Burnt Citrus Syrup Recipe (this is a delayed gratification recipe!) It’s citrus time again. When friends and neighbours chase you down the street almost begging you to take their home grown lemons, limes, oranges, or… More
I’m very lucky to live in Bellingen. Amongst its many attractive aspects, is the enthusiastic nurturing of artistic endeavour. Nobody looks down on your amateurish attempts to produce something that might qualify as “art”. Even the real artists offer words of encouragement.
Years ago a work colleague commented that she thought I didn’t have a left-brain, and whilst I accept that I am very focused on process and organisation, I thought that was somewhat harsh!
Over the years I’ve tried a few things – painting, sketching, pottery, etc and not discovered anything that grabbed me until I attended an Eco Dyeing course at Camp Creative a few years ago. I still remember the puzzled looks I got when I told friends that I was doing the course. “No, I’m not going to crochet my own hemp shroud – that’s dyeing not dieing”.
Anyway, I was hooked from the first day, and I’ve been experimenting and hoarding eco-printed paper ever since. The hoarding was becoming a problem until the lovely Cynthia offered me space in her private gallery, and a joint opening with Leonie another budding artist. The opening was a huge success – wine, delicious food, great conversation and best of all … SALES!
I was quite hesitant about exhibiting, but I discovered that framing makes all the difference to an eco-print. Turning it from a scrap of paper to something that you might just want to hang on your wall …
So thanks to Cynthia, Leonie and all the friends and acquaintances who attended the opening, and a special thanks to those who bought our artwork.
I’ll be eco-printing more paper soon, but I’m trying to be patient. I made the decision to use only plants from my garden, and preferably Australian natives, but I fell in love with Cotinus (Smoke Bush) leaf prints, so I’ve been forced to plant one. I’m trying to leave it alone and not strip off all the leaves like I did last autumn
It’s winter, and it’s around now that I start to stress a little …
The nights are cold, we’ve had long periods of rain, and the daytime temperature often doesn’t reach 18 degrees. And 18°C is the magic number when it comes to my native bees (Tetragonula carbonaria). Below 18°C they stay in the hive and won’t come out to forage, which means they use their stores of nectar and pollen to stay alive.
Native bees don’t hibernate so the inside temperature of the hive is also really important. Extended periods of cold can kill a hive. I have a mental picture of them all huddled together trying to keep warm, sipping honey and telling tall (or small?) stories to while away the hours.
With all this in mind, I was understandably nervous about splitting my hive, but finally last spring, with the help of a friendly local native bee enthusiast, I felt brave enough to take the risk. So very early one Sunday morning, we cracked it open and were rewarded with the sight of a healthy, honey and pollen filled hive.
We put a new top on the base of the old hive and vice versa and sealed the joins with tape to keep out predators until the bees could seal it themselves. The new hive is now sitting under the Pecan tree where it will get some winter sun.
Still feeling a bit cowardly, I decided to take the minimum amount of honey, and give the bees the best chance to rebuild the hive and to set aside stores for winter.
Native bee honey is quite runny, and it has a strong complex flavour. Drizzled over vanilla bean ice-cream, I can tell you that it was absolutely delicious!
The good news is, that so far after each spell of cold rainy weather, as soon as the daytime temperature reaches 18°C – out they come . Fingers crossed for the rest of winter.
PS: If you are looking to keep native bees in Australia,
this is the bible , by entomologist Dr. Tim Heard.
Or even better, if you live in NSW or QLD you might be able to get to one of his fascinating seminars or workshops.
This is how I got hooked!
I’d love to be able to say that eating “home grown” Sandpaper figs was a delicious bush tucker foodie experience … but sadly, it wasn’t. Not that they weren’t interesting – slightly sweet and fibrous with a definite hairy mouthfeel (maybe I should have peeled them?). And I’d certainly eat them if I was lost in the bush and waiting for a chopper to respond to my distress call … But I’m happy to leave them for the birds to enjoy.
They are also quite photogenic, both in their natural state in the bush and on the top of an Instagram-like breakfast bowl. OK – so I couldn’t help myself. But without the tweezers or the patience, my effort is definitely “Not Quite Instagram”.
Initially, I thought I had two types of Sandpaper figs in the garden. One, a slightly scruffy looking shrub with small figs which turned a dark purply black when ripe,
and the other a medium sized tree with attractive bark and fruit which grows on the trunk. The fruit stays green and never seems to ripen.
Both appear to be Ficus coronata, so it’s possible that the tree is male and the shrub is female. As they are separated by about forty metres, you might think that this would pose a problem … but no, they are pollinated by a fig wasp. Clever.
Traditionally, aboriginals use the fig leaves to polish their wooden implements, and I can well imagine this working, as a handful of leaves rubbed on your skin would probably remove more than just the dead cells. A case of extreme exfoliation.
This plant is definitely NOT a weed in my book, you can eat the fruit, polish your skin or your boomerang, make rope out of the inner bark, use the latex to heal wounds, and sit in its shade and enjoy the parade of visiting native birds. It can pop up anywhere it likes in my garden …
Our local fruit and veg barn couldn’t believe how much cabbage I was buying.
“Wow – you really love your cabbage don’t you!” they said. So, I tried to explain.
Which probably made the situation worse. I’m sure they now think I’m some sort of obsessed fibre munching, cauldron boiling witch 😊
I will admit that over the last few weeks, things got just a little bit out of control. I became rather hooked on the purple cabbage eco-print process. Almost every morning I ventured out into the garden to gather plant matter to be layered between papers of various weight and texture – tracing paper, swing tags, serviettes … anything I could lay my hands on really.
Into the pot with purple cabbage and mordant to simmer for forty minutes, and then the impatient wait overnight for the dawn (well, almost dawn) unbundling.
I experimented with alum and copper mordants. Copper seems to result in a clear pale blue background with some shades of pink …
Whereas Alum gives a darker, smoky greyish blue …
I’ve amassed quite a pile of dyed papers, and thrown more than a few on the compost heap.
And I’ve made this year’s Christmas cards …
If you’d like to read my relatively foolproof method, Purple Cabbage eco-print recipe