage and Chives and I have also been collecting wild plants and weeds like Borage, Dandelion, California Poppy, Plantain etc. I don’t grow Lavender yet but I will next year. With a friend down the road with a lavender hedge and a sister with a lavender farm there seems little need right now to grow it.

French Tarragon

French Tarragon

I love using these fresh but need them throughout the year so I have been drying them all, the kitchen herbs are in jars in the pantry, the ones I use for soaps etc stored in many paper bags and boxes.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Last week while out picking Sage and Rosemary I had the great? idea of trying smudge sticks (I am all fingers and thumbs so found these a little fiddly to begin with) A quick look on-line gave me the instructions and these are my first attempts. One thing worth noting if you ever decide to try them – they shrink ALOT. Don’t tie off your ends of string as you will probably need to re-tie them but these are lovely to make and smell gorgeous.

Smudge

Smudge

What can be made from the herb garden excites me and if you have ever thought you would like to grow and experiment with them I urge you to do it – I read about them for years but never really did much about it, they are beautiful to use.

Herbal toner

Herbal toner

 

Dandelion & Calendula

Dandelion & Calendula

I am sorry to see the end of the herb growing season and have been rushing to dry everything….the poor garden is looking rather empty now….tomorrow I will be taking all the basil and making pesto to freeze. I also like to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays, rosemary, basil and oregano are nice done this way. I had plans to make some seasoned salts too but they are at least dried and I can do this later in the season when not so busy. It’s also a time of seed saving though early days yet.

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

Mid January we went away for the weekend and passed through the city where the lovely Gallivanta lives (a fellow blogger) She had told me to drop in if we were down that way as she had a book for me. She had two as it happened and they are lovely ones too 🙂 I very much appreciated them and though I haven’t had time to sit and read too much I know through Autumn and winter I will have my nose stuck in these!

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AND, though I really didn’t need the extra work and had to think long and hard about it I started another blog two days ago to be added to my shop site when I can figure out how to do that. On this blog I have always kept to more frugal ideas and recipes but this new one has the recipes for what I sell. Two reasons for doing this…they are nice! and they also show the work and expense that goes into making nice products for sale. Though not exactly cheap to make many use flowers, herbs, weeds and wildflowers so if you are interested in making your own skincare and home products I invite you to follow me here https://www.tumbleweedsnaturals.wordpress.com/  – It is VERY new and you will recognise a couple of recipes I have shared here at quarteracre.

 

 

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Summer lovin’

Hi, I am back 🙂 Working on a new laptop that I hate, Windows 8 sucks by the way, for anybody thinking of buying a new computer! And for anybody waiting on an email reply from me please let me know because some of my emails are disappearing out into the net world never to be seen again I am discovering – I have replied to all! This has been an expensive month after having to replace a laptop, vacuum cleaner, cell phone and repairs to the truck – how glad I am now that I worked all those hours!

We are harvesting from the garden with some great successes this year but also disappointments. We lost all our tomatoes this year, I think my husband was to blame for that one though he is keeping quiet about what he possibly did to them. I have a feeling that the “foliage feed” he used was something else entirely that he knows I wouldn’t have liked him using but he did in error. Our self sewn beetroot that we transplanted out in great rows all failed, a terminator gene maybe? Our strawberries have not done well. But after a few years of failed potato crops because of a bug problem here this year we harvested over 70 kg of beautiful potatoes. The raspberries went crazy and we got over 40 kg with autumns berries already on their way, the beans and zucchini are always great cropping, the blackberries, cranberries, peaches, peppers and chilli will have very good harvests, silverbeet (chard) lettuce and broccoli have all self sewn everywhere for regular picking. The pumpkins are spreading out everywhere again with plenty on. We got heaps of onions, garlic and carrots and have stared replanting empty spaces for autumn. The herb garden is wonderful with another rock garden dug up and planted in herbs (another post!)

After saying I wouldn’t be freezing vegetables this year, I am 🙂 Old habits die hard and it seems stupid not to when you have it lol. Jams and chutneys and being made at the moment, last year I made around 35 jars of our favourite Zucchini Chutney and just used the last of it two weeks ago so will make the same this year. We still have heaps of bottled fruit left from last year and 14 jars of other chutneys Roger wont try so I will be sticking to just the one in future. We ran out of tomato sauce a month ago and the commercial stuff is disappointing in comparison so I will have to buy a mountain of tomatoes to make more.

