Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brown Gold

I get very excited over the topic of compost.

Mainly because I know that it will help in growing my family great vegetables, but also because it has the ability to massively reduce the amount of waste people throw away.

We have two composting areas. The one is caged...

The other is just a heap.

I like to turn them as much as I can every 6 weeks or so, but it is hard work.

Yesterday we had a really warm sunny day for winter so I headed for the heaps with my little helpers and gave it a good digging over.

Earthworms were there in every forkful, and some unsavory looking grubs. The grubs I collected (eeish - gross...I know!) and the chickens made short work of them!

We took some of the really well broken down compost and filled the 40 pots the girls made last weekend.

I sowed broccoli and beet seeds in them. On the next warm day I am going to make more pots with the kids and sow peas, I think!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blessing my Superman

My Superman has done so many things for me in the past two years since we grabbed this "simple living" vision.

He has built meters and meters of fences with my son. Made trellises, created path ways, made me a seedling germination box, hung hanging baskets for my strawberries, been the chief taster of some strange concoctions in my attempts to can.

He has smiled at my stockpiling start, been puzzled over some of my more daring attempts like soap making and endured my home made laundry soap. But all along he has supported me in many ways as I have walked this journey in our home.

He has been teasing me about my new knitting habit. The other night he said: "Now that you are 40, your knitting has become a permanent feature!" But then he saw the girls fingerless mittens!

He works from home in a flatlet in our back garden which keeps him nice and close to us. But that flatlet is COLD...so when he saw the gloves he asked for a pair.

His hands have blessed us so much over the years, that I felt so good to deliver him his mittens today - and this time it only took me two evenings to knit them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Before you dash out...

One of our favorite quick meals is Thai Green Curry. However when I came to my fridge to get the green curry paste out...it was gone! My dear born organized elder daughter had cleaned out my fridge the previous Sunday and turfed my curry paste in the bin!

I was about to dash out to buy some more when I thought - "Hang on a moment...maybe I can make some with things I have on hand at the moment!"

Using a recipe at about.com I found a easy green curry paste and I had all the ingredients. My chillies from autum canning, coriander (cilantro) from the garden and my faithful lemon grass plant from my mom.

Everything is stuck in the blender and blended until smooth then used to taste.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yippeee, first loofah ready!

My loofah's have been lying out on the sun (in between the rains) and the first one is ready.

The outside went yellow and soft and then I could peel it. This left the fibrous, but still wet, insides.

After a couple more days in the sun, being turned every now and again, it was completely dry.

Today I shook out the seeds and we have lots to share.

I am quite keen to cut it up and next time I make soap, pour some into the loofah before it sets...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where are all the mushrooms?

On Wednesday I took a group of about 20 moms and kids up into the forest where I normally cycle with my son. I had hoped that we would get all the way to "Level 5" but as some of the littler ones got tired we had to stop at Level 3. Last year we also made this most enjoyable hike.

There are always more mushrooms further up and we were hunting for edible Pinerings.

There were none up to that point which was dissappointing, but it did not stop the children from having a wonderful time. We only saw baboons right at the bottom, although we could hear them calling throughout the walk.

The rivers and waterfalls were running strongly after all the rain we have had....but no mushrooms!

Right at the end the younger boys found some lovely mushies, just not the edible kind! We hope to walk again and make it to Level 5 before mushrooming season is over.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why not now?

One night this week my Superman and I happened to be on BBC knowledge channel around 8pm and an interesting documentary came on. It was called "World Without Oil" if I remember correctly.

It was a projected look at how people, in particular in the USA, would survive from Day 1 - 12 months at the time oil ran out. It was obviously quite dramatized and I have not checked all the data but it did make me think.

The major impact of the first few months without oil was around transporting food and air travel. They anticpiated food riots over much of the country and severe rationing in urban centres as food just could not get in to the cities from farms.

Also as air travel would be stopped, people would have to start looking for local foods and learning to make do with what can be grown within their country or state.

So there I sit (knitting needles poised halfway through a stitch) and I am thinking : "What are you waiting for?"

Is it human nature to wait for the crisis before responding? Do we have to get to the stage of being starving and rioting for food before we actually re-educate ourselves on how to grow our own food? Do we need to wait until our families are shivering from cold before we teach ourselves to sew, knit or just learn the basic survival skills for simple living? Do we need to ship food across the country or world just to satisfy tastebuds when we could wait 3 months until that fruit/veg comes into season again?

Towards the end of the program they showed 1 year after oil...and guess what they foresee people doing? Moving to the country, hunting, fishing, foraging and growing their own food and raising small meat animals. Even in the cities people have pulled up lawns and made place for vegetables. They are growing lots in season and canning for winter...

