Friday, April 29, 2011

a signature in passata

i have had a great time this summer and now into early winter experimenting with a few new things in the kitchen.   i decided to take on tomato's with passion this year .... for one simple reason. 

a dislike of tomato's by certain members of my family.  ahem.

lots of options.  oh yeah.
  • spaghetti bolognase
  • baked beans
  • homemade pizza
  • pasta bake
  • lasagna
  • tomato soup

and the list goes on!

the thing that you have to master for any of these is the passata.  it is that quintessential item in any cooks cupboard that reminds you of the freshness of whole foods.  the tomato richness of this sauce lends itself to so many things and provides dishes with a unique flavour.  i have always watched in envy as people make them on tv and wondered .... does it really make a difference to make something from scratch like that.   do birds fly!  oh wow.

so i've spent the summer conjuring up my own "signature passata".  and as i have used the last of my tomato's for the last bottle of passata, and thot it would be nice to share how easy it can be to make your own passata signature.

the start.  put in heaps of what
you like.  our family is crazy
for garlic <g>
so the key is to make it your own is to use flavours you like.  with my last batch of the season i had tomato's of all levels of ripeness and heaps of stuff in the veggie box that if i didn't use they'd go off.  i have even used celery before.  one flavour that is fantastic to include is capsicum (red bell peppers for my north american friends).  it adds a depth and richness that i absolutely love.  whatever you do.  make it flavours you like.  roughly cut them up and dump them in a roasting pan with a generous glug of olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt.
and then roast!  leave the pan in until there are some nice rich brown spots and the smell that fills the house is divine.  you'll know when it is .... you can simply smell it!

everything dumped into the moule
and ready to be mashed!

then the moule.  i asked for one for my birthday.  but they are really invaluable and i love mine.  you can use them for heaps of things. put everything from your pan, drippings and all, into the moule.  and grind away!  out the bottom will come every vestage of yumminess from these veggies all blended together. 

before i got my moule, i would wiz it all up in the food processor and then pass it through a sive .... heaps more time consuming and not quite so smooth a result.  but you'll get the idea!
the last of my passata for 2011

and then .... you have your final result.  a smooth rich tomato sauce that you just can't buy off the shelves.  this little jar of goodness forms the basis of so many yummy recipes!  and the beauty is that you make your own, the way you like it, the way that suites your family! 

a bottled celebration of flavours ... your own signature in passata! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

learning about leeks

fall has well and truly hit here in the Blue Mountains of NSW.  things are starting to grow for my winter garden in a delightful way, leading me to anticipate a plethora of yummy winter soups and stews (note to self: must to a blog report on a soupy winter garden).  but there is one veg that is missing from my garden .... the glorious leek.  i love leeks.  they add this creamy velvety taste to a dish that is absolutely amazing.  i hardly ever pass by leeks at the green grocer and leek and potato soup is a mainstay on our winter dinner menu. 

so ... a must grow in the garden, right?  especially considering how much they can cost .... right?  gulp.

let me share a secret. 

i'm scared to grow leeks.  it's true ... i have failed every time i've tried to grow them.  and the few that have made it through took forever to get to maturity.  it just seems like for the most part, they fail every time and it that they take forever to grow.

i decided i needed to be better educated about this amazing veg .... to appreciate it a bit more.  so i engaged in a short course of understanding this mild mannered creamy creature.  perhaps i will be able to grow it better next time!

so .... hang on to your hats .... here is the 30 second version of what i have learned. 

things to remember when growing leeks.
  • they like to be grown in the cooler months of the year
  • leeks do well with other root veg such as carrots and are in the onion / garlic family
  • they do best when started in seedling trays and then transplanted when they are about 6 in, tall
  • as the plant matures, hill up the soil around them as this "blanches" them to give them the white creamy flesh
  • duoh! they do take a long time to grow .... at least 4-6 months and they can stay in the ground up to a year to be used when they are needed
  • you can get twice the yield by cutting the leek about a cm above the ground to use .... a second one will grow through the middle!  i've tested this one ... it does work!
oh, and apparently the Roman Emperor Nero was said to have regularly eaten leeks and it is the national emblem of Wales (store that one up for your next Trivial Pursuit game!).

