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 This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the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.

Saturday in the Kitchen and garden….

Roger (aka Roboman) spent the week at work up in the hills spraying gorse. He has been exhausted at night but sleeps like a baby and this morning was up and out in the garden at 5.30. He weeded furiously for several hours ending up with a mammoth heap of weeds. Went to the shop, butchered a sheep, took rubbish to the dump, collected a huge ute load full of peastraw, came home, put alot of it around the garden…left a pile in the herb garden to finish later then took the car down the bottom where he unloaded it for the big garden… then had to repair a gate he broke in the process. Trimmed and bagged up 10 kg of onions. Helped me pick cranberries then got ready to go and play golf for the afternoon. Getting ready for his shower at 2 pm he walks past me singing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey…” and plants a kiss on my head and walks off full of the joys of life…. and plenty of energy.

I was sitting at this time pondering the mess in the kitchen and wondering if I really wanted to go back in there. I am still sitting… I have decided it might be a good time to post photos and listen to music!

This, folks, is my kitchen at the moment:

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Another shot:

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There is a little bit of everything going on there. Cooking in the pots is a batch of tomato sauce and in the other scrap meat for the dogs. On the other side of the bench is a big pile of dishes, in the oven is jars for sauce. 2.5 kgs of plums still need bottling, the smaller zucchini are ready for freezing. We did not grow those huge tomatoes by the way – ours are only just beginning to ripen and we needed sauce so I bought some over-ripe tomatoes at a farm gate.

Bottled peaches and Drunken Plums

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For Drunken Plums, layer fruit and sugar in a sterilised jar right to the top. I halved these to make them fit better and not use too much sugar. Once full pour gin or vodka over. Use a knife to get rid of air pockets and fill to the brim. Lid and store for two months, shaking or turning daily. The plums will float to the top, these can be eaten and the liqueur can be bottled and drunk! (Recipe from HOMEGROWN: NZ Gardener Magazine) I have never tried this before and wanted to make it last year but didn’t get 1 plum.

 Pickled onions and peach vinegar

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Zucchini have been done for freezing, these are the marrow after not picking all week.

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Our first pick of cranberries this yearImage

 1.5 kg to go into the freezer until I do something with them, put in a pretty bowl for a photo 🙂

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 This year our two big peach trees gave us not a peach but grew heaps, really disappointing fruit wise. Our little dwarf peach gave us around 5 or 6 kg.

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 The blackberries are growing well but ripening slowly.Image

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Bigger onions to store in old onion sackIMG_3302

We have friends who work on a farm where garlic is grown, they are allowed to glean all that is left after the harvests. This is the box they dropped off, we swap for whatever we have available. Some will be pickled, some used for cooking, the biggest saved for seed garlic next season.

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Sometimes I moan that summer is taken up by days like this (in our spare? time) but when I look at these photos I know this – we could not afford to buy most of these foods. Zucchini, garlic, onions…yes, maybe occasional peaches or plums if we wanted to eat floury, flavourless things. These fruit trees were self sown, the blackberry a cutting, the cranberries were purchased, 12 at $1.25 for seedling sized plants – they are now ready to have cuttings taken off for a hedge down one side of the vege garden. This is good food, grown cheaply, eaten year round.

Chocolate Almond Buckwheat Clusters

When Fran (from The Road to Serendipidity) posted her recipe for Narf’s Bolshie Blissful Buckwheat Granola Clusters I knew I had to try these. After going gluten free several month’s ago I was really missing the muesli I used to make. As always I have tweaked the recipe to suit what I had or made wee changes in the method. I did not use apple sauce or date paste as Fran did because I rushed to make these one morning before work and had neither on hand. This is a delicious cereal with the potential for many variations.

Specialty breakfast cereals similar to this retail here (NZ) for $12 – $16 a packet, way beyond my budget, or desire to pay that much! You need to make sunflower seed butter first for this  I worked out that both a batch of butter (around 2 cups)  and 1 batch of clusters at 1.2 kg cost me around $12 to make. The sliced almonds were purchased at a bulk store as was the buckwheat. I always have alot of sunflower seeds on hand anyway but these are also purchased from bulk bins.

My recipe:

3 cups buckwheat groats

1 – 1 1/2 cup almond pieces (or other nuts)

3/4 cup sunflower seed butter

1/2 cup ground sesame seeds

3 good tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon molasses (optional)

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tsp vanilla

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cups chopped dates

Preheat oven to 320 F and lined a large roasting dish with baking paper. Mix the dry ingredients in a large dish/bowl.

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Mix the sunflower seed butter, coconut oil, vanilla and honey (molasses if using) and stir through dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. The mixture appears quite crumbly but is ok.Image

Pour into oven dish and bake for around 15 minutes. Through this time the oils and sugars will combine to make a thick, sticky mass….you want this and it will dry out on cooking. BE MINDFUL TO STIR OFTEN, this would burn easily. After 10 minutes add the dates.

And at this stage I forgot to take photos!!

Once the mixture has started to dry out and appears crumbly again, but still sticky, remove from oven and leave to cool, tossing a few times. It will crunch up on standing and on stirring it will break into clusters.

