Saturday, 29 March 2014

Celebrating Earth Hour

Tonight between 8.30pm and 9.30pm it is time to turn off the lights.  For more information or ideas on celebrating earth hour click here.

Will you be participating?
How will you be celebrating?

On March 31 2007, WWF-Australia inspired more than 2.2 million individuals and 2,000 businesses to turn their lights out for one hour in the first Earth Hour event – kicking off the world's largest voluntary action for the environment.
This year, Earth Hour Australia is turning Earth Hour on its axis, using the power of Earth Hour to shine a light on one of the world’s most loved – and vulnerable – places: The Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but it’s future is uncertain. Climate change is raising ocean temperatures and making seawater more acidic, threatening the survival of the coral and the animals that call it home. And to make it even worse, the Queensland and Australian Governments are fast-tracking mega port developments, including the world’s biggest coal port at Abbot Point.
The Earth Hour community is taking action to tell Australia’s Prime Minister that if we don’t act now, the effects of climate change on our reef will be irreversible in just sixteen years.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Rain Glorious Rain

Rain oh how we missed you.

We have had no rain to speak of for the last 4 - 5 months.  A few mls here or there but barely enough to reach the ground where there was mulch.  But oh how things can change.
We have now had nearly 250mls of rain in the last 3 days which is more than we have had in the last 8 months combined.
Much of the grass had died off and you can see some of the brown patches in the photo below.  These will take a while to recover but that green in the photo was not there a week ago, it was a field of brown.  Grass is amazing resilient stuff.

We know that for us the lack of grass is nothing compared to what our outback farmers have been going through and hope that many of them have also benefited from this rain.
All around our community bridges have flooded and are being cleared of debris and a few people are cut off until their bridges are cleared, but none the less we are grateful.

I hope that where ever you are the weather has been in your favour.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Enough Is Enough The Film

Enough is Enough is a book by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill that presents an alternative to the idea of continued economic growth.  They link back to the fact that we are overusing our earths finite resources and that we should have an economy that is focused on enough not more.

I watched this video which gives a brief overview of some of the topics covered in the book.  I found it to be fascinating and inspirational and I was left thinking about how the ideas presented are much more in line with the life I lead compared to our current system.  It also made me wonder how we can get governments around the world to adopt this type of economy.

Anyway check it out and let me know what you think.  Is this the type of economy you would like to see in place?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

First Aid for Chickens

If you own chickens there is a good chance that at some stage you will need to administer some sort of first aid and it is good to know that you are somewhat prepared to deal with issues that arise.

Chicken Saddle in action
Before you read any further please note that I am not a vet and have no medical training.  These are just things that I have personally found helpful and I would suggest doing your own research.

There are a few things that I would say to new chicken owners about dealing with health issues and injuries:
  • No matter how bad things look there is always hope.  Chickens are tough little creatures and they have the ability to endure quite significant injuries and behave like nothing at all has happened.
  • Use the internet to look for answers.  I had never come across chicken pox before but by searching "white lumps on a chickens comb" I was able to use the images to diagnose what was going on.  I always look at a number of sites to see if I find the same solution being presented by a number of people.
  • Stay calm.  If you can stay calm then you will have a much greater chance of success. 
  • Keep the chicken calm too.  Wrapping them in a towel and covering their head loosely so they are in the dark will help with this.
  • Have somewhere you can isolate an individual chicken.  A pet carry cage is ideal but a seperate chicken tractor or pen will also work.  The benefit of the carry cage is that you can keep an injured chicken inside where it is warm and free of drafts if necessary and they are also a little less mobile so will not stress themselves out.
  • Finally - Keep some basic first aid supplies in the house that are suitable for using on chickens.  In my kit I keep chlorhexidine solution (often found in home first aid kits as you flushing or wound washing liquid.  It is far more gentle than hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.  A good antibiotic cream.  Non stick sterile pads, bandages, steri strips and tape.  Latex gloves.  Water based lubricant in case you have to deal with prolapse or egg bound birds.  Plastic syringes in case a bird gets crop bound and you need to get olive oil into them and massage their crop. Cotton buds and cotton balls, tweezers, scissors and nail clippers also come in handy.  Also a rather recent addition to our kit is a chicken saddle which is now being used on a second chicken and has been worth the $5 it cost.
What tips do you have for providing first aid for chickens?
Do you have a chicken first aid kit?  If so what is in yours?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Chicken Doctoring Update

Back in December we had a bit of a run where we were playing chicken doctors and I thought I would bring you up to date with how things are now 3 months down the track.

