Saturday, July 31, 2010

I will endeavour to...

~I will endeavour to keep a happy outlook even though we got very sad news this week. My precious friend who was only leaving here temporarily to live on a farm 12 hours solid driving away, is now staying permanently. Can't say I blame them...what an awesome adventure for the family. But I am still very very sad for many reasons, besides my own loss.

~I will endeavour to learn something new in our little homestead this coming season. Broad beans were the winter learning curve, and I am thinking of improving my cheese making skills. I have only ever made cream cheese but am keen to try ricotta and mozarella.

~I will endeavour to help my granadilla vine become a healthier plant. Today, if I don't get blown away, I need to go and prune it. I also need to by shelf brackets and once these are mounted, extend wire between them so that the vine can grow outwards from the wall.

~I will endeavour to get back to soaking my own beans and chickpeas. Cans are so unnecessary, but oh so convenient.

~I will endeavour to get back into growing sprouts. These little powerhouses are so good for you and delicious on salads and in sandwiches. I have been reading "Food From Small Spaces" and it struck a chord with me (again). There is a nifty sprouter that I think will make a big difference in my kitchen at kitchen gardens.

~I will endeavour to perfect my crochet skills. After my first square, I kind of gave up. Knitting is so much easier for me.

~I will endeavour to make a permanent home for my asparagus plants which need a home now. They are tired of living in a trailer park :-) So my next point is...

~I will endeavour to convince Superman to put his woodwork skills to use and build me a raised box for them.

~I will lastly endeavour to find more growing spaces for small veggies like lettuces and other leafy veggies and am considering buying a couple of these growing stacks for my paved areas. This frees up my beds for this summer for long growing crops like tomatoes, corn, beans and squashes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It was a dark and blustery night...

So, picture this....It was a dark and blustery night...round 9pm when supper is digested and your tummy could do with a little refill.

Superman and I are watching Jamie's American Road Trip and he is cooking Mexican. Now the saliva is starting to run...the stomachs are starting to growl...the tastebuds are yelling for satisfaction...but alas it's too late.

However this morning we had a Jamie inspired Mexican breakfast. He made something that was translated into: "Cute small fat little girls"...glopitas or somehthing like that! But they are basically fried small flour tortilla bread cake thingey majigeys....IYKWIM?

Served with scrambled eggs (thank you chickens), sweet pepper, chilli sauce, diced avo and fresh corainder.

Finally, tastebuds were satisfied.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anyone want Loofah seeds?

4 or our 9 Loofahs are now dry and have had the seeds removed.

We only need 5 to start our vine and even with a false start in our first planting.

As these were sold to me as African Loofahs I am not sure if they will grow elsewhere in the world, however I am willing to send to anyone....for a small favour!

Submit a frugal living tip on my Simple Green Living website, then send me your postal address on my contact form and I will send you 5 - 7 seeds to grow in Spring.

Loofahs are best suited to more tropical regions but we managed to grow them well in our area that is NOT tropical. This offer expires when all the seeds have been allocated to those who submit a tip! Thanks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Minding my Peas and Q's

As I lay in my bed this morning willing myself to get up I saw the day was full of warm promise. Battling with myself over bed/garden/bed/garden...I allowed the garden to win!

July and Aug are normally our coldest wettest months so I have to make full use of the good weather and clear skies (even when I would much rather be snug in bed!).

So this is what we did today...Turned the compost heaps and took some to sow seeds.

Pulled up invasive sweet potato creeper and dug over three beds. Two have now been planted with potatoes. The third bed will lie in wait for the spring sun and then get marrows planted in it.
Then it was onto the peas. The first peas that we planted 6 weeks ago needed to be staked...

The second planting of 3 weeks ago needed to be weeded....

And the newest ones planted into a freshly dug over bed.

This will be our pea crop for this year as they take 3 months to start producing peas, pods can be harvested earlier, but I am really keen to get some peas for the freezer.

Then we planted up our "Ladies in Waiting" with tomato, gem squash, butternut and watermelon seeds. This is a little experiment in starting them off indoors and then planting out in Sept. I am trying to see if we start them earlier and get them in the ground already quite mature, that we can avoid the milddews and mites that hit us in December last year. So we wait and see....

While I was busy outside, my girls made a delicious spinach quiche from some that I had cut earlier in the day. Yum!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So We Sow

When we do our garden work on Sundays I always have "Make 40 pots" on the list. Whoever gets to that job can do them as they are easy to make. All our junk mail newspapers go into pots.

We call them Ladies in Waiting...a bit corny I know, but when I say fetch the pots, there are just too many choices, so Ladies in Waiting it is.

