Archive | April, 2012

Harvest Monday – April 30th 2012

30 Apr

Another light week harvest-wise. A have a few things that are close to harvest, but still quite a bit that is a long way off.

1.6kg Dwarf Bush Beans

The bush beans probably hit maximum production this week. I harvested 1.6kg of them, which is more than even I can use but I was afraid that production would slow if I didn’t keep picking. I plan to make a version of my favourite (extremely bogan) side dish with some of these, but the rest I gave away to friends.

330g kipfler potatoes

These were the under-whelming yield from a potato growing bag that I turned out today. The better ones are on the top. The sadder looking ones I hid underneath in the picture above.

1 bunch of Celery

I harvested a whole bunch of celery this week from my celery forest. I made some cream of celery soup with it on Thursday night. I’d forgotten how delicious cream of celery soup can be.

Iceberg lettuce

I’ve been cheekily stealing the outer leaves of the young iceberg lettuce for sandwiches and hoping that it won’t stop it forming heads. I guess we’ll see.

1 Strawberry

I’ve found that some of my strawberry plants are fruiting again. I noticed an almost ripe one this morning and couldn’t resist eating it. I’ll probably get a few more before the cold weather stops them in their tracks.

Next week I’m really hoping that some of my passionfruit will have ripened. They seem to be taking forever.

For more harvests across the world, visit Daphne’s

Cloth nappies in a disposable world

25 Apr

We were a cloth-nappying family even before we moved to our house and started pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Despite being an enviro-nazi and bone idle, the idea of spending so much on disposable nappies seemed crazy to me, and the thought of sending loads of plastic and human waste into landfill just seemed icky, and really – such a waste.

I never want to sound preachy on this subject – I understand that we all have our ways of doing things, and plenty of disposable-nappy-users are far more environmentally responsible than I am in a raft of different ways – for example, I try not to think too hard about my 20 minute hot showers every morning *whistle*.

I just want to take the opportunity to explain how I use cloth nappies on my kids and how easy and cost effective it really can be.

A brand new Baby BeeHinds Bamboo fitted nappy

The Nappies

We use Baby BeeHinds fitted cloth nappies. These are made of a mixture of bamboo (for absorbancy), cotton (for faster drying) and polyester (for softness). The Australian-owned, family company that produces them have refined the make-up of the fabric over time to ensure that the ideal balance is struck between all those factors.

Nappy with both inserts

Inside the nappy goes an absorbant insert made of the same fabric as the nappy. They come in 2 sizes – you use the small one for a little baby, the large one for a bigger one and even both if you need even more absorbancy.

The nappies themselves absorb all the wee and catch all the poo, then a cover goes over the top to make them waterproof.

The best thing about these nappies is the one-size-fits-all factor. My friend used them on her premmie, and my 4 year old (who wears size 6 jeans) still wears the same nappies overnight. Each nappy has been used many hundreds of times, yet still work brilliantly.

Covers drying on the line

The Covers

The covers are made of waterproof polyurethane laminate (PUL), and are nothing like the horrible plastic pilchers of old.  They  go on like the nappy, secured with velcro and come sized from newborn to large. In my experience the large size can work from as early as 6 months until toilet training, so we have a large supply of the large covers.

How Many?

We have a supply of approximately 40 nappies, which means we could probably get away with washing only a couple of times a week, but I prefer to wash more often because it is better to not leave the nappies dirty for an extended period. I have also ordered a few more recently because we are about to have 3 kids in them at once, including a newborn, through winter.

The "Little Squirt'


Washing modern cloth nappies is also a whole lot easier that the old cotton terry squares of old. We have a water gun attachment called a ‘Little Squirt’ on our toilet that we use to spray the poo off the nappy. The whole thing then gets thrown into a nappy bucket in a process known as ‘dry-pailing’, because there is no soaking at all.

This also removes the stress of having large buckets of water in the house, the thought of which always stressed me out with little kids around.

