Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nourishing Egg Yolk Hair Conditioning Treatment

With the end of summer here, my hair at the moment is feeling decidedly dry and in need of some extra TLC. Are you in the same situation? The blasting hot summer sun, drying winds and extra time spent in the water over the holidays really seems to have taken it's toll.

I feel really pleased that I have been shampoo/conditioner free for what seems like the longest time now, however, the effects of a long, dry summer are evident on my (shh, greying) locks. What to do? The homemade soap and apple cider vinegar/herbal rinses were doing a great job of keeping my hair clean and manageable. But how to condition..deep condition at home without resorting to over packaged, chemically laden products that one finds so readily available in that aisle in the shops.

In the past I have tried various ingredients in the hope of deep conditioning my hair; avocado and banana (yes, you read right, banana!),  yoghurt, mayonnaise,  beer..yes I think I even tried beer once or twice(!) and egg. They all worked...fine but with some drawbacks.
Avocado and banana would be mushy and so hard to rinse out! Yoghurt had a strange smell once my hair had dried and beer...well that is just wasting valuable thirst quenching liquid down the drain in my opinion!

So egg was my preferred ingredient, but not without it's own drawbacks. You see, egg tends to scramble when placed under a hot's the white that is the culprit, I'm sure. However, I was not disheartened. After seeing the glorious results of a homemade egg conditioning treatment on my hair (and rinsing out the icky scrambled bits) I decided to have a go at trying just the yolk. worked! Brilliantly! Without any icky bits to rinse out, just a totally natural, nourishing treatment for my needy locks. I have been using this conditioning treatment on and off for the past 18 months or so and am completely happy with it! 

Nourishing Egg Yolk Hair Conditioning Treatment

Makes enough for one treatment on medium length hair. If using on long or thick hair, double the ingredients. 

1 egg  (free range is best)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1-2 drops essential oil (lavender is nice)
a little warm water (1 Tbs)

Separate the egg and place the yolk into a small cup or mug. Add the apple cider vinegar, honey and essential oil. Mix well. Add the water - just enough to make a thinnish pouring consistency. The total volume of egg conditioner will be under a quarter of a cup. 

Pour through clean, wet hair, massaging well to ensure conditioner is evenly distributed. It won't be 'gloopy' like the commercial variety, so it will need to be worked in. Allow it to soak in and do it's magic for a couple of minutes before rinsing out (and yes, hot water is totally fine ;) ).

I keep my hair clean with homemade soap, (switching to a bicarb rinse when we are running low) and find this conditioning treatment works well in the shower after hair has been washed.

I would love to hear if you give it a go! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last of the Summer Weekends..

We're having such a long warm spell at the moment, it's actually kind of hard to think that this is the last weekend of summer!

One of my favourite events took place on Saturday - our local flea market held by the CFA (Country Fire Authority). Living in a high bushfire risk area, this is one cause I am always pleased to support. Each year it promises to be a fun outing and the tweens enjoy it too..usually disappearing the moment we get there, purses burning with loose change and friends to meet up with.

This brings forth no complaints from me, it is so nice to be able to walk through the 'treasure' and pick it over, buying a piece here and there and then sitting in the shade with a cool drink while waiting for the tweens to return, hot, tired and full of treats.

This year I was pretty excited to find an old, battered suitcase. I just love these kinds of old cases and after going several times to the Suitcase Rummage last year, I have been finding myself on the lookout for cases full of character to transport my goods in. I think I found such character in this little case, I really do.
My other exciting find was a known brand pressure cooker that I bought for less than a cup of coffee with a friend!  Really, all I wanted to do was take it home and try it out but it was a total shock to find out the value of the equipment I had on my hands!

It seems to work fantastically too..even for the nervous amateur such as myself. The deal maker was that it had the instruction books with it and it was all packed up in it's original box. I don't think I would've been game if it hadn't have been for these couple of small things.

I had never used a pressure cooker prior to yesterday. However!  I can see myself becoming a total convert! Rice in five minutes? Are you kidding me? Succulent beef korma curry in under 40 minutes? Get out of town!! This shiny, barely used  pot blew me away...not literally of course, thank goodness!

Test cooking of some green beans from the garden also took place, just two minutes and they were ready to bag and freeze. Hubby says they were of a most agreeable taste and texture, although I thought they were a little overdone and would be tempted to pull them out sooner next time...

Do you have any advice for a newbie with a pressure cooker to get her going on the right track?

Hubby's special breakfast is a regular feature on the weekend...
He has the production line down to a fine art now.

The teen has attempted her first tie dye garment.
A pair of shorts. A pair of short shorts. This was so much fun to see come out of the dye pot - like unwrapping a present of the most exciting kind! She was really pleased with them and started eyeing off her wardrobe with a whole new set of eyes..

Remember those chicks that hatched over Christmas/New Year? You wouldn't recognise them now..
Barnevelders - 8 weeks

I've lost track of which were the dark and which were the light ones..oh well. We do have one adolescent crow happening at times, which I was relieved to discover was not actually an animal in pain as it very much sounded like..

