Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Putting My New Old Boots To Work

For a while now I have needed to get myself a pair of work boots and I was about to start shopping around for some when my mother in law tells me there are two old pairs of doc martins in their spare room.
The boots used to belong to either Hubby or his brother and have been in that cupboard since they both moved out of home about 20 years ago.
So I tried both pairs on and one of the pairs fit perfectly.  They are actually a size bigger than I would normally take but I wear an orthotic so that accounted for the larger size.
The boots were in great condition and the only thing was that the leather was a bit dry.  I gave them a good polish and they were set to go.

Today my new boots were put to work today dealing with a neglected garden bed.  We have two veggie beds near the house and two out near the chicken pens.  This one has been out of use for the last 8 months and was full of weeds, self seeded cheery tomatoes and the kikuyu grass was starting to invade.

You can see how overgrown it was but thankfully it was mainly milk thistles and chick weed which we fed to the chickens and they were in chicken heaven/

Number one helper was on site to make sure we were working hard and that there we no forgotten bones hiding among the weeds.

When the bed was cleared of weeds we added 4 wheel barrows of mushroom compost that we have had breaking down since January.  We started digging it through and then I decided that the chickens would do a much better job plus get the benefit of all the bugs.
So we caught a few chickens and added them and some temporary shade to the pen for the rest of the day.

Well so we thought.  I turned out that after a few hours they had had enough and were ready to go back to their pen.  It's hard to find good workers these days.
So it looks like I will be back out there on the weekend digging in the compost by hand.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

This weekend was a busy one for me but i still managed to get a lot done in the kitchen.

There was bread making.

Then I picked some Lemon Myrtle leaves to be dried and ground for baking and some were made into a a liquid.  I will post more about this later in the week.

I also baked a pear and almond cake with ginger syrup.  And it was delicious.

Pear and Almond Cake With Ginger Syrup

185 gm Soft Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups of Dark Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
1 Cup Ground Almonds
2 Cups of Self Raising Flour
1/2 Cup Milk
2 Ripe Pears, Peeled, cored and each cut into 12 segments
A 3 cm Piece of Ginger, Finely Grated

If you have a fan forced oven preheat it to 160 degrees other wise heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Line the base of a 22 cm spring form tin and grease the sides.
Use and electric mixer to cream the butter, half the sugar and the vanilla extract until light and creamy.  then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each one, until fully incorporated.
Then using a spatula fold in the ground almonds.  Once the almonds are fully combined fold in half the flour then the milk followed by the remaining flour until all are fully combined.
Scoop into the tin smoothing out the top then press your pear segments into the batter.
Bake for 1 hour or until springy to the touch in the centre.
Mean while add the remaining sugar, the ginger and 1 cup of water to a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Then raise the heat and bring to a boil for 10 minutes until it is slightly syrupy then strain into a jug.
When the cake is cooked cool in the pan for 5 minutes then release the sides.  Brush a bit of the syrup over the top of the hot cake to give it a nice glaze and then let the cake cool completely.
Serve with a good dollop of thick natural yogurt and some of the remaining syrup to drizzle over each piece.

And finally I roasted up some of those lovely tomatoes we were given with zucchini, chorizo and lots of garlic.  It was lovely served with pasta for a simple supper.

What happened in you kitchen over the weekend?

Friday, 23 May 2014

Strange Garlicy Happenings

For the last few years I have grown my own garlic and in most cases I have used my own garlic when it comes to replanting.
Last year I ended up buying some new garlic for planting as what I had left from the previous years crop had gone soft and hollowed out and I did not have enough to plant out.

I ended up with a good harvest last year and we still have enough left to get us through another few months.

The other when I was getting some more garlic out of the bag I have it all stored in I noticed that most of the ones I had left had these little bulbs growing in what would have been the leaf part when they were still growing.
These are not the result of the bulb flowering as that never happened and I do not think they are scapes as the garlic never took on the general curly look that scapes have.  Plus scapes normally form lots of little bulblits if left to mature.  Mine all have two little round cloves growing in the dried foliage and separated by a gap.