You may remember this post about one of our new additions to the flock who had chicken pox and was in a bit of a state.  She has since been named Squawky because of all the noise she makes when she sees you.  It is so funny how every chicken has its own personality.

This was Squarwky with full blown chicken pox.

This is Squawky now chicken pox free and quite a character.

The next photo is pretty shocking and you can read the full story here

But after some tender loving care, some time wearing a fancy outfit and going though her seasonal moult Miss Fancy has grown a new set of feathers and you would never know she had ever been in the state she was in the above photo.

Chickens are tough little things but there are few things that make caring for them when they are injured or sick a bit easier and I will post about that tomorrow.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

This weekend was quite a productive one at our place.  I got a lot done in the kitchen and we have started to renovate the bathroom but more about that later.

Some of our chickens are moulting so I cooked up some linseed to add to their mash for an extra protein hit. I soaked 1 cup of linseed for 3 hours then drained off that water and added just enough fresh water to cover the seeds.  I then cooked it for 30 minutes until the water turned into a gelatinous consistency.
Over the next few days I will mix this in with their mash at a rate of 1 tablespoon per bird per day.

I am busy trying to use things up from my freezer that have been there a while and today it was time to use up some frozen bananas.  I am making meals and things for my brother in law and sister inlaw who just had a baby so I thought a few slices  of my Banana Berry Bread might be a nice treat. It is so easy and tasty and you can find the recipe here.  I sliced half of it up and froze the portions in individual serves which I will be taking to my brother in law and sister in laws.

I also made a few self crusting quiches the basic recipe can be found here but I tend to just make it up as i go along.  I made two different ones today as my sister in law is vegetarian and does not like onions so I left those out of hers.  This one used a tin of creamed corn and grated zucchini instead of silverbeet and then I just added what ever other veggies I had on hand.

I will be adding the quiche to the other meals I have also made them and will be taking them down to them in Brisbane during the week.

Finally I have made a big batch of dumplings using Celia's recipe found here but with a few changes like using beef mince since that is what we have lots of.
I really like dumplings as a quick go to meal or addition to a meal and they are especially good for if you have visitors for a meal at short notice.  They freeze well and cook quickly which makes them a great meal at short notice.

Opps sideways photo.

So what happened in your kitchen on the weekend?  Feel free to link back to this post.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A New Addition To The Family

Today we welcomed the newest member of our extended family.  Baby Max.

Max is the first child of Hubby's only brother and his wife and the first grandchild for my parents in law.  It is very exciting times.
My sister in law went into labour during the early hours of the 19th and by 7am her contractions were 5 minutes apart.  They headed in to the hospital that morning but during the day her contractions stopped.
They started again in the evening but things were not progressing so after more than 12 hours of actual labour it was decided that a cesarean was the safest option both both mum and bub.
Baby Max was delivered into the world in the early hours of the 20th 8lb 9oz and they are both doing well.
We visited them in hospital today and here are some snaps from our visit, the ones of me are a bit blurry sorry (hubby didn't check them before saving them).

Max and I

Hubby and Max (the first time he has ever held a baby)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Reviving my Sourdough Starter - Fail

My poor sourdough starter has been very very neglected.  It has been so long since I made a load of sourdough I couldn't even tell you when it was.  I think sometime before Christmas.

So the other day I retrieved my starter from the fridge and, well um, it was not a pretty sight.

Very sad starter

There was still some soft starter around the edges so I took that and tried to revive it with fresh flour and water. On the first day it looked like things were going to plan as there were small bubbles forming.

Small bubbles forming.
But after the second day things were not good.  I think something got into the flour and contaminated it (probably more of those damm pantry moths as I used the last of my wholemeal flour which I thought was bug free) as it had an awful smell.
So that was that I had to throw it out.  So now it is back to the beginning to create a starter from scratch if I want to bake sour dough, from clean flour that is.  This time I will need to make sure I look after the starter a bit better.
Alternatively I might just get back into the habit of bread making again using yeast, at least until I am baking it often enough.

Not sure.  Suggestions anyone?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dragons In The Garden

There are Dragons in my garden.  Dragon Fruit that is.

Dragon fruit are also know as Pitaya and are a climbing epiphtic cactus that produce interesting looking fruit in warm climates where there is a long warm growing season.
The flowers are large and come in either red or white which determines the colour of the flesh of the fruit (I believe) and they flower at night hence no photo.

As you can see it is very dry here at the moment so these make
the perfect fruit for this type of weather.

