Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Baggy Conundrum

From the first of November, plastic shopping bags will be a thing of the past in Tasmania. They have been banned from shops and supermarkets all over the state.

Hooray! Apart from the swag of environmental benefits, they are so ugly. As a receptacle to carry things about in, I think even a committee could not have come up with an uglier option (which begs the question - who WAS responsible for inventing such a misbegotten monstrosity? And where were the fashion police at the time?).

This is of course, marvellous news. But now I have a dilemma. We bought an under-the-sink, swing out rubbish bin, which we deliberately chose because it was shopping bag sized, so we wouldn't have to buy rubbish bin liners (because we are cheap frugal). The kitchen-design people couldn't understand why we didn't want their giant pull-out bin drawer option. Um, because we don't make that much rubbish, and we want to store food and saucepans in our limited kitchen space, not rubbish, that's why. And we don't want to spend money on giant-sized bin bags.

Anyways, since we have shunned our former profligate plastic-bag collecting days, we have still been lining our bin with plastic bags, just not our plastic bags. Every time I visit plastic bag-using friends and neighbours, I cadge plastic bags off them. Yes I know, but if I don't take them, they put them in the bin. So I have been SAVING them, right, to be used another day, OK? I know, it doesn't really make sense, but now, now I will not have plastic bags AT ALL. What to do people?

Who has a non-plastic bag based rubbish disposal system? I need ideas...

So far all I have thought is that the thick, department store-type plastic bags are still legal. I could cadge those... I don't want to buy the compostable ones, because as far as I know they don't compost except under industrial hot compost conditions. Is that correct?

Of course, the ultimate answer is don't make rubbish... not quite there yet. Does anyone know where I can buy ballet tights without plastic wrapping?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Help! Trapped by the Artichoke Triffids

Yikes! I have a giant crop of artichokes. This is not a bad thing, of course, but a couple of years ago I planted an artichoke plant in the front garden for its wonderful sculptural quality, having eaten very few artichokes in my life, and all of them in restaurants. Last year I worked out how to hack into their hearts and scoop out their chokes with a spoon. Yes, it felt like plant murder, but then, they look like triffids, so I thought I ought to show them who's boss before it is TOO LATE. This year I have at least a dozen giant artichokes, on plants six feet tall, with more baby ones on the way. Last year I filled a large jar with marinated artichoke hearts in oil, which is still splendidly intact a year later, because I can't think what to do with them. Soon I will have several more of the same, and then it will start to get embarrassing.

Help! What can I do with them? Recipes, I need recipes!

This is a photo of last year's crop, due to my ongoing lack of a camera. This year the plants are about two feet taller and two feet wider. I lie awake at night listening for the sinister rustling of artichokes trying to get in...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Resentment and Desperation Equals A Feel Good Moment

Random hilarious photo of Posy because both cameras have left the house.

Yesterday morning I woke up in a panic, having remembered (in a dream?) that Posy had a dance dress-rehearsal at 2pm, and her dance costume, which I had been meaning to tackle for, ummm, six months, hadn't been altered yet.

That is not something that you want to face at 7.45 on a sunny Saturday morning. I really, really don't like the sewing machine. It doesn't like me. Every time I use it.. maybe about once a year, I have to get the manual out again to remember how to thread it up, and fill a bobbin. Then the bobbin thread breaks half-way along a seam, or I sew the wrong bits together, and every single time I put the pins in the wrong way, then sigh loudly, and have to take them all out and turn them around before continuing.

Naturally, I spent most of the morning procrastinating. I made pancakes, I read Harry Potter to Posy, I did some weeding, read me some internet, and ironically, some more of my current book Radical Homemakers

Finally, at midday, I sat down at the sewing machine. Posy's dance teacher had accidentally ordered her a costume that was a size too large. From the US. Really? We have a local dance shop, and lots of talented dressmakers. Rosy's ballet school uses locally-made costumes, and reuses them year after year, so we rent those, and so far I have managed to get away with altering costumes by using safety pins and optimism. Posy goes to a simple little dance school within walking distance, only one lesson a week, a gorgeous teacher, but we have to buy preordered costumes. Sigh.

