Monday, 29 April 2013

April Stockpile Challenge - Thai Fish Cakes

It is the last week of the challenge and this week shopping consisted of carrots, apples, potatoes and corriandar.

Something I have noticed during this challenge, that I really love, is the fact I can see everything that I have in my fridge from the second shelf down.
The reason I say the second shelf down is because we use the top shelf for condiments and things with long expiry dates.  I am finding we are wasting less just because things do not get lost at the back of the fridge.  Does this happen to you as well?

One of the meals on the menu this week was fish cakes.  I had some fish in the freezer that I swapped for some eggs a while back and it needed using up.

I teamed this up with my Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)

500gm White Fish Fillets chopped into pieces
1 Cup Snake Beans (I used purple king climbing beans)
1 Cup Corriandar roughly chopped
2 Stalks Lemon Grass (If you have never used watch this)
4 Cloves of Crushed Garlic
2-4 Red Chillies roughly chopped
4 tsp Fish Sauce
2 Eggs

Place all ingredients except oil into a food processor and process for 30 seconds or until mix comes together.  Chill for 1 hour.
Shape into 5 cm patties and fry till golden brown.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Do you have an inactive bank account? Use it or lose it

The below message was passed on to me by a mortgage broker I know and I think it is something really important that everyone should know.  This really ticks me off and I cannot see the governments justification in doing this.

Our Federal Government has just passed legislation that gives them the power to take your money from your bank account if you have not used it for 3 years.

Yes, you did read this correctly.

From the 31st of May this year, the Federal Government will have the power to transfer your bank balance to their coffers.

The definition of "using" a bank account involves either withdrawing or depositing.

Note: Interest payments are not considered to be deposits and fees are not considered withdrawals under this legislation.

What to do NOW?

1. Check all of your bank accounts and make sure you have transacted over the last 3 years. If you haven't used your account during this time, make a withdrawal or deposit. Otherwise you will lose it.
2. If you cannot remember where a long lost account may reside, use this ASIC tool to conduct a search 

If, for some reason, your money is taken by the Government under this law, you will be able to apply to ASIC to have it returned. However, this in not likely to be a quick process.

Someone commented on this post that I was presenting this as a "conspiracy by the government to defraud its citizens of their hard earned cash...::

And that:

There has been legislation in place for many many years under which financial institutions are required to remit "unclaimed money" to ASIC. The rules for this are stipulated within the terms and conditions for your account. The latest legislation merely reduced the timeframe from seven years to three, otherwise the rules haven't changed. The rule is intended to protect money in people's accounts from being slowly eroded with fees and charges applied by financial institutions.

Regardless of the reasons I am passing this information on the basis that if there is nothing to hide why does the government not promote the change widely and educate the public on how to protect their money.

Also if this is "intended to protect money in people's accounts from being slowly eroded with fees and charges applied by financial institutions." 

 Then why doe the government not just pass legislation  that addresses the issue of bank fees and charges?

I hope this message saves your money.

Please pass this on to everyone you know in case they are not aware of this.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Rosella Tea

This year I am determined to make better use of my rosella's than in the past couple of years.
I have discovered that the fruit is at it optimum for jams, sauces and stewing when it is young and when the fruit gets a bit older it gets a bit stringy.  Then when it is stewed you end up picking them out of each mouthful.
The optimum time for picking the fruit is between 3 and 6 days after the flower drops off.  Then from there the longer you leave them the tougher and thicker the flesh gets.
So I decided that I some would dry some in a friends dehydrator for use as herbal tea.  As I mentioned the other day these are some of the reported health benefits:

Health Benefits:

  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Maintains healthy blood lipid levels
  • Very High source of active Anthocyanin Antioxidants shown to fight cancer and abnormal cell growth

They dried really well and make a great (tart if you add too many) cuppa,  You could add a bit of honey like my friends did but I really liked the tart flavour.
I am really glad I have found a use for the older fruit so they will not go to waste.  I am also thinking of a few more uses for rosellas that I want to try.  I will keep you posted.
What home made herbal teas do you make?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Coal Seam Gas Debate

Over on ABC the 4 corners program aired a documentary on Coal Seam Gas a little while ago.

If you have not seen it you can watch it by clicking on the link below.  Having fought against a proposed sand mine in our community I  know how these people feel.  At least we were only fighting a private company and not a massive company.

