Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goodbye summer

When we awake tomorrow it will be autumn. The signs have been around us as we rise in the dark on work mornings, wear an extra layer until mid-morning, have shrinking gardening time after dinner.

I've learnt more this summer and have much to treasure from it. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day to make green tomato chutney. I've found a recipe which uses lots of apples as well which works in well with the box out the front which is going soft because it arrived at the same time as visitors brought us lots of fruit.

A treat tomorrow will be eating field mushrooms, picked about 30km north of us and brought as a gift by dinner guests.

Today Favourite Handyman put the rest of the plastic roofing on the new lean-to. C and I escaped to hang out under it while the men did the dishes and the children ran riot through the house. So we have a new outside space for when it is wet.

Fionn and I have started to strip the lounge wallpaper. It looks better already. I can see that once it is finished, the room will look much larger.

I studied the list of the 100 favourite books of all time at the BBC. I've only read just over a quarter of the list which was a rather mediocre showing. So I set to and finally got Salinger's Catcher in the Rye out of the library. I was just starting to find it interesting when everyone got up this morning and with the ensuing massive cleanup for our dinner visitors, I've managed to mislay it. I want to read at least another ten from this list in 2009. If the library doesn't bar me from getting books out permanently that is.

It really would help my bread project if I would remember that I have bread in the oven. Including when it is time to take it out. Getting it out when I can smell it in the next room isn't the best method.

How much is a cup worth?

My daughter likes to use crockery as a tambourine. Which is why our cupboard of crockery which was not long ago full is now less full and much of what is still there is chipped. Normally I would go down to the Sallies and get some more mugs. Or to the Warehouse and buy some more mugs. But this time, I'm asking a few more questions, not all of them for noble reasons like wanting to save the world with my wallet but some of them approaching such goodness and earnestness.

The mugs at the Sallies were ugly. Which I don't always mind, but as we do have some mugs still left at home and I seem to be going through a phase of wanting things to look gorgeous (I've even been scheming to change the walls in the lounge if you need evidence of the phase), then I fancy some red mugs.

I haven't been to the Warehouse yet as I try and avoid going there. It is a dreadful shop, especially if you have to take children in there with you.

I looked on trademe. I could buy four cow print mugs for $15. Not red obviously, but perhaps some kind of indication of going prices for good second hand mugs.

I looked in our local specialist kitchen shop. Thirty dollars for one mug with a bold print on it.

So what is the real value of a mug?

I've read the literature on the rag trade, the sad tales, the admonishments and the defenders of fabrics and clothes made for a cheap over teh counter price here through the very bad treatment of workers in other parts of the world. I've noticed that the difference between budget and mid price clothing in New Zealand may well be in the mark-up to the retailer, not in the pay and conditions of the sewers in China. I did splash out of my usual op shop buying practice and buy a brand new, New Zealand-made skirt on sale earlier this month. But that was $120 in a half price sale and I still don't know where the material was made. I do know that given the price of fabric locally, my long voluminous skirt, expensive though it was, might not have been any cheaper to make. I don't care what I wear in the garden or at the pub, but for weddings, funerals and work, I try not to look like a slothful pauper.

Back to mugs. I don't know anything about the global trade in crockery. I know that the cheap china set I bought when we last moved house was made in China. I know how a plate is made from the times I watched pottery being made. Growing up in Nelson was lovely like that. I used to cycle round the potteries in the weekend as a teenager, watch what was going on and admire the finished work. I recall that parts of the UK - Shropshire I think - were at least once famous for theeir potteries. But I'm not after beautiful fine bone china. Imagine that as Brighid's tambourine if you wish - I try not to.

I haven't got an answer in this post. But I am on a fact finding mission and I'd appreciate any information anyone has to offer in the comments section.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Arrivals & departures

Arrived here today:
  • 2 bales of peastraw - to go around the brassicas and leeks I've either just planted or have waiting to plant.
  • about 3 cubic metres of untreated wood shavings from the local high school wood tech room - otherwise would have gone to the dump. It is now in the chook run where they can poo nitrogen all over it all winter. Come next Spring, it should be in beautiful condition, the soil in the chook run.

Departed here today:

  • the rocking horse. Part of a big clear out of everything possible in order to make a spartan lounge which we will then tear all the wallpaper from and then FH will paint the walls. Cream or pale butter on the walls and deep red on the board behind the fireplace.
  • the rest of the avocadoes from the avocado co-op.
  • Some more clothes for friends' children. We have too many - no two year old needs seven pairs of tights.