Anyway, here I was with one costume that needed two inches taken out of its middle, and another one that needed its legs shortened. And two powder-blue fingerless gloves that were designed for a child without twig-like arms. They kept flying off across the room during rehearsal. It took me over half an hour to work out how to cut two inches out of the middle of the leotard and reattach it to the skirt seam. The whole time I was very grumpy at myself, because I had had six months to take it to a dress maker to alter it, and hadn't, and I could be outside in the garden RIGHT NOW if I had been more organised. I finished clattering the last seam (I wonder if that sewing machine should be clattering?) approximately seven minutes before we were due out the door. They fit! The costumes FIT! There was happy squealing and jumping up and down.

I still really don't like sewing, but I feel so good. I actually did a sewing job, and it worked! I fixed a dance costume. Don't you love that moment when you feel like a really good parent?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Green and Thrifty

Lovely ranunculae from the garden of a dear friend. Green, thrifty, and sent with love. Nothing better!

I have been reading The Prudent Homemaker a bit this week. This is a pretty, extremely frugal, very inspiring blog. Each week Brandy publishes a frugal accomplishments list, and I really like this idea, so I have snitched it. My list will feature accomplishments that are green AND thrifty, because sometimes there is a difference. Buying three pairs of socks for $1.50 on clearance at Kmart is thrifty, but not green. Buying one pair of Australian-made socks from a local, independent retailer for $12 is green and ethical, but not necessarily in the budget. Green AND thrifty? Maybe knitting socks out of thrifted yarn, or maybe collecting tufts of sheep's wool from hedgerows so no sheep is left cold and shivering; washing, carding and spinning it, then knitting it into socks. Maybe.

So onto my first week's list:

Made my first Christmas present of the year from bits and pieces from the craft cupboard.

Collected all the windfall lemons from the garden, juiced and froze them in ice cube trays. One tablespoon of lemon juice per ice cube. Makes lemon-based recipes a breeze.

Pulled all the boxes of hand-me-down clothes from the shed for Posy. There were enough new-to-her clothes up there for her entire summer wardrobe. Hooray! I will need to buy a pair of shoes and two t-shirts, and she'll be done. I LOVE hand-me-downs. I save all of Rosy's clothes, and say 'Yes please!' to whoever offers outgrown clothes. I also collected all of Posy's outgrown clothes, washed them, and bagged them up to take to friends and the refugee group so that someone else can be green and thrifty as well.

Last night was the night before school camp (aaargh!) and Rosy had cleverly put up the tent to make sure she had all the bits. And then, disaster! The elastic that connects the poles together SNAPPED. Aaaargh, the night before camp, and we can't stuff the elastic back into the hollow core of the poles - it's too snug a fit. And The Man? Such a handy person, we always yell for him when something goes wrong, but darn, he's never around when you need him. After deep thought we used a heavy needle, attached to a long thread and sewed to the end of the elastic. The needle provided the gravity we needed to plunge the thread through the centre of the pole, then we could drag the elastic through, and knot it up. Double hooray! Epic save! No need to run out to Kmart in the dead of night and buy a new tent.

Sewed two buttons on Posy's hand-me-down cardi, and glued a rosette back on her shoe. Cinderella, you SHALL go to the ball! Well, the Grade Three social, anyway. Hand-me downs scrub up quite well..

Another 'oopsie' this week:

The lid of my beautiful pottery compost bin had a run-in with Rosy. Luckily The Girl came to the rescue, having apparently paid attention when The Man mends things, and knew the right glue to use, and where it lives in the shed. All fixed now.

From the garden this week: lettuce, parsley, rosemary, garlic chives, warrigal greens, lemons, oregano, sage, wild rocket. Lots of green salad!

So, that's my green and thrifty week - tell me about yours.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jingle, Jingle..