and where do i go from here? 

well, i took a nose dive today, plunged off the deep end and planted a full seedling tray of leeks.  low expectations .... promise!  but the plan is NOT to put them in a main bed when they are ready to be planted out, but to put them in a broad bed .... the sort of bed that you just let go and leave be .... because the leek is the type of veg that just needs to be left alone.  to "bloom where it is planted" ... LOL.  i guess i'm hoping that if i ignore them, come this time next year, i'll be able to have a leek or two in just about anything i feel like!

i'll keep you posted on my progress!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Permaculture 101 ...

this is a blog posting about a definition of permaculture.  it is a term that you are probably aware of .... but may or may not know what it means.  and i thot it might be nice to take the time to delve into this world for a bit and look at this thing called permaculture.  one of the beauties of permaculture is that it is fluid and flexible, molding itself to the context within which you live.  but at the core there are three basic principles.

1. caring for each other
2. caring for the planet
3. learning to set limits on excess
    that probably sounds a bit nebulous, huh?  remember this if you remember nothing else ... permaculture is NOT about gardening or how you grow your veggies.  permaculture is much more than that .... it is about a way of living,  of engaging with our world and living your life in a way that integrates rather than separates.  
 okay, okay ... take a minute to watch this (give it a few seconds ... the first little bit is blank)

i want to say straight up that i see permaculture as a truly biblical thing that at it's core has a Divine Creator who made a world that we could live in and that we need to be wise stewards of.  but i don't want to get lost in that conversation right now .... it's a great one, trust me!  but right now, let's focus on what permaculture is, as a definition.

a lot of the outwardly facing aspects of permaculture focus on the earth and how we exist in relationship to it and a basic word called sustainability.  so let's talk about that a little.  Geoff Lawton, Bill Mollison are well known Australians who basically started the global acceptance of this this called permaculture (PERMA = permanent and CULTURE = people living .... so a permanent sustainable way of living.  this is of course in opposition to the non-sustainable, wasteful way that our world is going. 

if you look at the world through the "permie" coloured glasses, you ask how we can re-use rather than throw away (no matter how simple throwing away seems to be)?  you try your best to live a life that closes the loop on our waste and recycles as much as possible in a way that is productive in your own lives.  and yes, you grow your own veggies and have chooks.  but you companion plant your veggies and look into things like vertical gardening and aquaponics (in contrast to hydroponics).  you live by the seasons.  and your chooks .... well, they take top billing as they not only give us yummy eggs, but they eat the scraps and waste from our kitchen and make amazing poo that fertilizes our gardens and helps make great soil to grow our food in (closing the loop on waste!). and lets not forget about solar power and water tanks! 

now, if you are like me .... when i first got into sustainability and permaculture the cool stuff seemed to be the gardening (hey, permaculture developed the NO DIG garden <g>) ... and i love the way everything relates and interacts and supports each other .... so this is the guy who really motivated me ... and inspires me to continue on the path of the true blue "permie" ..... enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

living in community

friends of mine are getting into sustainable living in a big way .... and, as for many in their shoes, the big leap is to get chickens. understanding the value they bring to a home with eggs and the manure for composting was the easy sell.  but they are a responsibility and understanding the best way to care for them can seem daunting .... but when you take the leap!  woohoo! 

so ... they want chooks ... and we can help 'em out! 

chook coop in the trailer and
ready to go!

other friends of mine are moving (i'm sad!) ... and they won't be taking their chickens and so need to find them a new home.  so why not bring these guys together so they help each other out?
so here we are on the saturday wedged between Good Friday and Holy Easter .... living in community and helping out friends.  what a joy it was!

we started off by getting the bits into the trailer and moving them.  we all met and helped out together!  thankfully, we were able to pull apart the chicken coop to a point of fitting it into our trailer with ease.  the chooks, food and watering can were packed up and we were ready to go .... but not until we had a great natter over morning tea / coffee and the kids had a play.  

then it was off to get the girls set up in their new chook mansion.  we had a bit of work to do as during the move a few bit came off ... but we assumed the position and with hammers in hand put those boards back in place.  and then the fencing came into play, and after one revision .... voula!  the short term chicken run was in place and the girls were launched into their accomodation. 

