Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that I was trying to get through Walden again. Well, I did it! It is actually a marvellous book, but there were so many moments where I felt that Thoreau was peering out of the pages and wagging his finger right at me that I got quite uncomfortable and had to put the book away again for a week or so. And it's not just me who felt the wrath of Thoreau - Emerson, whose land Thoreau built his cabin on, and whose children Thoreau tutored for some years, said at his funeral that Thoreau was the most argumentative man he had ever met.

I can imagine the conversation where Thoreau broaches the idea of borrowing some of Emerson's land to try a social experiment. 'Build a cabin in the woods? Of course you can old boy, take as much land as you like! How about that bit right over by the far side of Walden Pond? Yes, excellent, excellent. Let me know when I can give you a hand to move out. Believe me, I am right behind you in this splendid endeavour..'

Thoreau's most famous quote of course, is the paragraph where he declares he went to the woods 'to live deliberately, to suck the marrow out of life, to see whether he could front only the essential facts of life'. But what, after all, does this mean?

Thoreau lived in the woods for only two years, and his experiment was to see how simply he could live, and whether living simply could enable him to live the Good Life, which for him, meant plenty of time to be a philosopher, time which in his 'normal' life was being eaten up by social conventions and the necessity of earning a living. His questions were: Can I build a simple shelter which will keep me warm in the winter? And, how simple can it be? Can I feed myself simply and produce enough extra to provide for the simplest necessities of life? And how simple might those necessities be? Can this simple life be satisfying and meaningful enough that I can recommend it as a course of action to others?

The answers to these questions were, 'Yes' and 'Very simple indeed'. For instance, once he was lecturing a poverty stricken labourer about how much less he could work, and how much more time he could spend fishing on Walden Pond if he chose not to 'need' butter, meat, tea and coffee. Which just goes to show I am not quite ready to live at that level of simplicity either! Thoreau himself lived on bread made with rye and cornmeal, dried beans, vegetables and the occasional fish. He drank water from a spring. Of course, he did pop into town every so often to lunch with his mother, and who wouldn't? But the point is - he knew he could live on very little, and for him, the payoff was worth it - the freedom to do whatever he wanted.

And of course he found, as many have found before and since, that the work involved in providing for his simple needs was also a profoundly satisfying part of his day - building a house, fishing, chopping wood, hoeing his beans and stopping to chat with a woodchuck, walking through the woods to town - all of these were as pleasurable a part of his life as his hours of reading and writing.

This revelation of the pleasures of work would have been revolutionary and probably appalling to Thoreau's contemporaries, for whom manual labour was NOT something that ladies and gentlemen undertook under any circumstance. But there is no reason to look back and sneer at the absurdities of the nineteenth century gentry, because the whole of our society is also geared towards avoiding work. Most of the technological advances of the past century have involved harnessing finite and precious fossil fuels so that we can avoid washing our clothes or doing dishes by hand, or even walking anywhere, if we are willing to pay for that privilege.

And most of us are. I flick a switch to wash my clothes, do my dishes, light up the darkness, keep myself warm and cook my toast, among many other tasks. When I want to transport myself from A to B I insert myself into a padded armchair and use million-year-old sunlight to whoosh myself to my destination, which sometimes is the gym where I lift weights to develop a couple of muscles so I don't atrophy away from lack of physical exercise. I tell you this, if Thoreau thought his nineteenth century contemporaries were leading pathetic and meaningless lives, he would be apoplectic observing ours..

The challenge that I took away from Thoreau is this: what are the necessities of my life? How simple could my life become? How much is my heedless life of comfort worth? Would I be willing to forgo some of my comforts for the freedom of providing for some of my own necessities?

