Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shelf Upgrade



These are the old wonky shelves in my kitchen. They were shed shelves at my old place, and for two years they have held onto my kitchen paraphernalia quite adequately, albeit in a fairly wobbly and precarious manner. One of the first things the builder did when he came to build a verandah for me back in February was screw these shelves to the wall, right after he nearly knocked them over while drinking tea near them. Fast forward to last week when I asked him to build me a small table for the centre of the kitchen. I have a small house with a large kitchen that has very little bench space. What were the previous owners thinking? Well, the builder suggested narrow shelves on the wall to create more floor space, and somehow, the project morphed into this:

Posy and I spent three days painting. Posy allowed me to photograph her arm for the blog:)

And then we added a beautiful recycled tassie oak benchtop:

 
When I say 'we' I mean I said to the builder, "Please can you find some pre-loved timber to make a lovely, lovely benchtop?" and he did all the actual work.. well, I spent ten minutes oiling it to make it look pretty.

And now replete with all the jars:


I am so excited to be the possessor of this most beautiful piece of furniture. It has caused a revolution of efficiency in my kitchen - instead of getting down on hands and knees to haul out casseroles or soup bowls from the bottom of cupboards, I just elegantly whip them off the shelf..

But wait, there's more - just inside Rosy's bedroom door (to the right edit, left of the dresser in the photo above), up the precipitately steep stairs on the way to her attic room, is a void of a space that up until last week held a large, untidy, precariously balanced mass of food in various containers. We called it the pantry, but it was more like a robber cave. Here it is after I cleaned it all out prior to shelves going in:



Now with shelves:


This is so thrilling because I have been able to haul all the jars of preserves out from under my bed, and the backs of cupboards, and put them all in one place so I can see whether I have any salsa left. I discovered two jars of fig jam. My favourite! I also now have places to store the big stock pot, the dehydrator, the preserving gear. Bliss. There is also space for big buckets which are storing my bulk dried goods - chickpeas, lentils, pasta, flour, rice. Come the zombie apocalypse I won't have to search under the bed to find the lentils. The children will be pleased.

What I love about all of these new shelves is, well, shelves. Can you ever have too many shelves? I think not. But more than that - they were made by a local craftsman and all round nice person. We have used some nice old timbers for parts of the job. Everything has been measured to fit. We were there with the tape measure measuring my jars, wine glasses, the potato box - everything was designed to fit perfectly.

This kitchen revamp has been rather expensive, and tomorrow comes the next part - the kitchen table that started this whole process - but the money has been spent on locally made sturdy furniture which should last as long as the house does, and which will be a beauty and joy to use every day for as long as I live here. I call that a very good return on investment.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Green and Thrifty



Another week, another slightly wholemeal sourdough loaf. I am fairly unimaginative with my bread, but it is consistently satisfying and good. Except that Rosy doesn't like sourdough and pleads for bread with actual storebought yeast in it. Which just goes to show.. something.

I have been growing ugly carrots, small parsnips, leggy broccoli that has been grown in the shade, and perfect beetroot. Pretty much all the veg I grow would fail the supermarket test, but we don't discriminate against ugly veg here, because it's all beautiful on the inside, right?


 My favourite way to eat ugly veg is to chop it all up and roast it with dabs of ghee, olive oil, salt, spices (cumin, ground fennel), rosemary and sage, 200C (390F) for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 180C (350F) until done. Each veg has a different cooking time, so you have to keep checking and taking out the done veg with tongs.


Then (and this is the good bit, but no photo), you make a salad with everything green from the garden, the roast veg, and sunflower seeds that have been dry roasted in a frying pan for a couple of minutes. My favourite salad dressing on top, and there is lunch. You can add all the other salad veg, quinoa, chick peas, boiled eggs or anything else that takes your fancy. Yum.

In other thrifty news, I think sometimes it is good to re-examine our social habits and maybe notch back the spendy side of them while keeping the social part. I do brunch with some excellent girlfriends every couple of months at a cafe, but this month I invited them over to mine, and we had a delightful and satisfying brekky this morning, with everyone bringing something. This worked out well because the busy full-time worker can still pick up her contribution from the gourmet deli, but we all have the choice to cook from scratch on the cheap if we want/need to.

