Autumn Harvests

I seem to have gone right through summer with only one or two posts, I apologise for my absence at the busiest time of the year for a garden blog – it’s just been crazy busy here. Most of my computer time is taken up with the Freeconomy Facebook page these days and I feel it’s important to keep up with that.

While the bottom vege garden is being put to sleep for winter the fruit trees and bushes have been giving us a huge amount of fruit – we have peaches, figs and all sorts of berries coming in bucket loads. I am freezing most of this, have made jams but no bottling of fruit this year – though I have made a batch of peach wine (I will post the recipe for this when I find out if it’s ok)

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This is what my benches look like every couple of days!

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We have harvested around 4 kgs of honey from the hives but have left heaps there for the bees for winter. I found an easy way to extract, covering an oven tray with aluminium mesh, cutting all the honey and comb out of the screen and placing on the mesh, put in the oven on around 50 deg C (barely warm) and the honey melts into the pan leaving the wax behind.

The herb garden is nearly empty and much of it sitting dried in boxes or hanging on two old clothes airers – what the lady of the houses uses when hubby is too busy to make a rack for her!

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The green hedges around the front have all grown up now creating the privacy we wanted.

DSC02214What else we have been doing: Roger is enjoying being back building and is doing an adult apprenticeship (did I mention that?) so he has been studying. He has also had some great scores from stuff that has been headed for dumps – a huge amount of school library shelving came home and has been shared out amongst his mates. He has lined his basement workshop with it and it’s now very orderly and tidy! He also got a great pile of insulation that was going to be thrown out and he has put it both underfloor and topped up the attic with it. He has been working on the water feature and finally got it standing, it was too heavy to lift on his own.

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With leftover concrete he made this on an old beehive tray I scavenged two years ago. In January we went to a family reunion at the site of the old homestead his mother was raised in and he took an old piece of barbed wire and a piece of chimney rock, they are in the middle here.

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Our truck has broken down so I am sort of stranded at home during the weeks, unable to work because I can’t get there. I can’t get to the markets either though my sister kindly offered to sell stuff for me at her market up North. Also all my products are now in our community office which sells local crafts. I have been doing the garden, preserving all the food (we have two large full freezers for winter) making sauces, chutneys and jams. Making a heap of soaps etc and trying to declutter by giving stuff to Freeconomy. All my soaps and creams are generally left downstairs which is a pain so I converted a little desk with it’s drawers and cupboards to a little store of things closer to hand. ???????????????????????????????

We are still intending on having a shop here so are moving in that direction…when all the food stops coming in and only the front garden producing again it gives more time for other things.

So, that’s what we are up to, I haven’t disappeared…still around 🙂 I hope those of you going in to Spring are enjoying the warmer weather and those of you heading towards winter have your firewood at the ready!

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Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

Another week. Vanilla Essence, Home brewing, seed saving etc

This has been such a busy week here! The garden is running a muck (read, weeds out of control) and I have been working way more than we were expecting me to due to short staffing. Roger has been busy elsewhere during the weekends and we are behind in everything. But… all is good 🙂

We got a great buy!! I must say here when my hubby bid on it on an auction site I thought he was buying a Still and encouraged him, alas it is a beer making kit which is NOT QUITE THE SAME. Beer isn’t cheap and though I can see the sense in making one’s own….I hate the stuff. I was thinking vodka for fruit liquers and preserving herbs (yummy things), he was thinking ice cold beers at the end of a working day …. every Kiwi male enjoys his beer. But I did get something out of it. This all came for $53 and note the glass bottles, 1 dozen of those gorgeous things which we will not be using for beer 🙂 This unit had been used once.Image

I mentioned last week a friend had made us some vodka so I have been trying different things with it. He has told us we can borrow his Still to make our own, if you have Vodka you can make all sorts and homemade vodka is soooo cheap – $28 for 8 large bottles!

Vanilla Essence:

Split 6 vanilla pods sideways then cut in half. Place in bottle and pour over 1 cup vodka. Leave to stand in a dark cupboard for 8 weeks to mature. Apparently this will last forever, just topping up vodka or adding another pod as required. It smells divine!

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

After 3 days:

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Herbal Tinctures:

Instructions from my sister-in-law Beth – Place 300 g of desired herb in airtight jar and cover with vodka. Leave to sit in a cool dark place to 2 weeks, shaking regularly. Squeeze all liquid out of the leaves and discard, strain and bottle. Take 1 – 3 tsp a day. I want to build up a supply of these but my first is Feverfew, used for migraines and as an anti-inflammatory.

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Freezing without blanching: A tip.

I do all my beans, zucchini and pumpkin this way (if pumpkin is not storing well I will freeze it). It’s the quickest method I have found and removes all the air without need for a vacuum pump. The snaplock bags can be used dozens of times.

Place vegetables in bag filling about 3/4 full.Image

Without sealing shake all vegetables down, fold over to meet vegetables while letting air escape.Image

Seal while folded. All excess air is gone.