Condemned for imminent removal:

  • photos and letters etc from old boyfriends. Why exactly I thought that all these things needed to survive for the interest of any grandchildren, I do not know. But it's time to lose the junk. It's also possibly time to lose the many photos of people who I once knew and now I don't. Do I really need to keep records and momentoes of everyone I've ever known?
  • Loads of papery type things like ring binder organisers and overhead projector transparencies and those plastic covers for bits of paper. I don't care if I don't use them much at work either - at least I have room in my work office to store them.
  • Bags of perennial weeds. Not on my compost thank you. Together with the rather large collection of booze bottles in the garage, they can go to the dump. One of Fionn's favourite activities, smashing beer bottles at the dump. We're all class round here.
  • More clothes. I think it is safe to assume that as I've given away nearly all of the baby clothes (leaving just the special stuff and the organic clothing for my sister) and FH is still waiting for the motorbike which he asked for when I asked for baby #2, that we are not having more children. Which does rather negate the need for owning maternity togs, which I only wore twice anyway.

Frankly, this needs to be just the beginning on the removal front. I'll never be a minimalist, but I'd like to go a lot further down that path than we are right now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

herbs and dresses

Two years running now I have sown herb seeds and forgotten about them. My favourite culinary ones I watch out for and if I don't get success with seeds, I tend to buy a plant from the garden shop. Ditto with most vegetables - if I don't get seed success, then I buy seedlings.

Other herbs have fallen by the wayside. Astragalus, elecampane, anise hyssop, chervil to name a few. After the first unsuccessful sowing, I clean forgot about having another go. So come the next day before a full moon, I'm going to sow some more seeds and see what will grow in Autumn. Better do some research before then or I will guarantee another no show on the germination front.

I'm still knitting in the round without a pattern. I've done the skirt part of the planned pinafore (for my daughter who is two) in three different 10-12 ply wools and have now changed down in needle size and length to knit the bodice part in 8 ply. The bottom wool is the lovely home spun home dyed wool from Granity. Then some black boucle type wool leftover from my cardigan last year. Then some red boucle type wool which I bought to do the tension sample for the cardigan and then decided to swap to black. Now I'm knitting the rest in an army green colour which was once in my Grandma's knitting stash waiting for her to turn it into a jersey for Grandad. I'm thinking that when I get to the very top part, I will make long straps which can be buttoned up in more than one spot. Hopefully this means it will last longer.

Today I've harvested the last of the potatoes from our first potato patch and dug blood and bone, dolomite lime and sheep manure into the vacant patch. I've planted cavolo nero (lacinato kale) along the front where I can check for caterpillars and eggs easily. Later this week I will plant leeks along the back. I've also started to prepare the site for Fionn's garden. He has chosen to plant broccoli because he likes eating it now. Enough to warm a mother's heart.

I'm going to try my next batch of coriander in pots. The seedlings which came up from my last sowing have disappeared. Maybe slugs love coriander? I've been trying for all of spring and summer for coriander this year, to no avail.

The way of Lucy Jordan?

The morning sun touched lightly on the eyes of Lucy Jordan
In a white suburban bedroom in a white suburban town
As she lay there neath the covers dreaming of a thousand

Till the world turned to orange and the room went spinning

At the age of thirty-seven she realised she'd never
Ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her

So she let the phone keep ringing and she sat there softly

Little nursery rhymes shed memorised in her daddy's easy

Her husband, he's off to work and the kids are off to

And there are, oh, so many ways for her to spend the day.
She could clean the house for hours or rearrange the flowers
Or run naked through the shady street screaming all the way.

At the age of thirty-seven she realised she'd never
Ride through paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her

So she let the phone keep ringing as she sat there softly

Pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy

The evening sun touched gently on the eyes of Lucy Jordan
On the roof top where she climbed when all the laughter grew too

And she bowed and curtsied to the man who reached and offered her his

And he led her down to the long white car that waited past the

At the age of thirty-seven she knew she'd found forever
As she rode along through Paris with the warm wind in her hair

I have liked this Marianne Faithfull song for many years. Earlier this month I turned 37 and I wondered if the song would come to be me at all. When I was much younger I imagined myself living alone in a coastal cottage, wearing purple docs and riding a big motorbike. Right now, the coastal bit is spot on. I bought some purple docs when I first got to London but they didn't fit properly and hurt my feet. Some people are destined never to be hip.

I can still recall studying the play Equus when I was at high school and contemplating this psychiatrist who found his life numbingly normal and partly admired his patients for their lives outside of the norm.

My sister has recently started playing roller derby. She had to send me a youtube clip to explain what it is. You can view it here. The voiceover person at the beginning says she plays roller derby "to keep from melting into an suburban abyss".

hmmmmmmmmmmmm. So at 37 am I melting into a suburban abyss, alone in a white house with nothing to do but dream, stultified by normality? It seems a reasonable perhaps even important question. Particularly given that I am really very happy with my life. Am I too idiotic to want more? Given some recent experiences with people who do live to shop and value clothes over ethics and royal weddings over discussions of what I consider to be the big issues of our time, I am prepared to roll out the arrogance and claim that I am not where I am because of idiocy.

The garden is my anchor, the project which saves me from a life of cleaning. I never rode through Paris during my time in Europe and the UK but I did do a pile of things which made me think, gave me a wonderful sense of freedom and fulfilled some of the dreams of London life which I'd had since I first started to read.

