Sunday, 24 March 2013

Poo Brew and Comfrey Stew

The power of Comfrey!  No, not photo-shopped!

Poo Power!
Oh, if only I were Dr Seuss!  I would do a story on poo!  So much rhymes with poo!  Stew.  Brew. Do.  Too. Woo. Oooh. You.  Boo. New.  Could go on and on!  But really, since I am not writing a children's story, I will stick with the subject.  Poo.  Animal poo.  Vegetarian ones, that is.  I have been making poo brew in the backyard, to feed the Autumn fruiting trees.  It is slightly reminiscent of the days of childhood, when you threw leaves, sticks, bark and flowers into a bucket of water whilst stirring and chanting from Macbeth,   something that your older sister taught you "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble". 

The recipe is a small tub of sheep poos (no I don't go picking them up in the nearest farm paddock - conveniently bought in bulk from a store! - Yes!  They do sell sheep poos!) placed in a large bucket, covered in double the amount of water and left to soak overnight.  The next day, I fill the foul-smelling mixture up with water to the top and stir.  This mixture is poured in a circle  around these Autumn fruiting trees, along the drip-line (the area under the outer branch line).  This gives them all a good nutritious injection before they have to give up their harvests.  Like a dose of vitamins and minerals.  

The comfrey stew is used to feed my vegetables, as I don't relish the thought of eating sheep poos second hand on my veggies.  Seems better for trees to filter that on the way to their fruits.  However, comfrey stew is definitely not any better smelling!  It's a fly-party invitation as soon as you lift the lid!

On the solar power front, we have not had to boost our hot water supply (solar heated) for the entire summer, save one night (Sunday).  Quite amazing, considering much of our power costs are due to heating hot water cylinders.  This is the first summer that it has run so efficiently!  Our solar panels have a history - they have been replaced 3 times in 5 years!!  Manufacturers faults!  Really, really frustrating!  But it seems to be solved now.  Hooray!  From now on though, we will have to start regularly boosting our hot water, given that the temperatures are quite low in the mornings and evenings.  We have an electrical backup switch.

The humble hot water solar panels to the right of our roof.

I believe, the name of this flower is Naked lady or Amaryllis
and comes from South Africa.  I think they look like bridal flowers!
They have a lovely scent, when you place them in a vase indoors.

One of the cute little bandit chickens
The chickens are about 7 weeks old now and will be separated on Monday.  They have grown considerably, and lost that downy-fluffy look.  We will keep just 2 of the 8 chicks and mum and the rest will head back to where they came from.  Unfortunately, the chicken my daughter bonded with, turns out to be a rooster, so we won't be keeping him.  He is the friendliest of the bunch and is a lovely caramel-coloured guy.  Apparently the way to tell, is by looking at the comb - males have bigger ones on their head.  They are all indeed very quiet, a change from our noisy little bantams who have been re-homed.

The hothouse had started to look a little grimy and mouldy on the outside, so thank to the help of our American helpx friends who scrubbed and cleaned her up, we now need to clear out all the spent Summer growth, to make way for a salad haven for winter.

The hothouse, recently cleaned by helpers

Some of our Blue tomatoes (look black on top and red on bottom)

Photo Opp: Girl and cat in the backyard, soaking up the last of the afternoon sun.
My daughter has been working for the last year, saving much of what she earns, forgoing the temptation of shopping for label-clothing.  Luckily, this girl loves opp-shopping!  Good for the bank balance.  She has bought her own first car for $1 500.00.  The car comes complete with a name - Jellybean!    She is so proud of her purchase and spends her time preening and preparing the car for the time when she will be able to take it on the open road, all by herself. Now the trick is to get her restricted licence. 

Posing for the camera!  Cute little Jellybean!