I have made no liqueurs or wine so far this year, I just haven’t felt motivated to. I have gone back to work doing strictly one day a week plus m on-call shifts which are simply by phone if any issues and occasionally going in to help with something. Roger is still doing 5 days a week but the work is far less demanding physically – I have to say I didn’t realise how exhausted he was and how hard he pushed himself on the farm. He had little desire for the garden but now is back to his old self and out there for hours….it’s tidy again! 🙂

Me, most of what computer time I spend is on the Freeconomy page – we have grown from 130 at the beginning of December to nearly 500. It is working fabulously but there are occasional issues of greed, grabbing, rudeness, a couple of people selling stuff they got free on other pages! People are people and there are all sorts out there, after banning a few we are going great.

I am back to making my soaps and hope to do a market this weekend. I have been busy drying herbs and local weeds/wildflowers for use during the year. How to package them at reasonable cost is always a consideration but I have settled on this, brown paper with a band. Printing whole sheets for wrapping was too expensive.

Anyway, I think this is about as long as it needs to be. I hope others are enjoying their summer, or keeping warm through their winter.

This Spring…we are scaling back the garden

I love Spring! It’s well and truly here and some of the days have been beautiful.

Roger and I have made a decision that we are going to scale back the garden this Summer and try and grow more year round. I spent much of last Summer and Autumn in the kitchen and fitting in gardening when I could but honestly….I would rather do other things than spend my time in the kitchen and at the end of Autumn I was really weary and grumpy. We grow enough food to feed half the neighbourhood, which is nice but it’s hard work for these fifty-somethings! I don’t want to do so much preserving this summer.

Roger is putting up the other glasshouse soon and we will use both through the late autumn and winter. The garden will remain the same size but we won’t be racing to succession plant this year. Every summer and autumn we grow up to three harvests from the same space, it makes for alot of work and long growing seasons.

He has planted the potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, broccolli, cabbage and lettuce. The beans will go in soon. In the glasshouse I have planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and we have a few spinach and lettuce in there and a chilli plant from last summer that is still producing.

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We have been picking chillies throughout winter.

The Strawberries are just being split up and planted everywhere, like the cattle feeder we salvaged 🙂

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I am still working quite alot and this looks set to be the way till at least Christmas at this stage.

I have still been making soap, thinking soap 🙂 Last weekend I went and scrounged Camelia petals and have dried some and the rest is infusing in oil.IMG_3933

I have been looking at different ways of just using natural ingredients for both colour and benefits. On the windowsill is Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Geranium Leaf, Camelia and Calendula petals.IMG_3953

Two batches I have made this week are Chamomile and Calendula. And note…Wendy is practising her photography for if and when she starts selling it 🙂

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Soap making seems to me to be the ideal hobby for gardeners to use some of their herbs and flowers in other ways but food….and maybe, just maybe, a small cottage industry can be created! For all the years I took to eventually try soap making I now think I was mad for being so fearful of it….it’s simple. Just like driving, I didn’t learn how to drive until I met Roger at 9 years ago at 46.

We still have heaps of preserves left to last out till summer, still have heaps of frozen berries and fruit. Last summer I dried some cranberries and used the last of them today (along with some walnuts we still have heaps of)

Cranberry and Walnut Muesli

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Tonight I am going to make dog biscuits using this recipe that Syd likes so much but I will be using pumpkin instead of carrots.

Roger is looking for another job at present and has an interview next week for a building job….he goes between building and farming. This means though if he gets it we will have to give up Syd, he’s a farm dog who belongs to the owner. Gosh we will miss him terribly 😦 We will be left with Mittens, who just loves this huge old bowl I pulled out of the spare room.IMG_3928

Anyway, that’s all my news. I hope Spring is being lovely for you all in NZ and Oz! I have seen photos of gentle snow falling in America, ugh!

DIY Beeswax Food Wraps

Sometimes you see an idea that is so brilliant, so simple, so economical and you have to try it… this is one and gleaned from My Healthy green Family. Her post is so much more colourful than mine with alot more info and also some good comments so I urge you, if you are interested in making these, to check our her post 🙂

My husband is a big user of clingfilm for his lunches and other options have not proved successful. He will take his food packages out on the farm to eat through the day putting the wrap in his pocket when finished, it’s easy for him. I don’t know how many containers he has lost over the years (or lids) when I have tried to get him to use other things. Paper “doesn’t keep bread fresh enough” apparently and rips.

