Reflection as to why.

I’ve been pondering as to why I want to follow a sustainable, organic and waste free lifestyle. I think it all started with my dearly loved dad who couldn’t let anything that had some value or use go to waste. We even played the theme of Steptoe & Son at his funeral! Dad could always see a way to putting something to good use (much to mum’s disgust!) and loved being a bit quirky with his thinking. Exposure to traditional lifestyles when visiting the old Aunts (chooks honour their namesakes), with wood fire cooking and minimal use of mod cons, camping which instills survival skills, (these days we use the term-resiliance). My husband has battled with allergies his whole life and when I was pregnant I did a lot of research and was committed to providing only organic, unprocessed healthy food to my babies in the hope they would resist the allergy roller coaster. This was back in the time when you couldn’t buy healthy choices at the supermarket, health food stores were the only place you could buy unprocessed organic food, soy products and a good range of legumes. This lead me to growing and making most of our home staples from scratch. When I think back at the huge amount of work with planning menus, preparing and cooking it was a   was a major committment! Not sure how I managed it, but I did. We got through it and none of the kids have exhibited any allergies that were anticipated.

I think all of this as well as studying my diploma of sustainability where I learned so much more about the effects that pesticides, over processing and problems with waste management have on the world I was hooked to follow the committment. This week I would also like to add an acknowledgement to a local councillor that recently passed away, Bill Harrington was a valued member of our community who was always available and open minded. He worked tirelessly for his beloved community and family and he will be sadly missed by those who knew him and most likely those who didn’t once they realise how much he did. Bill never had anything other than benefit to the community as his agenda and I for one am sad to hear of his passing. Sincere condolences to his family….

OK, enough reminiscing! This weekend….

With some glorious weather, the main objective was to have a major clean up of the back yard and enjoy the sunshine. This included clearing up the massive amount of oak leaves that have fallen so far and putting them into a composting pile for next years use, moving the chooks to a new spot because we need to edge the garden where they are currently housed, planning where the raspberry bed will go and generally create a sense of control.

IMG_9824With an Old English oak tree and a Pin Oak, we have masses of leaves to contend with. We’ve changed our management from attempting to deal with them weekly to waiting until they have banked up and we do a major clean in one hit. The theory is that this reduces lots of small time slots dedicated to a job that reappears every week until they have all fallen.

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Last year I found that the leaves when put into a cage took far too long to decompose because they lost moisture. This year I have lined the cages with black plastic (paint drop sheet cut offs) and layered with more green (nitrogenous) matter, I also added lime and  manure to layers. Hopefully this will speed up the process a bit, oak leaves are notorious for being slow to break down! Next, move the chicken coop,

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With the aid of some poly pipe we moved the coop to a new area, scraped out the base from where it had been and put that around the blood orange and mandarin tree. One of the first organic gardening tips I got was that chicken poo is great for citrus!

IMG_9890Marked out where the raspberry beds will go, can’t do anything permanent yet until the walls of the shed are done.

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Speaking of the shed (garage) the slab is laid and awaiting wall fill ins.

IMG_9817The chooks are hilarious, as soon as they hear the shovel going into the ground they run knowing there will most likely be some morsel they can devour

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Hilda on the hunt

It was a lovely weekend, left with a feeling that we were in a bit of control, celebrated the magnificent sun shining through the oak tree, the colour is beautiful!

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We then finished the weekend by going to a friend’s home where they have ‘home concerts’ in their great shed. Can’t surpass the magnificent voice of Liz Stringer, I have been a fan for ages and it was just heavenly. To hear Liz and partner Van Walker was a reminder that we need to take time to enjoy fruits from all areas of life.

Ooooh, sore but satisfied.

I had many jobs planned this weekend including cutting all the timber that came from the framework of the wall we removed between  two rooms and the old floor boards that were lifted. With the threat of more rain I got stuck in with the circular saw determined to finish before the next deluge. Let me tell you, old timber, arthritic hands and power saws don’t create harmony. I did however turn this –

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Into this!    A very useful pile of wood cut into a size that goes into the wood fired stove easily. Should be a few good meals from this lot! May take a few days for my hands to recover though.

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Garden beds and landscape progressing well.

When we demolished the old bungalow from the back yard we kept discovering layer upon layer of old concrete and bricks buried about a foot (and more) below the existing  soil level. Both the concrete and bricks are being reused into the landscape. Bricks are being used as part of the brick edging and the concrete is being used where we need a harder surface on high traffic areas and as paving in the greenhouse.  I wish I knew why that were so far below the surface but feel happy that they are being recycled into the new design.

