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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Handbuilt Jewellery n Bustin' Flies

Handbuilt Jewellery
Lets start with the prettier side of the blog.
Some pictures of a couple of pieces I made a while back using all sorts that I had been saving, from old buckles, broken jewellery and coins to a button from a dress my mother wore in her twenties as a bridesmaid.

upcycled jewelery necklace #1

upcycled jewelery necklace #2

Fly Tipping
Months ago I noticed that someone had dumped an old tv and other rubbish on the side of our road - including some cactus plants which were starting to get a foothold. I finally took their photo and sent this with the location to the man at our council who manages the rubbish, and presto - it was gone! Well done to him (and me).

Fly Busting
We get big blowflies here. It doesn't help living beside a horse paddock. I just detest fly swatters, and have been using an ecomist, with canisters at $20 each. "Good" magazine that is just out has published a solution...

16 drops of lavender essential oil
16 drops of basil essential oil
10 mls of almond oil

Place these in a jar with a small cloth, and use the cloth to anoint the window and door frames. This will need to be repeated fortnightly, or weekly in hot weather.

I'm also going to haul out my old oil burner to use with these essential oils when I am cooking meat. I will report back on how it works.
The other suggestion was to have pots of basil, lavender and tansy near doors and windows.
I'm going to have loads of basil for fly busting and pesto after my second planting came up in abundance.
Basil seedlings - hooray!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Slow Living Speeds Up

It has been a beautiful long weekend of glorious Spring weather here. My slow living went out of the window with the events of the past few days, which reminded me how hard it is to live an eco friendly life when involved in the hurlyburly of social interaction on a big scale.

That's me on sax at the Paihia food and wine festival

Crowd of 2,000 people, beautiful Spring day.

Our band played two very different gigs, which was fabulous for us. On a different note - in line with my blog - the weekend has been uncomfortable to someone who is trying to keep away from the disposable world.
It has made me more determined that the big birthday party we are throwing next year will be as green as possible. I am already sourcing compostable plates and giving thought to reducing waste.
I also ended up buying a birthday present a bit last minute so that I could give it personally and not send it - which meant it got beautifully gift wrapped in the shop. That felt at odds with my ethics, my no gift wrap pledge, so I have determined to be better organised for Christmas - because that is the key to being able to hold the green stance. 
Last year for Christmas we went with a low-key Pacifica theme. We decided a purpose raised Christmas tree which can be composted at the end was the greenest option, especially as it supports the St John Ambulance.
It felt really refreshing not to have the artificial decorations.

Pacifica themed tree, with my own painting "Pacifica" in the background

my driftwood angel
mini flax kete, with flax flowers
The gift wrap was made from large white sheets that someone had written one line on, then thrown out in our paper recycling at work.
There will be more Christmas ideas to come in later blogs

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Lovin' What You Do

"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do"

My sister in Australia is a caregiver, a job that is much better paid there than here. Yesterday she was paid for 2 hours to play Scrabble with a 90 year old lady, and she frequently takes another out for lunch as part of her job. Awesome! 
When I was younger I always said that the best way to earn a living is doing something that you love. For me - I thought the epitome would be playing music or singing for a living. It was something I thought other people did - but when you form an idea, sometimes it happens all by itself. At that stage I hadn't started playing sax.

My alto saxophone

This weekend I am playing sax, bongos, and doing backing vocals at two gigs with our band.

If you are new to my blog - it is really just a journal of my year of slow living - taking time out to do the things in life I enjoy, and hopefully making the world a better place along the way.
My point in the entry above is to follow your dreams, and dream big. It is doing that, and reading a lot of books, that has allowed me to retire at age 53.
I first picked up a saxophone at age 43.

Because really I need to go practice, so some random stuff...
Taking garden items that are hanging around and adding them for their decorative touches..

A little change in it often enough and it makes changes in your green footprint.
I like how the one on the left says 100% cotton - but fails to mention the plastic stick. I must ask our supermarket if they will stock the Go Bamboo ones - they are the only ones we can put in the compost - packaging and all.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Home-made Potting Mix

I found yet another thing that I can make myself to save buying it in, which saves me money and a whole lot of plastic bags.
Potting Mix
Home made potting mix

We have a rotted down pile of woodchip and I had a collection of pumice which we had a lot of on our local beach recently, so when I ran out of potting mix yesterday I thought - "I can make this". I put the pumice in a strong bag and pounded it to mush with a mallet and added some organic slow release fertilizer into the mix. The proof will be in how well my plants grow.

Still in the garden - in one of my earlier posts I showed our aubergine plant which was amazing last season - producing about 40 good sized fruit off the one plant. It died back a little over winter and I was going to take it out - but Derek talked me into pruning it back and giving it another chance for a second season.
aubergine - going for a second season.