On the power front, the solar panels have been trucking in the rays, storing them up for later use!  What a cool feeling, to be able to generate your own power, and not be beholden to a power company who dictates the rate of ever-rising power costs!  It's definitely a consideration for all home-owners, start small, extend once you have paid off a half-system.  I was very skeptical in the beginning but now I am a convert!
Solar monitor
I have made about 15 lavender sachets from our lavender flower harvest, which will last the year, with plenty to give away.  A sachet tucked in a drawer or under a pillow exudes a lovely relaxing fragrance.  Don't sleep so well?  Tuck one under your pillow!
Lavender sachets

hollyhocks in bloom

An interesting note to end with:  composting toilets.
If we had one, we could totally recycle our waste back into the garden, closing the loop!  When composting toilets are accepted by our local council, maybe we can look at it!  Makes sense.  Water-borne sewerage wastes a huge volume of precious water!  I hear some of you going "ooooh!" but it really is not much different from using vegetarian animal poop in the garden: cow, horse or sheep.  Makes you think huh?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Everything Indian!

End result of a henna mehndi workshop I attended in 2008
What a week of all-things-India!  Not only were we involved in an Indian wedding (a whole week of festivities and celebration) but we also had a meal with different Indian family friends, and Mike headed off to India Sunday morning!

An Indian wedding?  I can sum it up in 4 words: Colour.  Noise.  Food. Ritual.

Bride's lovely nails and henna mehndi (traditional hand decoration)
Decorated Palms
We have had the pleasure of attending another Indian wedding 3 years ago, but this one was more personal, given that we are friends of the bride's family.  We were invited to attend the week long celebration.  First off, we were gifted 3 beautiful outfits to wear.  These had to be altered to fit our bigger Western frames.  It was difficult to choose between them.

Having spent 2 months living in Kerala (in Potumkulum Towers apartment in Kalatipady in Kottayam, we fell in love with Indian culture!  The food, the spices (not too spicey), the people and their generosity.  We met so many people who gladly would give away what little they had to share.  A truly humbling experience for us that has remained etched on our children's minds.  Memories cherished.
My own foot with henna design from our Mehndi workshop
An interesting note is that prior to the wedding, the bride's house is filled with guests who all pitch in to help feed the multitudes.  One woman explained that it was a way to really get to know one another.  Everyone seems to know what to do as they take up a job, be it chopping vegetables or cooking! People come and go in a flurry of activity, or organised chaos.  On Thursday evening we arrived to help, every corner of the house was taken up by preparations.    While the kitchen was filled with beautiful woman chopping and cooking, in the garage, 2 older ladies sat around a gas fire, cooking up large batches of milk to make paneer (cheese curd).  I wondered briefly if they thought about their own wedding preparations so many years ago, when they themselves were brides.  It was a fascinating insight into Indian culture.

My handiwork on my daughter, way back when I first learned how to prepare
and apply henna.  Note the really simple designs!

My crazy Persian-Indian shoes get dusted off for the occasion.
They seem to only come out for Indian occasions.

The Friday night celebration was Big, Loud and filled with ritual.  We arrived at the hall at a pre-arranged time, fashionably half an hour late.  Curiously, we found no sign of anything happening, so we drove to their house.  Chaos ensured as we discovered someone had collected the key to the hall, but no-one knew where it was.  15 minutes later, it was discovered, so caterers and musicians were able to get inside to set up for the evening.  It took a further hour or two of pandemonium before we all headed off  in convoy for the party.  We watched as both groom, and then bride sat on little decorated stools, while guests took turns rubbing a mixture of ghee and tumeric onto their arms and feet.  The children run about and no-one seems to mind them, but I think everyone keeps an eye on them.  The food is out-of-this-world delicious.  There was a resplendently dressed traditional drummer who kept up a frenzied beat outside the hall, while the young men gathered around him and postulated, danced and sang.  Inside the hall, the disco was in full swing, with decibals set to blast the toughest of ear drums!  As dancing at an Indian wedding was suddenly thrown spontaneously onto our bucket list, we bravely entered the gender-segregated groups gyrating and grooving.  Mike came back puffing and wheezing after a very enthusiastic older Sikh gentleman grabbed him by the wrists and proceeded to show him how to dance and shimmy Bollywood style!  I feared for his life as he whipped around in vigorous jumps and arm-waving fit for a drowning. The old guy was still going strong, long after Mike had managed to regain his breath!  We laughed till the tears rolled down our cheeks!

