Friday, December 30, 2011

And then it becomes worth it...

You labor and sweat and you water and labor some more....then all of a sudden you begin to harvest and eat.
We are eating from our garden every night, sometimes lunches and breakfasts too....

A handful of strawberries for a smoothie...a delicious basil, tomato and mozarella salad for lunch.

Two dinners we have enjoyed entirely from our garden were zucchini fritters with homemade tomato sauce and coriander, fresh beets and a french bean salad.

I also made some stuffed cabbage rolls served with new potatoes and french beans. As insipid as the color is it tasted truly delicious.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now that summer is here!

The temperature's are picking up and by February we will have those cooking hot days. We want to enjoy the last two weeks of our school holidays to their fullest and go beaching, have pool parties, picnics, dam swims and more.

Naturally at this time of the year we think more about the sun that at other times, but particularly when it comes to protecting our skins from sun damage. Protection is more than just slapping on a SPF cream as most creams bought of the shop shelves are petrochemical based and are in some ways more nasty than the sun itself. On top of the harmful effects of chemicals on your skin a 2008 USA study of 1000 name brand sunscreens showed that many are not even effective for sun protection and 4 out of 5 contained harmful chemicals.

Reading labels is just as important here as it is with food....if any of your creams have an ingredient called Oxybenzone, chuck it away! It is a penetration enhancer and is linked to issues like hormone disruption, cell damage and allergies.

So what to do? Starting with the basics...cover up what you can. Modest beaching choices mean more skin is covered with a full piece costume, board shorts and a surfer shirt (antirub vest). Sun hats are also a must to cover sticky-out-bits on the face and shoulders.

Then your next layer of defense is a lotion of some sort. You can visit your local health shop and see what they have in their sun lotion section...A friend of mine who is an avid researcher of all things health recommends Sun Fun Capsules. You can also make your own spray. This recipe comes from Super Natural Home by Beth Greer which you can buy at

4 ounces of distilled water (or rose water or Aloe juice)
1 level teaspoon of ascorbice acid powder
A few drops of lavender essential oil.

Mix together and keep in a spray bottle. Use 2 or 3 times a day when exposed to sun light. Respray after sunning.

Another layer of defense is to eat your orange veggies and fruits. Pawpaw, melon and carrots all help your skin after sun exposure.

Of course common sense dictates to stay out of the sun during its hottest times of the day. We try to be off the beach by 10 and not there before 3, gardening is done early in summer and sometimes in the shade of the evening too.

Hope this helps and prevents your sunburn this year and any long term damage to your skins.

This blog post is entered into Simple Lives Thursday over at

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Steps in Green Living and Frugality #5 - do not waste!

Simple Steps in Green Living and Frugality #5 - do not waste!

We all know the old saying "waste not, want not" but I am still and have been more so in the past of having wasteful ways. I thought that I would just highlight some ways that I have begun to correct my habits in the BIG three areas of FOOD, WATER and ELECTRICITY.

Years ago I used to watch a friend of mine save the tiniest scraps of foodstuffs. She saved a tablespoon of mashed potatoes, a handful of roasted veg, a slic of tomato...and I quietly raised my eyebrow and thought "all that bother for such a little." But in the years to follow I would pick up on her good habit and find ways to include left overs and scraps in meals.

Besides for saving leftovers, planning your menus and purchasing just what you need is another way to prevent wastage.

Watch the fruit bowl and vegetable drawers in your home so that fresh foods don't go over ripe and use up fruit in puddings, icecreams, cakes and vegetables in bakes, cakes and dog food before they waste.

And of course, by learning to make your own basic food stuffs you will appreciate the cost in time and effort and not want to waste!

Where we live we have hot windy summers. Well, I suppose we have wind most days too! Our garden also needs lots of water, so I make sure that watering in summer is done by 10am. The wind normally picks up after lunch and then sprinklers are really wasteful. Watering before 10am also lowers the evaporation rate substantially.

Shower with a bucket and use that to flush the toilet or use it on non edible plants in the garden.

Catch the drips from the taps and use it for the dog water bowl. (Note to self: get a plumber to replace the washer!)

Rinsing vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under a running tap, then using that water for the garden is a great water saver.

Power down the house at night....

Get children on board about turning off lights when leaving a room.