Can you hear the bells, the bells, that far off jingling coming ever closer?

Don't worry, this won't be a Grinch-ey Christmas post. I love Christmas, I really do. I loved it more when I was a child of course, when I wasn't responsible for buying presents or catering. I have wonderful memories of nativity plays and church choirs, making Christmas decorations with my mum, and all the dreadful school Christmas craft involving cotton wool (yes, snow-themed Christmas decorations in the tropics!) that I thought was just wonderful. We always had odd Christmas trees - a frangipani, hibiscus or eucalyptus branch, decorated with aformentioned cotton wool-based craft. Best of all was the last day of school, which meant Christmas had really come, and the whole summer holidays stretched out ahead. School holidays lasted FOREVER when I was a child..

I really want those simple thrills to be part of our children's Christmas experience as well. As usual, I'm already behind schedule - last week was our traditional Christmas cake baking week. Oops. Although looking at the date there in 2008, we were late that year too. See, another Christmas tradition!

This year, I have decided that I want to actually make some Christmas presents. Now this is an ambition fraught with difficulty, mainly because craft and me aren't exactly best buddies. My sole craft project this year has been putting home grown dried lavender into a number of those little organza party bags that seem to proliferate in a house where lots of girls go to parties. So yes, craft projects with a difficulty level of zero are my absolute limit.

However, needs must, and I will now reveal my grand Christmas plans - for Christmas I am going to redecorate all three girls' bedrooms. Yes, completely mad. But they will love it and I need to reorganise all their 'things' (and get rid of a few) in order to remain sane. AND, this is the challenge - I want to do it using as many home sourced, second-hand, or locally produced items as possible.

And I have two months. Feel free to laugh now... or at any time over the next two months :)

So far I have perused Pinterest for ideas, and craft projects involving zero talent.

Here is my inspiration for rooms for the two youngest.
Here are the rooms that my whimsical older daughter would love.

I also want to involve the girls in each other's presents, because they are much more artistic and clever than I am, and we have already started. Posy and I created a dream catcher the other night when The Girl was out.

We used some evil ivy from the garden, and lots of beads and ribbons from the craft cupboard (I never throw anything away!). So now Posy has a present for her oldest sister. One down, lots to go!

Tell me about your Christmas plans. Do you do homemade?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Lushness of Spring and The Iniquitous Price of Fresh Herbs

It's been one of those days where I am racing in and out of the house like a crazy person, without two consecutive half-hours at home to get anything done. Late this afternoon I had twenty minutes before the ballet run, and wondered whether a nana nap might be in order... but no, I thought, I want to achieve something today other than driving. I popped out into my micro herb garden and picked oregano and sage to dry. My 'herb garden' consists of about a square foot of earth in front of some garden pots and rose bushes next to the drive way.

Three years ago I bought a sage plant and an oregano plant at the nursery, totalling maybe $6. I will have both herbs in my garden forever. The sage has a couple of tiny self-seeded babies, but also grows well from cuttings, and the oregano? Well, beware oregano, it grows everywhere:

It is also the secret ingredient which transforms any tomato dish from mundane to sublime. I find that some herbs, particularly oregano, and sage for some dishes, taste better dried. I air dry them in baskets and just crumble them up. Easy peasy. They need to be crumbly-dry before you store them in anything airtight. If in doubt, store them in paper bags for a few weeks. I like to pick and dry them in spring, when they are in full growth, just before they flower. Harvesting a year's worth of oregano and sage takes five minutes. Fast food!

If I had to choose only one herb to grow (that would be a mean, mean thing to do) I think it would be a little bay tree.

This is one herb that needs to be used fresh. A dried bay leaf is a travesty, a shadow of the wonderfully fragrant bouquet of a fresh crushed bayleaf. Almost impossible to kill, you can buy a tiny baytree from a nursery for a few dollars, and it will grow happily in a pot for years. Mine was only a few inches high when I bought it, and this is about three years' growth. Or you can take a cutting  from a friend's baytree.

