Saturday, 29 April 2017

Making More Mulch

Laying down mulch over the soil in a garden has many benefits but it can be quite expensive if you have to buy it in regularly to cover a large area. The solution to cutting down that expense is to grow some of your own mulches.

Sugar cane mulch helps to protect the soil around seedlings like this little lettuce.

At our place, we have regularly used (and had to buy) sugar cane and lucerne mulches for our garden beds and veggie patch plus a coarser bark for laying down around native plants. We are hoping to cut down on how much of this mulch we need to buy, especially for the garden beds where shrubs and flowers are the predominate plantings. We are going to grow and make some of our own mulch instead!

The long, dry leaves of lemongrass laid around the base of a native raspberry plant.

I learnt a lot more about plants that I can grow for mulches at the Introduction to Permaculture course I completed in at the City Farm recently. Our teacher for this course, Morag Gamble, has this great list of plants you can grow as/for mulch over on her blog, Our Permaculture Life. At our place, in our suburban garden, we've chosen to plant more lemongrass and to start growing Canna Lily (Queensland Arrowroot variety) to increase the amount of our own mulch available for use in our garden.

One of many newly planted lemongrasses in our garden.

Lemongrass and Canna Lily grow quite abundantly in our climate so they are very suitable as "chop and drop" mulches, where you simply cut back the plants and let the leaves/stems fall to cover the soil. 

A new Canna Lily leaf emerges just weeks after planting divided rhizomes.

We also have an abundance of prunings, from the shrubs that grow well in our garden, at various times of the year. To make better use of these for mulch, we decided to invest in a little mulching machine. We used some gift cards we had been given by family last Christmas to put towards the cost of our new mulcher. 

Our new mulching machine.

By growing more plants for mulches and by putting suitable garden clippings through our little mulcher, we should save some money and also make better use of the organic material our own garden supplies us with. 

Do you grow plants for mulch in your garden?


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ginger Anzac Biscuits

Each year, on ANZAC Day, I make a batch of Anzac biscuits.  In traditional recipes, these sweet biscuits are made with oats, sugar, flour, butter and golden syrup. It seems the origin of these biscuits is unknown though it is said that they were made and sent in the care packages that the first, far-from-home ANZAC soldiers received from their loved ones and families. 

A batch of Ginger Anzacs & the cookbook that inspired them.

The biscuits I baked yesterday, for my family, add a little hint of spice with a recipe that pays a nod to the traditional but uses healthier ingredients. For her wholesome and beautiful cookbook, Wholehearted Food, chef Brenda Fawdon created a recipe for Ginger Anzac Biscuits where she uses preserved ginger and its syrup to flavour the biscuits. While that would be delicious, I didn't have any preserved ginger so I just used ground ginger and maple syrup instead. This is how I made them:

Ginger Anzacs

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
150g unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons bicarb soda

 Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.

 Melt the butter with maple syrup and water in a saucepan.

 Remove melted butter mixture from heat and add in bicarb soda.

 Stir gently until mixture becomes frothy.

Combine melted butter mixture and dry ingredients.

 Roll tablespoons of mixture into little balls. Flatten slightly after placing on a tray.
(Leave enough space between each biscuit as they will spread as they cook.)

Bake at 170C until golden ...
... then remove and cool on oven tray before transferring to biscuit rack.

The subtle hint of ginger spice in these Anzac biscuits was a nice twist on an original Anzac biscuit. If you really love ginger though, you might like to try making them with preserved ginger and its syrup instead. I imagine they would be .... well...more gingery!


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Hope on ANZAC Day

Here in Australia today, it is ANZAC Day. A day of solemn remembrance that has its origins in a hopeless World War 1 Allied landing and ensuing battle, fought over 100 years ago, on a distant shoreline from which many never returned.  At a place now known as Anzac Cove, on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, on the 25th April, 1915,  so many Australian and New Zealand men lost their lives and many more, on both sides, would do so before the eventual retreat was completed by the end of January, 1916. 

Rosemary, a herb for boosting memory, blooms in my garden.
(Sprigs are worn on ANZAC Day & it grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula.)

Both my son and I share a love of history and sometimes he asks some very complex questions to which there are no easy answers. This morning, before I'd had my breakfast and was not fully awake, he had asked me, "Why are there wars, Mum?" In answering him, I told him of battles over honour, power, religion, land, oil and those that will probably come over food and water. We spoke about World War 1 and Gallipoli. I showed him images of the cliffs that tower above Anzac Cove and explained why it was such a futile landing. And then I played him Eric Bogle's haunting anti-war ballad, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". 

For me, it is in the sobering, honest words of Bogle's ballad, that never fails to leave me quiet and goosefleshed, that the lessons of history and war reside. While, at the end of it all there may be a victor, so many lose so much. 

A peace lily flowers in my garden.

Why write about something so serious on my blog, where the word hopeful features prominently in the banner? Because, just as it does in my son, with his inquiring questions, I truly believe that in every child there lies the hope & potential for a peaceful future. 

Peace is what every human being is craving for,
and it can be brought about by humanity through the child."

                                                                                              (Maria Montessori)

So, as I remembered today, I also wished for peace; for my son and for all of the world's children.


p.s. There are several videos of Eric Bogle's ballad on You-tube. I chose one without accompanying photographs because I think the words alone are enough.