Dry-pailing the nappies

Once you have a full bucket, you throw them in the washing machine on a cold cycle with half as much detergent as you would normally use. This is because:

1. We all use too much detergent anyway


2. Detergent build-up in the nappies reduces their absorbancy.

I normally use a pre-wash setting so the nappies are rinsed thoroughly before they are washed.

Once washed, I hang the nappies out on the line in the sun. It is the sun that removes stains and sanitises.

On a good drying day the nappies will be dry in a single day. On cold, rainy days they can take many days to dry. If there is too much rain you can hang them inside or use the clothes dryer. I found that sometimes clothes-dryer aversion caused me to revert to disposables in long stretches of wet weather, but one load in the dryer costs about the same as one disposable nappy, so it is false economy.

The Fit

It confused me when researching this process how something could possibly fit both a newborn and a 6 year old.

The trick is the press-studs placed at strategic points on the nappy. You use them in different configurations, depending on the size of the child.

On a newborn, the nappy is quite bulky. They actually end up looking a bit like a teletubby, so some people prefer to use a small number of new-born sized nappies or even disposables for the first little while. That is simply a matter or preference, because these ones do definitely work. Many nappy companies (including Baby BeeHinds) make sized nappies that suit the newborn stage – we have a small supply that we purchased for our first. They just work out very expensive because you don’t use them for very long.

My 4 year old still wears nappies to bed at night. She’s huge for her age and wears size 6 jeans, so the nappies are getting tight.

This is what they look like on my 2 year old.  He’s actually pretty small for a 2 year old, but this perspective makes his butt look huge! The fit is still quite roomy. I am nowhere near using the largest snaps.

The cover goes over the top, attached with the velcro as tight as you can get away with without them squawking at you. The tighter the fit, the better the waterproofing.

Changing Frequency

People ask all the time about how often you need to change cloth nappies and how the baby’s skin reacts compared with disposables. I’ll be frank with this, because I don’t think a lot of people are.

When wet, cloth nappies do not feel dry like disposables do. The bamboo ones are remarkably absorbant, but once they are wet, they feel wet. You can let a disposable nappy get so wet that the weight pulls the nappy down off the child, and yet it still feels relatively dry. If you let a cloth nappy get that wet, then you will have a child with a red, uncomfortable bottom.

Moreover, some people swear that disposables give their child nappy rash and that cloth is a million times better. I don’t have kids with sensitive skin, but I still don’t see how that is possible. Nappy rash is mostly chafing, and cloth nappies are more prone to this if you don’t change often enough. Having said that, bamboo fabric is so absorbant that a friend of mine once called health professionals because she thought her newborn wasn’t weeing. She was, but you honestly couldn’t tell.

The Cost

These nappies (at full price) are $26.00 each, so our large supply would cost slightly over $1,000 plus the cost of the covers at $14.00 each. You only use 2 covers per day (switching between the 2 at each change), so you need far less covers than nappies. This is quite an outlay, but we built up this supply over time. One baby in cloth doesn’t require quite so many, and we use a premium quality brand – there are much cheaper options available, including some very cheap ones on ebay.

When you compare this to the price of disposables over time though, the price difference is remarkable. At the very cheapest end, Aldi newborn nappies are 18 cents each. They get a lot more expensive than that, particularly when you get to premium pull-ups for older toddlers which are close to $1 each. Just assuming for example you use 6 nappies per day at 18 cents each every day until 3 years old, then one child would cost more than the cost of the cloth, and you can re-use the cloth for future children. Anyone who has used disposable nappies knows that 18 cents each is much cheaper than you would actually spend, and newborns use much more than 6 per day.

Cloth is cheaper. Much cheaper. Even when you take the cost of the washing powder and electricity into account. Even if you washed them in hot water and dried them in the dryer.

How do they hold up over multiple children?

In the picture here there are two nappies up close. The one on the right is brand new and the one on the left is more than 4 years old. The nappies definitely lose softness over time, but they soften up when you put them on a child. My nappies should outlast all of our children if they wear consistently.