Detail of one of our gifted outfits

An Indian wedding is the opportunity to throw
all caution to the wind and wear as many bracelets
as can fit on your forearm!  I even had bells on my ankles!

At times I felt like we were mashed up in a huge cultural divide.  Not understanding the culture, the language or rituals, one can sometimes feel like being caught up in a bubble of ignorance.  Often the music was too loud to even ask a question or understand what was being explained.  I did manage to make a new friend there.  A beautiful, strong, single Indian lady.  I still don't understand the stigma attached to single divorced Indian woman.  The men go on to remarry and live their lives unaffected.  What is it, about societies not valuing their woman??  Mmmmn, doesn't seem fair!  I used to say, in my next life that I would come back as an Indian lady, so I could dress up as a princess every day.  Now I think, maybe not!  Maybe I'll come back as an Indian man, married to a beautiful Indian princess, who cooks like a Master Chef for me every night!!  
Actually, it makes me feel happy and privileged to be married to a man who appreciates all I do and treats me as an equal.
Friday night's celebratory outfits

The stunningly beautiful bride on Friday night
Her wedding outfit was even grander!
Pleasantly exhausted, we survived the week of wedding celebrations, wondering at what cost this celebration comes.  No wonder girls are not as valued as boys in India.  Who would want a half dozen girls if each had to have a lavish wedding all paid for??!  I think I might encourage my daughter to marry barefoot on the beach in Rarotonga - that way, we get to have a holiday and a wedding in one!!  Or better yet, what about eloping....?          

The bridal car
On Sunday morning, Mike picked up his baggage and left on a jetplane bound for India, for a week of meditation and spiritual strengthening in an Ashram.  The week of celebrations would have prepared him nicely for the food to come!  Namaste Mike!  Radha Soami!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Water Woes.

Sunset over the garden
Last night, I snuck out into the garden with my headlamp torch affixed to my forehead, feeling like a thief in the night!  I felt a thrill at doing my first night-time activity while neighbours were safely sitting in front of their tellies, or tucked up in bed!  I turned on the tap and hosed our veggie beds and fruiting trees.  No, no pilfering of neighbours' goods!  All perfectly legal activity!  We have had water restrictions imposed last week.  No hoses or irrigating to be done between the hours of 6am and 9pm!  We are allowed to irrigate only on consecutive days - so, as our house number is an odd number, we can irrigate on odd numbered days!  This arrangement will continue till April, and then it will be reconsidered whether we need to keep these restrictions through April.

Darn!!  One of our goals for 2013 was to install a 2000L rainwater tank at the end of the year!  We shoulda done it sooner!  Our area is probably one of the last to have water restrictions imposed, because we normally have a high annual rainfall record!  We shall see if we can keep everything alive through these times!  Just goes to show, that although we have so called free water supply (averages $1 per day), we can't rely on town water alone, we should really install rainwater harvesting tanks!!  

2 Chickies getting acquainted

We are enjoying watching our mother hen, Miss Molly, and her 8 baby chicks.  The chickens have learned to fly with ease, and they easily fly up to the sleeping quarters.  Their fluffy yellow coverings are slowly being replaced by real feathers, giving them a uniqueness in regard to colouring and markings.  Our daughter has fallen in love with a caramel-coloured chick who tends to enjoy being cuddled, even falling asleep in our hands, while the others cheep anxiously while being handled!  Now we have to wait till we discover which ones are male and which ones are female.  We will keep 2 females and Miss Molly and the 6 remaining chicks will return to their original owner.  The good news is that our noisy little bantams, Liz and Spence have been rehoused and accepted by their adoptive flock!  Hooray!  Our new chickens will hopefully be quiet like their mother, Miss Molly, whose partner was a Barnevelder.  This breed is one of the quieter ones and does not mind being confined to a chook run or tractor.