ABC 4 Corners - Gas Leak

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Queen of the Show Pavilion Strikes Again

Since moving to the country I have tried to immerse myself in the community.  Hubby would say I have done that too well with all the committees I am on but that is another story.
For the last few years I have entered a few different things in our local show and I have won a number of prizes.
This year I entered some preserves, craft and produce and check out the results.
Bread and Butter Pickles - First
Strawberry Jam - Second
Chutney - No Place
Cards - 1 x First 2 No Place
Scrap-booking - 1 x Second 2 No Place and
Rosella's First and Second AND Champion Fruit Exhibit.
I was absolutely shocked.  I spoke to the show steward and he said that not only were my rosella's really fresh but they were in excellent condition.
I think it is really important to participate in activities like the local show when you live in a small community.  Many small towns struggle to keep these sort of events going as they compete for the disposable income of families and in recruiting the manpower to and volunteers to run the event.
I believe that if everyone entered just 2 or 3 entries then that is the difference between a small town show surviving or not.  And if you have a few hours to help out then all the better.
 Here are a couple of the cards I entered.  The first one was the winner.

I would love to know if you have a local show and if you enter or maybe you volunteer.

If you enter what do you enter?  Do you make a mean sponge or fruit cake?

Monday, 22 April 2013

April Stockpile Challenge

Well here we are again and I am sharing an update on how the stockpile challenge is going this month.
Well this week I went over my groceries budget of $15.  Not by a lot and I still kept it under $20 so I am not too disappointed.

So what have we been eating this week?

Well I mentioned here that we had friends coming for Sunday lunch so when planning my shopping for the week I took into account what I had planned to make, potatoes and red onions roasted with rosemary and sea salt then with home made feta added at the end and left in the hot oven that had been turned off for 10 minutes.  Home grown sausages on the BBQ and coleslaw.  It was such a tasty meal and was easy to prepare so that more time could be spent catching up.
I had also planned to use the red cabbage in my lentils and red cabbage with spicy sausage which we had the night before and I also used the cabbage as part of other meals during the week.
We have also had home made pizza, poached eggs and green bean salad.
We have bananas starting to ripen so that will help with our grocery budget as Hubby has 3 each morning in a smoothie for breakfast.
This week I also used up some macadamia nuts that were getting a bit old in some chocolate brownies.  It is a really easy recipe that uses cocoa not melted chocolate so you can make it using some basic pantry staples.  I will post the recipe later this week.
I still feel like I could be doing more to reduce our spending but I am determined to stick at it as I think being thrifty in the kitchen is a skill that you need to work on.  I know that I am a bit of a lush when it comes to food and I wonder is it possible to be thrifty as well?

Do you find it hard to be thrifty in the kitchen?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Pasture Management

Back in February I attended a Joel Salatin Masterclass and it was a really informative and entertaining.

I came away with some great information and ideas.  One of the topics discussed was mob stocking.  This is basically a system of providing cattle with a limited grazing area which creates a small amount of soil disturbance and ensures sufficient pruning of the pasture.  The idea is to mimic the behaviour and result of large herds in the wild (buffalo, wilder beast etc).  In the wild these animals naturally bunch together to protect themselves against danger so this is just about replicating this behaviour and it's results in domestic animals.
Each day a fresh area is provided and access to the previous days area is cut off.  The area provided should be just enough for the cattle to eat all of the fodder available without wasting any.
You see cattle will not eat what they have pee'd on, pooped on, sat on or trodden on.  So if you give them only as much as they will eat in one day they are so busy eating that less becomes in-edible for the above reasons.

In New Zealand this grazing practice is is widely used and is know as strip grazing so since I grew up in a dairy farming community over there it is something I am familiar with.
However I was not aware of how this also helps to build soil fertility.  Basically as grass grows it balances out it's leaf growth with root growth, so the taller the grass the deeper the roots.
You can see in my fancy picture that after the grass has been eaten
the roots break away self pruning.
Then as the grass is pruned off by the cattle the roots self prune them selves to keep above and below the soil balanced.  The roots that have self pruned then break down and help build the organic matter along with the manure that gets trodden into the soil.

