Sunday, 26 February 2012

Bay of Plenty

Purple and yellow beans, tomatoes, bananas, sweet corn, apples
leeks, lemons, passion fruit and chilean guavas
After a week of awful weather and not daring to enter into the wet world of our soggy-bottom garden, I finally ventured out on Saturday and was rewarded with this great bounty of produce!  Eeeek!  Blessings always come in disguise.  Big bounty always means big processing marathon!  So I spent much of the afternoon creating several vegetable pies (5 to be precise) of different layers and sauces.  One was scoffed last night, the other 4 are frozen meals for later.  It is ironic we live in the Bay of Plenty!!
A lovely bunch of bananas fattening up....

I also made 2 bottles of passion fruit syrup for drizzling over puddings and ice-creams in winter, to evoke that memory of summer.  Our main passion fruit vines were culled because of a fungal disease but I have several vines planted all over the garden in haphazard spots, and we have been gathering these fallen fruits of the gods with much appreciation!  Thought we would have missed out on the taste delight of passion fruit, so am very grateful for our fence-hugging specimens out there.
1 cup of sugar boiled up with 2 cups passion fruit pulp.  Voila!
During this mammoth food processing session, I managed to blanch and freeze a bag of fresh green beans,  peel and freeze about 3 dozen small home-grown bananas for later baking sessions, as well as making 3 bottles of lemon curd or lemon honey.  I decided to use up our bantam eggs as we had collected 17 eggs over the last 3 weeks!!  Liz seems to do most of the laying and brooding, while Spence, the insectivorous terminator does most of the work tilling and scratching.  As the eggs are tiny, I substitued 2 of the yolks to every 1 recommended in the recipe.  So here it is:
Lemon Curd or Lemon Honey
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
grated rind and juice of 4 lemons
100g butter, cubed
Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl over simmering water.  Stir mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Mix in the lemon rind and juice.   Add butter gradually to the lemon mixture, whisking each time after an addition.  Pour mixture into hot, clean, dry jars and seal when cold.  Store in refrigerator.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezie.

A stainless steel bowl over a simmering pot of water becomes
a double boiler.

Simple ingredients:  home-grown lemons and home-laid eggs!
Add in some organic sugar.  Lemon Curd delight!

Lizzy, our egg-layer eggs-tra-ordinaire!
So apart from Kitchen Warfare (you shoulda seen the state of the kitchen after all the preserving!!), it was a very productive weekend!  We managed to pull out our elderberry, after much deliberation.  We decided that the size of the elderberry didn't warrant the harvest potential.  My daughter was not happy with the decision, having read that elderberry wine was the most heavenly experience!????  But now it has created a big space for us to plant our extra blueberry plants, which I know will be prolific in 2 years time!  Bring it on!!  Life is Change.  No better place to experience it than in the Good Food Garden!  Landscape changes and shape-shifts continuously as one crop grows and crowds out the space, then pruning or culling brings about a sense of emptiness again.  Our wildflower sowings have bloomed and died, and now the asters and dahlias are dressed in their finest colours, attracting the visitations of wonderful nectar and pollen gathering creatures.  It seems like we need an Air Control operating in our garden at the moment.  The air is full of buzzing, flitting, gliding, jetting, weaving winged creatures.  It is amazing to sit still and observe!  I want ot burst into Louis Armstrong's song:  "What a wonderful world....."
Monarch on dahlia

Bee on aster.
And now for more shitty conversation.  Toilet paper.  Australia's Totally Gourdgeous (all the musical instruments in this band are crafted from gourds) penned a song: "Do you put your toilet roll, paper over, or paper under, it can be a major blunder, it could split the world asunder..... if the toilet tissue issue drives you up the wall, it's neither better or worse, it's just different that's all"  I have been on a mission.  First I bought bulk toilet paper which was supposed to be made Eco-friendly.  Problem was, it came packaged in a HUGE tough plastic outer, and each 6 rolls were encased in further plastic outers.  An awful lot of packaging waste if you ask me.  Even cheaper supermarket versions had 12 to a plastic outer, better odds than the eco-stuff.  Then I tried buying bulk from our kindergarten cleaners and at $1.10 per roll, it was a good deal, came in a cardboard outer, no plastic at all.  The cardboard became part of our ongoing renewable mulch in our garden.  Then I found an ad for Green Cane toilet paper.  I bought 48 rolls for $52 delivered to my home and I am excited.  It came in a recyclable cardboard outer.  4 toilet rolls are wrapped in a 100% compostable paper wrapping.  The paper is sturdy but soft (everything you want in bog-roll) and has 30% more paper than supermarket rolls.  It is made with sugarcane's fibrous reside waste leftover after the sugarcane has been crushed and the liquid extracted.  It also has bamboo added to the composition, another renewable resource, so no trees have to be sacrificed in the love of clean bottoms!!  And no, I don't get paid to advertise them!!  I simply like to share information on stuff that works for me and for the environment.  
Toilet paper Tissue Issue
So hand me another Blog Roll please..........