When I first met Favourite Handyman, he shared some of the social justice goals I'd had/have. I'd had boyfriends claiming to be into some of these things before, but they always turned out to drop them once they left university. FH and I have and are getting to work on some of our goals for social justice in our town and I'm really proud of that. Not in big note ways - you won't find us in the local paper. But we are getting to use our skills in ways which empower others.
The children don't drive me crazy so much as the house does. But even the house, I'm coming to terms with how we keep from falling into total chaos and accepting that mess is us. We don't make anyone come to visit and when they do we usually find some small space of tidyness for them. We try to be nice like that.

So in a world where big time recession is never far from our newspapers and minds, I've got chooks and a vege garden, budgeting skills, love, books and the blessing of secure employment. I still love Marianne Faithfull's throaty voice, but I think I'll ride through thirty-seven with wind through my hair, dirt under my fingernails and no need for valium just yet. Homeopathic naturopathic nutters like me probably wouldn't choose valium anyway.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


"[A] recent study has shown that this enzyme acts on the gliadin proteins in
dough to generate the peptides responsible for triggering the coeliac response
in susceptible people."
Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters, 2006, pp 281-2.

The study Whitley refers to was published in 2005. The authors suggested that transgutimanase be removed from bread products until more research was done. As far as I can find out so far, that has not happened. Can you find out whether your daily bread contains tranglutaminase? Not by looking on the label; tranglutaminase is an enzyme and enzymes do not have to be declared on bread ingredient labels.

Learning about transglutaminase is just one of the valuable things for me about reading Whitley's bread book. As a bread enthusiast with candida issues and a son with raised IgG levels, the possibilities for eating bread which tastes great and is easier to digest and lower in yeast is very attractive. Hence my sourdough project. I'm hoping it becomes a regular part of our cooking and eating life. One of the other attractions of long rise sourdough is the minimal kneading required. At risk of sounding like a decrepit old hag, I do find I get arthritic type pain in my joints if I knead bread for a long time.

Today we have tasted two breads made from my rye sourdough. I've put the rest of the starter into another batch of what I'm learning to call production sourdough which is now in the hot water cupboard until tomorrow. Of course I will be able to keep some of that back for the next batch of bread, but in the spirit of obsessive enthusiasm, I think I'll try making a wheat sourdough starter as well. There is a recipe for a starter using chickpea flour which I fancy making but have banned myself from temporarily. Artekana bread, that one is.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

on a bread roll

Something I have learnt this week: do not collect the eggs and then get distracted weeding the garden. Because not long afterwards, the crunch in my pocket was a too late reminder.

I planted the yellow climbing rose yesterday. Pictures sometime. But it is in the area where we sit on summer evenings and on sunny weekend mornings throughout the year.

Last night I went to a talk put on by the West Coast Horticultural Society. Flash name for the local garden club. Met many friendly fellow gardeners. Today Fionn and I went to the Daltons promotion event at the garden shop and made a mini garden in a planter bag for him. I also got my blueberry plant repotted into a much bigger pot for free and Fionn and I chose winter vegetables for his garden. I grabbed sage and leeks while I was there.

Tonight the four of us went out to a work do and had a truly lovely evening. Of all the places I have worked, here in smallwettown has been home to the workplace which is most welcoming and embracing of our whole family.

I'm back on the breadmaking lark again. This afternoon I made rye bread which had taken several days and just now I have pulled a country loaf out of the oven. Both using rye sourdough, although the second loaf used wheat flour for much of the mixture. Andrew Whitley's book is teaching me a lot. The use of metric weights and of grams rather than millilitres is a pain though given that I don't have electronic scales. So there is a fair bit of guestimating in my measuring. Whitley says these loaves keep very well. If that turns out to be the case, then I could make a lot of our bread for the week in the weekend. Or even do the sourdough parts in the weekend and have a big baking day on Monday. I'm ignoring the white flour recipes for the moment as I currently have 20 kilos of rye and purple wheat and otane wheat flour to bake with.

News of the recession both internationally and domestically continues to roll in. I'm very grateful for our chooks and for our vege garden. We are revising our plans for a holiday next summer in favour of saving for when our car (currently 18 years old) needs replacing. I'd much much prefer to be paying cash than negotiating to pay interest on a loan for a car which will be worth less and less each year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

year of the climber

Last year was the year of the chooks and a very successful one I think. I learnt a lot and we ate vegetables, herbs and eggs from our garden in increasing quantities.

This year is, I suspect, going to be the year of the climber. I'm still interested in growing as much food as possible, but I've come to the conclusion that flowers are welcome and indeed needed across the fences and the sides of the house. I once thought the climbers would be beans and peas but after two years of very average to poor performances from peas and beans, I think roses and clematis deserve a go instead.

Tonight I gave some time to my little clematis this evening. I pulled the rampant nasturtiums away from it, weeded, watered with my liquid fertiliser brew (mostly seaweed and comfrey) and mulched with pea straw. I retrained the clematis vine which had been vining through the nasturtium to go up the bamboo, with the help of the twine recycled from the bale of pea straw.

