Autumn and the Herb Garden

I cannot believe it’s the first week of Autumn here, summer seems to gone so fast! We have had a very dry summer, officially reaching drought conditions a month ago and there have been fires in our area this summer for the first time in quite a few years. With Autumn comes the dying off of the garden and I have been busy preserving all the herbs as they also reach their end. This year we extended the herb garden with our last ornamental garden pulled out and planted. I LOVE the herb gardens and learning more about their uses – love cooking with them, using them in soaps and herbal creams and skincare….I still have much to learn but I really enjoy it! This year we have had Mint, Soapwort, Parsley, Feverfew, Nasturtiums, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Peppermint, Comfrey, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Echinacea, Rosemary, Tarragon, Calendula, Thymes, Oregano, Don Quai, Sage and Chives and I have also been collecting wild plants and weeds like Borage, Dandelion, California Poppy, Plantain etc. I don’t grow Lavender yet but I will next year. With a friend down the road with a lavender hedge and a sister with a lavender farm there seems little need right now to grow it.

French Tarragon

French Tarragon

I love using these fresh but need them throughout the year so I have been drying them all, the kitchen herbs are in jars in the pantry, the ones I use for soaps etc stored in many paper bags and boxes.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Last week while out picking Sage and Rosemary I had the great? idea of trying smudge sticks (I am all fingers and thumbs so found these a little fiddly to begin with) A quick look on-line gave me the instructions and these are my first attempts. One thing worth noting if you ever decide to try them – they shrink ALOT. Don’t tie off your ends of string as you will probably need to re-tie them but these are lovely to make and smell gorgeous.

Smudge

Smudge

What can be made from the herb garden excites me and if you have ever thought you would like to grow and experiment with them I urge you to do it – I read about them for years but never really did much about it, they are beautiful to use.

Herbal toner

Herbal toner

 

Dandelion & Calendula

Dandelion & Calendula

I am sorry to see the end of the herb growing season and have been rushing to dry everything….the poor garden is looking rather empty now….tomorrow I will be taking all the basil and making pesto to freeze. I also like to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays, rosemary, basil and oregano are nice done this way. I had plans to make some seasoned salts too but they are at least dried and I can do this later in the season when not so busy. It’s also a time of seed saving though early days yet.

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

Mid January we went away for the weekend and passed through the city where the lovely Gallivanta lives (a fellow blogger) She had told me to drop in if we were down that way as she had a book for me. She had two as it happened and they are lovely ones too 🙂 I very much appreciated them and though I haven’t had time to sit and read too much I know through Autumn and winter I will have my nose stuck in these!

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AND, though I really didn’t need the extra work and had to think long and hard about it I started another blog two days ago to be added to my shop site when I can figure out how to do that. On this blog I have always kept to more frugal ideas and recipes but this new one has the recipes for what I sell. Two reasons for doing this…they are nice! and they also show the work and expense that goes into making nice products for sale. Though not exactly cheap to make many use flowers, herbs, weeds and wildflowers so if you are interested in making your own skincare and home products I invite you to follow me here https://www.tumbleweedsnaturals.wordpress.com/  – It is VERY new and you will recognise a couple of recipes I have shared here at quarteracre.

 

 

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Summer lovin’

Hi, I am back 🙂 Working on a new laptop that I hate, Windows 8 sucks by the way, for anybody thinking of buying a new computer! And for anybody waiting on an email reply from me please let me know because some of my emails are disappearing out into the net world never to be seen again I am discovering – I have replied to all! This has been an expensive month after having to replace a laptop, vacuum cleaner, cell phone and repairs to the truck – how glad I am now that I worked all those hours!

We are harvesting from the garden with some great successes this year but also disappointments. We lost all our tomatoes this year, I think my husband was to blame for that one though he is keeping quiet about what he possibly did to them. I have a feeling that the “foliage feed” he used was something else entirely that he knows I wouldn’t have liked him using but he did in error. Our self sewn beetroot that we transplanted out in great rows all failed, a terminator gene maybe? Our strawberries have not done well. But after a few years of failed potato crops because of a bug problem here this year we harvested over 70 kg of beautiful potatoes. The raspberries went crazy and we got over 40 kg with autumns berries already on their way, the beans and zucchini are always great cropping, the blackberries, cranberries, peaches, peppers and chilli will have very good harvests, silverbeet (chard) lettuce and broccoli have all self sewn everywhere for regular picking. The pumpkins are spreading out everywhere again with plenty on. We got heaps of onions, garlic and carrots and have stared replanting empty spaces for autumn. The herb garden is wonderful with another rock garden dug up and planted in herbs (another post!)

After saying I wouldn’t be freezing vegetables this year, I am 🙂 Old habits die hard and it seems stupid not to when you have it lol. Jams and chutneys and being made at the moment, last year I made around 35 jars of our favourite Zucchini Chutney and just used the last of it two weeks ago so will make the same this year. We still have heaps of bottled fruit left from last year and 14 jars of other chutneys Roger wont try so I will be sticking to just the one in future. We ran out of tomato sauce a month ago and the commercial stuff is disappointing in comparison so I will have to buy a mountain of tomatoes to make more.