Other Options

This is not the only way to use cloth nappies. Plenty of people still use cotton terry squares and others use fitted nappies of multiple sizes so that the fit of the nappy is trimmer at each stage. Other people use disposables when they go out and cloth the rest of the time. We are not totally consistent – we use disposables when we go away overnight and sometimes when we go out. The kids’ daycare won’t use the cloth, so we have to send disposables there. I’m not overly zealous with it – any reduction in landfill must be good for our environment.

I hope this helps someone to get their head around how the cloth nappy thing works. It really isn’t difficult, because I’m sure I would have given up by now if it was. Are disposables easier? Hell yes! But not so much easier that I’m willing to pay up to $3,000 per kid for the luxury.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I found it really difficult to get my head around the practical aspects of cloth nappying before I started.

Harvest Monday – 23rd April 2012

23 Apr

Not much photographing of harvests occurred this week, but instead I’ll give you a sneak peek of what is coming along in the Autumn garden.

Handful of salad leaves (iceberg lettuce and beetroot tops)

My leafy winter crops are really growing quickly. I’ve been pretty vigilant with the (iron-based) snail pellets, so despite the copious rain (163 millimetres since last Tuesday) they seem to be relatively unscathed. I have noticed a few fluttering white cabbage moths though, so I can’t afford to let my guard down. I have been harvesting some outer leaves of the iceberg lettuces for salads and the occasional beetroot leaf.

800g green dwarf beans

The green dwarf beans never let me down. They are my staple crop, and I could have picked far more of these.

1 lebanese eggplant

The last remaining lebanese eggplant bush (on the far left of the picture) still has a few fruit remaining that I’m picking as needed. They grow when the weather is warm, but are slowly declining on the cool, damp days.

I used this in some pasta with roast vegetables last night, along with some of my golden nugget pumpkins stored from Summer. They are still in perfect condition, so now I’m wishing that I stored more of them.

In the picture above you can see my winter tomatoes – the variety is Stupice. They are looking great and are loaded with flowers. This is a potato leaf variety of tomatoes, and they seem to be much more prone to ‘forking out’ than the standard Grosse Lisse. I wanted to keep them fairly well pruned  and upright in their growth, but they have branched out in multiple trunks, right from the bottom even though I was trying to be careful to pinch out the laterals.

24 eggs

Of my 6 chooks, 4 are laying now. I wonder if I’ll need to wait until Spring before the final 2 start. They are still laying far in excess of what I can actually use, so I’ve already started giving some eggs away.

Handfuls of basil

I’m honestly a little over pesto, so I’ve just been using the last of the basil before it dies back in dishes as-is. It is flowering with gusto now, and the bees swarm over the plant even on drizzly days like today.

On the other side of the front bed the peas are well and truly up, just waiting for me to get their supports ready. The new root vegetable bed is also looking great, with carrots, daikon, swede and turnip.

And something that always fills me with excitement – the first blueberry flowers.

In other news, the weather seems to have been great for establishing my onions – they have really taken off. I also spent some time over the weekend topping up Bed E with some cow manure and planting it out with potatoes. I will also plant some snow peas along here, which should fill this bed for the winter.

Hopefully soon I’ll have something more exciting to report than beans and eggs. The apples are getting close, and so are the winter passionfruit.

For more harvests from all over the world head on to Daphne’s Dandelions.

The nagging wife is vindicated

18 Apr

I’ve been on a crusade lately to get my husband P to take better care of himself. There was the strict diet early this year and recently I’ve been on his case to get various medical checkups to ensure that his hectic lifestyle isn’t taking too much of a toll on his health.

So he went to the dentist and the doctor – all good, except he needs to do more exercise and take a holiday some time. I can handle that – Fiji, maybe? Might have a bit more convincing to do there 🙂

Then just before Easter I dragged both of us off to the skin cancer clinic to get our skin examined for the first time.

Long story short, P had skin cancer.

Made for a nervous wait over the Easter break, but thankfully not melanoma – a squamous cell carcinoma. Funny thing is, nothing about the particular spot raised any suspicion with us, and without a check up, it may have gone years without being detected. By then it could have been far more serious.

They have now removed a significant chunk out of the side of his face and I’m feeling very thankful that my Dad encouraged me to go get my skin checked.