I don't work very much at the moment, and am contemplating having to work more to keep body and soul together in the near future. I have to say I do have a very low-stress job working with lovely people, and as I work relief I can choose whether to work or not on a day-to-day basis. But it is intriguing to think of the possibilities of working... differently. I would rather work at home than even in my pleasant job. Well, mostly. If I could lower my outgoings and ramp up my insourcing (have a look at Mimi's great insourcing posts for ideas about how to do everything better at home), grow a lot more food, use less utilities, and buy less stuff, I could work a lot less days, live a very simple life and be a philosopher in my head while preserving pears with my hands. And hang out with the kids and the dog. I would still have to work a bit of course, because the council still don't accept barter arrangements for rates, but hey, did I mention my nice job? And again, like the philosopher Thoreau, I would like to consider a more creative life in my future, and that is also something I could plan while I preserve pears and plant peas and lettuce.

So again, my life is one great big experiment at the moment. I like it. I am amusing myself by thinking of all the most unlikely ideas I can, and then deciding to give them a go. It is such a surprising, joyful experience, living. I cannot believe that anyone is ever bored when we only have a scant threescore-years-and-ten to pack in everything we want to try..

Let's have a little more advice from Thoreau to go on with:

'Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage... if you are restricted in your range by poverty... you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences.  It is life near the bone where it is sweetest... Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.'

from Conclusion in Walden.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Green and Thrifty

Well, of course I have to mention the pears. Still picking and preserving. I am keeping the dryer trays full, but still only just keeping up with demand. I am absolutely going to have to hide the dried pear. It is so sweet it is like fruit candy. Today I spent some time up in the pear tree picking some of the really high ones. My mum and dad are visiting, and mum graciously formed part of the chain gang ferrying the precious pears into a basket. I have given the apples a week off this week, because the pears are higher priority - if I don't pick them all now they will drop and squash..

Greengages! I had only ever read about these plums in old English novels before I moved to Tasmania, but many old gardens here feature a greengage tree, which are highly prized locally for making Greengage Jam. A kind friend invited me over to pick greengages from her laden tree, and having enough jam to last about three years I decided to dry the greengages. Oh my, they are extremely yummy. I will have to hide them too, and ration them over the winter.

Honestly, I am starting to feel like a squirrel. This is the first autumn that I have been really serious about food preservation of the summer harvest. It is hard work, but I am loving it, and loving the feeling of security when I open the cupboard and see all that wonderful food there. This week I have made another four kilograms of tomatoes into passata, and feel like I have really gotten on top of the process now, which is great because I need to do many more in the next couple of weeks in order to have my year's worth of passata sorted. Next spring I need to plant so many tomatoes!

Thrifty food saves this week - a wilty Chinese cabbage turned into coleslaw, wilty celery thrown into the shepherd's pie, a small amount of mince for the shepherd's pie eked out with the amazing disappearing trick that is red lentils. Report: no-one noticed that there was a)less meat or b)lentils in the shepherd's pie. Win.

Tried a vegetarian curry with chick peas and lots of veg. Nailed it, despite sniffy remarks from the ten year old about it not being a 'real' curry (she still ate it..). Made lots of chicken stock, have another chicken carcass to turn into more chicken stock tomorrow.

Have been experimenting with alternative food for the dog, mostly by giving him human food left over from dinner. So far he has loved roast chicken dinner (well, der), also pumpkin soup and assorted roast veg. I saved the chicken fat from the roast and have been adding a spoonful a day to his kibble when there is nothing else fun available. So far I have been feeding him half his normal kibble and half human dinner. He much prefers human food, and as most of the meat, veg and grains that form the basis of most of our meals cost less per kilogram than the expensive dog kibble the vet recommended.. well, it must be reducing the dog food bill.

Today the universe conspired to send me lots of books - mum and I 'accidently' wandered into a haven for old books (seriously - it was masquerading as a cafe), and had to bring a few home with us. Then when Posy came home from school she was proudly sporting a 'library monitor' badge, and as a reward for volunteering to do whatever important jobs library monitors do, she was allowed to bring home a stack of unwanted library books. Such taste that girl has - a Beatrix Potter compendium, a splendidly illustrated biography of Ernest Shepard, an origami book, some Judy Blume, Diana Wynne Jones, Ralph S Mouse (remember him?), and a book which she apparently chose for me particularly, about a family which moves to a remote bay in southwest Tasmania to live the pioneering life. Published in 1952, it was originally bought at Birchalls, our celebrated local bookshop, for 6/3 (six shillings and threepence?) and has been on the shelf at Posy's school ever since. I love Tasmania:) So that is my Friday night treat - adventure at World's End among the centuries old trees and the blue sea. There are pigs, hard working children, vegetable gardens, and a wicked aunt. All my favourite things!