I stared through the fence to look at my neighbours' beautiful roses and noticed that they use a dark green rigid mesh (looks like plastic coated wire) to train their roses up. I'll be pricing that down at the garden shop this weekend. As well as putting some up for the clematis, I want some against the house. My pink rose cutting (the one I struck myself) is looking happy so far and I have plans to put more roses in against the house. The house is made of bricks and I think roses growing up against it will look wonderful. Of course, I'll be putting garlic in around each one this coming winter.

In the punga raised bed is my first rose (apart from the ones in front of the lounge which were here when we bought the house) - a Dublin Bay climber. The punga raised bed is otherwise currently swamped by yams. I hope there are some tubers underneath come winter. The foliage is impressive, but not edible. But perhaps once the yams are out I could shift the white rose from the front of the house - the one which rambles and swamps everything else and flops onto the driveway and threatens to puncture the car tyres - into the punga garden where it can flop all over the punga logs and generally spread everywhere. I would still plant vegetables, or herbs at least, around the roses. Maybe carrots would like it in there with them? Maybe 2009 will be the year in which I successfully grow carrots for the first time ever?

I'm still undecided about my yellow banksia climbing rose. It's the yellow thing. I bought it for the front and I'm rethinking the front and moving towards stately tall things and perhaps a bush rose with garlic around it, but not a bold yellow climber after all. Which means the yellow goes somewhere out the back. White, soft pinks and bold reds, really bold reds, I do. But yellow, hmmm less often. Perhaps it could go where the last tiny kale seedling died, beside the rhubarb. Then it wouldn't be in the same eyeframe as my pink rose. Although as I type I'm thinking that two years running a tomato did very poorly in that spot and then the kale died. Perhaps it isn't the place to put a $17 rose. Seventeen dollars might not be super expensive in terms of roses, but it is pretty flash on my scale.

I'm also thinking flowers because the bulb catalogues and advertisements are out now. Every year I imagine that despite a straightened budget that year, the next I might splash out on hundreds of dollars of bulbs and have totally gorgeous profusion. This year is no exception. But I always always allow myself a few new bulbs each Autumn. Last year I left the freesias in the ground amongst the herbs down one side of the house. I got annoyed with the few bulbs which came up along the back of the house as they looked silly in isolation and dumped them on the compost. I gave up on planting special expensive canna lilies as Brighid ripped my one and only out last year and hid it somewhere where it has not grown. I've left the bluebells from last year in along the front of our bedroom and am hopeful that they will come up even more plentiful this year. I think I will get some more for that garden as I ultimately want a thick carpet of spring bloom there. I've already bought some yellow freesias - I planned to plant them around the yellow banksia rose.

Daffodils, which I always assumed were dead easy to grow, haven't done well at this house. Today I read that slugs love daffodil bulbs. I expect that explains the problem. I guess I could raise them in pots (where I can control the slug population fairly well) and transplant in spring.

Tulips are totally and utterly gorgeous and I'd love hundreds of them. I've had mixed success with them here.

I have found a catalogue with snowdrops in it. I've not seen them at the garden shop in the last three years that I've been gardening on the coast, but I have missed them. They were the first sign of imminent spring in the garden of my childhood. Onionweed provides a similar looking, albeit smelly, alternative, but I do fancy the 'real thing'.

On the vege front, the kale and silverbeet is looking well. I am about to cull one poorly tomato and plant some more winter veg. Brighid sat on the cabbages in the weekend so I'm not yet sure if they will survive the ravages of the fat bottomed nappy girl. We are eating our own tomatoes and the beetroot seedlings are perhaps a week off transplanting. The new rhubarb is looking sickly but I figure that often the old leaves die off and just when despair looms very close, new leaves appear.

garden redesign

Despite knowing upside down and inside out that I should be sowing lettuce seeds every few weeks for a constant supply, I don't, which is why I had heaps go to seed in the hot weather recently and now have none. Could do better.

I am going to dig out some of my roses at the front of the lounge. If a rose can grow from a tiny cutting, then surely one could re-establish itself if I dug most of it's roots out with it? I want to remove the most vigorous white (palest pink actually) rose and re-home it. That should leave room for the others to live in better balance.

The area out the front of the garage is an odd shape and is currently home to potatoes, a globe artichoke, a zucchini, lawn, large and small size flaxes, some almost hidden sunflowers, blackberry and pumpkin, one rose, lots of weeds and a pile of diy materials to be recycled. The new lean-to has diminished this pile nicely. Oh and a huge tree which I don't know the name of which is good for climbing. Also a falling down fence held up by the stump of a formerly invasive tree and around another side some shadecloth rigged up on recycled stakes. I don't want to get a designer in to sort it out, and not because it would be expensive. I really feel that it is our home, my baby garden project and that I want to work it out. Even if it does take a long time. So I have worked out that the flowers need to be to the front and that where I first planted pumpkins actually needs to be a path to get to the climbing tree. I'd like roses there and in the raised bed where the pumpkins are, I'm thinking of garlic and a rose this coming winter. I need to post some photos, take measurements and get my thinking cap on for success.