the final fixin's!
a lot of good came out of today.  peoples needs were met.  people were encouraged to live in a more sustainable way.  words can't really describe the joy in just being with like minded folk who want to improve how they live by living in community ...  by engaging in each others lives.   
me hammering a nail ...
what a joke!

how often do we really reach out and engage those around us?  our neighbors?  or do we live lives that shy away from meeting people where they are at .... even if it is just a smile?  is it easier to turn away and ignore those around us than to see if there is something that we can do to help?  when was the last time that you reached out to those around you?  and if not, why not?  if you were in trouble, wouldn't you want to know that help was right next door with a neighbor? 

the temporary shelter is done!
enjoy girls!

to have a good neighbor we need to be a good neighbor.  it doesn't take a lot.  a bit of kindness .... if you see a need, meet it.  the rewards are amazing.  when we left our friends house today it felt good knowing that we had helped someone out.  okay .... so maybe it wasn't a life threatening issue that we helped with ....but it was helping.  it was assisting them in getting somewhere they wanted to go.  getting outside of our walls of protection and doing something for someone else .... and it felt good.

as for the chooks .... they will be a great addition to their household.  besides being a great diversion, they will provide eggs, work the soil and create great compost.  you beauty!  <g>

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

too much of a good thing!

i have a story to share .... about our worms and excess.  don't laugh ... the analogy holds true for life .... and practically speaking, i have learned from it!  <g>

have you heard the story of the very hungry caterpillar?  where he is hungry and goes on the hunt for food and eats his way through a week of really rich, yummy food that made him sick at the end?  when what he really wanted and needed was a good, healthy, yummy green leaf.  and he felt all better after that!  <g> and was able to do what caterpillar's need to do!  weave a cocoon and become a beautiful butterfly!

 so ... we got our worms, right?  and i thought ... way cool .... these little guys are gonna chomp through all these leftovers and make it into gorgeous castings for our garden and worm tea to fertilize with .... right?  WRONG!

i left them for a few days and when i went to have a sneaky little peak at my gorgeous critters .... what did i see?  MOULD!  EVERYWHERE!  egad!  what did i do wrong?  i tore open my little instruction book .... not much help there except to say that you shouldn't over feed them .... they DON'T need it.  gee .... should've read that sooner!  so i go straight to the computer and do a trusty search on worm mould and come up with the fact that simply speaking .... i have been over feeding my babies with all the wrong things!  oh good grief!  how silly am i?  feeding them all the rich stuff when what they need is a good diet of shredded newspaper and grass clippings!

and you know the remedy?  the icky and gross work of picking out all the mould bit by bit and piece by piece.  and the reminder that what they really need is more is the good stuff .... some grass clippings and lots of shredded newspaper.

so for the past two days i have spent a good 30 minutes each day picking through the worm farm trying to get out anything that looked remotely mouldy.  the worms aren't stupid .... they've gotten as far away from that wretched stuff as they can ....and i'll have to keep this up until i get rid of it all.  some might give in .... dump the worms and just start again.  i refuse to give in to that defeatist mentality!  we will conquer this and we will learn from this.

what an analogy for us with our lives, huh?  between what we think we need and what we actually need.  i would love a huge house .... with heaps of stuff to make my life EASY.  i want to hire a landscaper/permaculture guru to come in and do all our permaculture and backyard work for us.  it would be the EASY thing to do.  i would really like brand spankin' new things that are top of the line and make me feel like i'm top of the heap.  oohhhh ... and a new fangled TV!  wouldn't that be delightful!  but i'm so glad that my Father in Heaven knows that would be one of the dumbest things in the world to have happen to a selfish and self centered person like me -- to give me things i don't need or wouldn't truly appreciate.

i need to appreciate what i have .... NOW.  what i have today.  a dear husband and three amazing kids.  friends near and far that i would lay down my life for.  i have a roof over my head, which is more than many people can say in this world.  having just returned from the Philippines, I KNOW i have heaps more than most people ...i have seen people with so much less than i have and they are amazingly joyful and happy.  we don't need to fill the bellies of our greed with stuff .... we need to be grateful for what we have and to live in the moments that we have rather than loosing ourselves in what "might be."  may i be ever mindful of this. and i have no doubt that i will need to be reminded of this constantly!