Today I went to visit my mum, and goodness, I never come home from hers empty-handed. Half a packet of out-of-date brown sugar (2016) which she decided she was probably never going to use, an Agatha Christie novel from the op-shop (The Mysterious Affair at Styles - her first novel, and I didn't have it), packets of blank cards for the girls to make cards with, which came from.. someone at Craft Club?? Just guessing here. Some cellophane bags to put Christmas goodies into when Christmas baking season comes round again. A jar of jam. Some slices of fruitcake. It's sort of the opposite of Red Riding Hood. We come home from Grandma's with the basket of goodies..

I love the going around and coming around cycle of goods that travel back and forth between friends. You know how at some point you start getting hand-me-ups clothes from your teenagers? Well, this week I was given a pair of hiking shoes by Posy's friend, who had grown out of them. This is a child I have known since she was born, whose feet are now bigger than mine... anyway, it was wonderful serendipity, because my decade old hiking shoes are literally falling apart and I was wondering if I was going to have to break my six month streak of buying no clothes, even second-hand ones. I will have to soon though, because I have no jeans left without holes. Either op-shopping, or creative patching is in my future.

This week I have have had lots of free reading matter to hand. Library books, of course, three Monthly magazines from a friend, books borrowed from another friend's book case, the offer of new reading matter from yet another friend who just arrived back on Australian shores from the US, with, as far as I can work out, a suitcase full of books. All of that, along with the Agatha Christie novel from Mum equals a cornucopia of literary happiness.

For the last week I have been over the moon to - be doing the washing. My washing machine broke three weeks ago, and I have been lugging baskets of dirty washing around various kind washing machine owners. The part finally arrived, and the nice washing machine repairman fixed it up for me, and two-and-a-half minutes after the front door shut behind him I had the first load on. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. I love my washing machine. And I love clean sheets. And even though it is way more inconvenient than going out and buying a new washing machine, I love that my machine could be fixed with a tiny metal part, rather than throwing away 70kg of metal and plastic. That feels good.

And more free food - I walked the dog right past a box of free lemons on the pavement outside someone's gate. Ooh, yes, lemons. I took three.

From the garden this week: lettuce, broccoli, broccoli leaves, parsley, rosemary, sage, kale, carrot, beetroot, parsnip.
Dried: lemon verbena tea
From the shed: garlic
From other people's gardens: limes, lemons, apples, kale, rhubarb

Tell me about your green and thrifty adventures this week.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mending Dishcloths




Today I got my gardening job done early because the rain was coming. I came home and filled up the woodbox in the back porch, walked the dog, collected an armful of birch twigs from the street around the corner which is lined with birch trees, used them to light the fire, then sat down for lunch and watched the rain clouds rolling in.

I am not a person who sews. I can thread the machine and sew a sort-of-but-not-really straight line. However the machine has been sitting on the dining table for days. Rosy has been shortening some of her t-shirts, because apparently short t-shirts are in this week, and Posy made a heat pack for a friend's birthday out of one of her old hoodies. So the sewing machine is just sitting there, taunting me, and it's raining so I can't go out into the garden, and if I'm not doing something a little productive I might feel constrained to do some housework, so instead I get out my stack of dishcloths to hem.

I must have bought these dishcloths seven or eight years ago. I have at least twenty two of them, not counting the ones in the wash. I use several a day, then throw them in a hot wash with eucalyptus oil. After all these years of hard work they are looking completely dishevelled, with their stitching coming undone. Some of them have holes. They are a sad shade of grey (they were white once). They are a disgrace.



So I have spent a rainy afternoon mending my dishcloths. I have trimmed and hemmed the edges, and run the machine back and forth over the holes in zig-zag stitch. I now have a stack of 'done' dishcloths, ready for another few months...years... of service.


I feel so productive! The only problem is.. there are four to go and I have run out of bobbin thread. I just cannot stand threading the bobbin. Why must it be such a painful and fiddly exercise?? I have tried and failed to bribe the children, so I think there is nothing for it, I must go to bed and read a book, I mean, wind that stupid bobbin myself. Or teach the dog to do it.


Benny-the-wonder-puppy will do anything for cheese. I have a lot of cheese..

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Things I Haven't Been Doing


I keep meaning to grind up the eggshells in the blender before they go in the compost.
 It does happen. Eventually.


Today I have for you a little list of things I really want to do, but actually have not been doing.

