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..


Mimi said…
Jo, this sounds so appealing. Like hanging out with my Nanna or Mum who are sadly no longer with us. When my daughter finally spreads her wings and flies the coop, I can see myself being convener of just such a goodly group. Sigh....Mimi xxx
CJ said…
What a great idea, the sharing of wisdom, ideas and enthusiasm is always inspiring.
Jo said…
Mimi, you would be a natural for such a group, and you do it on-line with flair and panache right now. Thanks:) I am lucky in my mentors..
CJ, I just love being surrounded by such a creative bunch who are willing to give absolutely anything a go..
Heather F said…
I think your group is wonderful. Being around like-minded people is such a boost to the spirit.
Unknown said…
Wishing you group longevity, success and many cups of coffee or glasses of wine.

Oh, that we could all live in Launceston, Tasmania.
Unknown said…
I forgot laughter. Every group must have lots a belly laughs that make you want to pee.
Anonymous said…
If you dry those tomato slices enough, till they are crisp and brittle, you can put them into a food processor and make tomato powder which is amazing when added to homemade spice mixes and stock powders and adds all of the flavour of summer to winter dishes. I am SO tempted to head in to take part Ms Jo. My problem is that by 7pm I am drooling and almost fast asleep on the couch thanks to my early morning nocturnal activities. I love sharing the love and finding a group of like-minded people to do it with would be an amazing thing indeed. I could sit in on a couple and then maybe spread the love around out here? There are so many things that we can share if we get together and have a chat and a cuppa. It's amazing what a small group of people can do/be at the end of the day and I am in love with the idea of just such a group :).
Sounds like a wonderful group--glad you found it! I use a cayenne pepper spray for aphids, but I'm always worried I'm going to spray myself with it. It isn't beyond me.

Jo said…
Heather, a boost to the spirit - yes, finding people who think who you recognise as kindred spirits is such a joy:)
Lynda, oh that all of you could live in Launceston as well. We would have the best parties:) Lots of laughing.
Fran, I would love to see you at a Living Better Group with a view to starting a branch chapter up the river. More than welcome:)
Frances, you crack me up. Maybe a warning on the bottle?
heather said…
Your blog is my Living Better With Less inspiration! My neighborhood book group is where I go locally for this kind of talk- we do the wine and the laughter, per Lynda D's prescription, lots of commiserating and sharing household and garden advice (so wonderful to have a range of ages, including nana)- strangely little book talk, though, wonder why...?

Greatly looking forward to your sharing your group's notes here, as well. Will try the spray forthwith on my Brussel sprouts, which currently have so many aphids they look furry. Yecch.

Dried tomatoes are like candy! I love them chopped up and sprinkled on top of everything- salads, roasted veg, egg on toast- in the winter when good fresh tomatoes aren't available. Or just by the handful out of the jar. Mmm...

--Chicken Heather
Jo said…
Ha! Chicken Heather, I love it:) I hear a lot of stories similar to yours re book groups.. maybe you should just jettison the book so you have more time to discuss gardening tips?
Mmm, dried tomatoes on the winter breakfast egg. I am liking the sound of that, also Fran's tomato powder hint above. I'm thinking - dried tomato 'flakes' with chilli flakes and salt dusted over my boiled egg.. ooh, breakfast just got better:)
Jen's Busy Days said…
Can I ask how long the dried tomatoes to store for? And how do you get them to be like those semidried packets of yumminess I can buy in the deli?

It will be great to see your group's ideas. We can share in your get togethers without getting together. ;-)

Best wishes
Jen in Qld
Jo said…
Jen, I am pretty sure the tomatoes, once dried, will last for ever?? I store them in a paper bag for a couple of weeks to make sure any residual moisture is wicked out, then pop them in a jar. Well, that's what I do with dried fruit, I am sure tomatoes would be the same.

For semi-dried tomatoes - just don't dry them as long, I guess, then put them in a jar and cover them with oil, to keep them from going off, and add yummy herbs like basil and oregano. Does anyone else have anything to add to this?

You have inspired me to give this a go Jen:).
Annabel said…
Hi Jo!
I had to say I love your budgies and black cage. And general philosophy!
Anonymous said…
You'll get plenty of ideas to share from the SS vault and forum.

I can see you in your element with this group. If I came in sequins and red lippy would you let me in? I might be able to dig out an old hippy skirt instead. My Byron Bay outfit.
heather said…
Dried tomatoes theoretically will last foreverish, but they never make it longer than a couple of months at my house because I eat them all. Must...dry...more...!

I read somewhere that you need to be careful about storing tomatoes in oil because of the risk of botulism- apparently the commercial bottlers use such high pressure/temp/ whatever that this is not a risk for them, but homemade tomatoes in oil have to live in the fridge and be used up quickly. A shame because I love them too. I think you can dry em and just make small batches of tomatoes in oil by warming the dried tomatoes and herbs in a small pan of oil on the stovetop. Have not tried this, but it seems like the results would be yummy no matter what.
--Chicken Heather
Annabel said…
I wish I lived near by I would come. I love all the pears you have bottles and dried...
I am obsessed with building up my pantry, preserves, crochet, cooking, so many things and would love to learn more. Your groups sounds just lovely.

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