Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A real winter (for a change)

Anyone who lives in Perth would know that we've had a lovely wet winter, just like they used to be. I've even caught myself thinking that I wish we'd have a few dry days to do the washing! Here's a chart of the rainfall on our block in the last four years and a bit.

Our rainfall year goes from mid July since we installed the rainwater tank at that time of year. As you can see we've got off to a great start to the year after a poor June (end of year 4). The tank has been full enough to supply all our needs since May 5th, which means we may be 'off grid' for about 30 weeks this year (a record for us).

It feels good not to be taking water from the grid, since Perth's dams are still only at 36% capacity despite all this rain. Streamflow has dropped from 400GL a year pre-1975 to around 100GL a year these days, which means the dams simply don't fill up now. Two thirds of Perth's water are from what I'd call unsustainable sources (desal 23% and groundwater 46%), so to be using rainwater (a truly sustainable resource) is great for us and the general community.  

Here's hoping that it keeps raining and the dams overflow...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A cure for dandruff

I've had dandruff for pretty much all of my adult life. It totally sux. I rarely wear black clothes because of flakes on my shoulders and I hate people touching my hair - a scalp massage is out of the question. I've generally tried to control it by going thorough phases of different treatments. I usually have about seven types of shampoo in the shower ranging from organic hippy stuff to hard core chemical stuff. All of these purchased remedies would work for a few weeks to a few months then gradually become less and less effective, so I'd start the rotation again through my selection of useless, expensive, highly packaged shampoos. Grrr. 

Then a beautiful hippy friend suggested doing nothing. So I tried a phase of no shampoo but using a random selection of oils (essential oils in carrier oils). And I hit on a cure...but unfortunately I didn't write it down and could not work out from the smell what the heck I put in it! Grrr again! 

So, I did some dedicated research on dandruff which took all of a couple of hours online and in my op shop aromatherapy books. 

I found that dandruff is kind of a mystery and there are lots of causes, but the most common theory is that it is fungal. Gross. Anyway, it was a good starting point. I researched base oils and found that coconut oil is anti-fungal. Good. Then I researched my essential oil collection and found that several were anti-fungal: patchouli, tea tree, sandalwood and orange.

I mixed up a potion and volia! A cure! My secret recipe (that I meticulously recorded) is:

20 drops patchouli
5 drops sandalwood
in 60 ml coconut oil

I just put a dob of it in my palm and let it melt (if its solid) then massage it into my scalp a few hours before I have a shower and then rise it out. I'm a little nervous to use shampoo again so, so far I've not bothered with that. But with short hair I can get away with it.

The results have been pretty amazing, and its been a couple of months. My dandruff is not 100% clear but it is now only a few flakes here and there not a total, permanent snow storm! And now I have a medical excuse for getting around smelling like a hippy. Perfect.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Garden update

Well, it's been a while hasn't it? We've come out of our winter slumber and the garden is looking great. We've had such a wet end to winter (370mm since mid July) and the garden is loving it.

The fruit trees are looking good. Here are some pics:

The almond tree has a good crop. Hopefully the spraying I did will stop the shothole fungus problem we had last year. Need to net soon to stop the birds too.

We have so many bananas I can't even count them, at least 250 I'd say. They are quite small but will be yummy I'm sure. I've borrowed a friend's Vacola dehydrator to dry some since we won't be able to eat them all fresh.

The macadamia is looking its best ever. Fingers crossed we get some nuts this year.

The strawberry guavas are huge this year, this one is the size of a table tennis ball! We have just a few through the cooler months with the main crop in summer. If you live in Perth I would definitely recommend them to grow, kids love them. This year I've been adding liquid feed Greendex (by Bass). This is an additive for alkaline soils to correct the pH. Our plant is surrounded by limestone walls and the leaves were yellow with green veins last year. The Greendex has solved this and the plant looks much healthier.

We have lots of tiny apricots right now. I need to put fruit fly net on ASAP because apricots are like heroin to fruit flies and they can get them when they're small. 

This year I'm trying a new netting technique, which has a frame of rigid black pipe. At the apex is a nut and bolt to hold it together and at each corner is a peg going into the ground. All I need to do now is throw the net over and weigh down the bottom edges, if I get around to it I may even put a door in with velcro. The main issue with this tree is that it's a double graft. This sounded like a good idea when we bought it (fruit over a longer period, different varieties) but I now realise it will make it much harder to net. One side needs netting now and the other needs to be left open to pollinators since it hasn't even flowered yet. This means I need to net half the tree and then the whole tree in another month or so. What a pain in the bum, don't buy double grafted stone fruit trees is the moral of this story.

The grape vine is shooting now to provide us with summer shade and some fruit to boot.

The boy in the bubble (mango) is going well. The greenhouse effect has buffered it from the wind and cold of winter, so it should be ready for a big surge when it warms up (I'll replace the plastic with shade cloth for summer).

The veges are growing well too. The broad beans are nearly ready to eat. Old bike inner tubes are the best way to support broad beans.

After a slow start the leeks are looking good too.

Last but not least the most exciting development. About six months ago I planted three groups of Quandong seeds. I thought they had rotted away because it had been so long since planting but now I have two beautiful little seedlings in the front garden.

 Here is the first to come up, it's about 2cm tall at two months.

And here is one that just popped up, you can actually see the seed on the soil surface if you look closely. I am so chuffed because it's very hard to buy seedlings and also hard to propagate. They are native parasitic plants which attach themselves to other plants to get nutrients (much like the related Sandalwood), so I have host plants nearby. I can't wait to get our first crop in five years or so, Quandongs make the best jam in the world, ever!