So we have been implementing the system with our cow (Freezer 2) and her borrowed buddy (Bozo).  In the photo below you can see where the grass on the left has been grazed down and the temporary electric fence on the right.
We move the cows at the same time each afternoon so there tends to be a bit of mooing when they think it is time.  And when we do move the fence they get very excited and run from one patch of new grass to another.  You have to be on your game or they give you a heck of a fright as they rush up behind you.
To set us this system we needed to buy the electric fence wire, a reel to put it on and some fencing standards (the upright sticks that hold the wire).  But that was going to set us back quite a bit on money so we decided that we would make our own standards from recycled materials.
Hubby had a piece of power line from one of the main trunk line wires from when he worked clearing trees from the power lines.  It is made of a twisted bunch of thick aluminium wires which he un twisted and straightened.  It is quite thick (about 4 ml) but still flexible so he was able to bend one end into a loop and cover the loop with some old irrigation pipe.
The piece of powerline

The irrigation pipe
And this is the finished result.

We now have about 30 of these home made standards and they cost us nothing compared to the $5 each we would have paid to buy them.  Because they are flexible you have to hold them at the base to push them into the ground.  And while this works fine while the ground is soft from all the rain we have been having they may not work so well when the ground hardens up.
But until then we will stick with these and save some money to buy some proper ones for if/when we actually need them.

Have you made any equipment instead of buying it?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

April Stockpile Challenge

We had a really good week with the April stockpile challenge this week aided by the fact that we have beans galore in the garden as well as cucumbers, rosellas, lots of fresh herbs and eggs.

This week I managed to spend less than $10 which was great.  I brought the below last Wednesday then spent another couple of dollars on more bananas on Sunday.
I have been using up bits and pieces from the fridge and supplementing ingredients instead of buying what I would normally have used.
I really need to do some baking though as there is nothing sweet to have with a cuppa and that is a tragedy. Plus Hubby is complaining that he needs some goodies for his lunch box so I think I will cook a few things and freeze some.
This week is going to be a challenge as we have friends coming for lunch on Sunday so I need to get creative  with what we are having.

If you have any frugal ideas let me know?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Op Shop Finds

Late last week I had to head down to Brisbane for work and a friends 40th birthday so I arranged to do a spot of op shopping  with my best friend.
We had a great day and managed to visit a number of different op shops.

And you know what, those op shop gods must have been smiling at me.

The first op shop we went to was having a half price sale so we were on the right path to start with.  And then I saw this:
An Emile Henry Tagine from the Flame range.  A tagine is something that I have wanted for ages and when I saw this one I was in love.  It was brand new never been used and was priced at just $20!!!
I would have paid twice that but because of the 1/2 price sale I got it for $10.  Unbelievable!!
I also picked up a pair of what appear to be brand new levis jeans for Hubby for $5 after the discount.
At another store I managed to find a nut loaf tin and a tuppaware citrus juicer, and in the last store a stainless steel wine cooler.
It was a great day out and I am really please with my buys.  I cannot wait to try out my new tagine.

Have you had any good buys lately?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

2013 Rosella Harvest

Last year the lovely African Aussie sent me some rosella (Wild Hibiscus) seeds and it if now harvest time.

You can read more about rosellas by clicking on the "Rosellas" label in the side bar.

I only planted out 3 plants but they are quite prolific and will provide more than enough for our needs.

 Each branch is loaded with fruit and as the fruit matures another one grows as well.
 This afternoon I picked a bucket full and you could hardly see where I had been.  I will pick some more on the weekend and then next week is the local show so I need some for that too.
 I spent this evening peeling the fruity calyx away from the inner seed pod.
 It is just a matter of running a knife around the base of the fruit and then the seed pod is easy to remove.  I know that you need to keep the pod if you want to make jam as it has pectin in it but as I am not making jam  I am discarding mine.
I will be using some as a stewed fruit, some as cordial and this year I want to try drying some to use as a herbal tea.  It costs a lot to buy $6 for 20 tea bags.  But has some great reported health benefits

Health Benefits:
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Maintains healthy blood lipid levels
  • Very High source of active Anthocyanin Antioxidants shown to fight cancer and abnormal cell growth

I am not sure what else I could make so if you have any ideas let me know.

Have you cooked with rosellas before?  What did you make?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Sad Day On The Farm

Yesterday was a sad day here on the farm as we had to have our cat Jasmine put down.

She was nearly 14 and had lived 3 years after having a skin cancer on her nose removed.  Sadly it seems the cancer had spread to her kidneys and from the time this was discovered she went downhill.  She was not herself and we did not want her to suffer.
Hubby is very upset as he has had her since she was 5 weeks old and he doted on her.  The have been together twice as long as he and I have.
We were both there as she went off to sleep and we brought her home and buried her beside the Jasmine, so very fitting.

