Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fabulous February

Raw Food.  Mmmmn, don't know if I could do it 3 meals a day, every day, but we do try to eat a good portion of our food as raw.  Fruit servings and a Big salad every night with our cooked meal. A nice arrangement we have, I make the "unhealthy" cooked meal, Mike makes the "healthy" portion - a salad.  So, given that I am not the best baker in the World, it was with curious skepticism that I made a rawfood Valentine's Chocolate Tart.  Wow!  Blown away!  And the ingredients were so health-zestful, that we could eat second servings without a stroke of guilt.  Oooh, baby!  And the piece d' resistance?   We used our own garden-grown bananas and strawberries.
Valentine's Chocolate Pie
Raw pie crust
1/4 cup liquid raw honey
1 cup finely ground almond meal (I used LSC)
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 medjool dates, pits removed (I used 12 ordinary, soaked for 15mins)
3 Tbspn organic virgin coconut oil

Add all ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth.  Press mixture evenly around a 20cm loose bottom pie dish to form the crust.  Freeze while you make the filling.

3 small overripe bananas
2 large perfectly ready avocadoes
1/3 cup liquid raw honey
1/2 tspn pure vanilla essence
5-6 TBspn cocoa powder
1/3 cup virgin cold pressed coconut oil
50g melted raw cocoa butter (optional- I did not use)
1/4 cup water
Whizz all filling ingredients together until smooth and creamy.  Pour into pie crust and place in the refrigerator to set for an hour.  Top with fresh fruit just before serving.
(Recipe taken from Summer 2013 Nourish Magazine)

Warning:  This pie is decadently wicked and seriously healthy!!

Passionfruit, strawberries, blueberries, courgettes, cucumber and tomatoes.

In the garden:
Harvests have been frequent and frenetic.  Passionfruit, strawberries and blueberries, bananas, prunes (sweet plums), mandarins, pears, lemons, courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks and new yellow runner beans.  Phew!  But I did remove all the spent tomato and cucumber plants  in bed 3 and 5 - to make way for the winter green leafy crops.  As our fruit trees (olives and lemons) have grown bigger on the Eastern boundary of our garden, it leaves little room for navigating around them, what with our supported berries growing along the fence, so I ripped them all up and Mike shredded them in the mulcher for compost material.   No big loss, I never managed to collect many raspberries anyway, due to never getting round to bird-netting them.

2 baskets of pears - I have made pear crumble, dehydrated pears and we have been having them in smoothies - their dash will soon be over, and the birds are tucking in for a pear feast.  Time to tidy up all the summer overgrowth.  Looks like a jungle again.  Thing is - you could spend your life weeding!

Removing all fence-huggers (raspberries and loganberries)

Ramble of raspberries and weeds - out they go!!
In the kitchen: 
 Every time we reach this time of year - and I ask myself, with all this food around me - "Is it a blessing or is it a curse?"  Trying to preserve or eat such abundance is a mammoth task.  But is is a lifestyle born of a passion to be sustainable, so onwards I go.  This weekend, I froze 2 bags of yellow beans, made 2 lots of pasta sauce to freeze, 2 fruit crumbles - 1 pear and 1 peach.  2 bags of tomatoes have just been frozen for use at a later date.   Plus 3 bottles of preserved peaches.  Like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the long winter!!
Bountiful Harvests

And more...

Our wonderful HelpX friend, Sebastian, with Mike.
Sebastian came all the way from Germany and  helped us so much in the 2 weeks he was with us - from weeding, mulching and composting, to painting 2 walls of our garden shed, a brilliant blue.  Looks marvellous!  It's great to have an extra pair of hands to help.  And it is always amazing to note how these "stranger'' arrive, creep into our hearts and lives, and then leave as friends.