We grew ours from a cutting and it has taken 3 years to fruit so we are glad it finally did.  It takes 40 days for the fruit to mature and once they do it is best to chill them overnight then consume immediately.

The flesh in ours is white (they come with red flesh too) and they are dotted with small seed similar to the size you would find in kiwi fruit.  The taste is hard to describe but it is sweet, crisp and very refreshing.  Perfect in the heat of the summer.

It has been so hot this year that my raspberries have barely survived just look at how sorry they are looking.  I know there will be no crop this year but I am giving them some love in hope that they might recover for an autumn crop.

Do you have any interesting or unusual plants growing at your place?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Practical Action Plan for Living More On Less

I have heaps on today including a trip down to Brisbane and back to see my surgeon, and two other appointments.
So rather than a full post I thought I would share an article I really enjoyed.
Here is a taste of what it is all about.

Beyond  our  basic  material  needs for  food,  clothing,  and  shelter,  how  much  is  enough?  
In particular, how much money and how many possessions do we really need to live well and to be free? 

These are not questions that many people ask themselves in consumer societies today, but they are some of the most important questions of all.  Instead of  confronting  these  questions,  too many  people  today spend  their entire  lives  desperately  climbing  the  endless  ladder  of  consumerism,  seeking more and more income  to spend on more and more stuff. 
But at the end of life these  people inevitably discover  that  they  had  not  really  lived,  that  they  had wasted their only chance at life inside a shopping mall. 

A free and meaningful life, it turns out, does not actually depend on having all the latest consumer products or having the nicest house on the street. On the contrary, working long hours just to  ‘keep  up  with  the Joneses’  leaves  people  with  less  time  for  the  things  that really  matter  in  life,  like  friends,  family, community,  and  engaging  in  peaceful, creative activity. This is the stuff that makes life worth living, and the interesting thing is we don’t need to be rich to enjoy it all. 

The best things in life really are free.  Abundance is a state of mind.

The Simpler Way - A Practical Action Plan for Living More On Less

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Hope In A Changing Climate

If you ever needed to see that it is possible to rehabilitate our earth in even the most challenging situations then this is for you.

This documentary features stories from China, Rwanda and Ethiopia and shows how large areas of land that are in a state of complete environmental ruin can been regenerated.

In Rwanda the government recognised that the value of the land in it's natural state was more valuable that when it was exploited for it's natural resources.  One of the my favourite quotes from the documentary is: "Climate change is better withstood with trees.  You know humans no matter how intelligent we are, no matter how capable we are with all our technologies, we are helpless in the face of climate change. We have not yet properly understood the miracle preformed by trees".

Grab a cuppa, put your feet up for 30 minutes and check out Hope In A Changing Climate

Let me know what you think.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Bloody Bugs - Help Required

Today I discovered that our pantry had been invaded by pantry moths.

They have taken up residence in my plain Bakers flour.  Thankfully it appears they have not invaded the Rye, Spelt or wholemeal flours or anything else that I can find.  However I would have preferred to sacrifice one of these as they are all getting low unlike the 4kgs of flour that has been infested.  Grrrrrr.

Those little dark things are the caterpillars.
I am not sure how they got in there as I always freeze any flour or dried goods as soon as I purchase them to kill off any bugs or their eggs.  Only after a few days in the freezer do they get put into storage containers.  I guess the only explanation is that the container did not get sealed properly.  I have cleaned out the pantry so hopefully that is the end of it but I will also buy some moth traps just in case.

The nearly full container.
My question to you all is for suggestions on what to do with all that flour.  I do not really want to just throw it out but I also do not want to eat it.
So now I am thinking about what I could cook for the chickens so that at least the flour does not go fully to waste.  Obviously I can cook bread but I am wondering if anyone has any other ideas.

What would you do?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Book Giveaway

5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead

Just wanted to let you all know that Leigh over at 5 Acres and a Dream is having a giveaway of her book of the same name.

Leigh has a great blog  and I am sure the book will be just as good so if you are not already a follower I suggest you give he blog a try.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Menu Planning

There are plenty of benefits to be gained by menu planning including saving money, creating less waste, saving time, a sense of calm when it comes time to cook dinner and many more.  There are also lots of different ways of menu planning and as many web pages to match, and I think they all have something to offer.

As far as menu planning goes finding out what works for you and fits in with your lifestyle is very important, in fact it is the most important thing.  Because lets face it menu planning is supposed to make you life easier not create another job for you to do.

I like to menu plan because I find that it gives me all the benefits I listed above and it means that we eat healthier as there is nourishing food prepared rather than trying to find something quick to eat because I was not organised.

