Green and Thrifty

Autumn garden

Sometimes my commitment to Not Buying Anything and Using What I Have has consequences that make me laugh. During the week I was cleaning out cupboards and found these mini craft pegs that on some occasion in the past I had spray painted gold. I think that maybe I used to use them to peg up Christmas cards, you know, back in the day when people still sent Christmas cards. Anyway, I found them and tipped them into my clothes peg bucket and madly enjoyed the effect of gold-painted mini clothes pegs on washing day as I hung up the socks..

I organised all the sheets and pulled out the ones that were worn. I cut up two worn single fitted sheets and two pillowcases. First I mined the sheets for elastic. I shall want some elastic soon as I plan to make a pair of flannelette pyjama pants out of another sheet. I cut out the middle of the sheets for rags where they were very worn, and cut off the side panels where the flannelette was still good. I popped those bits in the fabric stash. I don't sew a lot, but when I do I use what I have, and who knows what interesting things those bits of sheet might turn into one day?

In spare moments between sitting gazing into the fire and sitting on the back verandah staring at my vegies and willing them to grow, I have been cleaning out cupboards, not lots but some. I have been trying not to assemble large loads of clutter to take to the op-shops (which are still closed anyway) but to find ways to use what I find, or think about specific people who may be able to use what I have. This is why I re-used the pegs and cut up the sheets. I am still convinced that it should be possible to use just about everything we have over and over again and avoid both waste and creating a market for new consumer products. This is a mission I am determined to continue. Another excellent outcome of going through the cupboards is finding things you forgot you had. Posy has been making some fabulous herb scrapbooks, herbals, really, describing the uses of herbs and flowers from our own garden. They are very beautiful works of art, but then she ran out of glue sticks. She 'needed' more immediately, and was not impressed with my suggestion that she make glue out of flour and water.. anyway, I knew that it was impossible for there not to be more glue sticks in the house, and sure enough, ten minutes of searching turned up three glue sticks and also two pairs of scissors I have been missing. Tidying. Not that much fun, but so profitable.

The faithful old apricot tree blankets the garden with her yellow leaves.

During this season's jam making I cut my remaining sticky labels into smaller and smaller slivers to note jam flavour and date. I was determined not to buy more stickers. This week Posy's pocket money-funded order of jewellery-making supplies arrived with an invoice printed on a whole-page sticky label, for some unknown reason. I snaffled that into my stationery drawer and next summer's jam labels are assured.

Baby beets, parsnips, broadbeans.

I have stretched my grocery shop to two and half weeks. I went today because Paul needed some things to take when he works away next week, otherwise I could have lasted longer. I am thinking we can last for three weeks until the next shop, then maybe we can stretch it out to a month after that. I'll wait and do a vegie shop on Monday which will make it three weeks for vegies. We are down to some beetroots, a quarter of a cabbage, a sweet potato, some carrots and a butternut pumpkin. Plus frozen peas and corn. So I think we are fine to avoid scurvy, and apart from that we still have a lot of dry goods on hand. Yesterday I eyed the last three wrinkly capsicums and popped them whole on a tray to roast while the oven was on. I stored them all sad and wrinkled and roasted in the fridge overnight, and this morning their skins peeled off beautifully and I chopped them up and popped them into the chili which is currently making the kitchen smell very.. well, very much like there is a giant pot of chili cooking in it. Which is a very good smell indeed.

Silverbeet is flourishing in the frost.

For fruit we are down to the last two oranges, but this afternoon Posy and I visited Rosy and we picked another load of apples from her tree. Note to the wise: when your children move out of home into a share house, make sure it has apple trees. Consequently I will have no oranges but many apples. Yesterday I went for a walk with Posy into town. Posy has not set foot in a shop for nearly three months now, but some shops are opening up now and yesterday we popped into her favourite little shop that sells crystals and flower essences and hippy jewellery and other things that Posy has need of. Yesterday she wanted sealing wax because she has taken up writing good old-fashioned letters on actual paper with envelopes, and of course you can see how necessary it was that she spend her pocket money on sealing wax. The nice man in the shop hunted all over for some and finally found the last packet under the counter and gave her a discount because it was so old (note, sealing wax does not expire. But we didn't argue). It was fun to go out together again and walk into a shop that doesn't only sell groceries, and nice to support a little local business. Neither green nor thrifty really, but lovely:)

Earlier this year my friend Tanya gave me some borage seedlings from her garden and now they are flowering. Borage flowers taste like cucumbers!

