Monday, 22 December 2014

Extending Our Native Tree Strip

Just recently we have had some good rain so we have taken advantage of adding a few more trees to our nature strip on the rear boundary of our property.  It just happened to coincide with the free tree giveaway form our local council where we were allowed 10 free trees.

Looking back down the boundary you can see that the ones we planted 4 years ago are now over 2 metres tall.
We know that we will never be the ones who will get to see these trees fully grown but we are still committed to planting out native trees that attract birds, insects, koalas and other native animals.
Our block of land had been cleared of almost every tree which is a real shame which I think is a real shame as established trees add a lot to a property.

Here's hoping whoever buys our pace will appreciate our efforts.

Have you had to plant lots of trees at your place?  Do you get free trees fro your council?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Great Wardrobe Clear Out of 2014

Over the last 10 months I have been loosing weight slowly but surely and have so far lost over 30kg.  I won't go into all the ins and outs of it, but the excess weight was mainly due to a medical condition.  However when you add a office job and a love of cooking and eating it was a bad combination.
The medical condition has now been addressed through medical intervention and this along with a reduction in calories has facilitated the weight loss.  

This has resulted in my wardrobe getting a great big clean out.  So far I have cleared out over 70% of my clothes and I am looking at getting rid of more all the time.
Every week I go back to my wardrobe and review everything again as some clothes have been harder to get rid of than others.  Some items  that were hard to get rid of were clothes that were still in really good condition and others were items that I really liked.  For a while I was tried to convince myself that I would wear them again or would alter them.  I was kidding myself in 99% of cases.

At this stage I have now gotten rid of all of my winter clothes with the exception of a few woolen items that can be layered with other clothes.
I have also gotten rid of most of my summer clothes except for farm clothes as those do not matter if they are baggy and unflattering and just add a belt to pants that are too big and you are good to go.

I have not been replacing things except where absolutely necessary and I have made a decision to dramatically reduce the number of clothes I own moving forward.
I still have more clothes than I need and therefore I am going to just keep giving a few away every week to the Op shop until I feel that my wardrobe has slimmed down (excuse the pun) to a more minimal collection.

I must say I never thought I had that many clothes but once I started getting rid of some I realised I was wrong.  Perhaps I did not have many compared to a lot of people but I still had far more than what I actually need.

I am not sure how few clothes I can get away with but I am on my way to finding out.

Has anyone else dramatically scaled back their wardrobe?  
How many/few clothes do you own?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Petition and Belinda The Single Fish

I received this email today and there is the opportunity for you to have your say about the proposed development.
I just added my thoughts about the project on the electronic submission form at this link.  It is not difficult all you have to do is add a few of your thoughts and feelings about the proposed development to the form and send it off.  If you have time please take the time to add your voice. 
And check out the clip below, it is very clever.

 "Once again the Government is trying to fast-track the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. Environment Minister Greg Hunt given a ludicrously short window for the public to comment on plans to dump millions of cubic metres of dredge spoil on a Great Barrier Reef wetland.
If approved, construction in the wetlands could begin as early as January 2.
The dredging and dumping is to facilitate mining giant Adani's Abbot Point coal port expansion. Adani has been unable to secure funding for the project yet, and there's a chance it may never go ahead. Meaning that dredging of seabed and dumping on the wetlands could happen for no reason at all.
It's time for our Government to stop fast-tracking the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
Can you please make a submission and ask for our Reef to be protected? Our Government needs to understand how unpopular these decisions are with the Australian public.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Gardening at 87

While we were in New Zealand I got to spend some time with my maternal grandparents.  The still live in the own home at 85 (my Nan) and 87 (my Pop) and are both still very active especially my Nan who plays golf, bowls, goes swimming and boogie boarding in summer, rides her bike and even still skis in winter and even has a ski pass booked for next year when she will be 86.

My Pop has always been a gardener and for as long as I can remember he has been growing amazing potatoes, awesome pumpkin crops, and huge cauliflower, cabbages and lettuces and so many other veggies.  When they moved from their 8 acres to their city section we all wondered which of all the small bits of lawn would be sacrificed for his veggie patch.  You see the section is flat where the house is but the back drops away steeply which you can see in the photo below.

