Friday, September 30, 2011

Simple Seed Saving

There are some who make it a huge priority to save seed from their crops. I truly do see the value in it, and it's on my to do list for one day, but for now I don't have the time or energy. Instead this is what I do....

I only save big seeds. Broad beans were so hard to find this past winter for planting but I had saved enough for about 1 bed. The others I had to phone around to the nurseries to find. This year we have more than we can plant for next season. When we harvest our broad beans and we find big pods, those get set aside for drying. Once dried they are stored away for next winter.

Three plants that I never have to plant again from seed are coriander, borage and rocket...

These self seed all over the garden. Some think borage is a pest, but both the bees and I delight in them popping up all over the place. I also don't mind pulling out young borage plants as they are great for our compost.

With rocket and coriander, I just allow some to go to flower and they will follow the course of nature, make seed and drop them where they do. I am happy for both these plants to pop up where they choose.

Our loffah's didn't do so well this year, but we got a few for sponges and lots of seed for next year, more than we need in fact...

So, here's the thing....if you would like some broad bean or loofah seeds (South African's only) I am happy to send you some. Can I ask that as a "barter" you do the following:

Leave a good frugal tip here (please make sure it is not one I have already), then contact me via my contact form giving me your preference of seed and your address, and I will pop a few off to you in the post. First come, first served...


Sunday, September 25, 2011

This week in the kitchen...lots of recipes!

Like every week, we cook almost everything we can from scratch. I also try to not use my oven everyday but when I do I always make a loaf of bread with the oven dish or I make a batch of cookies while something else is cooking. We also do not eat puddings every night but on some nights we just HAVE to!

Each of my older children have also each taken over the dinner meal and clean up one night a week so I have 3 nights off. It's also my sneaky way of building up their repetoire of meals. I hope to make them each an "heirloom" cookbook of all I teach them for when they have their own families one day - yes, even my sons!

So in no particular order, here are some of the things we cooked this week:

Cinnamon rolls....I made a sweet dough in the bread machine and left it to rise while we took our Friday morning walk in the forest. When I came back I rolled it out, spread it with melted butter, muscovado sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Rolled it up, cut off circles and baked. Hot sweet and sticky!

My son made rootis for us with bunny chow for dinner on Thursday.

I am reading a series of books on the Amish and I kept seeing this pineapple upside down I made one up! Peel and chop up 1 pineapple, then saute it in butter and sugar (about 1 T of each) until softish. Set aside. Mix up a sponge batter 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup softened butter, add 2 cups flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 cup milk. Do not over mix. In a deep baking tin (I use one that has a loose bottom) place the pineapple chunks and juice, spoon batter over. Bake for 30 mins. When just cooled ease it out of the tin by running your knife around the edge and putting a dinner plate on the top. Flip over onto the plate. Eat warm!

I bought 5kgs tomatoes this week from my veggie man and we converted it into my standby tomato-veg sauce which I use in soups, stews and pasta dishes. Wash and chop tomatoes into quarters, grate 6 carrots, chop 6 pieces of celery, place in a big pot and cook until soft. Add a T of garlic. Last night after the family got home from rugby I had made some fresh pasta and we topped it with this tomato sauce and parmesan. Delish!

I made two batches of cookies this week. Oat cookies and choc-chip-coconut cookies.

200g flour
1 t BP
200g butter
75 g rolled oats
100g unrefined white sugar
50g brown sugar

Mix together and spoon out onto baking sheet bake for 10mins @ 180C
(For the choc chip ones - cut buuter in half and use coconut oil and instead of oats add choc chips and 40g coco powder)

I have found a new raw milk source! I had a friend with a cow but both she and her cow moved away :( Then I was buying from Ethical Co-op at R23/l...not sustainable. On Thurs I heard of a woman who runs a small herd about 20mins away...she sells her milk for R6/l....I bought 8 litres today...It has been made into yoghurt.

On Wednesday my little guy and I made chicken schnitzels. I have saved the end crusts of our homemade wholewheat bread and I blitzed these up in my machine, added 1 cup of milled rolled oats, some grated parmesan, lemon zest and dried Thyme. It made a delicious crumb for the chicken.

So that's about it for this weeks kitchen adventures....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In the garden this week...

After spending R900 last week to fix my back after some over enthusiastic gardening, I decided to rather pay our handyman and get the heavy garden work done this weekn. His 3 days in the garden it cost me a fraction of what it would have cost for chiro/physio!

Des got stuck into the compost heap first. Some gals get excited over diamonds, some over When I see that rich dark compost coming out of my bins I can really do the happy dance!

We really need 3 compost heaps for our garden and the demands that intensive growing has on the soil so the goal was to make 3 enclosed spaces with heaps in different stages. We ran out of wood so I have only two, a 3rd will have to be built in a while.

