Sunday, 13 December 2015
I love how seasonal produce changes the menu from month to month. This month its all about home grown cucumbers and tomatoes and the other night I made a pasta sauce with one and a salad with the other. It is so satisfying to make an entire dinner with garden pickings and it was really delicious.
Around here we've been having those cucumber salads every other night. I just peel the cucumbers, take some of the seeds out, chop roughly and then cover them with a thai style lime dressing, or a squeeze of lemon, and grind of salt and a splash of olive oil (my go-to salad dressing).
Sometimes though with a glut of fresh produce its hard to keep up and its good to find other ways to use your excess bounty.
Another way to use cucumbers is this simple preserved pickle that I made for the first time last year. I made lots of jars but we went through them quite quickly, eating them on our sandwiches and having it with cheese platters until it was all gone. Luckily this is delicious, and quick and simple to make. I made my first batch the other day and hope to get another in before Xmas.
Here's how I do it.
Bread and Butter Pickles
7 lebanese cucumbers ends removed thinly sliced
2 onions brown or spanish thinly sliced
11/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup caster sugar
I use my MagiMix to slice the cucumbers quickly, but you could use any method. I sliced them and two onions, one brown one spanish for colour. I put the whole lot in a bowl and sprinkled them the mixture with a tablespoon and a half of salt. Then I covered it with my handy beeswax kitchen cover and put them in the fridge overnight. Took me abt ten minutes for this stage.
The next day is bottling day so put the cucumber onion mix in the colander to drain, squeezing down on it occasionally to get the liquid out.
Meanwhile put a large pot on the stove and add the apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric and sugar. Heat until all the sugar dissolves.
One the mixture is clear add the cucumber mix to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
Meanwhile get your jars ready. I like to put mine through the dishwasher to sterilise them or put them covered by water in a big pot which I boil for a minimum ten minutes.
Fill the jars with cucumber pickle mix and put the lids on tight. I choose jars with metal lids that have the sealing clickable lids. I then put them in a big pot submerged in hot water and boil for 20 minutes. A lot of the recipes don't call for this but I can't fit all my jars in the fridge and I like to know they will keep. When you take the jars out that clickable seal on top should be down. It should release with a pop when you open your pickles.
Friday, 27 November 2015
Last year I had a rush of blood to the head (a bit like that other time) and I bought a pottery kiln!
If you've been following my clay adventures you will know that I fell hard for this new craft a couple of years ago when I took my first class and I've been trying to learn more ever since. (So funny to look back at those first pots, perhaps I have improved lol!).
The kiln wasn't expensive but what I didn't realise at the time was that I didn't have the right power to run it and it wasn't going to be as simple as plugging it in.
I hit a steep learning curve, wasn't sure how to fix it and then our renovation came along all the clay gear was packed away while they dug a big hole in our back yard.
Fast forward to this year and the moment I've been dreaming of finally came the other day. My kiln was wired in and I can finally fire my own work.
I'm very much a beginner, and there is so much to learn. But its really nice to have control over my own little experiments. I love that.
On the first day I plugged my little kiln in to its shiny new powerpoint, put some not so precious pots on the shelf and base of the kiln to do a bisque fire and turned it on.
I was hoping to fire to 1060c. Things started well, it turned on quite happily and the temperature climbed steadily for a few hourse. But then to my disappointment it stalled at 1000c and wouldn't budge. After a couple of hours I turned it off, disappointed but hopeful it had done enough to bisque fire the work.
Then disaster! Turns out the temperature gauge was faulty. The kiln had actually gone way past 1000c - high enough even to melt clay! The next morning I opened the kiln to devastation. All the earthenware pieces had melted into a glassy kind of substance and stuck like cement to the fragile firebrick floor and shelf of my precious, long awaited kiln.
You can imagine my feelings, but long story short, it was fixed. Turned out it wasn't too bad and with some advice and help from a few generous and knowledgeable people the kiln was fixed. Phew!
I now use pyrometric cones to keep an eye on the temperature which I look at with my new fashionable kiln sunglasses. In future I'm hoping to have a controller attached which will mean I won't have to manually turn up the heat every hour and the new temperature gauge might show the right temperature.
I've managed three successful bisque fires and one glaze load now. I've taken pots through from raw clay to finished piece, all in my own space. That blue bowl with the leaves was handbuilt, bisque fired, glazed and then fired again here. There's something really wonderful about making something from scratch. It makes me so happy.
I've set up my pottery wheel in the new garden shed and put a workbench in there too.