What do you think?  Have you ever seen this before?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Worming Mash For Chickens

This is a natural recipe that I have used for a while and it seems to do the trick.  It calls for fresh turmeric which I have but when I didn't I used the powdered spice and I did not notice a difference.
This recipe uses a lot of chillies but don't be concerned for your chickens as they are not bothered but the heat of chillies.  In fact they will strip a chillie bush bare given half the chance.

For 10 Chickens:

1 Litre of Full Cream Milk
6 Cloves of Garlic
4 Chillies
1 TBS Paprika
1 TBS Fresh Turmeric or Ground (if you do not have access to fresh)

Crush the garlic and chop the Chillies then add both to the milk along with the diced fresh turmeric and paprika.  Bring to a simmer the turn off the heat and leave over night.
The next morning reheat the mix to porridge temperature and if you have a stick blender use it to blend the mix.  If not it will not matter as the chickens will still eat the chillies.
Mix your worming mix with 2 grated carrots and 1kg of layers mash.

Feed this first thing in the morning to chickens who have fasted for 24 hours, a week before the full moon. This is also a good time to dust your chickens for lice, we use Pestene.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Sunshine Award


Blogger has been naughty and did not publish this post of mine when I asked it to so I am slotting it in here and my recipe for chicken worming mash will be up tomorrow.

I was awarded the Sunshine Award by Kathy over at Our Simple and Meaningful Life so a big thank you to Kathy for nominating me.

Rules of the Sunshine Award: 
1) Display the award on your ever deserving blog
2) Say "thank you" to the wonderful person to have nominated you
3) Give us 10 interesting things about yourself
4) Nominate some of your favorite blogs
5) Link to those blogs in your post and let them know that you've nominated them!

So 10 interesting things about me:

1. I spent some of my teenage years living and going to school in Chile
2. Therefore I speak Spanish as a second language.
3. I hate bananas, I would like to like them and every year I give them another go but I still don't like them.
4. I learnt to ski when I was 4 and am confident on all but the hardest "black" runs
5. I work for a large company and manage 1 staff member who is actually not a real person.  They are a virtual assistant designed to answer questions from our customers using our website.
6. I have lived in 12 different homes in the last 15 years including 5 years in this house (yes that is a lot of moving)
7. I will be 36 in just over a month and I still have 3 grandparents (all in their late 80's) who I adore.  Yes I am very blessed.
8. I have a fantastic relationship with my in laws and love them dearly. No mother in law jokes round here.
9. I am still friends with someone I have known since I was 4.
10. I love fantasy novels with my favourites being, The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings and the Eragon series.

Now for my favourite blogs:

I really enjoy Lynda's blog Living In The Land Of Oz
Then there is Liz at Eight Acres with who I have a lot in common
Linda at Greenhaven always inspires me
Finally Christine at Slow Living Essentials has some much great stuff to share.

There are so many others I could have listed but I tried to keep my list small.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

We had quite a busy weekend and got a lot of little jobs done.  I also spent a few hours in the kitchen with good results.

The first thing I had to get done was a worming mash for the chickens and I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Preparing the worming mash

Then I needed to think about how I was going to deal with some produce given to me by a neighbor.  The gave me a whole lot of lovely lemons from their place and half of the ox heart tomatoes that another of our neighbors had given them.
The tomatoes have been picked green to prevent them getting stung by insects and going bad but after just 3 days a few of them have started to turn red.  I am not sure what I am going to do with them.  I thought pickle but there is already a good stock of pickle in our pantry.
Ideas anyone?

My lovely gifted produce

I used some of the lemons to make preserved lemons and then because I had lemon juice left over I made some lemon sago.

I poured my lemon sago into takeaway containers as they are
easy to store in the fridge.

Lemon Sago

1 Cup Sago 
3 Cups Water
Juice and Zest of 2 large Lemons
2 TBS Golden Syrup
1/3 Cup Sugar

Soak the sago in the water in a large saucepan for 30 minutes then add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to the boil.  Reduce to a simmer, stirring for 10 minutes until the sago is soft and the mix has thickened.
Pour into individual bowls and chill until set.

Finally in a bid to clean out my freezer I used up some frozen cherries that I think have been in there since the summer of 2012/13.  I turned them into cherry chutney so the fact they have been frozen all that time will not make any difference.