Farewell sweet Jasmine you pretty little thing.  We will miss you.

Monday, 8 April 2013

April Stockpile Challenge

So we are back to limited as shopping as part of our bi-monthly stockpile challenge.

Over the weekend I whipped up a couple of tasty little dishes.

The first one is something my Nan makes for lunch when the family descend on her for lunch and she needs to feed lots of people from a few pantry staples.  I used up a couple of burger buns that had been floating around the freezer for a few months.

Bacon and Corn Toast

1 Tin Creamed Corn
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup Grated Cheese
1 Onion Finely Diced
2 Rashers Bacon Diced
1/2 tsp each of Salt and Pepper 
End Crusts from bread/Burger Buns

Heat oven to 180 degrees.  Toast the side of the bread (inside) that will hold the filling under the griller.  Mix all ingredients together and spread on toasted side of the bread spreading all the way to the edge.  Bake until topping  is lightly browned and cooked through.  This mix can be stretched a long way or used over a couple of days.

 I also had some smoked salmon left over from making sushi.  So I teamed it up with some home made (more about that in another post) Bondon Cheese (a style of cream cheese) on some english muffins.
 We do not have a lot happening in the veggie garden but there is plenty of parsley, and beans and every second day there is a big handful of raspberries that make a great desert teamed up with some greek yoghurt.
So how are things with your stockpile?  Are you trying to reduce your spending this month?

If you are please leave a comment and a link below.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Slow Living March 2013

Linking up with Christine again this month.  I am really glad that she is hosting this again this year it is great to hear what everyone is up to.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
There has been some lovely home made meals this month and we have enjoyed our first hearty meal from the  slow cooker.  Over Easter I made some cross-less buns, I posted the recipe I use last Easter and I am always happy with the result.  I make these during the year as well and they always go down a treat.

Prepare - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
I have been freezing the last of the capsicums and the late planting of purple climbing beans I put in are coming on nicely so hopefully there will be some of those to put into the freezer in the future.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
Nothing very exciting happening on this front.

Green Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
I made up a big batch of laundry liquid over the Easter weekend.
I keep forgetting to post the recipe I use but it is pretty simple:

Laundry Liquid

4 litres of water
3 Cups Lux Soap Flakes
2 Cups Washing Soda (the powder not the crystals)
1 Cup Borax

Heat together in a stock pot until it is all dissolved   Then add another 6 litres of cold water blending with a stick blender as you go.  I then 3/4 fill about 4 old plastic bottles with the mix and tip the rest into a bucket with a lid.  You need to only fill the bottles 3/4 of the way as they need a good shake before using.  I use 1/2 a cup per load and have been very happy with the results.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
I have a late run of climbing beans and cucumbers coming along and the rosellas are ready for harvesting.

We also have a self seeded Jap pumpkin that is set on world domination.  It is taking over and my comfrey has been lost below but hope fully we will get some pumpkins as my QLD Blue vine only produces one and it is a very sad looking pumpkin at that.
Jap pumpking taking over
Sad looking QLD Blue Pumpkin
Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
I am still practising my knitting and have been doing lots of scrap booking and card making.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I am still reading lots of books.  I am currently reading  "The casual vacancy" by JK Rowling and about 3 other books as well.

Enhance Community
Planning for this years Classic Car Show is well under way again and will be keeping me busy for many months to come.  I am also in charge of organising all of the stall holders for the festival so it is a huge job.  This will be our third year and hopefully even more successful that the last two.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
Well we had a great time in Melbourne and over Easter caught up with friends so we have been really blessed this month.

What have you been up to?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

An Ongoing Stockpile Challenge

After doing our stockpile challenge in February I made a decision that for the rest of this year I was going to not only change the way I shop week to week, but I am going to plan another 5 months where we do the stockpile challenge.

So in March we cut back to the new target of $50 a week and then in April are back to the challenge.  Although because of Easter and our computer dramas I am a bit late blogging about it.

We still have a huge stockpile including meat (we have a freezer full of beef and chicken) so we will be doing a stockpile challenge in April, June, August and October.

If you think you spend too much on food or want to join me in April or any of the other months to work through your stockpile then just leave a comment below and post about your progress.  I will be posting each Monday about the challenge and what I am cooking up and getting creative with in the kitchen.

