Monday, 25 March 2013

Sanctuary in the City Botanic Gardens

I loathe the city; the noise, the smell, the crazy-eyed zombie shoppers, the traffic and the cigarette smoke has me close to conniptions.  At some point in time; however, it's the only place that things are available and a trip to the city becomes requisite.  Alas, Thursday was one of those days and a survival plan was in order:

  1. Write a list of everything that needs to be done or purchased in the city so you don't have to go back for another six months
  2. Plan a lunch meeting with hubby (who, poor thing, has to work there) so there's something to look forward to for the both of you
  3. Catch the bus - this avoids using the car, helps decrease traffic and keeps you sane because you then don't have to negotiate surprise one way streets and the dreaded infestation of peak hour traffic
  4. Meet with someone who knows the city fairly well so they can direct you
  5. Plan an afternoon in the City Botanic Gardens to reassure yourself that the entire world hasn't been engulfed in a concrete and glass tsunami and to cleanse your lungs of the grit and grime
I won't elaborate on steps 1-4 as there's not much to tell.  They did their part in keeping me on track and sane.  Step 5 turned out to be one of the most interesting and informative afternoons I've had in the city since school excursions.

The council runs free volunteer guided tours of the City Botanic Gardens on a twice daily basis.  The guides are dedicated to the history and plants in the garden.  Being a weekday, the small tour group comprised two guides, a trainee guide and myself (running a tad late as usual).  I was immersed in a wealth of botanical, cultural and historical knowledge while exploring the gardens.  As you can see I had a very hard time culling the myriad photos.  There was so much to see so I recommend embarking on a tour if you've ever got a free day in the city and need to escape the consuming hordes.

Elephant apple blossom and tree (Dillenia indica).
he fruit pulp is edible and used in curries and chutney.
Elephant tree
The characteristic twisted appearance of the blue quondong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius).
Unfortunately they had finished fruiting.

Ficus sycomorus - yes this is the tree you may have read about Zacchaeus climbing.
It produces funny projections on its branches that fruit at the tips which are edible.
Flood markers from 1974 and 2011

Times are a-changing.
This is a green manure crop (lablab) that the gardeners will dig in before the spring planting.

The first ever commercially planted Macadamia (integrifolia).
It still produces a crop after more than 100 years.

Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra)
The cottony lining of the seeds pods was used in mattresses as a down substitute until synthetics came along.

Ginkgo biloba

Lady's slipper vine planted to commemorate the volunteer guides (past and present)
(Thunbergia mysorensis)
Tipuana tipu
Did you play with the seeds as helicopters when you were little?

Water fountain added by Walter Hill once Brisbane had reticulated water

Logwood tree (Haematoxylum campechianum)
If you've ever done science or histology  you'll be interested to know the blue dye is derived from the heartwood of this tree.

Tamarind flowers

Davidson's Plum  - I love tart foods so this was a hit with me, not so much for the guide.

Davidson's Plum (Davidsonia ?sp)
Qld Kauri (Agathis robusta) and robust it is!

Male cycad flower

Coral dredged from Moreton Bay - it's amazing to think there was once reef there.
Bunya "pine"
(Araucaria bidwillii)
A Japanese lantern donated a second time after the first was vandalised.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Loafer turned loafer

Cobber's first cob - sourdough of course

I've started evening and night shifts this week so after a little pleading hubby attempted his first ever hand-made sourdough loaf all on his own.  He was surprised how easy it was to make and that he could actually turn out something edible with fairly little effort.  Admitting this was fatal error number one because now he really has no excuses when it comes to making another loaf.  It's been great being able to sleep and still eat well after a night shift.  Luckily for him I do enjoy making bread so I won't be recruiting his help too often.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Domestic diablerie

The first two lemons on the tree are slowly turning yellow so I've been dreaming of all the ways I could employ their wonderful juiciness.  For my prized first lemons it will most likely involve consumption of a culinary kind but I thought I'd share with you another use for when (I'm still dreaming) my tree is laden with fruit and the happy yellow of another lemon drives me to delirium.  By this stage I imagine all I'll be wanting to do is shove lemons down the toilet in order to banish them from my sight so they may as well prove practical on the way:

I've found lemons are a boon in the bathroom and when combined with bicarb results in a kind of arcane alchemy with fantastic fizzing and foaming.  The alternative is vinegar but I find that lemons give an extra clean, bright scent to the bathroom.  To clean the toilet simply cut a lemon in half and rub it over the inside of the bowl, squeezing it to release the juice.  Give it a good wringing at the end to get the rest of the juice out and if the lemon isn't particularly juicy, use both halves.  Next sprinkle a good dose of bicarb around the bowl.  This is when the fizzing and foaming will commence.  If you find your foaming insufficient, try squeezing a bit more lemon around, then tilt your head back and cackle like a witch as your domestic diablerie comes to fruition.  Then sadly it's time to return to the reality that the bowl you are staring into is that of a toilet instead of a cauldron.  Clean the toilet with the brush as usual and sigh.   With any luck your partner will have heard you and will gladly volunteer to do it for you next time lest your departure from reality becomes rather prolonged.  There you are: simple, effective and you know exactly what the ingredients were and you don't end up with horrible warty looking blisters all over your hands as your contact dermatitis sets in from who-knows-what was in that bottle of cleaning solution, making you actually look like a gnarled-handed witch or wizard.