One of my many hand-made bird houses -
no-one took up the housing option this Spring.
Must find out what they need to move in.....
On the Exercise Front:
I have a funny little story to share.  I decided this year should be a time of organised exercise for me.  I joined a Chi Ball exercise class last year and quite enjoyed the whole process.  But after 5 classes, the teacher decided to pull the plug on the evening class and just run the morning class.  Damn!  So this year, I spied a new class advertised in our local rag.  Ninjutsu.  Right!  I thought I remembered a friend mention it.  So after a long chat to the instructor on the phone, he assured me that the class was just what I needed - no competition, no fighting, no strenuous sit ups and push ups.  So off I went to the Wrestling Club hall 3 Thursdays ago.  3 young Maori guys had turned up. And me.  I was assigned the top black belt student as a mentor.  So first off, I look down at his shoes - soft leather with a pouch for the big toe, and the other four in their own little snug compartment.  Mmmn, I remember thinking:  "I'll do this class, just so I can own a quirky little pair of shoes like those!"

So I learned the first 4 "moves" and they were cool, nothing too strenuous there.  I was thinking, how cool is this?  Ninja Granny, here I come!  Next up, the rolls.  He had me rolling forwards, then sideways - after about 8 of these, I started to feel distinctly dizzy and told him.  Just 2 more to show - backward rolls.  Okay, so off I go, surprising myself at my ability to scoot my whole body over itself, backwards.  I stood up, instantly the world roared in my ears and I was so nauseous, that I had to hold my hand up to him and say;"Stop!"  I managed to tell him that I just had to sit for a while.  20 minutes later, the nausea had not left and it was all I could do to get to my car and drive home, praying I wouldn't pass out.  I felt Big Time Bad!  What was I thinking???  At my age? Never having exercised for the last 25 years, to go and do a Ninjutsu class??  I mean, this is the root origin word of Ninja!  My vestibular system is fragile at any rate, and I suffer from serious motion sickness.  All that rolling around just about did me in.  I went to straight to bed and never got up again that evening!

Fast forward to the next week, and I was off to try out another class - Tai Chi.  Meditation in Motion.  Boy, this one is my kinda exercise class.  We spend more time watching the demonstrations than doing any real moves, and half way through we get to have green tea and biscuits (I take my own tea - green tea is far too healthy tasting for me!!).  So I signed up for 5 months.  Instantly.   And Mike has signed up too.  Watch me get all Zen!

And on the Heart front, Sob!
My daughter is moving out of home in a day's time.  It will just be me and Mike left.  Oh, and the cat.  Shayni is moving to Hamilton, where our son, Cam is also based.  She will be studying her 2nd year of Early Childhood Education.  We have to take her and deliver her up to the Adventures of Life Away from Home, on Tuesday.  She's all excitement, I'm like, "Oh no, who am I going to nag constantly to tidy up their room now?"  She drives me CuhRaZee but I am sure going to miss her!  I'll miss her constant singing (little nightingale), her quirkiness and playfulness.  Her hugs, her teasing, her company.  I guess I'll just have to play with the cat!  And hug Mike.

Or I could just play with Mike.  And hug the cat!

Moving on.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Food, glorious Food!

I've always liked the name "homesteading".  It commonly refers to a lifestyle that promotes self-sufficiency and sustainability.  And the joys of homesteading are endless.  Okay, there is some back-breaking stuff required, digging up old growth, turning compost, planting, harvesting, preserving and preparing - but oh, what satisfaction!  On Sunday, I had a mammoth cooking session.  When asked by a friend why I would bother to cook on a Sunday, the answer was simple.  I simply had too much food in the fridge.  Use it or lose it.  So I made 3 vegetarian Shepherd's Pies (actually one big one turned into 3 smaller casserole dishes - one to eat, one to freeze and one to give away to our student son), a pot of spicey green beans (freezer-bound), a summer-squash pasta sauce flavoured with sage (freezer filler) and a batch of banana oat cookies.  A good use of many 3-4 day old veggies.  My fridge is only half full now and I can see space for more of the produce I see I shall have to collect again tomorrow.

Rice-paper parcels
I've stumbled onto a good thing.  I love to browse magazines and get ideas from the cooking sections.  Not that I am one to slavishly follow a recipe, but I will pinch the idea of the combination of ingredients or a picture may inspire me to try something different.  So having seen an idea for chicken and seafood-filled rice-paper wraps, I designed my own version above.  Grated carrot, avo, cucumber and sprouts on a bed of black bean pasta noodles, and a lashing of my own Sweet Thai chilli sauce.  Oooh, yum.  Such a pleasant change from our usual bread and extras-types lunches.  And so easy to make, they have featured as a possible new favourite a couple of times in the last week or two!  Dunked in soy sauce, they go down a treat and 2-3 parcels is enough to fill most hunger pangs.