What thrifty treats has the universe provided for you this week?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Use Up All That Zucchini - Caramelised Zucchini Risotto

Oooh, have I got a treat for you. I know that everyone in the Southern Hemisphere has about twelve kilograms of zucchini in their fridge right now, so today I have a recipe that will use up ONE AND A QUARTER KILOGRAMS of it at once (that is two and a half pounds for those of you in the North who are contemplating, in the chill days of Spring, planting way too many zucchini plants again, because you can't imagine not wanting to eat all that lovely, lovely green zucchini come Summer). Mind you, I am a zucchini junkie. I am the only person I know who is still gratefully accepting zucchini, at the same time as I harvest my own. I put it in everything, and grate it and freeze it for Winter. But even I enjoy using up great wodges of it at once in so delicious a fashion that everyone in the family asks for seconds.

This recipe is from Kay, from our Living Better With Less group. She brought along copies for us last year, along with rave reviews, but I didn't get to it before the end of last zucchini season, so it has been on my list of zucchini-related recipes to try this season. And oh, yes, it is a winner. Creamy, savoury, gentle on the digestion, it is the perfect comfort food.

A couple of notes before we dive into it - if you peel the zucchini, no-one will ever guess they are eating zucchini unless you tell them. Ideal for children and other family members who are a little over zucchini. If you don't peel them, you will need to chop them up into small chunks when you roast them. Still delicious, just with tell-tale flecks of green. My children watched me cook this and declared they were going to eat grilled cheese for dinner instead, but on trying it, wolfed it down, even though they could see zucchini skin. I think that says it all..

The recipe, like all risotto recipes, calls for arborio rice. I used sushi rice, because that was what was in the cupboard, and it worked just as well as arborio, and most importantly, is half the price of arborio. Win, win!

Caramelised Zucchini Risotto

11/4 kg (21/2 lbs) zucchini, peeled and quartered lengthways, or unpeeled and chopped into small chunks.
300g (11oz) onion, finely sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
2Tbs parsley, finely chopped
salt and ground pepper to taste
11/2 cups (360g, 13oz) arborio or sushi rice
6 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
200g (7oz) parmesan cheese, grated (I used boring old cheddar)

Toss zucchini, onion and parsley in an oven-proof dish with the oil, and roast at 180C (350F) for 11/2 hours. Vegetables should be slightly browned and caramelised and smelling delicious. I cooked mine along with dinner, put the roast veg in the fridge overnight, then made it into risotto the next night. Sometimes I amaze myself with my own efficiency.

Transfer to mixture to stovetop, stir in rice.

Bring stock to simmering point (yes, another saucepan, but with any luck it will be someone else's turn to do the dishes..), then use a ladle to slowly add the stock, continuously stirring, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next ladle-full. It takes about twenty minutes, and the end result should be creamy rather than dry.

Add the cheese and stir in, serve with more parsley.

Go back for seconds.

Jealously guard the left overs for lunch.

Thanks so much for this recipe Kay, it truly is a keeper.

All irreverent annotations are my own, and I do hope that if you cook it you will let me know, especially if you do any tweaking that makes it even better, although that is hard to imagine...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Green and Thrifty

The pear and apple harvest is becoming positively ridiculous. Yesterday morning The Girl employed her new, patented pear harvesting system by parking the trampoline under the pear tree and climbing up into it and shaking the branches. Of course, what mostly happened was the pears bounced onto the trampoline and then right off again, but it was quite fun. I employed the more traditional method of balancing a basket precariously on top of the ladder, and I am pleased to say that I have sustained not a single broken limb.