We also sow seeds in empty punnets, we also tried toilet rolls once. All of these things work, but we have found the newspaper pots to be the easiest and the great thing is they go straight into the ground.

Some seed growing tips:
~Always sow double or triple what you need. Some don't germinate, others are weaker and often we underestimate how much we need. Any extras that you don't need can be given to friends.

~Rule of thumb is that larger seeds (beans, peas, corn, spinach) and root vegetables must be sown directly into their bedding place. They do not like being disturbed.

~Smaller seeds that aren't root vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes) like to be mollycoddled. Sow them in rich potting soil (we use pure fine compost) in trays. Keep them in a warm spot and well watered. Then transplant into larger pots and harden off by placing them outside during the day or keeping them in a greenhouse. Plant out in season into a bed of well prepared soil.

~This is the part I find hardest to do - don't waste your time on the frail ones. Pull them! I feel so bad when thinning carrots and the like...RIP poor little seedlings :-( but all the weak ones do is compete with the stronger and after all we are in this to make food! Be ruthless while you shed a tear.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Madiba's Day

When a man of 92 years of age...a man who has seen more hardship and struggle than most...a man who has shown by his example the ability to forgive...when he asks a country to give 67 minutes of their time to the people around them as a way of giving him a birthday present, then how can we say "no"?

So today we made lots of sweet rolls and a big pot of butternut soup and took it to the homeless who hang around the shops down the road from us. A friend and her three children joined us with sandwiches and oranges. For a long time I have been asking how we can reach out to those in need in a practical way, besides for the monthly pledges we give to places of safety. And it was this request of our ageing statesman that helped us take the step.

Is it easy to give an amount of money monthly annonymously? Yes, I think it is. But to be the hands and feet of the Lord in this world takes time, patience and a humbling of oursevles.

My children came along but were intimidated by this for different reasons, but as the first person thanked them for the soup and rolls, I could see their whole attitude begin to change.

From now on I think we will make this a regular Sunday activity. How better could we spend the time?

That was one of the things that worried me - to be raised to the position of a semi-god - because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed, but never the less, sometimes he fails to live up to expectations. Nelson Mandela

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Nelson Mandela

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blogs With Substance Award

Nadene, a friend online and off, was kind enough to honor me with a blog of substance award.

The Award Rules:
•Thank the blogger who awarded it to you.
•Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using ten (10) words.
•Pass it on to 10 other blogs which you feel have real substance.

Why do I blog? 10 words? No Way!
"A little corner of the web for me to journal about my green adventure and to share from my life with others to inspire, equip and motivate them in their own home."

10 other blogs?
Well I have a little problem there as I don't hang out at ten other blogs, but well here is where I do go:

Practical Pages - Nadene's free printables and homeschooling tips, in particulat her art ideas always inspire me with my own children.

Down to Earth - Rhonda Jean's blog is like the Aunty or Granny taking the hand of a young child and leading them on a journey into simple home living. This is a daily habit of mine.

Nothing Ventured - My dear friend and soul mate who now lives so far away from me, full of their adventures on a farm in the Free State and all the delights that that brings. When I grow up I want to crochet like her :-)

Slow Living Essentials - Christine shares some of the yummiest recipes and when I grow up I want to knit like her :-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't let July fool you!

July and August are the coldest months of the year for us. Today sees me looking more like the abominable snow-woman with 5 layers on, 2 pairs of socks and my warm sheep skin slippers. We did our deskwork around the warm fire as it was too cold out in the school room.

My little guy and I put on some real winter comfort food earlier. Beef stew and dumplings and we will make some sago pudding for afterwards. (Here comes that kilogram I lost!).

But even with this cold I have to think ahead to Spring - just over 6 weeks away. For 2 weeks in this busiest gardening month I will be in the UK with my elder daughter having "The Homeschool Fieldtrip of a Lifetime!" Therefore I have to think ahead and get organized for spring plantings.

When I went to the last organic and natural expo I bought a wonderful visual chart that tells me what I can plant for my region month by month. You can get them and lots of other information from which works in creating food gardens in underpriviledged areas.

This month I can start my tomatoes as well as carry on with my winter seeds of peas, chard and broad beans. August has double what July has and I can start my seeds of squash and peppers and lots of other direct planted seeds like corn and beans.

I am going to start them all off early in my potmaker pots so that come September they can go into the ground. Doing it this way also allows the winter veggies to carry on growing a little longer before being rooted up to make way for the new spring veggies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vegetables by Eleanor Farjeon

The country vegetables scorn
To lie about in shops,
They stand upright as they were born
In neatly-patterned crops.

