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.

The Spring garden and Roger’s new job!

It’s been two weeks since Roger left his job. The day after he handed in his notice of two week I was rung by a friend to ask if Roger would be interested in doing a job for her in his spare time, putting in a new hot water cupboard and a concrete base for her wood stove to be shifted onto in her kitchen. Yes, she could wait two weeks, so that’s what Roger did the first week.

When we decided he should give up his job we felt ok about it, trusted that everything would be ok and he would find something sooner or later, ideally 3 days a week so he would have time here to do what is needed. We trusted but we did have periods of anxiety because that’s not really the practical thing to do nowadays, job security is important. Anyway – while he was doing this work for my friend he wasn’t entirely sure of something so rung an old building workmate for some advice. The guy was off work after an op so called around and while there mentioned Roger’s old boss is always asking him “what’s Roger doing now?” and saying he was a damn good worker. So Roger rung him, they had a discussion and it’s turns out they are building a concrete precast yard in our little town, to build a new winery. Roger spent several years building concrete wineries, this guy said they could really use him, Roger told him he only wanted to work 3 days a week at present, the guy said that is fine and his hourly wage will be 50% higher than it was on the farm! He starts Monday. WE ARE OK, we are better than ok! Serendipidity 🙂

I found this on the net and it seems appropriate and I shall try to remember it.

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He has had a great week getting projects done but I can’t (won’t) show photos right now as he has also created a huge amount of mess everywhere and I have my pride! He has been using some of the scavenged timber to fence off the vegetable garden from the dog. It looks great but the whole back yard is a building site truly representative of Roger’s tendency to create chaos.

He has also been working on the fountain he started around 9 months ago. Done in stone aggregate and hardwood corner trims, he has put two stone hearts in the front. Problem is now though it weighs over 200 kg and he can’t lift it into place on his own.IMG_4068

A few pictures of the front garden

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The vegetable garden is all planted we have (in different stages of growth) potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, pumpkins, apple cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, chilli, brocolli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, garlic, onions, red onion, beetroot all in. Roger doesn’t bother growing peas anymore because they take up too much room and you don’t get enough food from them according to him and we don’t grow corn because we have it given to us by friends.

Fruit we have growing are strawberries, red and black currants, peaches, cranberries, figs, feijoas, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries plums (we hope we’ll get some this year along with the apricots) lemon, two newly planted passionfruit, new blueberry and gooseberry plants

Herbs we have are parsley, rosemary, chives, calendula, lemon balm, soapwort, mint, chamomile, peppermint, thyme, comfrey, oregano and basil, sage, feverfew, nasturtium, plantain.  Last year we dug out one of two remaining rock gardens to put in a bigger herb garden and the other one is about to be dug out for more.

Flowers: I have been planting some flowers in gaps around that I want for soaps creams etc. A friend has given me violets and lily of the valley plants, I have been splitting up geranium, planting marigolds and more calendula and a whole lot of sunflowers are going to be planted…somewhere!? It’s California Poppy time and I have been down the riverbed and beaches picking it – did you know it’s very good in wound salves? I made some this afternoon and will share the recipe during the week, along with some information about the uses of California Poppy’s I have found….it’s a handy plant for the medicine cupboard.

This morning we were out and about and I took a wrong turn down a street and ended up outside a scrap metal place that has junk and rubbish everywhere. Sitting in a pile of rubbish was this crate, it had one end broken but the two sides has this stamped on them. I gather it’s a wine crate…anyway, we snatched it and made a quick getaway lol

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I think one side will go on the dining room wall and the other ? Neat though.

I mentioned a while ago I had started a Freeconomy group for our area on Facebook and there is nearly 100 members now. It had been slow for the last month or so but people have started sharing seeds and plants which is great and I spent a good portion of a day last week running around delivering strawberry plants and vegetable seeds. It was nice and it was good to meet so many young people just starting out growing for their families. One person asked for anything spare so she could grow food for her kids and others joined in, it was great to see such alot of sharing happening. I was proud to see my son give away a near new mountain bike he wasn’t using, he thought someone could give it to a kid for Christmas but it was taken very appreciatively by a guy who needed it to get to work. I remember we had a discussion here about the fact some people will take advantage of other’s generosity but it’s proving to be a really worthwhile thing.

Sorry if this has ended up too long!

This weekend….Salvaging Building Materials and Junk!

Warning – sheer grunge follows!!

There is no gardening going on here this weekend but Roger is busy, busy. Most of our materials for outside have been salvaged from somewhere or another and a couple of weeks ago Roger heard about a new vineyard going in next to the farm where he works. To make way for it they are pulling down old shearing sheds and yards with hundreds of metres of timber fencing. Roger went around to see the contractor and told him he was interested in some timber for both fences and gates (we have to fence off the whole garden which would be no small cost if we were to buy it new) The guy took his number then rung him last night to come and take whatever he wanted because it is going to be demolished on Monday.

