Saturday, May 31, 2008

garlic and mizuna

I bought some mizuna seed last year because the catalogue said mizuna grows in winter and it is green. So it ticked my winter gardening-healthy eating boxes. The fact that I'd never knowingly eaten or seen it was inconsequential.

The mizuna I have grown looks pretty, as seen in my raised punga bed above, though it has been eaten or diseased by something I haven't yet identified. But it isn't very tasty. And for a nearly tasteless green plant, it uses up too much space in my garden.

So this afternoon I cut it all off to go into tonight's chickpea and kumara curry and then pulled the roots up. Maybe I have too much for one curry, but there will be a green opportunity tomorrow night I'm sure.

In place of the mizuna, I planted the garlic cloves which I received from Koanga Gardens earlier this month. I planted Takahue and Kakanui. I notice that some of the cloves (from my own stock from last season's crop and from some organic garlic grown in Karamea which I bought) which I planted about three weeks ago have sprouts showing. All good.

I'm still thinking about food issues. I'm not entirely convinced by the locum doctor we saw. He might be partly right about the problem, but I'm less convinced by his proposed solution. The food part is okay, just not sure about the prescription.

Maybe I need to look again at growing our own mushrooms. They don't need sunlight do they? I might have a spot which would work...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sewing night

I finished all of my refashioned dress-into-skirt except I have to sew the elastic ends together. And I yacked a lot. We shared stories of what we've done with the placentas of our children, which prompted one lovely woman to move to the other end of the room. We finalised the details of our local event for the International Knit in Public Day. Except we're having ours at night, at a local venue of our affections where the coffee, wine, beer and food are superb.

My head has spilled over with thoughts and information about food. I spent another while at the doctor's talking about immune systems this afternoon. I have been dimly aware that I put a lot of energy into making sure the children get lots of nutritional goodies and frequently forget or forgo myself, which is something which I'm changing. So I'll be into the aloe vera juice shortly. We have our own aloe vera plants in pots, but for the meantime, I'll buy the juice from the health food shop and keep ours for dealing with burns. Or to keep looking at and imagining that I'll remember about our aloe vera pot plants next time I burn myself cooking.

So next week at sewing I could do sensible things like learn to replace a zip in my son's jacket. I'm not reaaaaalllllly feeling like being sensible though. I fancy making something sumptuous, with sumptuous material. Easy-to-make kind of sumptuous garment, because I wouldn't want complexity to get in the way of having fun with my sewing friends. Maybe I'll find some pictures of inspiration on the net and share.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's all about food

I'm really glad I got my latest garden patch ready for blueberries in the weekend. On Monday I had a closer look at Blueberry plants at our local garden centre and when finances permit, we'll be buying two plants.

The blueberries are something of an abstraction in my head as life this week hasn't involved chilling out in the garden. It's all been about work and doctors and school. When even the dishwasher is getting a holiday, there isn't much home activity going on.

So I'm on a new food challenge. To eliminate unhealthy yeast levels from the bodies of myself and my children. It is going to be a learning process and I'll become either more or less convinced of it's usefulness over time. I found Radish Boy's blog recently which is providing me with some more interesting thoughts. Again the ideas often attributed to Sally Fallon on soaking and fermenting foods came up and I know I need to read this book very carefully soon. Perhaps it isn't so much the foods we are eating (I consider us to have a fairly healthy diet) as how we are preparing them which is our next project.

I know some readers are a lot further down this path of knowledge and discovery than I, just starting out, am. One of the foods the doctor was keen on our egg free boy eating is leeks. Also lots of green vegetables. So points to the garden there as we have leeks growing which will be ready in Spring and 20 swiss chard plants and eight kale plants producing winter greens for us now. I was admiring the colours on our purple sprouting brocolli today. The cold is bringing the purple out more. A long way off edible flowers though.

cleaning out the cupboard

Another way to use up your cupboard: respond to the school gala preparations request in the newsletter and decide to send not just some but ALL of your white sugar. No good for our health anyway.

I had the opportunity to take my son to see a different doctor today who has some ideas on yeast allergy which he freely admits are seen as heresy by many conventional doctors. I've done quite a bit of reading on yeast and candida several years ago but never had I made any connection to my son's skin complaints.

So we are moving to some different food changes now. Still no egg, gluten doesn't matter, but definitely no marmite, wine or beer (ouchie ouch for me) and no bread. I am returning with my daughter tomorrow and will check on sourdough bread then. Just as well I didn't roll ahead and order large amounts of organic bread flour.

Looks like I'll be getting going using the sushi ingredients up anyway.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's not about Father Christmas

Last week our Minister of Finance announced his ninth national budget. In it were the endlessly discussed and anticipated tax cuts. In the papers around the country were various comments, many not that varied at all.

I'm frustrated by the whole shebang. The tone of the newspaper (I looked at The Press, so highly likely it would annoy me, but equally it has the highest readership of any newspaper in the South Island, so pretty influential) annoyed me.

The cost of living has indeed risen sharply. Employment figures are down and indications are that rougher economic times are on the near horizon. The safety net which a government with any communal ethic provides is going to be needed more. The services which attempt to equalise opportunity, particularly for our young people, such as health and education, are going to be stretched.

So I was never a fan of any proposed tax cuts. We will benefit in our house personally, but it's the principle of the thing which is more important to me today.

A pile of people in the paper say they will vote National in the elections (our Tories) because the budget didn't offer them enough.

Like National will get in and they will find truckloads of money to throw at you? And if doctor's fees and hospital wait times and school staffing all suffer, then oops where did that come from?

I guess this comes across as a party political broadcast for our government. It's not my intention.

My intention is to express my frustration at a really blinkered mindset. Neither your government nor mine has any significant level of control over the international price of oil and grains. Good governance can reduce the harm of these two factors, particularly in my view by developing flexible and cheap public transport and encouraging local food production (for local consumption).

Father Christmas is a sweet idea. It's not healthy to assume he is real if you are an adult.

chook project BEGUN!

Favourite Handyman and I hauled out the huge wooden box from a friend who left town this afternoon. After much consideration of the best conversion-to-chook-house design by us both, FH began to build.

Words do not begin to express my excitement.

In other news, I'm enjoying Clarissa Dickson Wright's autobiography. Just reading her writing makes me feel like a dose of indulgence and cooking beans from scratch and other frugal vegetarian and goodly pursuits just don't cut it. Eventually, much buoyed by the chook house movements, I made pasta for, having found anchovies, red wine and parmesan with which to make properly indulgent food and drink.