Nature Girl

Natural Beauty
This is a tribute blog about the girl I live with.  She is a real pleasure to share my home with. A most sustainable way for living!  No screaming matches.  No major drama to deal with.   Not to say she's an angel!  She sure has her moments, but they are very mild ones (thankfully).  She is 16 years old and at the end of April, she will celebrate 17 years on this planet.  She was born a vegetarian and has compassion beyond her age.  I have just read an interview with Emily Deschanel (star of TV series Bones).  She says; "Going vegetarian or vegan is certainly a way to lessen your footprint on the Earth.  I think it's something people should be considering given the emergency situation we're in regarding water supplies, global warming, and the destruction of ecosystems.  There's a lot of overlap between animal rights and the environment."  Certainly true of my daughter.   Ever since she was a tot, she was drawn to everything in nature.  I remember always berating her for having the dirtiest little fingernails that any young girl should have, but then she was always scratching around in the dirt, looking for and looking at bugs, their behaviour and habitats.  

Shanti Shakti Shiva, our cat, is a constant source of delight and
object of much teasing 
I remember at 2 years, we brought her older brother's kindergarten mouse home for a weekend to care for.  She spent ages watching it and then turned to me and quizzically inquired: "Mousie's in jail?"  I was afraid she would attempt to free it and kept a very close eye on that mouse over those two days.

When she was 4, she found a sick hedgehog in the garden and wouldn't leave it's side.  She made it a little home out of sticks and leaves and it was dark before I could coax her inside.  She picked up spiders without the least sign of any fear.  We always joked that she would become an entomologist one day (a bug scientist).  She loved outings to the Auckland Museum where she would spent hours looking at all the animals and bugs in the pull out drawer displays.

Any wildlife rescues are left to Shayni to undertake

I wondered when her enthusiasm for nature would wane.  It still hasn't.  A baby bird fallen from it's nest would be cradled and returned to it's nest after hours of searching for an obvious place of belonging.  Once, she scaled a ladder to replace an eager little fledgling bird high up in our oak tree.  After successfully replacing it in a located nest above where she had found it, it flung itself back out, kamikaze style, to land back apon the ground.  The ladder was again heaved and dragged from the shed and the little bundle of feathers were returned to it's nest.  This scenario was repeated several times with increasing frustration on her behalf!  Finally nightfall left her with not options but to come to roost in her own little nest.  We never saw the little bird the next day.  Hopefully it did not become a neighbouring cat's tasty morsel but lived to learn to fly rather than free-fall.

"Open your eyes, it's feeding time!"

Getting cosy with the chooks
Ring-necked visitor is caught and succumbs to a cuddle

Spence has grown to like her little cuddle time!
There are so many of these stories I could write a book!  Anyway, this girl is still enamored by all living creatures, abhors cruelty of any form and spends much time in the garden, watching ladybugs, feeding spiders flies, catching white butterflies and tying the loosest of cotton thread knots around them and letting them fly like kites till they fly right out of their "harness", feeding our chickens shield bugs by holding them up to a shield bug infested sunflower and delighting in their eager pecking frenzy!

Lethal insectivorous  missile machine in action
Pause for celebration:  As I began to write this, my daughter had a job interview on Thursday.  At first it didn't seem to be a possibility as the boss said she was looking for someone older than 16.  She said she had others to interview and would ring on Monday night.  They rang her the next night, on Friday to say she would be trialed on Saturday!  At the end of the evening, they announced that she had the job!  So, hence begins my daughter's first real job, 5 nights a week, waitressing!  Does mean that her parents become the proverbial taxi drivers, the things we do for love!  
Congratulations, Shayni.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Land of Milk and Honey

My new passion is planting hibiscus to give the garden a
sub-tropical feel.  The blooms are stunning!
Tomato bed with marigolds

