What goes down, must come up.

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The town where I live rests between two steep hills. We live on the top of one hill. The kindergarten is on the top of the other.

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So I suppose it’s a matter of perspective – an absolute b#%ch of a walk, or an ideal way to fit a decent workout into my life.

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Today, I chose the latter view. With skies blue enough to inspire the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, I got my inactive arse off the couch and walked the beautiful tree lined streets to J5’s kindergarten. It was wonderful! I was essentially drunk on vitamin D.

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I’m slightly obsessed with trees.
Little R2 has a toy camera and it gives me such joy to see him taking pretend photos of trees like his mum. I can’t help it – I just find their winter branches spectacular.

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Lovely limbs, all connected, stretching up and out in search of sun and sky.

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Remember how Rumplestiltskin asked for straw to be spun into gold?

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I think I found his gold… Stunning!

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I’m proud of myself for tackling those hills today. It felt like the first step towards curing myself of a hearty dose of the winter blues. What goes down, must come up.

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Winter Garden

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From the excitement of settling snow so close to home last week, to the magical morning visits by Jack Frost over the past couple of days, our garden and entire local landscape has been experiencing an exciting, changing face. The nights and early mornings are icy cold but the days have been bursting with sunshine and colour.

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As I hustled the kids out the door for an early kinder start this morning, we found ourselves quite side tracked by our frozen garden, sparkling under the gradual rising of the sleepy sun.

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The garlic, leeks and cabbages are all coping quite well with the extremes, apart from a few hungry slugs or snails and a soccer ball here or there.

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The peas, though still growing, have been flattened by recent winds and rather than climbing up its legs and levels, appear to be snoozing at the base of our tee pee.

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The leaves of broccoli and cauliflower are staggering under the weight of the heavy frost but should perk up as they thaw out – much like the rest of us.

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The kids were absolutely delighted to see Jack Frost had signed his handy work on the back of my car.

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And as the afternoon cheered up, I took the boys for a walk around the neighbourhood. Set among the naked trees, stark and beautiful against blue skies, we noticed the gums, quintessentially Australian, still dressed in their slender leafy best.

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And my nose tickled as we passed by golden wattle blooms whispering “Spring is coming! Spring is coming!”

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Lets Get Planting! Part 2

After a lovely morning at the local farmers market and a trip to Aldi for a much coveted, little red trike…

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The rest of the day and this glorious sunshine was dedicated to my garden. Tomorrow is back to rain again so I wanted to get as much in the ground as possible.
I was also extremely lucky to have my sister drop in for a visit and between chats and a garden tour, she happily entertained her little nephews, leaving me free to get my hands dirty without stop-starting for drinks, snacks, hats and squabbles.

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I put some finishing touches on yesterday’s efforts; my three sisters garden. Sweet corn seeds in the centre, green beans and yellow butter bean seedlings in the next circle and in the area surrounding both, seeds for butternut pumpkin, spaghetti squash and small yellow button squash.
The idea is that the nitrogen rich beans will climb the corn stalks but as my seedlings (particularly the butter beans) are already advancing I thought I’d put some poles in for them to wrap themselves around just in case the corn is slow to start.

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In the next empty bed I planted cucumber, both Lebanese and continental, a variety of green and red chillies and some more marigolds.

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And I finished off by potting four advanced cherry tomato plants, each surrounded by basil at the base to help each other along.

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Four may seem excessive but honestly, my kids devour cherry tomatoes like lollies. Especially as they can harvest them themselves. And the basil… I just can’t wait to make more pesto!

Feeling very satisfied with what I’ve achieved in a few days. Just the herb beds to go and my summer garden will be complete! For now that is, of course, a garden is always a work in progress!

Now, if I can just convince C to mow the lawn and tidy the edges… A happy woman I’ll be 🙂

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Let’s get planting!

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The easiest and cheapest way to access delicious organic vegetables is, in my opinion, to grow them yourself. And it’s definitely the most mentally rewarding! We are so fortunate to have the space to grow quite a lot but you’d be amazed at what you can achieve in pots. If you’ve never had a veggie garden and feel daunted by the whole process, (as I did initially) start small. Even one large pot with a cherry tomato plant in the centre and some basil seedlings around its base can reap such rewards for you and your family. And it’ll set you back about $8 or $9. Such good value!!!
We are prone to frosts well into Spring where I live, so when it comes to getting our summer vegetables in the ground, the general rule of thumb is to wait until Melbourne Cup weekend. (1st weekend of November)
Finally today I got my hands in the earth and some dirt under my fingernails!
One bed is finished and filled with tomatoes, capsicums, (red, green and yellow) zucchinis and marigolds. Last year I planted all of these in one small garden bed – in a not very sunny spot but still managed to harvest quite a lot. This year, everything is well spaced and will receive all day full sunshine so I’m looking forward to bumper crops!
I also prepared another large bed for a three sisters garden and will hopefully get my sweet corn, beans and pumpkin in tomorrow or over the weekend.
And of course some cucumbers, herbs, cherry tomatoes, maybe some carrots, oh yes and the cheerful sunflowers! Exciting times ahead 🙂

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I’ve also been keeping a close eye on some cheeky snails in my garden. They’ve been munching at my little kale seedlings that I planted a couple of weeks ago – this did not make me very happy at all. They were the little darlings I grew from seeds in my miniature green houses.