I know canned fish are unethical. But I am just not prepared to give up anchovies. Just 1-2 times per month. Fire darts at me if you need to. Anchovies sauteed with mushrooms and thyme and garlic are too divine. I'd rather give up red meat.

Pine mulch

Firstly, here is me in my garden hat, which I knitted myself. In the background are the windows from a friend's house which will eventually be turned into our glasshouse. Then next is a photo I took yesterday of part of our potager. What a fancy word. But apparently if you have flowers of any kind in with your vegetables, then you are eligible. And although they aren't currently flowering and are also obscured by the kale, there are calendulas at this end of the garden and pansies at the other end. The strawberries are from runners which reached out from their home spot next to this garden. I cut off the runners and left these plants in the photo and pulled out the original plant. Rhubarb is in the unseen next door spot now.The photo below is of my pine needle mulched blueberry bed. No blueberry plants in it yet. First I finished off burying the last container of Bokashi and then I added some compost - mostly horse poo and peastraw. The peastraw hadn't rotted down much at all but the horse poo had and was teeming with worms. I think that batch is only about three months old and in a non-sunny spot. I think what is helping a lot is that the triangular horse poo compost spot is bordered on all three ides by corrugated iron and the sun warms the other side of two of the sides. After that I took the wheelbarrow and rake down to the local rugby field which is by the beach and has a huge pine tree with years' worth of needles below it. I filled the barrow and then, back home, spread it on top of the compost. Pine needles are acidic and blueberries like an acidic soil. Or so I'm told. It is layered on quite thick but I can lift some if I find out later that a thin layer is a better choice. I'm guessing not too much in the way of weeds is going to make it through those layers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A whole Friday

which is a day where I don't do any paid work and I got no gardening done.

Not a good feeling. I gave two parcels of children's clothes to friends and sent two bags of things to the Sallies and hosted two old school friends one of which I hadn't seen for ten years which was fabulous and them both being blokes and me having been to their scungy scungy student flats in years gone by, they weren't a problem re: the dirty-messy-house, for lunch. It's a feminist statement, don't you know. Then I took two cousins to the cemetery and listened to more old stories from the long ago past and vowed again that I really want to write them all down and discussed how to renovate a tombstone so we can see the writing again. Then I did administration and spent a looooooooooooooong time at Inland Revenue and then we had icecreams as treats for managing to do so much administration. And I made refried beans from scratch for dinner.

But I miss the garden. What hope on a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday if I can't manage to garden on Friday?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clothes streamlining

After the success of my use-up-the-cupboard challenge, it is time for me to streamline beyond the kitchen.

We have small people's clothes everywhere. In bags in many many places. Some falling out of bags. Things which do not currently fit and too many things which have finished fitting. I was lucky enough to be given three bags of clothes for my children this week. Which I am grateful for. It is also prodded me into realising the need for serious organisation and pruning. Not organisation where you build or buy more storage. The kind where you organise to own less. I gave some clothes away this morning and loaned some tiny nappies.What is with that? I've had them for over 12 months past Brighid outgrowing them. I've mostly managed to get rid of my tiny nappies but had this idea I would sell these ones. At least they are not in the house when they are loaned. But I need to jump some silly hurdle here and make the gift permanent.

I have bags of clothes waiting to go to friends' houses and I think tomorrow is time to drop them all off. Them and more to be sorted and made tomorrow morning.

I need to get over my recycling thing and just throw one million and three odd socks which no longer have a heel left in them in-the-rubbish. I have no need for them in any way. I have given the topic a ridiculous amount of thought.

Then I have to go through the bags of gifted clothing which await the children's next growth spurt(s) and get strategic. I don't need a stash of nine size 6 boys' t-shirts. Not when he is six and certainly not now, when more will arrive from indulgent relatives over summer itself.

You get the picture?

I do. It isn't going to be a fast job, but it is going to happen.

I think ten items per day is a reasonable goal.

sewing night

Went to sewing class for the first time tonight and had a great time. Got some sewing done as well. I have four friends also doing the class and really enjoyed the company of the other women there who I had not already met. I made some nappy wipes out of my stash of lovely patterned pillowcases which I find irresistible at the Sallies. Mucked up the tension on my machine by the end. It's not a sewing session if I don't do that, it seems. Might buy a Bernina bobbin for next week so I can use the school machines. I will move on to the purple skirt project next week. At some point I want to have a go at replacing a zip with the tutor's guidance. That really would be a useful skill to have.

We also got to yak about book groups (I started one with a friend two years ago but we seem always to get unappealing books this year). We talked about various food coop possibilities and I discovered that my friend Emily has previously done coop orders from Havoc Farm and despite my earlier intention to not buy more meat for a while, I put my hand up.

I also learnt about International Knit in Public Day in June 14, 2008. So we're planning a knit and chat and coffee session (simultaneous) on that day.

We didn't talk about gardening which was a sad omission. I would like to get a local food growing group going so we can share ideas and experiences and tips which relate to our very local growing conditions. I'll get there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blanket blind

So I've done a bit more thinking about this blinds business for draught-proofing the front door and sought some advice from more experienced friends.

No more Roman blind idea. I'm going to use one of the lovely 100% wool, New Zealand made (some are at least 45 years old and were given to my mother by her grandparents when she went to boarding school) blankets which we have the good fortune to own. I'm going to sew tabs on the top so it can slide on to a piece of dowling and hang over the door. During the day, I'll take the whole thing down and store it. During summer, it won't be necessary to use it.

It will most likely start it's life out very plain. But I'm mindful of an idea from this pub, where they have some beautiful new patchwork covers on the bar stools and a gorgeous kind of quilted blind/curtain on one of the windows. I'd ultimately fancy edging the blanket in sumptuous red and perhaps adding applique in the middle. When in my life I am going to acquire an enthusiasm and skill for making applique, I have no idea, but I love the idea of transforming a found object from our over-cluttered home into an object of functionality and beauty and history.

Most satisfactory events of today

Pay day.

Fish and chips night.

The June issue of NZ Gardener arrived in the post. Under Lynda Hallinan, this magazine has really developed into something fantastic. There are still the profiles of beautiful and expansive ornamental gardens and rare plants, but there is now much much more on growing edible fruits and vegetables. They are even talking about digging for victory. It is a glossy and positive magazine and well placed to appeal to mainstream readers. Lynda herself is pretty and sexy (and clever) and does lots of talks, including on television, which have raised the magazine's profile. It's all welcome in my view.