Tomatoes of every colour, shape and size
Summer's sensuous gifts

Saturday.  Bloody chooks!  Woke me at 7am!  Squawking and screeching as if they were being murdered!  They occasionally do this, so we hurry on down and feed them, lest they encourage the neighbours to take to them with shotguns!  I have no idea why they do this, sometimes for a week at a time, and then they can be quiet for 3 weeks before starting their morning screech sessions again!  Lucky for them, we’re veggoes, if I weren’t vegetarian, they may have already been in a pot!!
Sunday.  Slept until 8.30am!  Hip, hip, hooray!  No screeching or squawking from the chook quarters!  What makes them noisy one day and quiet the next?  Still trying to figure that one out.  Yesterday I did some weeding and placed Spence (chicken) in a small wire netting “cage” where I was working, moving her as I cleared new patches for her to scratch and peck at.  My little working companion.  She was very happy.  Chook heaven.  Earlier in the day, my daughter had spent the better half of the morning carrying her around and holding her up to all the shield bugs on our plants – she would rapidly spy the moving bug and in a flash, the bug would be a goner!  It reminded me of living in Africa as a young girl; I would seek out a chameleon, on a slow, hot day and bring it indoors, where I would hold it up to the flies congregating around the windows.  I would let out a whoop and a holler, as the chameleon would shoot out a lightning fast tongue to consume any offerings with gratitude.
The first of hopefully, many more pumpkins and squashes
I cleaned up all our dwarf beans in the hothouse this weekend, replacing them with tomato plants; hopefully we will extend our tomato harvest into autumn.  We had a huge harvest of tomatoes, beetroot, zucchini, beans, plums etc. and harvested our first pumpkins of the season.  Each season, we reflect on the abundance, on what has been successful and what has been a failure.  This year, our tomatoes have not been as prolific as previous years.  Our fruiting trees are also not as abundant – I think this is due to the unseasonal weather patterns early on in summer.  Reminds us of what farmers have to contend with, when growing crops for income and their reliance on the weather.  We can shrug our shoulders and continue but they are locked into a system that rewards good yield with good income.
Spence checks out the veritable feast harvested on Saturday
On Friday, Mike went on his usual run to collect 5L milk from a local dairy farm and came back with the devastating news that the farmer had informed him, he couldn’t supply us milk any longer as he was having conflict with the landowner who was complaining about the cars coming and going.  I was stunned!  A bitter blow!  We are so used to having raw milk now that any other options are not worth considering!  Mike waited a few moments and then said with a grin, “But he directed me to another farmer who will be happy to supply us with raw milk!”  What a tease!  I was so relieved that we could continue to enjoy the privilege we have become used to.  So today, he will collect milk from the new supply.  We are wondering if we will taste a difference as the cows are jersey cows, not the usual black and white ones on the first farm.  Not only do we score in price structure ($1 per litre at the farm, as opposed to $2.50 or more per litre in the store), but also in taste.  Un-tampered with milk is creamy and rich!  To drink store-bought milk is poor comparison, it tastes like a bland watered down version of what it should taste like. 
Another 2 jars of Poor Man's Capers made this week
Reinforcing old pathways with layers of untreated sawdust

  Thanks to Don Tolman (, a translated ancient Hebrew scroll in the British Museum translates the words of King Solomon, on the virtues of milk “Milk is the succour of life and light, it is the sun held in liquid state, it is the quickened blood of grasses…………..  Dare to be earthy, dare to be sensual, drink of life and feel the sensual closeness and deep intimacy in the life giving powers of nature’s creatures, in this, discover the secrets of life, hidden in the nature of life.  Life comes of life, and the life force offered in the milk of grass quickened, by beasts, and the honey of flowers, quickened by bees, is, “free of death”, free of killing, free of murder and free of the shedding of the life kept in innocent blood……… It is ambrosia, a mixture of milk and honey (according to the desire of one’s taste), that when taken in abundance shall build one’s constitution even it if is hanging by a thread.  It shall build a strong mental atmosphere, develop the brain, prolong and extend one’s life, and help overcome the desire for cooked foods.  It will develop the supreme personality hidden deep within the individual – in other words, the emotional stability and qualities of maturity, wisdom and intelligence will come forth.”
Milk is an excellent source of nutrients, with significant amounts of high quality protein, calcium, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B12, 6 and vitamin D.  It is a nutrient dense food, providing a high nutrient content in relation to its calories.   
A moment of connection, Mike, Shayni and Spence!  A tri-hug!
I do some reflexology for a friend’s 2 children.  Instead of payment, she gives me jars of honey from a local farmer.  Ironically, my friend’s name is Honey!  This week, we were gifted 2 jars of honey.  So we live in a land of veritable milk and honey!  Now if we could only rid our apple trees of coddling moth!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Waste not, Want not!