For the price of a packet of seeds you can have annual herbs forever, if you let them go to seed. The persistent and profligate parsley, for instance, currently growing in a crack between the driveway and the house wall.

Ditto chives.

I do find it extraordinary that there is still a market for fresh herbs. When you can grow them in paving stones. When their abundance is embarrassing in its lushness. When you can gather a year's worth in a matter of minutes, and then wonder what to do with the rest.

When you can overwinter tropical herbs in the laundry, like this hardy lemongrass.

I do wonder what more I could be doing in the garden to feed us. Really, the earth just does want to feed us. It wants to grow stuff. If I was to devote more than a few minutes between errands to producing food, imagine what we could be eating from our little yard...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Flight Behaviour

This is one of the books I took away to the beach to read during rain showers. I just loved Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account her family's attempt to eat locally for a year, and since then I have read whatever of her fiction I could get my hands on via the local library.

If Kingsolver has a particular genius, it is in establishing place. Every one of her settings rings so true, and all of her novels rely on place - their action is so dependent on the milieu it is set in. This particular setting drew me in right away - the Appalachians, hillbilly country. I live in the poorest, most rural state of Australia, where we suffer from all the Aussie hillbilly jokes - the two-headed inbred Tasmanian is the stuff of legend.  I wouldn't have to drive for more than half an hour to find myself in the exact southern hemisphere equivalent of Flight Behaviour's Feathertown, with its tiny struggling farms carved out of the forest, rural populations short-changed by the education system, and effectually outside the global economy, and the wave of prosperity that urban centres have enjoyed for the last sixty years.

My son has a part time job at a small sheep farm half an hour out of town. The farmer is the third generation to live and work this farm. He lives alone with his elderly mother, he has never left Tasmania, and he can't leave the farm for more than a day. He still farms using the methods and actual tools that his grandfather used. My son was helping to do some concreting a few weeks ago, and was wheeling the cement around in a wheelbarrow with an iron wheel. You know, the kind that was in use seventy five years ago, before rubber tyres were invented for wheelbarrows. You mostly see them now as lawn ornaments, with petunias growing in them. The farmer recently bought a cordless drill, because The Boy was telling him about this amazing technology. They painted the shearers' quarters with a paintbrush, because using a paint roller was a completely foreign idea. Reducing and reusing aren't in it. This farmer must live with a carbon footprint the size of a tennis shoe.

So this is the background to Flight Behaviour. A small rural town, already poor, farmers tipped over the edge by recession , and as the novel opens, absolutely inundated by the worst rains for decades, again eerily familiar in this Tasmanian winter and spring, the wettest for fifty years.

The wonderfully named Dellarobia is struggling to keep financially afloat with her husband on their family farm, and is terribly, restlessly unhappy. On her way to begin an affair, she is arrested by a magical, otherworldly vision that will change her life, and the life of the town. She, the farm and the town become the centre of media and scientific attention that introduces Dellarobia to a world wider than she ever dreamed of.

Knowing of Kingsolver's passion for the planet I was initially concerned that this would be a propaganda novel, a one issue manifesto. But there is a subtle interweaving of ideas going on here, not the least of which is the thread of respect for the traditional skills that thrifty rural populations have always needed to get by - cooking, sewing, mending, preserving. Again, this is something that amazed me when I moved to Tasmania. Hardware stores stock canning lids, soccer mums discuss the best way to make pumpkin soup and how to make sloe gin (these are not the private school soccer mums, but the club mums, who drive farm utes). The most popular talkback radio show is the Saturday morning vegie and fruit growing show and the one following which discusses chooks and small holdings. Many people here keep chooks and grow vegies and preserve fruit from their trees, not because they want organic produce, but so they can afford to eat well.