Went to Alf Harrison's menswear shop. This shop is a small locally owned business in our small town and it is something of a blast from the past. The current window display is of tweed caps. Very nice they are too. Anyway, I was looking for dress trouser socks for Favourite Handyman for use in his other life where he doesn't do jobs around our home and garden. And here in our small local shop I found just the thing, in a merino and possum and nylon blend which is made (most of the raw materials and all of the secondary product) right here in New Zealand. A rare opportunity to make such a satisfyingly ethical purchase.

From the library: the autobiography of Clarissa Dickson Wright (of The Two Fat Ladies fame).

I have started another bread making venture. It uses an overnight yeast liquor method. I did this once before for the High Fibre bread earlier this month and it all got so brothy that the mixture overflowed out of the bowl, the towel and onto the sheets below. Both the sheets and the liquor were in the hot water cupboard. So I have used a bigger bowl this time. I got to use up a bit more oat bran. I'm through nearly all of the Surebake yeast (the expensive kind with added improvers) and now I'm working my way through the ordinary dried yeast container. Once they're all used up, I'll go back to sourdough experiments for the most part, I think.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Roman blinds

Roman blinds, ladies and gentlemen. Am I up to the task of creating a more effective cold and draught block on the front door than the current venetian blind which only covers the glass panes on the door, not the whole door?

Myself? Using instructions like these? I'll need to get something out of the library to stare at for a fortnight at least. We do want an insulation improvement and paying for them to be made is absolutely out of the question financially. Something like the picture below would be very gorgeous except obviously we wouldn't put the couch in front of the door. The wolf ain't knocking that hard yet (I'm not the only one who grew up with a Dad making comments about the wolf being at the door when referring to hard economic times am I?).

I'm planning on having a good look through the remnants bin at our local curtain shop (yes we still have one and by crikey I'll be supporting it rather than go online or mail order). I doubt I'd be able to get a remnant large enough and I need to learn lots more before I'd know whether I could sew several remnants together and still get the blind to hang properly. Our home is not beautifully decorated and nothing has to match particularly. If I see something totally gorgeous in a small piece perhaps I could just use that with plain stuff above and below it. A splash of gorgeous is something I like a great deal. Just doesn't have to align with everything else in my world.

I'm not sure I should even be having such adventurous thoughts. But it does sort of look like if I measure things properly, the actual sewing might be straightforward. I'll ask my tutor at the sewing class on Thursday night. Assuming I remember to sign up for it and pay tomorrow. At least everyone appears to have had chickenpox.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stones and roses

Not the band misremembered.

Today, still on sick child duty, I realised around 4pm that I was in danger of being home for the entire day and not spending any time in the garden. I buckled Brighid in the pushchair and pulled stones out of the roses garden and thought a little more about whether I would pull the roses out. Because of the narrowness of the bed (bordered by concrete on one side and our brick house on the other), digging the roses out would very likely mean killing them rather than transplanting. I'm a little unsure about killing a perfectly nice rose plant (or four). I am going to keep the small one which does not ramble and which produces rose hips. Not that I've done anything culinary or medicinal with them, but I like looking at them and someday I'll play apothecary with them.

I only got to pull stones out for four minutes, maybe less. But I was in the garden, and my life wasn't all kitchen and mothering.


The food cupboard

I signed off my using up the cupboard project the other day because I'd had enough of it.

But since then I've noticed on several occasions that the exercise is having lasting impact. Though I am loving not trying to think of a use for the amaranth any more. I am much more aware of the full extent of what is in my cupboards and am using the range of ingredients better.

I made focaccia yesterday. What a hit! Favourite Handyman said it was the best foccaccia he had ever eaten and I think it tastes like the focaccia at Carluccio's which I used to eat when we went into London central. Which is a pretty high compliment to myself. The recipe is from Annabel Langbein's Savour Italy, which my parents sent to me for Christmas in 2001, the year we spent Christmas in Bologna, Italy. It seemed very much a kiwi take on Italian food at the time and kind of crazy to have a kiwi recipe book in the middle of Italy, but now I'm back in NZ and the holiday is just a memory, this book is just perfect.

Potato focaccia dough and toppings
250g potatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 packed C Mashed potato
1.5 C warm water
1.5 t dried yeast
0.25 C extra virgin olive oil
4.5-5 C high grade flour, extra to knead
2 t salt
a little olive oil to knead

Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain thoroughly, dry over heat in pan to evaporate any excess water. Mash until fine. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Place warm water in large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over top. Stand for two minutes, mix in mashed potato and oil.

Sir in flour and salt, mixing until the dough just starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be quite sticky. Using lightly oiled hands, knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour, un til doubled in bulk. Turn out onto a l,ightly floured board (surely everyone else just uses the benchtop like me though?) and divide into three.

I divided into just two and then, making one half at a time (the other half which had been left to rise much longer was still great but we don't have a big enough oven to do both lots at once), I flattened the dough into a rectangle on an oiled baking tray and rested for 10 minutes. Then I pressed it out to cover most of the tray, covered with a clean cloth and stood in a warm place 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingers. The chopped up bits of food which I added (using up some long neglected olives and tomatoes) were:

version 1: green olives, red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, then drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt.

version 2: I pre-roasted in the oven some pumpkin, carrots and onion together with rosemary and oregano. Then I put that (cooled) on top of the dough together with olives, sun dried tomatoes and basil. Drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from tray and cool on a rack.

Today I have used Hoisin sauce for the first time ever. It's in the slow cooker together with pork strips, kumara, onions, ginger, garlic and pineapple. I have no idea how it will turn out, particularly as I cobbled the recipe out of guidelines from other things. Alison Holst's slow cooker book is always suggesting prebrowning things. Which I never do. The point of the slow cooker is to make life easy, and having frying pans to be washed by 9 o'clock in the morning does not feel 'easy'. So I ignore her. I know she is a kiwi icon (is she on a stamp yet?), but I don't trust her advice too much these days. Bad advice on cooking chickpeas (just 3 hours in the slow cooker?!) and too much inclusion of premixed packet stuff. And merchandise. Brand Holst.

One more food comment today before I deal to the unholy and no doubt growing-unwelcome-bacteria food mess on the dining room floor before the baby wakes up.

Happy blog birthday Joanna. Joanna's blog was one of the first foodie blogs I took a shine to on the internet last year when I started venturing into blogland. I think it is my favourite foodie blog of all the ones I have encountered which aren't by people I already knew outside of blogland. Thank you for all you share with us Joanna. Thanks also for the links to your key posts. I'd never heard of Skordalia before and now I'm keen to try making it. Rich sauces with no egg in them but plenty of superfood garlic are very welcome to my repertoire.

retirement ethics

As you might expect of a leftie girl, I'm not keen on the world of the sharemarket and of large corporates. I'm not keen on structures in which working people are paid as little as possible in order to maximise returns for totally absent persons known as 'shareholders'. I believe financial returns should be for productive work, not merely for already having money.