I was rapt to see these and made them today. Simple. The beeswax is cheap to buy from bee owners (I bought these for 50c a block and used 2 1/2) but now we have our own if hubby is happy with these it will be very good. When I started making them and told him he could trial them tomorrow he spoke in that lovely tone men use when humouring their ladies but he had to admit when I was finished they look a good, practical, healthier option.

Preheat oven to 150 deg C. Cut clean cotton cloth (old sheeting is fine) into desired sizes. I had 6 old cotton serviettes I used to trial them – the same colour as the beeswax which was an unfortunate choice to photograph.IMG_3842

Place on baking tray and grate the beeswax onto it, sprinkling it to fully cover.IMG_3843

Place tray in cover for just a few minutes, the beeswax will melt into a fine liquid that will seep down into fabric.

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Use a pastry brush to spread onto areas not quite covered enough if it bubbles. Hang to cool and dry on a clothes airer (just takes few minutes)

Done!

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 Wipeable, waterproof, airtight cloths that can be cleaned in hot soapy water by hand and will last a few months.

Footnote: These got a big thumbs up from my husband who declared “They work brilliant!”

Restless Leg Syndrome and Homemade Vapor Rub Recipe

I experience Restless Legs Syndrome as a symptom of Fibromyalgia. It starts mid evening and can last until after bedtime, often keeping me awake. Twitching, fidgeting, restlessness, pacing are all part of this wonderful malady 🙂 I have tried lots of remedies for it, the only one I found to work was throwing a tantrum in my room and stamping my feet (quite by accident when I went into my room, slammed the door and threw a tantrum a myself lol). A quieter and more soothing fix to the condition would be nice though!

Last week at work a colleague happened to mention she also had it and had finally found something that worked, Vick’s Vapor Rub rubbed onto the soles of the feet when it starts. I wanted to try this but didn’t want to buy Vicks as its petroleum based. I checked out the list of ingredients in the shop though and looked online to find a recipe. This is a mixture really of what others use. Yes, it has worked for my restless legs which I am really pleased about…the tension and tingling sensations just eased and faded away.

 

Natural Vapor Rub:

1 cup olive oil

25 grams (1 oz) beeswax

30 drops Eucalyptus oil

10 drops camphor oil

20 drops peppermint oil

20 drops lavender oil

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Using a double boiler (or two pots inside each other with water in bottom one) melt the oilve oil and beeswax together.

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Leave to cool till the outside is just starting to set then add the essential oils. Mix through thoroughly and pour into a tin to set firm. If it sets too quickly (as mine almost did) or if you decide you want to add more essential oils return to pot to remelt.

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An optional oil you can add to this is Turpentine Oil, which is in the original Vicks.

 

Because this is a blog on frugality I will mention how I buy my oils. I never buy new but buy secondhand when I see them. Part used bottles can be bought for nix at op-shops, garage sales and through online auctions. I have built up a large supply for not alot of money and added these this week (including the box) when I bought them online from a local woman for $25. Over half hadn’t been opened and the remainder had had little use. Good oils can cost upward of $10 a bottle here so this is a huge saving.

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Winter arrives….

We have had some beautiful days but also some cold ones and the nights are leaving hard frosts on the ground. Roger has been bringing home more pea-straw for the garden. We are very fortunate to get that free from the farm he works at – we get the older stuff from the previous year. I hate to think how many large bales have gone on our garden over the years but the results have been great. When we first dug up our lawn it was just dry, stony old river bed.

We got two great buys last week, the best would be a load of paint. Roger got this on an auction for $7…I guess many others wouldn’t bother because there was clearly alot of old stuff that would need to be taken to a chemical dump (lead based or useless). But he could see there was also new. Given we need more paint for other jobs around the house and outside he took a gamble.Image

We ended up with over 40 litres of good paint, around 10 litres of white enamel, 8 litres of brown decking and fencing paint we needed (I just bought a 2 litre pot just to cover the porch and it cost over $40) Other neutral paints and varnishes which will be handy and around 3 litres of clear varnish for my next attempts at decoupage. We were rapt. But we got more! Roger only had a $10 note and told the guy to keep the change, but the guy rushed off and got these for him. 2 bottles of wine and 4 jars of Pickled Red Onions. His family own a 6 family member production plant and these were from there. We felt like we had been paid to take this paint away!Image

One wine bottle is discreetly parked behind the other here because we opened it straight away 🙂 🙂

And I bought this lovely rug for $15

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 We got our first taste of our homegrown honey and it is utterly gorgeous. The bees need the honey that’s there for over wintering but we sneaked a tiny bit.

