Green and Thrifty

The theme of this post is Using What You Have. It is three years since I wrote that original post and I have downsized my house, given away half the stuff I owned, and yet I am still quite well endowed with the world's goods.

First, food.

People are still giving me apples. I am not complaining about this at all. This afternoon I listened to music and chopped and stewed up a giant pot of apples to keep us in crumble and breakfast topping for the next week.

I have used up several boxes and pots of tea since I decided that 42 kinds was too many. I am here to tell you that tea evidently does not go off, as one of the half-used boxes of chai I finished off was best before 2012. I am now mixing a rather strong chai with vanilla tea as my morning tipple, with milk and honey. Yum. Who said that using up left-overs was boring? What it really does is to stretch ingenuity and force you to try new things. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

I still have half a freezer compartment of frozen venison to use up. I am experimenting with different ways to slow cook it. So far I have done a red wine and tomato casserole with cous cous, and chilli with beans and rice. I think the chilli wins the popular vote so far..

I made sourdough! Only once so far, but it was excellent. I will start the next batch in the morning. The only problem with sour dough is that it takes two days to make. Very little hands on time, but forward planning required.

Posy made a Mother's Day cake for Grandma, and we decorated it with edibles from the garden.

I am also using up the many and varied spices that I have had for years and never used. Just in case anyone has the same spice glut that I do, ground fennel seed is really yummy on roast vegies, including potato wedges, yum. Also, whole fenugreek seeds (why?) can be planted in the spring and eaten as delicious greens. You can also sprout them. I may try that first..

Ok, enough about food. Now, gardens. I have always been an enthusiastic mulcher, and mostly I buy expensive bales of pea straw which do a marvellous job of keeping soil moist and depressing weeds. However, did you see the bit where they are expensive? I am doing some experimentation with alternative mulches. First, autumn leaves. It is definitely the season for gathering these. I am putting a layer onto the fallow winter beds. Why fallow? Because there is a persistent weed I am stubbornly removing, inch by painful inch. It has a tuber that needs to come up so it won't come back. I will not let it beat me! The other mulch is seaweed, or more correctly, sea grass. It is a beautiful mulch that tends to stay where it is put, and it is also full of sea nutrients, which our old Australian soils desperately need. Paul and I went to the beach a few weeks ago and collected some bags full. We made such a tiny dent in the supply that you couldn't even see where we had been. We might pop back and get some more.

During the summer it occurred to me that the reason the polyanthus were looking sad and wilty is that they are woodland plants and they want to live under a tree in the shade, not in terracotta pots in the sun. So I moved them and they are blooming their heads off in appreciation. I am not buying more plants at the moment, but I am moving the ones I do have into more propitious positions, and so far they have all survived. A few weeks ago I made a new bird bath by placing a pre-owned terracotta saucer onto a pre-owned rhubarb forcing pot. Sometimes I do wonder at my former self. Why did I buy a rhubarb forcing pot? Who wants blanched rhubarb?

In other using what I have news - the gate latch broke this week, but luckily I had one in my box of hardware in the shed. It was a fancy brass one that I have had hanging about for years, and have almost got rid of several times, but clearly it was waiting for just this moment.

CDs - remember them? I have a very slim collection but have decided to listen to them all again and see if there are any more I can dispose of. This week I have been listening to Elgar's Enigma Variations. Elgar is a drama llama. He really knows how to make the heart swell. My favourite is Variation IX, Nimrod. I know you will recognise this - it is the soundtrack to many solemn events - funerals, memorials, dramatic bits of movies.. ok, so as you know, Youtube is a rabbit hole. On looking up Nimrod I discovered it is mandatory for this music to tug at your heart strings if you are British, and I rediscovered the choral version, which is my actual favourite, and here it sounds like angels singing. I am continually amazed at what is available to anyone with an internet connection. The whole of all the beautiful art and music and all the words plus how to make compost and sourdough and learn French and also Slovenian. See, I am old enough to remember life before the internet and just how much work you had to put in to find information once upon a time. And here it all is. It is actually a miracle. I keep telling my children this, but I don't think they quite get it..