What did you get up to in the kitchen over the weekend?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Pot Roast - An Oldie But A Goodie

As we get close to having our cow (Freezer 2) killed for our consumption we are trying to use up the last of the beef we have from the previous cow (Freezer 1).
We have used up almost all of the meat except for a few cuts that are more so the type used for winter meals like roast, corned beef and osso bucco.
One of the cuts we had was a rolled rib roast.  Often these rolled roasts are quite large but since there is just the 2 of us we asked our butcher to halve the size of ours so we are not eating it for a week.  This is a cut of meat that needs slow cooking and we think it is delicious when done as a pot roast. 

Rolled Roast
When I make a post roast there is no measuring or fancy ingredients and it is a tasty and cheap meal.
Other than the meat I use some home made beef stock, onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic and a bay leaf.

The first thing I do is rub the roast over with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Then I brown it off in the pot I am going to use to cook it in.  This can be cooked in a slow cooker, on the stove top or in the oven.  Today I used the oven as I had been using it for cooking something else.    If you are using the slow cooker it is best to still brown the meat off then use some of your stock to de-glaze the pan and put all of this into the slow cooker so you get the most flavour possible.  It is really important that you get a really good amount of colour on the top, bottom and sides.  

Getting some colour on the sides
Once the meat is well coloured add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and cover before putting in a low oven (160 degrees) and cooking for 3 - 4 hours.

When there is 1 hour to go in the cooking time add some peeled potatoes, taste test for seasoning and return to the oven.

When the potatoes are cooked remove the meat and veggies and set aside in a warm place.  Then place your pot on an element and add a few tablespoons of corn flour dissolved in cold water (the amount will depend on how much sauce there is) to the stock to make a gravy.  We like ours to be the consistency of thin custard but it is up to you.

We like to eat ours in a very rustic fashion with a few chunks of meat and some veggies covered in gravy but feel free to serve yours up however you want.

Do you make pot roast?
Are there any rustic meals you like to eat during the cooler months?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Recycling Soft Plastic

The other day I watched this documentary which is very American but it got me thinking about what happens to our plastic bags here.

I have been looking at our rubbish bin lately and thinking about how we can reduce what we throw out each week.  Not that we throw out a lot.  We usually have only 2 bags of rubbish in our bin each week but I think that we could be doing more.

One of the things that I have noticed often appears in our bin are different types of soft plastic.  Until just recently I was under the impression that these could not be recycled.
I was wrong!!

The following types of plastic can be recycled:
Plastic Shopping Bags
Pasta and Rice Bags
Lolly and Biscuit Packets
Fresh Fruit and Vegie Bags
Frozen Food Bags
Magazine and Newspaper Wrapping
Clean Plastic Wrap/Film
Old Green Bags
Bread Bags
Cereal Bags (personally I save these as they protect food from freezer burn and are great for keeping lettuce fresh)

Many Coles stores have a special bin where you can take all these types of plastics to be recycled.  To fine your nearest Coles store that offers this service click here.

And check out what they do with it:

Image from here where you can learn more about the company
 who make new products from our waste plastic.
I feel like I must have been living under a rock to have not know about this but I am so glad I do now.  We are about 45 km from our nearest drop off point but I will be making a point of taking our plastic when ever I go there.

Did you know this service existed?
Do you drop off your bags?

Below are some other links that relate to the subject that you might like to check out.

Recycling Near You
SITA's Recycling Tips
Clean Up Australia
Coles - Dealing with Waste
Planet Ark

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

This weekend saw me continue to make the most of food we have on hand instead of going shopping.  We has a small amount of a beef tagine leftovers frozen in the freezer which was a lot of sauce and not a lot of meat.  I decided that it really needed something to go with it to bulk up the meal that would also soak up the juices.  Normally I would have used couscous but I decided instead to go for a Olive and Thyme Bread and it was a winner.  I made a half batch of the below recipe but I should have made the full recipe as the bread did not last long at all.