And this has led me to ponder the ethics of retirement funds. As far as I can work out, plans like Kiwisaver, involve 'investment' of my funds and then when I'm much older, those funds will be worth more and thus will pay for me to live when I am no longer able to work productively myself.

So where is all this productivity margin going to come from? If myself and all other supposedly sensible people in wealthy countries invest in funds which are the product of someone else's not fully recompensed toil... this is where I'm at in my thinking. Something doesn't feel right. In my view, I already use and abuse working people all over the world when I purchase items made with exploitative labour. This gives me a level of unsease which I try to deal with by making careful and somewhat minimal purchases and also by refusing to let the issue and it's magnititude so swamp me that I give up and do nothing about fair trade/ethical shopping/reducing consumption.

I think a turning point for me on this topic was listening to the National Radio one weekday lunchtime and hearing matter of fact discussions about investment in retirement homes. If we can put aside the irony of possibly investing in retirement homes businesses in order to fund my own retirement, What concerned me was such a business being run at a profit. It more than concerned me, it made me feel sick. And it still does.

I don't have answers, but I certainly have questions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

refashioning and roses

I wish this post was announcing that I have chooks. I don't have chooks, but I want some. I've been making noises about this yet again. I think they could go well in the grassy spot outside the garage which is otherwise going to produce potatoes next summer. Sometime I will get results.

I pulled more stones out of the garden in front of the lounge this afternoon and then piled horse poo thickly on top. Then I took to the roses with secateurs. Brutally. I haven't seriously considered digging them out before because I didn't think I could within such a narrow strip but now I'm rethinking that assumption. They really are in the wrong place. They should be rambling up a tree or over a fence, not sprawling unattractively out of the narrow garden bed and over the driveway.

Tonight I have started to unpick the waist seam of my purple frock. I bought this long purple velveteen dress in an op shop in Ilford, Essex in 2001 or 2002. It wasn't as long as I wanted so I bought some deep red material and paid the mend it man at the dry cleaners in Goodmayes, one station east of Ilford to add it to the bottom and to edge a scarf to wear around my neck with the dress. It is a roomy and comfortable dress, so much so that I wore it to a christmas work do in 2002 when I was eight and a half months pregnant.

I wear it a lot these days and today as I took it off the washing line it occured to me that I could alter it and extend it's life and give my wardrobe a little new energy. It is an empire line dress and I'm unpicking the skirt from the bodice. I have some elastic to turn the bottom into a stand alone skirt. I'll see about the bodice later. I have a purple organic long sleeved t-shirt, also from my London days. They could be an 'outfit'. A girl has to have a few things to complement her gumboots.

Friday, May 16, 2008

the corn chip - an useful psychological support

The baby has been sick. The baby and I did not sleep much. Not much at all.

So the nutritional and budgeting projects which usually run more or less to time more or less quite a bit round here, went out the window.

Takeaway Indian for dinner last night, bought lunch for everyone well enough to eat. The dishwasher and the washing machine sat idle while the baby and I sat. and sat and sat and sat.

Today things were somewhat improved and a little home activity took place. Nearing dinnertime I knew I wanted us to have some home cooked nutrition and still lacked much energy or time without holding the baby.

I needed some help.

Corn chips. I still chopped a zillion healthy vitamin containing items to go on top to make vegetable-chickpeas-anchovies nachos, but the knowledge that the carbs would come out of a packet gave the essential boost.

I've had enough of the using up the cupboard project. I can't even be bothered checking if I have done four weeks' worth. It was a useful project and I now have several shelves where I can tell what is in them and I have learnt some useful bread and muffin making recipes which are now part of our weekly repertoire. I officially give up on the amaranth. It will be going on to the compost at the next daylight opportunity.

I haven't given up some of my random hoarding habits. I bought some hoisin sauce for the first time ever this week even though it wasn't on my meal planner or shopping list. Joanna used it in a recent recipe on her blog and I have notions that I'll make this sometime. Except now I've gone to find the link to make to Joanna's recipe, I see she used Thai fish sauce. Hoisin must come from something else I read recently. Any suggestions of food you love which uses Hoisin sauce? I'd love to read them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Twelve herbs

Best loved magazine in my life, the Kings Seeds catalogue. Tonight I picked out 12 herbs which I've never grown before and would like to grow this coming summer.

Here they are, with aspects which appealed:
Anise Hyssop (perennial) - bees love it, grows in light shade as well as full sun. Looks pretty.

Astragalus Milk Vetch (perennial) - Chinese medicinal herb. a legume. Roots harvested 3rd or 4th year. So I'm thinking that as a legume, it could nitrogen fix and leave the soil in nice condition as well as provide roots to stimulate the immune system.

Bergamot Lemon (annual) - bees love it, pretty, the lemon flavouring will be useful in cooking.

Borage (annual) - edible flowers and leaves, pretty, bees like it. Contains GLA (gamma linoleic acid) which is good stuff.

Chamomile German (annual) - I'll make tea with this.

Chervil (annual) - on the list of must have herbs in several books so will give it a try. I have loved a lot of foods without once knowingly trying chervil so life obviously has more pleasure in store for me.

Garlic chives (perennial) - I've had these before, but resent paying shop prices for a whole plant so I'll try them from scratch instead

Cumin (annual) - I love cumin in lots of dishes. Not sure I can grow pungent cumin in our climate, but I'm confident it will be fun to try.

Lavender (perennial) - I was loathe to grow this last year as I associated it with pretentious gardens in Christchurch's leafier suburbs. But really, no herb garden is complete without some.

Motherwort (perennial) - apparently this relieves stress, regulates a woman's menstrual cycle and calms the nervious system. How could I not have it in the garden then?

Self Heal (perennial) - another medicinal herb for stimulating the immune system. My catalogue also says it is easy to grow, which adds to it's appeal.

Sorrel (perennial) - isn't this a weed in some places? Anyway, I'd like to try eating it - I've seen it in a few English recipes.

Half of my choices are perennials which I'm pleased about. I'd like to increase the plants which are permanent in my garden and thus reduce the time spent putting in new crops in every garden patch.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Down with gravel beds

When we moved into our current home in October 2006, there was almost no garden. Lots and lots of lawn, but nearly nil garden. There were four strips whichhad once been garden. Across the back of the garage was all gravelled in to prevent weeds growing or the need to mow lawn. Our winter wood supply is now stacked on top of that. Down one side of the house, the side leading to the back door and thus towards the kitchen, was similarly gravelled. My first gardening project here was that strip, which I cleared of stones on my hands and knees while pregnant. As a method to get my baby daughter to move into optimal foetal position, it was much better than scrubbing floors. That strip has now fed us with swiss chard, broccolli, garlic and now is home to parsley, chives, winter hardy lettuces, freesias and feverfew. It will eventually be all perennial herbs.

