Invaders! Plant problems and a magazine review

Invaders! Invaders! Red alert! Red alert! Red alert!

I picked off the aphid infested leaves for the chooks.

I have my first invaders of the insect kind in my garden. Well, in my gutter gardens to be exact. My gutter garden has been going great guns and we have had several harvests from the lettuce growing there. The rocket is not far from harvest either. It still hasn’t made it to its final home and isn’t even hanging up. My husband – an engineer – felt the existing hooks weren’t strong enough to carry the weight. I have to concur but it isn’t worth new hooks before we move so it’s currently resting on some chairs. So, once we move I will have some strong hooks installed and the garden will be hung up. I can’t even take it up until I am able to get up there at least every 2 days to water it either. Frustrating, as the 4 sugar snap peas planted to grow up the wires, are starting to be in need of some support.I may have to provide some temporary stakes I think. Well, anyway, as I tried to deal with Orik who was feeling grumpy and destructive due to being tired, he grabbed a lettuce leaf and tore it (no big deal as the chooks can have it) but I noticed that there was something on the back of the leaf which wasn’t up to the standard of the other leaves. An aphid! So this is the first time I have had to deal with pests in the garden. Dr Google and Pinterest are always a great help and I found this page with a recipe for a natural aphid insecticide. It is safe enough that it wouldn’t be a problem if my kids ate the leaves, although they may find it doesn’t taste so great. We would still wash before eating but I love the fact that we don’t absolutely HAVE to!

My poor sick lemon tree

I’ve had some other issues I’ve needed to look into too. My new lemon tree which I bought at CERES a few weeks back is looking a little unwell and has lost many of its leaves. Again, Dr Google has helped and I am thinking that my poor plant is probably hungry. Lemons are high nitrogen feeders so time for some grass clippings and a top up of compost I think.

Next health check is for my avocado trees. They have been grown from seed by my parents and I am hoping to be able to supply most of the Eastern Seaboard with fruit from them. My parents tree is a prolific bearer so here’s hoping they have passed that wonderful trait on to their progeny. Well, all three of the trees have some leaves that are looking pretty sick, one in particular. A quick look on Dr Google and it appears I have not sufficiently neglected my tree and I have possibly given it too much water! You have to laugh – killing it with kindness (and not very much kindness at that). Apparently they are very sensitive to change, so a car ride for 40 minutes and the loud noises that emanate from my children have probably sent they 3 dears into full on panic mode! I shall move them to a semi-rain sheltered area on my deck then leave them until the Ballan move. Here’s hoping the drier conditions and easily neglectable position will help them recover before being moved and transplanted out.

The almonds that are no more.

The fourth problem I have had to deal with this morning is more in the nature of a small child. Someone thought it would be fun to pick the growing almonds off my almond tree and throw them around the garden. I have lost several of what was a fairly prolific second crop. Last year the poor thing grew 3 almonds that never reached maturity. This year I was overjoyed and a little dismayed to realise it has like 20-30 fruit growing nicely, and all of good size too. Sadly I now have around 10 less! My dismay at the fruit is due to the fact I had assumed it was not self pollinating or able to fruit and had decided not to repot it in winter to take to Ballan. Now I have missed the chance until probably May next year, by which stage we shall probably have tenants in the house. I’m not sure yet if I will be able to take it with us, which I would dearly love to. If I can, both the almond and the apple (of unknown cultivar) will come with us. Ah for opportunities lost.

My 34th birthday has thankfully come and gone with little fuss again this year (I absolutely despise my birthday). I received a wonderful gift from my family though – a selection of gardening magaines. And it is one of these that I wish to share as I have found it informative and helpful for beginner gardeners like myself. The magazine is Good Organic Gardening and it came with an extra included called The Organic Backyard. It is, as it says, “Your complete guide to growing  vegetables and herbs”. I was able to sit down, with the crop rotation information chart I found on page 26, as well as the vegies A-Z (pages 31-78) and plan out what I was planting where and with what I would plant it. Excitement much?

Carrot top seeds

Sunflowers and pumpkins

Other news to report is that our planted carrot tops appear t be setting seed! STOKED!, my corn and pumpkin seeds are doing well, my watermelon seeds didn’t appreciate being transferred into their newspaper pots so I am hoping they recover before I plant them out in a couple of weeks, zucchinis, more tomatoes (I’m hoping for a glut for canning and bottling), more sunflowers (great for the chooks to eat and hopefully we can have some for us too), tomato seedlings are all doing well in their newspaper pots although they all need a little more sunlight than they get so I have a new tray on a chair that gets moved to the sunlight patches system that seems to be helping. My mandarin is also in full bloom so hoping for a prolific first crop.

3 strawberry flowers!

My seedlings and Minnie cat watching over them

Other than that I am watching Jasper chasing butterflies, Allegra is swinging and Orik sleeping. The sun is shining and it’s a lovely day.


I’ll make it myself

I resent having to buy personal care products. For several reasons.