Olive and Thyme Bread

3 Cups Bread Flour , plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
1/2 Cup Chopped Black Olives
3 TBS Olive Oil
3 TBS Fresh Thyme or 2 Tsp Dried Thyme
1 TBS Dried Yeast
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt

Mix the dried yeast with 5 TBS of the warm water and the sugar and leave 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
Once the yeast mix is frothy add the rest of the water, salt, olive oil  and thyme and mix to combine.
Add the flour gradually and mix to combine.  The dough will be quite sticky and once all the flour is incorporated add the olives and mix them through.
Cover and leave the mix to rise somewhere warm for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes take the dough out of the bowl and tip onto a floured bench and knead adding flour as you go until the dough is soft and no longer sticky.
Shape into loaves and transfer onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or into an oiled bread tin.
Leave to rise again until double in size.
Heat your oven to 220 degrees and once your bread has risen bake for 30 minutes or until cooked.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Making A Dog Coat On The Cheap

The weather has been getting really cold here at night over the last week getting down to just 2 degrees the other night.  We decided that this year we would get Jessie a dog coat to wear at night to help keep her warm in her kennel.
Last year we created a mattress stuffed with hay to keep her warm but it was dusty and we think it made her itchy.  We have also tried an actual dog mattress but Jessie turned it into a wrestling toy and pulled out all the stuffing.  So this year we have lined her kennel with a thick layer of newspaper topped with a layer of carpet, topped with an old doona (duvet) cover.  But even with these layers beneath her we thought a coat would be the best thing for her.
So I headed off to the local op shop to see if they had any polar fleece jumpers I could convert.  As it turned out I was able to pick up a polar fleece blanket that was being sold as a dog blanket as it had a hole in it.  It was only 50 cents and perfect for what I wanted.  I also picked up a set of double bed vintage sheets in good condition for $3.00 and a brand new coffee plunger for $3.00.  I have been on the look out for either a new tea pot or similar to make herbal tea in.

Op Shop Finds
I spoke to Liz the other day about the dog coats she made and decided that I would just make a paper template and sew it up from there.

My Paper template
I used a double layer of fabric as it was quite thin.  I sewed the two pieces together and inserted the tummy strap at the same time, then I turned it out so the seams were hidden.  I only had some narrow Velcro so I added 2 strips to the tummy strap and 2 strips to the front.

The finished product

Then it was Jessie's turn to model her new coat.

Jessie's new coat
 Doesn't she look pleased... not.
"Really?  You are really taking my photo while I sit here looking soooo impressed"
Jessie does not seem to mind her coat at all but when Hubby let her off from her kennel this morning the front of her coat had come undone and she had walked out of it.  I wondered if that would happen when she stretched because it was such thin Velcro that I used so I might have to add some stronger stuff or a button.

What have you been sewing lately?
Have you ever made pet coats?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Plastic Bag Obsession

Is it just me or are shops obsessed with trying to give customers plastic bags?

Hubby's pet hate is being offered a plastic bag for one or two items and he often comments that when he refuses a bag people look at him like he is a freak.  But what other people think does not stop us from refusing plastic bags.

The other day I was getting some groceries and the check out girl started packing them into plastic bags even though my green bags were sitting on top of my groceries.  Then when I pointed them out to her she asked me if I just wanted to take the ones she had already packed.  I told her that no I did not want them left in the plastic bags as we do not use plastic shopping bags.
She looked at me in a confused manner and asked "what never?"
I then simply said to her that I always carry green bags or cotton bags with me because I do not believe in using plastic bags.
She then said to me "oh yeah I keep green bags in my car boot, but I never remember to take them into the shops when I get my groceries so I end up with heaps of plastic bags from that.  I said to her that if I ever forget mine I just pack all my groceries back in the trolley and load them into bags when I get to the car.
Then she tells me she would be embarrassed to ask shop assistants to put things other than groceries in those bags.
I think she was pretty shocked when I replied saying "I think you should be more embarrassed accepting a plastic bag in this day and age when we know how much environmental damage they do and they are so easy to replace with re-usables".
She was not very talkative after that.
When I looked up the lady in the next checkout over, who was having her groceries packed into plastic bags, had obviously been listening because when she caught my eye she glanced down at all of her shopping packed in plastic bags and blushed badly then looked away.
There were other shoppers at the checkouts waiting so I have no doubt they all heard what I said as well and I am sure I gave them something to talk about.  And hopefully they do talk.

Perhaps this is a tactic we should use...

We are not 100% successful in keeping plastic bags out of our house and rubbish bags pose a big challenge but we really try and lately I have been looking at what to do with the ones we are left to deal with.

I know plastic bags are only a recent invention and humanity got by without them in the past so there is no doubt in my mind it can be done.