Over to you for more thrifty adventures..


orchidwallis said…
Hello Jo

There is a small insect that gets into tea here, if it has been kept for years.

Forced rhubarb is wonderful when cooked with orange juice, but it does weaken the plant when you force it.

Beznarf27 said…
Hi Jo, another lovely and most productive instalment in the life of Jo :) Do you have a recipe for your sourdough bread (or a link to a recipe)? I would be most grateful if you do :)
Anonymous said…
Hi Jo
What a difference you have made in your garden. All the hard work has paid off!
I rake up all the fallen leaves each autumn and stuff them into two big black plastic bags with holes poked into them with a fork, then stash them under a tree beside the compost bins. I have used the same bags for three years now, so I don't feel too bad about the plastic thing. The leaf mould matures for a year and then I use it in parts of my garden that tend not to get a great deal of attention otherwise. After a year it's a lovely rich mix.
I know why you had to have a rhubarb forcing pot - they are beautiful,and evocative of those wonderful old English walled gardens where butterflies flit and bees hum in the sunshine - and I always wanted one too!
Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Inge, hmmm, how small is this insect? Maybe I am getting some extra protein with my tea?? Hoping that the chai was aromatic enough to keep bugs away. I have to say I have never heard of bugs in tea, which would be a first - a bug that Australia actually doesn't have!
When I think of forcing rhubarb, all I can imagine is pale creepy rhubarb stems like potato shoots.. but that is possibly just my overactive imagination..

Fran, yes, I do have a link but that recipe is very complicated, and Paul is a fearless cookery experimenter, so I will do a post on his simplified and very good version..

Linda, I was thinking of making leaf mould, but then I thought how much easier it would be just to throw it straight on the beds. It is a bit of an experiment, so we shall see how that goes.
You are right about the rhubarb forcing pot. I was probably thinking of Beatrix Potter and Mr McGregor's garden..
orchidwallis said…
Hello again

My stepfather had kept tea during the war so that he never ran out. I don't know how long afterwards my mother discovered the tea. The insects were tiny, only discovered because of their movement. Of course the tea might have been okay!

Yes, the forced rhubarb is very pale but has a more delicate taste; it is very nice.

Amanda said…
Hi. I always seem to have a ton of junk mail on pretty much a daily basis so I shred that and use it as mulch around my veggies. It's wonderful at keeping the weeds down and rots back into the soil.
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

I have a huge advantage, as we have been in this house 26 years and have collecting much bits of things over all that time. All kinds of things, with a full basement and a small barn. So nice to have something on hand - if one can find it!

I have been doing that with old black and green teas, too. I am at the end of the line now, except for some herbal teas. It has all seemed fine. That is so great that you have already made some sourdough bread. I do that once a week. It used to be twice, but I had to go wheat-free so not as much is needed. The starter is quite forgiving if you forget to feed it; in fact, I think it developes more of a sourness. I try to feed mine every 5 or 6 days.

What a beautiful cake Posy made.

Thanks for the spice ideas. I have some old fennel seed. It is strong stuff!

We have endless fallen leaves here in the woods, so I do use those for mulch, though I much prefer them when they've been chopped up with a lawn more or have broken down on their own (which takes forever). I do use whole leaves, too, though. Also brown paper bags and cardboard. This year we have the excruciating brown-paper-experiment wherein we bought rolls of brown paper and cover the whole bed with it and then poke holes to plant things in. The excruciation comes in when one is planting small seeds - let's face it, most seeds - into the holes and can't see what one is doing. It's not so bad when planting plants. But we have a terrible weed problem and it may be worth it.

I think I may have Elgar's "Enigma Variations" somewhere . . .

Jo said…
Inge, I like to think that your parents drank the tea anyway. I know that tea was rationed for quite some time after the war. My theory is that the bugs would float once the boiling water was poured in..

Amanda, that is ingenious! Newspaper would also be a good source. I have a plentiful supply from a neighbour.. hmmm.

Pam, I know - if you can find it is the trick!
So many things that we do to keep the weeds down! Let me know how the brown paper goes. I have done similar with cardboard, but never planted seeds in it, only seedlings.

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