Coffee tree update

When I planted out the first coffee tree (read that post here), I didn’t count on rain (that being a rare occurance here these days) and the cement troughs got flooded. The poor little tree didn’t make it through the water logging (the black sugar cane beside it loved the experience). So the second little coffee tree was planted out into a big pot with a deceased guniea fowl in the bottom of it.

This is now a swamp garden. The Black sugar cane seems to enjoy it.
The coffee tree is growing up nicely. It has a few volunteer tomato seedlings under it at the moment. I will move them to a new place when they are a bit bigger.
A gratuitous Melvin photo (just because).

On my walk I saw… number four

I’m at it again… taking the familiar walk down the driveway to the road and along the road for a bit. I am struck by something new each day (today I was struck by how sore my legs feel after a couple of days walking) and I want to share it here.

Purple apple berry
I don’t know what this shrub is, but I loved the texture of it’s flower buds.

I wonder what I will see tomorrow?

On my walk I saw… – number three

This morning my walk involved both dogs; I took Val for a short walk first (her arthritis doesn’t let her take long walks) then I took Melvin for a longer walk (in an attempt to wear him out, just a little). I am really loving having the time to go on long walks with the dogs, there is so much beauty and interest to be enjoyed in the bush.

There are White winged chouffs in that Bloodwood tree. The sky was amazing this morning too.
A baby eucalypt tree. I love the change from baby leaves to adult leaves.
Melvin exploring all the smells.
These look like bachelor’s buttons, but they aren’t.
I have noidea what this one is, but I love the little circles of buds.
Guinea flower
Wandering Jew
Meadow grass (not sure of species)

On my walk I saw… number two

The last post about what I saw on a walk with Melvin was so much fun to make I decided to make it a series. Maybe I can capture some of the beauty of our home and store it here for everyone to enjoy.

Today my daughter and both dogs started out with me, but Chloe and the dogs went back about half way down the driveway (due to lack of interest) so I carried on alone. I am really surprised that this walk, that I completed twice a day every day for ten years (down the driveway to the bus stop) can still throw up new and interesting things to see and hear. Here are todays offerings.

Hardenbergia

I noticed today that the purples of the tiny flowers in the Spring bush are giving way to the yellows of late Summer.

Pleated inkcap (I think)
Variable groundsel
Cortinarius australiensis (I think)
Wombat berry
I have no idea what this flower and the following two climbers are, do you?
Ants cleaning up the path. This unfortunate spider (I believe) is being put to good use.
Not Turkey Tails… Gilled Polypore
More Hardenbergia, I was interested in the colour of the fading flowers

Small leaf fig

The last two photos above have a little story attached to them. I pass the Small leaf fig on my way to the bus and on walks all the time, it is on a neighbor’s property, but right beside the road. I have never noticed the small, but deep, pool at it’s base. Today I noticed because a frog was calling from the pond and I went in search of the sound in an effort to get a photo. I didn’t find the frog, but I did find this enchanted fairy lake, hiding behind a shield of fig leaves.

Local native plants or what I saw on my walk today

Because it is holiday time, and because I was avoiding some training I need to do for work, I took Melvin for a walk today. On that walk I saw so many small plants and fungi, that I wanted to share with everyone. Of course I stopped to take photos (much to Melvin’s disgust), because it gave me a chance to catch my breath (I am not as fit as I should be). Below are the resulting photos and the identification I have found for the plants. My identification may be off, so don’t take my word for it, and if you know better, let me know.

Common Fringe Lily
I don’t know this flower, but it is really pretty.
I haven’t a clue about this one… any ideas?
Scleranthus biflorus
Austroparmelina pseudorelicina
Usnea
Turkey Tail fungus (not really sure about this one)
Stone fungus

Lichen dyes – Usnea inermis

A new interest has floated into my mind over the usual holiday down time: lichen dye for wool. I have noticed that a lot of lichen grows on old fence posts beside the road. That started me thinking about what it is good for (as it turns out, quite a lot). I was driving home from a doctor appointment yesterday and began to notice the large amount of furry fence posts beside the road (much to the unease of the cars behind me, who must have been worried about my erratic steering and low speed), so I eventually pulled over and went to take some photos and collect samples to play with. I collected a couple of handfuls of lichen from a dead tree and took it home to play with.

Usnea

After a fair amount of internet sleuthing, I found a likely candidate: Usnea. I also found some other lichens (that I left in place for now).

Some other lichens.