So everyone – particularly other Aussies – please get your skin checked. P is only 32 and I thought we had years before we needed to worry about this stuff.

Harvest Monday – 16th April 2012

16 Apr

We were away for Easter last Monday, and probably a good thing too – I’m not harvesting much at the moment.

4 Stalks of Celery

I have a steady supply of celery that I use as needed – I’ve harvested several stalks this week. They go well with the carrots I still have stored in the fridge from the great garden clear-out. I can’t wait until the new batch come to maturity, because I’m going through the carrots quickly.

420g Green dwarf beans

The new patch of dwarf beans are in full production now – I started picking during the week.  My friend Sarah and her husband came round for dinner and she picked 370grams for me to cook tonight. The image on the left is from earlier in the year, but the beans look the same, in about the same quantity.

I pulled out the previous batch after the pest control incident, and they were still quite heavily loaded with pods – such a shame to waste. I think green beans and celery may need to fill the gap between now and winter veggies. I probably need to get some more asian greens in too.

2 Capsicum

The majority of the capsicums have been rotting as they turn red. I think it is fruit fly again. Hopefully the weather is sufficiently cool now that the remaining fruit will escape. I may need to start harvesting green from this point onwards. This week I harvested one red one that I needed to peel because it got covered in white oil that I was spraying on the lemon tree foliage. Maybe that’s why it escaped the fruit fly, but the oily coating wasn’t going to taste very nice. I used it in a stir fry on Saturday night.

6 Chillies

J volunteered to pick the ripe chillies. She did a good job of stripping the plant, but I haven’t seen them since. I assume she didn’t eat 6 bird’s eye chillies, so they must be hidden somewhere around the house.

30 Eggs

To be honest I lost count of the egg tally this week. It actually covered close 2 weeks production though, because we collected the eggs after Easter that had been laid while we were away. We certainly haven’t hit full capacity – between 3 and 4 eggs per day on average – and we are eating them as fast as they come in.

I hope everyone else is enjoying bumper crops, particularly those in the Northern hemisphere who have just come out of Winter. Head over the Daphne’s blog to read about harvests all over the world this week.

Lay…me…down… on a bed of onions*

15 Apr

I have terrible taste in music. I feel ashamed to admit it, but I’m just not that into it.

It seems like a universally human thing, enjoying music – if you look at anyone’s list of interests, it is bound to appear. I can enjoy a catchy song as much as anyone, but my tastes are very ‘top 20 popular’, and no-one’s ever going to hear about a great new band from me.

But as bad as my music tastes are, I like to think that P’s are worse. His preferences don’t seem to have progressed past the 90s, and the worst thing of all is that he still loves Guns ‘N’ Roses.

I detest a few things in life, like ironing, dental work and getting out of bed on cold mornings, but I think most things are preferable to listening to Axel Rose belt out “Sweet child of mine”. And yet P loves it.

He loves me too – doesn’t do much for the ego, that.

This weekend in Sydney was lovely.  It might just be the last hurrah of warm weather, and I still hadn’t planted the garlic. The front yard was also looking a little shabby after being neglected over Easter, so we got stuck into the mowing, edging, tidying and weeding.

I finally planted the onions. I had sown a whole packet of onion seeds in a large pot, and they had   progressed to about 15cm high and strong enough for transplanting. I prepared Bed B by weeding and cultivating thoroughly, then set to work trimming the roots of the onions to 2cm long, trimming the tops if they were particularly long, and planting at 10cm spacings with 20cm row spacings. Perhaps a little close, but we’ll see how it goes. This certainly isn’t going to be a project with a rapid payoff, seeing as I’m planting onions in close to full shade through winter. If I get pickling size onions, I’ll still be happy.

I had enough onion seedlings to fill about 1/2 of the bed. The rest I will plant with beetroot, as I’ve had success with beetroot in shade before, and I could use a large quantity of baby beets for pickling.

