Category Archives: Green living

Routine lemon tree care, and potato trenches.

I am loving my veggie patch at the moment, but after such a long period of neglect there are a lot of jobs to do.

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I think it is a Meyer lemon, but the tag got lost a long time ago. It’s such a good tree, but will need a prune to shape her after this growing season.

Today I spent some time caring for the Grand Lady of our garden: the lemon tree. Our tree produces beautiful sweet juicy lemons, nearly year round. We bought her for our first wedding anniversary, so clearly she is special to us. 3 or so years of neglect have left her nutrient depleted, and suffering several bug afflictions.

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Those big lumps are from gall wasp. It was a pretty bad case, and those holes mean the adult wasps have escaped.

My first job was to give her a light pruning. Gall wasp has gotten into several branches, so I pruned them off. Gall wasp causes lumps in the branches, as the wasp lays it’s eggs into the branch itself. These lumps can lead to a reduction in fruit, so I pruned them all off and threw them into the green bin. Pruning is the only real way to control the wasp. I had to chop a few branches that had growing lemons on them too, but if you take them with a little piece of stem attach, they will still ripen nicely.

We also have a bit of citrus leaf miner, some scale and a sooty looking mould. These can all be treated with organic controls, but since none of them are seriously attacking the plant I am on watch and wait alert. A good feed, and some repeated deep watering, might allow the plant to control this herself

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Multiple diseases can be seen here

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Leaving some stem helps the lemons ripen. Baby hands adds some cute factor too.

Next, the girls and I cleared all the grass and weeds from beneath the tree so we could fertilise her. A light hoe got all the growth out pretty easily , and I actually left it piled around the outside to make a little moat. This will stop the water and fertiliser from running down the slope away from the tree.

Lemons need to be fed three times a year: March, July and November (yes, I’m a little late!). I always use a commercial citrus food, but I’m sure you could find some amazing organic options. I choose one with trace elements as well, but you could use rock minerals in combination with a standard NPK fertiliser. There is a dose of fertiliser for lemons, which is 125g per year of plants age. I’m a little less exact than this though, and just toss a couple of handfuls under the tree. It seems to work alright 🙂

Lastly, I mulched with straw from the chicken coop, which provides both manure and soil cover.

Today’s other job was the potatoes. I never buy seed potatoes, as I nearly always have some growing in the potato box anyway. Potatoes are so easy to grow. I wait until a few eyes sprout, then I cut them into pieces, making sure each piece has an eye. I dug a big trench this time, and then planted them into holes at the bottom of each trench. The plants have now sprouted above the top of the trench, so I had to push all the hilled up dirt back into the trench. This will give a better yield then just planting them at ground level (which I’ve done before too). I think next autumn I will do an even deeper ditch, as these plants are doing so well I could use more soil over them.

Tomorrow I will have to start training the unruly beans and peas.

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You can see the tops of the potatoes sticking above the trench here.

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All filled in, and mulched up!

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6 of my must-have baby products

This blog post was supposed to be 5 products, but I really couldn’t choose which one to cull! These are all tried and tested on my own kids, and are products I truly love.  Continue reading

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Filed under Eco baby, Green living, Natural Remedies, Teething

The joy of a kitchen garden

For the first time since having my girls I have a productive garden. I didn’t come from a gardening family, but in my early 20s I developed a real passion for it. There were a couple of events that occurred in my life that started this passion. The first was coming across a Women’s Weekly book called The Kitchen Garden. This lovely book contains gardening information, storage tips and recipes, and I delighted in it. It seemed such a dream though; the sort of thing women on farms had. The second event occurred when we were living in inner-City Adelaide. In my opinion Adelaide has the best produce in Australia. The Tradie and I were completely inspired by food while there. We moved into this tiny unit in a fancy area and our back veranda overlooked the house of an old Italian man. He had transformed his tiny backyard into a market garden. The variety was amazing, and it was the first time I realised you didn’t need a lot of space to grow enough food to feed you (and more!).

You can always compost your mistakes

Over the years I have learned quite a lot about gardening, most of it through trial and error. I live by the quote above. Today when I ran to the garden to get a couple of things for dinner, I felt so inspired and happy. So, I’ve decided to blog a little about my adventures in the garden too. Life is always good in the garden.

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Time to get off the Christmas train

The tradie and I have made the decision to quit Christmas. For the last few years Christmas has been a burden. The consumerist nature of the holiday is both depressing and expensive. The idea that we must all come together as a family is sometimes an obligation rather than a joy, and as non-religious people there is no real meaning to the holiday for us. So why are we enduring it each year?

Making the decision was actually quite simple. I approached the tradie to discuss how we wanted to celebrate Christmas from now on and within minutes we both agreed we didn’t want to celebrate it. Done deal. Telling our family was kinda traumatic; reactions ranged from fully supportive (rare), disappointed, supportive but still wanting their yearly Christmas gift, nearly crying and lastly telling us we’d gone nuts. Won’t someone please think of the children.

When I started searching the internet for other people’s experiences of quitting Christmas I was shocked to discover most bloggers who have ‘quit’ Christmas were actually Christian! Probably the most interesting read was by an ordained minister which can be read here.

Quitting Christmas doesn’t mean that we are just going to sit at home like a normal day; what we are actually doing is finding new ways to create meaningful traditions that align with our family values. Some of these will be celebrated during the Christmas period, while others will be associated with other important days.

This is what we are doing..

A bigger emphasis on birthdays and name days
We are planning to celebrate the people we love more on the day of their birth by giving little gifts in the lead up, more experiences with that person instead of just a party, and really celebrating the life of the person we love. That means a lot more to us. Our girls both have European names, so we also celebrate their name day. So far this has been quite a small occasion but we plan to ramp it right up.

