September 6th, 2013


A day at play.

 A good friend needed company yesterday on the first anniversary of her husband's passing. We talked, we drove, we laughed, we looked and finally we spent some money in a Garden centre which we both enjoy. Both of us happy by then to browse and commune with plants. After a long but fruitful day of comradeship.
A two hour drive when my friend arrived saw us in the town of my childhood.
Sitting in the car overlooking the harbour was lovely, and we drove around to the botanic gardens where i spent a lot of my childhood as my uncle was Curator of them, and lived in the gardens cottage within the gardens.....bound by a sea canal on one side it was a dream playground for a child and one i introduced my friend to with pleasure. The bluestone gardens cottage, home of my Childhood, is now a museum,as a later house was built for my Aunt  and Uncle adjoining the gardens when i was a teen,  but using the same backyard area, as the vegetable gardens and greenhouse had been in constant rotational use for 150 years by various Curators. My uncle being the longest serving curator with 45 years on the job. He now has a separate garden named for him on the cliff top overlooking the harbour, with a plaque commemorating his long service both in curating the gardens, his war and his community service......a good heritage and one that has left me with fond and lasting impressions and influences.
As my Mother passed away when I was just five it was left to my Aunt and Uncle to become proxie parents with my grandmother as my father worked away from home for many years. The gardens and harbour were my playground, and i still remember the day my Uncle introduced me to the Ginko tree tree in the gardens and told me her story. She was the Elder of all the gardens trees, and with delightfully gnarled and arching branches overlooked the Croquet grounds in the gardens precinct.  Later i was able to take a seed from that tree  to my own home to plant, but sadly that home is now lost to me as i moved on. I now have a new Ginko planted in my garden and hope to live long enough to see her flourish in the fertile volcanic soil of this garden where I have set down my new roots.

My friend Carol is an amazing lady, despite being hamstrung by diabetes she is very very hard working, she milks cows morning and night for a living plus running her farm and cutting her own and her parents (and my)  firewood with her two trusty chainsaws. We often 'go bush' to cut wood, i load as Carol cuts the logs into fire lengths for us all. We take turn about with loads so we all have a good supply of firewood for Winter. We also both enjoy plants and gardens so also enjoy time in garden centres.

While we were at the garden centre I had a short list of herbs to add to my garden, Herb Robert and Vervain being foremost.  I looked for Herb Robert & Vervain(Verbena) to no avail, they only had the basic culinary herbs,but I found an everbearing Spinach for the vegie patch and an Azalea called 'Shiraz' to repeat the colour of my Prunus.. It is a standard Azalea with lovely cut burgundy leaves and a single shiraz coloured flower in Spring, it is in bud now so will try and dig a hole for it today and prepare a happy place for Shiraz to live in my garden. My friend collects Princess Lillies but already had all those varieties available at the garden centre so she left empty handed from that visit.

Borage took a back seat as I was out most of the day ,though i did greet her and tell the seedlings they would soon have a new home. I took photos of them in the early morning light  as i waited for my friend to arrive. The bees were already busy is the starry blue flowers. Those black anthers set off the blue in a delightful almost surreal way. I am hesitant to pick the flowers for a tea as the bees enjoy them so much, who am i to deprivebthem of their food source? When there are a lot more i may rethink and harvest them but not yet.

At 11am today  I am going into town to collect some rabbit droppings from a lady who has 50 rabbits. I think they will make a nice gentle but weed free fertiliser for the new garden bed.  She tells me i will need to shovel them from beneath the cages so will take my long handled shovel and some feed bags with me.

Tingles and more books and soap ingredients

Hmmmm, the Cleaver tea i drank seems to have served me up a reaction. I ended up after drinking one cup with a tingling burning mouth, itchy throat and forearms. Overnight saw me up four times so it is also a diuretic i think. Next day all had settled down  though my tongue still feels slightly tingly and uncomfortable, but i think i will keep the tea for soap making. It is said to be excellent for skin conditions, so i will use the remaining tea as the water component in my next batch of soap, i am also infusing nettles in oil for the same soap in hopes it will help my son with his psoriasis.

The camera is at this moment on charge so i can take some in progress images of my herb ally the Borage. I have some mature leaves drying for tea and will also try some fresh and make an oil infusion.

My list of books has been extended as i perused my own library shelves for anything herbal. I should have remembered my favorite gardening naturalist Jackie French. All her books mention ways to use weeds and to integrate herbs into home use.
I have three of Jackie's books.
Backyard Self Sufficiency
The Wilderness Book
The Chook Book
Added to those is a local book on local weeds and several on Self Sufficiency and Permaculture that touch on herbs and weeds, including John Seymour's Self Sufficiency and Bill Mollison's Permaculture1.
i also have a 12 volume Gardening Encyclopedia and a plethora of general and specific gardening books, many mention herbs or feature full chapters on them. So i plan to rediscover some old friends on my shelves in the coming weeks.

I dug a new bed by the kitchen  verandah today and planted a Rosemary, LemonBalm and Bergamot in it, along with a row of Heart's Ease which we in Australia calll  Johnny Jump-ups.( viola Tricolour). I will transplant some of the Borage seedlings as a border along the inside edge facing the verandah. The bed runs under a mature fig tree so the plants will have dappled summer shade, always a benefit here.

I am also planning on thinning a clump of comfrey and using them to boder a herbaceous bed on the eastern driveway. My reading tells me that comfrey can even halt incursions of kikiyu and couch both of which are a problem in my garden.

Tomorrow's job is to photograph the borage in all her phases of growth as i have her from seedling right through to full flower right now. I will also add a leaf to a glass of red wine and report back on the results of before and after. The calendula are also in full flower so i will include them too.

I have often used the borage flower in salads but am still hesitant to eat those furry prickly leaves, even the youngest leaves are covered in hairs. A poultice i will certainly make, my ankle may appreciate it greatly. After two years it still swells, heats and bleeds internally. A specialist told me that when i fell the tendon broke into three and cannot rejoin. He is hesitant to operate as it may end up freezing and not bend at thanks. At least now i am mobile even though not always comfortable.
My nettle oil and rosemary oil infusions with cleaver tea in the bowl all for making soap at this stage.

A block (2kg) of Calendula soap waiting to be cut. The petals of the calendula were infused fresh in warm oil then blended into the soap with the oil, leaving delightful golden specks through the entire block.