We have begun our homeschooling adventure, and some days Posy is madly busy and engaged with educating herself, and other days she hides under the doona, which is very much how my life goes as well. We ordered a second-hand maths textbook which arrived yesterday. Goodness, Grade 10 maths looks hard. I am so pleased that Posy has her sister to call on whenever she has a maths moment.

Posy picked violas from the garden, pressed them between baking paper sheets under a heavy book for half an hour then pressed them into hot shortbread. So beautiful, and the colours stay fresh. Well, until the shortbread gets eaten..

My winter garden is valiantly doing its best in the not optimum conditions of my backyard. The poor little plants do all they can considering the lack of sun they get in my southwest facing garden with both a house and a tree blocking the sunshine in the northeast. Still, I have tiny baby broccoli heads which will embiggen over the next month or so. There is lots of silverbeet, lots of parsley, and many baby beets, kale, spinach and peas. Also garlic and warrigal greens and little lettuces. Gazing at the vegie garden in the autumn sunshine under a gentle blanket of yellow leaves is pretty much all the entertainment I need right now. Which is pretty lucky, really. Paul is on the last leg of his great big enormous work project. He spent a week out of town last week and will spend next week on site as well. I see him almost never which is not at all fun. I really would like the chance to get tired of him like all those other people who have been trapped at home with their partners over the last two months. Still, maybe I will get tired of him over the next six months when he is not going to take on any more work except for big enormous building projects on his own patch of bush. I can live in hope:)

Eating this week:
From the garden: Lemons, silverbeet, parsley, sage, spinach.
Weeds: chickweed
Stored food: garlic
Preserved food: lemon verbena tea, dried oregano, apricot jam, cherry jam, tomato passata, dried apples, stewed plums out of the freezer.
Gifted food: Cake! It was my birthday and I was cake-bombed! Genuine pecan pie from my lovely American buddy, feijoa cake from the Kiwis, danishes from Rosy. So much cake. Happy me. My pecan pie-bearing friend Karlin also brought some limes from her tree, slices of which I popped into my birthday gin. And two big bags of golden delicious apples today from Rosy's tree. I will be drying most of them and stewing some for winter porridge topping. And maybe an apple crumble, because you can never have too much cake, right? 
As per my usual habit I took food to Paul when I went to visit. This week it was frozen something which I thought maybe was vegetable soup, as indeed it turned out to be. There was a jar of last year's quince jam which is his favourite and a big bunch of silverbeet and parsley. Tonight Posy will be making fruit loaf, some for us and some for Paul, and peanut butter cookies, some to give away as well. What wonderful blessings of food abound in our lives:)

Tell me about how your week is going with green and thrifty adventures..


Anonymous said…
Reusing, reusing, reusing. It's my mantra, and my challenge. My proudest moment this week, was visibly mending, and then quilting an old flour bag into a table runner for my daughter. The padding for it was cloth napkins that have seen much better days, but still serviceable in other ways. It came out well, showing it's resilience. It commemorates these times we are living in. Resilience.
Continue to gratefully receive gifted mangoes, cutting up and freezing them for later use.
Have a good week end, Jo.
Jo said…
Patricia, I would love to see that table runner, it sounds both wonderfully thrifty and delightfully shabby-chic. Do you quilt by machine or by hand?
Enjoy those mangoes:)
Treaders said…
I think it's absolutely charming that your young daughter "needs" sealing wax and is individual enough to press dried flowers into shortbread. She's a good girl! And talking of rags, my ex-husband upped sticks and just abandoned his rental "farm" in June 2015 so I ended up emptying it. My kids and I kept what we wanted in the way of linens, I gave away a ton more of decent stuff to the charity shop and kept the rest to cut up. Five years later I'm still using the cut up tat for rags and I've still many years to go I think.
Beznarf27 said…
Hi Jo,

I am going to have to divide my comment in two as its too big to post apparently. Oops!

