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Monday, 27 July 2015

Junk Mail, Growing Turmeric and How Bad Are Bananas

A couple of weeks back we started getting junk mail again in our rural mailbox. I figured our regular postie must be on holiday, but it turns out she'd left and the replacement had just started leaving the same glut of what everyone else was getting in our mailbox. The "N/C" (which I always thought stood for "no crap", but actually meant "no circulars") had washed off our mailbox. 
I caught up with the new postie and it was quickly sorted. It was a reminder of how much I hate junk mail.

I recently read the book "How Bad are Bananas" by Mike Berners-Lee, which gives the carbon footprint of many items that we use as consumers.

One calculation was for mail:
140g CO2e a 10g letter made from recycled paper and recycled by you
200g CO2e a typical 25g letter printed on virgin paper and sent to the landfill
1600g CO2e a small catalogue sent to the landfill

Some of the other consumer products he delved into and put figures on - a pair of shoes, a night in a hotel, a load of laundry, a paperback book.
Food for thought, I found it interesting.

turmeric roots

Turmeric is the new wonder food, being attributed with warding off cancer, fixing joint pain and improving sleep.
I have been searching for some roots to grow it myself, and came across them last week at PutiPuti Ra, the healthy living shop in Whangarei. (Puti Puti Ra is Maori for sunflower). They were a good price too. Imported from Fiji and unfumigated, hopefully they will grow in a pot in our OLA (outdoor living area).
According to what I have read, I should be able to start harvesting in about 10 months. 

I'm watching the mailbox eagerly this week - I have some greenie products coming in...more on these next time hopefully.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Not Presoaking Pulses, Pressure Cookers

I read something recently which goes against all I know about cooking dried beans. I have always soaked them prior to cooking, but this article by Russ Parsons in the Los Angeles Daily Times says don't bother! Apparently they have more flavour, only take a little longer to cook and cause no more digestion issues than soaked ones. The web page gives all the information you will need, with a lot of trials by the writer having gone into it. 

I was going to try it the other day as I cooked up a batch of red kidney beans to divide and freeze, but really I had plenty of time to soak them. I will definitely do the no-soak method in the future.
The other thing I hadn't thought about was cooking the beans, covered, in the oven while I was cooking other things (worked well of course). I've always boiled them. Funny how you do what you've always done.

Pressure Cookers

I have memories from my childhood of the hissing monster on the stove, overcooked vegetables, and a heavy pressure cooker that was such a pain to hand wash. These things were enough to have me steer clear of using a pressure cooker.

But Derek has made some fabulous meals in one recently, using casserole steak that would have needed two to three hours in the oven to tenderize. His meals took 30 minutes. Hmmm. I just took lessons from him.
For those days when you are running out of time to cook a long slow meal this is perfect, plus it uses less power. Win/win.

I'm probably the last person on earth to do these things...but maybe there's one other who will read this and be inspired! 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Garden Tools and Best Laid Plans

Last Christmas there was a long parcel under the tree for me from Derek. Ah the anticipation - I was getting excited in the hopes it was a new girls' spade. My one is much loved - it stays sharp as a knife - nothing else cuts through the kikuyu like that, and is beautifully light. It's on it's last digs, but I am still using it. Anyone else got tools like this?

Yep, still in use

I was a bit disappointed at first to find it wasn't a spade.....
but now I love it! It's a rechargeable Black and Decker Weed Whipper.

The battery keeps going for about 20 minutes at a time, but it's a good 20 minute start to each morning - when it's not too cold.
It means tidy edges without Round-up or hard labour.
Derek said he didn't want to get me a spade as he knew it had to be just right. Oh...there was something a bit more girly wrapped up too. Spoilt!

Gardening is not much fun at the moment - the possums are eating everything again and we can't seem to catch them - they're not stupid.
The only things they leave are rocket and NZ spinach - the rest has been gnawed to the stalks, sigh.

The photo shows my gnawed kale and a bucket of Manuka (teatree) branches which are just fabulous as fire starters. You can see the Manuka in the background. And the rocket bushes...and the empty possum trap.

