Growing Chamomile from a Teabag

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I have been reading a fantastic book on home remedies written by James Wong. He has a wonderful blog and I found this which I thought was great (the picture above is stolen from there!)

” ….all you need to get started is a fresh (i.e. unused) chamomile tea bag, which – if you are a fan of chamomile – may well already be sitting in your kitchen cupboard. You don’t need to use the fancy ones in the picture either, really any brand of chamomile tea still within its use-by date should still work” Read more

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

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

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

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 This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Again these are just desires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What people eat in different countries around the world

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

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanilla Essence:

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

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

After 3 days:

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Herbal Tinctures:

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

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Freezing without blanching: A tip.

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

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

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

Seal while folded. All excess air is gone.

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Press out flat for storage

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Coriander Seed:

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

One coriander plant = thousands of seeds

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Just a little of them.

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

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

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Chocolate and Almond Buckwheat Granola Clusters:

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

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

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

I used honey rather than maple syrup.

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Coconut Oil Deodorant:

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

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

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

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

Second month of summer and busy…busy!

I must apologise for my lack of posts 🙂 I got an email from dear Robbie asking if I was ok just as I came on to do one. We have had visitors for nearly a month, different ones coming and going and I have also been relieving at work so things have been a tad busy. There’s alot going on in the garden but I have done little preserving yet (though I have done beetroot) it’s early days and we are just enjoying all the fresh food. Tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, chillis etc still have a ways to go and won’t be ready for another month or two.

The garden.

Mr QAL has planted beans for Africa and we have picked 8 kg so far without even starting on the second lot of plants (or 3rd!!)They are beautiful ones we plant every year because they yield so much, are small in size to freeze whole and are sweet and tender. The breed is Cabot.

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The second harvest of carrots is being pulled up tomorrow. These have grown beautifully this season.Image

The garlic harvest on Roger’s homemade drying rack.Image

The first lot of onions are ready to come out.Image

Pumpkins are doing there thing across the only piece of lawn left in the back yard. This was where I sunbathed but no more!

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The first decent bunches of grapes on our vines. These were planted two years ago and now growing all over the bottom pergolas.

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One of two rock gardens has been ripped out and replaced with more herbs and two passionfruit vines to grow against the house in the only spot we could grow them. It doesn’t look much at present but will fill out nicely. Roger informed me proudly after this, when the next one is done there will be nowhere you could step on our property that doesn’t have food growing within a metre 🙂 Image

The garden is flourishing with hot sunny days and many wet ones which we don’t normally get. We have one woeful crop this year, our potatoes haven’t done so well. The first were tiny but still edible, the second lot a little better and only the third crop were half-pie decent. We have no idea why this happened.Image

A gift 🙂

Roger’s sister has recently been to stay. She is a nun working in Salvadore, Brazil. I have enjoyed listening to her stories of her life there, she has a garden full of banana trees and wee monkeys. We see her only every few years and this was her first stay here. She was terribly excited to see her brother’s garden and skited much on our behalf to the other relations who dropped by. When she left she gifted us this, a worm farm 🙂 Yet to house worms but they live down the road so not long.Image

Our garden shed

When I was taking photos it occurred to me I have never shown you this, our garden shed. We bought this our first summer, the only shed here was an old container which became our chook house very quickly. We are fortunate to have an underhouse basement that is very large but a way from the garden. We searched an online auction site here and it took some time before this came up…it was a pigeon coup full of pigeons. We got it for $60 and Roger and a friend bought it home, barely fitting on the back of his ute. The pigeons were rehoused to a relation and we got a shed with lots of wee cubby holes very cheaply. Image

Chickens!!

Much as hubby loves his chickens I often wonder if they are worth the hassle!! Our chooks have been eating their eggs which is a really hard thing to break. Some suggest blowing eggs and putting mustard in, we will try this. Apparently in Brazil they burn their beaks with a lighter…we won’t be trying this! Roger came up with an idea though which we think has stopped them. When they escaped last time we found a eggs a few weeks later we hadn’t seen. Too old to eat they were put in a bowl and left in the garden. He put those back in the chook nesting areas and I imagine they got a very nasty surprise when they pecked those! We think this has stopped it but time will tell.

I hope other Kiwis and Australians are enjoying their gardens and all others are keeping warm, dry and well!

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.