Backyard crosses - 5 weeks

The tween has a tomato grown from saved seed of a big pink variety. Any ideas? We haven't sliced it yet, and have two others just like it. I am looking forward to trying it out, maybe tonight! Brandywine, perhaps?

What would the last weekend of summer be without a cooling paddle in an icy cold stream? 

Hoping you're enjoying the changing of the seasons out there. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Garden wander - Feb '13

It's been such a long time since I've shared some pics of our garden here, I thought you might like to take a wander with me today?

Outside, along the side of the house where the six chook dome beds lie, the first bed has been sown with a late planting of climbing beans. After a little bit of rain a couple of weeks ago they have finally found their way and are taking off..

Corn, which was also sown a little late this season is sending up flowers at last. I had thought I might miss the boat with this lot but my fingers are firmly crossed...

Since our lemon tree was un-potted and planted out all that time ago, it couldn't be happier. At long last we have a good handful of lemons on the tree nearly ready for picking. I can't imagine the day when hopefully we will have an excess of them! 

This year I tried my luck at planting a row of beans along the garage wall. It faces north and receives such a lot of sunshine, they also seem pretty happy in this spot. The climbing frame was made by hammering two stakes in at each end and then attaching horizontal bamboo canes to the stakes. A zig-zag string line was then formed by wrapping around the top and bottom canes...simple yet effective, although I think next year I will try and go higher as two of the sections are a little on the low side..

{climbing bean - Blue Lake.}

I'm hard pressed to find a bean that outdoes Blue Lake for it's abundance, hardiness and crisp crunch. Definitely a keeper.

{Baby pumpkin! Buttercup, I think..}

Inside the greenhouse, our cucumbers are doing really well! This would have to be the most promising looking year we've had growing them, for which I'm putting down to the variety - a new one for us- Japanese Climbing Cucumber. 

It is my new favourite of the cucumber family! 

{Japanese Climbing Cucumber}

The majority of our tomatoes are still green, they seem to be taking soooo long to ripen this year! We have 50 plants bearing fruit but only a few starting to turn. I have been picking them at their first blush (don't you just love that term?), as the birds are being noticeably destructive this year..

{Amish Paste}

Elsewhere, our one golden nugget pumpkin plant is making up for it's lack of companions by throwing out plenty of fruit to compensate. It's not really the best pumpkin for feeding a family, more of a single serving size, but I just seem to have something about orange opposed the the green varieties that seem to do so well here. It must be a fond memory of Cinderella and her magical pumpkin carriage that keeps me growing them again each year..

Back in the chook dome garden, ladders that were positioned to accommodate the scrambling pumpkin vines are holding up to the task quite well. I love the thought of having a pumpkin on each step or rung, but I don't think our harvest will be that generous! Or conveniently positioned for that matter!! There are one or two fruit nicely situated within rungs reach although I suddenly thought I may need to make a 'hammock' for any fruit that don't make it to one! Have you ever crafted a hammock for your pumpkins?

I am still a big fan of calendula in the garden (and the medicine cupboard, too!). This would have to be one of my  favourite flowering herbs ever!

And at long last, the beginnings of the summer harvests are making their way inside!

What's growing in your patch at the moment?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Hugelkultur Experiment

One of the things I am enjoying with the school year routine starting back up is the return of the veggie gardening group I am in. We meet once a week at someones house and after the essentials of morning tea and conversation (highly important!), we get to work in the host's garden. Edible garden that is.

I was also happy to have my turn to host early in the term, while the weather is still warm and I had a project niggling at me to get started!

But not before The Essentials though...remember?

Even the pooch had a play date! What fun they had!

The work started with a shovelside 'conference' as it so usually does. "Which is the best way to tackle the project?", "What needs to be put where?" and my favourite.."Just where is the best site for it?"

A plan was formed and soon the hard work commenced. I had been excited to read of Hugelkultur in the comments section of a recent post and was just bursting to give it a try. Especially given all the fallen timber we have on our property! It seemed like a perfect solution to use some of it up.

For those of you like me, a little fresh and green to this style of gardening, Hugelkultur is basically a way of creating garden beds by burying big piles of rotten timber. They are then mounded up with soil and planted out. This permaculture technique apparently creates a beneficial place for seedlings to thrive due to the raised soil temperatures as the wood decomposes, and the increased nutrient levels as the worms and good critters move in, turning the rotting wood into wonderfully rich humus. As the timber decays, it acts like a giant sponge, holding water within the bed, thereby reducing our watering time and usage significantly which is an absolute bonus!

Just exactly why wouldn't I give it a try? 