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Fran got her recipe from Oh, She Glows! so here are three variations of the recipe to ponder on and then create your own 🙂

I expect any nut butter would work just as well as the sunflower seed butter if it’s just too time consuming to make your own.

Garlic Hummus

Hummus is so simple to make and is cheap to do. A wee pot of it here costs around $3 – $4 but a batch of around 1 1/2 cups can be made for less than $1.50. I also prefer the taste to commercial hummus.

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I use chickpeas that have been cooked and frozen in bags. Instead of Tahini I use sesame seeds that have been ground in an old electric coffee grinder.

11/2 cups chickpeas

3 tabslespoons sesame seeds, ground

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

4 tbspn lemon juice

1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil

Throw all in a kitchen whiz and process until smooth, adding as much olive oil as is needed for a smooth, creamy texture. To serve drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

This basic recipe can be used with heaps of other options. Roasted garlic is nice in it rather than fresh but I don’t find it worth the hassle of doing it especially. Roasted pumpkin or sweet potato can be added (with garlic omitted) as can sundried tomatoes, roasted capsicum.

I would’ve shown it in a nicer dish surrounded in nice fresh vegetables from the garden but we had visitors and no time to take a photo so apologies for the less than exciting photo of it 🙂

Garden Harvest Vegetable Stock

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For some weird reason this got me all excited lol. I am intrigued by it – this is a very different way of making vegetable stock! I should call my blog Stumble Upon because invariably what I show in my blog is other’s ideas and recipes I have stumbled upon out of need for something. I am thankful to http://myovercrowdedgarden.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/homegrown-vegetable-stock-mix.html for putting this on her blog.

I had been wanting a natural vegetable stock powder. Commercial ones are too expensive, the thought of having to dehydrate and muck around creating my own was sounding like a long drawn out process. This looks perfect to try. It has a large amount of salt which preserves the paste for 6 months. The other thing that appealed was this looked a good way to use some of the frozen vegetables left from last season that have not such a great texture but still taste ok. For this I used a combination of fresh and frozen and am hoping the frozen doesn’t cause any deterioration in the storage time so it is an experiment. 2/3 of the vegetables are fresh though.

Basically 950 g of vegetables (any combination desired) are needed per ration of 250 g salt. Plus the garlic, herbs etc.

For this I used:

200 g pumpkin

200 g carrots

200 g leeks

100 g spinach

100 g onions

A few sundried tomatoes and cloves garlic

A large handful parsley and thyme

250 g salt

Put all in a food processor and process until smooth. This may need to be done in batches and combined at the end. Put into sterilised jars and apparently this will keep for 6 months in a cool, dry cupboard.

I seriously need to find another processor! Mine was bought secondhand about 8 years ago and the blades are quite blunt, hence this didn’t get quite a smooth as I would’ve liked but close to.

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Use a couple of teaspoons in soups, stews etc and season after adding this and doing a taste test as it is highly salted.

Quinoa Chocolate and Coconut Balls….2 ways

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Since going gluten free I have been baking for my husband but looking for other recipes to satisfy MY sweet tooth. There are many versions of these on the net, I looked at alot of them them then threw my own concoction together testing the flavours until I was happy with it. These are “cakey” in consistency but light, chocolaty but not too sweet or rich and they are yummy. This recipe made about 18 quite large balls, it could easily be halved.

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup dates

1/2 cup walnuts (or sunflower seeds)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 – 1 1/2 cups (approx) coconut

extra coconut for rolling

Put the dates and walnuts in a food processor and process till crumbly. Melt the coconut oil. Add all ingredients to dates and walnuts, starting with the one cup of coconut. Process till a consistency of dough that can be formed into balls, adding extra coconut if mixture too soft. Roll in coconut and chill.

Chocolate Cranberry Quinoa Balls

The second time I made these I changed the recipe a little. I used 1 cup of quinoa, omitted the peanut butter, increased the coconut to 2 cups, added 1 cup of cranberries.

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I chilled these then dipped in melted dark chocolate combined with 2 tsp coconut oil. Chill and keep refrigerated. These were wonderful too.

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Uncle Howard’s Chocolate Ganache Tart: The Best Vegan (and healthiest) Dessert You Will Ever Eat

I made this (very un)sinfully delicious tart yesterday. For a taste of something decadent without the horror ingredients I’d urge anyone to try this 🙂 Made with walnuts, avaocado, coconut oil, cocoa, dates and I used honey as a sweetener – topped with a wee bit of cream it’s perfect.

Gluten Free Gus

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Okay, gave you Chocolate Mousse with ginger crust, a dessert with traditional ingredients.  You’ll have fun trying this whether you eat a vegan diet or not. British brother-in-law Howard (check out his music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKO24MPVF7c) made it for us last summer, twice in fact, because it was so popular!  Trust me, it is rich and delicious enough to become a favorite.  Last night I texted the recipe to son Nathaniel who reported it was “insanely good.” I smiled when I checked the text to write this: my iPhone had autocorrected one of the ingredients: 1 Tablespoon vanilla “extravehicular.”  And so:

Vegan Chocolate Tart

7-9” tart pan with a removable bottom, lined with a circle of parchment paper.  The width of the pan will determine the thickness of the tart.  Straight sides work better than fluted.

Click Here To Print Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Crust:

8 oz. pecans, walnuts or almonds

6 oz…

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