Saturday, 12 December 2015

Succulent Christmas Tree


I could not wait to make this succulent Christmas tree.
I wasn't exactly sure how to do it but I had seen a photo of different versions so I decided to wing it.

It is messy but so much fun. I dragged my 14 year old granddaughter out of her bedroom and off the iPhone to help. Her response was "who do you think I am; Dirt girl?" We ended spending important together time and laughed for the whole afternoon getting down and dirty and creating our living Christmas tree.

Here is how I made our tree.
Step one. Gather what you need.
A plant trainer/ tomato pyramid
Black trellis mesh
Black pot
Cable ties
2 Potting mix
Spare bucket

The plant trainer needs to fit into the pot
Bend the legs of the plant trainer if need be so it fits snuggly

The black mesh needs to be cut to size so you can line the inside of the trainer.
Put the mesh inside and secure it to the wire of the trainer with cable ties (cut off the long bits)

Next step is to put the potting mix into a
bucket and soak it with water. It needs to be wet otherwise it will not pack in  tightly and will fall out.
You need a helper now to hold the trainer upside down in a bucket.
Start filling the trainer with the wet potting mix (Don't worry if some falls out the bucket will catch it and you can add it to the top)

When you have filled it to the very top fit a piece of cardboard over it and tuck it in snuggly (this is because when you turn the trainer over it is less likely to spill out: Each person is to put one hand on the cardboard and the other on the trainer to flip over)

Next you need to fill the pot. I didn't fill mine with just potting mix as it is a bit of a waste. I 3/4 filled with rocks, bark chips and leaves and then the last with potting mix.
Now for the tricky bit. With your helper both put one hand on the cardboard one hand on the side of the trainer and together quickly turn it upside down into the pot.

Now start adding the succulents.
The stem of the succulent needs to be a little long so it goes a way into the soil. I used a wooden paint brush to pre make the hole so the stem slid in nicely (if you try to push them in they will break)
Start at the bottom. Every time you make a new hole above the succulent that is already in it actually pushes the soil down tightly around the stem.
The soil will drop down a bit as you work your way up but once you get to the top you can feed soil into the trainer a little at a time.
It was a messy job but the end result was worth it and I got to spend much needed time with someone I love.
Merry Christmas everyone and don't forget to water your living Christmas tree.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Gourmet Drawers

Gourmet Drawers
I really cannot stand waste.
I drive around the streets of Western Sydney suburbs and I want to cry. The amount of 'stuff' on the side of the road could furnish homes for hundreds of homeless people and yet it is discarded, left to the elements and becomes in some instances landfill.
We have become such a disposable society.
Well it is time to stop.
Think before you discard
Ring organisations that could give your unwanted goods to someone in need.
Reuse, re-purpose, recycle, up-cycle, use your imagination, get inspired and be inspiring

Over time I have collected many many drawers off the side of the road and also the families here actually collect them too for us.
Drawers are amazingly versatile. We use them here at Puzzles as inside sandboxes, to hold small worlds, as storage boxes that can be pushed under the bench and now we will use them outside in our garden.

 At first I was worried that the base would  eventually rot but then realisation hit me. That's ok if it does as it will dissolve and become more of a compost especially if the base is soft ply board but the sides will still be strong enough as a border for the soil. My reasoning is it will take a long time to happen and in that time the drawer has had a second life and helped to produce foods for life. Win win.
Another benefit of using drawers is they are movable. You will be able to see where the best position is in your garden for the planter box and move it easily.

As they are small  the children will have easy access to water, weed, mulch and harvest.
The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination.
Gardens grow inside too; maybe that is an option if you are short on outdoor space.