Don't "fridge gaze!" Have you ever seen a hungry youngster standing staring into an open fridge? I have one of these....he eats non stop all day and we have to teach him not to stand and wish food out of the open fridge.

Lots of other power saving tips here.

I am sure you have many if not all of these already happening in your home. If you have a NO WASTE tip, please feel free to leave a comment in the block!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I can feel it coming in the air....

The days are changing and getting that muggy December heat and the garden harvests are picking up. So once I had put the gammom in the oven for cold meats tomorrow with family we went for a look see in the garden.

When picking gems I noticed that the dreaded mildew is starting on some squash leaves. Despite everything we have tried over the last years, this thing can bring us to our knees. I now just harvest what I can right up until we pull the plants up and throw the infected parts away.

Lucky the potato dog struck again aided by her side-kick and they dug up a 5L bucket of wonderful potatoes. We are already planning meals with these crisp beautiful spuds.

We also tackled our chillies today and got 3 jars pickled.

Tomatoes are ripening all over the place...big ones, small ones, red ones, yellow ones....

And then my gorgeous red onions are ready to pick. I just leave them in the ground to carry on growing until I want their sweet flavour on or in something. This is the first time I have manged to get onions to full happy I persevered.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The predictability of a vegetable garden....

With a veggie garden comes the predictable work of composting, sowing and watering. Then the growing, nuturing and the harvesting. We have been away over the long weekend enjoying time with Superman's parents and friends. We came home to a giant marrow which was a lovely surprise as we brough home 5 extra people with hungry tummies and veggies stretched out meals!

When our house guests left we had a chance to attend to the gardens....this is some of what we did:

Weeded one of the 4 areas, picked a colander of beans and lots of spinach. Then we cut off the Brussell Sprouts (yes there are two girls in there).
Our carrots have grown beautifully and straight...last year we were given the tip to grow then straight after harvesting brassicas. I looked at this sandy soil with no added compost and was doubtful....but here they are - so gorgeous. Our youngest visitor had great delight in finding them and pulling them up one evening, so we have now been harvesting some each evening or just for a snack.
Our butternuts have formed fruit and while there have been some bees and bugs in the flowers, I haven't left pollination to chance and have hand pollinated what I can.
My lavender needed a hard cutting back so this is now drying and I plan to make some Amish "headache pillows" with it as well as some little pouches to put in clothes cupboards.
Our chilli bushes are heavy with ripe chillies...time to get a-pickling.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two more apricot recipes...

Yip, we are still trying to use up apricots! Last night I made a deboned stuffed lamb neck.

The stuffing was made with 12 pitted chopped apricots, two long pieces of rosemary, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 slices of bread, salt and pepper.

The butcher we get our meat from had deboned the lamb thankfully so all I had to do was stuff it and roll it up.

I drizzled the top with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and freshly ground black peper and roasted it slowly for about 2hrs.

It was superb, served with homegrown beans, gem squash and baby potatoes.

This morning I caramelized some apricots in a blob of butter and tablespoon Demera sugar.

These were the topping to our oatmeal waffles, with a dollop of cream and a slice of thick Boland bacon from our free range pork farm.

Turn away weight was sublimely decadent and delicious!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Simple Steps In Frugality and Green Living #4 ~ Eating Local Seasonal Foods

Simple Steps In Frugality and Green Living #4 ~ Eating Local Seasonal Foods

I don't know about your home but in mine our greatest expense is food costs. Everyone wants to save a little on groceries but in our home I am not prepared to give up fresh organic whole foodstuffs to save a buck or two. Therefore I need to find a way to save on food costs where I can.
The first thing is to grow what I can. I will be completely honest here and say that I do not believe that we have saved money yet on this because of the amount of money that went into setting up the beds, pathways and fences. In the long run though we will save as there are no more costs in the initial setup.

By growing our own organic vegetables we are also eating as locally as one possibly can! No food miles here....just a couple of food metres! Our environment is saved just a little as my marrows, beans, tomatoes, salads, spinach and others are grown outside the kitchen door.
A great source of local seasonal foods are farmers markets where you can buy food from your surrounding areas. Unless you specifically seek out organic food markets you will more than likely find that the produce at farmer's markets are not necessarily organic, so do ask when you are at their stalls. They may be organic in conversion or grown with ecofriendly measures, but either way these markets are a good source.

