Green and Thrifty

Very green indeed this week - it is all about the garden. In the New Year I planted out my new vegie garden. Now look - eight weeks later, and we have actual vegies. All of these except the pumpkin were grown from seed, and the pumpkin I dug out of a friend's garden where they were rather prolific. From seed to plate in eight weeks. Gardening is just miraculous, isn't it?

So far from this garden we have eaten lettuce, basil, a couple of tiny beetroots that needed thinning, rocket and zucchinis. Yesterday I took a rather large zucchini inside. "Well, that one nearly got away," I remarked to Posy.

"I wish it had got away," said Posy darkly. Then she tiptoed to the back door with it. "Fly away zucchini, fly away, be free!"

But no such luck. The zucchini stayed. It got turned into ratatouille with its friends the tomatoes.

The children had a moment of great cheerfulness last week when I thought I had killed one of the zucchini plants. Our pool is dug into the hill above the vegie garden, and after a sweltering day of children dive-bombing into it I thought I would pop the hose into it for half an hour. That was about half past seven. Well, at 5am I sat bolt upright in bed and remembered the hose was still on. I rushed out to find that the automatic mechanism that is supposed to make the pool drain instead of overflow... wasn't. The pool had been overflowing for who knows how many hours, straight into the vegie garden. It is a salt water pool, somewhat diluted now of course, and two days later the zucchini plant crisped up and looked to be at death's door. The children thought it was hilarious that I had killed the zucchini, but I got the last laugh because this week it has bounced back. It LOVES a salt soaking, clearly. The beetroot leaves, however, are looking quite yellow. I should dig one up to see how it is faring, but I don't feel brave enough.. on the bright side, I won't have to add salt to any of the vegies..

In other food news, some of the apples are ready, and so are the pears. Today I stewed apples, pears and rhubarb together. Now, every time I mention rhubarb, I must again mention the most marvellous tip I discovered a couple of years ago. Adding a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to any rhubarb dish neutralizes the acidic taste of the rhubarb and greatly reduces the need to add sugar to it. Today I cut up about a litre of apples and pears and added six sticks of rhubarb, a quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and vanilla and no sugar at all, and the sweetness of the apples and pears was all the dish needed.

I am also drying apples and pears for school lunch snacks, which I will have to hide from the hungry hordes, otherwise they mysteriously disappear. Sadly, due to my continuing nonchalance in regard to garden jobs, there is a lot of codlin moth damage in the apples and pears this year, MUST get on top of that next year. Every year when I stand in the kitchen for hours cutting around the grub damage in the fruit rather than being able to whiz through the job using my nifty apple slinky cutter, I curse my evil twin from the past spring who didn't spray white oil on the trees when they were in bud.

However, in a spirit of kindness to my future self who wants to eat lovely oranges from the baby orange trees, I did spray white oil on the orange trees to kill off the scale infestation that is plaguing them. If your citrus trees are covered in a fine black film that looks like soot, you have sooty mould, a fungus that proceeds from any number bugs that secrete a sweet, sticky subtance. Aphids, scale and some other bugs do this (notably a small white, annoying fly), whilst sucking the sap (or something.. not entirely sure) from your lovely, lovely citrus tree. Unchecked, the tree will start losing its leaves. Which a couple of my baby trees have. White oil is ridiculously easy and cheap to make, with only two, safe ingredients, and very effective. You can make up a jar that lasts for a year. Just do it!! Yes, I am really just talking to myself here. One day I will actually start paying attention to myself.

Tomatoes! I only have cherry tomatoes ripe here, but Cindy bought a couple of boxes of gorgeous ripe tomatoes from some local tomato-growing ladies, and dropped one off for me yesterday. Yes, I am now doing my vegie shopping by proxy and getting it delivered. Yes, it is a dream come true! And Cindy brought her new puppy to visit Posy and Benson-the-Wonder-Dog so altogether it was so far removed from your average supermarket shopping experience that it was like shopping on another planet. The planet where real food is grown by the people you buy it from, and distributed by friends and puppies. It is a planet I want to live on.

Today I started making passata, and have already worked my way through half this 12kg box. I will be trying two methods, roasting the tomatoes, which I tried today, and boiling them, which I will try tomorrow. After official taste tests I will let you know which is the yummiest...

My last food experiment for the weekend has been making dog food.  Dog food is ridiculously expensive and ubiquitous, yet somehow dogs have survived as Man's Best Friend for thousands of years without kibble. So I found a book (at the library of course), read it through, and then decided to make up my own recipes after all, with what I had on hand. Today Benson-the-puppy-with-the-stomach-of-steel-who-will-eat-anything gobbled up Slow-Cooked Chicken Necks In Chicken Stock With Oatmeal and Fried Zucchini (yes, I know it really needs a snappier title).

I figure I have managed to keep four children alive and reasonably well fed for over twenty-one years with my home cooking, so why not a puppy as well? I mean dog kibble, really, what is it but highly processed food for the welfare of dogs promotion of profits by multinational corporations?