This is the view from the back of the house and the tree tops that you see just below the low hedge
are growing about 10m below in the gully

Well Pop just started terracing the steep bank building small garden beds separated but wind screens to slow the win that races up from the gully below.  He put in a set of steps and created a large terrace at the bottom.

Even the smallest spaces are used

Then below the large terrace he created, there are a couple of fruit trees and a grape vine planted.

The large terrace currently planted with leeks potatoes, corn silverbeet and lettuce.
There are 2 compost bins and a near vertical retaining wall to the right of the photo.
The fruit trees are planted below and you can just see the tops of them and there is a
grape vine on the other side of the wind cloth.
Their section is surrounded by native bush that grows on the sides of the gully and right up to the edge of the garden and vertical frames allow growing space to be expanded.

If you look at the bottom left of the above picture you can see that even the pathways
have more terraces added to them.

There is also another small garden squeezed in beside the garage where there is a lemon tree and a mandarin tree and a few more veggies.  The garden produces most of the vegetables that they eat and are given away to the family as well, and they are always amazing quality.

I feel blessed to have grown up in a family where providing for yourselves was just part of every day life and I hope to be gardening into my eighties as well.

Who are the gardeners in your family?

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

It is going to sound like I was joined at the hip to the stove over the weekend but strangely I actually found time to do a whole lot of other things as well.  Now that I look back at how much I got done this weekend I am quite surprised since I was fighting off a migraine all weekend and had an afternoon nap on Saturday for a few hours.

I started this relish on Friday night as the vegetables need to be salted and drained overnight.  It is a new recipe to me that I found to try and use up some of the zucchini glut we still have.  I will post the recipe once I have tried it an I am happy with the result.

I used some lovely meaty bones from our recently killed cow to make some beef stock.

I made a test batch of Orange and Almond Biscotti which I will be giving to a few people as gifts this Christmas.  I was pretty happy with the recipe, which I adapted from my original one, and it is really easy so I will share it later this week.

I also had a go at making a Christmas cake.  I normally make a Very Boozy Christmas Pudding but this year I decided to have a go at a Christmas Cake.  I should have phoned my mum for her recipe as she makes a great Christmas Cake but I decided was too impatient and used one online.  It made a very very tall cake and it took ages to cook.  As I am still dousing it in alcohol I can't give you the verdict yet but I am hoping it will be ok.  I used the dried fruit I had on hand rather than go out and buy more because that was what the recipe indicated.  This allowed me to use up some dried fruit that I had on hand that was a bit dry and crystallised but I figured since the fruit was going to be soaked in alcohol it would plump up just the same and it did.

Mixed dried fruit that was a bit chrystallised.

The dried fruit I had on hand sultanas, currents, apricots, mixed fruit and cranberries

The cake ready to go into the oven

I also cooked up some very tasty sticky chicken wings for dinner.  These are so easy and very tasty.  I just marinade them for an hour in 1 1/2 cups of the BBQ sauce I make each year and added a table spoon of fennel seeds, 2 table spoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  Then I tipped the whole lot into a baking tray and covered with foil and baked at 200 degrees for 35 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes (or until sticky) basting with the sauce and turning after 10 minutes (or every 10 minutes until done).

And finally just for Lynda who I have been promising a low carb recipe, I made some baked egg cups.

I do not follow a recipe for this as I use what ever I have on hand but the basic idea is the same.

Baked Egg Cups

Grease some muffin tins and line with a ring of streaky bacon (the thin end) and then add a filling of beaten egg, salt and pepper, grated cheese. diced asparagus, finely chopped parsley and spring onions and pour into the lined muffing tins.  Bake at 180 degrees until set in the middle.

This weekend I also lined some of the muffing tins with thin strips (about 3mm thick) of zucchini and I added the bacon diced up in the middle along with a mix of creamed corn, egg, grated onion, grated cheese and parsley.

You can modify this recipe to include what ever you have on hand including diced cooked veggies and cooked meat.

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

Friday, 12 December 2014

Gingerbread Biscuits

At this time of year many people are baking gingerbread biscuits and I thought I would share my recipe.  This one uses ground cardamon as well as the ginger and I sometimes bake these during the year as well not just at Christmas. During the year I just use a non Christmas shape cutter but at Christmas I like to make these into Christmas trees.  This recipe is easy to double and the cooked biscuits freeze well.