Friends have been bringing me grass, I have fetched some manure from the local stables and our own leaves all have been collecting in a rather haphazard way in our carport. So Des ripped it all out, sieved the lovely dark compost and bagged it. The chickens went in to help him eat some creepy crawlies.

He then built new containers and we layered the leaves, cuttings, grass and manure.

Some of the compost has been dug into the two areas that have lain fallow over winter and paving stones were laid yesterday.

Today the kids and I planted seedlings of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and corn.

And because today is Heritage Day in South Africa, the perfect way to celebrate was a good old braai (BBQ)!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The day of small beginnings

I am currently going through old photos of my 3rd precious child as I prepare her first 13 years of life album, which she will get on her 13th birthday in Feb. I came across a photo of our first vegetable garden in this home in Feb 2007.

When people read this blog, and perhaps other blogs, where we have been busy working towards growing our own food for many years, it can seem very overwhelming. It is a photo like this that can be a good reminder that everything begins small.

What we have now has taken 3.5yrs to achieve. It's not like some good garden fairy godmother came and waived a magic wand and created all of what you see was hard hard back breaking, but thoroughly satisfying, work to get it to this.

So if you are just starting out and making plans for your vegetable garden - however big or small - take heart and see all that you do as a learning curve towards a greater achievement.

After that first little patch, which was either eaten by snails or dug up by dogs, we tried another section outside our kitchen door. This too was attached by snails and dogs and never lasted long.

It was about6 months later that we decided to do it properly and we took the small area (although at the time it didn't seem small) just outside our kitchen door. This area was not used by the children who were still small and spent a lot of time in the garden.

This is what it looks like today. The end of our winter crops are there, although the spinach will run on until summer really hits. We have just planted beans in the last bed and the first bed awaits tomatoes. The chicken coop is in this area too.

We soon realised that this patch would never feed us, and 6 months later we cleared another area where shrubs were growing.

In 2009 we cleared another section but this had grass and paving stones with a walkway. It made this awkward V shaped bed which has never really done well. This year we have dug in lots of manure and compost and will be growing tomatoes, cucumber and companion herbs in this space.
While this was all going on we started thinking of vertical growing spaces and every wall or pergola became a place to grow strawberries. Paved areas were covered with containers with more berries, tomatoes and asparagus.

We are now experimenting with potato towers in this area too.

Lastly, in Dec of 2010 we cleared the last area of our garden. Our children being older now and spending less time in the garden gave us the freedom to pull up the last lawn and convert it to vegetable beds too. This is where our wildlife pond is and every night, or when it rains, we delight in the sound of our little frogs singing away merrily.

This was taken moments ago...our broad beans are our staple winter crop. We are getting very creative with recipes for broad beans. We also have our kale here and brassicas.

I never realised when I planted all this kale that it is a "cut and come again" we will find some good homes for it and transplant it against the wall where the avo tree is.

So, never despise the day of small beginnings...just do the best with what you have, when you can.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Priviledge to work...blessing to rest

Learning to manage my time has been a long walk for me. It started out when our first baby came along because before then I never needed to do anything more complex than show up for work at the right time 6 days a week, and then go home again.

As more children came along and other things like homeschooling, a small home business, cooking from scratch, sports, church and gardening were added to the mix I kept on learning more about time management. I became a do-er. My mind was never at rest, the constant need to do the things on my list was always running like a conveyor belt in my mind.

I kept up with it for the most part. Juggle this, mix that, squeeze this, modify that. It was exhausting. I knew this year that it simply was not sustainable any longer.

I then went back to bare bones which is simply my family and my home. Anything else needed to take a back seat and was only attended too if it could fit in. This opened the door to feelings of could I rest when there was so much to still do?

Through the Lord showing me, from different avenues, I have realized a few things:

~The work will never be done
~Work hard for 6 days, rest completely on the 7th
~We do what we have to do, so we can do what we want to do.

Monday to Friday I am up at 5.45. My daughter and I go to gym for 1 hr on Tues and Thurs. (She also goes Mon and Wed night with her brother and Dad). Breakfast is made from scratch, devotions are done and then school runs from 8.30 - 2 daily. We only have two afternoons at home when we take the dog for a walk, I work n my business and they in theirs. The other afternoons are sports or art. Tues, Wed and Friday evenings we are involved in our house church activities.

Saturday we go to gym from 7.30 - 8.30 and then work in the garden until lunch time. Afternoons or evenings we enjoy a braai with friends or a movie at home or another social event. In between these events over these six days I will make soap or stock, make snacks and cook our meals. Just recently each of my older children have taken over 1 dinner prep and clean up. This is such a blessing to me.

Then comes Sunday. Sleep late...PJ's all day...reading....TV....naps...good soaking baths...a walk with the dog....reading the Bible....


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lucky the potato dog!