This leaves the two strips in front of the house, on either side of the front door. The one in front of our bedroom is the only one which had soil. Not much in the way of plants though. One dahlia and some shrubby thing which I removed. It now has comfrey, the dahlia and some parsley. And the odd wayward bulb, although there isn't really enough sun there for spring bulbs to do well. The last strip is in front of the lounge. It has three roses which are durable, pretty and unruly. This strip is very narrow, probably only coming out from the wall about 20cm. It had agapanthus which I pulled out - they are a noxious plant here on the coast. There are some very beautiful creamy freesias there also. Around all this is stones, several layers thick. I removed one lot of stones last year when I removed the agapanthus and yesterday I started to remove the stones on the far side of the roses. Once I've got the bulk of them removed, then I'll dump some of the horse poo I got the other day on there and top with peas straw. It's a crude form of building up a garden, but better than leaving it full of stones. I'll have to leave it at least six months to rot down, but that's not a problem. Plenty of other garden projects to keep me occupied.

Hypocrisy and community

In my recent posts I have talked about my sense of moral obligation to reduce my ecological footprint and also about my sense of allegiance to local working class people making a living mining coal on the West Coast of New Zealand. I can certainly see that these values can clash.

I'm still thinking about what is important to me. I'm not a single issue girl and I am trying to thrash out how I will reconcile or attempt to reconcile the implications of my positions on various issues which face my community - personal, small town, national and global. Often what I write on my blog is tentative and part of my journey.

I have treasured and continue to treasure the comments on my blog. They come from people whom I already had connections with and with whom I appreciate the dialogue we continue on this blog. I also value highly the men and women who have found my blog in cyberspace and found it interesting enough that they take the time to read and also to comment. For example, I've learnt a great deal from swapping blog readings with Patrick, Joanna and now Robynn and there are others whom I also value.

I didn't realise that I had anonymous comments enabled - I thought I did not. If your purpose in blog reading is to anonymously pull holes in someone's thoughts, then I'm sure one person got some gratification from calling me a hypocrite in the last 12 or so hours.

I have now changed my blog settings to disable anonymous comments. Not because the poster was wrong on this post. He or she identified correctly the clash between supporting local coal production and reducing my ecological footprint. But because I value the community I write in here in cyberspace and I prefer that those who read and comment are prepared to be part of that community.

Perhaps it would be easier to describe myself as a hypocrite. Then I could accept that I cannot have a pure position on environmental issues without shunning other issues which I currently hold dear. I could give up on thinking carefully because it is too hard.

I have no plans to give up. But yes, hypocrisy is never far from the actions of any of us, if that is what we are looking for.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Inheriting the earth or the dearth

This article by Simon Tisdall, published in the Guardian Weekly, made a strong impact on my thoughts today. In the print version, it is entitled "World's poor will inherit the dearth" and subtitled "Western consumers must take a share of blame for looming global malnutrition." I pull out one quote:

nine out of 10 natural disasters are now extreme weather-related. Rising
sea levels, flooding, crop failures, famines and water shortages are creating 50
million more migrants every year. Yet climate change itself is directly linked
to the carbon-emitting, gas-guzzling, high-end consumerism of developed
countries that now fret most about energy cost

I was pondering the nature of faith, of how I or anyone else chooses what to be convinced by amongst literature we read. Although I struggle to articulate it clearly, I am sure that emotions play a big part in what we find convincing even when we think it is actually science which is winning us over.

But after reading Simon Tisdall's article, I feel that if there is even a chance that global warming is human-induced, then I have a moral obligation to reduce my ecological footprint. Fifty million displaced peoples per year.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Do you believe?

A number of people whom I know and respect are strong believers in a Christian God. Their God informs their ethical judgement and through their study of scriptures and reflection on the message of Jesus, they draw strength to live purposefully for the 'good' of those around them.

I also have the privilege to know some people who are strongly committed to the importance of scientific research which indicates a scary degree of global warming in the present and future and to the significance of our declining, or soon to be declining, access to oil. Their understanding of this research and the implications of it for our daily lives informs their actions, both large and small, and their sense of responsibility to minimise the effect of our lives on the environment at personal, community and global levels.

Much as it might horrify scientists who see no place for a God in their lives, I see many similarities in the two sets of beliefs. With food prices rising inexorably, adults everywhere are reigning their non-essential spending in and considering how to limit the damage of inflation on their food budgets. There is an understandable frustration on the part of peak oil enthusiasts that many people aren't seeing 'the bigger picture'. Which reminds me of the edict I've heard in Church that good works alone aren't enough. Faith is essential.

Both Christianity with it's notion of the Second Coming and Peak Oil seem to appeal to our fascination with apocalypses. Like watching gory movies where we don't want the horrible thing to happen but we watch, gripped, anyway.

Perhaps I'm a big softie with no stomach for the tough stuff. I believe in God as hope personified, as my guide, my strength to believe in the wisdom of working for change, for better lives, for redemption from sorrow. I have little time for the notion of a God of fear. I'm also a believer that we need to change our habits and become less wasteful, less reliant on commodities and cash and more connected to the growing of the foods we eat. If there is an apocalypse coming, (I can't help but think of when Dorothy got whisked out of her home in Kansas and dropped into the land of Oz in the musical), then we are wise to live carefully now. But if there is not an apocalypse coming, then I still think we are wise to live carefully now.

Why I won't be voting green.

Last month I commented on the NZ Green party's decision to campaign against the mining of coal.

Last night I went out to Blackball where we had a dinner and debate and watched a video of the Easter commemorations of the 1908 crib time strike in Blackball which marked the beginning of the national union movement in New Zealand. There was singing, much talk of politics, laughter and good food.

When we were watching the video, at the point where a snatch of Su Bradford's talk was played, staunch miner and unionist Les Neilson (one time president of the NZ miner's union) expressed his disgust that "she had the audacity to come here at Easter and now she wants the mines closed."

I've given this more thought, and I agree.

I don't trust that the Green Party has it's head around issues here on the West Coast and I won't be giving them my vote. I support some of their other endeavours e.g. around banning GM seed trials and campaigning for country of origin food labelling.

maternal leanings

There is an enormous amount of nonsense spouted throughout the world about good and bad motherhood, fit and unfit mothers, maternal instinct and other insidious nonsense designed to breed more nonsense.