Celebrating days of significance
We would rather celebrate days that represent our values, so we got the UN list of days and marked a bunch down. Some of our choices include: International Day of Social Justice, International Women’s Day, World Literacy Day and Mother Earth Day. These days have a lot more meaning to us, and are also worthy of being marked in a greater way than they currently are. On world literacy day we plan to discuss the importance of reading with the girls, treat them to a few new (second-hand) books and donate some books to kids in need.

Celebrating days of our cultural heritage
We both have an immigrant parent, so we are going to look into special cultural days that reflect our unique heritage.

Gifts, just because
Do we need an excuse to give a gift? We plan to do a lot of craft with the girls that teaches them skills, but also have a recipient in mind.

Giving our time to others
This is the one we are most excited about. We really want to teach the value of helping those in need. When the girls are older we will use the Christmas break to travel to developing countries and help out in local NGO projects. Hopefully by seeing communities in real need, the girls will learn how rich their lives are.

I know these things are not the same as a big pile of brightly wrapped gifts under a tree, but I’m hoping that they will be just as exciting. We are going to build traditions around our family and our values rather than buy into one we no longer believe in. It’ll be interesting to see what future years look like in December, especially once the girls start school. Right now though I’m looking forward to 22nd of April, when we will celebrate Mother Earth Day by buying the girls some trees, and planting them in the garden.

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Taking quinoa off the table

We’ve quit quinoa in our house.

Without doubt you’ve adopted a look of horror, and are wondering if that’s a misprint. But no, dear reader, it’s true; quinoa is no longer on the menu.

After picking yourself back up off the floor, you may start to wonder WHY ON EARTH would I do such a thing. Don’t I know that quinoa is a SUPER food. All the celebrities eat it, and it’s an awesome source of protein. What am I thinking?!?!?!

A recent article in The Guardian kick started this change. The author wrote about the impact of global demand on the prices of quinoa in Bolivia and Peru, and the flow on effect this has on affordability of this staple grain in the region. Simply put, the price is so high now that those communities can no longer afford it. Once a cornerstone of nutrition for peasants in the region, quinoa is now sent for export to wealthy western nations leaving a major gap in the food source of the nations poor. To me, this is an unacceptable cost.

Further reading also revealed that the mad scramble to farm this ‘new’ wonder crop, is leading to the abandonment of traditional farming methods and poor environmental practices. Of concern is the reduction of llama farming, a key component in maintaining soil fertility in the highlands. Ironically by abandoning llamas, the soil loses its main fertilizer that gives quinoa its amazing nutritional value: manure.

I am so fortunate to live in a country that gives me access to a wide range of affordable, high quality foodstuffs. I don’t feel that quinoa offers me any nutritional value that I couldn’t easily obtain elsewhere. And when you factor in the cost of further impoverishing a nations poor and contributing to environmental damage, well frankly the cost becomes too high.

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Homemade sanitising wipes

We have started gently potty training Boo. It’s going really well, and is relatively stress free so far. It does involve a lot more cleaning though, and sometimes it’s tough to tuck the baby under one arm and clean the potty at the same time. Having a sanitizing wipe would make life MUCH easier, but we don’t use chemicals in our house. The solution? Make my own of course!

It’s really simple; all you need is some vinegar, tea tree solution, lemon essential oil, a bucket and some cheap cloths. I like the tea tree solution because it has an ingredient to disperse it through the water.

Add 1/4 vinegar, 3/4 water, 2 lids of tea tree solution and 10 drops of lemon essential oil. Stir well, throw in the cloths and you’re done. Instant sanitizing wipes. Super cheap, natural and reusable. I wash mine with my nappies.

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Christmas: a time for giving or a time for mindless consumerism

It’s THAT time of year again. Every day on the news we are given the exact number of days left until Christmas. Cue sigh. When I was younger I adored Christmas. I went crazy buying gifts for everyone I knew, and wrapped them in lavish paper to be posted all over the country. I dreamed of glittering table decorations and feasts. However, the last few years have seen my enthusiasm wane to the point where this year the thought of Christmas fills me with dread.

What does Christmas even mean anymore? It feels like a hollow obligation. We must spend it with family, whether we want to or not. Gifts must be purchased for a varied assortment of people in our lives, and rarely is it something they really need. This mass consumerism is depressing, costing us more than we can really afford (can anyone say ‘credit card bill’) and fills our cupboards and bins with more things we don’t use. Over the years, I have given up pretty wrapping. I flat out refuse to buy cards and if your gift is wrapped, usually it will be a recycled gift bag, recycled paper or, in one case, lolly bags made from the pages of old magazines (that did not go down well at work).

This year I have pledged to only buy gifts from local craftspeople or small business. I refuse to go to the big shopping centers and give my money to the massive conglomerates. I have drastically reduced the list of who I will buy for, and our children will get money in their bank accounts instead of toys or clothing. I’m hoping these small acts go some way to reducing the negative impacts of Christmas on the planet and on my pocket.

What I long to do is fly the whole family to a developing country and volunteer our time. Just the four of us, spending time together, bonding over a shared experience and giving to people who really need it. When I first mentioned this to my husband, I expected to get a funny look and some statement about Christmas being a time for family. What I got was a statement of support. I loved him even more in that minute. While we won’t be doing it this year, I think it’s something we will seriously consider for future years.

In the meantime if you’re lucky enough to get my home made truffles, expect them in a magazine lolly bag.

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