Making yoghurt: It is months since I made any yoghurt. I don't know why because making yoghurt is very easy. I am lacking in yoghurty get up and go.

Driving less: Ok, so in the last year Rosy has year Rosy has acquired her license and I have acquired a partner who lives half an hour's drive away up a mountain. Neither of these acquisitions has contributed to using less fossil fuel in my car.

Using less electricity: For some mysterious reason we are using more electricity this year than we did last year. Is it Posy's twice a week bath habit? Is it us getting a bit slack with our overall electricity use? What to do?

Getting enough work: At the beginning of this year I started a wee garden maintenance business. It is so wee it is not so much a micro-business as a nano business. It nearly, but not quite, covers my living expenses. This is, of course, mostly my fault as I am procrastinating about organising advertising. All I need are some business cards and flyers. I have not quite got around to producing these yet..

Writing much: I am writing a bit. There are a few articles written and at least one accepted for future publication. Hooray! I need to do more and be more adventurous with where I send them. I can do this. Then there is the world's slowest novel. Here is my thinking though - a novel a decade is a lot more than no novels a decade. Am I right?

Making less rubbish: I thought I was getting really good at this, and I was. I am doing okay - the girls see no reason not to bring large amounts of plastic packaging into the house, although they are starting to bring their own bags places, which is a good start. I am also letting more packaging creep back into my food buying habits. I really want to do better. I can do better.

Parenting Well: I have not been the parent I want to be this week. There has been shouting. There have been fights over mess and school attendance. I am better at conflict resolution than I once was, but I still have some way to go. Being a parent is not easy. Being a teenager is not easy either.

I could seriously go on and on with this list, but I'll stop now and hand over to you. Any confessions?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Places To Go



Ok, so I am going to go and wash the dishes now, but you all entertain yourselves with fun from various corners of the internet. Enjoy:)

Diary of number 13: Our very dear friend Hazel who fills the Blueday comment section with sage advice and friendly encouragement, has started her own blog. It is wonderful and useful. Today I made her 30 second mayo, and it is true to its name, and very delicious. I am so excited to see Hazel blogging as I have benefited greatly from her knowledge of herbs and wild foods and her determination to head towards a waste-free family life.

Washing your hair with rye flour shampoo: Washing my hair with rye flour instead of shampoo over the last few weeks has worked like a dream, and I am so happy to finally leave the world of shampoo behind. For those with lingering questions, here is a QandA post with all the answers.

Earth Overshoot Day: Imagine the boffins of the world get together and work out what is a sustainable rate of resource use for us to continue living on Earth. They come up with a lot of numbers that represent the maximum amount of resources we can consume in one year. Back in 1970 it took the world's population 13 months to use up that amount of resources. Yay! Well, within budget. In 2018 it took us 7 months to use up that amount of resources. Yesterday was the day we exceeded this year's budget of world resources. Now, who can see the problem here??

Urban Self-Reliance: I have enjoyed this little Kirsten Dirksen film, rewatching it several times over the last couple of years. A dedicated young couple transform their rental unit into a productive hub with a lush garden, chickens and preserving. It is cheap, functional and beautiful.

Forager: Especially useful if you live in the UK or Europe, but with some wild ideas for the rest of us who have had European weeds and plants migrate to our shores. Recipes for the wild plants we love to forage for in our backyards and roadsides. Yum.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Jungle Garden



There are two sections to my suburban garden. One is the section I have been working on since I moved in to this garden-with-attached-house two years ago. I like to take photos of it because I have tamed it (somewhat) with paths and weeding and planting. I built a retaining wall! The other half of my garden (it is bisected with a set of wonky concrete steps) is The Wild Side. I have ignored it completely while concentrating my energies on the other side which has now become a productive garden.

Here is The Wild Side:


Some of those acanthus plants are huge, taller than I am! This can be a problem as the only garden tap for the lower section of the block is to the right of this photo, between a tree, a pile of firewood, and under a triffid-like acanthus. I do worry that I'll venture in there one day and not come out..