Enough about me, how about you? Tell me about your green and thrifty week and your favourite dog food recipes.


Judy said…
Morrisons supermarket had whole salmon half price this week. So I bought one for £16, which they filleted for me, giving 14 portions for the freezer. I kept the bones and head which I boiled up for the dog.

In 'Yukon men' which my other half watches they feed it to the huskies, bones and all. But I flaked the meat of the bones (with my dog sitting patiently at my feet waiting for me to drop some) and poured over the fish stock to provide the equivalent of 3 tins of dog food.

I found out this week that dogs shouldn't have onions, so that will cut out a lot of her usual leftovers. Has anyone else heard that too?
CJ said…
Your garden is looking lovely. Great tip about the bicarb in rhubarb, I shall remember that one. Well done you for making your own dog food, I'm sure it will be vastly healthier. CJ xx
Jo said…
Ooh, Judy, that is brilliant work with the salmon. Lucky puppy:)
So here is a list of things I have discovered dogs shouldn't eat:Onions, garlic, chocolate, avocado, grapes, raisins, milk.
Yoghurt apparently ok, eggs and salmon, pumpkin, spinach, green beans etc excellent. My vet said raw chicken necks are fine, because bones so small, and I can buy free-range chicken necks quite cheaply.
The jury seems to be out on bones, raw or cooked because they can splinter and pierce intestines, but I do wonder how common that is, I will have to check with the vet on that one.
I do welcome more input on this, because I am a complete newbie at cooking for dogs:)
CJ, the children are thrilled I am giving zucchini to the dog!!
Linda said…
Gosh, your green fingers, thriftyness and productivity are amazing. Well done!!! The tip for adding a tiny amount of bicarbonate to rhubarb to lessen the need for adding sugar is new to me. I will certainly try this next time I cook rhubarb. I like to combine fruits too. Rhubarb stewed in the juice and zest of an orange is lovely and could work with bicarbonate instead of sugar. Apple pie with a layer of strawberries on top of the apples is lovely too. How am I being thrifty today? Supper will be a stir fry/sauté mixture of eating up the veggies in the fridge ( some donated from neighbours' veggie gardens) and a grated cheese and dried herbs omelette made from eggs gifted by another neighbour. So, a cheap, tasty and nutritious meal for very little cost. Keep up the good work.
Jo said…
Linda, rhubarb with orange - I have never thought of that. It sounds lovely! I love sharing veg around the neighbourhood, and you have to love all that free food! Enjoy:)
Unknown said…
It all looks rather marvellous at your place including the overflowing pool. Green Green Green with splashes of yellow and red. Perfect. Im overloaded in cherry tomatoes at the moment. I like giving them away fresh rather than bottling them. Smiles all round. They look like shiny red precious baubles.
beautiful to see your lovely garden - i'm supremely envious of your basil, as down south here, both mum and i have not had enough to make even a smidgeon of pesto. it is very sad. your apples are astoundingly beautiful too. and thank you for the tip on the rhubarb; i shall pass that onto mum too. our tip for rhubabr is to add either jelly crystals or red food colouring, for the times they are not very pinky-red naturally.
heather said…
Hello Jo-
I found you from the comments in the Archdruid Report, and have been happily reading your archives while mainly neglecting my own work here- I can tell you will understand this dynamic. :)

Your garden looks lovely and reminds me to get to work so that my six-months-in-the-future self will bless me in retrospect. (Time to start the tomato seedlings!) I am going to concentrate this week on that image- making little steps someone in the future (myself, my kids, anyone) might look back on gratefully. It's the least I can do to partly mitigate all the rest.

My green and thrifty focus for the week: careful meal planning to reduce the amount of meat we are eating. My husband thinks he will wither up and die if he doesn't have meat daily, but I've discovered that it doesn't have to be a big hunk of meat-and-three- I can stretch a little meat a long ways as long as he can still see some on his plate. So chopped ham in a pot of beans, some bacon on top of the fried rice, a beef stew that is mostly veg but has the meat cut in small enough bits that most mouthfuls have some… He is a picky eater, but I'm trying to make our I-cook-he-does-dishes deal work for both of us, and the planet.