It is looking good and is flowering again. It does get well fed and watered so it will be interesting to see if it can have another bountiful season.

Buying Local
New Zealand is a great place to live - food is abundant. Derek often comes home from work with produce that we get from his workmates. Some we buy regularly like free range eggs, strawberries and honey, but others are excesses that his workmates bring in - and we do the same, sending excess in. What is great about this is that we are supporting small enterprise, there is no mileage involved (they were going to work anyway), and the packaging is recycled. The strawberries came in a paper bag! 

local strawberries, honey, eggs and loquats

 Recently we have been given fish, and we get worm tea from his work's worm farm - which is more operational than ours is yet. 
In town the other day I picked a bag of loquats from my daughter's backyard. We are still deciding whether to let some of these grow here as they can become a nuisance plant, but the woodpigeons love them - and so do we. 
I also picked up a bag of 10 lemons for 50c at our local charity shop. Well, we grow our own but we don't have enough yet, so that is a great help.

Have a look at this site - it shows what families have as their weekly food shopping in different parts of the world - it's interesting. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Clever Ideas

Sometimes I see a brilliant idea and think "Duh - why haven't I thought of that myself?" So here are two simple but clever ideas...

Wendyl Nissen's Bob Each Way Spread
I got this from her Supermarket Companion book. It is a great replacement for margarine - which I don't like anyway because I don't consider it real food, but beats having to remember to leave a little butter in the pantry each day so that it is spreadable. And then there is the whole saturated fat issue - so this cuts it in half.

Mix together equal quantities of butter and olive oil.
I used 200 grams of butter and topped up to 400 grams with the oil on the kitchen scales.
Soften the butter gently, but make sure it doesn't cook. I used a whisk to mix  them.
The more virgin the olive oil, the more olivey it will taste, and could also have a green tinge.
Keep the spread in the fridge. If it separates, just rewhisk.

Bob Each Way Spread

In-Garden Compost Planter 

Now I can't locate my source - but will add it when I do.
So this works by giving the tomatoes in my garden a nutrient source - because they are planted around the base, plus warmth from composting materials, plus something to tie the tomatoes to, and a bit of shade for my lettuces nearby.

It is a bit of mesh, cable tied into a cylinder shape, anchored to the ground with stakes or  wire staples, then filled with compost. Mine has weeds, some stuff out of the other compost bin, plus newspaper soaked in seaweed/ horse poo tea, among other things.
In the middle there is a plastic tube which has holes drilled along it's length. The theory is that I water down that and it spreads through the compost and down to the tomatoes, taking nutrients with it.
I have also planted some of the same tomatoes elsewhere in the garden, so I'll be able to compare.
At the end of the season it can be just dumped right there in the garden.
And that leads me to....

Planting Tomatoes
I have only recently learned that when planting tomatoes to take off the lower leaves and put the plants in with the soil right up to the next lot of leaves. This makes them grow bigger, stronger roots and they will do better.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Pumice and Driftwood Garden Art

pumice and driftwood wreath

I finally found some time to finish something I had started ages ago - my pumice and driftwood wreath, which I had made using an old wire coat hanger. That was the difficult part as it was really hard to bend the hook in to shape - but in the end I wanted it done and found a way.

Pumice totem
While visiting friends last weekend I saw they had some lovely totems in their garden that they had made from driftwood and pumice, and I decided it was time I got around to using all the pumice that I had collected. So here is my pumice totem, which is threaded onto a piece of dowel that cost me $2.30 from Arthurs Emporium (which was enough for 2 totems). Pumice is so easy to drill.

pumice totem
The lower end of the dowel is pushed securely into the ground. The totem moves with the breeze.

Petrol Saving Tip

Turn off your engine if you will stationary for more than 2 minutes. Idling this long takes more fuel than restarting your car. (tip from

More Something for nothing

New Zealand Spinach 

This plant just self seeds and comes up regularly in the garden. I like to use the new tips, which I threw in to my chicken risotto last night. It seems to be unpopular with slugs and snails.

Update on Great White Butterfly
DOC is offering $10 reward for each dead Great White Butterfly brought in. We don't have them in the North, so hopefully that will stop them getting here.

There is also a bird further South that has invaded our shores called a Red vented Bulbul that they are offering $30 for information that leads to capture.
Red vented Bulbul

I hope DOC's bounty helps keep us free of these pests, which are apparently aggressive and prolific breeders.

Well it's a beautiful day out there - I'm off to mow the lawn. I have been looking at it for days, waiting, as I really want the lawn clippings to mulch my plants!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Interesting tidbits about food

Recently I picked up this book in our library
- but it would be a great one to own. Wendyl, of Green Goddess fame, has compiled this book from many of her articles written for the NZ Herald called Wendyl Wants To Know, in which she investigates, in easy to follow language, what is in some of the foods we buy. She also gives alternative recipes for some that we can easily make at home, so sparing ourselves a lot of additives and numbers.
In the back is a comprehensive guide to our food codes - which is really the reason that I would like a copy of my own.
Today I had a look at some items in my pantry - most of which are now pretty good as I have been doing slow living for about a year in a more serious fashion, but I did find a packet of Cup a Soup lurking in there.