next time i covet what someone else has may i think of the worms we have and the mould that greed and excess can cause in our lives.

as for our worms .... the table scraps will be going back to the  chooks ... who will make good use of them.  i am thinking for the worms that the yellowpages directories that still get delivered (WHY????) will make good food for the worms for a while.  shred it up nice and small and give it them a little bit at a time .... so they enjoy it and indulge themselves on the good stuff.  hey ... those stupid books are made out of trees ... what better way to use them than to return them to the good earth!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

... and we're off!

and so the grand adventure shaking up our lifes with a sustainable bent truly begins!  both hubby and i are itching to transform our yards and lives with a sustainability streak that will lead us forward .... but we need a game plan .... something we can tackle in stages and .... we are hoping this is it. <g>  at least we have a plan .... which is half the battle! i readily acknowledge, btw .... that most plans look dramatically different to what was maped out to start off with .... and that is ok!  at least we're moving!

so let's start with the easier one first .... our front yard.

for both the front and back we will need to get in a bobcat to clear out a fair bit .... but it is so worth it!  especially when we will be keeping the cleared stuff and making compost and good soil out of it.  anything cleared will be mulched and we will make a great bio dynamic compost out of it.

so this is roughly what needs to happen
  • clearing.  the jacaranda at the front and the tree in the middle of the circle we will keep.  but other than that .... they'll all be going.  down to stump level. 
  • planting acacia's (these are in the legume family and great for adding those yummy nitrogen fixing bits to the soil to make it yummy for the plants).  these will be integral to ensuring the soil quality continues to improve and provide for long term nutrients in the soil
  • putting in fruit trees and nut trees.  fruit trees at the front side will include more citrus.  will probably include some dwarf varieties as well.  i am determined to grow a mandarin as my kids go through them like crazy!  oranges too!  nut trees up in our neck of the woods .... probably hazelnut and walnut.  but that may be a bit of a guessing game
  • medicinal bed and berry bushes.  i am really wanting to get into medicinal herbs (i hear snickering .... stop that now! <g>).  i have had some real problems sleeping and after heaps of testing, etc. the best solution has been Valerian tablets .... so go figure.  once i've done a bit more research on the kinds i want to plant i'll share more there .... but that is still very much in the "what do i do now" phase.  i have a raspberry bush ... poor thing has been pot bound for a couple of years and valiantly tries to stay alive, let alone fruit.  hopefully this will give it the lease on life that it deserves!
  • olive tree and rosemary bush area.  this is an area where it gets really hot and dried out.... so i figure let's focus on the mediterranean aspect!  i'll put in an olive tree, with which i shall venture into the world of espalier (e.g., training it to grow flat against a wall) with several different types of rosemary with it .... and if i find any other herbs that thrive in dry soil conditions i might try them there as well.
  • mini herb plot.  the intent is to have all sorts of herbs growing in a variety of places .... it keeps the bugs guessing and means better success generally.  and doing the companion planting bit where you put basil with tomato's, etc.  however .... i really want a place where i am growing my main sachet group: continental parsley, thyme, oregano, basil and coriander in one spot (rosemary will be a stones throw away, so that's be there too) .... just means i can bop away from the stove and grab what i need easily.  not sure on soil quality here ... but probably gonna do a hay bale raised bed .... just because from time to time you need to try different things .... and it will disintegrate after time anyway and be good soil .... so it can't hurt. 
  • broad beds and raised veggie bed will be used as needed and the soil fixed at that time.  not sure what will be grown there .... i want to try all sorts of new and different veg and who knows what will happen here!
one of the major things that is not shown is that along the east facing side of the house we will build our composting area and move our gate from the back edge of the house to about 2/3rds of the way to the front to allow for a larger space in the back and a clearly defined area for the trailer to sit.  i imagine this will happen sooner than later .... but where it fits in the grand scheme of things is kinda out of my purview at this point.

watch this space for the backyard adventure ..... aquaponics now or later?  to goat or not to goat .... this is the question! 

part of the fun of this has been the adventure of planning, learning and growing personally in my knowledge of sustainability.  really happy to be expanding and using the old brain cells ... it really feels like i am moving towards a model that makes a difference .... at least in our little plot of paradise .... reclaiming it, bit by bit, for our Creator.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

a sprouting hope!

i was taking a wander around the front veggie patch yesterday .... wondering how long until the fruits of our labour would start to show.  see ... i love this time of year .... with the anticipation of what might be coming up. 