Reclaimed bricks and concrete used as edging and pathway into future vegie patch.

We will sow grass seed in the soil beside and between the stones giving a nice hardy, practical walkway that will handle wheelbarrows and mower etc. Time to plan a nice rustic gate and fence that will suit the vegie patch.

In the kitchen.

With no dedicated kitchen to speak of, I was at a bit of a loss when the microwave decided to turn up its heels and kark it. After considering whether or not we actually need a microwave, we did decide to replace it with a modest one. Handy for those small jobs of melting, thawing and especially for scrambled eggs. Does a cracker job of those.

I had planned due to the bad weather forecast, to spend the day indoors fuelling the wood stove and creating a range of goodies. However to wake and find the sun shining it was too good an opportunity to finish cutting the wood. I did still manage to bake some Anzac biscuits, make some roasted red capsicum, tomato and red lentil soup and tried doing spag bog in the slow cooker. All worked well and once again I can only extol the value of the slow cooker. Photos sadly lacking but they did taste great! I will put together the recipes at a later date and post them.

Next week……….

Hopefully the concrete slab in the garage will be done this week which means the builder can fill in the shed walls, I can put my berries into their permanent place and a garden shed can be installed. Talk about the domino effect! Oh well, all in good time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Risotto Report and other ‘stuff’.

I mentioned yesterday that I had heard that risotto can be made using the slow cooker. I must say I am in awe of the people who give these ideas a crack, this was a winner! Maybe not truly authentic but great texture and oh so easy when I have so many other things to do. Basically it was cook off some onion in some oil and butter till it was clear, do the same with 1 cup of Arborio rice. Chuck that into slow cooker with 2 cups of chicken stock, set on high and let go for a couple of hours. I did add a bit more stock after 2 hours then made the mushroom mix to add to rice when time to serve. I picked up some oyster mushrooms and some Shimeji mushies at the Footscray market and I also picked some shiitake from our backyard. Sliced, into pan with 6 cloves chopped garlic some white wine (was going to add some brandy but couldn’t be bothered digging it out of the cupboard. Cooked it for a bit added one of the sliced roasted capsicum I did this morning, chopped some thyme, parsley and grated lemon rind and stirred through the cooked rice. Topped with some parmesan and herbs and it was a great dinner.  I love my slow cookers!

$1.99 a pack at Footscray market. Really nice texture and flavour.
Rice cooked with capsicum added. Waiting for mushrooms and herbs to be mixed through.

Dinner!

Power of smell.

We had an assault of wonderful smells inside today. It started with roasting the red capsicum I bought yesterday,

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went on to the chicken stock I had in the big slow cooker. Bags of chicken bones $1.00 at Footscray market. Each bag had 10 chicken carcasses in it, one bag went to stock and the other into the freezer for next batch. Approximately 7 litres of stock for $1.00 plus power cost of slow cooker.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken carcasses

Finally the smell of the risotto cooking in stock and the mushies in garlic just added another dimension.IMG_9784

Other bits and bobs.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I was having issues with powdery mildew in the greenhouse. I bought some lime sulphur but after some research I was hesitant to use it so I had a go at mixing up some home-made garlic spray. Garlic, baby oil, pure soap and water. Steeped garlic and baby oil to infuse garlic’s beneficial properties, mixed the rest together and diluted with oil. I removed all obvious fruit, foliage and growth that were showing signs of mildew and sprayed. Fingers crossed!

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Another section of brick edging done out the back and some plants in. Very happy with this weekend’s achievements!

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Long Weekend

 

I love having a bit of extra time to be able to address tasks that are calling. With this weekend being an extended one, we have been able to go to Melbourne and catch up with my son and his partner, go to the Footscray market to stock up on asian cooking basics and go to some specialist shops sourcing some items that will go into the reno. All this and still home in time to do some work in the backyard where the sun is actually shining for a welcome change.

I find it very difficult getting quality supplies for asian cooking locally and the Footscray market offers a little feel of being back in Vietnam along with having great asian grocers and the most amazing fruit & veg and meat stalls. It takes a lot of willpower to not buy so much more, but experience has taught me that I end up overloading and not being able to use all the fresh things I buy, particularly now we are empty nesters! I did buy a stack of red capsicum at $3.00 kg and will have a go at roasting and storing in olive oil for future use.

Asian groceries

Spud bed finished.

The chooks have had a lovely time scratching through the compost I added to the new bed I made last weekend so I added some soil, manure and rooster booster fertiliser and planted some Dutch Cream and Kippfler potatoes. Topped off with some bird (chook) proofing and hopefully we will see some action in a few weeks.