Feeding one of our friendly visiting doves
Raw Food Week
 My husband and I have just undertaken a week of "cleaning out", just before we go into winter with all the starchy, stodgy, warming foods.  We try to do this at least once a year but normally we juice for a week (have once done a 10 day juice fast).  The juice recipe we use is one from Don Tolman and is soooo delicious, one does not mind drinking it in gallons!  This time around, I looked at our peach and prune tree, dripping with fruit and it seemed a shame to not be able to harvest and eat that summery goodness, so we decided to simply make it a raw food diet for the week.  Wow!  What a wonderful way to clean out the pipes!  We ate as much fruit as we needed to, drank Cabala juice and had a great big garden salad in the evening.  We did not feel hungry or even deprived (as one can feel on a juice diet alone).  Fasting or cleaning-out diets restores the body and most importantly, cleans out the intestines and colon, the site of old stagnant foods and waste.  I highly recommend an annual clean-out.  One feels vibrant, refreshed and restored!

My father suffered from diverticulitis, a nasty and common ailment which often comes from a diet low in fibre and high in meat.  Basically, pockets of old food get trapped in the colon wall, these bulge out and become infected, causing bloating, discomfort,fever, nausea, cramping and pain.  Regular colon clean-outs can help prevent such a condition.  Prevention is often easier than cure.

Cabala Juice
2 1/2 kg carrots
2 x red apples
1/3 fist-sized beetroot
2 x green apples
1 lemon, whole, rind included
2 x yellow apples (we use Freyburg)

Juice above ingredients - this is the minimum amount needed per person per day, if juicing alone.  As we were eating raw fruit and veggies as well, we shared this daily amount.  If juicing on it's own, one should try sipping constantly throughout the day, rather than sculling a glassful down in one go.  This way, the body is constantly receiving nutrition and it negates the feelings of hunger.  The different coloured apples target the emotions we go through on a "fast".  The good thing about juicing was that we could use up our coddling moth apples - cutting out the scungy bits and making use of the good bits!  Waste not, want not!  I think "fast" is the wrong term, it conjures up a sense of deprivation, where juicing actually provides us with all the nutrition the body needs.  After 3 days (clean out and detox), the body craves protein, so it looks for protein within it's own self!  Amazing!  It feeds on dead, dying and diseased cells, thus cleaning up tumours and growths!    All it takes is a little willpower, the mind keeps on bringing up chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and chocolate muffins up to test you!

Last of our zucchini harvest
New Artwork for the Walls
I bought 2 wooden frames for $60 and framed 2 prints of our children's artwork, with music as the theme!  I am happy with the results - originals!  Now I have to try to hammer nails into our new brick walls - just not sure how to do that yet!
My son's Dali-esque electric sounds

My daughter's Braque-esque ukulele sounds

Gardening Activities
The sunshine was been wonderful, but it has transpired this water crisis.  The garden is however in that final summer transition time, needing a good clean up.  I have begun by pulling up the first of the bean teepee beds.  Took all of yesterday morning to harvest all the pods for the seed-saving venture I took part in.  But it feels good, I have about 1kg of Purple Yeome Bean seeds to use as seed and to send back to Central Tree Crops Association.  I have a lesser amount of the Turkey Craw seeds, having picked quite a few to cook as green beans.  I have sowed some winter vege seeds to replace the cleaned up beds.  Once I have managed to take down the teepee structure, I shall place the chook tractor onto the bed to do the last clean up and tilling of the soil for planting out the winter seedlings.
Seeds to sow:  parsley, silverbeet or swiss chard, NZ spinach, coriander, root veges - carrots, beetroot and parsnips, and brassicas - cauli, cabbage and broccoli.
Sky-scraping sunflower blocking out the sun!