Termites. Oh yes. Those worrying little guys. Yes, that is the one potential drawback I have discovered on my researchings. The consensus however, seems to be to ensure your beds are at least 3m/10' away from the house and not to use timber more than about 10-12cm. Ok, I admit it, mine were verging on this, and some quite over, but as the beds were a good distance away from the house I was willing to persevere. After all we had just pulled up the majority of the rotting timber for this project from the very edge of our verandah....two sets of very sad looking railway sleeper steps that anyone walking in high heels on would be asking for trouble! The beds they were being used in were well distanced from where the sleepers had previously....slept, so I felt quite comfortable relocating them.

Ok, then, onto business!

The soil was first dug out of the existing bed I wanted to improve and the timber was positioned. Anything from the rotting railway sleepers and scrap pallets to twiggy branches and some dead but not yet rotting timber was used.

This was then piled over with paperbark that falls so readily from our gum trees along with a couple of barrows of their leaves..

After adding the original topsoil back over the timber pile, the chook pen was cleaned out and the chooky straw was layered onto the soil. The following layer consisted of a combination of some broken down compost and some still in the process of breaking down. Finally, the whole lot was finished off with a good layer of organic mushroom compost mixed with organic mulch which I purchased in.

{Elsewhere in the veggie patch, other jobs weren't forgotten about - raspberries get a good tie back in preparation for next seasons growth!}

As it was discussed in the Shovelside Conference that the bed I had planned to improve was in a less than desirable position (shade for half of the day), it was with a good deal of enthusiasm that we formed another hugulkultur bed a little further out, closer to the driveway and in a sunny position for most of the day!

More heavy lifting for the ladies but they held themselves so well. Stacking sleepers inside the bed, more stringy bark, chook straw and mushroom compost. And then, voila...a whole new second bed!

A little edging needs to be finished off on the first bed but it is pretty much ready to start planting in, after the return of its soaky hose that is my garden's new best friend...

The second bed out the it's gloriously sunny aspect, whoop!

I think I will try the half sun/half shade bed with some cooler weather crops such as beetroot, celery, coriander, rocket, lettuce and so on, while saving the sunnier bed for the winter brassicas. I'm excited!

Have you heard of Hugelkultur? Have you tried this method of gardening?
Success or failures? I would love to hear!

 (please link back in the comments section if you have posted on this subject,
so we can share in your experience!)

THE golden page of Hugelkultur (by Paul Wheaton)
The Art and Science Behind Making a Hugelkultur Bed (Permaculture Research Inst. of Australia)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I ♥ fibre

I was dyeing some alpaca fibre today and thought it would be fun to share a few pics..

I am still a total novice at this fibre preparation business, however am finding after each dyeing session or at the end of each knitted project with homemade yarn, something new is learned.

This day?

I am on the lookout for guard hairs. Nasty guard hairs that didn't even beep on my radar previously but now do since my latest project, a knitted scarf turned out incredibly scratchy due to these pesky little inclusions. They really change the feel of an otherwise soft fibre! Uggh! See what I mean? Something new learned each time..

The softest of the fibre is sorted away from the pesky guard haired clumps and is then soaked in a weak water and vinegar solution for around 20 minutes+. The wise ones inform me that the vinegar helps to open up the fibres in preparation to take the dye (it also seems to help loosen some of the dust that is so commonly associated with alpaca fibre. Those creatures like to ROLL! pfft!). 

In the meantime, a stray skein that was recently plied, is washed and then soaked as well in the anticipation of any 'exhaust' dye. 

The dyes are dissolved in a small amount of hot water and then added to the dye pot. Some take the time to measure. I do not. The thrill of an unexpected result kind of appeals to me.

Enter the wetted fibre into the dye pot..

The dye pot is then heated on an outdoor stove for 1 hour or so, very gently, without boiling until the fibre is the shade I am after. It is removed with a long handled prong and allowed to cool before rinsing. 

Remember, felting takes place in the presence of moisture, heat and agitation! Soap, too!

Yes, I have learned this the hard way. 

To dry the fibre after rinsing, (several times, sheesh, that alpaca fibre is DUSTY!), I have been using a scrounged dog bed frame covered with plant netting and then an old net curtain. This is working well and if the day is windy (or the pooch is present), a second net curtain placed on top contains the fibre (and the temptation for the pooch). 
This fibre dried in the heat of the hot summer sun in just a few hours. I'm finding it helps to fluff it up a little as it dries, but that may just be my thing..

Elsewhere, two batches of (more!) alpaca fibre are slowly being rinsed and dried in the same manner. These were given to me by a well meaning school mum, I'm not sure how suitable the fibre is for what I had in mind though, tests will need to be carried out! I was so excited to get my hands on some black fibre though, I have been on the lookout for some for a little while now..

{*Note: Mischievous pooch attempting to dig up lettuces}

The spinning wheel also was dusted off this week after sitting idle over the holiday period. I have been plodding away on some corriedale wool and decided to ply it with some alpaca that was dyed a week or so ago...
I tried to ply it nice'n'tight in the hope of making myself a  pair of socks, durable socks, warm socks even, for winter!

Lets hope so. :)
{exhaust bath skein, alpaca/finn}

What do you ♥ lately? 
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