Green and Thrifty

Birch twigs are wonderfully flammable fire starters.

In green and thrifty news this week I collected silver birch twigs that came down in the last winter gale on the side of the road. I am finding them extremely flammable fire starters. I often walk home with the dog and a large bouquet of birch twigs.

For the past few weeks I have been making extra dinner to.. feed the dog. It occurred to me that dog food per kilogram is more expensive than many of our meals. I read a library book a couple of years ago about home made dog food, which pointed out, reasonably enough, that dogs have been eating human leftovers for millenia, and that pet food has only been a thing for fifty years or so.

I went to a salvage place and found two gorgeous cedar four-panel doors for Builder Matt to chop in half to make two sets of French doors for my back verandah and the little office he is building (when I say 'chop in half' I mean, do excellent craftsman-type magic to make old doors look like something gorgeous from a French farmhouse..). Will add 'after' photos when they are installed, when I have painted all the back wall and architraves. While at the salvage yard I also found an old lock which matches the door beautifully, and even had a key that worked! I love using old things again.

When I ran out of dishwashing detergent I used laundry detergent to tide me over to shopping day. I wouldn't entirely recommend this, but it did the job. Sort of.

I made chickweed pesto out of chickweed from the garden and sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are my pick for all pesto recipes as they are the cheapest of all the nuts and seeds.

I have stayed completely within the grocery budget this week, which is a miracle, due to my not-as-it-turns-out particularly novel system of budgeting with actual cash. I have so many kindred spirits in this system here at Blueday:) I love that I can see the cash dwindling in front of my very eyes, and when the children want more treats I just show them the sad, empty purse with a few lonely little coins jangling at the bottom. Then they go and bake cake instead. I am not sure this plan is going to be at all good for our waistlines.

This morning my neighbour from up the road brought down a bag of Jenny Craig frozen 'treats'. I know, I know. His partner works for Jenny Craig, his freezer was full of them, and he was going to throw them out so he could stash an entire salmon in the freezer instead. Sensible man. Anyway, he thought he would check with us before he threw them in the bin.. because, you know, we say yes to everything:) So now Posy is happy with a freezer full of processed food and I am trying to make myself not read the ingredient labels..

More loaves of sourdough. It is getting better every time I try it. It is so satisfying! I received a very excited email from friend and reader Fran recently about the sourdough she had made from my recipe plus the starter I gave her. She included these gorgeous photos taken by her partner Steve. It looks amazing!

Eating from the garden: kale, silverbeet, beetroot leaves, lettuce, Cape gooseberries, tarragon, sage, parsley, lemons, spring onions. From other people's gardens: rhubarb, limes. From the shed: garlic.
Weeds: chickweed, onion weed (three-cornered leek). Onion weed is a good substitute for spring onions. Although I don't know why you would need a substitute for spring onions as they grow like, well, weeds..

Vegie garden featuring giant, triffid-like spring onions which will go to seed in spring after which I will have approximately seventeen thousand spring-onion plants.

Tell me about your green and thrifty moments this week..


Meg said…
Something is eating my kale whereas last year nothing touched it. I had hopes for kale and potato rolls but instead picked lots of silverbeet and spring onion (yep, they are doing well and reaching giant proportions) and turned that into an impossible pie which tasted pretty good and was gobbled up with some roasted veg that solved the problem of things languishing in the bottom of the crisper. Meg
Beznarf27 said…
Your veggie garden looks so effortless. I think I need to learn when to plant things in our wicking beds as I have NO idea when things should go in. When do you plant spring onions? NO IDEA! I plant everything in spring but apparently it's not the best time for "everything" and most of what I planted bolted to seed :( I really do have to sit down and do a bit of research sometime when I have a few spare moments. I have a batch of sourdough tortilla dough, a batch of sourdough bagel dough, a batch of sourdough English muffin dough and a batch of sourdough granola all sitting on my kitchen counter this morning thanks to your generous share of starter and "Herman's" enjoyment of life in my warm kitchen. I have never made any of these things before now so it is going to be interesting to see how they all go today. I might end up frazzled and foodless but then I will at least have had a go at making something myself which I reckon classifies as "green and thrifty" :) I also made a sourdough chocolate cake which smells the business and that I will ice later today. I love it when other people collect things on their walks. Yesterday I picked up a license plate cover because I could use the clear plastic as a cover for a plant pot to prevent frost from killing seedlings. I also picked up a plastic tie wrap. It's strange that I have amassed a large collection of plastic tie wraps but I can only imagine that we have a lot of tradies out our way who don't put things that can fly out of the back of their ute in the back seat...