Secondly, buying seasonal food means that prices are lower. Right now we are heading into the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables and the prices are dropping daily. Learning to wait for things that you love but aren't in season is a trait that you can learn...avos are my great temptation when out of season, but I am getting better at avoiding them as they never deliver the rich creamy in season taste out of season! Strawberries were also an issue being in the store long before mine were ready, but I didn't want to buy any as they are not grown ethically via commercial farmers and my baskets were showing promise.
Cooking seasonally is also better for your family, not just the earth. If you buy fruit and veg out of season that is imported this produce is generally artificially ripened with hormone filled gases which is pumped into the containers just before the ships dock with the produce. If you have ever tasted a sun ripened summer tomato versus a shipped in gas ripened one you can immediately tell the difference.

A way to overcome the seasonal food issues like needing tomatoes for a soup or stew in winter is by canning or freezing your produce while it is plentiful. This doesn't have to be homegrown, it can be shop or market bought.
If you are new to this way of eating I suggest that you beging to plan your meals on what is in season in your hemisphere. Here is South Africa we have the following in season now:

Berries and Cherries
Melons (watermelon and spanspek)

Gem Squash

This week we have been really feasting on apricots and our blackberry bramble has dished up loads of berries. My elder daughter made a scrumptious blackberry and apple pie for us. The apples during this season are all cold room apples from the end of the apple season, but are still great for pies.

Check this list for other general seasons.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Apricot Frenzy...

We were very blessed this week when a friend sent a huge crate of apricots to us from her farm up country. They are sweet and delicious fresh but we would never have managed to eat them all before they went over ripe. So the frenzy began....

My daughter made some superb apricot jam.

I made some old fashioned apricot chutney....

For the chutney combine the following in a large pot:
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups chopped tart apples
3 cups chopped apricots
3 cups boiling water
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups sugar (1 brown/1 white)
4 cloves crushed garlic
0.5 cup raisins
2 T chopped ginger

Bring to the boil for 30 mins then add:
2tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon & allspice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
0.5 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayene pepper

Boil gently until it all thickens (about another 30mins) then pour into sterilized jars. I then boiled the jars in my canning pot for 10 minutes. On cooling the lids should "pop" to form the vaccuum seal.

And I also made some fresh apricot ice cream.

There are still enough left over, even after giving away loads, to make another batch of jam for my mom in law who's favorite thing in the whole world is fresh white bread, butter and apricot jam and she needs a little spoiling right now.

I am entering my chutney in Heidi Marie's baking challenge.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The garden is bursting into exciting! Underneath leaves I found these today...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Never A Dull Moment

In amongst the normal busy-ness of our week there have been some highlights. I am gradually working through a list that includes things like dentists, material shopping, cleaning cupboards etc and I am nearing the end just in time too, it would seem, as today was the first day of summer for us. We went to the beach. The weather until now has been quite rotten, windy, cold and even rain. But today was perfect.

At 7.30 this morning we took Big White Dog and Precious Baby Lamb to the beach for a long run and swim. Superman and Son also had their first swim of the season. Bliss.

I also made two new soaps this week. A reader of this blog sent me a recipe for Honey and Rooibos Soap. This looked so delicious before it a rich toffee. I also used my dried Calendula's to make this soap.

We noticed that our chickens weren't actually happy in their new coop...quite a blow to Superman's ego :( as they were not getting enough sun. So we have now enclosed another area that extends from the new coop and included the old garden shed.

They can wander around this huge area, dig and sandbath and get loads of sun during the day and when we go out we can put them in the smaller area as we have lots of cats in the neighbourhood. At night they can roost in the garden shed. Of course this made a huge need to declutter the shed and now we have piles of things to give away, chuck or recycle.

A highlight for me was that our first marrows are ready to eat. Lazy housewife beans are also growing prolifically. These made a great side dish with chicken pie on Friday.

I made spelt pancakes this week as you would make normal ones but just used freshly ground spelt. We had the pancakes for dinner stuffed with kassler steaks and roast veggies and there were a few left over.

I had some homemade plum ice cream left over which was the filling and turned out to be a delicious more-ish pudding.

My week in a was yours?