Green and Thrifty: Early Spring Edition

It may still officially be winter, but the cherry plum trees and the bees think otherwise. They know it is spring and the trees are busy flinging flurries of petals down from their laden branches, and the bees are busy humming and gathering that sweet, sweet nectar. There is snow on the mountains but the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I have even let the fire go out for a few hours in the middle of the day! There, my first thrifty saving for the week.

Back in the first days of winter my friend Tanya pruned back her lemon verbena bush. She was going to put the branches in the compost but I snaffled them and brought them home to dry them and make tea out of the leaves. For nearly three months now they have been sitting on a cupboard in the study, making a terrible nuisance of themselves as they shed leaves everywhere and poke me in the eye when I go in or out. Still, I did nothing until the day before The Boy came to stay with us - that would be the day before yesterday. He needed that room to sleep in, and adventurous as he is I knew he would appreciate sleeping in a room where leaves didn't fall on his head. So there we were, Posy and I, with several large branches of lemon verbena, some empty jars and Posy's favourite music.

After all that time it only took half an hour or so and the lemon verbena was packed into jars and we have a LOT of one of my favourite herbal teas. I'll take a jar to Tanya, and if you come by, I'll offer you a cup as well.. Posy is a recent convert to tea, and now she wants to grow a tea garden. I let her into a secret. We already have a tea garden. We have lemon verbena, mint, thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary, roses, violets, calendula. Birch leaves can go into the tea pot, as can the leaves of many other trees. You may find that you accidentally have a tea garden at your place as well. Do a quick internet search of your garden plants and trees and find out which ones can be popped into a teapot. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding though, don't ingest any herbs without a thorough investigation into their safety for mamas and babies.

My thrifty excitement for the week is reserved for this tea kettle. I have been looking for months for a second-hand kettle which won't leak (kettle no.1) or shed bits of rust internally that ends up in the tea cups (kettle no.2). I wanted the kind which could heat up on the gas stove or the wood fire. I had not found one anywhere and was beginning to despair, when I had to drop off some recycling at the tip, sorry, Waste Transfer Station, so popped into the tip shop on the off chance, and there it was. A proper stainless steel kettle, just like a bought one.. well, it was a bought one, mine for $4. When I got it home I realised that its soft plastic handle was quite tacky. The plastic coating on the plastic handle was coming unstuck and it felt like the glue under the label on a jam jar. I suspect that is why someone threw out their $80 stainless steel kettle. I tried eucalyptus oil and olive oil and soapy water, but none of these worked. Paul suggested methylated spirits on a soft rag, and with some serious rubbing a la Aladdin and his magic lamp, the handle is now sticky-free. I couldn't be happier that my wish for a kettle from the waste stream finally came true..

Always on the lookout when walking the dog, I rescued three lemons from the gutter this week, which had rolled there from a nearby lemon tree.

I have been treating the nicely healing scar on my hand with rosehip oil massages, and daily applications of aloe vera from my plants, which again are spawning baby plants. Nature is extraordinarily liberal.

My mum brings me the empties from her bathroom handwash. I use them to dispense dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent that I buy from the fill-your-own-container section at the whole food shop.

I have borrowed dozens of books from the library to read over the last few weeks while I have been recovering from surgery. I love the library. A friend of mine brought around an armload of magazines for me to read, and I gave her some of mine. I lent my mum one of my books and my neighbour lent me one of her gardening books. Books like to visit other houses. They get a bit bored sitting in the same bookshelves all the time. This is a little known fact about books which deserves wider recognition.

From the garden: silverbeet, lemons
Weeds: chickweed
Stored food: garlic
Preserved food: lemon verbena tea, dried oregano and basil, fig jam, pear butter, chutney
Found food: lemons
Gifted food: neighbour brought me eggs and venison, I gave him fig jam.

Tell me about your thrifty adventures..


sustainablemum said…
That kettle is a great find! Hope you enjoy all the lovely cups of tea you can now make with it. I would love to find lemons in the gutter, we eat lots of them, but sadly it is far too cold to grow lemons where I live.
Jo said…
Sustainable Mum, I am loving my kettle, especially when it whistles! And I am very grateful for lemons - I have them in the garden as well. It's so nice to be able to go outside and grab a lemon whenever I want one, but every local area has its own special harvests.
I enjoyed peeking into your life on your blog today:)
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Thanks and glad that you enjoyed the snow photos! :-) An old timer up here suggests that the snow was heavier than at any other time in the past 25 years.

Simon Griffiths also did a great Shed book! Your Aloe is looking great. I've tried growing that plant - and lemon verbena - but the occasional snowfall does them in...

Hope you are recovering from the surgery and can again wield your chainsaw. Respect.

And stainless steel is an amazing material, and your kettle - now less sticky thanks to Paul - looks very sturdy.

The real deal tea camellia's have so far survived a few snow falls and frosts, but I've forgotten to check them after the most recent one... Might not be so good.


Anonymous said…
Glad to hear that your hand is healing nicely.

Green and thrifty - hmmm. Eating all the good winter things from the garden, such as leeks, cabbage, broccoli and carrots. I sowed several rows of summer annuals in seed trays, with varying levels of success so far (I now have approximately 700 teeny soldier poppy seedlings, so maybe I was a bit heavy-handed with those). I made a quilt from two of my old, much-loved shirts and a few other bits of fabric. I'm also trying hard to use all the food I froze last summer, because I know that in no time at all, I'll be trying to find containers and freezer space for the next round of garden gluts!

I do like your kettle.

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Chris, I think most places in southern Australia have had a big snow year this year..
I'll have to look out for the shed book. Love a good shed! I keep aloe vera indoors - makes a good houseplant. The lemon verbena survives outdoors in a nice protected spot with three walls protecting it. It is quite a delicate wee beastie.
Hope your camellias have survived the Big Cold. Fingers crossed - i am interested to see how your tea garden experiment turns out:)
Jo said…
Linda, let's talk about this - is there ever such a thing as too many poppies? I think not.. I 'accidentally' ordered quite a lot of flower seeds recently, so planting many, many seeds is in my immediate future as well! Happy gardening - sounds like your winter garden is powering along. Enjoy the beginning of spring, and oh, I like quilts made from nostalgic old clothes. They are the best!
Treaders said…
What a great idea to have a shop at the tip (or whatever the posh name is for it). Well maybe they couldn't do it at our tip as it really is for grass cuttings, old bikes and so on, but I guess the big Emmaus charity shop works on the same principle! I went to a vide grenier (attic emptier - something like a garage sale) today and there was a guy with LOADS of tools, so I bought myself a crowbar and a lump hammer for €13! The guy asked me if I was going on a burglary spree!!! Tee hee, but like you, I think second-hand is great. And lucky you going in to spring - my favourite season.
Treaders said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said…
Anna, my daughter's room is in the attic, so a vide grenier is exactly what needs to happen, as soon as possible..
Every woman needs a crow bar and lump hammer of course, but I am a teeny bit interested as to what you propose doing with them..
Treaders said…
Am having my heating system replaced right now - it's 33 years old and doesn't owe me anything, but of course once you start moving stuff you realize all the other stuff that needs doing. Next I'll get my floor replaced downstairs. I'm sure I can find a use for both the crowbar and the hammer!
Jo said…
Anna, the possibilities for creative destruction are legion. Keep us posted!
Anonymous said…
I love the line that books like to visit others. I hang onto few books now. I use the library, the second book shop and friends. And if I buy books brand new, I give them away or take them to the second hand book. Lucinda

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