Make Your Own Insect Repellent

Insect Repellent SprayWith summer in full swing and outdoor activities such as camping and barbecues being high on the todo list the ongoing annoyance of bugs and insects can often ruin an enjoyable day. Earlier we spoke about how to reduce the mosquito population at your house, today we will look at a DIY Insect Repellent that contains houshold items that make it cheap to make and safer than most commercial sprays.

Commercial Repellents:

When used as directed, commercial insect repellents can stop mosquitoes and other biting insects. When you use too much repellents can be harmful to your health. Here are some popular chemicals that are used in Commercial Repellents, from this you can decide what is best for your family.


DEET is one of the most widely used chemicals as a mosquito repellent. DEET can produce skin and eye irritation. DEET also will penetrate skin and can, in some instances after long term exposure, affect the central nervous system. In some individuals, slurred speech, confusion and seizures have occurred.


Permethrin is another repellent intended for treating clothing and other items, such as tents, sleeping bags and other gear made of fabric. Permethrin can cause eye irritation. Permethrin has been classified as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” if ingested.


P-menthane-3,8-diol may have some associated health hazards. It has been found that long-term skin exposure produces microscopic kidney lesions as well as skin redness and swelling and may cause genetic damage.

DIY Insect Repellent:

For this repellent we will need the following 5 items:

  • Detol Disinfectant Liquid ($11 per 750ml)
  • Methylated Spirits ($6 per 1L)
  • Baby Oil ($9.5 per 500ml)
  • Funnel
  • Atomiser spray bottle ($2 to $5)


Using the funnel, pour equal parts of Detol, Methylated Spirits and Baby Oil into the spray bottle.

Put the lid on the spray bottle and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

The mixture is now ready to use. Make sure you label it clearly as Insect Repellent to avoid misuse.

Reduce Mosquitoes around your home

how to get rid of mosquitoesMosquitoes in the back yard are not only annoying during a barbeque but mosquito transmitted diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and ross river fever, can be a danger to your families health. There are a number of ways to deal with the outbreak, but a two pronged approach of prevention and cure will give the best results.

Life Cycle of a Mosquito:

As the mosquito develops it goes through four distinct stages: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. These stages can be easily recognised by sight.

Egg: The mosquito lays its eggs one at a time, they can be individual or joined together to form rafts. They both float on the surface of the water. Most eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours, with water being a necessary part of their habitat.

Larva: As the eggs hatch larvae emerge and live in the water, coming to the surface regularly to breathe. Over the next 10 days the larvae will shed their skins four times, each time growing larger. The larvae regularly feed on microorganisms and other organic matter in the water. As the larvae moult the fourth time the larvae will change in to pupae.
Mosquito Life Cycle
Pupa: During the pupal stage no feeding takes place, but the pupae will move around in the water by flicking their tails to avoid predators. The transformation into an adult occurs during this stage, much like the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Once ready, the skin of the pupae splits open and the mosquito emerges.

Adult: The new adult will rest on the surface of the water until it dries and the body parts harden. Feeding on blood and mating do not begin for a few days. Continue reading Reduce Mosquitoes around your home

3 ways to stop smelly drains

fix smelly drainsYou all know that smell? The one which nearly makes you throw up your breakfast when you get in the shower or brush your teeth.
Because of the problem I had last week, we’re talking about smelly drains.

Before we get to the fixes it is best to understand what causes drains to smell in the first place.

The main causes are:

Build up of hair and soap
High school biology taught us that all kinds of yeast and bacteria love growing in warm wet climates… Just like your drainage system! Combine that with some hair and soap scum to grow on and you have the finest environment for a new life form.

Dry P trap
The P trap is a piece of plumbing pipe work that is installed to create a barrier of water between your drain hole and the sewer system. If unused for a period of time the P Trap can dry out and allow the smell to come back through. If you haven’t used your drain for a while, run some water through it and ventilate the room.

Blocked Stink Pipe (stench pipe)
If you look up at your roof line near your toilet and or bathroom you will notice a piece of pipe sticking up in the air. This is known as the Stink Pipe. It is essentially a pressure release for the sewer system which allows it to ventilate to the atmosphere. It is high up above your roof so the smell that is emitted has a chance to be blown away without you or your neighbours smelling it. Birds love to nest in these pipes, this causes back pressure in your system and can force smelly air through your P Trap.

The Fixes:

To remove Hair and Soap scum, my favourite is Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide). It is extremely alkaline (opposite to acid) and if mishandled can leave you with a burn just as bad as acid.
This can be bought from any hardware store or supermarket under various brand names. Simply mix this as per the directions, usually a tablespoon in a litre of water, and pour down each of the offending drains. Leave soak for half an hour and flush thoroughly.

Another popular treatment is using Enzymes such as Actizyme. These are added to your drain in pellet form and slowly break down any blockages, slime, scum, or other nasties in your drainage system. The beauty of these is that they are natural and will not affect septic systems. These are more of a maintenance item as they take a longer period of time to work.