In our house I only menu plan for dinner and baking and my week runs from Wednesday to Tuesday because I have Wednesdays off and that is when I shop.  Do what ever works for you.

I think the most important part of menu planning is actually knowing what you already have on hand.  What is in your pantry, freezer, fridge and garden.
Now that you know what food you have on hand what is there than needs using up?  What odds and ends are lurking about in your fridge?  What do you have lots of?  For example multiple tins of creamed corn or tuna, zucchini going great guns in the garden or dozens of eggs.

We are fortunate enough to live on acreage and have raised both chickens and cattle for meat so we have a couple of chest freezers to keep it all in. I keep a list of  the meat that is in them attached to the outside so that things do not get forgotten or lost buried in the bottom.  As I take things out I cross them off but if you are working from a smaller freezer this may not be necessary.

My main tool for menu planning is the small whiteboard that I have on out fridge in the kitchen.  It comes with magnets on the back and you can pick them up from somewhere like Office Works.
I use a permanent marker and rule off a couple of columns on the right and a small section on the bottom left.
The columns are divided into 7 section for the days of the week.  In the right hand one I list the meals we are having and in the left hand column I list the tasks that I need to do on that day.   At the bottom I record the dates that the animals need worming, flea treatments etc and the large area on the left is where I record the shopping list.

The entire whiteboard

It is this left hand column that really makes the difference to me.  I record if I need to get meat out of the freezer and any baking or other preparation that I need to do.  
One of the things I am doing at the moment is making up meals and freezing them for my brother and sister in law as they are expecting their first baby this week.

You can see that this weekend when I have the oven on to make muffins
I will also be using it to make breadcrumbs.

At the bottom I record the dates that the animals need worming, flea treatments etc and the large area on the left is where I record the shopping list.

All the treatments for the dog and chickens plus changing the cockroach baits
which sadly in an old house like our are a necessity.
I think the reason this works so well is that is is highly visible, located in a place that you are frequently near and is simple and easy to understand even by husbands and kids.
It also gives the other members of the house hold the opportunity to add to the grocery list, regardless of if you actually buy these items, like when my hubby writes orange cordial it "accidentally" gets forgotten.

So this is what works for me, do you think it would work for you?
Do you have your own system?  How dies it differ?
What tips do you have for menu planning?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Driveway Upgrade

Back in 2009 when we brought this house there was no driveway at all.  It was just a couple of tyre marks on the grass.  I tried to find a photo but do not seem to have any.  We had a load of gravel, about 3 cubic metres tipped in a pile which I then spread by hand (never again) to give us a straight driveway from the street to the garage.
A year later we extended the gravel towards the house and into our newly rebuilt shade house, this I do have photos of.

Originally the area between the house and drive way was grass with a few pavers
which we put in at the same time as the first lot of gravel.

Another cubic metre of gravel was all it took to link the driveway with the house.
The gravel driveway made a big difference and we were no longer getting muddy feet trying to get inside. But there was never a proper edge and over time the gravel crept into the lawn and the lawn into the gravel.  So hubby gathered up a whole lot of stones we had lying around and made an edge to hold the gravel in place. He also took the opportunity to straighten the edge and level out some of the lumps where the dirt kept coming through and growing weeds.

Of course the number 1 helper is always involved.

Then we got the new gravel delivered which this time was not dumped in 1 big pile but spread out a bit, and it was Hubby who did the spreading this time.

Nice new edges the keep the gavel where it should be.
We are really happy with how it turned out and this just makes the front of the house look so much neater.

Hopefully the gravel is now thick enough to keep the weeds down too, time will tell.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A Duck Called Gus

Meet Gus.  He is a friendly, snail loving runner cross duck (I think).

Do I sound a bit vague about Gus?  Well that might have something to do with the fact that we were duck owners for exactly 1 day.
You see Gus (that's what Hubby called him) just turned up a few days ago in the paddock and it was clear from the start that he had been someones pet.  He was friendly and used to come running whenever we fed the chickens.  He knew what was going on and expected to be fed too.
The problem was that he kept coming in the yard and our dog Jessie is not to be trusted with feathered friends.  All she wants to do is chase them and catch them and after that, well I hate to think.

So this morning while Jessie was still tied up Hubby lured Gus into our spare chicken pen with some food.
He was very happy with the bit of grain and once he was in the pen I did a quick circuit of the garden and found some snails for him too.  He was very happy with those.
We set him up with a pool and left him alone.