This stuff really should not be considered a food, and I will never be buying the likes of it again. Not only is there no chicken in it, one serving has 695mg of sodium, which is 30% of the RDI. One of the "flavour enhancers" is MSG, and the other is 635 - 'a chemical compound. May cause itchy rash and welts in sensitive people. Asthmatics, gout sufferers, infants and children should avoid it.' (that excerpt from the Supermarket Guide)
One of the recipes in the book was
Lemon/lime water

I have adjusted this a little to make a sugar free version using natural sugar replacements.
1/2 tsp citric acid
4 tsp sugar  (or 2 tsp of my stevia/ no cal mix - see below)
juice of 1 lime or lemon

Add these ingredients to 1 litre of chilled water then throw in the sliced up squeezed lemon as well. It is really refreshing!
So much better than buying bottled drinks - and really economical.

Natural no calorie sweetener
I have been searching for a way to reduce our sugar intake - not that we have that much, but none is better. I don't want to use chemical artificial sweeteners, which I don't think are that good for me, plus leave a horrible aftertaste.
Recently in our Health shop I found No Cal powder - which is 100% erithritol. The packet says it has 70% the sweetness of sugar, but I thought it seemed less than that.
I also had purchased stevia - which I am used to, and sometimes add just a tiny bit to deserts etc, but find it too overpowering to try using in coffee or drinks.

What I have done is mixed the two, with the No cal acting as a carrier. Now I can put a little in my drinks - or marmalade when I'm making it, and not have the strong stevia taste, but get enough sweetness.
I mix 3 teaspoons of No Cal to 1/2 teaspoon of stevia in a jar. I find 1/4 tsp enough in my coffee.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Love a Good Freebie

There's nothing like getting something for nothing and the garden is great for this.
I felt a bit guilty about not using some of the Chinese greens that I had planted - I just wasn't familiar enough with them and they went to seed before I got to them, but the flowers have been covered in bees, and I will dry these seed pods and try again.

Driftwood edges, cabbage tree leaves as mulch...

Ornamental bananas...The first one we bought was meant to be a miniature - but it grew to twice the size it was supposed to be, covering a window and hiding a view. After it flowered we chopped it out and really I thought, what is the point, I would rather have fruiting bananas. But the seeds have started sprouting, and the spent palm has made great compost. We have plenty of room and are hankering after the tropical look, so I plan to plant them in the soakage field to hopefully crowd out a field of kikuyu grass.

banana seed

Sweet Peas...

Not entirely free because I planted the seeds. I want to leave them on the plant as they look so pretty, but I know that if I pick them, the plant produces more. These are a special sweetpea for containers

And when picked, if placed in front of the bathroom mirror it looks like twice as much. Such a lovely fragrance.

Rum and Raisin Truffles

These are great to take to a potluck as they can be made well in advance, and they are gluten free, depending on the chocolate you use.
They look better when rolled in coconut, but I had just run out, so they are dusted with icing sugar and cocoa sifted together.
Using a double boiler combine
500 grams of dark chocolate melts
1 cup of cream
2 tablespoons of rum

Stir over a low heat until melted and combined.
Stir through 1/2 cup each of chopped hazelnuts and raisins (although I used more of each, almost twice as much in fact)

Refrigerate until firm. Roll teaspoonfuls (approx 30 - 40) into balls, then in chocolate hail or coconut or cocoa/ icing sugar.
Refrigerate or freeze as required until ready to serve.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Seedlings, good sites, slaters

It has been time to plant out the seedlings I raised, so today I made myself a couple of bean teepees.
My garden constructions are always organic looking - ie wonky. I call myself the WabiSabi Construction Company.
We are so lucky here having such a lot of resources nearby - horses over the fence for manure, beach nearby for seaweed, mangroves over the road where we harvest driftwood for art, fences, garden edges, and a stand of teatree for garden poles and great kindling for the fire. Plus a decent sized lawn - all clippings get used as mulch on the gardens.
We have rainwater tanks - although that resource needs careful management.

I have a great spot to raise seedlings - a covered outdoor area with doors that roll up when it is time to harden off plants.

Websites of interest
I came across this comment in Organic NZ -
Research by New Zealand Footprint Project attributes 56% of the country's resource use to the way food and beverages are produced, distributed and consumed, 23% to consumer goods, and far lower figures to travel, overseas holidays, household energy use and other activity.
"Reducing resource use through localizing food systems, using backyards and community owned land would be the most effective way to reduce the national ecological footprint" said scientist and project manager Ella Lawton.
The New Zealand Footprint site looks really interesting - and I had never heard of it before. 