Late afternoon garden "shopping"

Flowers for the table centre-piece.
Garden Activities:
This time of the year brings such a massive dose of food, that we have been happy to have a German Helpxchanger make some inroads into consuming our over-abundance of fruit and veggies.  They come as a helpxchange and leave as a friend.  We have finished our first flush of beans, and I have planted a late crop, which is just starting to produce. We've had 2 bunches of bananas ripen (each weighs about 15kg) - the sweetest little things this side of Ecuador.  No carbon miles, no horrid sprays, just pure sweet sun-ripened flesh.  We had a small harvest of Omega plums (due to rigorous pruning last year) - about 2 basketsful, and about 40 Luisa plums (very young tree, laden with huge juicy plums).   A vicious wind saw half the near-ripe plums ripped off, so not keen to waste, they made it into a light-coloured sweet and delectable jam.  We've picked a few handfuls of juicy ripe figs (covered with bird-proof bags) but the birds have eaten the majority, as they do every year.  That same wind that blew half our plums off the tree, blew one of 3 fig trees down (sob!!  it was our Turkey Brown - the sweeter of the 2 varieties) and so we decided to give it the Big Chop on account of it having been blown over the previous year too.  Now we only have 2 green fig trees to protect from the marauding birds.  Strangely enough, the fig tree I planted from a sucker of the original tree, does better at fruiting than it's parent.

Little fingers of sweetness
Figs - a precious thing indeed from our garden!!
I have bottled about 8 large bottles of gherkins.  We are still eating from last years pickles!!  We had a small but good harvest of huge tangy nectarines to herald the summer, and a fairly regular supply of strawberries, gooseberries, Chilean guavas and blueberries.  They seem to be tapering off now to a handful every second or third day.  Cucumbers and courgettes have been plentiful, with those now succumbing to late summer fungal diseases which always signals an end to them.  I have sneakily tried to plant late crops of courgettes and cucs - gardening is my ongoing experiment to see what I can get away with!!

Who needs a green grocer when this all grows on your doorstep?

Smoothies and Fruit Salads.  The stuff of Gastronomic Dreams.  We love our summer harvests - each fruit salad tastes different.  Tropical.  The taste of Holidays.  Always reminds me of my grandmother's fruit salads, especially when I add passion fruit!  Funny how oral senses can evoke massively powerful memories.

Fruit salad
And then there was our garlic harvest.  Methinks I went overboard and planted way, way too many garlic bulbs!!  I have made 3 garlic plaits with about 20 bulbs in each, and we have 2 wooden bowls of the bulbs which were a little less tidy and had started to open up on account of the heavy rains we had a little while back.  So we will use those ones first, but my goal of having a bulb for each week of the year is well and truly over-achieved!!  We can use it for our winter medicine to boost the immune system.  It's a case of simply growing your own cold and flu remedy!

Garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, beetroot and more garlic.

Blueberries:  Nature's Own Vaccination.
One day, Mike discovered an unusual iridescent green bird in the garden.  It appeared to be hurt, so we carefully caught it and kept it in a little box overnight in case our cat thought she might nibble on a midnight feathery snack.  We have never seen a bird quite like this one, and with excitement, we checked it out in our bird book - a Shining Cuckoo.  What a fascinating find!  Mike rang around to find out who could help rehabilitate it and was told to keep it overnight and if it survived the night, bring it in the next day, all the way to Tauranga.  The next day it was quite chirpy, despite it appearing to have an injured wing.  It spent the day in our retired chook tractor, and Mike took it to a Wildlife Rescue Centre in the afternoon.  It is amazing what we sometimes find in our little garden enclave!  Once we found a mother duck and 11 ducklings, then we have found a whole family of hedgehogs, and now this amazing little feathered tourist.

Our Little Shining Cuckoo

with an injured wing
Our little friend overnights in our Wildlife Rescue Box.