Hubby really wanted to keep him but I knew that would not be possible without getting another duck to be his buddy and in reality that just meant more work and cost for us.
So this afternoon I spoke to one of our neighbours and asked them if they knew who he might belong to.  It turns out that he belonged to one of our other neighbours who passed away recently.  She had a a flock of ducks and one of her friends came and rounded them up after she died.  It turns out that poor old Gus got left behind.  He was probably hiding down at the dam.
Anyway one of the benefits of living in a small community is that the neighbour I called knew who had collected the ducks, and it was someone I have worked with on a couple of community projects.
So with one more phone call I was able to arrange to drop Gus off at their place so he could be reunited with his friends.

It is a bit of a relief to know he will be re-homed with his mates and that we are not going to have to take on another animal that we just don't need.  Although I have to admit we got quite attached in just one day, the big sooks that we are.

Does this happen to you too?  Do you get attached to animals quickly?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Stories Of Simplicity

I had scheduled this post for while I was in hospital but for some reason Blogger decided it not to post it.

This is a compilation of individual stories from a wide range of people living in different situations and their take on what it is to live a simple life.  It even includes a story from Liz over at 8 Acres.

It may take a while to open but be patient because it is worth the read, and once you have downloaded it you should be able to save it to you computer.

Stories of Simplicity - Re imagining the Good Life

Monday, 3 March 2014

Slow Living Monthly Link Up February 2014

Linking up with Christine again this month but because of my recent hospital stay there has not been much going on round here, well that's how it feels.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
Before heading off to hospital I did a heap of cooking and froze lots of meals for Hubby so that he had go to meals for whenever he needed them.  I suspect that there were a few meals of bacon and eggs and toasted sandwiches while I was away but that just means there are now meals left that I also get to enjoy.

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.
In addition to the above there have been more pickled jalapenos and some vegetable soup for me during my recovery.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.

Our main thing at the moment is to clear out as much clutter as possible.  One of our local  churches are having a garage sale to raise money for a local charity so we packed up 10 boxes and sent them off, plus some floor rugs, lamps and a fish tank.

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.

Just the usual happening on this front.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
The garden is pretty bare at the moment.  We have had a good supply of beans, herbs, chillies, tomatoes and eggplant but it has been dry for a while and while I was away some things have died.  I am also about to face a pretty lean period as I have not got any seeds or seedlings growing yet, something I need to get on to.

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
This has been a bit of a void in February so I must make time to get some balance back in this area of my life.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have had had plenty of time to read this month due to my hospital stay and recovery period so I have had my nose in a book permanently.  I have worked my way through Bill Mollisons - A Permaculture Designers Manual.

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. Other than this I have taken a step back this year as I have other things I need to dedicate my time to.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
My bother in law and sister in law are about to have their first baby so we celebrated with a baby shower.  I am looking forward to meeting the newest edition to our family and Hubby's family are all excited too as this will be the first grandchild.

What have you been up to?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Plastic Bag Free March

In 2012 I participated in Plastic Free July which is a Western Australia initiative and it was quite an eye opener into how hard it is to avoid plastic and how deeply ingrained into our society it is.

This year in Queensland we have Plastic Bag Free March which I have signed up for.  The aim is to eliminate single use plastic bags by encouraging people to find alternatives.  Here are some of the reasons to get involved.

 Why get involved
  • The National Litter Index (NLI) released in August 2013 found that Queensland is the worst performing mainland State.
  • The Clean Up Australia Day 2012 Rubbish Report for Queensland showed that plastics make up 51% of the rubbish collected.
  • Almost 20% of plastic packaging items picked up around Queensland since April 2013 has been plastic bags.
  • The running tally of litter collected by Keep Queensland Beautiful shows that nearly 20% of plastic packaging items collected are single use plastic bags.
  • Supermarkets account for 53% of plastic bag use; 47% come from other retail outlets.
  • Every year, over six million tonnes of rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans.  Plastic accounts for 80% of debris found in the world’s oceans. Of this, 10% is plastic bags.
  • Plastic in the ocean kills over one million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals annually.
  • Ingested marine debris was responsible for killing about a third of turtles found dead in Moreton Bay.
If you want to be involved you can register here.  If you can't be involved please spread the word.

I will keep you updated with my progress, in the mean time check out this You Tube Clip

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Back From Hospital

I am back home now after a recent planned hospital stay.  I spent a period of time after my operation recovering at my in laws and just returned home yesterday.

It is nice to be home although I am still on "light" duties for a while which I am finding frustrating but I guess that leaves me more time for blogging.