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Press out flat for storage

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Coriander Seed:

Whose idea was it to dry and collect this? Oh yeah…. mine. Alot more complicated than it sounded at the time because we never pulled it out and hung it upside down in a rubbish bag when we should’ve. By the time we pulled it they had been dropping for weeks so instead we did it the hard way!

One coriander plant = thousands of seeds

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Just a little of them.

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McGyver’s (Mr QAL’s) solution for separating seed from stalk 🙂 🙂

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1 bowl full, as far as we have – and this AFTER Syd chased the cat through the lounge and spread a complete bowl all over the carpet. Back to the flippin heater / fan stage of collection, instead I threw my hands in the air yelling “That’s it, I’ve had it!” so it might sit there a few days before the final product is clean and edible!

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Chocolate and Almond Buckwheat Granola Clusters:

A few months ago I changed to a gluten free diet, this past few weeks I have been craving a decent cereal to replace homemade muesli. Fran from Serendipity Farm saved the day with a wonderful recipe for these granola clusters which she has tweaked from another recipe. http://theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/narf7s-bolshie-blissful-buckwheat-granola-clusters/

I then tweaked hers and came up with this which I will post in a wee while but Oh yum, it’s delicious and not nearly as expensive as similar products on the market, in fact it turned out far cheaper than I thought it would.Image

First you need Sunflower Butter and I have been wanting to try some of this so a good excuse. Also an economical butter to make and tastes delicious. The recipe for this can also be found on Fran’s post or http://www.gypsyforest.com/welcome_to_gypsy_forest/2012/09/cinnamon-maple-sunflower-seed-butter.html

I used honey rather than maple syrup.

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Coconut Oil Deodorant:

This is all I use nowadays and is very economical to make compared with organic deodorants. I shall also post this this separately.Image

It’s a beautiful day here today and I have so much to do I don’t know where to start but at the beginning is probably a good idea….coffee, while I think about everything and procastinate as well as only I can do 🙂

Oh, I did have a nice thing happen. I got an email from a fellow blogger from Australia who is coming to NZ and would like to visit if he can manage it. I think that’s pretty cool 🙂

And this week I started reading on the e-course I won on Everyday Simplicity from http://handcraftedtravellers.com. Check out their site if you haven’t already, it’s just lovely.

Freezing eggs and preserving….my busy time of the year.

And so it starts – all those tiny seeds planted in spring by an very exuberant husband pays off in a barage of “stuff to do something with” now. There is 2- 3 months ahead of me in food processing and most days I love it, some days I wonder why on earth we do all this. Once it’s all finished though and we get to step back and see the years food all sitting there, it’s a satisfying thing.The garden is flourishing and gaps have been newly planted for autumn, the last chance to grow for winter food – bar the raised garden of greens out in the front yard and “yay” the glasshouse this year.

Freezing eggs: We normally give surplus eggs away but have started freezing them for use over winter when laying is minimal. It makes no sense to give them away and buy over winter. Whole eggs can just be stirred (not whisked as it gives too much air) and frozen in ice cube trays or zip lock packages with the amounts on. Our eggs are quite large so two cubes equals one egg (for baking)Image

My provident journey did this post on freezing eggs which people might be interested in if wanting to freeze yolks and whites separately http://myprovidentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/provident-uses-for-your-freezer-eggs-other-things-i-havent-tried/

Beetroot/Beets: 

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Beetroot is one of our favourite vegetables to grow – I think so far we have planted over 200 or so with more to come. It’s easy, virtually disease and pest free, has a good leeway when it can be harvested so can be preserved when I have the time, both the bulbs and leaves can be eaten and it’s super healthy. We use it nearly every day either grated in salads, roasted, juiced (except I blew up my juicer forcing beetroot into it!) and we bottle heaps of it. It’s a good food to have in sandwiches through winter when tomatoes aren’t available. https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/spiced-beetroot-preserving-recipe/

Spiced Beetroot is a delicious recipe for bottling and we make it every year

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Beetroot Chutney

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The recipe for this I found at http://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/beetroot-chutney/ I had never tried it before so made just one quantity to try it. This has alot of ginger in and is spicy/gingery. I like it but I don’t think hubby will. Note my labels 🙂 🙂 This is so the lady of the house who wears reading glasses but doesn’t bother when getting food from the pantry, doesn’t serve up feijoa jam to go with cold meat when we have guests….again! I needed something BIG. I found these labels and was rapt, they peel off so next season I don’t need to soak anything off. A bonus, and worth every cent.

My husband refuses to eat the leaves cooked (though he will eat small ones in a salad) but I saw this recipe earlier in the week and really want to try it, it looks utterly delicious http://backyardfarmer.co.nz/2014/01/28/ricotta-and-beetroot-tops-pasta-one-of-the-best-pastas-i-have-ever-eaten-and-i-have-eaten-a-lot-of-pasta/

Zucchini:

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:):) Yep, we have a glut, especially as Roger planted 6 plants this year because he really likes the chutney I make and this vegetable is so versatile. We are giving it away left, right and centre lol. But I am freezing some, making heaps of the chutney because it gets ladled onto to everything all year long and we are eating it every night. I tried zucchini chips but they didn’t work out – I will try it again at some stage.