Realistically I do not believe that our little 900sq meters of land (3/4 covered with house) would ever sustain our family of 6, but I am not too concerned with that as I do believe in a Father God who cares for us and prepares us to face all sorts of challenges before we need to so that we are equipped. But I am still thinking - why wait?

Why wait before you grow a veggie patch, buy in bulk in season and can for later, learn to make do with what you have or to start using leg power instead of car power?

To all who made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading, and I will now step off my soapbox! Have a great week, and remember - don't wait!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Learning new skills

I am a visual learner. I think this is one of the reasons I battled so much when younger at school. I needed someone to come alongside me and show me how things are done, not just tell me.

Obviously we get to know ourselves better as we grow older, and we also become more confident with who we are. These facts have caused me to seek out information in the way I can assimilate it over the past few years.

I also believe in mentorship, in it's simplest form it's learning from someone else who is happy to put up with my struggling first efforts :-0

There are three ways I now seek this information: first in people wiser than me, second at the library and third on the internet. I find that Youtube has a wealth of videos to teach skills, but I don't really have the time to watch them all. Besides, I like people so people are always my first choice.

Yesterday my daughters and I went hunting for books at the library...this is what we came home with:

And in the afternoon my younger daughter and I met with "Granny Carol" to learn basic crochet. Wow! Talk about mental gymnastics as my neural paths sparked and tried to make the connections!

My daughter managed quite well and was soon underway with a simple square...and me...well it took a bit more time (let's call it "the age factor").

Granny Carol has also used some of the donated wool to crochet squares for the Knit A Square project we are busy with...she averages 20 minutes per square!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two Ways With Apples

Apples are in season and faily cheap right now so I am buying a lot of them to use fresh for snacks as well as for baking and cooking.

Two of my favourite recipes that include apples are upside down apple cake...this is a Sharon Glass recipe. My mom bought me her book a while back and every now and again I dip into it. I made this tonight for pudding.

The other favourite is crockpot (slow cooker) oats. My slow cooker is as old as the hills. Superman and I got it for a engagement gift. I have to admit that I have a love hate relationship with it, but it has served me well over the last 20 years.

This recipe is an adaption of one I found on the web and I can't find again...

Grease your crockpot with a little butter. Add 4 cups of oats, 4 cups milk & 4 cups water. Add 1t cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Peel and chop two apples (out of season I used raisins or cranberries) and add to the mixture. Mix it together.

At bedtime I put it onto slow and in the morning it is thick and sticky and delicious. I don't add milk to the bowl of oats, just a nice trickle of maple syrup.

Can't wait for breakfast time!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And another year has gone by!

A silly title for a post in the middle of the year, isn't it? However we started our veggie garden adventure 2 years ago in this month, June!

When we started in June 2008 I thought it was just about growing vegetables....so we cleared a patch for 5 beds. Our first anniversary saw the garden pretty bare as I still grappeled with a 4 season harvest.

The start June 2008 - a blank canvas...no more rose bushes and lawn...

Summer 2010

Now Winter 2010

6 months later we created a second area which is mainly a summer garden as the shade covers 3/4 of the area during winter.


Summer 2010

Now Winter 2010

October 2008 we created a third area, also in almost full shade in Winter but in summer bore all our many many chilies and lots of rhubarb. We have sweet potatoes in there are the moment.

August 2009 saw Superman add 80 hanging and wall baskets around the property to make place for strawberries, herbs and flowers. And we got lots and lots of strawberries...to the point that we couldn't eat them fresh so we made lots of jam!

Spring 2009 bloomed full or promise and summer brought wonderful growth in the garden. Harvest 2010 this second year bought enough to can and freeze for foods out of season and lots of meals in season.

But the process of growing our own vegetable spurned a new interest in all things homemade thus began my re-education in cooking from scratch, canning, living frugally and homemaking crafts.

What an education it has been, here's to the next year and all that it promises to teach me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fear of failure and perfectionsim

My two knitting projects are finished....I feel that I have also overcome a character flaw in my approach to knitting. Doing the squares for the orphans blankets was a no brainer...I can knit rows and cast on and off.

But these other two - fingerless mittens and the beanie - I had to give myself some serious talking to to get them done. But they are done, flaws and all. So I humbly post my first attempt at knitting something other than a square...

The fingerless mittens are a winner for my little pianist and for me while working here when my hand freeeezes on the mouse. The second pair is half way there! Only 4 more pairs to go and we will all have some!

Baby Beanie, modelled here by Myley Build-A-Bear :-) Now that I have learnt how to knit them, I can teach it to my younger daughter for her to start her outreach project.