One that I’ve never seen is Bicarbonate of soda sprinkled down the drain, followed by a healthy splash of vinegar. Get ready for a lot of foam to come out of your plug hole!

When you’ve tried all the above and it still smells like something died in there, it wouldn’t hurt to call a plumber. You may have a blockage or a poorly designed system.

Grow these vegetables from Scraps you would normally throw out


How to plant celery indoors

Rather than composting all of your vegetable scraps, another option for some vegetables is to re-grow them! Why not grow some more spring onions from the bottoms or a pineapple plant. Not only is it reducing what you would normally throw out, it will save some money on the way.

Here are some links to demonstrate how to re-grow your vegetable scraps:

Emergency Turkey Stuffing

Christmas Turkey in the Webber

It’s just not Christmas in our house without some kind of emergency. While I worked all weekend my wife picked up a turkey and defrosted it. It came time to put the bird in the Webber this morning, when I realised that there was no stuffing!

Back in the days when my Granny was with us, Christmas cooking was a precision regimented affair that would rival the rank and file of the SAS.

A quick think back to how to make stuffing saw that I was ill prepared! No stale bread, no fresh sage… an unstuffed bird would be as dry as a chip so the following recipe was used:

  • 5 fresh bread rolls
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons of dried mixed herbs
  • 2 eggs
Toss all ingredients into the food processor and whizz until completely mixed. Jam the mix into the turkey’s bum… I mean cavity… and roast as you intended before you realised there
was no stuffing prepared!

Transplanting Seedlings

A Biodynamic gardener once had a row of broccoli plants. Only two plants had aphids, but both were quite infested. The two plants were dug up, and the gardener discovered that the plants had experienced root damage during transplanting. The healthy broccoli, which had experienced uninterrupted growth, were untouched by the insects, while nature eliminated the unhealthy plants.

When transplanting, it is important to handle the seedlings gently and to touch them as little as possible. Plants do not like their bodies to be handled, though they do like to have human companionship and to have dead leaves removed from their stems. You should hold them only by the tips of their leaves (if the plant must be touched) or by the soil around their roots. If you have grown the seedlings in a tray, use a hand fork to gently separate a 4-inch-square section of soil and plants from the rest. Using the fork, gently lift that section from the flat and place it on the ground. Then carefully pull away one plant at a time from the section for transplanting. If it is particularly dry, hot, or windy, place the section on a wet towel. Always keep as much soil around the roots as possible when transplanting. If the seedling has been grown in a pot, turn the pot upside down, letting the plant stem pass between your second and third fingers, and tap firmly on the bottom of the pot with your other hand. Or tap the lip of the pot on something solid.

In all cases, if the plants are root bound (the roots being so tightly grown together from having been kept in a starting tray or pot so long that with the soil they constitute a tight mass), gently spread the roots out in all directions. This process is important because the plant should not spend critical growth energy sending out a new, wide-ranging root system for eating and drinking when a good root system has already been produced. Instead, the plant’s energy will go into the natural flow of continuous growth.

Be sure to place the seedling into a large enough hole so that the plant can be buried up to its first set of true leaves. Water the seedlings after transplanting to help settle the soil around the roots, to eliminate excess air spaces, and to provide an adequate amount of water for growth. As the soil is packed down under the pressure of watering, the final soil level will remain high enough to cover the upper roots. The plant’s roots need firm contact with the soil to properly absorb water and nutrients. Press the soil firmly around the seedling, if necessary, but not too tightly. Tight packing will damage the roots and will not allow the proper penetration of water, nutrients, and air. Soil that is too loose will allow air and moisture to concentrate around the roots. This will cause root burn and decay.

Transplanting seedlings up to their first true leaves prevents them from becoming top-heavy and bending over during their early growth period. (This is especially true for members of the cabbage family.) If a plant bends over, it will upright itself, but will develop a very “tough neck” that will reduce the quality and size of the plant and crop. Onions and garlic, however, do better if the bulb does not have much soil weight to push up against.

Optimally, transplanting should be done in the early evening so the seedlings get settled into their new home during more moderate weather conditions. If transplanting is performed during the day some temporary shading may be needed. In our hot, summer weather, we shade newly transplanted seedlings with 30% shade netting or Reemay, a “row cover” cloth, for several days to minimize transplanting shock and wilt.

Transplanting is preferable to directly sowing seeds. More importantly, transplanting improves plant health. Beds become compacted as they are watered and the soil will not be as loose for a seed that is planted directly in the bed. Some compaction will have occurred by the time it is a “child” a month later and, in some cases, so much so after 2 months, when it is likely to be an “adolescent,” that its “adulthood” may be seriously affected. If, instead, you transplant the 1-month-old “child” into the growing bed, a strong adult root system can develop during the next 2 months, and a good adult life is likely. In fact, a study at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1950s indicated that a 2% to 4% increase in root health can increase yields 2 to 4 times.