After planting the onions I mulched heavily with lucerne in an attempt to deter the pesky neighbourhood cat from digging up my seedlings. I have been having dreadful trouble after I stripped the beds for winter – the cat seems to love digging and pooping in bare soil. Heavily mulched beds seemed to have escaped. Mulching around tiny seedlings is slow work, and afterwards I was well and truly pooped.

Today I managed to plant the garlic. Only 50 cloves this year , and I chose to plant only the biggest outer cloves rather than entire bulbs. I think it was a mistake last year to plant the small inner ones too – I had quite a number of small, fiddly bulbs as a result.

Once again I’ve planted under the roses (which may be a mistake) but I’ve re-used garlic grown last year too, so I might generally be heading for failure.

But first I’m heading for bed. I have sore muscles on top of my sore muscles, a raging chest infection and I’m the size of a small house. I know it’ll be difficult once the baby arrives, but at the moment I’d just love to be my normal size again.

*or garlic. Seeing as I planted it under the roses, that might be more apt.

Easter Eggs, somewhat scrambled

10 Apr

We went away for the Easter long weekend. We attended the Katoomba Easter Convention, and stayed with some lovely friends in a beautiful cozy house.

Attending the convention for the past 2 years has been a wonderful way to celebrate Easter – reflecting on God’s love for us in sending his Son to die in our place. I feel refreshed and encouraged. The kids had their fair share of chocolate, but it’s good to take the focus away from eggs and bunnies.

Back at home we left the chooks with plenty of food and filled many large tubs of water. After that we just locked them in the coop and hoped for the best. We arrived home late last night after being away since Thursday, and I sent P out immedately to check on the girls. The first thing he noticed was that the coop door was open. Not a good sign, but they appeared to all be fine and accounted for.

So this morning Little D and I went out to collect the eggs. 15 all up, so I think we must have a third layer (at least). Unfortunately 15 eggs in a basket was a bit much for Little D to handle reliably, so a couple ended up cracked by over-enthusiasm. I guess they will have to go into dinner somehow.

There is very little consistency in the size of the eggs. The new layers are producing small eggs in the realms of 45 grams, and someone is producing 80 gram whoppers. The 80 gram eggs do not even fit in cartons properly.

And this afternoon D left the back screen door open. The chooks are so sociable that they actually run to get in when given the opportunity.

I thought I heard some brocking a little bit closer than normal and I turned around to see this sight. The difficult job is herding them out again without them pooing on the floor.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. I have a lot of posts and comments to catch up on.

Meat Deprivation

4 Apr

We eat vegetarian meals about 50% of the time at the moment, and my children are clearly deprived of meat.

Tonight I served rump steak, baked jacket potatoes and a pumpkin and carrot soup. I gave J her piece of steak, and it was only when she asked for more that we realised that (in almost no time) it was gone. Neither of us even noticed her eating it, and bizzarely, she didn’t even have a knife.

So I gave her some of mine (a bit rarer than her piece), and thought I’d observe a bit more carefully. She gripped it in her hand, tearing pieces off like a lion, blood dripping down her chin and arm. Seriously gross.

When she saw that I was watching, she briefly interrupted her carnivore display to ask, “Mum, does meat have juice?”.

“Yes J, it’s called blood. Steak comes from cows, and cows have blood”.

She shrugged.

And continued ripping pieces off with her teeth.

At least the poor animal didn’t die in vain…

I feel like I need to take a lesson away from this, but I’m just not sure exactly what that is.

A. Feed the girl more meat

B. Teach her some table manners

C. Keep her away from pets

D. Never serve her fava beans with a nice chianti

Our low animal protein diet has had some benefits though. I dragged P to the doctor yesterday for a general checkup, and his weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are perfect. I’m sure that would not have been the case in December.

How often do you eat meat? Every meal like we used to? Or are you reducing your intake too?

Australian Native Finger Limes and Speckled Finger Lime Curd

4 Apr

After much resisting, Louise from Garden Glut‘s boasting about her finger lime tree just made me too jealous. In a moment of weakness I ordered a tree of my own, and it arrived from Daley’s (in Kyogle) yesterday.

It is beautifully structured and incredibly spiky. Might have to position it strategically to stop Little D from climbing the retaining wall towards the street.