Gingerbread Biscuits

125 gm Butter
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1/4 C Golden Syrup
1 egg Yolk
1 3/4 C Plain Flour (Sifted)
2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp Ground Cardamon
1 Tsp Baking Soda

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the sugar and butter until the mix is pale and creamy then add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well then tip out on your bench and knead till smooth.  Roll into a large ball and wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Remove dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured bench to about 5mm thick.  Cut out your shapes  and bake for 10-12 minutes.  When cooked allow to stand on the tray for 5 minutes before moving the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
You will need to roll out all the dough scraps as you go and if the dough gets too soft to handle just place back in the fridge for a few minutes.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

So what do you bake when you have truckloads of zucchini? Well Chocolate Zucchini Cake of course.

This is a really easy recipe and my friends kids loved it although I never told them what was in it, I just called it chocolate cake.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

115 gm Butter or 1/2 Cup Olive oil
2 Cups of Flour
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp salt
180 gm Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Instant Coffee dissolved in 2 Tbs of water
3 Large Eggs
350 gm Unpeeled Grated Zucchini
160 gm 70% Cocoa Chocolate roughly chopped or chocolate chips.

Pre Heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease a 25 cm round or 22 cm square cake tin.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time mixing well between each egg.  Then mix in the vanilla and coffee.
Add the grated zucchini and chocolate to the dry ingredients and mix together so that the zucchini is well distributed and not clumping together.  Fold the zucchini mix into the batter and mix until just combined,(the mix will be quite thick).
Pour into the cake tin and bake for between 40 and 60 minutes (it will depend on your oven) until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Transfer the tin to a rack and cool for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges to loosen before turning out.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Worth Watching

We don't get SBS at our place but I like to keep an eye out for any really interesting documentaries that are on.

There is a really interesting series about climate change and the different ways impacts are being felt across America and the world.
Separate stories around climate change unfold across nine episodes, told by a cast of A-list Hollywood celebrities and high-profile journalists, including Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Michael C. Hall, Ian Somerhalder, Olivia Munn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, America Ferrara, and more. These correspondents travel to areas throughout the U.S. and around the world to interview both experts and ordinary people affected by, and seeking solutions to, the impacts of climate change. 

I have only seen the first 2 episodes so far but I have been really impressed by the way it has been put together.  I really hope that our polititians are watching this too although I am not hopeful.  I know that Julie Bishop announced that Australia will contribute $200 million to the UN Green Climate Fund but I son't think this would have even happened except that many of the world leaders have put pressure on the government.  We really need to do a lot more since according to the latest OECD Greenhouse Gas Emissions Index Australia is ranked as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita how disgraceful.

Years of Living Dangerously - Dry Season

Years of Living Dangerously - End of the Woods

Years of Living Dangerously -  A Dangerous Future

The other series I found really informative is What's the Catch? presented by Matthew Evans the Gourmet Farmer. This documentary series highlights the complex and sometimes shocking truth about Australia’s seafood. It also launches a campaign around seafood labelling that will enable all Australians to make better choices when it comes to buying and consuming seafood. 
We do not eat a lot of seafood and most of what we eat is a locally caught fresh water fish (therefore not sea food) that is a pest species, but it has made me think a lot more about the other seafood we buy.

Whats the Catch? - Episode 1

Whats the Catch? - Episode 2

Whats the Catch? - Episode 3

Have you seen any of these documentaries?  What did you think?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Raw Milk NZ Style

While we were in New Zealand we learnt that just around the corner from my parents place a dairy farm had set up their own little self service milk store right at their farm gate.

It is a purpose built bottle filling station open to the public 7 days a week.  Inside there are 2 filling stations, a vending machine selling glass bottles and lids, bottle carry bags and rechargeable milk cards that you can load with money.

The filling station fills 1 litre bottles and all you do is put in your money or card, put your bottle in the little cupboard under the spout and press the button and the machine automatically dispenses 1 litre of milk.

You could bring your own bottle from home but you can also make a one off purchase of one of theirs (or if you forget to bring yours).  This dairy farm have clearly invested quite a bit of money to set up this farm shop but from all reports the shop is doing great and the community is really enjoying having easy access to raw milk.