SpudsFinished spud bed.

Manadarins

Last year I planted a mandarin tree and we have had a grand total of 4 fruit. I wasn’t going to bother testing them as they were the size of a tom bowler but today we cracked them and oh what a blast of juicy flavour! Just beautiful, I cant wait for next season.

Golf ball mandarins

The fruit

Some more edging.

Hans finished the first section of garden edging today. Really starting to see the final shape taking place, tomorrow will be planting quite a few shrubs into this bed.

Garden bed edging

The Icing in the cake!

Finally have our garage started. Frame up, roof and roller doors are on. We will be filling in the walls in a style to match the main house either rendered or a blend of render and weatherboards. Still deciding which. The main benefit of having it in situ is we can now make definite decisions on where the raspberries, garden shed, compost and chooks will have their permanent place. Very excited about that!

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Tomorrow will be busy with planning layout of vegie patch and utility area, planting trees and shrubs and cooking up some of the mushrooms I bought at the market. I read somewhere risotto works well in the slow cooker so I will give that a go. Will update on the results later.

What a difference a day makes!

We have been cruising along for the last two years working on the things that you can’t really see making much of a difference, water pipes, rewiring, new gas line, levelling. The first visible (apart from some paint work) major change we have done to the structure of the house commenced this weekend. Although a lot of bedrooms, they’re all small and didn’t really have any that lent themselves to being what we accept these days as a master BR. We decided to knock out a wall between two and create one large room. This room also had sections in the flooring where some patching had been done by cutting straight lines and fitting in normal pinus radiata,quite tacky really! A visit to Hughes Renovations Paradise led us to sourcing some Baltic pine flooring that matched our original floorboards. Our builder also had to install a massive beam in the roof as we wanted the ceiling to be smooth across the whole room and not looking like 2 rooms turned into one. A few replacement timbers damaged years ago by borer and we were up and running.

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Here we go!
Repairs done, time to and mix and match boards
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Boards done, all left now is plastering, wiring, painting, wardrobe, door through to bathroom, floor boards, sanded and waxed/polished, curtains purchase of some furniture. Not much really!

Another day, another difference!

While all the action was going on inside I donned my rain coat and headed out to construct a bed for my spuds (potatoes). Collected a few bits of timber from the scrap heap, screwed them together and started to add some of the compost from the open heap that doesn’t appear to be doing much. The plan is to put the dry matter on the bottom of the bed and add the good stuff from the bottom of the heap to where the tubers will be planted. The litter was full of goodies and the girls went berserk. I’ll probably let the girls have a good old scratch in this for a week or two before planting it out.

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Mr Hans (Happy Birthday Mr Hans!), started doing the brick edging around the dedicated garden beds. I’m very excited about the development of the garden and this lovely damp but not too cold weather is great to get plants in and settled before it gets too wintery.

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I hadn’t really thought about how successful last years garlic harvest was until today. I had a big bowl of heads still plaited together on standby as gifts but needed to refill the kitchen supply. I cut all the plaited stalks off and weighed the garlic, 1.7kg! Now that’s impressive when you consider I spent $40.00 on planting stock, have given away probably close to 20 lots of 3 heads plaited together as or part of gifts, have used an equivalent sized bag since December in the kitchen as well as making garlic spray for bugs. All still really firm and not showing any signs of beyond shelf life. I am really happy with using the fruit exclusion bags for storing, air circulates, holes are small enough that scrappy bits don’t fall through and they hand easily. I also have bay leaves I picked from the old house stored in these.

Garlic

In the kitchen.

With silver beet still a plenty and some ricotta cheese that needed a purpose I whipped up some muffins to take to work this week. Look and smell pretty good. First time I have used the toy oven for baking although I had to buy some muffin tins small enough to fit in, I am very happy with this little machine. Much better too than heating a huge oven for small items.

Spinach ricotta muffins

Soul food shanks-

this weather is so suited to using the slow cooker. I had a couple of lamb (although by their size I think they may well be dinosaur shanks) so set them up this morning with a base of red wine, carrot, onion, stock and onion, bouquet garni, covered by foil to keep moist and simmered along all day. Mash, peas, some leftover cauli in white sauce, a reduction of the simmer sauce with shiitake mushrooms added and it was like being back in the 60’s with a Sunday lunch. Way too big but we did salvage enough to turn it into two meals.

Check out the shine on that sauce!

Time to do some more slow cooker stock. With all the pho and slow cooker dishes we have been using loads of it.