This week's green and thrifty plots and plans begin in the garden (where else?). While the girls were away I devoted hours to ripping weeds out of what must once have been a lovely flower garden outside my front door. Under the weeds I have uncovered some lovely plants, but I also have large areas of bare earth. Part of me would love to pop down to the nursery and come back with an instant garden, but where is the fun and adventure in that? Besides, think of all those plastic pots, and how ridiculously expensive that would be.
Pink geraniums have self-seeded all over the garden.
What I have done to fill up my garden beds so far: I brought plants from my old house in pots, which I am now transplanting into the garden. Also, my old garden was full of self-sown annuals, many of which were accidentally transported in my large pots. I am lifting and planting these little seedlings as well - calendula, nigella, erigeron, forget-me-nots, alyssum, viola, feverfew - all a bit weedy, but pretty. I am also finding interesting plants in other parts of my new garden, mostly choked under a jungle of weeds, so have been rescuing these as I find them, to mass them all in the one weed-free bed in a sort of plant-rescue operation. A refugee camp for oppressed plants.
I am also taking photographs of bulbs that have popped up in all sorts of odd corners, so that when their foliage dies down I can dig them up to re-plant them in the flowerbed for next spring. I have had dozens of jonquils, a tiny plot of grape hyacinths and a brace of yellow tulips blooming right where I want to grow vegies, also daffodils where I want to build a deck. I am waiting for the roses to bloom to see if I want to preserve any of the rose bushes which will be doomed in the event of deck-building.
Look! Bluebells popped up among the weeds!
The next plan for filling up the garden is raiding the gardens of friends. The most wonderful thing about plants is their passion for reproduction. That is their entire life's work; that we find them pretty or useful to eat is neither here nor there to the plant, all they want to do is to make baby plants. Really, there is no need to buy new plants ever, except that we get a little impatient. Seeds, cuttings, divisions, or digging up self-sown seedlings - this is the way that gardeners have grown beautiful gardens for thousands of years without the benefit of the nursery industry. The way you go about this historical activity is, you go and have a nice cup of tea with a friend, then ask to see their garden, then extravagantly admire all the plants, then say, "Ooh, yes please," every time a spare plant, cutting or seedhead is offered. There you have it, historical re-enactment, garden-style.
Ok, let's leave the garden now, and head into the kitchen, where this morning Posy made her first ever loaf of bread. It was magnificent. We don't eat much bread, but when we do we buy $7 loaves of sourdough from the farmer's market. It is delicious but extravagant. Posy plans to make make bread every weekend now, so that will slash our bread budget.
Here is my Super Simple Bread Recipe in case you have a 12 year old at your place who wants to bake bread for you:
Put 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of yeast into a large bowl. Stir. Make a well in the middle. Pour in two cups of warm water. Stir again (I use a metal soup spoon) until you have a shaggy, flour-covered lump of dough. Knead for a few minutes on a floury bench. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
Half-fill the bowl with warm water and scrape out all the doughy bits with your finger nails. This is the most efficient dough-cleaning method I have found so far. Rinse the bowl, swirl a little olive oil in the bowl, plop the dough in, then turn it over so that it is oiled all over to stop a skin forming on your dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, let the dough rise for about one and a half hours.
Turn out the dough again, knead it again for a couple of minutes, brush a bread pan with oil, form your bread dough into two balls, pop them into the pan next to each other, brush the top with oil, and let it rise for another half hour. Put it into a 200C (400F) oven for half an hour to 40 minutes. When it is done the bread will fall out of the pan when you tip it upside down and will sound hollow like a drum when you rap on its golden, crunchy bottom. Leave to cool if humanly possible before cutting.
In other green and thrifty kitchen news, I attempted to make crackers. They were ok, the thin ones were best, very crunchy. I need to roll the dough out thinner so they all have that nice crunch. Also, the recipe I used wasn't very tasty. I am aiming for a cracker that the girls will happily take to school to nibble on, so I don't have to buy any more over-priced, over-packaged crackers. Also, it is important to have something nice to put cheese on. I am very proud of myself for having a go, because I have been meaning to try crackers forever. But could do better..
Also, in our Living Better With Less Group last night, we made cheese! Ok, so it doesn't look very pretty, but it was very easy, a paneer, made with milk and lemon juice. Lots of fun too. The best way to try something new is with a bunch of friends, having a laugh. Tonight we are going to add the paneer to our butter chicken. Paneer is a fresh cheese and is part of the Indian, Afghani and Bangladesh cuisines, so goes well in curries. Two litres of milk makes a rather small amount of cheese and lots of whey. We have plenty of whey left over that Benson has been enjoying and I am just smacking myself up the side of the head because we could have used the whey in the bread this morning, instead of water. Anyway, next time we can concentrate more on presentation, and use the whey for breadmaking, and we will be total experts..
Tell me about your green and thrifty week..
PS Evil Blogger has disappeared all my blog links. I know! What will you read now?? I do not know how this happened - I left internet world for two days to finish my book, came back and they are all gone. Sigh. Hope to put them all back soon.. did this happen to anyone else?