Yesterday I borrowed a friend's Vacola kit and preserved some apples for the very first time. I have stewed and frozen fruit before, but this is the first time I have messed about with my quite extensive Fowler's jar collection (I always knew I would get into preserving, just hadn't worked up the nerve yet, hence the jar collection..).

Look at these babies with their dear little clips still on:

I was lying awake in bed in the early hours of this morning convinced I'd neglected an important step and that I will inadvertently kill the family due to careless preserving.. but I followed all the steps in the book religiously (for once - I am nothing if not adventurous with recipes..).

I do have some advice for beginners though - starting a day's preserving at 4.30pm is just silly. Four hours of peeling and chopping went into those seven bottles of apple preserves. I kept having to pop back out into the garden to pick more apples. It is extraordinary how they just disappear into the bottles. But it does keep the neighbours on their toes. My apple trees hang over the front fence, and I can tell you now, people just don't expect to see a middle-aged woman ten feet above them picking apples while they are walking their dogs.. I think this is possibly the main benefit of growing fruit trees - they remind you that climbing trees is not just for ten year olds, but a perennial joy.

At the same time that I decided to preserve apples, Rosy decided to sew another pencil case, which entailed bringing all the tubs of fabric down from the shed. Posy had a friend over and they were running up and down the hallway chasing the dog and The Girl and I were cutting up apples. Every surface in the kitchen and dining room was covered in fruit or fabric, the sewing machine was clattering away, the children were shrieking with laughter, and the whole house smelled like apple, cinnamon and cloves, and suddenly I thought, 'This is exactly where I want to be, and exactly the life I want to be living.' All it takes, it turns out, is a severe case of RSI of the wrists and a lot of loud children to make me perfectly happy:)

This week has really been all about food. Preserving it, stretching it, saving it, making do with what is in the cupboard. Our post-divorce stringency measures include a food budget that is actually the food budget. Always in the past there has been plenty of wiggle room, and I pretty much always went over what I had planned to spend, but really, it didn't matter. Now however, there is an amount on which we can spend on food, and that is it. No wiggle room, because everything else is allocated as well. I hasten to add that we are not going to starve or go short of food in any way, we just have to be careful. There is no room for extras. Again though, I am finding that an imposed parameter on shopping can actually be a good thing. Each Monday I spend the week's grocery money, and then it is gone. I cannot pop out to the shops during the rest of the week just to pick something up for dinner, or for some arcane ingredient that the girls want to cook with. That has to wait until next week. And it is fantastic, because I HATE popping out to the shops. We get to eat what is in the house, and that is making us into more creative cooks, which is a good thing.

Yesterday, after I had cut up the daily quota of pears for drying, The Girl made a double batch of crumble topping which we popped into the freezer to top the endless parade of stewed fruit that issues from the kitchen these days. Hint of the week - add fresh grated ginger to your crumble mix. Oh my, yum. Then The Girl made chocolate syrup to make milk shakes and pour on pancakes with cream. Then I made pikelets for the little girls for afternoon tea. It does rather look like we have fallen off the 'no sugar' band wagon, doesn't it? It's OK, we still get our once-a-week treats and dessert, and my, don't we appreciate them..

Last week in the comments, Heather said I had inspired her to save some nasty apples from their composting fate, and stewed them to top her oatmeal instead - well, I was inspired right back yesterday, and instead of tossing some sad and bruised oranges into the compost, I cut up the nice bits for fruit salad with some slightly wrinkled grapes and lots of pears and apples. My in-laws were beekeepers back in the day, and introduced me to the excellent tradition of anointing fruit salad with a spoonful of honey. Rosy was very happy to find fruit salad in the fridge, and I was very happy to feed her a 'rescued' afternoon tea. I am thinking of it as dumpster diving in my own fridge. There is a scary statistic that we waste up to 40% of the fresh food that we buy, and it is my mission to get this down to 0% at our place.