This picture was doing the rounds on Facebook last week and this sums up many of my reasons…

Kind of revolting to think that, by trying to feel good about ourselves with a pamper session or by putting on some pretty or smelling nice we are increasing our chances of ill in future years. Feel good now and pay the price later. Well, I don’t like this. I also don’t like having to fork out money for this stuff either. And in many cases I have been able to make my own safe, cheap and effective homemade products to replace many of these.

Shampoo: This was one of the first products I changed. There are many companies out there that make natural and organic shampoos and conditioners free from all the garbage packed in by your supermarket brands. I switched over to using Babyscent  products just over 4 years ago. I found my hair lighter, easier to manage and needing a lot less washing. In the end I was washing my hair every 2 weeks and it wasn’t even particularly oily even then! I decided about 2 years ago to take it to the next level though and go “poo free”. I have not used shampoo or conditioner on my hair since then. If it gets particularly grotty (maybe every 3 or 4 months, I make a paste of bicarb soda and water and scrub it into my scalp. After a thorough rinsing I use 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water to condition it. It’s great. But mostly, hair is self regulating and self cleaning. Hair gets oily in order to clean it and keep it healthy. By stripping the natural oils the scalp ups the oil production, hence starting the cycle to needing to shampoo all the time. When I went poo free I was pregnant and I think it took longer for my scalp to settle but it took a few months and then the greasiness just disappeared. My hair is as healthy as it has ever been.

Eyeshadow: This is for me, one of the simple ones. I just don’t use it. lol However, there are truly natural make up companies out there. I have used some of the Adorn Mineral Cosmetics which are all natural, organic and toxic free. I haven’t tried their eye-shadow however, but if it’s anything like their lipstick it will be amazing.

Lipstick: As above. I have used the Adorn Mineral Cosmetics lipsticks and they are beautiful and creamy.

Nail Varnish: I’m not a real varnish user but I came across a page a few weeks back with some information on nail polishes. It is worth a check out.

Fake Tan: As much as lying in the sun for hours to achieve a healthy glow is not a safe alternative with the incidence of skin cancer being so high, neither is pouring toxic chemicals all over your body a wise move. Personally, I would rather spend some time in the sun working, being sensible with using sun protection than fake tan. If I get some colour then that is a bonus. Having a husband who prefers pale skin to a sun tan is a big bonus though too. Being sun smart is very important though. Slip, slop slap (see my comments on sunscreen though), and staying out of the sun when UV rays are at their worst is paramount. However, I have heard mentioned that our fear of UV rays is leading to a deficiency in Vitamin D. On a sunny winters day like today, hang out the washing with your sleeves pushed up and sans hat. You may or may not get some colour but you will get the glow of health from breathing in fresh air, absorbing some Vitamin D (the skin can’t absorb it if you have sunscreen on and it won’t pass through glass either) and just generally being outside. That’s enough for me.

Hairspray: This one stumped me for a while until a friend one day pinned a recipe for homemade hairspray on Pinterest which I immediately repinned. I never followed it up until after attending a class on vintage beauty tips where the same recipe was shared as a substitute for pin curl setting spray. During the war women made their own. Essentially it is just sugar water. Take 1/2 cup of water, just boiled, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (I found this at the chemists) and you can add oils of your choice for scent if you need. Stir sugar in the water until dissolved then add the alcohol. That’s it! The only thing I have had trouble with is I’ve been using too much. This stuff is so effective it will stun you! Not to mention cheap as chips, not needing propellants to spray (use a very fine mist spray bottle) and you can scent it as you like too. Win!

Deodorant: Another homemade job, again a Pinterest find and this deodorant works perfectly.

Blush: Pinch pinch the cheeks for some colour, then flick the hair back! It’s what they used to do before cosmetics. As someone who rarely uses make up… Well, again, worth checking out Adorn Mineral Cosmetics

Foundation: And again, Adorn can help you here. :o)

Perfume: Most perfumes these days are made with synthetic ingredients. There are still some that are made with natural oils or you can make your own too. I’ve pinned several pages on Pinterest for cream perfumes and for liquid ones. I’ve made a few and I mist them on when I need a treat. Here and here are some recipes.

Body Lotion: Well, including facial moisturiser too, I have the perfect substitute here. Coconut oil. A little goes a long way and it smells divine! My skin is soft and supple, it’s great to use on your tummy during pregnancy, all over the body and n the face too. It takes a little time to absorb completely but it makes a great make up base too. If you still like the idea of lotions, Pinterest and the net are full of recipes. Some I’ve pinned but I have only tried. The recipes are here, here, here , here and this one which I have tried and it is DIVINE!

Other products to consider carefully before you use them are sunscreen, medicinal creams and for babies and young children, nappy creams. We use a home-made sunscreen here too. It is a Thermomix recipe but you could easily make it without a Thermy using a double boiler. It also states to stop before adding the zinc if you want a great nappy cream, but since many nappy creams contain zinc, you can also use it with the zinc. Your call. 🙂

As for salves for stings, bites and grazes etc, I have use the Babyscent multi-purpose cream but at the moment I am addicted to The Eco Mum’s Essential Salve. We use it for chapped lips, bites, stings, scratches, grazes and sore bums too.

I love making my own products. It feels so good to know that I am in control of what I put on my skin. And it’s saved me money and cupboard space too.