We’re great believers in homeowners playing a direct role in their street. The most visible (and perhaps the easiest!) way is to plant out the verge.
In our case, we’ve planted one verge with native plants (above), as well as a second containing herbs and other edibles. Both are lovely to walk by (we think).
What a great idea! So get planting, and submit your efforts to win a prize
(The deadline is 5pm 31st May 2013.)
In addition to our productive vege patches at the front of the house, we established a native garden in the back.
A year on, the garden is growing solidly, although it still has some way to go until it creates the “mini bush block” effect we’re looking for…
What’s grown well: the correas (of many types), lomandras and dianellas. The backhousia citriodora (lemon myrtle) also grew quickly towards the light.
What didn’t: the boronias all died at various points (ok, ok, so absolutely everyone told me that would happen!). We’ve also had the usual assortment of random deaths over the last year.
Considering the garden has dappled shade, with big trees growing on adjacent properties, I think we’re doing pretty well.
And to highlight the point, this was the before shot, from a year ago:
I made this padded laptop cover using Holly A Tana Lawn from Liberty’s Spring/Summer 2014 seasonal collection.
What you’ll need
- If you are using fabric with a pattern that runs parallel to the selvedge (like the fabric I used), measure the height of your laptop and multiply it by 3 to calculate the length of fabric you will need. Assuming your laptop is less than 50cm wide, you should have enough fabric to cut out two pieces for your cover (make sure you add 5cm to the width measurement for the seams!). One of your pieces of fabric will be for the outside of the cover and the other will be for the inside.
- Two pieces of bamboo batting the same size as the two pieces of fabric — I used leftovers from my ironing board cover project
- Some wide bias binding (around 1″ wide)
- Up to 50cm of sew-on velcro
How to make it
- I decided to quilt my cover to keep the batting and fabric layers together. To do this, use a set square and tailor’s chalk to draw lines 2 inches apart at a 45 degree angle from the selvedge on the batting, in both directions.
- Place the fabric wrong side against the batting, and machine sew both pieces together across all the lines, taking care to keep the fabric and batting flat between the lines of sewing, like this:
- Once you’ve done this with both pieces of fabric and batting, put the two pieces together with the batting facing each other. Place your laptop on the fabric and fold the fabric up so one edge is just above the top of the laptop. Pin the sides and sew together. Then turn the cover inside out.
- Cut the velcro so it is nearly the entire width of the laptop cover, then sew the rough “hook” piece of velcro onto the main part of the cover. Sew the soft “loop” piece of the velcro on the “flap” part of the cover but only through one piece of the fabric/batting so that you don’t see the sewing line when the flap is closed.
- Sew wide bias-binding on the top lip of the cover and around the sides of the flap. You can also cut a rounded edge into the corners of the flap for a softer look:
Our first hive is going extremely well, with over 30 litres of honey harvested so far, and plenty of warm weather left yet.
But why stop with just one hive! We have plans to sell our honey to the two local cafes that are less than 100m from our house.
It turns out they each use over 1kg of honey a week (!). So one hive produces more than a single family (with many friends) can consume, but not enough for semi-commercial use.
Last Wednesday I therefore headed up to Hornsby Beekeeping to pick up another package of bees. Once I got back home, I “poured” the bees into the new hive without difficulties.
The new hive is coming up on a week old, and seems to be going fine. I’ll give it another week, and then will check that the queen has settled in OK.
Our beekeeping family grows
Sugar body scrub is pretty expensive so I decided to see what the home-made version was like. This recipe is particularly good for “normal” skin (dry skin and oily skin require slightly different variations).
A word of warning: you will need to be patient as this project takes several weeks to make, although altogether it will take you less than an hour of labour in total.
You will need:
- Marigolds, or some seeds and a place to grow them
- 100ml safflower oil
- 100ml caster oil
- 100g raw sugar (medium granules)
- Your favourite essential oil
- Utensils: scissors, glass jar, cheesecloth and funnel for straining oil, clean container
We purchased our safflower oil, caster oil, essential oil and clean container from New Directions in Marrickville, a one-stop shop for cosmetic ingredients.
What to do:
- Grow some marigold flowers. Not only are they useful in home remedies, they are beneficial for the garden too.
- Cut the flowers off the stems as each flower matures. Dry the flowers. This may take about 3 weeks if you’re using the traditional method, or faster if you have a dehydrator machine.