What tactics do you have for avoiding plastic bags?
Do you find that you are bombarded with plastic bags even when they are not really needed?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Garden Whip Around

There are only a few things happening in the garden at the moment but when I took a wander the other day I took some photos.

Our blood orange is loaded with fruit and the poor little tree is groaning under their weight.

Our Kaffir Lime is the same age as all our other citrus but is twice the size and twice as healthy.  It never seems to be affected by bugs when the other citrus are and it is fruiting for the first time this year.

This cherry tomato is self seeded and is growing like crazy even though we have had some cool nights, down around 2 degrees c, it is flowering and fruiting and it produces quite large cherry tomatoes which are about the size of an Australian 20 cent piece.

Sometimes growing pak choy can be a challenge here as the grasshoppers love to eat it and usually just leave a few stalks sticking up in the air.  This year I tried again and sowed a lot of seeds close together and they have done really well.  I am just thinning them out a few every day and adding them to dinner.

The late beans that I planted have climbed up their frame and are starting to flower.  Hopefully we will get a good number of beans before the weather really gets cold.

In other areas of the garden we have been topping up the mulch and we have planted some native grasses all around our water tanks.

Everything in the shade house is growing so well since the rain we had last month.  The little native violets are growing so well they are about to take over the path.

We have also gotten another job ticked off "The List" - installing garden edges.  We have used granite rocks that we collected from a local council dump which did some of edges.

And we used hardwood timbers slabs and old fence posts to do the rest of the garden beds.

It is such a good feeling to have this job done as it means we are pretty much finishing all the jobs on the list, not that we will not find other things to do.

What's going on in your garden?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Slow Living Monthly Link Up April 2014

Linking up with Christine again this month and this month seems to have been quite busy.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
All of our meals were cooked from scratch this month and I have been really focused on using up the food we have on had rather than doing any shopping.  We will be killing "Freezer 2" our cow (yes that really is her name) soon and we are trying to clear out our freezer of as much as possible.  We still have a small amount of  "Freezer 1" left (a couple of lots of corned beef and roasts) but there is also a bit of frozen fruit, some of our home killed roosters and other odds and ends.
Also Hubby has been off work since the end of January with an injury and as he is self employed he is on a income protection payment which is about half of what he normally earns so money is a bit tight at the moment.  This is an even bigger incentive to not go shopping and to use up things that we have on hand, so the pantry is also getting a clear out.

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.
Hubby has been off work since the end of January with an injury and as he is self employed he is on a income protection payment which is only about half of what he normally earns so money is a bit tight at the moment.  So instead of add ing to our stockpile we are actually making use of it since we are currently in a situation where we have had to cut costs.  This is an incentive to not go shopping and to use up things that we have on hand, so the pantry is also getting a clear out.

Chocolate Crunchies on hand for a sweet treat 
Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
I have been culling my old life style magazine collection and have only kept recipes that I want to try and ideas for the new house we will be building.  After tearing out these pages all the magazines went into the recycling bin.  Now that we have finished renovating we have been finding new homes for all the building materials we have left over.  We could try and sell some things but most things are not really salable so we are giving it away with the belief that what goes around comes around.

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 but I have managed to get some seeds planted and garlic in.  I have a late crop of climbing beans in and hopefully will start flowering soon, I have some pak choy that was sown last month and we are thinning it out and eating it and there are self seeded cherry tomatoes coming up all over the place.  I also have an egg plant bush that is still fruiting so we have enough veggies that we do not need to buy many to fill in the gaps.
The citrus are also fruiting and even though the trees are quite young we have already had a few lemons and limes and there are blood oranges to come.

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
I have picked up the crochet needle again and I have been practicing getting my stitches even and a good tension.  I will be going back to the pattern for the baby booties that I attempted and failed at as mentioned last month.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have been reading lots over the last month.  Liz lent me some great books and I am working my way through them.

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.
Hubby and I have had 2 camping trips in the last month one where we got rained out and one that was everything it should be, relaxing and spent with good company.  Even Jessie enjoyed herself.

Jessie chilling out and not letting her favourite toy out of her sight,
just in case we want to throw it again.

We also had a nice day at the beach.  Sometimes the simple things are the best.

What have you been up to?