I wonder if you could ask your vet (the next time you have an occasion) about chicken feet for dogs? My vet is not open to such questions, really, believing in scientific animal feeding based on expensive bagged food. I have chicken feet in the freezer, far beyond my stock-making requirements, from the last batch of meat birds we raised. They are a little yucky to run across unexpectedly while digging for ice cream :), and I'm wondering if the dog can eat them without damage. I would even be willing to cook them first.
Jo said…
Lynda, yes, Christmas baubles is exactly the effect of cherry tomatoes, so incredibly cheerful. I have been chopping my cherry toms in halves or thirds, then drying them, with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and oregano. Oh my lord, they are divine as a snack. I will be adding them to all future cheese platters. Yummo!
e, for some reason the basil is growing very well in our old sand pit.. maybe that is the key!
Heather, I did see your lovely comment about my blog on The Archdruid's Report last week, thank you:) Glad to have you join the conversation here xx
I love your comment about making small steps of progress 'to mitigate all the rest' - I am hearing you on that one!!
And yes, stretching out the meat is a game that I'm sure most of us here play regularly..
About the chicken feet - if chicken necks are fine, I am sure chicken feet would be - those bones are tiny. What if you slow cook them in broth, then chop them into bits, if you are feeling brave? My ex-hub is forced to eat chicken-feet soup in China during business dinners all the time, and he has survived!
I do think that the idea that dogs can only eat dog kibble is a bit silly, I mean really, how did dogs survive all those thousands of years before dog kibble was invented in the 20th century? Dogs are scavengers after all, with cast iron stomachs to go with the scavenging habits.. and commercial dog foods are filled with some very dodgy ingredients that I wouldn't be adding to home made dog food anyway..
Anonymous said…
Continuing on our neither green nor thrifty rampage at the moment - the permit arrived for the Man Cave extension, so there has been copious demolition works going on at our house. Two trees are definitely biting the dust to make way for the the shed - I'm a bit sad about one, and ambivalent about the other. The cherry tree gets loads of fruit, but either the birds strip the tree as soon as they're almost ripe, or there's an epic storm meaning the whole crop is on the ground. So, it's a pretty shade tree in summer and an interesting stick in winter. The other is a massive jacaranda tree that looks brilliant and provides excellent shade. But sheds worse than the doggie.

We also have a row of green tree/shrub/not really sure things that mostly serve the purpose of shade and hiding the butt ugly fence and next door's shed. One hangs over the clothes line's new home. the birds like to sit in it and crap on my washing. We are debating the wisdom of chopping the lot and replacing with espaliered fruit trees along the wall and fence. Our over the back neighbour is a brilliant gardener, so I'm planning to pick her brains.

The doggie at our is partial to people food, but she doesn't consider it to be a meal unless there is kibble with it. Last night's dinner consisted of half a serve of kibble, some slightly slimy ham off cuts, capsicum and chopped up carrot (I only chop it because she's a guts and hurls. Ew.)
Anonymous said…
OOOh, and I forgot to mention... Aunty likes to cook things for us. This is lovely and we always say thank you with utmost sincerity. However, her recipe for stewed rhubarb involves diet raspberry cordial to get the red in it, and half a cup of sugar per bundle. She uses diet cordial so it's not too sweet...

I shall try the bicarb next time I cook it - last time, I only used a teaspoon of sugar and vanilla and it wasn't too bad.
Jo said…
Ooh, yes, go the espaliered fruit trees. I am going to uproot some non-productive blueberries (I have totally the wrong kind of soil for them) and put in more stone fruit instead. Sometimes as a gardener you have to be ruthless.
Our dog who eats anything is currently going half-and-half with proper dinner and kibble as well, slowly reducing the kibble component, but he likes human food better anyway. Possibly he wouldn't care..
Love the diet raspberry cordial addition to the rhubarb. Also e's family addition of jelly crystals above. It is so 70s!! Let's improve on nature:)
Bek said…
Sorry, no dog food recipes here. I am a cat person. But I suppose it would work for cat people too, but I buy the kibble stuff. The closest I get to making cat food is giving them the offcuts of any fatty pieces of meat I buy and then trim.
I will likewise be making passata in the coming weeks. I make it to an italian friends recipe and it cannot be beaten.
Jo said…
Bek, is that passata recipe on your website? I am making variations to work out which is the best. I'm sure yours is!
I have been looking at cat recipes too. They are a bit trickier in that they are basically just carnivores, and they need a trace element called taurine, which is easily added to their meat of course. The trouble with cat kibble is that it mostly contains grains, which cats don't digest that well. But it is cheap! I use an expensive grain-free cat kibble, but I think I will experiment with a meat-based home made food for them as well..
Jenny said…
Well, we have a dog (Jack Russell x Staffy) who is allergic to commercial dog food (and we had a budgie allergic to commercial bird seed-but that's another story!). A friend lent me a book about traditional wild dog diets, kind of paleo for dogs, I guess. So now he gets chicken thigh fillets chopped, some beef leftovers-but not cooked fat, grated zucchini, carrot and apple, raw oats/cooked rice,a raw egg and occasionally a fish oil tablet squeezed in. On very special occasions he has a tin of sardines in the mix too:) His skin is now clean and clear and he is much happier pooch :)
Jo said…
Jenny, lovely to have you join the conversation:) I have a friend who is trialling a raw food diet with her dog as well, and I am watching with interest. Our dog turns out to have sensitive skin:( and possible grass allergies, which seems like a bit of a troubling condition for a dog!!
So anything that will benefit his skin seems like a double bonus.
I will have a go with some meals based on those foods you have mentioned. Thank you!!

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