- Cut the petals off the dried marigold flowers, put them in a glass jar, then cover them completely with 100ml of safflower oil. Wait for one week.
- Strain the infused safflower oil back into its original bottle. You can do this fairly easily using cheesecloth to strain the oil through a funnel. Don’t forget to add a note on the label that the oil is infused!
- Mix the 100g of raw sugar with 23ml of the infused safflower oil and 5ml of caster oil. Add 20 or so drops of your favourite essential oil. Mix well and spoon the mixture into a clean container.
This recipe has been adapted from the Sugar Body Scrub recipe in James Wong’s book Grow Your Own Drugs.
Over the holidays I decided to make a new ironing board cover to replace the grubby, threadbare thing we were currently using. For those of you feeling crafty, this is how to do it.
You will need:
- Bamboo batting. Work out how much you need by measuring your ironing board, then add 20cm to the height and 20cm to the width. You will need to buy double this amount as the bamboo batting is not very thick. I purchased some from Lincraft.
- Fabric. Add 30cm to the height and to the width of the measurement of your ironing board to calculate the amount of fabric you need. Consider buying ironing board fabric, or thick cotton.
- Elastic. I used 1 packet (2 metres) of 12mm wide elastic, but ultimately the amount you need will depend on the size of your ironing board.
- Notions. Cotton thread, a sewing machine, pins, scissors and a tape measure will all be useful!
What to do:
- Remove your old cover.
- Lay the two layers of bamboo batting flat on the floor. Then lay your ironing board on the floor on top of it. Trace 10cm around the ironing board, then cut out the batting and put it aside.
- Lay the fabric flat on the floor. Lay your ironing board on the floor on top of it. Trace 15cm around the ironing board, then cut out the fabric.
- Fold the edge of the fabric over twice to make a 2.5cm casing. Pin the fold, then sew it AT LEAST 1.5cm from the folded edge of the fabric (otherwise your elastic won’t fit). Leave an opening of about 3cm at the end.
- Put a safety-pin in the end of the elastic to help you thread it through all the way around the edge of the ironing board cover. Once you’ve threaded the elastic all around the edge of the fabric, sew the two ends of the elastic together very securely. Then, sew up the 3cm opening you left in the previous step so the seam is complete.
- Open your ironing board. Put your old batting on the ironing board — it will provide extra padding. Put the two pieces of batting on the ironing board. Finally put your new cover on the board which should hold everything in place. Voila!
All in all it’s a bit of work. You could save yourself the hassle and buy a cover from a large hardware chain for less than $20. But it wouldn’t look anywhere near as glamorous as this and anything to make ironing more fun has to be a good thing!
A few visitors who have posted comments (thanks!) have asked for pictures of our garden as it currently stands. Your wish is our command.
The vege patch
The side of the house and the front corner is the home of our vege patch. This is my domain, and I keep it filled with a wide variety of vegetables, including at present:
- green beans (several types)
- tomatoes (a bunch of varieties)
- carrots (of various colours)
- salad greens (various)
- herbs (various)
- berries (various)
To supplement the six main raised garden beds, I’ve started using planter bags. These give great flexibility to grow just a few plants at a time, without having to be in sync with everything else in a big garden bed.
The citrus trees and passionfruit are also looking great, and hopefully we’ll get a good crop this year.
As ever, the best thing about having the vege patch in the front of the house is the conversations it leads to with everyone who walks by. This may be as little as “your garden looks great”, to an in-depth discussion of growing strategies or pest management options. Lots of people also say how they love seeing the garden change every time they walk past.
The potager garden
The front of the house belongs to Priscilla, who has it planted out as a potager garden. This emphasises beauty, while still consisting of edible plants. Perennials are mixed with annuals, allowing the garden to change with the seasons, while still retaining a core structure.
The front gardens are looking great at the moment, with everything in flower. Native bees, honey bees, and a pile of different beneficial bugs are buzzing everywhere. The cat also likes to use the shade underneath the bigger plants to hunt skinks (small lizards).
Plants in the potager garden include:
- herbs (various)
- bronze fennel
- green tea plant
- wormwood (artemesia)
- wild strawberries
- catmint, catnip and catgrass
- citrus (various)
The best thing: not a blade of grass to be seen!