Monday, September 27, 2010

Knitting with grass

Much as I love spring, I get a bit sad about the longer days as it usually marks the end of the long evenings of knitting. This year I spotted has an amazing range of bamboo and bamboo blended yarns at our fabulous local wool shop that could keep the obsession going a bit longer.

I first fell in love with bamboo fibre when I discovered bamboo t shirts. It was soft, light weight and  drapes like silk. It is highly absorbent .and hypo allergenic. Bamboo, hemp, Tencel™ and cupro are all natural plant based fibres. Bamboo in particular is of special interest.

Because bamboo is a fast growing clumping grass, it can be harvested without the need to replant every year as with cotton and hemp. It grows faster than all the other natural fibre plants and is tolerant of drought and flood, holds soils to prevent erosion from runoff and gives a huge yield per acre without the need for pesticides or fertilisers. 

Unfortunately some processors use chemicals such as caustic soda and carbon disulphide to extract the cellulose from the plant material.. This is no different from the treatments given to cotton waste and other cellulose based fibres, including the treatment of organically grown cotton.  This is changing with the lyocell processing used to make Tencel ™ which uses chemicals in a closed loop process where over 99% of the chemicals are recycled for reuse.  It is possible to process the yarn without chemicals and the garment or yarn should be labelled as such.

The bamboo currently used for yarn is Moso bamboo, a variety from China that can grow up to a metre a day as a timber source. The Chinese have recognised that bamboo has a unique agent they call ‘kun’ that has anti bacterial and antifungal qualities that prevents odour causing bacteria to grow. That’s got to make for less washing! It is the same antimicrobial agent that makes bamboo resistant to pests and diseases (though has no effect on pandas!) Better still, the fibres are more wrinkle resistant while washing and that means less ironing too. The yarn is thermal regulating – keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. While bamboo is touted as hypo allergenic, chemical residues may cause reactions on sensitive skin but can be avoided by always washing new garments thoroughly before wearing.

This is a product I heartily endorse. The problems in processing are being addressed and I feel these problems are outweighed by its sustainability and the fact that it can be grown, chemically free without the need for large machinery or soil tillage in a range of environments. Such are the desired qualities of bamboo that nano technology is being developed that traps particles of bamboo charcoal into other fibres for use in socks and blankets. Won’t it be great when you don’t have to look outside for the boys’ dirty socks?

Meanwhile, back at the farm...I will continue to knit with my beautiful yarn.

A free pattern is available on my web site and here’s the Margaret River Wool Company.

Knit on!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bees, bluebells and blossom



The first warm days of spring have bought out the blossom on the fruit trees, the bluebells and Dutch  iris. The jasmine and honeysuckle sent out pungent puffs of perfume as the sun tops the trees. The bees busy everywhere. The roses are suddenly thick with new red leaves and tiny green figs are visible as the first leaves unfurl on the fig tree. Walking at the beach this morning we found a patch of fairy orchids only metres from the ocean, their faces all turned to the east.


This  quickening of life calls me into the garden.
So until the next rainy day, here’s  some photos.


Fairy orchids




Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Baking, babies and boob jobs

I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets. I have a kitchen full of them. Amita came home with a ‘garlic roller’ from town. It is a little tube of silicone, open at each end, that you pop garlic cloves into, roll them around and then hey presto! Peeled garlic, not squashed and no waste. Brilliant!
But here we are again, back to the silicone debate.
There is no doubt that silicone is a marvellous substance. In its various forms we can: glue the aquarium, clothe our mobile phones with it, bake in it and enhance our breasts with it if we are so inclined. Teats for babies bottles  and toys are now being made from it too. It has uses in medicine, electronics and engineering, and it is long lasting and odour and stain repellent (there is some debate about both these issues though.) Its flexibility worries me – surely it needs to stand on a normal metal tray to get safely in and out of the oven?

It does come in many pretty colours (are these food safe too?) and there is no doubt that it is light, durable and long lasting and makes the best juggling balls. Does that make you want to bake with it?
It is claimed too that although it is not biodegradable, it is recyclable after a long life of use, though not in Australia.
One safety issue regarding silicone cookware is that the cheaper items may contain fillers. This will not appear on the label and could be any type of plastic. One hint I have read is that if you twist the item and white shows up in the bend, the item could contain filler.
On the net, most of the research parrots a report published in May this year from the FDA (US) in Scientific  American. The pros are outlined but basically, any good research on the down side is yet to be published even though the product has been around since 1979. I was concerned to see that the recommended maximum temperatures for use varied from 300 to 482 degrees Centigrade! Apparently this varies with each manufacturer and is marked on the packaging. But who keeps the paper wrappers for every item in their kitchen?
I think we all need to choose for ourselves. My spatulas show no signs of wear although I use them regularly on my Thermomix, where they outperform the original scraper which is now pitted and worn from its contact with the blades. They are not stained after a year of intense use including curry making and have no melted parts although I have snapped the plastic handle of one of them mixing a heavy loaf. The brush is a nuisance, I will return to natural bristles which work well and are about the same to keep clean. The brush has also become stained with use so I suspect it is of the 'cheap and nasty' variety. 

I boughta silicone baking sheet today but it won’t be going in the oven. I am going to try and de-hull roasted nuts and cooked broad beans with it.
Check out the links and decide for yourself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Whole Children

Jude Blereau has been my whole food hero for many years.  A wholefood chef, food coach, real food activist and author are some of the hats she wears. This, her third book is written from under her most important hat – that of a mother.

It includes careful explanations of the nutritional and emotional needs of children, a practical grounding in wholefood preparation and loads of yummy recipes. Covering the needs of children from 6 months to 7 years, she caters for allergies and food intolerance of all kinds and includes recipes for meat and fish.  These are not the bland meals we feed children from jars, they are certainly not boring and adults will find them irresistible too.  Certainly not a load of old lentils!

There is sensible advice about fussy eaters and attainable goals for parents wanting to provide the best nutrition they can without losing sight of the demands of a busy life. It is a book written from her vast experience of life and of food.
It is a book written from the heart.

Murdoch Books 2000 $45.00