Have you been dumpster diving in your own fridge at all this week? What did you create with your left overs, and how are your autumn harvests going (if you are having autumn or harvests at your place at the moment)?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

February Accounting

This year I have decided, wherever possible, to not buy anything new, and at the end of every month I will be exposing all my purchases here as a kind of confessional.. because if I have to do that, I will certainly be thinking twice before I pop into a big box store.. I am using you shamelessly, dear readers, as my virtual conscience, my interweb Jiminy Crickets.

Why not buy new? In a word, externalities. All of us, my darlings, who can access the intenet on an electronic device, are more or less the 1% of the world's population who benefit unfairly from the sweat, habitat destruction, pollution, ill health, exploitation and death of the 99% whose lives are degraded in some way so that we can have machines to wash our clothes and make our toast, and have access to cheap t-shirts and chocolate.

One day I woke up and the invisible wake of destruction that trails behind my trips to Target suddenly became unbearable, so I have started on a different path to providing for my needs and wants, and those of my lovely children, dog, two cats and two budgies.

Here are my guidelines:

1 Make do with what I have.
2 Try to find what I need second hand - there is a world of stuff out there that needs to be rescued and used again.
3 Buy from a local craftsperson.
4 As a last resort, buy from a local, independent store, so that at least my money stays in my community.

And here is how I fared in February:

Bought new: Two pairs dance shorts for the girls' new dance class. Bought at the local ballet shop. Australian made.

Pair dance shoes for Rosy. Bought at Kmart:( Usually dance shoes are about $80 and only available from the ballet shop. The dance teacher was very chirpy as she informed us that the shoes the girls need this year for their street/jam/funk class are black canvas flats available from Kmart for $10. She thought I would be pleased..

I bought them, of course. And then while we were there Rosy 'needed' a t-shirt and cardigan as well. Which I bought, of course. Because I am not quite ready to get between a teenager and her need to be 'normal'. Well, not all the time. I did buy some second hand clothes for the girls this month, but I think we are going to have to ease into buying absolutely everything second hand for them. Baby steps.

Meanwhile, I felt very, very uneasy in Kmart. I was surrounded by ridiculously cheap footwear, and cheery $9 cardigans. And what made me feel uneasy was that I wanted those cheap and cheery clothes and homewares. It is so easy to buy All the Stuff at Kmart. No wonder there is a thriving decluttering industry. In Kmart you can buy All the Stuff, then you will have to pop back to buy All the Storage Tubs to put All the Stuff in, then when you run out of space completely you will have to pop back to buy some books on decluttering. They really have you all stitched up at Kmart.

Anyway, I scuttled guiltily out, and am more determined than ever to avoid the horrid place completely from now on.

A new filter for my vacuum cleaner. When it lost suction completely, I feared the worst, but it turns out that my vacuum cleaner has TWO filters. I had only ever found one, which I washed occasionally, and which did indeed generally make it work better. The second one is non-washable (of course), but has lasted four years, so hopefully this new one will give me another four years of non-stop good behaviour from my excellent hard-working friend, the vacuum cleaner.

Bought secondhand: Posy talked me into getting a second budgie (offered to us by the grandmother of one of Posy's friends). We bought the cage from a friend whose son's cockatiel had died. The cage was originally green but a while back when I was organising The Man's shed I found a whole shelf full of spray paint, so we used a few cans of satin black to create an elegant boudoir for the birdies..

..who are very chuffed at being able to fly around in their cage now..

Also, during February, we went on a retail adventure to a pre-loved clothes market where we all found something new for our summer wardrobes.

It Followed Me Home Mum, Honest..I have been helping my lovely friend Cindy to pack up her house ready for moving, and inevitably some of Cindy's stuff has found its way into my house - a stack of foodie magazines which I swear I was going to give to a foodie friend, but my girls found them first..

And two lovely cast iron pans which I am hoping will help my iron levels to soar. One of them is a Le Creuset pan, because Cindy only cooks with the best, and I am a very lucky girl. Thanks Cindy:)

And a pot which will be very handy to store chicken feed in (when I get those chickens, which are the most well-appointed imaginary chickens ever), and a little shelf which I NEEDED, but can't quite decide where I need it yet..

