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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Making new from old….and homemade Mod Podge

A month or so ago I showed a little cupboard I had started repainting, one that my son almost threw out. I wanted to turn it in to something my granddaughter might like but or I would rather have inside (depending on how it turned out!) then I didn’t like my paint job 🙂 I decided to decoupage it. Anyway this is it before:Image

My husband pinched a short length of cane from the back of a cane bookcase to replace the missing one, I painted it, covered it, attacked it with sandpaper to shabby it up a bit and applied a couple of coats of Mod Podge.Image

Mod Podge is a horrific price here in New Zealand – $20 for a wee pot of it. As I have never tried the real stuff I have nothing to compare the results with but from my very unexperienced eye I am happy with the surface.

Mod Podge:

1 cup Elmer’s or PVA Glue

1/2 cup cold water

2 tablespoons clear varnish

Mix all together and store in glass jar.

The price for much more than a jar or Mod Podge was around $3.

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I love the look of rusty barbed wire and old timber. Rustic and shabby are my favourite styles in decorating…which is good because it’s cheap, or sometimes free. Overall though I guess you could say we are eclectic collectors of junk 🙂 Roger works on a farm that has heaps of discarded “materials” everywhere so he brings home bits and pieces sometimes.

6 months ago he made me this kitchen shelf to hold bigger things I had no storage for. It was made from old farm gates and posts.Image

And a few weeks back he made me this 🙂

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And maybe everyone will wonder why on earth I love this but I have no idea….I just DO love it. We went to help someone clean up their section around 5 years ago. They own an old country pub/cafe and this was in a skip. It was much bigger and is solid wood and quite weathered. Much to my husband’s consternation I asked if I could have it for the kitchen wall. He cut it down for me to fit but it’s still very large. It came down in the quakes and we are about to put it back up.

About as eclectic as it gets adding this to the bunch lol

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Rain, rain and more rain

The past 4 days it has just rained. After months of none at all we have quickly become a quagmire in the garden, it’s been cold and miserable.

Garden:

Roger made a feed tray for the chooks from an old paddling pool frame (from his “collection of useful junk”) The fence is really high and a bit awkward for me to undo so I generally tip food over it, ok when it’s dry but not when muddy.Image

Before any bale of peastraw gets to the garden the chooks get to enjoy it for a while, pecking insects out and whatever out.

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Roger has been repotting boysenberry plants that have rooted. Shoots self root and can be cut from the parent plantImage

He took this photo to show me his wonderful compost under his 2 yr old branches left in a pile down the back of the garden.

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This is a carrot he left to go to seed. He hasn’t done this before but instead of collecting them he prepared some earth then shook the large seedheads everywhere. He is hoping they grow this way….?Image

Kitchen:

Shameful bragging – look at the size of our figs this year!! This is a decent sized avocado next to this one.Image

I have been drying any excess as they come in, there is not enough yet to bottle. Figs really only last a day or two before they spoil, we had our first meal of buckwheat pancakes, bacon and honey grilled figs and it was good!!!!Image

Drying herbs at the same timeImage

Making more chutney and a large jar of onions.Image

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I keep a pail of wild bird seed on the porch and mix it with fat left in the roasting tin for the birds, the chooks also love it. This mix costs $7 for a large bag at the supermarket but a local seed and grain place sells it for only $3.30.  Apparently irresistible to a certain cat.Image

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Home:

A month or so ago I wrote a post about thoughts of leaving here. We have each decided we want to stay put 🙂 We’re too old to start over and we are rooted here when it comes down to it 🙂 We have thoughts of how we can earn some income from here but won’t mention those just now, a “one-day plan”. Next weekend, Easter, we are going to repaint the lounge after leaving it undercoated for rather a long time.