I am now the very proud and excited owner of Andrew Whitley's book on bread. I made some rye starter and the beginning of a loaf the day before the book arrived. I managed to burn the outside of the loaves but the inside tasted nice. The 100% rye taste is very nice and I plan to make more, next time with a pleasant outside as well as inside.

More firewood today. $345. Better go be a mother again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

garden progress

We have visitors at the moment. Favourite Handyman's Dad loves to do diy. Which is a pretty good thing in a houseguest given that he is also good at it. So they are building a lean-to on one of the sheds. They were talking about putting old roofing iron as the roof covering which may have squared with FH's ideas about using it for storing firewood, but didn't square so well with my ideas of using it as a greenhouse for frost tender plants and for raising seedlings.

So it was with a certain pleasure that I heard last night that the old roofing iron has too many holes in it to function as a cover to keep wood dry. Today fil and I went shopping for see-through plastic corrugated roofing. The wooden structure to support the lean to is now made and apparently the current focus is on spouting. I've also been hearing about something called flashings. I certainly have a renewed respect for the size of even seemingly small building projects costwise. We had a lot of wood to recycle, but still spent over $150 on wood just for a small lean-to.

My parents-in-law arrived with some rhubarb plants. These rhubarb plants were once in a garden of FH's in Canterbury a long time before I met him. Some of them then went up to Auckland and were divided and flourished in the garden of our brother in law. Who has now, many many years later, sent some down to us. I had to do a lot of weeding to get a spot ready but two out of three of them are now in the garden.

I planted my first rose cutting outside the study last week and it appears to be happy. In the weekend I went shopping for garden supplies and another blueberry plant and used up my garden shop loyalty card. Which meant I could choose a frivolous treat. So I am now the rather pleased owner of a yellow banksia climbing rose, which will go out the front. Out the front is the current plan but I am wondering if the area is too exposed to seabreezes for roses. There is certainly loads of old fencing to be covered all round the back garden where it is more sheltered. Although the back garden was supposed to be pink rose-wise, not yellow plus pink. I'd love to have garden spaces with colour themes, or at least harmonious colour accents, but I'm not sure I have the self-discipline to really make that happen.

On the kitchen front, I went to use the most recent batch of 'sun dried tomatoes' and could see danger signs instantly. I had overdried the first batch but I don't think that is dangerous, just cosmetically not so good. But the next batch went in too juicy. I opened the jar to find the top one puffed up and white growths. I licked one and rinsed my mouth out straight away. Not just unpleasant tasting but I had the warnings of botulism ringing in my ears.

I seem to have settled on a kefir management routine. Apart from if I know someone wants some as a starter, I eat almost half of the grains each day (yes mine is back to growing very quickly in the hot water cupboard). Combined with a little honey or jam it makes a lovely yoghurt like dessert or addition to a bowl of muesli. Yeah I've read the nourishing traditions and other soaking grain advice and I still have muesli sometimes. Just goes to show what an irresponsible person I can be. I comfort myself with the knowledge that as yet I'm not including brandy in my breakfast. I have a ways to fall yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

another day in paradise

It is paradise. Paradise. We are all alive, most particularly Favourite Handyman and Fionn and Brighid and I are alive.

I don't take it for granted. We live very close to Fionn's school. But a state highway lies between our road and the school. A busy state highway and despite endless lobbying, we have never been allowed a pedestrian crossing or lollipop flags much less the overhead bridge which would be much better. About half of the school population lives on our side of the big road.

Every day the staff of Fionn's school take turns bringing all the children across the big busy road and across the smaller one which runs parallel on the other side of the train track. We don't worry too much about crossing the train track as there are never more than three trains per day. Trains don't speed up from nowhere.

At the end of each school day, the traffic is crazy. Dense and going in all directions. Sometimes people stop to allow the staff to cross the children over the road. Sometimes we all wait a very long time for a gap to cross the road in. Last week a parent from our school stopped. Another car from behind came up and overtook from the inside.

Where are you going that is more important than the lives of our children?

If you have never encountered the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, then it is an interesting read and provides much food for thought. I feel like our community is living that story each time we cross the state highway to and from school.

In other news, I made scones with my organic freshly zentrofan milled otane flour today. I thought they were a bit average actually. It could be that I didn't put enough liquid in them or it could be that given otane flour is a good flour for gluten sensitive people to eat, I need to add a bit of gluten flour to the mix, or adjust the raising agents. Or just experiment more. I am making another sourdough starter with the zentrofan rye. It was bubbling for the past two days but not today. That happened another time but this time I shall not chicken out and turf it. I fed it some water and flour and we'll box on experimenting.

I investigated tools (weapons?) for making sauerkraut today. I am the weird one who plagues the fancy kitchenware shop we have in town. Last time I wanted the perfect strainer for kefir. Just read Nikki's blog (comments) about how much sauerkraut smells. I think it would be wise to save the experiment until after this weekend when my parents in law are in residence.