It seemed to be a natural progression to make this handful or two of squishy goodness into dye, so I found a YouTube video to show me how it is done and off I went…

I plonked the whole two handfuls in a pot with water and put it on to simmer for an hour or so. Some videos say it can be boiled, some say to not boil it, some say to boil it then cool and boil again, some say once is enough. I will just play it by ear and simmer until I get some colour, and if that doesn’t work, I will boil it.

Apparently this species of lichen is also really antibacterial and can be used to treat infections on the skin. I think I will also harvest some to dry and keep on hand in my herb collection.

Yes, I did get two different types of lichen in my harvest.

Now I wait.

After about two hours of gentle simmering, I decided to try boiling as there wasn’t a lot of colour showing in the water.

After two boiling sessions the pot is showing an uninspiring yellow/brown. I can see some orange tones in it, but I don’t think I have enough lichen for the pot to make orange. I will see what my wool does.

Some sources say that wool needs to be mordanted and some say that mordant can actually interfere with the process. I am going with the no mordant camp for my first skein (mostly because I’m impatient to see what I get from the lichen). Usually the wool is soaked in water before being plonked into the dye bath, but I just put the skein in dry (due, again, to impatience).

Strained dye bath, looking a lot like aged pee.
In it goes.
Now we wait, again.

I am heating up the dye bath again, to increase the dye uptake. I will leave the pot on the stove for an hour or so, then I will let it all cool down and see what we get.

The result?? Beige.

The resulting beige colour is not that inspiring, but I can still see dye in the pot. I am going to dig out my iron mordant pot and see if adding iron to the pot will improve the colour a bit.

Yes, I know it looks gross, but it is really useful in dye pots.

I have added 4 tablespoons full of the iron mordant. The colour has improved straight away. I will leave the yarn for another half hour then see what I get.

Much better.
The final result.

After rinsing the yarn and hanging it to dry, I have ended up with a really pretty orange/brown. I think that I will iron mordant a few more skeins and gather some more Usnea (a lot more). I can imagine a pair of socks knitted in this colour.

I learned today that Usnea species gives a brown/orange colour in dye, that iron mordant brings out the orange tones in this dye and that I have my father’s ability to drive while thinking about things (that is… no ability at all). I will continue to gather and experiment with lichens and fungus in the dye pot, but I had better spin some new yarn to play with before I get too carried away.

Rest well Bandit

We have had a rough run with Bandit (our oldest dog now); he has had a series of operations over the last six months or so. First he was eating a lot of grass, so we took him to the vet. The vet found he had a blocked bowel and managed to clear it. They also took a biopsy from a lump on his tongue at the same time. The biopsy turned out to not be cancer, but he had to have a piece of his tongue removed as the tumour was growing fast. That (very expensive) surgery had to be done by a specialist. The surgery itself went well and he healed quickly, but he had accidently been burned by the cauterising plate (some piece of medical equipment used in these surgeries) on his side. The burn did not touch his hair, but burned deep into his side. We discovered it when the hair began to fall out in the area. So we took him back to the vet, who gave us creme for the wound. He healed from that fairly well.

Recently, he began to eat grass again and went off his food, so it was off to the vet again. We expected another blockage but instead they found he had thickening of the small intestine. Which required another operation to take biopsies. The biopsies revealed that he had some sort of food intolerance, but before we could bring him home, the biopsy sites began to break down. He had another operation to clear the sites of infection and he was on multiple pain medications and antibiotics. I was driving to see him as often as I could (not easy as I had to cross a border and the drive was two and a half hours each way). I could see he was looking more and more unhappy, even though the vet staff tried their best to get him eating and make him comfortable.

Last Sunday (the day we had our second Covid shot), the vet rang and said his temperature was up again and he was passing blood. His other organs were beginning to break down. We made the decision to end his suffering. We drove up to the vet one last time to see him and be there when he went. That was the hardest time I have faced of late; Bandit was a very special member of our family…

When we were first going out together, Kev’ bought me a puppy. Not just any puppy, a two week old puppy who had been rejected by her mother and needed to be fed two hourly with an eye dropper. I’m not sure whether he wanted to ignite my mothering instincts, test my resilience or just take advantage of sleep deprivation, but either way it worked. I raised that puppy and she had puppies in her turn, then her daughter had puppies (we kept one puppy from each litter), her son had a single puppy: Bandit. Read a little more about our pack here. I wish we had kept track of the puppies we gave away, so we could maybe get another member of the line.

Bandit (and all his line before him) has been a symbol of our marriage, a superstitious good luck charm in a way. I guess you could say he was a horcrux, he held a piece of our souls that personified our marriage. So it was fitting that my partner and I were both there to see him on his way to the next world. He sat outside enjoying the sun and the cool grass, under a beautiful wisteria dripping flower petals. I patted him and stroked him for an hour or so and we lay in the grass together like we had all his life. Then the vet came and injected him with the Green Dream and he went to sleep in my arms with a final relieved sigh.

