Friday, January 16, 2015

bathing bird summer survey

Last winter I participated in a volunteer bathing bird watching survey.

The research is used to look at which bird species are using birdbaths to drink from and/or bath in, the changes between seasons (winter versus summer) and how garden habitats and what we do might impact on what birds visit us.

The Bathing Birds survey runs for 4 weeks starting on Friday the 23rd of January and finishing on Monday the 23rd of February.

Would you like to join in? Only for folks  and birds living in Australia:)

All you have to do is observe your bird bath for 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week. It's fun, you can involve the kids and you get a fancy new title, Bathing Bird Citizen Scientist.

For more information and registering, visit Bathing Birds website.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

koala mittens

After the recent bushfires in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales cotton mittens for burned Koala paws are needed. Koalas are often the first victims to perish in a bush fire. Wildlife rescuers find survivors with severe burn injuries to paws, claws, face and ears. It's not uncommon to find koala babies sitting in trees crying, distressed and alone. Doesn't this just tug at your heart?

This post at Down to Earth alerted me to a call out from the International Fund for Animal Welfare group. Handmade cotton mittens are needed for burned Koala paws for daily changing of dressings and application of burn creams.

Finally when the children were asleep and I cleared the dining table, I washed and dried some fabric from my stash and whipped up some soft cotton mittens in the wee twilight hours.

You can download the mitten pattern and find the postal address at IFAW

Update: The call out for Koala mittens has been incredibly successful. Immediate attention is now needed for other Australian native wildlife: Pouch liners for possums, kangaroos and wallabies. A new pattern for pouches will be uploaded soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

crabapple pie

Four months ago we swapped eucalyptus trees, kangaroos and possums for a quintessential small Australian house with a big back yard in a little suburban town. Surrounded by diverse trees lying in their winter dormancy we were crossing our fingers once Spring arrived there would be signs of fruit trees.

Our backyard is a jungle of overgrown trees, shrubs and ridiculous amount of rocks with various areas strangled in a noxious ivy weed that snakes love to bask in. First priority after we moved in was the ardious task of clearing the yard and making it safe for the children to play in. Still continuing! Rob's hard work has paid off with the discovery of an Apricot tree in the far back corner of our property. Apricot conserve recipe coming soon!

The children and I have spied many promising apricot trees and wild cherry plum trees and red and green apple trees (exact identifications to come later) on our walks to our local bakery. However, across the road from our house is an unusual apple tree now heavily laden with fruit. I asked an older lady walking her dog if she knew what the tree was. I suspected that original residents of the area could definitely identify the local trees. "Crabapple tree," she responded. Predictably one minute later I was madly researching Crabapple recipes on Google.

From what I gathered Crabapple tree is an ornamental tree that is often neglected for their fruit. It is too small, tart and sour however a great baking and cooking fruit. In the case with pie it is best made with vanilla bean rather than cinnamon which is traditionally used when baking with green apples.

The boys picked a basket of Crabapples for me and I made them a scrumptious sweet Crabapple pie in return.

The flours and sugar used in this recipe is interchangeable so use what you prefer or have available in your pantry for this frugal pie recipe.


2 cups organic plain flour
2 tablespoon caster sugar
100 g cold unsalted butter, cut in to cubes
1 egg, beaten
40 ml ice-cold water

Pie filling
30 Crabapples or enough to fill your pie dish. Leave skins on,scrubbed and washed
1 cup of golden unrefined natural caster sugar or any granulated sugar of your choice
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of organic vanilla bean paste or essence
Half a lemon, juiced

In a food processor, process flour, sugar and butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 40 ml ice-cold water and process until mixture forms a ball.

Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

To make the filling, simply cut crabapples in to quarters then cut out core and seeds. I cut half of the quartered apples in to pieces because I wanted some really soft apple pieces and some chunky. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl except for the egg.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out larger disc between two sheets of baking paper big enough to line the bottom of your pie dish. Line pie dish with pastry. Roll out remaining pastry disc to fit on top of your pie and put in the fridge until ready to use.

Place filling in pastry case and line with top pastry and seal edges. Brush with egg wash. Make 3 small incisions in pastry top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until golden and juices bubble through the incision on crust.

We ate pie not long after it came out of the oven (it was 10 pm!) but wait until it cools down if you can. The next day we had a second serving with good quality vanilla ice-cream.

Why we forage:

Foraging is another way we can reduce our food miles and increase eating more locally and seasonally.

It seems absurd and wasteful to pass by a sustainable and abundant food resource and head to the supermarket to buy what is already available and free within arms reach.

By involving our children in the forage-to-table process our children learn where their food comes from and have fun too. They also experience a taste of a "real" childhood just like their grandparents did foraging in woodlands and forests in Europe.

Do you forage? Have you discovered edible food on your local footpaths and parks? Or in your backyard? Apparently it is a bumper crop year and some people have discovered fruit trees in their own backyard they weren't even aware of.

Monday, January 5, 2015


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.

Archie: Always mimicking his big brother.
Max: Always delighting his little brother.

Joining in with The 52 project in 2015 at Practicing Simplicity. Will you join in too?