This bird’s nest is too tiny to catch a decent photo but we were amused to find it when Roger cut down the trees at the back. In the earthquakes last year our hot water cyclinder burst. We replaced it and Roger pulled the old one to bits to get a most lovely copper inner out. It was insulated with old wool that he put in a sack, this nest was made with some of it 🙂

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This has been sitting on our front porch for ages, my son was going to throw it out. I grabbed it but never did like the black of it and one piece of cane was missing from the front. Image

I got bored the other day and decided to repaint this. Roger plucked a piece of cane from the back of a cane bookcase to fill the gap. I am not doing a great job but it will be better I hope than before…maybe? maybe not 🙂

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Anyway, I think that’s all this week from Quarteracre. Keep warm those in the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy your Spring those in the Northern 🙂

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.

Garden and Simple Sprays, Preserving Autumn Foods…Pets

Garden:This week has been super busy with all sorts, neither of us has barely stepped into the garden except for feeding chooks, turning hoses on etc. Last weekend Roger cut down many of the boundary trees, left a few others thinned so today he is tidying up all of this, chopping larger wood for firewood, smaller wood for kindling. The rest will be put in a large pile till the leaves fall off for the garden. Then, in the middle of winter he will burn the rest in the middle of the yard and spread the ash. This photo is deceptive, it’ a mess and there is a ton of tree material to dispose of.

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Two simple sprays we use in the garden are milk for moulds on zucchini, cucumbers etc and garlic spray for aphids and other pests.

The milk spray for mould is 1 cup of milk, 2 tsps baking soda and one litre of water, shake and use use as spray. This is very effective

The garlic spray for pests is generally older garlic left over from the previous season. Peel garlic cloves and put in blender with water. Strain well, pour into bottle and add a wee squirt of dish washing liquid. Top with water. There must be enough garlic to be pungent. This is brown in the photo as we added worm tea as other bugs don’t like the smell of worm tea. This also acts as a foliage feed.Image

Today I will be picking blackberries, zucchini, apple cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, the remainder of the cranberries and harvesting carrots and beetroot. The figs are nearly ready, yippee, except we get simply hundreds and they will need to be bottled but these are nearly our favourite crop and we eat them all ways.

Kitchen:

A friend gave me a small box of pears so most of them were bottled. I don’t have a canning kit so we use the overflow method as is most common in NZ with fruits. Image

I had to buy tomatoes as well this year. I have enough for sauces etc but not enough to freeze for tomato puree for pasta sauces and cooking. As we don’t know what sprays have been used I also wash in a sink of water with vinegar added to clean off any chemicals. Sauce tomatoes are cheap in summer and I got these for $1 a kilo.

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I have made around 20 of these packets for the freezer with more needed still. The fruit just chopped roughly, boiled in a pan till quite

concentrated then processed briefly in whiz so still a little chunky.

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Preserving pepper / capsicums. We did not grow these 🙂 Our green ones are coming on slowly (summer was not a great one) and I will be freezing them as they come for stuffing later in year. These coloured ones generally sell for around $1.30 each in late summer but I have been on the look out for cheaper. A town vege shop had them for sale for $1.29 for bags of three assorted colours. Also soaked before using .

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The recipe for peppers in olive oil can be found here, thank you Backyard Farmer! They are simple but require a bit of time to slice. Quickly bring to boil in a mixture of boiling water, vinegar and seasoning, drain and pack in jars with olive oil.

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A bonus is lots of seeds to dry and plant next year.IMG_3411

A dessert we have often is Berry Claffouti. Berries placed in a dish, sugar sprinkled over and a light but yummy batter poured over and baked. This is a favourite here and much enjoyed by quests. If making it just for us I will use yogurt but for visitors it is made a little more richer by the use of homemade ricotta using strained yogurt (or bought cream cheese if short on time)Image

Another bottle of berry liqueur was made, this time a mix of blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. No photo taken 🙂

Home:

This week we had to have our old dog put to sleep. Bob was 19 and was sick and had dementia.This photo was taken 6 years ago when we got him. Bob was then called Clyde and his owner was going into a hospice and needed to find other owners for him quickly. Friends of ours mentioned we would probably take him and though I wasn’t too convinced I wanted him he sat on my knee and gave me a big cuddle when we visited them….yep, we were sold 🙂IMG_0870

I had never much cared for Foxy’s but Bob was a character and endeared himself quickly. He was a great companion and is now buried in the garden along with Basil, my 15 year old “baby”.