Also there is a free digital library at mainly on holistic health, homesteading and agriculture.


We've been seeing a lot of these lately, out at night - and I didn't know if they were good or bad for the garden, so went Googling and found a good site here.
It turns out that they are both good and bad, in that they break down compost material to help the soil - but they can also be responsible for eating plants (sigh). 
Management, not blitzing, is the answer - see the above site

Monday, 7 October 2013

A Little Garden Every Day

Daylight saving is just great, making our days longer in the evenings - which doesn't affect me so much, but is great for those people in the workforce so they get more leisure time.
I try to do a few hours gardening every day, whether it is raising seeds on wet days or getting our vege garden into shape or mowing lawns. Sometimes it is being out at night catching slugs and snails. 

Diatomaceous Earth
I have been reading about this stuff - which is fossil shell flour, and is an organic way to control chewing insects in the garden and even ants and cockroaches in the house (not that we have those) and fleas on animals.
So, I have just ordered some from as we are not happy about spreading slug and snail baits in our garden. 

Feijoa pests

For those people who don't get subtropical fruit, feijoas are the most delicious, fragrant fruit that are usually abundant in Northland.
 Last year we got no fruit from them and suspected insects of eating the flowers.

feijoa flowers
Last night while we were outside we checked our feijoa trees and found beetles all over them, which we have identified from Google as being bronze beetles.

I have tried spraying with neem oil twice - but it hasn't had much effect. Last night, after our Google info search Derek sprayed them with our Ecomist - natural pyrethrum - canister, that we keep for fly control inside. I just went to check and to get a photo, and all I could find were the dead ones we had squashed last night. So not a very good photo, but here they are. 

not easy to see the beetles, but there is the damage they do - holes chewed.

Pyrethrum Daisy
I picked up a pot of pyrethrum daisy at the garden centre the other week, as the above mentioned Ecomist is rather expensive at $20/ can. I was delighted to find that there were 6 plants in my pot which was about $3. Now all I have to do is wait for flowers, dry them, powder them and make my own spray ..easy haha.
pyrethrum daisy

I have planted them around the vege garden in the hopes that they will act as a deterrent whilst growing, and I will be planting more under all of the feijoa trees.

I picked up a copy of Organic NZ magazine in our library the other week - what a wealth of interesting articles.

I rather liked one called "Diary of a Green Guerrilla" by Robert Guyton, about people who are planting seedlings of fruit trees on wasteland, and on the street verge outside their homes. Instead of throwing out peach stones and melon seeds etc, they throw them into a raised bed of old compost. Whatever grows gets planted out somewhere surreptitiously.
I also discovered from there that there is a local shop selling cotton buds made from bamboo and cotton, as it seems the only ones to be bought in the supermarket are made with plastic stems. Local suppliers can be found at and for bamboo toothbrushes too.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

I Baking Soda-ed the Dog

Munta, our unemployed farm dog, does not like water, which makes bathing him a hazardous exercise. So when I read in Bicarbonate of Soda - the complete practical handbook that baking soda could be safely used on dogs to reduce their greasiness and doggy smell I thought that sounded like an excellent idea. One handful of baking soda later, sprinkled over the unsuspecting dog and he indeed was less greasy and doggy smelling. Yay!

Sweet Munta
Small Green Activities - Every Day

A lot of the green things we do here are not blogworthy, or I have already posted them on an earlier blog.
One thing we do is pick plastic rubbish out of our local river mangroves. The other day I even picked out a back support corset which we then put in our rubbish. How on earth would that get there?
We've had quite a few visitors this weekend, and they are blown away by the fact that I baked scones, muffins, made my own bread, hummus etc, etc and raise my own seedlings. 
It's hard work being green, but is worthwhile.
I just looked up a blog which I read about in an old 2008 Time magazine, in an article called the Truth about Plastic. Sadly the author has barely blogged (on that blog) in the past 4 years, finding she struggled to maintain the plastic-free lifestyle. 
It shouldn't have to be that hard. 

One commenter on the above-mentioned blog says that a grocery attendant threw a bag of chicken at her when she turned down the plastic bag that they try to make you take with your meat. I find they definitely get a bit bristly about this, so I take some plastic bags with me for them to use, which can then be washed and reused. Stops them sneaking them in.

I've been composting more items since reading Zero Waste Home, now putting cellophane in the compost - but find I have to be careful because they make some plastic that looks like cellophane. 


I liked her idea of having a compost bin in the bathroom too for tissues, hair, nail trimmings etc. I don't feel happy about putting these in the general compost that goes in our garden, so they will be getting their own burial.