My Ginger Project
I'm experimenting with growing ginger.  Again.  Last year, the ginger shoots died in winter, so I forgot about them.  Till I emptied the bucket months later to find 3 medium sized ginger roots!  So I was successful after all, I just didn't look under the ground.  Duh!  So I have used those very roots to try and grow another batch.  Lookin' good!

Abundance of tomatoes.

All shapes and sizes.

Gorgeous little Cinderella pumpkin that will feed us in winter

White cucumber

My capsicums went in a little late this summer, so they are just starting to fruit.  I am waiting patiently for them to turn from green to red and yellow.  Dreaming of stuffed capsicums.  Roasted capsicum.  Capsicum and chickpea curry.  Yum!  Bring it on! 
My good friend, Gina, gave me a tiny knee-high macadamia tree about 5 years ago.  It has grown into a mammoth 3m tree and I caught my first exciting glimpse of maccs the other day!  Yay!  Our very own nuts!

Fresh macadamias on Our tree!
My Niagara grapevine is very colourful.  I have had to cover every bunch of grapes with netting bags.  The little feathered buggers STILL try to eat them.  Can't blame them as the smell the grapes are giving off are a heady, sweet, syrupy aphrodisiac!  I have harvested 4 bunches as early hors d' oevres - they definitely don't disappoint!  Did you know that grapes are the Signature Food for blood cells - and green/white grapes are good for white blood cells.  Red grapes are good for - yep, red blood cells.  If you cut a grape cross-ways, it looks like a blood cell, with the seed in the center mimicking the nucleus of the cell.  Wisdom of the Ancients.  So if you have a problem with your white blood count, eat green/white grapes and red for red blood condition.  Easy.

The pear tree is laden, and the birds have begun their annual Pear Feast.  They are always my lighthouse warning that I better act fast if we are to eat any produce!
bagged grapes

Niagara grapes to tantalise the senses
A vital part of the garden, the compost bin, has had quite a fair attention from our helper, Seb.  Turned twice in as many weeks, the compost is humming along nicely.  We will soon harvest the left hand side, to place around our winter crops and boost their growth.

My avo-cornfield is becoming an overgrown wilderness.  The corn is of 2 varieties, black and multi-coloured.  I planted them 2 weeks apart, to reduce the incidence of promiscuous corn sex, but it seems they are all silking and pollinating at the same time!!!  Not sure what we will get!  But they sure look healthy and stand higher than the proverbial elephant's eye!
My chilies have never done so well before, they are double the size of any chilies I've ever grown before!  Hot and Spicey, oh, so nicey!  (sorry - that comes from a children's book - Wombat Stew!)

Heritage corn corner

Chili, Chili Fusili

Another type of Chili 

Late season hearitage tomatoes
I will keep on homesteading.  Growing our food.  Making our personal care products. Recycling our waste where possible.  Re-inventing new uses for old items.  Repairing broken goods to last a longer mile. Living like they did 60 or more years ago.  The Good Old Life.  Bring it on!

Sun Glow

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Photographs and Memories

Our boy turned 21 in January this year!  
On 8 January 1993, our son Cameron was born.  He was a delight.  A joy.  Such a precious little guy with a quirky and unique way of looking at the world.  He delighted us with his serious, "old soul" observations and ideas.  We shared our love of music, often singing him to sleep at night.  He had 2 recycled catering-tin-can drums which he would beat with free abandon.  We bought him his first baby guitar (ukulele) when he was 2. Instant Rock Star!  He'd strum away and sing some old favourites, like Carol King's "You have a friend", Purple Dinosaur Barneys "I love you" or make up his own versions of kid-rendition-songs.

African Drummer
He grew into a real old-soul, sweet and sensitive boy.  Quiet, gentle and creative.  He was always drawing and painting.  I used to create holiday gifts for him - an old paper reem box filled with paints, pencils, scissors and coloured paper - he would spend hours on end making and creating.  We recorded much of what he said, and often go back to read the precious dialogue.  It brings moments of tears, moments of laugh-out-loud memories.  I once told him, as a 2 yr old, that he was my very special boy.  I asked why he was so special - to which he replied: "Just way it is."  And "Take mine heart.  Be careful wis it."