I have made no liqueurs or wine so far this year, I just haven’t felt motivated to. I have gone back to work doing strictly one day a week plus m on-call shifts which are simply by phone if any issues and occasionally going in to help with something. Roger is still doing 5 days a week but the work is far less demanding physically – I have to say I didn’t realise how exhausted he was and how hard he pushed himself on the farm. He had little desire for the garden but now is back to his old self and out there for hours….it’s tidy again! 🙂

Me, most of what computer time I spend is on the Freeconomy page – we have grown from 130 at the beginning of December to nearly 500. It is working fabulously but there are occasional issues of greed, grabbing, rudeness, a couple of people selling stuff they got free on other pages! People are people and there are all sorts out there, after banning a few we are going great.

I am back to making my soaps and hope to do a market this weekend. I have been busy drying herbs and local weeds/wildflowers for use during the year. How to package them at reasonable cost is always a consideration but I have settled on this, brown paper with a band. Printing whole sheets for wrapping was too expensive.

Anyway, I think this is about as long as it needs to be. I hope others are enjoying their summer, or keeping warm through their winter.

Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

Settling into Autumn

We are well and truly hitting Autumn. We have had the fire going quite a bit, the nights and mornings are chilly, the garden is on it’s very last legs. Just in time for fellow blogger Anthony and his family (from Australia) to visit tomorrow, the garden has exhausted itself!! But we are very excited and looking forward to meeting them 🙂

Either dead or dying

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When your garden looks like this on a very large scale there are several reactions all at once. Glee for one, lol. Things will slow down now and we can get to enjoy some other aspects of life and hopefully paint our lounge! Sorrow because we do love summer and horror, because that’s one grizzly mess to clean up!

But we do have sunflowers and we are still waiting on fruit and pumpkins to ripen.Image

There is still plenty to preserve. I have continued buying sauce tomatoes for pulping, cooking till concentrated and freezing. I did 7 jars of pickled garlic.

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A lovely fellow blogger 🙂 sent me a link one day for an easy way to peel garlic that was on You Tube. It was bashing it to break up then putting in 2 stainless steel bowls and shaking it rapidly for 5 minutes. If anyone ever tries this and gets it to work please let me know HOW? because it didn’t work for us!

Still pickling beetroot

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Roger picked me some peaches to do…..Bless him she says, between gritted teeth 🙂

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Capsicums are still coming and being frozen, as is, for stuffing with whatever over winter

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We have plans now for our marrows. I got given a recipe by a friend for Marrow Rum (Fran?)

You take the top off, de-seed it, and fill it with good brown sugar and let it ferment for 2 months in a cool place. Apparently it makes very good booze! I hate rum but am keen to try it, I am sure we will find takers for it.

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A large batch of apple sauce was made and frozen and another batch of cider vinegar is on the go.Image

You could be mistaken for thinking we either a) had a white telly-tubby call in or b) we were visited by martians – Roger’s first visit on the bees 🙂

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He is really enjoying them and we are both becoming quite fascinated as we read more about their community living, work, and lives.

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Our kitchen window is the most used window in our house. Roger will often appear at it, grin, tell my to hold out my hand and pass me the first fig, strawberry, tomato…bird’s nests he has found etc. All sorts come through that window, or get passed out of it, often a beer or a fresh baked something. Twice in one week he bought these to show me 🙂Image

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AND FINALLY!! A source of great excitement arrived.

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Last year I inherited by Mum’s new oven when she went into a rest home. A year later it’s arrived via my sister and hubby on holiday. It was a 3.5 hour ferry trip and over an hours drive away but was bound to get here sooner or later. The decrepid old thing we had was near it’s last legs, half the elements no longer worked and the racks caved in occasionally. You have no idea how welcomed this appliance was!!! It will make preserving and drying a whole lot easier that’s for sure.

Many of you are heading into Spring, I wish you a long and productive two seasons!!

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.

Plum Jam

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When making plum jam either the plums can be halved and stones removed before cooking or you can remove them with a slotted spoon while it’s boiling (they float to the top). If the stones come away easily I would recommend doing that…the other way can take ages.

Plum Jam:

1 kg plums

1 kg sugar

250 mls water

Wash the plums and de-stalk if necessary. Sterilise jars by heating in a slow oven for 1/2 hour at least. If using metals lids sterilise these by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

Put plums in a large pot with the water and cook about 30 – 45 minutes (lid on) till pulpy. Stir in sugar and boil gently until thickened and test a little in a saucer in the fridge, if it comes out with a skin on top it will set. Makes around 7 – 8 smallish – med jars. IMG_3317

Pickled Cucumber

We had an abundance of Apple Cucumbers this year.

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They are slightly milder and sweeter than green cucumbers and not quite as acidic. Plus we like their size and they are always a reliable crop.

I found this recipe on http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/pickled-cucumber There are many recipes out there, I chose this one because there is not not alot  of added seasonings and spices, I felt the cucumbers could retain their flavours with this recipe. Green cucumbers are used in the original.

This is the basic original recipe, I did 4 times this amount of vinegar mix and about 18 or so apple cucumbers with four onions.

Pickled Cucumbers:

3 large Cucumbers

4 large Onions

4 tablespoons salt

2 1/2 cups White distilled vinegar

3/4 cup white  sugar

1 tsp each of mustard and celery seeds

Slice the cucumbers and onion the night before (or minimum 2 hours) Sprinkle with the salt in recipe and toss. The next day drain off liquid and rinse with cold water. Pack into sterilised jars. Simmer the vinegar, white sugar and spices for 3 minutes. Cool till lukewarm and pour over cucumbers and onions. Seal.

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