I am glad he is at peace but I will miss his soft little head that I stroke whenever I wake in the night. I will miss his happy face when I come home from work. I will miss him walking importantly in front of me on walks as if I would be lost if he wasn’t there to show me the way. Most of all, I will miss the pressure of his body against me through every long night.

If someone reading this took one of the puppies from Gismo (we were in Urbenville then) or Pucky (we lived in Drayton then) and has a descendant of that line, please get in touch.

Local insects and animals – Agriophara plagiosema

The Butterfly House website says this is Agriophara plagiosema, an inconspicuous moth species that doesn’t even rate a common name. To me, moths seem to be endlessly surprising and beautiful; they sit in plain sight with their intricate patterns and colours and go largely unnoticed by everybody. There are so many species and variations that each moth really does qualify as an individual based on appearance.

Moths are a useful part of our ecosystem. Moths pollinate many plants, especially night flowering types. They also provide food for birds, lizards and marsupials. I once raised a Muscovy duck on moths and other night insects by turning on an outside light and catching the swarms of insects in a plastic bag (I then popped the duckling inside the bag, providing food for the duck and entertainment for everyone else), that duck became a massive lump called Baby who looked about the size of an average cattle dog.

These days, we leave a small light on outside to attract interesting insects and the geckos and frogs are quick to come and enjoy the bounty. This little beauty is just one example of the diversity around us all the time.

Making protein powder

Recently I decided to start paying attention to my iron consumption (having been diagnosed with an iron deficiency). To achieve this I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal and logged everything I eat into it each day. This little app counts calories, but it also counts macronutrients (iron among them). After about two weeks of tracking, I discovered that my iron intake is fairly low and so is my protein. To combat this trend I decided to make some vegan protein powder and up my leafy greens and legume consumption.

I have a favourite YouTube channel when it comes to making interesting food for us; Chef Jana. She has a recipe for protein powder that seems to work for us. So off I went to the food cupboard looking for ingredients.

We had most of them, I did however have to substitute hemp seed for flax seed. It was so simple to measure it all out into the blender and hit the button. I poured the powder into a big jar and we started adding it to smoothies, salads, baked goods (vegan brownies… yum) and even mashed potatoes. The result has been amazing! If the tracking app can be believed.

The above information was taken prior to making the powder; as you can see, I am fairly low on protein (and some other things too).
This information is from after the protein powder. You can see the difference!

I feel a bit more energetic too. Other health issues remain, but that is the inevitable march of time (for which there is no cure).

Making dish washing tabs

It is time to try to eliminate the detergent bottle from the landfill contribution we make. We use about one bottle every three weeks, which may not sound like a lot, but it still contributes to our local landfill and costs us a fair amount of money. Also, I am never really sure if the claims of ‘eco-friendly’ displayed prominantly on the bottle are true or not. So…….

I found some blogs about making dishwasher tabs (I know… we don’t have a dishwasher and are not really interested in getting one at this stage) and began to think about the differences between hand washing and dishwasher washing. Hand washing uses both chemical and mechanical means (the kind of mechanical force you apply when scrubbing that burnt pot while listening to M&M) to get the dishes clean, while a dishwasher relies on mechanical force (the pressure applied by a stream of water against the surface of the plate, while not listening to M&M) and heat to clean. So dishwasher tabs don’t have any detergent in them, they use chemicals to adjust the pH of the water to make it easier for the water and heat to do it’s job and anti-streak chemicals to make sure the dishes dry shiny and streak free. Therefore dishwasher tabs will need to be slightly different to hand washing tabs.

The dishwasher tab recipe I found is a simple combination of 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1 tablespoon of detergent and essential oils. I decided to start with half this recipe and adjust it after testing.

I just tipped the lot into a bowl and mixed it up well.

It sort of foamed up and became light and fluffy. Apparently that is what it should do.

Then I poked a few teaspoons full into ice cube trays and pressed them down really well.

They apparently need to dry for four hours, but I found it was a lot longer than that. I left these for a day and a half.

Now for the first test! I ran some water into the sink and added a cube.

The final result; clean dishes! The cube doesn’t foam up at all, but it is easy to wash with it and the plates seem to have an extra shine on them. I will try using them for a week and see if there is any taste residue left. Maybe I won’t have to change the recipe again.

If everyone likes this option, we can go from buying one bottle of detergent every three weeks to only one a year (the recipe only uses a tablespoon per batch). I am very pleased with this project! I might go and dirty a wine glass.