... and there it was .... i wasn't even looking and the first green tendrils of my winter patch are starting to come through the good earth.  only one problem .... WHAT are you?

what are you?
is this a left over from my summer garden?  hmmm ...  it looks like a bean .... but that's the wrong spot for you ... i planted those at the other end of the bed.  and then i raise my eyes slightly and glance down the far end of the bed and see ... more green!  just little hints .... but you .... i know you!  you are my mamoth snow peas!  I can't wait to see how you turn out!  <g>

so fall has arrived and winter is coming quicker than we know.  the beds are settling in for a good production i think.  these are from my front bed ... where i also have greenfeast peas, comfrey, parsnips, garlic and my ever favorite broad beans.  i love the anticipation .... i know what i planted (well, most of the time at least!).... and the joys of seeing it come up are just so encouraging to my green thumb nature. 

for me, so much of what i do in the garden mimics how i engage with my life.  the success of  my labors and the failures as well.  the surprises and those stalwart things that are relied upon.  i have my broad beans down to a fine art now ... they are a reliable source of food for our family each spring. depend on that.  in the same way that i rely on my family and friends for support.  of knowing that friend who i almost religiously have a text skype with each morning over a cup of coffee .... just to get the day going.  and of course the immutible and never changing presence of my Father God and being able to dump it all at his feet, knowing that He can handle it. 

and what about those unexpected things?  i wonder how many of those precious little treasures i miss because i'm not looking or engaging with those around me enough.  there was a real grin on my face when i saw what was in the garden .... wondering what it was unexpected pleasure and gift in the middle of it all!  whoohooy ! so it should be with my friends and those i am in relationship with each day.  to take the time to see the little things that make a day more than it would have been ... and to appreciate each little bend in the road as a surprise and joy to be embraced.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Great Budget War

how do you shop?  do you go when you are hungry?  do you have all the kids in tow?  do you end up cringing when they read your price at check out?  <sigh>  it's not a nice feeling is it?  given up on budgets because they always get blown?  even on basics?

when we brought our first child home from the Philippines and made the great conversion to me being a stay at home mum ... i knew things would have to change.  i might not be bringing in an income anymore .... but i was going to have to find ways to save money ... i had my part to play!

ALDI and i have become best friends.  as soon as i realised that, for the most part, i could buy exactly the same thing (just branded slightly differently) and 60-70% of the cost .... i swallowed my pride and became ok with being my own "check out chick".  i hear you saying "but i can't get everything i need at ALDI" .... so?  you can get 80% of it, that's for sure!  and yes, they have organic food items .... from free range eggs (although we have our own chooks .... another HUGE budget saver) to organic chickens.  they have a whole range of "organics" .... not quite as cheap as the others .... but still heaps cheaper than at one of the two "big chains". 

the other thing i do is belong to a local fruit and veggie co-op.  if you don't belong ... you need to.  if you can't find one ... then start one!  they aren't hard and you can get some good deals.  we drop $40 a fortnight and get 1-2 over stuffed boxes of fruit and veggie.  when it was just the three of us we would always have more than we need.  now with there being 5 of us we go through it and i generally have to hit the fruit market as well .... but that's ok .... because we are still getting a great deal.

other things we do include:
  • not being afraid to accept second hand clothes (our kids barely know new!)
  • re-use and recycle -- you'd be amazed at what can have a second use in your home
  • understand the difference between wanting and needing something (need i say more?)
  • buy on ebay or online .... but COST COMPARE!  sometimes the cost of the postage and handling more than kills any deals you might get on the sticker price
  • growing our own, of course that's obvious.  the more i can grow myself the less we have to buy.
  • find a barter network and use it.  what do you have that others want that you could use to barter with?
those are just a few things.  i wish i could say that we are living high on the hog.  but we do just fine.  and the more we can produce ourselves the less reliant we will be on having to purchase items.  there will always be a need to buy things .... we can't get around that.  but in the end answering the question about if something is a want or a need will go a very long way in helping us to realise just how much we can live without.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reflecting on a bit of simplicity

i'm deviating from my norm today.  the winds are howling outside .... i've put the laundry on the line, got bread going in the breakmaker and it feels like there is a pause in activity for some time of contemplation and thot on my world and where i am at.  this seems a little self-indulgent .... so my apologies now.  but that's just how it is today .....