Rum BBQ Sauce Recipe

Fancy adding a little spice to your steak? This is one of my favourite sauce recipes and it’s so easy to make.

I try to make this sauce at least once a year, making a couple of litres at a time. The key is to let it cook for at least 12 hours. Makes 3 cups.


  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum (I use Bundaberg Rum)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon hot chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Peel and crush the garlic, set aside for 5 minutes. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; add the diced onion and garlic and sauté. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar and all dry ingredients. Stir and simmer for at least one hour, the longer the better!

Sterilise jars and lids. Add hot sauce to hot jars and cap immediately. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator.

Pineapple propagation at home

Pineapples or Ananas comosus is one of the edible species of over 2000 that make up the bromeliad family. Originally grown in the warm tropics of the Caribbean, pineapples can be grown almost anywhere there is warm weather.

Many people may think that they are a difficult plant to grow, but in reality they are very hardy and will tolerate little water and care. Should you find a pineapple for sale with a full top, have a go at propagating it.

Steps for Pineapple Propagation:

  • Take one pineapple, cut the top off about 2cm beneath the leaves.
  • Start pulling the small leaves away from the base of the stem. Keep pulling the leaves until the bottom 2.5cm of stem is exposed, this is were the roots will form.
  • Stand the pineapple vertical and cut any remaining fruit away. Leaving fruit behind will cause the stem to rot, resulting in  a dead plant.
  • Leave your prepared top on the kitchen bench for a day to allow the base to dry, this will help prevent rotting.
  • When planting out, dip the stem in water and then into rooting hormone powder, this will help the base callous up and roots to form. Insert the stem into potting mix on an angle with part of the stem exposed at the top so as to reduce the chance of rot.
  • After 3 weeks check to see if any roots have formed, if not leave the pineapple stem for another two weeks. Once roots have formed the plant can be repotted into a vertical position for the roots to form.

Where to plant Pineapples:
When planting out into the garden pineapples prefer a well drained soil that does not get boggy and stay wet, planting the pineapple on mound will help with drainage. Any position in full sun or very light shade will suit your new pineapple, providing that the weather is warm as Pineapples do not like frost.

Fruiting and when to pick Pineapples:
Plants can take up to 24 months to fruit, yet in the meantime you will be rewarded with a relatively large lush green plant.

When your plant has flowered and the fruit has grown, the fruit will begin to turn a slight shade of yellow / orange. At this stage the fruit can be picked and taken indoors to prevent sunburn or pest attack, otherwise the fruit can be left on the plant to ripen.

Preparing soil for Passionfruit

You could say that this applies to all plants, but the key to a successful passionfruit plant is great soil.

Starting with any old soil is fine, but the key is to change that soil into living soil. Preparing the soil to hold moisture and nutrients while harboring millions of beneficial bacteria and bugs will make the soil alive.

Currently the yard which we own consists of red sandy loam. Over the course of the next three months I plan to dump large quantities of compost and manure around to turn it dark brown and almost black with organic matter. This will create a perfect soil for the fruit trees I plan to grow, especially the passionfruit.

Step one:
Thoroughly dig the whole garden bed to a depth of 30cm or one shovel depth. This breaks any compacted surface layers and allows for moisture to enter.
In the areas where you intend to plant out passionfruit vines, dig a 30cm deep hole and put that dirt aside. Inside the hole loosen the dirt to a depth of 30cm, then fill the hole back in with the dirt you removed, this should bring the garden back to the original level. By loosening the soil deeper where you intend to plant, water will naturally migrate to that area giving your plants extra water they can access.

Step two:
Find a source of manure. Sheep, cow, horse, goat, donkey, chook, in fact any manure from a grass eating animal is good (dog and cat manure can spread disease and smells awful). My preference is horse or cow mostly due to its availability, your best bet is to make friends with a local farmer or race horse owner.
* Chook / Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and needs to be composted with straw for a couple of months so it does not burn your plants.

Step three:
Spread your manure in a thick layer (150mm /6in) across the garden bed and lightly fork in.

Step four:
Apply mulch. An easy and cheap mulch is grass hay, this can be obtained from your local produce agency or local farmer for a reasonable price. A round bale covers all of my garden beds (and then some) and it looks great.
Spread the mulch out in a thick layer across the manure to prevent any rouge seeds from germinating, and to keep the moisture in.

Step five:
Water well, possibly put the sprinkler on for a good hour each week to soak the mulch and the soil below. This will give the bugs a nice humid environment to grow and breed in.

Step six:
Wait three weeks for the manure and soil to settle and plant out your passionfruit vines.

By following these simple steps, your passionfruit or other crops will have the best start to giving you plentiful amounts of fruit.
Strawberries are another great plant you can plant around the base of your Passionfruit vine while it develops. The grass hay will protect the fruit from being spoiled by touching the ground.