It is in fact very simple.

I love my children when they leave my brand new plants alone.

I struggle to love them when they pull out my new lemon tree and my new bay tree and leave them like dropped tissues on the ground beside the pots.

horse poo

Ten bags of the stuff. On the way home from a lovely picnic at the beach.

Who could ask for a better Mother's Day?

I am also seeing the light at the end of the flour tunnel. I made two loaves of high fibre bread today. They are cooling as I type, but they do strike me as rather brick-like in weight and appearance. I have emptied the wholemeal flour bag, got down to the last approx. two cups' worth of strong white bread flour and started on the ryemeal (which seems rather stale and unappealing) and the oat bran.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Off the wagon

I had been so well behaved this week that by the end, I thought I might implode.

But it's okay, I didn't implode. Chickenpox round one (Fionn) is over, or clearly over the contagious part. So he went back to school and Brighid and I wondered what to do in the rain when we didn't want to clean the house.

Shopping and Guinness.
We had lunch in town, bought a bay tree and a lemon tree (both tiny ones - buying the big ones is very expensive and you are just paying for someone else having watered them for two years beforehand), bought more wool for my grown-up-another-attempt-at-elegance black alpaca wrap cardigan. I wore my gumboots for all of this. I wasn't on elegance attempting duty today. At all.
Then we came home, planted rhubarb, the lemon and the bay trees and collected Fionn from school.

Then we did more shopping, for beer, ranunculas, chips and funky bright yellow shoe laces for the op shop sneakers for Fionn.
This is what the ranunculas will look like when they grow. I'm planting them round the base of our funky recycled and replainted yellow and black letterbox tomorrow.Best bit.

Then I stopped at the local pub, found Favourite Handyman, brought the children in, plyed them with chips and let them run round the pub while I sat and talked to adults who weren't even mothers (nearly everyone I talk to in my parenting week who is over seven is a mother) and drank Guinness.

I did talk about gardening though.

That is my day ladies and gentlemen. Because I started out the day a good girl, we came home to slow cooked chickpea, kumara and swiss chard curry. No cans involved either - home cooked and frozen pasta sauce and chickpeas use. Maybe I'll go to Peak Oil heaven after all.

Which brings me to something I've been thinking about of late - the similarities between religion (thinking Christianity here but could easily be others) and peak oil 'belief'. Next week...

Thursday, May 8, 2008


What a fabulous website and resource Dev-zone is. Today I left the house for the first time in about a hundred years and while out in the big wide world non-chickenpoxed world, a friend told me about dev-zone, where I can get DVDs out like the Cuba: Community Solution one I have wanted to watch for ages but never prioritised the money to buy the DVD. I'm looking forward to making good use of Dev-Zone's resources.

Another friend gave me some rhubarb cuttings today. I've chosen the spot to plant it when it stops raining.

Calorie city for dinner tonight. A version of scalloped potatoes which involves bacon, potatoes, swiss chard (of course), onions, cheese and cream. Unrepentantly full fat food. Didn't use anything in the cupboard. A girl has to have a break some time(s).

Mutterings about food disasters, not just 'somewhere else' but on our doorstep, in our homes, seem to be on the increase. I watch a number of local friends make changes to their shopping but not be interested in the bigger, freaky, apocalyptic peak oil drama. But they are making changes, reflecting on good household practice. I'm not sure that pushing the bigger picture in their face is productive. Could be wrong. Or right. Still thinking about this.

Kay Baxter has some interesting things to say about community and returning to really basic basics - e.g. lactic fermenting, not agee jar preserving and growing food to feed the chooks, not buying in chook food. All in the latest Organic NZ magazine. I'm quite prepared to buy this magazine every second month when it comes out as I do learn a lot from it.

This month Organic NZ has a special feature on heritage fruit trees, with a focus on apples. I'm off to look at some of the suggested South Island suppliers' websites and see if I have a wishlist.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Use up the cupboard, men's housework

I'm less only half way through the my four week cupboard challenge and I'm already feeling rather tedious chronicling the cupboards which never give in.

Today: a triple batch of oat bread. I'm still only half way through the treacle jar and half way through the Surebake yeast jar. Blimey. Obviously if we were very poor with no new money coming in each fortnight, these things would appear to be running out scarily quickly. But we're not. I bought three loaf tins off Trademe (NZ equivalent of Ebay) earlier this year when I started to get into bread making again (last phase: 1995). It's no more work making three loaves of bread than making one and if they freeze well, then we might be saying goodbye to spending around $20 on bread each week. My oven would fit one more loaf tin on the rack so if I can get another off Trademe (I want an old one, not a new non-stick surface one), then I'll experiment with making quadruple batches of bread.

Then double chocolate muffins. I didn't even notice the container full of chocolate chips when I did the cupboard audit. Granted it was under my pile of clean resusable kitchen cloths, but still. Fionn asked for something chocolatey and we did indeed find and then make something chocolately.

Separate topic. I'm doing some Favourite Handyman jobs tonight. His turn for the flu so I've brought two basketloads of wood in for tonight's fire. At the history of labourism day I went to at Easter in Blackball, Neville Bennett (retired University of Canterbury history lecturer who introduced me to some very interesting schools of historical thought when I was an undergraduate) spoke about housework as the key means that working class people survived. He mentioned not just the usual female domestic stuff which I've read about forever it seems (valid though it is). He also talked about men catching rabbits, chopping wood, mending things. Today I was reflecting that much discussion about how women's domestic work keeps families going in poor times, particularly in previous generations in NZ, is in a suburban context. Urbanisation has taken many male 'housework' jobs out. Certainly in London when our home was gas heated, Favourite Handyman had no extra burden of work in winter.

Not that I'm suggesting that such roles must be gender prescribed. Just thinking that in times past they have been and I'm sure I'm not the only feminist to find herself at home looking after children, doing washing and cooking meals because they largely have to be done during hours before breadwinner gets home and then opting against also taking on wood chopping and fire lighting. Oh and I pass on the job of emptying the mousetrap. Cos yes we do kill mice in our house. Every single one we can.

driveway weeds

The photo above is about six weeks old but nothing significant has changed for the purpose of today's post.To the right of the new garden patch, you can see a thin concrete verge and then lots of weeds growing up through the gravel driveway. Before we lived here, these weeds were controlled by 'Round Up', or glyco-phosphate. We don't do weed spraying and as the weeds haven't grown horribly high, we've not been much bothered.

