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.

Soooo busy, a short post….

The last few weeks have been way too busy! I am a casual at work, with twelve on the staff we have been managing on 6 of us the past few weeks at a workplace that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there has just been way too much of it for this young lady 😦 But it’s nearly at an end I hope as I haven’t been able to get back to the markets with my soaps until today. Roger came with me, I think he got sick of my moaning about being too tired to do it 🙂 🙂 I spent 9 hours yesterday packaging for pressies – I finally gave in and bought a cheap printer to make my own papers bought as digital from Etsy (very cheap!)IMG_4249 I got Happy Mail 2 weeks ago and haven’t had time to share but here tis 🙂 A most beautiful Christmas Bunting from the lovely TeddyandTottie who ran a giveaway and then decided everyone should have one!

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And here on my wall where it is the only thing of Christmas I have managed to do so far… and it’s beautiful. Thank you T&T xxx

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Other than that we have been attempting to catch up on the garden, weeding and watering and picking a sack of Broad Beans for freezing. IMG_4239

Did anyone else’s mother used to cook these till they were hard, dark grey and utterly revolting? Does anyone else have memories of sitting at the table till they finished their dinner….of hours spent looking at hard grey lumps on their plate? Once traumatised by these things I now love them.

Other than that the onions are harvested, the raspberry glut has started with a vengeance and we borrowed a still today to make more vodka for berry liqueurs – considering how quickly I drank them last year I am going to need ALOT more this time around!

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I hope you are all enjoying the start of the festive season 🙂

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 🙂

Settling into Autumn

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

Either dead or dying

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

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

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

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

Still pickling beetroot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AND FINALLY!! A source of great excitement arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Again these are just desires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What people eat in different countries around the world

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

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickled Cucumber

We had an abundance of Apple Cucumbers this year.

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

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

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

Pickled Cucumbers:

3 large Cucumbers

4 large Onions

4 tablespoons salt

2 1/2 cups White distilled vinegar

3/4 cup white  sugar

1 tsp each of mustard and celery seeds

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

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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