An Update

I mentioned a few posts back that I'm doing Plastic Free July. As predicted it has highlighted areas for improvement - which is half the reason that I am doing it. At the end of the month I'm going to scrutinize what's in my carton and see how we can do better. Yes, that is a carton, not a jam jar... (milk bottles)
I use powdered milk in cooking, but haven't converted anyone for coffee and cereals. 

In this post I talked about my list to get myself motivated. It has gone the way of many resolutions as I have suddenly become much more busy with learning music and practicing for the upcoming....

Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival.

My other income that allows me to be "retired" is from rental income, and with a change in tenant I suddenly have a lot on my plate. But I haven't forgotten my list - when I write these things down, they seem to find their way into my life anyway. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Hand Warmers, Some Eco Shopping

You Northern Hemisphere people will laugh at us, but we are starting to feel the cold here, with it having got down to one degree at night (I think that's 33.8 Fahrenheit).

Brown rice filled hand warmers - a good way to use up fabric scraps

I made my daughter a couple of little pocket handwarmers, and when the other girls saw (and felt) them, they wanted some too, hence the little birds, and not shown, one more manly and larger dinosaur for the grandson.

I filled them with brown rice, and each little bag heats up in a minute in the microwave, along with half a cup of water alongside to stop them drying out and presumably catching fire. The warmth lasts nearly half an hour.
They can be kept in the freezer to use as an ice pack too.
I'm sure in colder climes these are something you have been using for years.

Yesterday I kept my friend Di company on a shopping trip to Auckland. I just have to show you this shop she took me to called Junk and Disorderly, at 18 Kawana Street, Northcote (you can find them on Facebook). Di found the old tap and a crystal droplet she wanted to make her water feature. All I bought was some rolls of washi tape, as they have a section of new things as well as a massive amount of preloved but nicely displayed stock.
Junk and Disorderly, Northcote, Auckland

Washi tape is great as it is paper tape, biodegradable, you can use it to stick things to your walls and it wont take paint or paper off when removed, or for lots of craft ideas and it comes in so many colours and patterns.

washi tape

Next was a visit to a place that sells everything for water features, and I couldn't resist this photo of the prices of driftwood!

 We could be rich! Derek, you can retire right now!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Ice Cream Beans and Getting (Clothes) Dirty

Don't Wash It Unless It's Dirty

A change I have made around home, in the process of greening up our lifestyle, has been to reduce the amount of washing I do...(clever eh, cuts down work too). This required retraining the young one, when she came to live with us 18 months ago, out of the habit of wearing "fashion" at home and throwing everything in the wash when it's not actually dirty. She's pretty good now, which all helps when you have tank water only.

This leads to some strange outfits on my own behalf, because I try to dress from the pile of my already worn items - with a view to looking, ahem, unique. 
I chuckled one day when the rural postie, visiting to deliver a parcel, inquired if I had been doing a workout...picture leggings, layers, scarf headband. No, I just dress for comfort.

Inga Beans

I've been back visiting my friend Agnes and her lovely garden (see her garden here in a previous post). She was pruning her hibiscus plants and said I could take as much as I wanted for cuttings. I must have put in 100 cuttings, so hope that at least 10 will live, because I'm not that great with shrubby cuttings.
But she also gave me some of these beans off her tree.

Inga Beans aka Ice cream beans

They look like something from Jack and The Beanstalk, but are also known as Ice Cream Beans, as the fluffy bit surrounding the beans tastes like vanilla icecream. I rather liked them, others were not so sure. The white stuff has a candy floss texture and is sweet.
Inga beans originated in Central and South America, where apparently they roast the actual beans and eat them as a snack food.

Inga Bean seeds

The Inga Bean tree

The trees grow to about 6-8 metres here in New Zealand, in almost any soil. They will fruit after 3 years. The beans grow up to a metre long!
I've put some beans in pots to grow some, so anyone nearby - let me know if you want one, as they apparently have a 99% success rate.