But today we stopped from our trip to the letterbox (highlight of the chickenpoxed day for Fionn - at least it seems I don't have chickenpox and my flu has receded to a cold) and had another good look. The weeds and weed seeds from the gravel are going to jump into my new garden patch at ridiculous rates if I don't control them. So I started to rip them out - quite easy when they are growing in gravel. I have plenty more weeding to do but have an idea about longer term management.

Competition. The weeds need something else using up their space. My idea for cheap, easy, fragrant and usable is creeping herbs. Thyme would grow amongst the stones no problem, and I think oregano would as well. And I have seeds for both already. So if I can keep weeding over winter and then raise herbs in seedling pots, then in Summer we'll see how experiment 185 goes.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I was weeding the herb patch this afternoon when it occurred to me I could make my own mixed herbs. So I've snipped oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage and they are now in paper bags, pegged to a tiny line in the hot water cupboard.

Then I thought I'd make peppermint tea. I bought peppermint seeds two years ago and today was the first tea day. It wasn't really strong enough before the water got cold, so I think I need to dry some of that so I can fit more potency into one cup.

Using up the cupboard. Popcorn. I found four different bags/containers of the stuff last week. A fairly pleasant project, using up popcorn. I use the pressure cooker saucepan to make it as it has a suitably heavy base.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

peasant food, tobacco and beer

Rice pudding was successful. I ate lots of it. 1/2 C short grain rice, 3 C milk, 2-3 T sugar, 1 t vanilla, pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon. Put on low for 3-4 hours in the (greased) slow cooker.

I've been looking through my Spanish recipe book. I have the great pleasure of owning Culinaria Spain, a story of Spanish food, customs and recipes region by region.

As I often do, I've been reading up on traditional food growing and preparation practices and recalling what I saw and learnt during our time travelling in Spain. I've been thinking this time particularly about meat and bean use in peasant cooking. The gorgeous Fabada which I remember so fondly from the Asturias is now made with big chunks of meat and while it was once so for the wealthy, one piece of preserved pig goes a long way to flavour a bean stew in more modest homes.

Now I'm thinking about a kind of modest self sufficiency where the animal protein might come from one slaughtered pig per annum, together with the eggs of three chooks, the meat of 2-3 roosters and the occasional haul of fish. How much meat would that be per week on average? I don't have the data to help me work it out but I'd hazard 1-2 times per week. I've read some graphic accounts of traditional pig slaughter and they all observe that no part of the pig is wasted.

I've still got leftovers from yesterday's/tonight's vegetarian soup. Even though everyone ate up well on it again this evening. I've played around successfully with bacon bones, pork bones and chorizo providing flavours for predominantly bean and veg meals since we've been back in New Zealand. Next trip to Blackball Salami, I'm going to buy some black and white puddings and see what I can create with them. Meat as flavour, not as filler, is my project. Or one of a trillion projects.

We've been discussing the tobacco, Favourite Handyman and I. Looks like we have sufficient harvest to last nearly all year. Massive sigh of financial relief. I am thrilled. Now we're both talking about having a go at home brewed beer.

So on the list for new seed for Spring:


cannelini beans


early and late potatoes

pumpkins for eating. The amount of pumpkin seeds sitting lost and unloved in our cupboards tells me clearly not to bother with growing for edible seed again.

rice pudding

Is there no end to the number of items resident and ignored in my cupboards? I don't think I even had brown short grain rice in my original list.

So this afternoon I put the ingredients for rice pudding in the slow cooker. I remember my Mum making rice pudding for us when she cooked mince. Both in the oven slowly for several hours. My Mum doesn't have much time for environmental issues but she knew and knows a good bit about budgeting and that includes economical use of the oven. My best memory of rice pudding was when she used to put it + the mince on before she went to work and the oven on 'automatic' and my job after school was to stir them. The milk used to form a skin which I lifted off and got first dibs on eating. It was nicer than the pudding itself I think.

So hopefully we all like rice pudding here tonight and the brown rather than white rice part works okay. At least I haven't been foolish enough to fill the cupboards with tapioca or sago. Mum did them occasionally and I, not generally a fussy eater, used to wonder what misdemeanour we had commited to deserve such horrid food.

Before rice pudding we will be having leftover soup from last night. No special frills, just reheated. I've run out of home made bread and it's bought stuff to go with the soup as


I suspect I have chickenpox also. So I have energy for not much. Except feeling sorry for myself. And blowing my nose.

Outside I have put washing on the line. Did you know that that is such a dead practice in some parts of the world that some enviro group had a special day for encouraging people to use the clothesline? I don't know where the link for this is so you can either
a) google
b) trust me and we'll sigh collectively
c) wonder where I'm from 'cos you don't hang washing on the line at your place either
d) not trust me and not care. Or just not care. Iraq burns and Sandra is wittering about clotheslines for goodness sake.

Also outside I have been thinking about where to put next year's tobacco crop. Our tobacco experiment has been very successful. Favourite Handyman has dried the leaves from the rafters of our small shed and then he bought a pipe as the drag on a rollie paper wasn't sufficient. He reports that it tastes better than bought tobacco. So pretty flowers, easy to process and has saved us about $40 already. Of course,`a lack of any need to grow it next year would be nice, cancer risk etc., but if smoking is his demon for a while longer, then home grown is better than bought.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

shallots, garlic and raspberries

are the things I planted today. Plus I did some weeding and I buried Bokashi and I planned more of the Summer garden. Where the tobacco and the one Echinacea plant were last season, I will plant early potatoes, more Echinacea and some peas. After harvesting the potatoes, I will replace with winter brassicas. The Echinacea is very pretty at the moment and after three years I can dig up the roots and use medicinally.

I planted the raspberry suckers on the spot where our special sea kelp has being resting. I brought this kelp back from Truman's Track the day of the funeral of our friend Rob in England. After I planted the raspberries, I arranged the kelp in a circle around it, like arms reaching around and hugging.

I pulled out one celery plant and one swiss chard plant to make room for the garlic and then cooked them up with other veg, herbs, split peas and barley for dinner. I made gluten free cheese scones again and still haven't used up the only gf flour I didn't throw out last week. I've got leftover soup as usual, in spite of us adults enjoying firsts and seconds. I am incapable of doing small pots of soup.

I did early potatoes last season in the punga raised bed and then followed up with winter greens.

The photo above is two weeks old and there has been growth since then. There is kale, mizuna, swiss chard, pak choy, one onion and purple sprouting brocolli. I tried the mizuna earlier this week and it didn't taste of much, just kind of green tasting. We've been eating and enjoying the kale, pak choy and swiss chard. When I do my next round of garlic planting (when the now late order from Koanga Gardens arrives), some will go in this bed.

window of sunshine

Nearly two hours without rain yesterday afternoon and I got outside for some of that time. Bliss. I held on to the experience throughout the rest of the day as I cared for my chickenpoxed children.

