Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dog food from the stars

I found the last of the chickweed hiding in the shade in the vegie patch today, a sign summer has arrived. During the cooler months it acts as a lush green ground cover over much of the garden.

Chickweed, named stellaria media for its small white flowers, is one of my favourite wild herbs. Rich in vitamin C, it is a useful winter green in salads and as a cooked vegetable if you can harvest enough of it.

Medicinally, chickweed is one of the best herbs for inflammation and itching and useful in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, bites and stings.  Chickweed dries well so you can store enough to last the warmer months. Harvest before the flowers open and chop into 1-2 cm lengths before spreading on a rack.
My chickens love its soft juicy leaves and I encourage it to grow along the fence line where they can graze on it through the wire. My biggest animal success with chickweed has been with the dogs. I rescued Louis, my long haired dachshund six months ago. He was underweight, nervous and had scaly, itchy skin and scratched and lost hair continually.
I have fed my dogs a 50% meat/50% raw vegetable diet for years and to this I now added two big handfuls of fresh chickweed, 5 tablespoons of ground linseed for each kilo of lean meat and for Louis 2 fish oil capsules. I also make a strong brew of chickweed vinegar which I add one tablespoon of to the final rinse when he gets bathed. His coat is glossy and the hair loss is much reduced. He still scratches but much of that is due to the seeds and prickles he picks up while being the mighty hunter he thinks he is!
Never have the dogs had vet visits for anal gland problems. Toto lived to the ripe old age of 20, despite losing all his teeth when he was 11. Lady, the other dach, is now 17 and doing well on the diet too.

Dog Dinners
1 kg lean meat (I mostly use kangaroo)
800g carrots
2 stalks celery, with leaves
1 stalk broccoli (eat the florets yourself)
½ beetroot
Handful of fresh parsley
5 Tbsp ground Linseed (flax)
Grate all vegetables in a food processor and mix in linseed and meat.
Store in meal size containers and freeze.
Add fish oil capsules daily as needed.
I also feed the dogs chicken necks and the occasional raw bone and avoid processed food as much as possible.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Clean Green Screens

Last weekend,  as part of the celebration of Plastic Free July in Margaret River, I ran a Clean Green workshop. What a fantastic morning we had making various brews. Ten lovely women, all committed to finding safer, greener and sustainable alternatives. Morning tea in the winter sunshine was an opportunity to share ideas, solutions and alternative options for everything from plastic wrap to firelighters and everything in between. Looking around the happy places, I couldn't help but think 'I love my "office".' It got me thinking about other cleaning dilemmas.

Lovely lemon power
I have recently (bravely) become a lap top girl with a touch screen. It sits on my kitchen bench and it can get really grubby, just like the screen on the mobile. A bit of searching and I came up with an alternative to those little (plastic) bottles of clear liquid they will happily sell you at the electrical stores that will cost you cents to make.

You will need:
A clean micro fibre cloth (other cloths and paper can trap particles that may scratch your screen.)
White vinegar (not any other sort)
Distilled water (tap water contains chemicals that may harm your screen)
A clean, recycled spray bottle

Mix a brew of half /half vinegar and water and pour into the spray bottle.
Turn off and unplug your computer/phone/tablet.
Squirt a little of the mixture onto your cloth. It should be damp, not soaking.
Gently, with minimal pressure rub the damp cloth in small circles over the screen. 
If you press too hard, you may damage your screen.
If the screen is very sticky, repeat using another part of the cloth.
When the screen is smear free, use the mixture to clean the case too. 


I will be repeating the Clean Green  workshop on September 4th.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nothin mousey about him!!

Every spring I rustle around in my seed collection to plan the summer vegetable patch.  In the cupboard I came across an envelope that Lyn, an avid seed saver, had given me last autumn."Mouse Melon" said the label. Visions of a melon, just perfect for one or two serves, that didn't need a lot of space to grow, swam into my imagination.

The tiny little plants that came up looked very much like baby Black Eyed Susan and soon sent out tendrils to grasp the trellis. When it reached a metre high, no flowers in sight and began  rampaging through a neighbouring rosebush I thought it was time to find out more.

Dear little thing turned out to be a cucumber designed as a watermelon. Native to Mexico and Central America,its Latin name is Melothria scabra. Iwas reassured to find they were'slow to start'

then read on that they can 'often reach ten feet. In the UK they grow them indoors.
They are waterwise and drought tolerant. I can vouch for that as the old barrels are notorious for drying out. Now, at the end of summer, it is looking a bit raggedy but still producing and doing no harm to the Rose it is hanging over. It really is a darling little plant, its 'cucmelons' hang like lanterns and totally foil the parrots, who have never seen anything like it before.

The skin is slightly lemony and gets a bit tough if left unpicked for too long. They are wonderful in salads and as a garnish and apparently pickle as well as their larger cousins. I haven't managed to keep enough to pickle yet, too busy playing 'show and tell' everywhere I visit.

It really is a darling little plant. I will be saving seed if you folks in Western Australia would like some, send a stamped, self addressed envelope to me at PO Box 353, Margaret River and I will send you some.

Happy Gardening,


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


This summer every vegetable eating creature on gods' earth has descended upon my garden, with the rats taking the prize as biggest pest from the 28 parrots, whose little ringed necks I would happily strangle if I could catch them.
The rats have always been around, each year when the thumping and squeaking in the ceiling get too much, we trap and bait until life quietens down again.  Not this year.

The cost and the damage

Through the jarrah
In the last two months we have had to run new phone cables and rewired the whole meter box. two weeks ago a nest of baby rats died in the air conditioning ducts in my car during a heat wave, costing me many hundreds of dollars to remove them and the stench. Every day, another precious cucumber is chewed to nothing. I did have one win thanks to the cucumbers when I found one dragged up to the hot water system. When I removed the cover I found a lovely nest ready for babies. The cover remains off for now and the dog keeps a close nose on that spot.

I entertain dinner guests with the sight of rats chasing each other along the dining room window sill -it can be a bit off putting for our city friends! Never mind the crowds in the fig tree at sunset throwing figs and the race track around the verandah which operates day and night.

The strategy

Two sorts of traps and three different baits later and we have more rats than ever.
Making sure the chickens were fed only in the morning feeders were kept empty overnight.
Making sure the dog bowls were not left out.
Block all possible entry points with either scrunched up bird wire or timber.
Check wood and compost heaps and hay for nest sites.
Feed baby rats to your chickens...free protein!
Throw things at them. (I use this with the parrots too, I am not allowed to shoot a gun in town, doesn't work for them either but I feel better)
I am strongly considering posting a  Jack Russell up into the ceiling for a nights hunting while I sleep elsewhere!

And the smell...

The past few nights have been quiet although the dead smells that ooze from the ceiling have chased me from room to room.
If you can get a volunteer to go into the roof and pick up bodies, this is the best remedy but they seem to die under the insulation or in hard to get areas so this is not always a solution.
A small ceramic or glass bowl with a square of folded kitchen paper topped up regularly with eucalyptus oil is cheap and effective. I am also burning incense while home.
Open all doors and windows and run all extractor fans as long as possible during the day.
The hotter the weather, the sooner the smell will fade, go to the beach is my best advice,

If you have any ideas to share, I would love to hear them but right now, I'm off to the beach.

Blocking the superhighway-they just ran in the gutters instead