If you have never encountered a finger lime, you are in for a treat. They are an Australian native citrus with a flesh that resembles caviar – tiny little balls of limey deliciousness. You cut them in half and squeeze out the flesh – great in salad dressings because you get little surprise bursts of acidity with an amazing texture.

They also come in a great range of colours – from clear  through to light green, dark green, pale and dark pink. The flavour varies too from quite sweet to very acidic like a normal lime.

I had 2 finger limes in the fridge (a gift from a friend) and a handful of beautiful tahitian limes from my next door neighbour that I wanted to use.

The finger limes were dark-skinned and vivid pink in the flesh. The limes were large and juicy – freshly picked from the tree. I thought they all deserved to be used in a special way.

So I planned a lime curd – a special one with little pink speckles. Very decorative and appropriate for Easter I thought.

I based the recipe on this one from

I added half the finger lime flesh before it thickened, then reserved the remainder until it was finished – concerned that I’d overcook and curdle the mix, then need to strain it to salvage the situation. It was fine in the end – induction cooking is incredibly good for fine control at low temperatures.

I agonised about the level of thickness. Recipes use useless descriptions such as ‘so it coats the back of a spoon’. What does that mean? I wanted a thick curd, but I knew it would thicken further when cooled. In the end I let it thicken to the point that it wasn’t quite thick enough for my liking, but passable if it didn’t get any thicker. Whenever I stirred it vigorously it stuck to the sides of the pan without running back down on its own.

The finished product was quite pretty in the jars – I gave a jar to my neighbour who supplied the limes and I have another for my friend who gave me the finger limes.

I planned to water bath preserve the curd at the end so I could store it in the cupboard, but I chickened out, concerned that the eggs would overcook and go lumpy in the jars. Maybe some things are just better stored in the fridge.

Tuesday Night Vego – Souper Salad

3 Apr

When I was 7 I spent 6 weeks in California. I actually celebrated my 8th birthday over there with my American cousins. I think Australian and American culture has blended over time, but in 1987 it really did seem like a ‘foreign country’.

I remember going to a restaurant soon after we arrived and the waitress asking if I wanted a ‘super salad’. I said yes.

But she was actually asking if I wanted soup or salad with my meal. That was tricky – couldn’t I have both? I have always really loved soup so I find it difficult to refuse, but it was the middle of a Californian summer so salad made a bit more sense.

Since that time I’ve enjoyed constructing meals of both soup and salad in my not-really-very-rebellious spirit. I like to call it a ‘Souper Salad’ meal. Tonight was one of them.

My neighbour gave me some leeks and limes yesterday from his garden. I used the limes earlier today (I’ll give details tomorrow), but the leeks went to dinner tonight. I needed something fairly bland because P and J have a tummy bug. Joy.

Leek and Potato Soup

3 leeks, thinly sliced, green tops discarded.

2 potatoes, diced in 1.5cm cubes

3 tablespoons butter (or dairy-free spread, like I have to use)

1.5 litres stock (vegetable or chicken)

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-high heat and saute the leeks until they are wilted but not browned. If you have the time, you can reduce the heat and let the leeks caramelise slightly for better flavour, but I was in a rush tonight.

Add stock and potatoes, bring to the boil then simmer until potatoes are tender and the flavour of the soup is developed.

Season with salt and pepper. Puree if desired, but I’ve always made this soup chunky because my brother requested it that way the very first time I made it. Tonight I actually pureed after I added the stock and before I added the potatoes, because my 4 year old is convinced she hates onions. It didn’t seem to affect the flavour.

Sounds really simple (and bland), but leeks have an amazing flavour  – you can’t go wrong. Once I convinced the 2 year old to try the first spoonful tonight he ate almost 3 bowls.

I served this with a simple garden salad of wild rocket, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.

For some really inspiring vegetarian meal options, visit Linda’s blog to see what other people are serving tonight. Probably all more inspiring than my simple soup 🙂

Wish me luck tonight – I really don’t want to be cleaning any more puke off carpet, particularly as we are supposed to be going away for Easter.