As to our squares we are now 32 squares in to our 100 square goal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No need for a rain jacket

While it rained through the night, this morning dawned wet but sunny.

It took a while to readjust my headspace as I had now planned a day indoors at the fire finishing my knitting projects. It only took a little nudge from Superman to get me outdoors so I left the girls to sort the house and the boys and I went to start clearing the beds.

I had to thin some of the winter veggies, and while these are a little on the small side they will do just fine in a stew tonight.

We planted out two beds - one with broad beans and one with peas. I first tasted broad beans at the litte bistro around the corner last winter. The chef did them in a lovely herby tomato sauce and I was sold on the first bite! I have never grown them before but this is my third planting of them for the season. I can't wait for the yield.

This is my second planting of peas which I should harvest by spring. I hope to get in another few plantings and have some peas for the freezer too. I just have to stop myself eating them in the pod and let them grow to adulthood :-)

We came into find the girls making scrambled egg for lunch. Our chickens have slowed down in laying with the shorter days and colder weather but we get about 3 a day from the 5 chickens now.

Their egg shells are washed and either crushed and given back to them or I use them around my seedlings to protect them from snails, but since having the chickens we hardly find a snail.

Now that it's just past noon I still have time for my indoor projects...glad the day turned out like this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My plans are thwarted

Sunday is our big gardening day as it is the day we are home and stay home. It's my day to breathe, collect myself, bake, work in the garden, read, knit or work on my websites....just a day for me.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I had plans...I wanted to get my next winter planting in. Broad Beans, Peas, Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Cauli and Broccoli are all ready to go into the ground.

But see....

My plans are thwarted! We have rain and it is forecast to stay until Wednesday. We did all the canning this week that needed to be done and the only other inside occupations are to sew up the two pairs of fingerless mittens I have completed and the prem beanie which got done last night.

I may even be tempted to don my rain jacket and work in the rain.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Many hands make....

Muesli....cookies....pasta sauce....canned pears!

Today I got my kids working in the kitchen...

My youngest daughter made applesauce cookies and she has the recipe up on her blog.

My elder son and I made Gordon Ramsey's yummy muesli. It contains oats (obviously), shaved almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, butter, honey and cranberries, which are added after.

My elder daughter and I made a huge pot of tomato sauce which I use as a base for many dishes. Some of it went into bolognaise sauce with home made pasta tonight.

Then younger daughter and I canned the last pears. I used the Balls light syrup, but only had brown sugar which is why it looks so...well...brown!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

EEEK...where am I going to put all this stuff?

I think I may have gotten a little carried away in the moment!?!

I have been building up my stockpile for the last few months and it is coming along well. But yesterday I had finished my 3 months planning sheet from www.foodstoragemadeeasy.net and was inspired :-)

My goal is to not have to go to the "big" shops for the next 5 weeks due to the World Cup. I actually think it's a little paranoid seeing that only 5 matches are being played in Cape Town and the rest at higher altitudes...but anyhow!

So besides for what I have bought over the last few months, this was the last push before Friday when it all starts.

I realized when we unpacked all this that there are so many things that we make ourselves, the biggest ones being our own dog food (raw materials rice-veg-meat) and clothes washing powder (raw materials: sunlight soap-borax-washing soda), bread, pasta, sauces, treats, puddings and more.

But I also looked at the pile filling my kitchen counter and thought that there must be more that we can do.

I used to make my own muesli, but got lazy...I did only buy the raw materials for that this time round.

The girls and I were making a list of the things we need to make on the weekend to process this, I think we have a busy couple of days ahead.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My garden challenge

We brought winter back with us from the mountains on Sunday! The icy cold weather set in on Sunday and the rain followed yesterday.

In a break in the rain I rushed out with my camera to take two photos of our garden as it stands. We have been so busy tying up the last week of schooling that my garden has been neglected for the last few weeks.

I managed to get some peas planted about 3 weeks ago and they are popping up. But besides those, I have mainly been eating from the garden.

Our broad beans are starting to flower...can't wait for them to mature so I can cook them!

We still have cabbage, beets, carrots, turnips, corainder,cauliflower and broccoli to eat from. I am quite anxious to eat up the cauli, broccoli and cabbage to make space for another winter planting of broad beans and peas....sounds like a hearty winter soup is called for!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Seasons come and go

We are home and have had a wonderful but short 2 days away. The farm looks so different from a few weeks ago. The oak trees have lost all their leaves, the fruit is all harvested and the mountain trails, muddy and wet. While riding through the forest the smell of pine was intoxicating.

Sadly we got news from the vet that Amber died while we were away. He diagnosed liver failure due to age, and so I had a little cry. At least I know that her time with us was a happy one and her last few days she was warm inside with us.