At lunchtime I went to my first meeting of the Blackball Working Class History Museum Trust. The website is down at the moment but I'll update when it is going. The Trust has been going for a while before I was asked to join - probably a few years I think. Today's meeting wasn't riveting - financial accounts and debates on where the windows should go aren't really my thing - but I think the concept is fabulous and look forward to being able to contribute more later on.

Monday, February 9, 2009

love, food & laundry

Today, from a capitalist viewpoint, I achieved nothing. I did not buy anything, or work for money, or covet anything material.


On the way back from the school run (hardly onerous, we live across the road from Fionn's school), I saw my friend R and her boy. They had stopped to pick up their avocadoes. I run a small avocado co-op. So R and L came in and we spent the morning and lunch together. While the children played, we caught up on news and weeded the area around the sandpit.

In the afternoon I did more kitchen stuff to gain some order from my stock making missions of the night before and got the tomatoes cooking into rich pasta sauce. Then school run again and soon after P and his daughter A dropped off some of their washing. They live out of town on tank water and are low on water. Later they called back and chatted while I made dinner. Then dinner and family time before Favourite Handyman went back to work.

In the middle of that the laundry went. The washing machine and I breathe at similar rates. If you were paranoid about my health, you would put a checking device on the washing machine and call the ambulance people if it hadn't been in use for a certain (rather small) number of hours. I didn't buy the machine to look at.

So we ate 'proper' food and we linked up with our friends and I'd had such a nice day I was even moderately patient with my children between 4.30 and 7pm, which is something I am not generally good at.

Those speculatey people can go and speculate on their false promises and buy and sell imaginary paper money goods (or e-money goods). I have no plans to join them. A life of love is a life worth living.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gelatine Sunday

Two lots of stock today. I started the beef stock last night and cooked it in the slow cooker until midday today. Then I switched the cooker off and left the stock to cool until it was manageable. It is now strained and in the fridge. Minestrone later in the week I expect. Too bad that it is summer and thus quite heavy food. But any other favourites for using beef stock which are more summery in style are welcome.

The fish stock is cooking as I type. That will be used tomorrow night for potato and green olive tagine. Currently we have neither green olives or a tagine dish in the house but this recipe from Cuisine magazine has worked with lots of adaptations in the past so should work tomorrow also.

I also made sushi and basil pesto today. The tomato pasta sauce I am leaving for tomorrow. A girl can only be so good in the kitchen in one day. I put some finely chopped celery in the sushi as according to Laksmi my herbal/cranio-sacral/massage therapist, celery is very very good for me. So is ginger, which I also put in the sushi. I've been reading more on Chinese medicine and some people are deficient and others are excess. I'm excess. I am also damp and need cooling and drying foods. Well well well. It's quite fun being a food nutter. All sorts of new things to try and to think about. The book I am consulting for all of this (Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods) also says alcohol is bad. I did go alcohol free Monday - Friday last week, but not in the weekend. I'm not that committed.

I forgot completely about today being seed sowing day until I read Nikki's blog tonight once it was dark. Seed sowing is risky with Brighid around anyway. But I did spread some more pea straw on the old chook run. I left one tomato to grow along the ground unstaked as an experiment. I'd read somewhere that they can grow well like this. We are eating yummy cheery tomatoes from this snaking along plant and tonight I discovered that it has made roots in new places. One way of increasing the nutrient intake I guess.

I also watered the zucchinis and globe artichoke with my seaweed and comfrey brew. I've been watering the tomatoes and brassicas with this over the past few days but I've still got a few litres left. My comfrey plants have grown vigorously, all in places where many other plants don't grow. Two plants are in the shade and in a relatively dry spot. Two plants are in partial shade which is a bog for all of spring. As nothing else grows in the boggy spot, I'm going to put more comfrey there for next year. I've cut most of the comfrey down and chopped it up. It has half filled my large rubbish bin and been covered with water and then with the lid. Next time I go out to the beach north of smallwettown, I'll gather seaweed and add it to the brew.

The strip of garden along the back of the house is one I made myself in early 2007. I started with broad beans (which we mostly didn't eat) and then grew tomatoes in it last summer. The celery I put in there lasted all winter and the brassicas have done moderately well this summer. It is on quite a slope though and the bottom part gets very wet during the very wet season which here is about nine months of the year but particularly in Spring. I have often looked at it and thought we need to wait until we can afford a truck load of compost, or a trailer load at the very least.

But my latest, and definitely better, plan, is to build it up in small sections. I started last week with the mushroom compost. The rocket is poking through there and the radiccio (which I misnamed chicory when I last blogged about it) is looking healthy. Tonight I found a piece of wood and used it to set up a small terrace effect just under a metre below where the mushroom compost patch finished. Then I sprinkled dolimite lime, boron and powdered blood and bone. I covered that with sheep poo and covered the sheep poo with kinpack powdered sheep manure which is a product from ground up sheep dags. Then I forked on big wads of pea straw and grass clippings from the compost heap. I have only just remembered that this is possibly the site where I buried the chicken bones last week. It should be Jack and the Beanstalk country at this rate. I watered all that in with the hose and in a week or so I'll plant some seedlings.