I tied up some of the falling over broad bean plants. Favourite Handyman has nailed some chickenwire to the fence for supporting the beans. The chickenwire doesn't spread the whole way along yet. Next time I plant broad beans, I must remember to stake with bamboo at the same time as I plant the seed so I get to stake up close without disturbing the root structure.

It was very wet underfoot, too wet to bury the bokashi or do much weeding. I pulled some docks and sent the dill to the compost.

I used up some more cupboard ingredients by making a double recipe of oat bread and a double recipe of orange and date muffins. Most of the muffins are now in the freezer for school lunches. WShat I really want is the satisfaction of some empty packets but I'm still not quite there. Making muffins is helping use up some white sugar, which we seem to have mountains of.

I don't know what I'll use up today. I still have bread and muffins left from yesterday. Too cold for sushi.

The sun is shining outside though and I can see the breeze, meaning the ground could dry out enough to bury some bokashi. The gardening experts would probably still say it is too wet to be digging, but here in wetville in Autumn/Winter/Spring, you've got to take your chances while you can. The soil moisture often doesn't ease up for for months on end.

I bought a great magazine yesterday called Grass Roots. It is an Australian magazine, with the focus on managing in drought which never quite works for me. But it is a very good magazine in ever other way. It seems to be aimed at self sufficiency enthusiasts, both in suburban and in larger contexts. Lots of reader contributions. This issue has an article on how to replace a zip in clothing, which I found really useful. We are trying to fix rather than replace things around our house. We don't have a subscription to the simplesavings website, but we are on the free mailing list and I notice that May is 'fix it' month there also.

Last week Favourite Handyman went to buy us a new cold tap for the kitchen. It had been leaking for ages and the plumber told us when he last looked (he was over for some harder plumbing work) that we'd need to replace the tap next time. Turned out a new tap started at $120 (but mixer taps, which would mean throwing out the perfectly good hot tap started at $80), so FH bought a new washer for $4 and put it on to see if we could keep it going a while longer. Our tap is now working beautifully.

We don't have the ability to make a new grate for the fireplace though, so as ours is eroded away quite a lot, we'll have to shell out the $200+ required for a new one soon.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

peak oil - no stashing here just yet

I've been swanning round internet tonight, in preference to cleaning the kitchen or reading a book but in tandem with knitting my upside down cardi and I was struck that many bloggers that I read are storing items for peak oil.

I'm not.

I'm trying to get rid of as much as possible.

Our house is full of stuff. So full of stuff we mostly can't find the useful things we need when we want them. Full of xanthan gum and potato flour in the cupboard and clothes that don't fit and are missing buttons and newspapers from ridiculous amounts of time ago. I could go on.

I don't think I'll be waking up tomorrow and unable to ever buy wool again. Or go to The Warehouse, though that sounds quite attractive, never being able to go to The Warehouse again.

My goal is to use everything in our house and streamline to things we use.

Then, if I ever get there, I might give myself permission to hoard again.

home insulation progress

Blackout lining is on the curtains of all three windows in the lounge. Now we need to finish the last of the ceiling insulation. I'd also like to enclose the front porch and have two doors to get inside at the front, like many houses had in England. Our back entrance has two doors and I find it very effective at minimising draughts.

Using up the cupboard day eight

Guess how many odd and previously unloved ingredients I used today?

xanthan gum
buckwheat flour
potato flour
cannelini beans

I made orange and date muffins from theNZ Food Allergy Cookbook. They turned out well and I was pleased to empty one packet of dates. Though in the past it appeared that I was so pleased that I was hardly eating the first packet of dates that I went ahead and bought more. So there are still dates to use up. nI had never used the xanthan gum before, despite paying about NZ$8 for a small packet. All specialty gluten free items atract price increases of about 400% it seems.

1 whole orange, chopped with pips removed (I used 3 mandarins)
3/4 C orange juice
125g dairy free margarine, melted (I used butter as dairy isn't a problem here)
1.5 C plain flour or equal quantities of buckwheat, barley, rice or potato flours (I used 1/2 C each of buckwheat flour, potato flour and wholemeal flour)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 C sugar
1 t xanthan gum
3/4 C pitted dates, chopped.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Lightly grease (I cheat and use paper muffin cups inside the muffin tray) a 12 muffin tin.
Process orange and juice in a food processor until well chopped.
Add margarine/butter and mix.
Sift dry ingredients and add dates.
Combine the liquid ingredients and dry ingredients carefully.
Spoon into muffin tins and bake for about 15 minutes.

Cannelini beans aren't especially unloved in our house, but until now we haven't eaten them much. Tonight I took a can of cannelini beans and heated it up with a leaf of sage (which I virtually never use - we have it in the herb garden), chopped garlic, rosemary, kale and bacon pieces (the ends which I buy in packets at half the per kilo price of sliced bacon). Favourite Handyman and I liked it a lot. The cannelini beans picked up the bacon flavour beautifully and it reminded us of the Fabada stew which we adored when we travelled through the north of Spain. I'll be mucking round with cannelini beans and cured pig products like bacon and black and white puddings again this winter. Perhaps I can make a NZ version of Fabada. The kale worked well with it also.

Kings Seeds sell cannelini bean seeds so that will be on my summer growing list. Won't be getting too ahead of myself on expectations after the tiny borlotti bean harvest this season recently finished though.

Eight minutes in the garden

Better than no minutes in the garden. And this is what I did in that eight minutes, today. Killed four white butterfly caterpillars and one slug. Moved a container of thyme and feverfew into the porch where I'm expecting it will be protected from frost. I want to fill the empty end of the container with coriander, plus plant a pot of coriander on the kitchen windowsill and see which, if any, works at this time of year.

I moved two of the logs which were once trees in front of the garage and then logs in front of the garage awaiting a new life. The area which had one of the zucchini plants over summer is partly dug up and I've used the two logs to square the space off from the lawn. It is bordered on the other sides by the fence and by my summer 07-08 raised bed. The photo above, taken about a fortnight ago, shows the area - it's the corner made by Fionn's head and elbow. I need to do some digging and weeding and then I'll put garlic and shallots in this space. It already has some bokashi buried in it.

My main garden goals for next summer are to do with carrots and onions, neither of which were successful for me last year. We eat huge quantities of carrots and onions and would really benefit from growing our own, thus reducing pesticide load and financial costs.