There is a moment I particularly liked in this novel where an earnest, but slightly pompous city environmentalist is trying to tell Dellarobia how to reduce her environmental impact. He suggests that she eat less meat. Her response is that the only meat they can afford is an occasional lamb from the farm. When he suggests taking her own containers to restaurants for leftovers, ditto buying coffee and takeaways, she laughs. She can't afford any of these things. His suggestion that she buy secondhand on Craigslist draws only a blank look. She doesn't own a computer. She should buy energy saving appliances to use less electricity. Again, she thinks this is hilarious. Electricity bills are not something you joke about though. You use as little as humanly possible, because it costs money. And then there is his last desperate effort. She should fly less.

OK, really, it is not the poor of the earth who are wrecking the planet now, is it? I think that might be the take home message here for me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Supermama's Thrifty Hair Detangler

The Supermama in question had six children in five years (two sets of twins)! And she homeschooled them!! She has all the super powers, including the one where you can see what mischief your children are getting up to from two rooms away. She is one of my best buddies, and has come up with many a frugal save.

This one was when I needed hair help for Rosy, who at eight, had just started ballet and needed a twice weekly ballet bun, which meant taming the wild, birds' nest hair. What to do? One of the ballet mums pointed me in the direction of an expensive hair product from the chemist, but luckily I saw Supermama first, and she passed on the secret of her four girls' immaculate blonde ponytails - a couple of squirts of conditioner in a spray bottle filled with water. That's it. Simple and brilliant. I have been refilling this bottle for five years now.

Oh, and if you add a couple of drops of lavender oil, it repels nits. Ask me how I needed to find that out! How long do you think it took Posy to contract her first case of nits after she started school? Six weeks. Another reason to homeschool. Anyways, a couple of squirts of lavender detangler when putting up the morning ponytail is a marvellous preventative.

So, tangly hair, or wild, hairbrush-averse toddler? Try this thrifty hair detangler. And cheers to Supermama!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

This Goes With That..

One of the excellently interesting things about cooking day in, day out, is how recipes start to become familiar, the patterns of food and the way ingredients go together start to emerge from a seemingly random universe of recipes.

One of these 'ah' moments came when I realised that the process of making pastry is the same as whipping up a crumble, or making a number of biscuit recipes. And any recipe that involves rubbing butter into flour can be whizzed up in a minute in the food processor. When you make these connections, you have routines, and when you have routines, producing food day in, day out becomes a much simpler process.

A routine that I follow about once a fortnight is this: make two quiches, one to freeze, then make two batches of ginger biscuits, also one to freeze, and do this all using the food processor. The recipe for shortcrust pastry is so simple - a 2:1 ratio of flour to butter. I use 260 grams flour to 130 grams butter for two quiches, which I make in 20cm cake tins. Tip flour, butter, and a pinch of salt into the food processor, whiz it up. With the motor running, add 1/3 cup cold water until the mixture forms a big, clumpy ball. Shape pastry into a ball, refrigerate it for 15mins or so. Roll it out - I just do this straight on the bench, and line the tins.

My quiche filling recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion. Best recipe book ever. Two quiches require four egg yolks, and four whole eggs, whisked up with two cups of cream, a pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper. Grate a bunch of cheddar cheese and put in the bottom of the pastry case, along with whatever other fillings you can find. I am currently using lots of greens from the garden. Tip in the egg mixture. Pop in the oven at 200C for fifteen minutes, then 180C for half an hour. Num, num. Even better next day for lunch.

Now don't wash up the food processor just yet, as we are about to make ginger biscuits. This recipe was from a library book on traditional English dishes, these are from Cornwall, traditional except for the method, which probably didn't originally include the use of a food processor.

(I use metric and imperial measures when cooking, as my scales show both, and I am lazy)
I double this recipe, because what is the point of making one tray of biscuits?

4oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2oz butter

Throw all of this in the food processor, whiz it up.
Add 3 tablespoons of warmed golden syrup while the motor is running until the mixture firms up to a consistency that you could make balls out of it. I sometimes need to add a little water.
Shape into small balls, flatten with fork, bake at 190C  for 10 mins after the quiches come out. Cool on racks.

Try to save some for the next day...