A few weeks ago, maybe a month, I took cuttings from my neighbour's rambling rose bush. I potted up three cuttings and two of them 'took'. So I have them on the outside table hardening up a bit before I plant them. I had thought all new flower acquisitions would go in the side garden but I already have red and orange flowers there and the rambling rose cuttings are pink. Perhaps I should put them in along the back of the house, which would suit pink. Where I have just made the richest new soil imaginable? Hmmm. Then I could add garlic there in winter. Given that garlic and roses make each other so happy in the garden. Then maybe as there are two cuttings, I should put the other one along the side fence out the back (no I don't expect anyone else to visualise where that might be!) where a kale plant died last week. Hmmmmm. I was thinking more veges for those spots but gardens don't have to be all veges (though mine has to be mostly veges). I guess I'll have to sort out trellis or some kind of training apparatus for the roses, no matter where they go.

On the subject of roses, I assumed that the yellow one I planted out the very front by the big climbing tree and on the edge of the driveway, would be swamped and suffering. Everything else in the yellow garden patch seems to be rather overgrown. But no, it is growing and indeed has a flower on it. So it can stay there, where I shall build up some rich goodies like blood and bone and compost around it, and eventually it can wind and twirl itself along the old fence which borders the driveway and smother it with yellow roses. There might be a lot of mess and rough edges on our section, but it most surely is growing food, flowers and pleasure for my family.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More on food

Not something I'm about to suffer, but this article about orthorexia, when people's lives become taken over by food dogma, is very interesting.

I am still reading as much as I can easily get my hands or eyes on about immune system building foods. It all seems to come back to the health of the gut. I'm watching Nikki's blog with great interest as her family embark on a diet to heal their guts, specifially in support of Nikki's young son who has had big health challenges of late.

Today I found some more broth ingredients. We had to go to Hokitika to get the car fixed, so got to shop at the fishmongers and at the local craft and produce market. The fishmonger gave me bones for stock for free and checked that I knew how to make the fish stock without it going bitter. So tonight I am putting beef bones to cook overnight and tomorrow I will make fish stock. I am looking around and thinking of recipes to use my broths in to expand from my standard risotto and soup usages.

I found the Hari Hari butcher's caravan and had a chat with the butcher. He doesn't use West Coast animals for his meat either, though he would very much like to. He has a homekill service as part of his business but is not allowed to sell that commercially. The costs of setting up a commercial abbatoir are prohibitive (I've heard this from another butcher on the coast recently too) and so his meat comes from Canterbury. Drives me insane. The logic of these regulations is very unclear. I was relaying this to the goat cheese people on the way home when I stopped to buy feta and they agreed. They had huge hoops to jump through to get their cheese production okayed and are still not allowed to export.

But the cheese people had another story for me. They used to farm beef cattle. Two of their three year old beasts tested positive for TB and so they were given $100 for each animal. They were not allowed to buy them back themselves. So they researched and found out where the animals went. They go into the supermarket meat chain. They calculated that each beast would have produced, for the people who paid only $100, six thousand dollars' worth of meat. Errrm, where are the ethics in all of this?

Last night I got out in the garden. I weeded the old chook run and pulled out spent plants and thinned where things were growing too thickly. Some of the lettuce has bolted or become bitter already so much of the lettuce went to the compost or the chook run. I removed zillions of caterpillars and eggs and still found some fat caterpillars feasting on the same plants this morning. I am part way through mulching the old chook run with pea straw.

Returning to term time, with school runs, tired children and me working part time, has turned me into a weekend gardener for the moment. It has also had an impact on my projects inside - I've nearly forgotten the kefir. But slowly I am getting some rhythm back and I've got my kefir tasting nice again. I bought a huge bunch of basil today (and somehow spent $23 on less than 400gms of pine nuts later on - ouch) and so have pesto to make tonight. I also want to get some sourdough going again. There isn't much point me paying good money for freshly milled organic flour if I leave it in the container untouched for months...

Then there are the tomatoes I bought this afternoon for making pasta sauce...

I fall off the good food wagon on a fairly regular basis, almost always when I am short of time. Today's pie for breakfast is an extreme example, but it isn't a once a year phenomenon. The hot chips we shared after swimming this afternoon now scream 'naughty' at me given all the reading I've been doing on carbohydrates, but they did taste very yummy. As I wasn't dressed this morning when our kind panelbeating friend rang to say it was time to get going and meet him, a chilly bin full of healthy goodies to sustain us on our day out was a romantic and pleasant idea, not something that was going to become reality. Once we were home again and the children had two parents in the house at once, I cooked proper food for dinner. I made raita to go with the fish, potatoes and salad and reflected that raita is probably a good condiment for probiotic purposes.