Now, an extraordinarily wonderful thing that happened in February was the response to me mentioning that I was hunting for a second-hand lap top - and my old friend and dear reader Jen has a Very Useful Man indeed, who saves and reconditions unwanted laptops, and sent one to me! I am so excited about this; it is currently in the post, and I am hopping up and down with joyful anticipation. Jen and Chris, you are bright, shining stars:)

There we have it - everything that arrived in our house in February. Not much left the house- some more of Posy's outgrown clothes and school uniform passed on, some more clothes came her way as hand-me-downs.. the rhythm of life for sensible parents everywhere:)

So actually, I bought less new this month, had an awful experience at Kmart, but know not to repeat that. What I am really enjoying is the freedom to not go shopping. My errands day is much briefer. I go to the bank, the library and pay the bills. Sometimes I have a particular thing I need to shop for, but I don't feel like I have to look in any shops in case I am missing a bargain, because I know the best bargain is to not go shopping!

My next month's accounting will have to include gifts, which is exercising my brain a bit at the moment. We have had one child's birthday party to attend so far, the present for which was supplied by the 'present box' in the top of the wardrobe. But soon the present box will be bare. What then? And then I have relatives and my own children's birthdays to cater for... I actually made a gift for Rosy's birthday last week, which I am still in shock about - but it will be a couple of months before I can reveal it on the blog. Stay tuned for some unexpected creativity! And tell me about your best hand-made or second-hand sourced gifts. Please.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Living Better With Less

Kay brought along a selection of delicious home-dried fruits for us to try.
Here was one I had never seen, and have since tried at home with great success.
Tomato slices, dried to crispiness or chewiness depending on your preference. 
Kay sprinkled hers with salt, pepper and basil. I used my home-grown dried oregano.
Yum. I am imagining these on a cheese platter. Yum again.

A couple of years ago I started reading Tanya's blog, Suburban Jubilee. I read about what she was doing in the garden and the kitchen, and was enchanted by all the things she made, like soap and candied lemon peel, things that 'normal' people buy at the supermarket. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.. and then I discovered that she lived locally, and ran a group each month sharing everything she knew with lucky local folk..

Well, it took me a few months to pluck up the courage, but one night I turned up at the pub and discussed jam making and drying fruit and veg with a bunch like-minded people, and I was hooked! There are so many urban homesteading skills I want to learn, and here was a group of strong, creative, knowledgeable people who were doing it all. Some were expert gardeners, some fabulous cooks, some kept chickens, some had a passion for medicinal herbs, some are obsessed with finding ever more interesting ways of turning plants into alcohol..

And in the middle of us all, there was always Tanya, like a mother hen, or a good witch, keeping an eye on everyone, organising clever people to come and do workshops on how to do fermenting or keep bees or make our own kombucha or kefir or sunscreen, and sharing her considerable knowledge on how to live a really good life, the old way, with nana skills and a Garden of Eden out the back. We moved from the pub to the Workingman's Club, to a little studio space, kindly lent to us so that we could keep getting together around the big old farmhouse table and carry on learning.

At the end of last year, Tanya decided to step back from her role co-ordinating the Living Better Group - ever wise, she decided she needed to cull some of her busyness in order to Live Better. Members of our group called each other and bumped into each other at the shops and decided that we couldn't let the group go, so we decided to re-convene it, and have a go ourselves.

So Katherine, who is super organised, organised us all to get together in February to plan a course for the future. We had a lovely time, as usual, and discussed a whole lot of things, such as home made washing detergent recipes, recipes for garlic spray to deter cabbage moths from the broccoli, drying fruit and vegetables (yes, just like the first time I came to the group - some subjects never get old), and of course, ideas for what we would like to learn this year.

It is extraordinary the skills and knowledge that a group of ten enthusiastic amateurs have between us, or the network of people we know who can contribute. We have a plan, and I have volunteered to collate each month's recipes and information on my blog for the benefit of members and all you other readers as well.

So if you are in Launceston (that is, the Launceston in Tasmania, Australia, not the Launceston in Cornwall..) on the last Thursday of each month, do come and join us from 7-9pm.