...working towards our permaculture roots
  • Milkwood Permaculture.  i honestly can't speak highly enough of these guys.  i went to an intro to permaculture course that these guys did and it affirmed everything my heart told me about simplicity, stewardship and the way that we should be living our lives.  i encourage you to check out their courses.  from grafting to acquaponics and beyond... Nick has managed to put together a great team of like minded folks who INSPIRE.  i'm hanging out for when they get their kids program up and running .... dreaming of our family going out to their property and hubby and i doing the permaculture design certificate and the kids doing the kids program for two weeks.  making it a family thing!
  • Evangelical Environmental Network.  i am so appreciative of the visibleness of this group.  it is a bunch of christians who have gone, "hey .... guess what guys .... God gave us this great gift of a beautiful planet and we're ruining it!  we've bunged up the stewardship and need to get it right."  i like them, i like everything they stand for!
  • River Cottage.  what can i say about Hugh and is funky ways.  if you go back to his really early shows in England ... he started by wanting to leave the rat-race.... on a third of an acre he had veggies, chooks and pigs and completely embraced the concept of community.  way to be Hugh!  he is of course bigger than ben hur now .... but is still inspiring people with his great cooking and quirky ways! i can never get enough of his stuff
 ... taking care of me
  • Musicwhere do i start?  Martin Luther said that next to the Word of God, nothing soothes a mans soul like Music.  oh yeah!  i love it all .... from Barber's, Adagio for Strings through to Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles and even some ZZ Top and Red Hot Chili Peppers .... i love it all .... it challenges, confronts, soothes and lifts our spirits. 
  • Scripture.  well ... it's where it all starts.  "be still and know that I am God."  when i need to get my head screwed back on straight i head straight for the Psalms .... they remind me how much i am loved no matter my circumstances (and yes, i do take issue with those people out there who think that God is all about guilt ... SORRY .... YOU HAVE IT WRONG!!!! <g>)
  • Coffee.  Oh my .... getting the day started with a great smelling and tasting cup of coffee?  who can pass that up!  a vice for me i admit .... oops .... and i'm not sorry to say so either.  check out my local coffee guru .....Ministry Grounds
  • Wine.  let's have an argument over the best wines!  i became a wine lover on aussie wines and remain convinced today that they are the best around.  from the light whites in Margaret River to the chocolate shiraz in the Barossa to the pinot's and merlots in Mudgee .... they are all to die for and i will take them any time they are offered.  currently revisiting my love for all things from Banrock Station.  and it doesn't hurt that they have a conservation bent either.  i am starting my trip into organic wines ... if you know of some to inspire, please let me know. 
  • Cheese.  i put a question on a quiz about me once that asked which did i like better, chocolate or cheese.  most folks got it wrong and said chocolate.  don't misunderstand me .... a good chocolate goes a long way .... but it cannot even begin to compare to a great cheese ..... room temperature on a crisp cracker with a few chilled grapes .... bliss! 
  • Quilting.  a secret but long held love of mine that i don't get to indulge in often enough.  i always have a project on the go and seem to overextend and expect from more from myself than i actually have time to accomplish.  currently trying to finish a table runner and then on to figuring out how to finish a quilt for my daughter. .... oh yum!
this one is pretty obvious.  i love great cooking and am a real sook for cooking shows.  love them all in any flavour you give them to me .... even Heston's Feast hooks me in a second.  here are a few web sights that keep me going with heaps of practical recipes.  if i can't find it on one of these web sites then it's probably not a very good recipe. 
i am feeling distinctly guilty about focusing on me .... that i should've shared something about how i love to care for my family.  but there is a time and a place for reflecting on the things we love, enjoy and are grateful for in our own lives.  hey .... it's a simple way to smile <g>.  what inspires you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

better than .... !!!!!