Combined with the handbuilding course I've been doing with Cath Fogarty from ChinaClay I am reinspired, out of my creative rut and looking forward to lots of potting and playing next year.
Thursday, 12 November 2015
Yesterday was my 8 year blogaversary! Can you believe it? I can't.
Eight years ago I wrote my first posts. I remember it was a sunny Sunday afternoon in November, and I sent them off into the world wondering if anyone would ever read them!
Since then my Flower Press business and blog, both of which I started on a whim, have become a big part of my life.
A huge defining part.
The online world was very different eight years ago, its changed a lot in that time. Nowadays everyone is a part of it, we are all on instagram, everyone is microblogging. Its great, I love it! People understand immediately when I say I'm a blogger, those blank looks are gone. Lots of us have little handmade businesses, people are making their own all over the place! Being creative is much more common.
It wasn't like that back then, we were pioneers in many ways looking to find other makers online and so happy when we found this likeminded community. I miss those lovely early days a little, when the craft blogging community was like a small secret society, sharing and inspiring each other in our creative pursuits. Secret crafters! Those other bloggers shaped my life, my work, my art. If you are reading this, and you were one of that gang back then, thank you a million times my friends. If you are still blogging, and there are less of us these days, then your blog is probably over there on the right and I'm still reading it.
Thank you too to all the lovelies that have come along in the meantime. You are constantly making me think and grow. I make my own soap, jam, pickles, sew my own clothes, grow my own vegies, make my own pots, print my own fabric, buy art, cook food, watch shows, raise my kids, live my life inspired by you!
I've had so many amazing opportunites come my way through my blog and shop, I've had the most amazing emails turn up in my inbox every year of its life. Thank you thank you thank you for reading and responding!
Connecting online is fun and rewarding in a million ways. I was shy to put myself out there at first. I didn't tell anyone in my real world about my blog for a while and then when I slowly did I only got positive feedback, and now my real and virtual communities understand, support and cheer on my creative life. That's such a gift.
My Flower Press Etsy shop turns eight years old in a few of days too. I'm going to celebrate!! I'm going to get my act together and have a sale. I've been a bit distracted this year, I haven't looked after the poor old shop, it has its own life though and looking today I see my recorded sales are up to 970! Time to go for the thousand I think!
Thanks for reading, Susie xxxx
p.s. The images above link to some of my most popular posts, just click on them to go there. Many of the tutorials have been viewed thousands of times, and I love to think of all the makers out there making, inspired and guided by my words!
Friday, 23 October 2015
Since moving to this street many years ago I've delighted in the open Greenway and canal that run behind us, bringing a huge range of birds into our garden and giving us a bush outlook.
So I was delighted to find the Backyard Bird Count which is running now - a nationwide public survey of birds in Australia. I'm looking forward to adding my observations to the count and sharing the range of birds who call this part of the world home.
I've downloaded the app and plan to do some surveys over the next couple of days, to record our local bird life. It takes just 20 minutes to do a survey, and you can do as many as you want. I think it will be a nice way to slow down, a chance to do something while doing nothing, a sort of mindful meditation.
I'm hoping some of our more exotic visitors plan to drop in so I can record what a truly healthy bird population lives here in the Inner West, so close to the CBD.
There is a page on the website too about bird friendly gardening, for hints to make your space even more welcoming.
Here are some photos of favourite locals who live in my neighbourhood.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
This is the view from the bed in the holiday house in Bundeena we stayed in last week. Above all the backyard fences the trees stretched into the distance and the birds flew between them the whole time we were there. It was very peaceful.
We didn't stay long. Our girl starts her HSC exams on Monday and we didn't want to upset her study routine so we only snatched a tiny holiday away, within sight of the city spires over the water in the distance.
Its always so good to get away, to breathe some different air, to come together as our little family over boardgames, swims, walks and food. To talk, to play, to laugh.
And it was pure bliss to be among the wildflowers at this exact time of year as they burst into beautiful flower. It reminded me of the wonderful holiday we had this time of year in the Blue Mountains five years ago when all our walks were garlanded with beautiful native blooms. (How I love being able to look back quickly through this blog and find those photos and be transported to that time.)
These are taken on the most beautiful bushwalk which leads to this surprise waterfall called Deer Pool in the Royal National Park. My camera stopped working 50 metres in, can you believe its broken again - I nearly cried, but I managed to use my phone and J's camera to take some photos.
It's been a funny scratchy year this one. I haven't quite found my creative rhythm, or any sort of rhythm really, and here we are in October!