Get back to basics- Grow to live; Re-use to prolong life;
Keep it green to smell the roses

Sunday, 16 August 2015

How to make a cave/ tunnel

Making a cave or tunnel for outside is cheap and easy. If possible try to use recycled materials if you do not have anything suitable you can get it all from Bunnings.
This is how I made our L shaped cave/tunnel
You will need:
1 metal Garden Arch ($18 Bunnings)
1 wide fencing brush ($16.95 Bunnings on Special)
1 of the smaller matching fencing brush ($14 Bunnings)
Length of Hessian to fit on the inside from start to end
Zippy ties (cable ties)
Masking tape

*The arch is too wide for what I wanted but I knew the metal poles were easy to bend

First I joined 2 of the curved poles together and bent them so they made an arch (in the photo you will notice the real arch has 4 curved pieces).
Secure with the screws provided (there isn't any nuts for the end of the screws so wrap tape around to re-enforce or if you can buy nuts to go on the screws)
Add two of the poles either side so each arch will consist of 6 pieces
Tape around the joins to strengthen
There are enough poles and curved poles in one box to make 4 singular arches.

Decide where you want to put the cave/tunnel and what shape or design you would like.
I decided I wanted a L shape so it had an entrance and then the long part run alongside the back fence
Dig the poles into the ground (be careful if the ground is too hard you will bend the arch)
You will need to measure the length of your brush fencing to see how far apart to put your archways (remember if its too far it may collapse in the middle through lack of support
I put one arch at the entrance, the next went on an angle a little just before the back fence, the third half way across the back fence (measured by how long the brush was) and the forth at the end
Roll the smaller brush over the front arches and when you are satisfied zippy tie the brush to the poles

* Because the back arch is on a slight angle you will notice when you climb in the brush will be blocking the bend. Push the brush towards the front so the actual entrance will be slightly off centre. This ensures the tunnel is the same width all the way through

Once the front brush is secured roll the longer brush over the back. You are going to find the front part of the brush will not go over because the front cave is in the way. Using scissors cut through the wire from the edge until the back of the brush falls straight down, then manipulate the front part to cover the front. (You will understand what I mean when you get to this stage.

Now climb through and zippy tie the brush to all of the poles.

To make it more like a cave I decided to line the inside with hessian.
You will need help with this part (my son is amazing at helping me)
Climb in the tunnel taking the hessian with you. This is to measure however be aware of the corner make sure you allow enough for it to reach the corner of the L shape on the inside
When you get to the end pull it out a little so that you will be able to fold the end over a few times to make it neat
Cut off the hessian at the entrance again leaving some that will be folded and secured
This is the tricky part. Securing the hessian. You need two people
One needs to climb in and starting at the end of the tunnel push the hessian to the roof (make sure it is the middle of the width) the second person then feeds the zippy tie through from the top the person underneath then feeds it back and the top person secures it.

This needs to be done all along the roof first
Once the roof is finished the sides can then be secured

To finish off fold back the hessian at the entrance and at the end and zippy tie it to make it neat
Time to clean up
Climb through and cut off all the ends of the zippy ties ensuring you turn the cut edge away from where the children will be crawling through so they do not get scratched

As our cave/tunnel is at the back of our digging quarry I haven't added anything else

You will be able to extend the tunnel anytime by just doing the same thing
You could even make a maze
Endless possibilities



Saturday, 15 August 2015

Enjoying our surrounds

A blog for enviroweek:
Outside play

The children love the outdoor environment. As soon as they arrive in the morning they are straight outside.

The following photos do not need words to explain the learning that is taking place. Children learn through play

Watering the plants is one of the children's favourite activities when we haven't had enough rain.

 The outside furniture is made from recycled materials and can be left outside in the elements

Wet weather clothing allows the children to explore outside even in winter

When we had the destructive hail storm this year a few homes owners in our area were told their trees needed to be cut down due to being unstable and posing a danger to the passing public. I came across one such owner and he kindly gave me all the cut up logs. We now use them in our outside environment

A nice cup of tea on a cold winters day

 One log was turned into a chalkboard

Old drawers are terrific for plantings vegetables in
 Strawberries grow wonderfully in bales of sugar cane mulch
 There is no greater play thing than a stick

 Bird watching
Checking to see how the vegetables are going
 Reaching for the clouds
 Digging in the dirt
 Problem solving (getting mud off shoes)
 Preparing the worm farm
 Cooking up a feast in the sandpit
 Car play in the converted compost box
 "How many worms can you find"?
 Small world play in a tyre filled with sand
Painting a masterpiece in the outdoor art gallery.

The Natural World is our  inspiration