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 When Basil died we got another dog from the SPCA. “Bree”. She had to be put down 4 months later as she had cancer. She was a beautiful dog, one that had been mistreated but was so lovable it was devastating to lose her. Didn’t even get a photo of her, she was silver and cream and a staffy cross.

So, we still have Syd, a hulking great farm dog who sleeps on the couch and gives huge bear-like cuddles. He is the cuddliest dog you could ever meet, I am sure.IMG_3178

I have virtually always had a dog and always will, there is no greater love and loyalty than that of a dog 🙂

And we now have mittens who is happier to be able to come upstairs now the demented, geriatric who used to chase him away has now gone!IMG_3130

The First Week of Autumn

I don’t know what happened to summer this year, it’s been cooler than usual, cloudier than usual and has gone in a blur . The firewood has started coming, the garden is dying off in a mess of wilting foliage. The only good thing about autumn is the fig, pumpkin and feijoa harvests, smiling sunflowers…then it’s just one big clean up and the wintering down off most of it. 

The garden:

Roger is grinning from ear to ear today….we finally got his bees. We have been waiting for a year or so for a hive to come up cheaply and it did. They aren’t cheap, but this was 1/2 the price we usually see them for. The man he bought them from this morning assured us there would be 30 kg of honey from this box, additionally there would be beeswax and the pollination of vegetable plants and fruit trees. We then had to buy a book on keeping bees which was not cheap either…..I think the first new book I have bought in decades.

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Mittens early morning routine of watching the chooks being fed. It’s a good thing they are behind a huge fence I think.Image

The leeks are growing well, the zucchini are dying off and behind them a mass of pumpkins and ripening wine grapes.

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A pumpkin invasion.Image

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The tomatoes are nearing the end. With such a cool summer we didn’t get nearly as many as I had hoped for despite planting extra plants. We got heaps but not enough for the year, I will be buying some!

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Silverbeet (Chard) self seeds everywhere. We have masses of it, we eat alot of it and the chooks love it.

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Beans and beetroot still growing but not much longer for the beans.Image

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The herbs are nearing the end for many, the big herb garden has been covered with peastraw to build up the soil and keep weeds down over winter. The oregano flowering.Image

In the glasshouse we have peppers and chillis just fruiting/ripening and one enormous tomato plant that doesn’t have alot of fuit, is keeping sun off the other plants but Roger is very proud of it:)

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In November we decided to journal all our harvesting to see how much we could grow. So far, in three months it is up to nearly 300 kg (2.2 lbs to kg I think?) of fruit, vegetables and berries. There is still alot to come. This from our garden which is probably 1/8 acre. 

The kitchen:

I have been making tomato sauces, both barbecue sauce and a ketchup. We love both of these recipes. I save my olive oil bottles for tomato sauce, I have done 4 litres, maybe another 4 will do.

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And started some Blackberry Liqueur.

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And it’s soup season, another thing to be thankful to autumn for 🙂 

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Home:

These are some of the guys from Vanuatu, they came last night for farewell drinks…all rather shy of the camera 🙂 These guys come over to work in the vineyards and we know them well now. This is the summer crew. We were talking last night about their lives…they either have family land or buy a small area for very little, build their houses from wood they chop down, live in small villages and their food is practically free. They grow their own vegetables, eat mostly seafood they catch and occasional chickens (usually for ceremonial meals) and their fruit and coconuts are picked freely from the thousands of trees that grow naturally. That’s their diet and for all our food groups and daily requirement lists….these guys are truly fit and healthy. They speak between 3 and 4 languages and are honest, hardworking, proud but humble people. Vanuatuans have twice been voted the world’s happiest in the world. I just thought I would add all this after the other day’s grumpy post about dissatisfaction 🙂 🙂

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