And when you want your dinner you
Don't buy it from a shelf,
You find a lettuce fresh with dew
And pull it for yourself;

You pick an apronful of peas
And shell then on the spot.
You cut a cabbage, if you please,
To pop into the pot.

The folk who their potatoes buy
From sacks before they sup,
Miss half of the potato's joy,
And that's to dig it up.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Could it be? The hopeful elderflower!

I have been studying this tree for the last 2 years after buying a book which showed how to make elderflower cordial, amongst other things.

You can understand my reticence in cutting off the flower heads, thinking it is elderflower, making a cordial and then poisioning my family because it is fact not an elderflower tree.... :-(

The main problem is that it is flowering in mid winter and not late spring like the rest of the world's elderflower trees.

So following my motto - when all else fails, hit the books - I looked up in my encyclopedia (that my mommy gave me) to see what I have.

According to the book, it is the wild elderberry which grows in the SW Cape in SA (that's where I live) and it happens to bloom in late autumn and winter (that's what mine is doing)! Voila...I have a wild elderflower (Nuxia Floribunda) but I have still not yet determined whether I can use it to make cordial..and not posion my family.

So if anyone by any chance knows the anwser to this, please tell me soon as I have about 15 flower heads right now that I can use to make cordial. Thanks!


I eventually phoned our botanical society and have now ascertained that the wild elderflower's flowers are not to be used in a cordial. Some traditional medicines are made from the bark, but they assured me that we may all feel quite ill if I tried it in a cordial. Ah well, at least the bees have some winter food!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

WARNING: This is addictive!

In our home the ultimate winter comfort food is Tortilla Soup. After watching the movie a couple of years ago I became fascinated with the idea of creating a soup like that. This is what I came up with:

24 fresh Italian tomatoes cut in half
Brown sugar
Olive oil
Garlic salt
2 cups chicken stock & 2 cups water
1 onion chopped
Fresh garlic
Fresh chilly
1 packet tortilla/corn chips crumbled. (I use Dorittos as I have not found a tortilla chip in SA that doesn't taste like plastic yet.)

Turn on your oven to a high temperature. Place the halved tomatoes skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle with seasonings and olive oil. Cook in the oven until the juices start running and edges crinkle. Remove. Allow to cool slightly then chop, saving all the juices.

In the meantime fry onion, garlic and chilly in a large pot. When browned add the can of tomatoes and the tomatoes from the oven along with the juices. Add the stock and water. Reduce heat. When the chips have softened blend the soup until smooth.

Sliced chicken breasts, fried
Cubed avocado
Fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 cups grated cheese
Fresh chopped chillies
250 ml cream
1 packet corn/tortilla chips

To serve:
Ladle some soup into each bowl. Allow the family members to add the toppings. It works best if the following order is used:

Soup – chips – chicken - avocado – cheese – chillies (optional) – coriander – dash of cream.

We like to have this soup with friends as it's a soup you have to eat with someone else so that you can say over and over how good it is!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

3 Little Beanies Standing in a Row

All is not quiet on the knitting front. Superman was quite impressed with my weeks knitting...and to be frank so am I!

The two smaller beanies are the 2nd and 3rd of Beanies For Babies pattern that I am doing with my younger daughter. We hope to make about 20 more then take them to the prem unit at the local government hospital.

The larger beanie is for my little 3 year old niece. I got the pattern from my friend and surprise surprise I managed. Today,as it is raining cats and dogs, I hope to knit a flower to go on the side.

Later note:

Well I did it and it wasn't that hard. I used the flower pattern from the Usborne book "How To Knit". Actually I am hugely pleased with myself. So here is the flower:

And here is the completed beanie.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Breaking the shopping fast!

It's been 4 weeks since my last shop visit.... :-)

But honestly the list had grown just too long to put off any longer. My freezer is still full and my stockpile still fine, although a dent has been made. It was all the little odds and ends that needed to be attended to.

So after school was done for the day I spent a glorious hour at the shop, doing my banking and getting my list attended too. I also treated my self to a Seattle coffee and some sushi (there's always a need for sushi!).

It was so nice to have had this break from shopping as it freed up my time in other areas, that I think I may go back to a monthly (rather than weekly) shop.

But I did promise more on comfort food...a nice quick one that my whole family likes in winter and one that my older children can make pretty much on their own is a simple cottage pie.

As it a one dish meal I like to add 3 different colors of veggies to it. Simply brown and season the mince and onions, add the peeled chopped veggies and then when the gravy is all thickened top with some creamy mashed potatoes.

I also had a small packet of bacon bits that the children added which gave it a delicious smokey flavour. The veggies that went in were frozen peas and baby turnips and carrots from our garden.

They like to make swirls on the top of the mash before lightly grilling the top. Very yummy!