Part 1
I LOVE your golden pegs <3. I have discovered my inner squirrel and have been finding and preserving all kinds of things. I have an enormous hoarded quantity of dehydrated slippery Jack mushrooms (and the large electricty bill to prove it) as well as large buckets of dehydrated apple slices. I was buying big bags of cheap organic apples from a little old couple who live up the hill from us. They apparently have a small stall to sell their apples every year. When they finished up this year she put a wheelbarrow out loaded up with jars of preserves, homemade wooden items etc. for people who had supported her stall to take some of. It was a wonderful example of community trade in action, even if my part of the "trade" involved paying her cash rather than actually trading anything else.

I used some of the organic apple peels and cores to make my very first batch of apple scrap vinegar and Steve and I bottled it up yesterday. We ended up with 1 3/4 litres of very tasty apple cider vinegar. I used to pay a lot of money to buy good apple cider vinegar on a regular basis but now I know that I can make it myself out of scraps. Knowledge is indeed very powerful and its also incredibly rewarding physically and mentally.

Today we are going to turn the 5 lemons that Steve got when the pub that he was working in had to close and they divvied out all of the perishables to all of the workers. As vegans we didn't want any of the meat, fish, eggs etc. that everyone else was squabbling over and no-one seemed to want the mountain of veg that was left so we got most of it and like you, I didn't want to waste a single thing. I got some big bags of salad mix that Steve managed to turn up the fridge in the shed to 11 and freeze so rather than throw them out to the chooks I dehydrated them and they are now glorious multi coloured shards of nutrition. I learned that a large bag of lettuce can be stored in a very small jar.

I dehydrated a lot of the veg as we were never going to be able to eat it all and I had already run out of freezer space. I had to put out a missive to a local Facebook group that I belong to in order to find jars as my go-to jar supply had run out and I couldn't access any more from the thrift shops. I managed to buy and was gifted a lot of jars so I have plenty of stock now to keep processing my autumnal bounty.
Beznarf27 said…
Part 2...

I am making caramel apple jam today as well as lemon (from the work lemons) and apple marmalade. I also learned that you can use citrus seeds to act as pectin when you make jam the other day. Just tie them in a muslin bag and let them simmer with the jam ingredients. The more you throw yourself into learning how to do things yourself, the more you learn. I am also going to turn the last of the apples I have available into another batch of apple scrap vinegar and some Greek apple preserves, Google has been a good friend lately with finding suitable recipes that I think will give us something that we will actually use.

The more I preserve the more excited I get about making and doing things myself. I collected some walnuts from our walnut tree that usually gets harvested by the local possums and black cockies. I left all of the nuts above my reach for them to have and picked most of the rest of them. I forgot I had put them into a large chook wheat sack and discovered the dye potential of walnut husks when I rediscovered the forgotten bag and opened it up to reveal a black sea of goo with nuts floating around in it. I have some boring plain coloured fleece I bought and I now know that I can dye it a glorious chocolate brown with what I initially thought was a disaster.

Finding ways to turn things into other things is wonderful and I love reading about your exploits. I actually planted out silverbeet this year and have a few wicking beds with silverbeet, kale and brussells sprouts growing like topsy. I also have parsley coming up everywhere. You just reminded me that I have to get some beetroot seedlings but who knows when I will go back to the city to venture into Bunnings. I am steering well clear of the masses as I don't want to be caught up in the second wave of this virus.

Thank you so much for sharing what you are doing with us all. I love reading about your exploits and it keeps me motivated to keep finding new ways to make do, re-use and repurpose. By the way, you could use some of those old sheets to make fabric yarn to crochet a lovely rag rug :)
simplelife said…
I love these type of posts Jo. My daughter is moving out next weekend (let's not talk about how I'm feeling, she's the last one) but about the amount of stuff she has and the amount of perfectly good and useful stuff she wants to donate. Oh my. I'm no minimalist, but the excess. I'm already embarrassed about donating it all and the oppies aren't even open yet.
Cheers Kate.
cripplewing said…
I just wanted to let you know that plain cut up paper used as label works. Just write your info, brush the label with some milk and adhere to the jar. Leave to dry. The nice thing about using the milk is the label comes off in soapy water.
Anonymous said…
Jo, I hand quilted the table runner. It's my first attempt. I will try to get a picture for you. It now belongs to my daughter.
Jo said…
Anna, it's amazing what gets abandoned, binned or moved along in the average household. I am thinking a year long moratorium on producing any goods at all might help us all to finally use what we already have and be thankful for all this bounty that is available to us..

