Green and Thrifty

Getting back to doing all those things I normally do is making me feel more at home. So it has been a week of returning to green and thrifty. It's been a while, but good to begin some small, absorbing thrifty projects again.

A couple of weeks ago my mum brought me apples from her tree, and on our moving day Rosy and her friends picked some apples from our trees to bring to our new house. This week I stewed the last, sad ones with some rhubarb, which also came from mum's garden. I must repeat again my oft-repeated best rhubarb tip because it is so brilliant: add a quarter teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda) to the pan when cooking rhubarb. The soda neutralises the acid in the rhubarb somewhat, which means you need to add much less sugar.

Today my new neighbour ran across the road to bring me a bag of brussels sprouts because they get a vegetable box, and don't like sprouts. Did you know I have a secret super power? People bring me things. Even people I have just met, or sometimes people I have never met. It is odd but good. Now I feel confident to take a pair of pink glitter gumboots over to her daughter, being as she seems to be of the excellent 'swap things among neighbours' fraternity (I can't think why, in all the decluttering I do all the time, I still have a pair of pink glitter gumboots to fit a five year old. And I even moved them to the new house..).

My mum brought me a bag of pine cones as fire starters. She has been collecting them on her walks. I brought an armful of river driftwood home from our week end picnic for the same purpose.

I have been picking rosemary, parsley and rhubarb from my new garden, and the last of the lettuce and some beets from the pots I moved from the old house. Food from the garden is the homiest thing I know. Except a fire. That is good too. I have worked out how to keep the fire crackling along all day. I wish I could tell you I spent the weekend with the wood-splitting axe splitting all my own wood, but I didn't, I stimulated the local economy and got a nice man to come and do it for me. I now have a shed full of perfect small logs just the right size to fit in my perfect small wood heater. Tonight I am experimenting to see if I can keep the fire going all night. Will report in the morning.

This morning: No luck with keeping the fire going overnight, despite filling it full when I went to bed and turning the vents to their lowest setting. Then, in my bedtime reading (one of the Miss Read novels, published in the 50s) I found this sentence:

March that year was one of the coldest that Fairacre had ever known. The nights were bitter, and cottage fires were kept in overnight with generous top-sprinkling of small coal dampened with tea leaves, and stirred into comforting life first thing the next morning.

Then I dredged from my memory the word 'smoor' which I must have also read in a novel, because where else do I learn anything? This is what I found:

Vbl.n. smooring, a ritual damping down of the domestic fire at night, once common in the Highlands in Catholic districts, Gael. smaladh an teine. Also attrib.Sc. 1900  A. Carmichael Carmina Gadetica I. 234: 
The ceremony of smooring the fire . . . is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth — which is generally in the middle of the floor — and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss. The first peat is laid down in name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third in name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish the fire, in name of the Three of Light.

Lacking peat I may have to go with small coals and tea leaves.. I will of course report back on this one:)

Tell me about your thrifty projects, and do let me know how you smoor your fire..


Anonymous said…
You do have that aura that people, including me, bring you stuff. Hope you like the hat I dropped over and it gets worn!?!

I wish I had a fire. So cosy. Look forward to hearing about your efforts at dampening the fire to keep it going.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Stimulating the local economy is a great way to be known and to know. And you are very lucky having neighbours with which to swap produce. Thanks for the excellent tip with the rhubarb. I have about 30, maybe more rhubarb plants and I love stewing them, but usually in sugar... Yum, sugar... Oh well. Rhubarb is so easy to propagate, you don't have to be even marginally careful.

Hey, the rainfall forecast published by the Bureau of Meteorology for your part of the world has a lovely bright blue colour for tomorrow (Sunday). Stay safe, my gut feeling is that the word: feral; would be a good one to use for the weather over the next few days! :-)! I'm trying to get a few extra solar panels installed tomorrow...

Keeping the wood fire burning all night usually involves adding extra timber to it during the middle of the night when the coals have burned down. Despite that, about as often as not, there are small coals the next morning usually surrounded by a bed of ash. If that is the case, I generally add on some shredded bark (great kindling) and some small sticks to those coals. I open the flue and vents full up and if that lot starts to smoke, it will generally ignite after a small while but with lots of smoke which go up the chimney / flue. At that point I chuck some smaller logs onto the fire and it will take from there. Other than that, it is back to the drawing board and start again, but the warmth in the ash bed usually means that it starts more easily.

Thanks very much for the smooring history. Very interesting. I may try that - without the peat of course. There is no local peat here!

Went to the beach today and the wind and surf were up (that involved walking along the beach - it is a bit cold to get into the water at this time of year!). I love the beach in winter with nature in full force.


Anonymous said…
I was delighted to hear you are reading a Miss Read book. I have been a fan of her books for many years. Glad to hear your move has gone well for you and your family, Best wishes Lyn
no fire to smoor here; just switch the button on for the heat pump.
lucky you with the brussels sprouts! really, why do people not like brussels sprouts?!
Jo said…
Lucinda, hats, clothes, boooks, stationery, I love everything you send me:)

Chris, discovered I am not allowed to let the fire smoulder over night here for air pollution reasons. Never mind, the wood heater is parked inside an old brick chimney which gives off a lot of warmth for hours after the fire goes out, so we are thankful for that:)

Crazy flooding here. Lucky I bought a house on a hill.

Lyn, I love the Miss Read books too, and collect them from op shops. They are so gentle and comforting to read, and Miss Read reminds me of myself, especially when she would rather read than clean:)

e, steamed brussels sprouts fried in butter with bacon. What's not to like??

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