Otherwise, think about starting your own group with a bunch of friends where you can share what you know about Living Better With Less. You never know what you might learn.

If you want to contact me about the Living Better With Less group (or anything else) I have now finally got around to popping up a 'Contact' page. That only took six years. Imagine what I can achieve by 2021!

Garlic Spray to Deter Cabbage Moths From Your Brassicas

Quart (1 litre) hot water
Bulb of garlic
1 onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Crush garlic and chop onion and add to water with pepper.  Seep for 10 minutes.  Strain and pop in a spray bottle to use.  Keep in the fridge as it will go off.

Apparently this will also send aphids to an early grave..

Friday, March 6, 2015

Green and Thrifty

Goodness, it's that time of the week again. And it's Autumn, my favourite season. The beginning of March always signals a slight turning of the weather here in Tasmania. A chill in the morning, a need to wear socks in the evening. BUT, the days are glorious. The sky is the deepest blue imaginable, the light is golden. I stood at the back door to take this photo, but it hardly does justice to the truly glorious blue that we just drown in here every March. I still don't understand why everyone doesn't move to Tasmania. I mean, really, why wouldn't you?

Each day this week I have collected a bucket of apples or pears, or both. First I fill the dryer trays to make dried fruit chips, then I stew what's left with rhubarb, or the blueberries we picked at the blueberry farm over summer. A handful of blueberries makes a whole pot of apples and pears into a pinky-purple treat, and that helps the blueberries go a long way.

I have cooked up 12kg of tomatoes into passata and will present my passata findings and recipes next week. I now need MORE tomatoes to make a year's worth of passata and get all those empty jars I have been collecting out of my sideboard. I think I will need 36kg of tomatoes altogether if my forward estimates are correct...

This much basil (6 packed cups of leaves) makes two small jars of pesto. Luckily I have a lot of basil, and intend to keep cranking out the pesto over the next couple of weeks. I have nearly run out of olive oil, so will have to go 'shopping' for more. This means I will have to walk over to my friend Jane's house with my oil tin, and she will fill it up with organic Australian olive oil because she runs a bulk-buy organic food co-op from her kitchen. I might have a cup of tea while I am there. My life is so hard.

While I was whizzing up the pesto in the food processor it suddenly occurred to me that generations of Italian nonnas probably did not make pesto in a blender.. it took me some time before I worked out that those great big granite and marble mortar and pestle sets that decorate many kitchen counters would be the kitchen gadget of choice for making pesto without electricity. I have now put that on my list of things to look for at garage sales. Add to that a mouli for making passata without a stick blender, and soon I will be able to process the harvest like a true peasant.. because that is what I have decided I want to be when I grow up. A peasant with a house full of food that I have grown and made myself. A peasant with access to hot water, chocolate and the library. You know, a peasant with benefits:) That, or a witch. I haven't decided yet. Still, medicinal herbs don't take up much space. And I'm good at cackling, and already have the cats, so maybe I could do both..

Here is what Rosy has been up to this week:

Honestly, children have no fear. Rosy decided she wanted to sew a lined pencil case with a zip. If I had decided that, it would take me six months of research, consultation with sewing friends, and then a postponement due to nerves. Rosy set up the sewing machine with her school laptop parked in front of it running a tutorial from You Tube, and an hour later had the finished product. She used the zipper foot! She even shortened the zip!! I am amazed.

She 'shopped the shed' for the fabric - a vintage cushion cover I bought from an op shop years ago, and the lining is a pair of my old pyjamas. The zip she found in the sewing drawer. The pencil case is dirty already because she has been using it all week at school, but at least we know it will wash easily. She now has plans to make more for gifts for friends. Did you hear that? My teenager is going to make her own gifts for friends' birthdays. This is the kind of thing I hoped I would be able to start doing this year, but the 14yo is way ahead of me. I am so proud:)

What green and thrifty activities have you been up to this week? Tell me about your harvesting and preserving if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, and your dreams for your garden and seed sprouting dramas if you live way up North.