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We were just discussing last week how we could harvest it ourselves when I came across this post from lizard100 on the home made equipment they created for the job…we will be trying this.

The bees and butterflies are enjoying our Buddleia tree outside our lounge window. This needs a severe pruning this year after it’s flowered.

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You would think with all the preserving I do I could manage Quince Paste but this apparently is not so. Last year I had it cooking for forever only to burn it. This time I made crockpot paste but it didn’t set firm and had to be potted into jars for use as a spreadble paste. While divine it’s not quite what it should be.

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 Remember this? I showed it when I bought it for $5, I wanted to repaint it.

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I have been working on it the last two weeks and was having trouble finding knobs. One very kind soul, another blogger who lives on the other side of the world! offered to send me some.

Lois from Simply Free, thank you xx

I will show it when finished.

Home and Garden….

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The garden: 

The back yard is just a muddy mess and Roger has been clearing out dead plants and started pruning. Something that desperately needed doing is a huge macrocapa (a type of cedar) hedge than runs the length of the property down one side. It’s just got higher and higher over the years and has got to the stage where it truly needed to be reined in, it’s keeping way too much sun of both house and garden. It’s just a big job worthy of a great deal of procrastination but he bit the bullet and started.

At the beginning

At the beginning

Out of the second story bedroom window

Out of the second story bedroom window

  The raised garden out the front, the only garden we can grow in over winterIMG_3678

What most of the property is looking like, straggly and on it’s way to bareIMG_3683

I took this at 7 am yesterday morning off the front porch… a most beautiful sky before a dismal day.IMG_3674

The kitchen: Very little going on here apart from meals but I have been busy elsewhere. We grew out of our small kitchen summer of last year and Roger fitted out an old unused laundry on the middle floor for a larder. That has become too small too, once we put all the shelves for jars and 2 freezers in there was little room for anything else. There were all sorts of things that needed storing somewhere else.large selection of jars, brewing stuff, appliances…. so, I have emptied a small bedroom (actually our junk room) as far as possible and put everything in there. Several trips to thrift shops and the dump later we are organised!

House: Honestly, we seem to do everything the hard waysometimes ! We have hideous carpet. It’s 40 years old, stained, full of holes and getting worse, and regularly needs shampooing. We have mats everywhere. For 2 years we have been trying to find second-hand carpet but our lounge is longer than many and we have a staircase as well. Nothing would fit. We thought of used rimu floorboards but they are expensive and don’t come up often – this would’ve meant years of hoarding it somewhere to eventually get enough.

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It doesn’t look bad in this photo but this is a good area, it’s had it. Before we painted the lounge we considering buying new carpet but then decided to just put up with what we have. So lounge painted, everything put back in and up and NOW we decide we will buy new. A local firm has 18 months interest free and good reduced prices so, in 3 weeks we have to empty out the lounge and dining room and put all downstairs for one day while they lay it.

One of our best buys ever – curtains:

When we moved here our lounge  had stippled ceilings, pink and silver floral wallpaper and chocolate brown worn curtains – they were so worn one fell apart in my hands when I was pulling them one day. Large curtains are terribly expensive and we needed 3 large sets including a full length pair that goes most of the way across the front of our room. It took us almost a year of waiting but some came up on our national internet auction site in the next town. Sometimes people will just have a Buy Now option and if you keep an eye out (and get in quick) you get a bargain.We got a houselot of curtains and steel rails for $50. They wouldn’t have been anywhere near our first choice if buying new but a whole lot better than what we had.

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We had curtains in the other rooms so we just needed the living areas to fit…put them up and we are happy with how they look now, in fact the colours in our curtains lend themselves to the more traditional type of stuff that we like.IMG_3695

We thought we would put all the other curtains and rails on the same auction site to get rid of them. They all ended up selling for nearly $200.

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I bring up the curtains now because I have a really weird thing going on about having to buy new carpet!! I don’t want to spend money each week for 18 months to pay for it. I am not being miserly about it (or am I? lol) about it but hoped for better options, sometimes they just don’t present themselves!