I've been seeing something called 24-hour yoghurt crop up in my gut healing reading. I presume this is any old yoghurt (including easiyo?) which has been fermented for 24 hours before going in the fridge? Because if it is, then I've been making that for a while now, 100% because I so often forget about the yoghurt's existence until 24 hours after I've put it down to culture. Although the packet says 8 hours, I generally do a minimum of 12, even on days when my memory is functioning well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I've been learning more recntly about the benefits of eating broths. The minerals and gelatin in the meat based broths are wonderful things. Or so the books and websites tell me.

Last night we ate risotto made from chicken stock (home made stock but not home grown chicken). Tonight we ate lamb shanks with some of the juices from cooking them (in the slow cooker) poured over the top. I kept the unused juices from the cooking dish. They are in the fridge now and sometime tomorrow I will work out how to maximise our broth goodies by cooking the evening meal using the shank broth.

I guess I'll be at the butcher's more from now on.

Monday, February 2, 2009

a change of pace

The long languid days of summer have turned into hot sticky days of school and work. I didn't even go to work today, just organised everyone else, and that alone wore me out. I'll get my stamina back some time this month I guess.

Kept my sunglasses on as I watched Fionn (6) in his new class and then watched the whole school assembly...

I even started proper mother activities like swimming lessons. I was the taxi and financial provider for them, not the actual lesson provider.

Tonight I have made lunches for everyone for tomorrow as we all hit the term time world then. I have put all the ingredients bar the hot water for spicey lamb shanks in the slow cooker. I figure the shanks can thaw out overnight and at breakfast time I will add the hot water and turn the slow cooker on. So that's tomorrow's dinner sorted. I have two loads of washing on the line ready to dry tomorrow and the nappy wash is on as I type. I've got the oats soaking in whey and water overnight (a la Sally Fallon) for tomorrow's porridge. I've got that going as a routine finally and hope that indeed the children do absorb more nutrients from the porridge with the phytates neutralised. Fionn has stopped asking me suspiciously if I've been putting kefir in the porridge because it tastes different. My children seem to be able to sniff out and reject products with kefir in them from a distance of metres.

I buried the bones from my most recent batch of chicken stock in the garden this afternoon. A friend who visited a few months ago recommended this as a way of returning nutrients to the soil and this is the first time I have made it happen. I don't know if this means that my whole garden will eventually be a graveyard or not. Maybe chicken bones rot down soonishly, but I suspect large beef bones would take longer.

Back to the subject of kefir. I got sick of the dishes and milk outlay involved in changing the kefir milk every day. So instead of several jars of kefir (old Hellmanns mayo jars of just over 800gm capacity) with the plastic lids on loosely, I put the kefir in a 2 litre jar with cling film over the top and put it in the ingredients cupboard instead of the hot water cupboard. I also got slack about the proportions and often only put as much milk in as there were grains. I only drained the kefir every second day and found this less of a hassle and less of an expense. I was using huge amounts of expensive organic milk every week on the old system. Except that today when I drained the milk off and sat down to have a kefir drink and check my email, the stuff tasted disgusting, really acidic.

So back to the drawing board, or to the hot water cupboard anyway. I've read that kefir can almost always be resurrected, except if it has turned pink or brown and my kefir has done neither of those things. I've split the grains into two old mayo jars and topped up with milk on a roughly 1:5 ratio and put the jars in the hot water cupboard. I'll be draining and adding fresh milk every day and we'll see what shape the kefir is in in a week's time.

My order of freshly milled organic flour from Terrace Farms arrived this morning. So I have rye and purple wheat and otane wheat - 20kgs in total. I can report that although brown paper bags have that enviro-aware aura, they also tear very easily. I'll have to rebag two of the four bags into plastic already. Come Wednesday and hopefully some time not at work, I'll get a rye sourdough starter going. Although I have tentatively booked in to clean my friend's chook house out then and nothing as unimportant as a food project will be allowed to get in the way of a compost project...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I will stick to using up my wool scraps...

Last I wrote that I was part way through the gorgeous homespun and home dyed wool from Granity and that after that I would move on to other balls in my stash. A stash which I had thought was too small to be called a stash before I cleaned the study and faced the sum total of all the balls previously in bags all over the place. Today I used up the homespun wool and thought how very beautiful the dress would look if I picked out the green in the variegated wool at our local wool shop and did the rest of the dress in soft green.

Two things.

The wool shop is not open on a Sunday, it is Sunday today and I want to carry on with the dress.

We were at friends for lunch today and one of our friends talked about how people on secure jobs (very luckily, this includes us) are in an improved position and should spend up a bit. This really jarred with me, as it did the first time someone I heard the idea (from someone else again). It doesn't feel right. Is it because I feel there is too much wasteful consumption clogging up our planet? Is it because I feel sick, as I do, at the idea that I am benefitting from the misfortune of others as our mortgage interest rate drops and shop prices fall while others no longer have a job?

So I am continuing on the dress using up my odd balls of wool. I am knitting in black now.