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Yesterdays harvest minus the four marrow I gave away.

Raspberry Liqueur: A friend of ours who makes his own spirits kindly made us a batch of vodka. I would never buy vodka but wanted to try making my own fruit liqueurs and this is affordable and can be used with many different fruits. 1 lb of fruit, 3 cups of vodka and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Leave to steep for a month, shake or stir regularly. Strain, sit a month then filter and rebottle, leave at least 3 months before drinking. Yep, I know….3 whole months!! I wonder if the same thing will happen that happened with our wine, drunk too soon but it was very good!

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I have slowly been adding dried vegetables to a large jar of dried soup mix. We bought a metre and a half of aluminium fly screen netting to place on top of our oven racks and vegetables can be tried overnight at 50 – 60 degrees. I have done carrots, beans, onions, pumpkin to add too lentils, barley, herbs etc. This is slow going but given I used to buy a packet of stockpot mix as a base to each pot I made I figure at least I know what is in my homemade.

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We bought 2 freezers for $1 – or less

For month’s we have been looking out for a cheap freezer, and it needed to be cheap! We have one upright one and a fridge freezer, this isn’t enough for what we need to do this year. Last week Roger had said that our hogget was due and we discussed again that we need another freezer…it ended with me saying “Something will come along, it always does” and we left it there. Narf (another blogger) and I had this conversation several months ago, when we need something it strangely arrives, somehow. Sometimes it takes a gamble, it may pay off – or it may not!

Friday evening I was absolutely shattered, I haven’t been sleeping well with the heat and had had my granddaughter all week, I was a weary Nana. I went to bed at 8 pm leaving Roger looking on an auction site for a freezer, nothing cheap there he tells me. “Ok” I reply “I am off to bed, darling can you guys (meaning him or the dogs, because it’s a rare morning one of them doesn’t wake me at some ungodly hour) not wake me in the morning, I need a decent sleep”. “Sure” he smiles 🙂

Saturday morning, 5 am,  Wendy is dead to the world……….”Sweetheart, wake up, I need you to help me with something”

I open my eyes and stare at him, notice the sweetly apologetic look on his face (and the fact it’s still dark) as he says “Sorry :(”

I turn over onto my tummy, put my head in the pillow to stop me yelling. “What?!”

“There’s 2 freezers on TM for $1 buy now, they just want them taken away. They’ve been stored for ages but were going. They’re only $1!! I can’t buy them on the computer, you need to use your laptop and get them for me”

I turn over, look at the clock, turn back, face into pillow “Why can’t you use your computer?”

“Because I haven’t been able to log in since we changed providers” he says matter of factly “I think I have told you that before”

I sit up “What do you mean you haven’t been able to log in since we changed providers? It doesn’t make sense?!! You must be spelling it wrong”

“NO, I AM NOT!” all defensively “It’s only happened since we changed providers, you didn’t sort it on my computer”

“I DIDN’T NEED TO, I changed it on site! YOU MUST BE SPELLING IT WRONG!!!

He sighs, looks at me as though I am truly missing a great point – that he has been extremely patient with me over the fact that I have neglected to do something important for him on his computer but he doesn’t want to argue about it right now “Do you want to get up and buy 2 freezers for $1 because we need them”

Ok, yep, we need them and he can’t spell to save his life, so I shall get up at 5 am because if he’s willing to take a gamble and go to the trouble of hauling 2 freezers onto the truck and all the way home to see if they work, I can get up and help him. SIGH!

“What are you going to do with these things if they don’t work” I ask as my dressing gown goes on

“One of them should go, the other I will make your cold store in the garden 🙂 :)” A bribe. When I mentioned this idea a year ago he was horrified I expected him to dig a “bloody great hole in the garden big enough to house an old freezer!!”

So, I get on my computer, read the ad which sounds promising – possibly 2 functioning freezers, buy them for a dollar.Then I ask Roger to show me why he can’t log on on his computer – an old geriatric desktop he clings to because he can’t figure the lap top out.

You know the automated addresses that come up when you log in on sites? Yep, for 10 months he had been trying to log in with a misspelled new email address. “Sorry” he says again with the same angelic, apologetic smile 😦 “I’m really sorry I ruined your sleep in 😦 Would you like me to make you a coffee now you’re up?”

Later that morning he goes in, gets a friend to help him get these things onto the truck. Tries to give the guy his dollar and is told he wants nothing but to have someone take them quickly as he is leaving the area. He brings them home, plugs them in while still on the back of the truck to see if they go because……to get them downstairs is going to require a mammoth task because he dug up the bottom drive to extend his vegetable garden which is now in full summer growth. We no longer have the back property access we had when we moved here and just had a normal back yard like everyone else.

The outcome? Two working freezers. They’re old, one is very shabby, they both need a good clean up but they are in good working order and the seals are good. Now, we just have to get them installed down the very bottom corner of the house in the laundry. This will not be my problem thankfully 🙂 🙂 I can haul large secondhand windows for a glasshouse AND DAMAGE MYSELF DOING IT, but freezers are beyond me.