Now, if you are feeling enthusiastic, you can whip up some macaroons from the four left over egg whites. Or persuade someone else to..

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It Never Goes Away

Now tell me, what springs to mind when I say, "Family holiday at the beach"?

Well, yes, there is the whining and the shouting, and the rain, and the endless card games with the nine year old, yes, but I was particularly thinking of the washing when you return home. The loads, and loads, and yet more loads of it. More washing by volume than the amount of clothing that we own. It is an extraordinary, and probably immutable law of nature, a suspension of the law of conservation of matter, only observed on the return home from a family holiday.

Never mind. There was also the vast expanse of wild empty sand that is your typical Tassie beach:

Encounters with oyster catchers:

Kite flying between showers and gales:

Catching mini crabs and having races with them - see all the bumps in the sand? Every one a mini crab burrow. And as many seagulls as Posy could chase, and seagulls being blown across the sand sideways in the wind, which is always amusing. Did I mention the wind?

Equinoctial gales still in full force.

Then after mountains of washing there is the prospect of restocking the pantry, because of course the other thing that family holidays mean is mountains of food. I swear I cooked for a week before we left, and the car was packed to the gunwhales, mostly with food (and books!) but now we somehow need another mountain of food.

I met Fran (serendipitously!) at the wholefoods shop, and we caught up on news. She is going to share her chooky eggs with me. Thanks Fran! Then I bumped into her again in the carpark at the vegie shop, because it's that kind of town, but I had to run along to be home in time to meet Posy when she got in from school.

Here is my slowly-heading-towards-plastic-free shop this week:

What I am lacking now is produce bags. I am tossing up between ordering recycled polypropylene mesh bags and making my own out of compostable cotton. Because I am a terrible procrastinator, I know that my chances of actually making bags are very, very slim. However, The Girl may make them for me for Christmas. If I am good. I could order the Onya bags today (recycled! Made in Australia!), but they can't be recycled again. I did email the owner, and he did let me know that he is still using the very first bags they ever made, some years ago. So that is good news.... probably a pointless argument using up precious head space, especially as I still drive a car everywhere. In the meantime, I reuse plastic produce bags which I (mostly) remember to take with me. And I reuse brown paper bags at the wholefoods shop, but yesterday I forgot, so had to use new ones to add to my large collection.

Here is a low waste shopping trip I read about this morning when I finally began reading the internet again. What do you know? It's still here!

Tip of the day: I just had lunch with a friend, who served up a yummy slow-cooked 'fridge-forage' soup with white beans and tomatoes as a base, and BRILLIANT touch - she lightly steams greens from the garden, chops them and stores covered in the fridge, then stirs a spoonful into the hot soup, so you get lovely bright greens in reheated soup, not old nasty brown greens, which is what I generally serve up the day after.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Singing in the Rain

Running away to the beach for a few days. It will no doubt continue to pour with rain. The housesitter asked if we wanted our garden watered. I laughed. So, playing on the beach in the rain, and then going back to drink cups of tea and read the giant piles of books I am trying to stuff in the car. Tassie spring holidays!

The Man 'accidently' left his laptop at work, so I'll leave the interweb here at home as well. It can play with the cats. Because the interweb loves it a funny cat.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oooh, So Clever

So I was standing in the laundry today, doing that thrifty housekeepery thing we have all done about  nine million times - decanting the very last drops of product A into container B, and I was thinking that there must be a hands-free way to do this... when my eyes alighted upon a packet of bamboo skewers.

(And why do you have a packet of bamboo skewers in the laundry, I hear you ask in elegant parenthesis. Well, to keep the adorable pussycats and dear little blackbirds out of my freshly planted garden beds and pots, of course. Pointy end up! Nothing better!)

So, bamboo skewer in container B:

Product A suspended in mid-air as if by magic, emptying those last drops of thriftyness into container B:

Oooh, I am so clever.

Monday, October 7, 2013

And Not Wasting a Thing..