okay .... so we all know the old line that there isn't anything better than growing your own food, right? 

i disagree!  there is indeed something better than growing your own food.  and that is growing your own food and watching your family eat it and enjoy it!

last night i fed my family lasagna.  nothing special?  well .... let's see ... homemade lasagna sheets (infused with basil pesto), homemade passata, and homegrown diced tomato's, spinach and leaf basil.  only things in it that weren't homegrown were the cheeses and the meat.  the family snarfed it .... and i have to say .... THAT FELT PRETTY DARN GOOD!

i reckon we could all feel really proud knowing we've fed our kids healthy, homegrown food.  when we know the origin and trust that it isn't full of "monsanto like" garbage .... then we can go to bed knowing we're doing the right thing by our family.

my youngest in the broad beans
i was planting my celeriac, comfrey and cauliflower seeds a few weeks ago and in my mind i was already seeing the little sprouts coming out of the pots .... needing some TLC to ensure that they grow as best they can.  proper nutrients, water and heaps of light.  it was a great and wonderful feeling to see in my minds eye the hard work of caring for these little seeds paying off.

and then my mind took the next amazing step ....  cauliflower and leek soup .... with some nice crusty sourdough bread on the side .... all with products fresh from my garden.  yummmmmmoooooo! is there anything better?

i am blessed with a desire to create new and different soups during the winter season down under .... trying whatever odds and sods are available.  it is amazing what delectible concoctions can be created with a little thought and planning!  and the freshness of what you have just created cannot be compared to using produce from the grocery store ... there is no comparison because the taste just doesn't exist.

taking the time to grow and feed your family from the good earth, for me, is worship.  it is saying to our loving Heavenly Father, who created this good earth for our ENJOYMENT and use "thank you Father" .... "thank you for loving us so much that you gave us this amazing world to enjoy and cherish."  selah.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

simplicity trick #1 .. hippy macrame...

i spent some time today revisiting my hippy flower power roots .... and i did some macrame!  <g>
the project has started!

all in the best interests of the garden!  i am ready to plant another patch of peas.  had pretty good success last year .... but they are a crop that you need LOTS of to make it worth while.   knowing that heaps of sun would get me heaps more peas ... i set about the undertaking of wondering if i should move them from their location last year. 

i was dead keen to exploit glorious east / west sun we get in our backyard (even in the winter!) and decided to put them in a bed in the middle of the yard and train them up a trellis.  but this time ... i was going to do it ala Hugh at River Cottage ... it looked cool, a but funky and always different .... so i knew it would be a go'er for me. 

oh .... and the other part of that .... cost next to nothing as well.  we had gotten a great deal on HUGE bamboo stakes .... 6 for $7 .... so used two of those and one of the limbs from the tree's that hubby has been cutting down in the backyard.  lasso'd them together and then commenced the macrame project.  put a few nails in the wood at the bottom to hold them nice and straight and wala!  a great climbing vine for the pea's .... getting east/west sun so i should double my crop!  total cost was probably around $2.50

is it perfect?  absolutely not!  but it was a first attempt and it'll know some key thing to remember next time.  but it was great getting the kids involved (part of the wonkiness is giving the kids a go and me learning to NOT be anal about it needing to be perfect ....!!  i patted myself on the back for that one!).  it was great being outside in the delightful autumn weather with the family and enjoy this amazing creation that God has entrusted to us .... what a way to spend a morning!  ahhhh .... 'tis a great thing to live a simple life!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

the worms crawl in and out your snout!

Worm Composting -- Part One

finally!  done and dusted!  we have the worm farm and we have the worms! 

bought a worm farm and a box of worms today.  you'd be surprised (NOT) that it was the boys who really wanted to help with putting the farm together and not our daughter.  don't get me wrong .... she likes a good mess just as much as the next person .... but for some reason this just didn't seem to fit the "i'm interested" bill for her today.

the goal with this little worm farm is to have worm tea and worm castings for the garden.  should be absolute and divine for the worms!  it's winter .... so expect that production will be a bit low .... but hopefullly we'll start to see the pay off as the castings grow and mulitply.  the second phase will be to have our composting piles down the far side of the house and composting worms and bacteria in that .... which will be yummy and lovely soil creation from our garbage .... yeah!  we are closing that loop.