Above the wild jungle there is another section, which I believe was once a stone-flagged terrace. The neighbour says there was a pond at one time. Now it houses a friend's cement mixer, and the ramps he uses to get it on and off his ute:



Above that section is a hugely unaesthetically pleasing mound of fill - gravel, soil, blocks of cement - which was dug out when the verandah was built. This space will, the gods willing, become a lovely deck upon which to put a table and some chairs and have civilised dinners whilst enjoying the view. Currently it is fast turning into another jungle. It is extraordinary how fast the plants take over. It is like post-apocalyptic jungle, right outside my kitchen window:


That tree up against my neighbour's wall is the avocado I had cut down last year. It has returned from the grave with a vengeance and is about to invade my poor neighbour's kitchen. I am about to take the pruning saw to it. Don't feel sorry for it. It produced one avocado in ten years, which is not quite enough to save it from execution. I feel like a Stalinist dictator with a clip-board and production quotas, but standards must be maintained! Also, it stole all the sunlight from my kitchen. This particular quadrant will be the future home of deciduous trees only.

Over the next few months my plan is to wade into the jungle equipped with gumboots and machete (actually, I don't have a machete. But I think I may need one) and create a series of hugelkulture swales on the steepish slope. I will use all the vegetation that I cut down, plus the large pile of apricot tree prunings already in place as the basis of the swales, and top them with soil and gravel from the large pile of fill up above. Next winter I will be able to plant fruit trees into the partially decomposed swales, on the up-hill side so that they will receive the rain-water which will be funnelled downhill by the swale design. But first, in the summer I will be able to plant pumpkins and other big vegie plants on the mounds. I am also attempting to work out how to add chickens to the mix, without them eating everything in sight. I am so excited about all the garden plans, if a little daunted by their scope. Still, it took me two years to get thus far, and if it takes me two years again to make a garden from the jungle of this half of the garden, well, at least it will be two years of high entertainment, fresh air and exercise!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Waste Not...




I was just now cutting up pumpkin for soup for dinner and idly wondering how it would be if instead of throwing all those seeds in the compost, I saved them and ate them instead. I mean they are pumpkin seeds, after all, and I actually go to the shops and buy pumpkin seeds. How do you get the green pepitas out of the shell? Is there a machine? Or a gadget like a nut-cracker? I did, of course, just this minute google that very question, and what do you know, you can crack pumpkin seeds on your very own kitchen bench with a rolling pin, then you can boil them, and just like that .. MAGIC! Hulled pumpkin seeds. There goes another hour of my day.. but.. point is, it is possible. I could theoretically do this. And, that red wine that I am drinking? Theoretically the bottle it comes in could go straight back to the winery to be refilled. Why not? Reasons, apparently. I imagine it has something to do with it being cheaper to put wine in freshly minted new bottles each time. This is capitalism, after all, and capitalism is all about the race to the bottom for profit. There may also be a health regulation or some such thing about refilling bottles, as if sterilisation wasn't a thing. Point being, both these reasons (which I have completely made up, they may be true or not, who knows?) are excuses, as is my reluctance to eat pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin, which sounds like a tedious process, rather than buying them from the bulk-food bin at the whole food shop, where they have come on a slow boat from China where they were grown organically without chemicals then shipped non-organically with planet-warming greenhouse gases.

My dear reader, do you see where these thoughts are tending? No? Well, I'll make it clearer. We make things so complicated in our society. We waste so much. Pumpkin seeds and glass bottles and who knows what else. As I chopped up pumpkin for soup I thought about all the waste we make. It has only been possible for all of us to become wasteful in the last couple of hundred years, since fossil fuels began to be made into staggering mountains of things. And then plastic. The most staggering mountain of all. Prior to the industrial revolution, things were precious. Food was precious and often uncertain. Everything was used, all the parts of a plant or animal, and any bits that couldn't be used were recycled via the earth. Even now, vast portions of the world's population live with very, very little, but even in those places, plastic turns into a huge burden because what do you use it for once you have used it the first time?

It is fascinating and interesting to contemplate what a no-waste society would look like. We know, of course, what no-waste societies used to look like. But how would our own society look if we shut down waste? How would my own life look if I used and re-used everything I have instead of allowing it to join that giant landfill mountain? These are questions that are dripping slowly through the caverns of my mind right now..

In other no-waste news, I learned a new thing this week - you can eat broccoli leaves! I sort of knew this, as I chop up the little leaves on the broccoli that I buy and put them in the stir-fry, but I hadn't transferred that knowledge to my own home-grown broccoli plants. Broccoli leaves taste like broccoli, funnily enough, and will be harvested and eaten up for dinner forthwith!