I finally got my hands on a copy of Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions. I have loved reading it, because as well as recipes, it has philosophies, and lots of stories. I love stories! I gave a little book review at Tanya's Living Better Group the other night, and here is her review of the review.

Sally's collection of recipes is based on the idea that the diets developed over thousands of years in traditional societies can and should inform our food choices today. I am not really a 'follower' of any particular food regime, but I am very enthusiastic about eating real food, as close to its natural form as possible. Of course, our modern food production methods have dramatically changed the way we eat, but also, in the rush of 'going back to nature' our generation has forgotten some important old fashioned methods of food processing as well. Such as soaking or fermenting grains so that they can be properly digested. This was why grandma didn't invent muesli. Or Cocoa Pops.

Still, my favourite reasons for cooking like grandma is that the taste of real old-fashioned food is divine, and the idea of 'no-waste' is built into the recipes.

Remember a couple of weeks ago I took the children to the school fair and bought half a lamb? Well, after we ate up the lamb leg roast (cut slits in the skin and stuff in garlic slivers and rosemary. Mmmm), we had a few days of eating lamb and chutney toasted sandwiches, and then we just had the bone left, with the bits of meat we couldn't cut off. This was destined to become a gelatinous, mineral rich soup, which will not only nourish us, but probably make us better people as well.

I popped the sad, picked bone in the slow cooker with a bunch of rosemary from the garden, and covered it with water. Added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, which helps to draw more minerals out of the bones. This is the easy bit. Cook for at least 24 hours on low. When it you can't stand seeing it on the kitchen bench any longer, turn it off, cool it down, then pop it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning there will be a layer of hard white fat on the top. Underneath will be lamb jelly!

Scrape off the lamb fat, and save it for the soup later, and for roasting potatoes in. Oh yum!

Don't worry, good fats are good for you, in moderation, like glasses of wine, and dark chocolate.

Now pull out those bones with tongs. Doesn't look like there is much there for the soup, but... is surprising how much actual meat is still on those bones. And to think you may have tossed them in the bin!

Now it's time to make soup. Start with a chopped onion, and the limp celery at the bottom of the fridge. Cook them slowly in some of that lovely lamb fat (lard? Tallow? Surely there's a euphemism we could be using here?) until translucent and fragrant. I just love the smell of celery cooking. It is so pungent, but fresh.

Always add the garlic last - it only needs a minute or two to cook. Overcooked garlic is bitter and nasty.

Now tip in the lovely wibbly-wobbly lamb jelly stock, which will liquidize as it warms up. While it is coming to the boil, chop up a selection of fridge-foraged vegies. I always add carrot, but never potato. I don't like potato in soup, and I really don't like the texture of potato in a soup or stew after it is defrosted. I also have a thing about only liking pumpkin in hearty vegetable soups. But that's just me. During the week I collect broccoli stems in a tub, and peel and chop them on soup day. I believe they are good for you - they are also one more way to FIGHT WASTE!

Now our No-Waste Soup is nearly ready. Add salt, pepper, more water if necessary. Add the meat. It doesn't look very pretty, but it smells divine. Edited to add: Oh my goodness, forgot the most important condiment of all - no meat-based soup is ever completely perfect without a slug of Worcestershire Sauce. In my world, anyway. Enjoy!

It is possible, that like me, you have parsley growing out of every crack in the paving, and every bare inch of soil that is not protected from profligate parsley reproduction. If so, sprinkle parsley on the soup to serve (it is nicely high in iron for those of us who need to bear these things in mind..), and maybe you just baked some sourdough yesterday, and maybe it wasn't quite as good as you first loaf, but quite acceptable toasted, with lashings of butter!

And there you have it - soup the way grandma made it, created from the remains of a completely other meal, and from the bits and pieces at the bottom of the veg crisper, or out of the garden. The bone broth is full of minerals and flavour, will be kind to your insides and make you strong. And very happy.