Wish me luck with the sourdough "everything!" I am going in! I was also galvanised into action and wrote a blog post thanks to your last, amazing blog post. I am looking at when I last posted via your page and it's about 4 months ago. I have linked it to your blog because my posting was completely related to your post so hopefully a lot of people can find their way back here to find, and read, your awesome blog that makes people think "I can do that!" and you know what? They can! :)
Anonymous said…
My gardening husband grows everything from seed, and has just transplanted lots of brassicas. Next summer's capsicums are also at the baby seedling stage, although it seems such a long, long time until there will be something to pick from them. He is such a patient gardener, and provides almost all of our vegetable requirements. We don't mind eating mountains of kale or cauliflower if that's what is available. Having said that, we're lucky that there are no picky eaters here these days!

I finished knitting a jumper for myself, using wool I prepared and spun - and my sister gave me the fleece, which she found in a charity shop, so it could hardly be more frugal than that. The thing I like most about spinning is that it really is making something from nothing. You start with a jumbled pile of smelly sheep fleece, and end up with a snuggly jumper for winter days. As long as you're not in a hurry!

I will try making sourdough again. My only effort so far was a resounding failure, but I think I will wait till the weather warms up again. I had trouble with maintaining a reasonably even temperature. Those loaves look delicious.

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Meg, there are always so many 'surprises' in gardening, aren't there? I love that you have turned tragedy into triumph by being flexible. This is the reason that planting lots of different things is such a good idea..

Fran, my vegie garden is SO NOT effortless! And neither is anybody's.. unless they have a lovely gardener like me who comes and does it for them! And then they have to go to the effort of earning money to pay me, and then I have the effort. But it is good effort. I have got into the habit this year of coming home from a gardening job and getting stuck into my garden for an extra hour while I am still in gardening clothes. It is amazing what a difference that makes!
There are three big seasons for planting here in Tas and other temperate climates - early spring - potatoes, peas, greens, brassicas, carrots, beetroot. Mid spring - tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, capsicum, pumpkin, and late summer for winter veg - greens, peas, brassicas, carrots, beetroot, parsnip, garlic. Ideally I would be planting lettuce continuously from spring to autumn but I have still never managed that.
I am so amazed at your wild enthusiasm for all things sourdough! I tend to try one thing and stick with it if it works. You are the queen of experimentation. I would love to hear about the results of all the sourdough recipes. To be honest, I just stick my starter in the fridge between loaves, so don't accumulate much extra starter.
I am so looking forward to your next post. Love your writing!
Linda, I've said it before and I'll say it again - what a marvellous treasure of a husband you have! Ok, I need to know about this - I never plant out capsicums, tomatoes etc until mid October here. Does your husband plant them out earlier? Do you get late frosts where you are? This year was hot and dry and the capsicums achieved maximum redness, but often they fail to ripen, so earlier planting out may be the key..
Oh, my goodness, spinning and knitting! Well, I can do the knitting part, but FINISHING.. well, that is a completely different story! Wonderful, it must feel like you are wearing a story, of love and hard work:)
simplelife said…
I'm not sure I've done much green or thrifty this week.
I need to walk up the road and collect more pinecones for the fire. I've continued trying not to waste food and cooking from scratch as much as possible. I really can't think of anything else.

Cheers Kate
Anonymous said…
Hi Jo. The Patient Gardener sows capsicums in late May, and germinates them on a heat pad in the garage. Then the tiny seedlings are cosseted in our sunroom for several months and repotted a couple of times. By late October or early November they are big, strong plants which go out into the garden and are staked up ready to do their thing in summer. Like you, we have a cold winter and expect frosts till well into spring. And yes, he is indeed a treasure! I am happy to mow lawns, rake leaves, grow flowers and prune things in return for his efforts in the vegetable garden.

Linda in NZ
Anonymous said…
Oh, goodness - that last sentence didn't come out at all how I meant it! I am definitely the assistant gardener around here. I am the lawnmowing person, but everything else is teamwork.
Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Kate, pinecones are the best firestarters, aren't they? Wonderful stuff. Cooking from scratch and not wasting food is far from 'not much' in my book. It is an art and a science, and what's more it's relentless!