Oh how I wish that it was so easy to access raw milk here in Australia but our laws are different and mean most of us have no access to raw milk let alone raw milk that came from the cow that day.

If you are interested in more information about the benefits of raw milk click here or here or here.

At least we know where we can easily access raw milk when we first move over and eventually we hope to have our own cow.

Do you have/wish you had access to raw milk?  Is it important to you?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

More Work On Our NZ Farm

One of the big jobs we wanted to tackle while were in NZ was planting out the rest of our fenced of shelter strip.
Last year when I was back in NZ we got the fencing started and planted out about 150 trees.  But that did not even get us half was down our 190m boundry.  So the goal this time was to get it fully planted, get the fence finished and get the big dirt pile moved that I dug through by hand last year.
Over the past 12 months my parents have been mowing around the trees and replacing any trees that did not make it (including those that got ring-barked by a rogue whipper snipper operator).

So on our first morning we packed the trailer with a barrel of rainwater (we do not have water at the property) all the plants, spades, carpet squares for placing around the plant to help keep the grass down and the moisture in the soil and a picnic lunch.

The plants almost all come from mums garden and are a variety of natives that I listed in this post.  And this year half way our trip we also got some different natives from my Aunties garden.

On arrival this year we first inspected the plants from last year some of which were a bit had to fin in the long grass.

Hubby and Mum checking for plants in the long grass
We made our way down the fence line checking on the growth of the plants.  Some seem to be doing really well others had not done as well.

Then it was on with the work.  Hubby used the whipper snipper to clear the grass around all the trees and the rest of the strip that was yet to be planted.

Once the grass was trimmed back it was easier to see the trees and which had done well.

Then Mum and I cracked on with more planting.

By the time day 2 rolled around we had a good system going with Hubby going ahead digging holes and mum and I planting behind.  Then we all took time carting water, collecting up empty pots and putting the carpet squares around the plants.

As we got closer and closer to the end it was a great feeling.

Nearly at the end

Our boundary starts about 50 meters past the second power pole

While we were there I organised for a digger operator to come and move the big pile of dirt inside our planting strip that I dug through by hand last year.
It took him less than 30 minutes to move the entire pile (compared to my trwhich he spread out in the gateway to fill in the hollow there.  It turned out there was quite a lot of stones in the pile so I am really glad I did not have to move it my hand.

The dirt pile dug through last year
To remove the dirt pile we had pulled out the timber end fence for the digger driver to get access. Once the dirt pile was gone we could finish wiring the fence and put the stay posts (these stop the end posts from being pulled inwards) in place.

Dad and Hubby finishing the fence
Below is a photo of the entire boundary.  Our property ends at the third power pole in the distance.

We almost made it to the end but we need about 30 more plants to completely fill the strip. Unfortunately mum did not have any more seedlings big enough to transplant yet.

Check out how much the grass grew in a week since Hubby whipper snipped 
After planting out all these trees we spent another day in mums garden digging up more seedlings and potting them up to get a good root system going in the pot.  We potter up about 100 more plants so mum has plenty to fill in any gaps for ones that do not make it plus extras as we will need lots more shelter trees in the future.  In fact I think we will be planting out hundreds of trees a year for many years to come since we are starting out with a blank canvas.

We have now planted nearly 400 trees in just this strip and it is such a good feeling to have gotten so many in the ground.  And hopefully all these natives will attract native wildlife in the future.

Have you had to plant out lots of trees/plants at your place?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Harvest Basket

Every second day this weekI have been filling my basket  from the garden.  Most days there have been a number of zucchini and eggplants and a few tomatoes.

This year I grew small varieties of eggplants as the large ones tend to get attacked by bugs before they are ready for harvesting.  This also happens to capsicums so this year I am growing the long sweet peppers and mini capsicums.
Then there is the bug that turns my tomatoes to mush grrrrr.  I have grown both beefsteak and russian black and I have just picked the last of the fruit on them (most of them green) as they were all either getting affected by the bug or were damaged by the hail storm we had last week.  Thankfully they ripen up pretty quickly on the bench in this weather since tomatoes don't need the sun to ripen just warmth.
All of my lettuce has bolted to seed with the heat and so has the parsley.  This really hot weather has also stopped my tomatoes from flowering and since they are already 4 foot high and not looking so great I am considering pruning them back and letting them shoot again.  This is not a method I have tried before but I figure I the established root system should be able to produce new shoots.