On the day we took this walk we learnt our friend had lost her battle with cancer. An especially heartbreaking battle for someone so young.
This morning I went to her funeral. It was so sad but it was also a celebration in many ways, a celebration of her life and courage. She never gave up her fight, and never let the disease change who she was. She was brave and courageous to the very end. And she and her husband were simply awe inspiring in their support and love for each other.
It reminded me, like everyone there I'm sure, of how lucky we are to have this life. How lucky to have these people. I resolved again to stop worrying the bad things, the scratchy things and to keep focussing on the good and beautiful things. The little things like wildflowers in spring. And making, which I have been neglecting, but which I need more of in my life.
Friday, 4 September 2015
Spring is here at last!! I always love spring but this year I've been looking forward to it's arrival more than usual. This year I get to plant for the long term, after missing out on gardening last spring during our building work, and losing a lot of plants and landscaping in the process.
I can't wait to remake my garden with new plants and a new layout. Gardening is my meditation and my exercise. It's a creative outlet for me and a part of my plan for a more natural and healthy life - growing and cooking my own food organically and preserving the excess, while composting our green and food waste and making a cooler, healthier environment for our house and a home and food source for local creatures
And I love doing it.
To celebrate I have shouted myself a whole heap of perennial flowering plants and seeds. And impatient to start I actually ordered a lot of the plants as bare root perennials way back in July.
You might not have gardened this way before but its worth thinking about. Many of the online nurseries I buy from are busiest in winter and spring. This is the perfect time to be putting most plants in. It gives them time to establish a root system before the stresses of hot summer days.
Also I love flowering perennials but they are are impossible to find at local nurseries. It makes me really happy that they are increasingly available to buy online. There are some great online resources for every type of plant now. I found a great Ebay seller this year and have ordered from a couple of established nurseries as well. A great resource for finding these is the Nurseries Online website.
I've also splurged on seeds, which are a much cheaper way of building up a garden. You need more patience, and some of the plants you want aren't easy to find or grow from seed, but for vegetable gardening there is no better way.
The change in season means each day more and more of my little bare plants are sending up new shoots and leaves. New spring plantings of seeds are emerging and my winter crops are hitting their stride. I can't wait to share more photos of the garden as it matures.
If you're interested to see pictures of the flowering plants I'm growing see my pinterest Plants board. And for an idea of what I'm after, a wild and thriving grass and flower garden, I love the Trolles garden in Sweden or check out my Garden board on Pinterest.
For my own records I've made a list of this year's new plants below. From past experience I know that not all of these will be happy in my garden. Some will die, some will sulk, but then others will thrive and grow and take over!
A gardener learns from their mistakes and triumphs and I have a few of both to teach me. Also plants don't live forever and if they die it just means space for new ones!
Geum "Pink Frills'
Veronicastrum 'Pink Glow'
Geum 'Flames of Passion'
Persicaria 'Red Dragon'
Aster 'Lady in Black'
Achillea 'Salmon Beauty'
Miscanthus Gold Bar
Tulbaghia Violacea White (Society Garlic)
Filipendula Ulmaria Flore Pleno
Filipendula Rubra Magnifica
Canna 'Henry Cohn'
Sanguisorba 'Oakbank Red'
Potentilla 'Ron McBeath'
Phygelius 'Raspberry Swirl'
Anemone Japonica white
Anemone Japonice pink
Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmos)
Eryngium alpinum (Sea Holly)
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
Limonium perezii (Statice)
Punica granatum nana (dwarf pomegranate)
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'
Astilbe simplicifolia 'Sprite'
Francoa sonchifolia 'Dr Tom Smith'
Geranium x monacense 'Muldoon'
Leucanthemum x superbum 'Shaggy Gem' (Shasta Daisy)
Helleborus x hybridus 'Duke of Burgundy'
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'
And this is what I'm growing from seed and seedling:
Vegies and Herbs
Rainbow chard, Spinach, Spring onions, Garland serrate leaf (salad leaf plant), Rocket,
Tatsoi, Radish Black Spanish, Radish Watermelon, Pak Choi, Lebanese cucumbers, Cucamelon, Purple Climbing Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, Spaghetti Squash, Bull's Blood Beetroot, Broad Beans, Parsley, Artichokes, Snow Peas, Kale, Tomatoes, Strawberries, Lemon Thyme, Dill, Garlic.
Black Ball cornflowers, Achillea Cerise Queen, Zinnia, Echinacea purpurea, Sunflowers.