This post has been brought to you by the Bossypants School of No Waste Cookery. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ode to (Pestiferous) Spring

Oh, Springy-Spring, how I love you! Especially when you stop raining on me, or trying to blow me into the next suburb with your equinoctial gales.

I was very good this morning and did all my inside chores, and drove the children places before I bounced out into your irresistible sunshine, there to discover anew how very much I love and adore you.

I love how you have generously dedaubed the lemon trees with scale, and some kind of fungal virus with your incessant spring showers. I adore the marvellous variety of exotic weeds you have mischievously planted in my lawn, and the onion weed you have threaded like jewels through the garden beds.

I love the generous spirit which prompted you to invite Jasmine and Ivy in from next door, all eager to hug and embrace the poor, lonely little blueberry plant...

And that brackish pool of muddy water outside the back door that won't go away, the one with the slime that I slip over in amusingly at least once a week? Oh, Spring, you are such a wag!

And something else I admire? Your persistence, and dedication to go where no spring has ever gone before. The red chard, that hearty, hardy plant, the only one in the garden which is never attacked by bugs or blasted by blight, thought it could get away with its rude health, but no, my Spring, you have triumphed. Is it a viral rust, or some hitherto unknown-in-this-garden tiny bug? Whatever it is, my admiration and respect know no bounds.

Thankyou, dear Spring, for your bounteous gifts, and delightful, daily surprises. I can hardly bear it that you are nearly half over...

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bircher Muesli

Yesterday in the comments after I complained about my healthy porridge tasting like gloppity-glop, Fran suggested Bircher muesli instead, which is basically uncooked porridge, if you haven't tried it.

Half a cup porridge oats soaked overnight in three-quarters of a cup water/milk/apple juice, or as Fran suggested, magical kefir milk. I also added a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.

In the morning add a grated apple (traditional) or any other fruit you can lay hands on. I also added natural yoghurt, cinnamon and honey.

This was actually MUCH better than porridge, in my opinion, because it isn't gloppy. Also, it feels like you are eating a very healthy breakfast, which gives a sort of hallowed, wholesome glow to the morning (right up until the point where you eat cup cakes for morning tea..). I made mine with water, which even with the lemon was a bit bland. Tomorrow I might try apple juice. Also, Jen mentioned in the comments that she adds minced ginger to porridge. I keep a ginger root in a tub in the freezer, and grate it straight from frozen. I might try that too. And more cinnamon. I am looking for a breakfast flavour explosion. Will keep you updated.

Does anyone else make this for breakfast? Thanks to Dr Bircher, and the lovely Fran for bringing me this healthy morning treat...

Edited to add: The addition of grated ginger a definite winner! Also apple juice good for soaking the oats, but I have decided a ratio of 1:1 is better for oats to liquid. Half a cup oats to half a cup liquid is a good, filling breakfast for me. And the salt is important. Don't forget the salt. I don't think there is anything else as bland as oats..

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rain, More Rain, and Porridge

Gales, gale force winds, pouring rain that pours sideways. A typical Tasmanian spring school holiday week. We woke up this morning to find our side fence had collapsed.....

..on top of the broad beans. And my lovely tub of garlic....

The children are well pleased about the demise of the broad beans. I am thinking the garlic will survive, only slightly bent.

We are trapped inside, but luckily I had the forethought to invite lots of children over during these last few days, so their parents have had to brave the elements to drop them off, and I just have to make pizza. I like making pizza, especially when a little curly-haired moppet popped her head up over the kitchen bench, and said in awed tones, 'Are you really making the DOUGH as well? That's AMAZING.' I like being amazing.

I decided, in my quest for health and wholesomeness, that maybe I could find something a little more 'whole food-y' than vegemite toast for breakfast, so tried soaking oats to make 'proper' porridge. Usually I make quick oats porridge in the microwave for Posy, because she is the only one who eats it. But last night I soaked the oats, for health, and cooked it with salt this morning, served it with milk, natural yoghurt, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a swirl of honey.

It still tasted like gloppity glop (thankyou Dr Seuss).

At least Posy liked it.