My sad tomato plants

It will be a bit of an experiment but since I had considered pulling them out all together I am prepared to give it a go.

Has anyone else ever tried this?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Buttery Orange Cake and Peanut Brownies

As mentioned in my Slow Living November post these are a couple o sweet treats I whipped up in the last week.  The peanut brownies recipe is a modified version of my Nans recipe and the orange cake is a new one that I tried.  
The orange cake is very buttery and it needed more orange flavour in my opinion so next time I will add all the orange rind from my oranges as well.  
The peanut brownies have less sugar (and I still think they could do with a bit less) that my Nans recipe, more cocoa and uses salted peanuts in their husks.  Both recipes are really easy and I made them both on the same day one after another to save having the oven on twice and so that I only had to soften 1 block of butter.

Buttery Orange Cake

250 gm Soft Butter
1 1/4 Cup Castor Sugar
4 Eggs
1 2/3 Self Raising Flour
3/4 Cup o Orange Juice
All the orange rind from your oranges
2 Tbs Boiling Water

Preheat you oven to 160 degrees and grease a 28 cm round spring form tin then line the base with baking paper.
Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time making sure they are well combined.  Fold in the sifted flour orange rind, orange juice and boiling water.
Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes or until cooked.  Stand the cooked cake for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Peanut Brownies

250 gm soft butter
1 1/3 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
3 Cups of Plain Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
A Pinch of Salt
4 Tablespoons Cocoa
1 1/2 Cups of Salted Peanuts (husks on)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat well. sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa.  Mix until fully combined then add the peanuts and mix until evenly distributed.
Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on a lined or greased baking tray.  Flatten with a fork then bake at 180 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Slow Living November 2014

Linking up with Linda who is now our gracious host having taken over from Christine in hosting the Slow Living Nine.  I love joining in each month and reflecting on what I have achieved, it is also great to hear what everyone is up to and share in their achievements.
We spent just over 2 weeks of the month in NZ leaving house sitters to look after Jessie, the chickens and the garden.  We had a great trip and I have lots to report so I will include a little here but most of this post will be about what else happened in the month.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
We spent half of the month away but we are still drowning in zucchinis and eggs. Our house sitters made a big batch of pasta from our eggs and left us some along with some pancetta so we would have a quick and easy meal on our return.  Teamed up with some of our tomatoes, basil, capsicum, garlic and spring onions from the garden it was indeed a tasty and delicious meal.

There have also been a few sweet treats like this Buttery Orange Cake and Peanut Brownies during the month.

And I used up yet more zucchinis in the chocolate zucchini cake which I took along when we helped friends move house.  It was a hit even with the kids.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe later this week.

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.
This month we finally filled our freezers with meat from Freezer 2.  Such a huge amount of meat 379kg in all.  There will not be much else getting stockpiled in the freezers for a while as they are full to the brim.  We are even storing meat at Hubby's parents house.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
I have been reducing the clothes I own and sending them off to the op shop for someone else to enjoy.  

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 producing lots of herbs, we are inundated with zucchini, there are spring onions, beetroot, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber and eggplant.  I have dill and coriander going to seed which I collecting for replanting and for use in cooking.

Yesterday's harvest

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
The past month has been way too busy for anything creative but hopefully I will have some time over the next month.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have finally through a couple of books I started last month and thanks to our holiday they are finished... well almost.

Enhance Community
Nothing to report on this front in Australia but on our trip to NZ we have started to build relationships in and explore the community that we will live in.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.

My parents and I

November's trip to NZ was full to over flowing of get together's with family and friends.
We meet our new niece and had time to enjoy our other nieces and nephew as well.
We celebrated my Pops 87th birthday and my sister in laws 36th birthday.

Me with my Granny (Dad's Mum)

My nieces helping their mother blow out the candles
Then they helped their great grandfather (my Pop) with his candles

My brothers three girls including 2 week old baby Alice with their great grandfather

Me and my Nan and Pop (mums parents)
It was especially nice to spend time with my grandparents who are now all in their mid to late eighties.

What have you been up to?