dear hubby was laughing at me a bit .... i was trying with full vigor to get all the worms out of the box and into the farm comment being that we have bought them and they work for us now ... don't we owe it to them to try and give them all the opportunity possible?  okay ...okay .... so maybe going a bit overboard there .... i know.  but the concept is that we have invested in these little critters to begin our journey to sustainability ... should we try and make the most of it?

okay .... so what are the basic steps in creating a worm farm?  gotta tell you ... it's easy as!
  1.  buy a worm farm from Aldi (i like them and will always give them a plug!)
  2. buy your worms .... you can get these from any major hardware store in their garden centre or from a reputable worm farmer (now there's a profession for you!)
  3. assemble .... takes a little bit of ingenuity and persistance .... but eventually, if you think long enuf it all starts to make sense (i'm only joking, btw)
  4. expand the coconut husks in water ... these will form the first layer for the worm to get cozy in
  5. layer the coconut husks on the bottom of the tray
  6. dump the worms out on top and level it out (the boys loved this part!)
  7. get as many of the itsy bitsty worms off the plastic storage as you are motivated to do (i went overboard)
  8. feed them (sorry chooks ... food is gonna go to the worms for a while)
  9. and then put a hessian bag covering on them to keep it dark and moist.
and now we wait .... hopefully not too long for worm tea to feed to the winter beds to get them going well ... but we'll take it as it comes!

Interesting resources.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Little Trick to Try

so here is a little trick to try .... i wish i could claim it as my own, but i can't.  it's with thanks to the guys at River Cottage that i'm giving this a go.

i am TIRED OF BUYING bamboo sticks to make trellis's from.  so .... ala Hugh from River Cottage i have planted my pea's at the base of branch that has come off of one of our tree's that we are clearing.  provides a natural trellis for my snow pea's to climb up .... and the cost to me:  nada!  can't get much more simplistic and straight forward than that!  and in case you doubt me <g>  here is my little pea corner of my front veggie patch!

and to keep matters simple, i have dug up the bed as little as possible .... piled the straw and manure from today's clean out of the chook pen around it.  all done and dusted within about 15 minutes .... let's see how it goes!  i promise to keep you posted on the results. 

oh, and in case you haven't checked out the guys from River Cottage .... you really should! ..... the guy's name is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  he started on a third of an acre with pigs, chooks and a veggie patch .... determined to live a simple and self-sustaining lifestyle ..... i love it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where Have You Been?????

well .... it's been over a week since my last thought posting.  and, honestly, i do have a real excuse!  i've been on holidays!  and oh what a holiday it was!

i've just returned from the country that is so near and dear to my heart .... the Philippines.  if there was ever a country that chooses to live in simplicity .... it would have to be the Philippines.  i'm sure it can be said of many developing countries .... but for me .... it is the Philippines.

would you dare to live a simple life?  no excess .... but only the essentials?  it forces you to focus on the things that are important .... PEOPLE.  every time i go to the Philippines i am overwhelmed by the kindness and easy-ness with which people are involved in their community.  no expectations .... only participation.  no need to be jealous of what your neighbor has because most of it is communal anyway. 

ironically, it is this lack of striving to be "better and bigger" that probably lends a great deal to why the Philippines will never be a global leader .... they just don't try to.  sure there are elements of that .... you find it everywhere .... but as a whole, they are not a people who NEED to be better than their neighbor.

think about it.  look out your window at your neighbors house .... could you (or maybe you already do!) live in community with them?  sharing of your life and stuff so that their lives are better? it is a concept that many of us westerners have a real problem with ... we need our privacy, we need to live apart .... JUST BECAUSE.  i am a firm believer that this approach breeds distance and jealousy. 

what are things that you could to to be more neighborly?  here are a few to try!
  • put a gate in your fence between you and your neighbor
  • make something yummy and take it to your neighbor .... just because
  • take in their garbage bins after collection day
  • if you see them struggling to get something done .... offer to help
  • and here is a really simple one .... SMILE
so don't come by my house and expect me to have a gate in my back fence .... i'm still working on it.  but i can tell you that i talk to all my neighbors and have given most of them help at one point or another.  and you know what?  they have helped me in return.