Fran, apple scrap vinegar.. I have heard of this and even know some people who make it but I completely forgot about it. I will look it up and give it a go with all the cores and peels from my apple bounty. I love all the creative cleverness that is happening now because it needs to. Thoughts on natural dyeing - usually you need a mordant to set the fabric before you dye it, otherwise the colour washes out. I don't know exactly what because the mordant is different for each natural dye. Posy and I discovered this when we tried to dye a linen top with cherry juice. You wouldn't imagine that cherry juice would ever wash out, but it does..
I like your idea of the rag rug. I had a gardening client who made spectacular rag rugs, but I won't use pastel colours for a rug, that's just asking for trouble..

Kate, commiserations on the last baby flying the coop.. I wouldn't feel too bad about what she is leaving behind. You aren't sending it to landfill after all, and who knows, there may be a lot more people out there willing/having to shop secondhand by the time the shops open again.

Cripplewing, you must know that as soon as I read your comment this morning I ran into the kitchen to try out your advice! I only have soy milk, but it worked perfectly. I am so excited and will never need sticky labels again. This is why I love this space - so much excellent and useful advice. Thank you:)

Patricia, if you can email me a photo I'll post it so everyone can enjoy it:) email address in contact section at the top of the page xx
Anonymous said…
The idea of your golden pegs makes me smile too!
I too have been using stuff that hides in cupboards, and have made a lap quilt for a very sick friend, from scrap fabrics, and a warm jersey for my daughter-in-law (if she likes it and will wear it - she doesn't actually know about it yet!) from three colours of homespun wool left over from other projects.
We're as always, eating whatever we can harvest from the garden, and all manner of things have been mended.
Apple scrap vinegar is wonderfully useful, and each year I use it for all my relishes and pickles. I also use all the very small apples we harvest from one of our trees every second year.
I have used onion skins and tree lichens to dye wool successfully without the need for a mordant. They give lovely golden colours.
I loved this post and the comments, Jo, thank you.

Linda in NZ
Mary said…
I smiled thinking of your and Posy's shopping trip. It's a very evocative story.
Jo said…
Linda, a lap quilt to snuggle with when unwell is a very wonderful gift. My very favourite kind of quilt is a scrappy one. To me they exude happiness and hand-pieced love.
Thanks for your info on dyeing. My experience is limited to that one time where I did it wrong, but it's something I would like to know more about and do some experimenting..

Mary, such small outings are special now. I really like it. It reminds me of Laura in Little House on the Prairie. They went out so rarely that almost every outing was still recalled in precise detail sixty years later when she came to write her story down.
Anonymous said…
Cut up sheets = fabulous wee wipes!
They have changed my life and so far I have persuaded 3 other women to give it a go and they love it too. My family on the other hand, all think I am insane.
Absolutely loved this post. Am currently attempting home made pj pants soo.
Anonymous said…
I had other comments to make but they all disappeared when I got to the paragraph on cakes. So much cake! I thought about suggesting to work colleagues that my gift could be a week of cake - every day a new homebaked cake!

Happy birthday!

Jo said…
Loretta, hmmm, wee wipes. On the up side, my family already think I'm insane, so no change there..

Lucinda, I absolutely love that everyone decided to bring me cake:) My friends are the best and they know me so well. I think a week of cake is the best gift.
GretchenJoanna said…
That top photo of your garden... I kept it open for days, it made me so happy, and I couldn't think of the appropriately superlative thing to say about it. I must try... it must be that it shows the lushness of fall. I can almost smell it, and feel the air in your garden, all the way from the other side of the calendar. <3

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