At 4yrs of age, he told us: "One day I'll play rock 'n roll and make lots of money.  And then I'll show you how.  Do you know what's in rock 'n roll?  Drums and mean guitars.  And more drums."  At 5yrs of age, he woke up one morning and said: "I had such a good dream!  I was playing in a rock 'n roll band, me and Tom, and we were playing real mean guitars - screeching guitars."  This boy was born to make music!!

Our little boy
Then he became a teenager.  Boy, I marvelled at the great job we had done raising him.  He was 14, sensible and reasonable.  We had long daily conversations.  Other parents were regaling me with their nightmare teenage boy stories.  15 came and went.  I wondered what all the hype was about teenage boys.  Certainly was not  a problem in our home!  But smug complacency turned to sheer horror when our boy turned 16.  Overnight, he turned into a monosyllabic spotty Know-It-All like I'd read about.  He was obnoxious. Sneering at anything and everything his dad or I said.  Suddenly, we knew Nothing in his eyes.  He had  well-grounded World Theories and we had quite simply, obviously, not learned anything about life.  He was the World Authority.  On Everything.
He teased his sister to the point of tears and lashing out, daily.  He taunted his father and teased me.  He pretended not to hear anything I asked him to do.  "Cam, please go collect the laundry and then fold it, after putting your school bag away."  His response: "Whaaaa....?"
Perhaps he didn't hear me, so I would repeat myself.  A little slower this time.    Response the same.  
Perhaps he didn't catch all the nuances of what I'd asked, so I would break it up for him: "Cam.  Collect the laundry.  Fold the laundry.  Then pick up your school bag. Go!   Now!"
"Whaaaaa?" again from Cam.  I would then catch the hint of a smirk and I knew he was teasing me.  He'd heard right from the get-go.  Just having me on.  Then I'd get all angry and wag my finger and sway my hips from side to side in time to my terse commands and he'd go off to do the jobs, laughing all the way.  Boy, he sure knew how to yank my chain!!

Then I learned from Nigel Latta, not to have too many rules.  So we had only one. Respect.  Everything else was negotiable.  Like whether or not he could attend a party. What time he left and returned.  Who would take or fetch him.  Respect was non-negotiable.  And we demanded he show it.  To me.  To his dad.  To his sister (that one he never quite managed to achieve).  To our home.  To our family.  The environment. It worked.

By the time he'd finished school, he was very ready to leave home, and we too, were quite relieved that he was leaving home.  I think kids need to leave home in order to realize how good they had it at home.  Nature's way of severing ties, else we would never leave home at all.  He returned for short bursts of time, impatient to leave again.  I cherished those moments of connectedness.  Moments when he would put his arms around me for a brief moment and say; "I love you Mom!"  Moments to treasure like memory jewels.

Our son.
Three years passed by and we saw him less frequently.  He had his own flat and he was learning to do it on his own, with his mates.  His father would meet with him in his town, have a meal together and their relationship grew from one of antagonism to one of mutual respect and collaboration.  I felt a little left out.  Tried to tell myself that this is how it's supposed to happen.  We had succeeded in making him independent.  Then he met The Girl of His Dreams.  And she was The Girl of Our Dreams too!  He was proud to bring her home and we enjoyed seeing him become the young man we always hoped he'd become. Then all of a sudden, our boy turned 21!  That age that really marks the entry into adulthood.  The age when ties are severed from childhood.  We celebrated that birthday by going down a photographic memory lane.  I created a book to celebrate his first 18 years of life.  The time he shared with us.  It took days and days.  Trying to find the right photos.  The right words.  Not too soppy.  But something to convey our love for the young man who once was a babe in our arms.  He showed sincere pleasure and joy at the token.  

Rachel and Cam
Being a parent is all about holding that little hand, walking alongside your child on the path to independence.  Luckily, our journey was one of Wonderment and Awe.  We were given such a blessing to be able to walk the road to adulthood alongside this young man.  He makes us proud.  Gives us the Warm Fuzzies.  Takes our breath away when we realize we were lucky to have been chosen as his parents.  

Sheer Joy

A celebration of Cam - the photographic journal of his early life and times
The cover is taken from one of his school artworks

Pages from Cam's Book

Our Boy

PS Snapfish was the online photographic resource used to create Cam's book.