We went around last night to see if we wanted anything other than the fencing he had seen,  these fences you see at the side go for miles and some will be coming here. They aren’t as old as some of the timber. this building is between 80 -100 years old.

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Gates galore.IMG_3910

And 3 sets of these cute old indoor swinging gates (I have no idea what we are going to do with those!)

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And really old gates covered in lichen which Roger will make something with, but a mountain of these.IMG_3914

Inside is a long feed trough made from a really heavy old wood. It’s about 8 foot long and will go in front of the house for plants.

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This old hand basin doesn’t look flash all grubby but it’s a fabulous old thing, much bigger than a usual hand basin, there is no damage to it anywhere. We both liked it and are hoping we can use it downstairs.

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Some old cubby shelves.

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And there were treasures that were nothing at all to do with timber or fittings. Roger bought these home – they are interesting! Not good for anything but looking tatty somewhere 🙂

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Tomorrow our carport will be full of what to anyone else (yes, I know what you are thinking! lol) but to us all of it has potential. It needs a damn good clean, but this represents a huge saving on building materials for us. On top of that we get a pile of junk we cetainly don’t need but can do something with. I am not even going to show the old cupboard because everyone will think we are madder than we really are. Maybe one day 🙂 🙂

If you don’t ask you don’t get and Roger will ask if he knows something is going to be thrown out or burned (me, no, I won’t ask) But I am just thinking of a conversation we had with a young guy here about 6 months ago. When they moved here he couldn’t find work and things were pretty grim for him and his family. He saw a farmer getting his sheep in one day while they were out driving. He stopped the car, bolted the fence and bowled up to the farmer asking if he did 2 days work could he have a sheep to eat. The farmer didn’t hesitate and he got the animal butchered by the farmer all ready for the freezer.

During the week the old church down the road was pulled down, it was damaged too much in last years earthquakes. We didn’t know until later but I imagine (I certainly HOPE) that they managed to save the lovely old windows and some of the timber.

DIY Beeswax Food Wraps

Sometimes you see an idea that is so brilliant, so simple, so economical and you have to try it… this is one and gleaned from My Healthy green Family. Her post is so much more colourful than mine with alot more info and also some good comments so I urge you, if you are interested in making these, to check our her post 🙂

My husband is a big user of clingfilm for his lunches and other options have not proved successful. He will take his food packages out on the farm to eat through the day putting the wrap in his pocket when finished, it’s easy for him. I don’t know how many containers he has lost over the years (or lids) when I have tried to get him to use other things. Paper “doesn’t keep bread fresh enough” apparently and rips.

I was rapt to see these and made them today. Simple. The beeswax is cheap to buy from bee owners (I bought these for 50c a block and used 2 1/2) but now we have our own if hubby is happy with these it will be very good. When I started making them and told him he could trial them tomorrow he spoke in that lovely tone men use when humouring their ladies but he had to admit when I was finished they look a good, practical, healthier option.

Preheat oven to 150 deg C. Cut clean cotton cloth (old sheeting is fine) into desired sizes. I had 6 old cotton serviettes I used to trial them – the same colour as the beeswax which was an unfortunate choice to photograph.IMG_3842

Place on baking tray and grate the beeswax onto it, sprinkling it to fully cover.IMG_3843

Place tray in cover for just a few minutes, the beeswax will melt into a fine liquid that will seep down into fabric.

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Use a pastry brush to spread onto areas not quite covered enough if it bubbles. Hang to cool and dry on a clothes airer (just takes few minutes)

Done!

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 Wipeable, waterproof, airtight cloths that can be cleaned in hot soapy water by hand and will last a few months.

Footnote: These got a big thumbs up from my husband who declared “They work brilliant!”

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.

Freeconomics and Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man

I just finished reading Mark Boyle’s book The Moneyless Man and found it hugely inspiring. Mark was an economics graduate and businessman who discovered Ghandi. Ghandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” became the ethos by which he began to live and Mark started a Freeconmic movement, one in which members gave freely to those in need. This movement operates in over 150 countries around the world in town and city communities. The Freeconomic Movement operates on a Pay-It-Forward ethos. As he puts it in his speech (linked below) “For thousands of years we have been looking at life through a lens of “What can I take”. Imagine on a table in front of you there are different lens and we take off our old and put on a new one of “What can I give?”

“Imagine a world where we can give without expectation of receiving anything in return to someone who needs help.”