Linda, right, I'm taking notes! No heat pad here and I think the seedlings might struggle to germinate without one as my house is not cosy overnight, but it might be worth the investment. I will do some research. Thank you! And I am sure that your assistance is invaluable in the garden, and even more so in the kitchen. There is no point growing tons of veg if you don't eat it, right?
simplelife said…
Relentless and often thankless as well.
Sometimes i am worn down by it all and we go the takeaway option, without exception I am always, always disappointed with the taste or lack of and horrified at the cost.

cheers Kate
Deborah said…

Followed your link back to the sour dough recipe to compare with the one I make and had to agree about "discarding" all but a cup of the starter. I don't think so! What a waste. I too make pancakes by adding an egg and if necessary more flour and water. They taste good with lemon and sugar and any other sweet or savoury filling, such as leftover stews and casseroles.
Do you miss work, the children and the rhythms of school life? I'm about to retire but have all sorts concerns!

GretchenJoanna said…
My make-do detergent story: Many Years Ago I evidently picked up a giant container of laundry detergent at the big box store thinking it was dishwasher detergent, and stored it under the sink. It was only when after months ? we came to the end of it and I took out the container that I saw it was the wrong product! By then it was all so puzzling I could only move on...

Inspired by your sourdough chronicles, I made two starters using only rye for the flour, and four loaves resulted. I hope eventually to write my own II Chronicles of Sourdough, after a few more loaves and experiments. What I would LOVE is to get a good strong sourdough flavor AND a crumb like your email friend's picture. It looks like the no-knead cast-iron sort of loaf. My sourdough is always dense like pumpernickel, except for one solitary time also many years ago when I added some commercial yeast and managed to keep the good flavor.

I was able to give away two of the loaves -- in our area there are so many people who eat gluten-free, that I was perfectly delighted to find that my new neighbor two doors down "eats everything," and has been happy to receive food gifts, such as bread!! I am ONE person who doesn't even eat much bread, but I don't want to stop baking it, especially sourdough, which is like magic.

I am curious about your friend Fran -- is that Beznarf27? -- whose writing you love. If it IS Beznarf she said she wrote a blog post recently, but linking to that particular user name I don't find a recent post. If this person who writes and is turned on to sourdough has a public blog would you point me to it?
GretchenJoanna said…
Oh, maybe it is Franny and Danny! :-)
Jo said…
Kate, YES!

Deborah, I have never for one day missed my teacher assistant job which makes me think I made exactly the right decision to become a gardener! That is not to say that I didn't learn a huge amount from some very passionate teachers and lots of gorgeous children, but i am so glad that i didn't decide to go back and finish that teaching degree. I am not a born teacher! Sorry, that doesn't help you very much! But, there are many, many teaching opportunities in the community in voluntary roles if you want to pursue that. All the fun of teaching without the annoying bits.. all the best with your retirement plans:)

Gretchen Joanna, ooh, good for you with the sourdough! It will become more sour as time goes on and you keep it ticking over. I find that leaving it in the fridge for a few days helps with the sour note, as the bugs eat up all the sugar in the flour and leave the sour.. carry on! The crumb will also get more holey as your starter develops. As with most good things, time helps. Mine is looking good now, and I knead it a lot because I love kneading, and put it in the oven with a pan of hot water to give it that bubbly shiny crust. More photos to come. Yes, Fran is beznarf of Serendipity Revisited. I can't see the new post either. Maybe there are technical problems. Fran??
GretchenJoanna said…
I have the sourness down, from my years and years of making sourdough bread when there was a houseful of us. The way I accomplish that is to let the sponge ferment for 48 hours or more at room temperature. I don't think it gets much more sour after the 48 hours.

The starter of yore was aged and as "developed" as it could possibly be, and my crumb was unfailingly dense, as it was again the two times in the last five years that I have revived my efforts. Everyone but me likes it that way; I would like more air! But I will keep up my experiments!

Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, goodness, you have all the experience with sourdough, fantastic! I'll try letting my starter ferment for longer and see if it ups the sour note. To be honest, I am not sure a holey sourdough is all that useful - I mean, the butter leaks through when you make toast, and that is a problem. Mine is mostly a fine crumb with a few holes. I am happy not to have more. Do you knead yours? I wonder if that makes a difference?
GretchenJoanna said…
That is exactly what people point out about my dense crumb: the butter-holding quality!
Darwin Girl said…
That’s a great idea. Sunflower seeds are so much cheaper than pine nuts. Thanks a heap!
Jo said…
Franny and Danny, you are welcome! I find it works better if you whiz up the seeds first before you add the other ingredients. Unless you Have a super powerful blender, which I don't!
Tanya Murray said…
I can't tell you how much I loved catching up with your shenanigans with this post. You're so stylishly resourceful. Even though we don't see each other often, you're still in my heart x

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