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I’ve sprayed those since with something called Neem. It’s organic, from a tree and apparently 100% safe to use for pest control in organic gardening without harming people, animals, birds or bees. Sounds good hey? I’ll let you know if it works or if anyone else knows more about it, feel free to comment!
I’m all for animal well being and even happy to share a little silver beet, but these pesky buggers are just getting too greedy. When I find them now, I throw them over the hedge onto the nature strip. But mark my words, if any of them dare eat my almost ripe strawberries before I get a chance… I will think nothing of throwing them onto the road and into oncoming traffic!

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Green Goodness Soup

Technically, winter is over but do you feel like you’re missing a ‘Spring in your step?’
You need a bowl of this:

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GREEN GOODNESS SOUP

Using a large cast iron or stainless steel stock pot, gently sauté:
2 garlic cloves and one leek in some extra virgin olive oil for a couple of minutes until it smells delicious.
Then add, 2 large zucchinis, diced
And 1 litre good quality stock, preferably home made.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium simmering heat for about 5 to ten minutes until zucchini is just tender.

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Meanwhile, rinse and tear from thick stems:
2 cups of kale and 2 cups of spinach. (I used Tuscan kale, also sometimes called Tuscan cabbage. This is a darker, longer leaf compared to the common curly variety.)

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Ladle soup into a blender with the greens or if you have a stick blender, turn off heat and add greens to pot.

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Blend until totally smooth.

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Pour a lovely hot nourishing bowl of soup and stir through:
1/4 cup coconut cream

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Enjoy the goodness 🙂

Sleepy Spring

The chill in the wind this morning is decidedly winterish but my garden tells a different story. Slowly, with sleepy stretching and yawning, leaves are unfurling and buds are beginning to wake and bloom.

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Cheerful daffodils smile and nod to greet me at the front door,

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The first of my beautiful tulips have shown their true colours,

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The strawberry pots are flowering,

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The weeping cherry is bursting into blossoms of joy

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And the branches of the small magnolia tree are capped with gorgeous deep pink buds. We planted this tree outside J’s bedroom window when he was a baby, of course making it J’s magnolia.
The fruit trees are showing signs of promise as well with tiny buds on the Granny Smith and Fuji apples and a shower of pink blossoms on the nectarine (maybe this year the parrots will let us eat some).
The broccoli and cauliflower are all pulled and half the leeks have been devoured in soups, pasta sauces, omelettes and rice dishes.

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The onions, garlic and cabbages are still in want of time and sun and the spinach is as generous as ever.

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The empty veggie beds lay ready in wait for for seeds to nourish and sun to bask in.
And for me? It’s still winter. Spring has opened few buds of motivation just yet and while one child is at kinder and the other napping, I am presently snuggled under the warmth of a “bob the builder” blanket, a hot cup of tea in one hand and a good book in wait for the other.

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Orange Jelly

After a few glorious days this week of blue skies and warm sunshine, the promise of spring’s arrival planted it’s little seed in my step… And then it was over. Here we are, back to grey skies, cool winds and sporadic rain storms. So if you need some colour back in your days like I do, here’s a lovely vibrant orange snack that you and the kids will love. A perfect vitamin boost to send winter on its way.

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Yesterday I posted a recipe for apple and pear jelly here and after a reader’s question thought it would be useful to post a very simple and delicious jelly recipe that doesn’t require a wiz bang juicer.

ORANGE JELLY
4-5 oranges, juiced to make 2 cups liquid
1tablespoon powdered gelatine. I use Great Lakes Gelatine which is from healthy grass fed cows. You can buy it here

METHOD
Heat half a cup of orange juice gently on the stove.
Turn off heat and whisk gelatine into liquid.
Combine well with remaining juice.
Pour into cups, moulds etc and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Notes:
* I use Sinchies reusable squeezy pouches to fill with my jelly. (Formerly known as “Squeezems” as pictured above)
* This recipe easily filled 6 x 80ml pouches.
* If you want a firmer jelly, use up to two tablespoons Gelatine.
* My kids and I love this jelly exactly as is and if you love fresh oj, you will too. However, if your kids are used to something sweeter you could add 1-2 tsp of honey when heating the liquid.

Enjoy fresh, real jelly with no artificial junk 🙂