Lemon juice is also good for chasing away the calcium build up around taps.  Rub the inside of the lemon half on the build up and walk away for 5 mins.  Upon your return (or sooner if you were enjoying a lovely long tea infused interlude) it will have magically disappeared.  After dispensing far too much elbow grease on this issue I was so relieved when I found out about this little trick.  Now my elbows can keep their oil.

Feel free to impart to me any of your lemony lore or divulge developments in domestic diablerie!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Winging it

The ceaseless string of rainy days has meant that the soil has become waterlogged and is pooling in parts of the yard.  The chickens are enjoying the high life as they now have a small private lake in part of their run.  Too bad they aren't all that partial to being out in the rain or boating in lakes.

The wet weather has also meant that planting and seed sowing have been put on hold for a few weeks now and I've been reduced to relying on what crops are already in.  Fortunately I've been slowly converting us to more tropical varieties of the usual fruit and veg that aren't so put out by having a prolonged foot soak.

A few months back I was trawling through my seed box looking for seeds to sow and came across some winged bean seeds that I'd got from a garden visit/seed swap day a couple of years ago.  Taking my chances, I decided to plant two of the old seeds in the hope that I'd get something out of it.  It took a fortnight or so but the seeds eventually turned into seedlings and slowly but surely the vines grew up the string on the fence.  They've loved the recent rainfall and are now long enough to grow along the fence and have started to produce masses of soft blue flowers and pretty little corrugated seed pods.  They'll soon be big enough to eat - fingers crossed they're tasty!  I've also read that all parts of the plant are edible, including the root.  I think I'll start with the beans and then see how we go from there.

It seems to be the year for vines - or perhaps I've had a thing for vertical gardening recently.  The choko barely survived the long dry spell but is now enjoying the prolonged precipitation and clawing its way up the fence.  I'm not sure it'll have the time to mature and reach its purportedly prolific production before the cooler weather knocks it back.  I suppose time will tell.  Until then it's helping to cover the fence and provide a little more greenery.  Not that that's in short supply considering the currently 5 foot lawn (read marsh).

The loofah (luffa) has taken off again.  I didn't even have to plant it - it simply grew from some seeds left over in the soil.  I've been giving away some of the dried sponges so I let them grow this year to replenish my supply.  This one is a beautiful long and cylindrical specimen.

The pineapple is growing well.  For some reason only one of the plants from the twin top has flowered.  It's not too much of a problem; however, because I'm not sure we could get through two pineapples simultaneously.  Hopefully the excessive rain hasn't washed out the flavour.  In the meantime, the tubular purple flowers are quite lovely and provides me a foreground distraction from the disappointment of my dragonfruit that remains devoid of fruit while my parents send me photos of their dinner-plate sized flowers on their's.  Not that I can complain really as I've been rather neglectful of the prickly specimen which is shoved up the back of the block.  Overall, despite my absence the garden seems to be quite happily developing and producing on its own.  I guess I shouldn't be so concerned about having to wing it in the future.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Third strike

I came home from a concert on Wednesday night to find out that my chickens had been attacked by a pair of escaped Staffies.  The neighbours were home and heard a  noise but weren't able to easily break up the dogs or get them away from the chickens.  Piecing the story together here's how each of the chickens fared in the foray.

Fortunately the cluck monster had re-emerged earlier in the week and thus she managed to remain undetected in her lair, brooding away in a dark corner.  Hetty employed her camouflage brown feathers and hid under a miniature copse at the back of the pen.  Gonzo must have had her whits about her.  She's white so wouldn't have avoided detection by the dogs but must have been fast enough to outrun and out-manoeuvre if not the dogs, then at least her sister Wheelie.  

Wheelie wore the worst of the attack.  This was her third experience in the jaws of a dog and she has survived the previous two relatively unscathed.  Her dodgy eye leaves her vulnerable and unable to judge distance and perceive predators sufficiently.  She has suffered badly with one deep puncture wound on her back and another shallower one on the other side.  Next to the large gouge is an area that has been ripped open down to the muscle and fat.

Wheelie with a comfrey poultice on the first night
I prepared myself for the worst and left her in a basket inside overnight to keep her warm and safe, waiting to see how she was travelling in the morning.  Surprisingly she's now lasted two nights since the attack although her breathing remains fairly laboured.  She seems to be improving and more alert each day and we have been syringe feeding her water with poultry multivitamins.  This afternoon I cleaned out her wound and was surprised to find how deep it was.  There was a fair amount of gunk in there (but no pus) so hopefully she will continue to improve now that it's been cleaned properly.  I've made her up some bran porridge for tomorrow morning and put her in the basket in the cage with the other chickens tonight for some company.

Wheelie's wound.  There's a cotton ball covering the large puncture wound