From an ecological viewpoint Mark discusses the toll consumerism has taken on the planet, the wasteful nature of it. In the UK 1/3 of all food traded through supermarkets etc is wasted, thrown out by either the stores or the consumer – much of this food imported from all around the world just to be dumped. Much of this food is grown by poorer countries who use low paid workers to produce it, the expense of getting it to our shops/homes grows with every step of the journey not only adding to the cost of the product but it takes a toll environmentally…then so much of it is dumped. The same could be said for many of our purchases which end up in landfills sooner or later.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, how much food, warm clothing, furniture etc is dumped when so many have so little and go hungry, not in only third world countries but in our own?

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In late 2008 Mark made a commitment to try living one year without money. He advertised on Freecycle for something he could live in and was given an old caravan, he made a rocket stove to cook on. He found an organic farmer who was willing to let him live in a small area in return for some work. He dug a hole to use as a loo, surrounded it with a makeshift tent he could also use as a camp shower. He also was given a fire and used waste wood to heat his caravan. He used an old bike to get around or walked many miles many days. He grew his own food, foraged and went skip diving. He talks of feasts him and his friends threw for up to 1500 people on waste from supermarkets, donations from many different sources (though I expect his profile in the area possibly helped alot there) He not only survived the in the year but at the end of his time realised how much happier he was, that he was a better person for it and decided to stay. The proceeds from his book are going towards land for a Freeconomy Community to set up their own place and this will not be a closed community but an open one.

Few of us would be willing or feel able to give up money, for those who would like to he shows it’s possible. But I found him inspiring for many reasons …he puts his money (or lack of!) where his mouth is, he fosters generosity rather than greed, he raises awareness of all sorts of ecological and society issues, he is a man who has taken up the “Be the change you wish to see in the world” challenge and run with it expecting nothing in return. His Freeconomy communities run much like Freecycle, people can advertise for stuff they need whether it be a lift somewhere, a couch to sleep on, tools, food…whatever. People can trade good for services or skills or just give freely. I am seriously considering starting one up here in our town but it does need thinking about. There will always be the takers who use something like this the wrong way, there is always potential for not so nice people in society to take advantage but… there are alot of good reasons to do this too. Many years ago I belonged to a Green Dollar Community where people traded skills and items with others expecting they in turn will recive what they need from others. I became very frustrated by doing alot of work for others who weren’t prepared to do their bit in return. This is different, there is no expectation here that you will receive anything in return, only that those you give to may one day pay-it-forward. People can get together to hold book or clothing swaps, family days etc. As an introvert I find this idea a bit scary 🙂 as a person who does care about the effect poverty has on people and communities I think it’s a brilliant idea. Anyway….bears some consideration.

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 To watch Mark Boyle’s talk on Ted X see here It runs for 15 minutes. Or an article he did for The Huffington Post here

The Sydney Morning Herald did an article on the rise of this in Australia while people are finding things tough and it appears to be successful and well used.

 

Restless Leg Syndrome and Homemade Vapor Rub Recipe

I experience Restless Legs Syndrome as a symptom of Fibromyalgia. It starts mid evening and can last until after bedtime, often keeping me awake. Twitching, fidgeting, restlessness, pacing are all part of this wonderful malady 🙂 I have tried lots of remedies for it, the only one I found to work was throwing a tantrum in my room and stamping my feet (quite by accident when I went into my room, slammed the door and threw a tantrum a myself lol). A quieter and more soothing fix to the condition would be nice though!

Last week at work a colleague happened to mention she also had it and had finally found something that worked, Vick’s Vapor Rub rubbed onto the soles of the feet when it starts. I wanted to try this but didn’t want to buy Vicks as its petroleum based. I checked out the list of ingredients in the shop though and looked online to find a recipe. This is a mixture really of what others use. Yes, it has worked for my restless legs which I am really pleased about…the tension and tingling sensations just eased and faded away.

 

Natural Vapor Rub:

1 cup olive oil

25 grams (1 oz) beeswax

30 drops Eucalyptus oil

10 drops camphor oil

20 drops peppermint oil

20 drops lavender oil

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Using a double boiler (or two pots inside each other with water in bottom one) melt the oilve oil and beeswax together.

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Leave to cool till the outside is just starting to set then add the essential oils. Mix through thoroughly and pour into a tin to set firm. If it sets too quickly (as mine almost did) or if you decide you want to add more essential oils return to pot to remelt.

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An optional oil you can add to this is Turpentine Oil, which is in the original Vicks.

 

Because this is a blog on frugality I will mention how I buy my oils. I never buy new but buy secondhand when I see them. Part used bottles can be bought for nix at op-shops, garage sales and through online auctions. I have built up a large supply for not alot of money and added these this week (including the box) when I bought them online from a local woman for $25. Over half hadn’t been opened and the remainder had had little use. Good oils can cost upward of $10 a bottle here so this is a huge saving.

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