We have all heard about pigs that sniff out truffles...well here's our dog who sniffs and digs out potatoes!

We had dug all the top spuds out of this bed but we let littlest one and Lucky dig it over for us. They found another whole bucket full between the two of them.

This week they were turned into two delicious meals.

My elder son made this sausage and potato saute by frying some red onions in some butter, adding the partly boiled new potatoes and some cooked chopped sausage. We used a lamb sausage which had been spiced with coriander and cumin. Delicious.

This other potato bake is such a delicious side dish with a spicy lamb or pork free range chop. Thinly cut the washed new potatoes and layer them in a greased dish. As you layer sprinkle with salt and pepper then pour over about 750ml of fresh chicken stock. Bake uncovered for an hour.

Both these recipes were from Harvest!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Books for every homesteader...

There are so many good books out there. I have many books on green living, frugality and gardening on my bookshelf but only a handful of books that I go back to time and time again. These would be the books that would be the first into a suitcase if I could only take a few books.

These books are all available through Loot for South Africans and for those in the USA, they are linked to Amazon on my right side bar.

A friend lent me her copy of Living the Good Life about 4 years ago...I didn't want to give it back! The worst part of handing it back was that at that time it was undergoing an overhaul and was not available. The moment it was re-released I grabbed a copy. This book is not going to tell you how to grow vegetables, and it only has a few recipes along the way, but it must be the most inspiring book that I have read. I read it at least once a year and each time it teaches me the value of family, working hard and encourages me not to give up when the going gets tough.

My mom bought me Christine Steven's book about 2 yrs ago and after a few months delay I started tucking into this feast. The recipes are outstanding - like me, she loves to cook with wine, loves comfort food and believes in slow food cooked in one pot! I cook from here at least twice a week.

My parents in law gave me this book in 1994. It was the first book I read on vegetable gardening and I fell in love with the concept. Gradually over the years I learnt more and more about gardening but I always refer back to this book for planting seasons, ground prep (although I do not use her suggestions for fertilizers) and trouble shooting.

Most people know about this book. I believe it epitomises the "locavore" way to eat. It is more "academic" in the writing but is a delight to read and definately a way to get inspired in feeding your family good food. There are some very interesting essays on how food is produced in bulk and the resulting issues for humans which make for eye openers.

This book is the msot recent addition to my collection. If I could, I would give a copy to all those nearest and dearest to me. You, readers, are by extension part of this group. Beth writes in such a simple open way and gives so many easy alternatives to eating, cosmetics, cleaning and living that even though the information she presents can be quite fear instilling, you are not discouraged but rather inspired to make good healthy changes.

Like I said...there are so many more books I could recommend but these are my grab and run books. Which are yours? Feel free to list your favourites on your blogs and leave me a comment with the link.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 80/20 principle

One of the things I love most about my Superman is that he has this ability to see through all the "fluff" right to the real issue. It's not often that he is is duped and he is quite clear on the goals for our family.

I, on the other hand, tend to get too intense on issues and can get overwhelmed very easily when it comes to all the information that is thrown at me. This is partly my own fault as I enjoy reading and learning new things, but then I get anxious because there is so much to do as a wife and mom....

Superman tells me to do 2 things when I get like this:

1. Pray - ask God for what He wants me to do with the information.

2. Work on what I can do, and leave the rest.

I am reading a book at the moment (another post on this soon) and the writer shows all the different ways that we can make changes for better personal health and a less toxic home. I know that since 2008 we have made some really good inroads in the many things she lists, but there still seems like sooooo much to be done.

The other day when I was sharing this with Superman he did his normal tunnel vision thing and simply anwsered: "You can't do it all, just work on the 80" and promptly left the room. So I have been thinking about this. I know what he means about the the 80/20% principal.

This is the way we have begun to operate but initially our lives were out of kilter when we worked long long hours, spent too much money on things, didn't eat well, never cared for what rubbish we threw away etc.

The 80/20 principle is simply 80% good living - 20% marginal living.

80% good eating - 20% could be improved

80% sustainable lifestyle - 20% could be improved

80% eco friendly products - 20% could be get the idea?

So by taking his advice to work on the 80...I need to just keep doing what I am doing, and need to stop worrying about the rest.

I know some who are so concerned about their lifestyles that they feel they are doing it opposite - 20% good, the other 80% seems that fretting about this never gets them anywhere, which is why I created my Babysteps Ecourse so that they can make little changes every month and start improving the ratio and tipping the scales towards the 80%

I truly believe that God made such an awesome body that it can deal with the questionable 20%. We have been given lymph nodes, kidneys and livers to get rid of the bad stuff that comes into our bodies through food, cleaning materials, building materials and pollution. But its when we overload our bodies with toxins that bad health and illness occurs.

So here's to the 80%...thanks Superman.