As far as rules go I think it is important that each person sets their own limit based on their own family dynamics.  For example there is just the 2 of us and we do not have to buy any meat or eggs so our budget of $15 per week is plenty.  For us this includes all food items including milk and bread but if you have a tribe of children maybe you will exclude milk and bread from the challenge or just increase you weekly allowance.

The main thing is to try not to buy pantry foods, to plan your meals and to be thinking about how little you actually need to buy.  Do you actually only need 4 potatoes for the week not a kilo?  Do you need to buy tomatoes this week, are they in your meal plans?  Can you make a loaf of bread instead of buying it?  Can you do what I did and substitute one ingredient for another?

It is also a good idea to have a good look a what you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer.
Look for things that:

You might have had for a while,
You might have brought on a whim and not used
Things that you have a lot of (like my frozen bananas)
Things that are close to their expiry date or at risk of being thrown out

So are you up for the challenge?

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Melbourne Trip

Do you ever find that life gets in the way of life?
The last two weeks have been a busy time for us with a trip to Melbourne, lots of stuff going on at home and over Easter we had two different lots of friends staying, one Friday night and one Saturday night.  We decided that we needed to take the last two days and just be at home together.  Unfortunately that means that we were tempted by chores that needed to be around the farm.  But I am happy to say that we have managed to balance them with some down time, some napping in the hammock, some reading of books, playing with Jessie and some time just sitting and talking.

Our long weekend (3 nights) in Melbourne was great.  We stayed right in the city and caught trams all around the city checking out the CBD and the surrounding suburbs.  I have to say I am a big fan of the tram system in Melbourne.  It was such an easy way to get around and we went all over the city using them.  When ever we go away Hubby says to me "Is this going to be a pressure cooker tour?"  What he means is do I have a million things planned that we must do and see.  You see when I go away I like to fill every moment of the day and night and not miss a thing.  But Hubby likes a bit more down time.  It can be a hard thing to balance and I tried to do my best and not plan too much but we still saw a lot.
We did a lot of walking and even though it was really windy on the first day (there were tornadoes in the north of the state that day) we still enjoyed ourselves.  We went to the botanical gardens and you can see in the photo below how windy it was by the angle of the giant bamboo.
Melbourne Botanical Gardens
 On our second day we caught a train out of the city and went to the Holocaust Museum.  Neither of us comes from a Jewish background but it was something we wanted to do and was really worth it.  We spent a number of hours there and could have spent longer.  The museum also had a travelling exhibition from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam including her actual diary.
It is not really suitable for young children but while we were there there were 2 groups of high school children visiting as well.
The museum has some striking sculpture work on the front  of the building
 While we were there we were lucky enough to be able to sit in on a presentation to one of the school groups from a holocaust survivor.  He told us his story and about his experiences as a teenager in the concentration camps and you can read below how close to death he was when he was freed. He said he thought he could have only lasted a few more days.

 Not long after the Jewish people started being rounded up and put in ghettos and sent off to concentration camps the word got around in the Jewish community about what was happening when they were set away so many Jews tried to flee their homes and countries.
One thing I was not aware of was that when the fleeing Jews tried to seek refuge in neighbouring countries many countries closed their borders refusing to let them in as refugees.  I had always wondered why they did not escape and was completely unaware that while they were being exterminated by the Nazis much of the rest of Europe had been unaware of the extent of the genocide.

In the Anne Frank exhibition they had a time line with Anne's life below the line and other events that were happening in relation to the holocaust above the line.  It was interesting to see how normal her life was with family holidays, trips to the beach, work for her parents and school for her and her sister, while at the same time only a few hundred kilometres away people were being killed in the street and packed onto trains bound for death camps.
It was a thought provoking and emotional place to visit.
 While we were in Melbourne the Flower and Garden show was on so we took ourselves along for a look around.
There were some great display gardens.

 And interesting stalls but we refrained from purchasing anything, although I was tempted.
 Yates had a very cute display set up showing how their Dynamic Lifter is made.
 I hope my chickens don't see this and get any ideas about needing toilet paper and a flushing loo.
 My favourite display was set up by Interflora.  They had created a couple of trees using orchid blooms.  It was spectacular from a distance and was attracting a lot of attention.

We also found time to visit the Victorian Museum and the Queen Victoria Markets and eat some amazing food too.  There are some many other things that we could have seen but when you have a limited amount of time you have to do what you can.
Plus we were supposed to be having a break and I had been told that this was not to be a pressure cooker tour.

Do you like to make the most of the time while you are away or are you the one putting the breaks on?
How do you holiday?