Quirky detail in concrete outside our door.
Opp Shopping and Garage Sale-ing
Opportunity shops.  My favourite kinda store.  I love the idea of buying pre-loved goods.  Giving new life to old goods.  That age old saying of “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.  I get a thrill out of browsing through piles of discarded goods, finding a treasures and taking it home to give it a new life.  It is like adopting.  Giving something a home.  And the money spent, goes to charitable causes.  A win/win for everyone.  Yesterday, we found a few bowls for  our son who leaves home shortly on a grand flatting adventure (living in an apartment with 3 other young adults).  He was absolutely stoked to find himself a stainless steel Russell Hobbs coffee maker for $5 a couple of weeks ago.  He has been making coffee every morning ever since, it is the highlight of waking for him!  Most all of my clothes are opp shop bargains, or donated from kind friends!

Our scarecrow, Josephine, with her new body
upgrade, made with recycled cedar offcuts.
Waste not, Want not.
Last night we happened to watch a movie screening on TV, whilst channel surfing (something we hardly ever do).  It was called Dive! It's a movie about the enormous wastage of food that happens in the States (and obviously, all around the globe) within our supermarket systems.  It highlights how many people go hungry and live beneath the bread line and how some people have wisened up to how much perfectly good food is dumped by supermarkets each night.  These people “dive” into supermarket dumpsters and collect all the sealed packages of food, which may contain one or two rotten apples, whilst the rest of the bag are all good!  Meat packages that are a day off of Best Before dates (that’s a contentious one) and other perfectly good fruits and vegetables.  In one night, these dumpster divers collect anything up to 140kg of edible food whilst hundreds (or thousands) starve within the country.
I enjoyed the movie and it highlighted how precious a commodity food really is.  We only truly appreciate it if we don’t have it and every waking moment is then spent wondering where we will get the next meal from.  My family and I feel blessed each meal we sit down to, knowing where and how it was grown.  We know the true value of food, and how much work it takes to grow and tend it.  We hardly ever waste food, and any that does go to waste, goes to the compost bin, the worm farm or the chooks, so it never reaches the garbage bin at all!

Our Hopi corn

We're hanging out for this bunch!!

Yesterday I harvested a veritable bounty of wonderful colourful nutritious food from the garden.  At the moment we have beans, beans and more beans.  I have begun to freeze all the dwarf beans and today, I plan to preserve the purple runner beans (the wonder of google and the world wide web of shared information).  We are also collecting heaps of tomatoes too now, but some of my tomato bushes are already spent (too much rain early on in the season caused fungal rot in the stems).  Still collecting a big bowl of strawberries (very late this year) and blueberries every second or third day, as well as zucchini.  There are Hopi corn pickings every 3rd day, and my sweetcorn crop is maturing in the far side of the garden.  I deliberately planted the 2 different corn seeds a month apart, for harvesting to extend over a longer period, as well as to guard against cross pollination.  There was much excitement when I managed to pick the first of our delicious Black Doris plums for each member of the family (6 – we had 2 extra family members from Belgium).  We have had so much food that feed our 2 lovely helpers, Jan and Jasmijn from Belgium, was no problem at all.
Plenty to share.

Jan and Jasmijn stayed with us for 2 weeks, becoming an integral part of the family, working hard and sharing in the daily harvest.  They painted our main bedroom upstairs (something I had started 5 years ago and never finished) with a crazy sporadic brush stroke red (Indian theme) and I embellished the edges with Eastern-inspired shapes and gold splashes.  It was so exciting to see our room finally coming to fruition that I painted the last remaining wall an adobe coloured wash.  This colour was mixed from little bits I had collected (test pots, old commercial paint gifted to me and sieved through an old sock to get out all the hard gritty bits, then blended till I was happy with the result).  I love waking up surrounded by all this colour!  Our friends also composted, weeded, cooked, cleaned, baked, sanded, painted and did a myriad of chores around the place.  The joy of sharing.  We share our home and food, they share their energy and enthusiasm for helping around the home and garden.  What a wonderful collaboration!
Our sanctuary upstairs............

Jan and Jasmijn's handywork

Taken this morning as I blog.......... a familiar visitor

A while back, my husband and I listened to an audio book by John Robbins, called the New Good Life.  He expounds all the principles we strive for – living better, for less.  Less consumerism, less waste, less greed, less carbon footprint etc. equals more quality of life.   It is a good listen, or read, though we did skip the money chapter, which he ranted on and on about the different money archetypes and it was, yawn, a little boring.
Jan painted this signage above my stove, on the side of
the extractor fan - a reminder of how sacred food is!
On the garden front, it is time to plant winter veggies (all the brassicas – caulis, cabbages, brocs, kale etc.) and protect them from the ravages of the white butterfly caterpillars!  I drape the bed with bird netting (some butterflies do get through if they persist but it keeps most out) for protection.  I also need to plant tomatoes in the hothouse to extend the growing season, and start to clean up the spent veg plants and flowers.  Oh, and dehydrate some herbs for winter use.  Best get to it!
Yesterday's harvest