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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Food Forest and Pruning Tomatoes

Last weekend we visited a local private property along with about twenty other people as part of the Transition Towns Movement.
It was a beautiful spot at Pataua North, with a rammed earth home, a food forest (picture yourself in a forest where nearly everything around you is food) and great views.

That mulch is kikuyu grass - cut like hay - horrible spreading stuff, good to see it is useful for something.

It was a beautiful morning - and always pleasant to meet like-minded people. It was the first Transition Town garden we had made it to, but will definitely try to get to more. All the ideas you gain from other people's experience make it so worthwhile.

Love that gate

At this particular garden they are able to harvest ripe bananas all year round.

Paths meander through the wilderness, no mowing of lawns here

The utilities side of the house. You can just see the door to a concrete tank, built into the bank, which makes an effective cold cellar.

We all found the tour of the composting toilet and the operating instructions interesting too - thanks Hans for the entertainment.
We both came away with enthusiasm to plant more food bearing trees, and to add more ground covers like kumara (sweet potato) and nasturtiums.
We are on the right track, but could do so much more. We have friends and family around who are happy to take any excess fruit and vegetables.

Do You Prune Your Tomatoes?

A garden tip that I have read about recently in Organic Gardener (Australia) Oct 2015, concerns to prune (nip out the laterals) or not to prune tomato plants.

Tomato lateral - to nip or not to nip...?

The Diggers Club study showed that unpruned tomato plants had greater yields, and that there was less chance of disease. The downside being that more staking would be required. 
I have always tried to nip out those laterals, so any excuse for less work looks good to me - I'll be leaving most of them this year.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

On Being a Scrooge

Frugality - also known as Make Do And Mend

I have some nifty little frugal tricks, some of which I don't let out in public, but seeing as my family don't read my blog yet (that I am aware of) these things are safe on here and won't be one day added to my eulogy.

I have not managed to find my favourite tea other than in teabag form. The packaging and bags of this tea are fully biodegradable, so I feel better about that. However, I have discovered that I can get two uses out of each teabag - hence saving myself at least $50/year. The second cup is as good as the first. Anyone else that frugal? 

My next frugal trick has to do with those wretchedly expensive vacuum cleaner bags. In a previous post here I wrote about emptying and restitching them up, but recently I reclaimed a pack of bags from my daughter, whose vacuum cleaner has died. I was just going to donate them to a charity as they are not the same make as mine, but on closer inspection, the bags from my daughter had a cardboard backing. So I just traced around the plate on my bag to get the cardboard one to fit into my vacuum - hey presto, works perfectly. So from now on I will be looking in charity shops for discarded packs of bags which I can alter in this way.

Reclaimed bag marked out ready to cut to fit my vacuum cleaner

I can also happily state that after 14 months of not buying any clothes new (apart from underwear) I have embarked on my second round of buying no clothes at all for 12 months. So that includes no shoes, underwear, material. Although I will allow myself to buy recycled trims etc to work refashioning what I already have, and will allow for one purchase if I have a social emergency - ie really unexpected special event, but will hopefully manage without this.

And finally a make-do in the kitchen. Sometimes I can't believe that I have got to this age without knowing/ doing some things. So this is for anyone who hasn't tried this yet.

Pesto - made from all your garden greens

My basil crop is not large enough yet to make a full pesto from - requiring about 2 cups of leaves. Recently I read about someone who uses kale (remove the centre rib), silverbeet/chard, lettuce - or really whatever greens are available. So all of those went into my pesto, along with parsley and a little coriander and much less basil than usual. The result was scrumptious! Katie liked it even more than the standard basil version. I use cashews instead of pine nuts, which are so expensive.

If you already do these things, give yourself a 10/10 for frugality. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

It worked! and A Useful Refashion

So first up - how did my fruit leathers turn out from the Solar Dehydrator? (Previous post)

Woohoo - look at this!

Rhubarb & apple fruit leather from the solar dehydrator

 One tray was ready after 24 hours, the other took an extra few hours the next day. The speckles that you can see are my ground home-grown stevia that I used to help sweeten them up a bit.

Home made Roll ups

So I'm going to be making lots more, making use of those sunny days, plus will be doing sundried tomatoes and little feijoa bits when they are in season. All for free!

Something to do with Tee Shirts
I really don't suit tee shirts - the standard neckline doesn't look good on me, and now that I'm a bit older, I find anything around my neck a bit suffocating. If you are over 50 you might relate to this.
I found this blog Boundless Beauty via Pinterest. She gives good directions for converting a standard tee shirt into an off the shoulder tee. I didn't cut mine quite so wide, but am so happy with the result. From a tee shirt that I wasn't wearing, to one that will get lots of use.
Another thing that I did differently - apart from not bothering with all the measuring (typical of me), was to hand stitch a little rolled hem around the neckline. I also turned the sleeves up and stitched them in place to shorten them to be more feminine, and to suit my (short) stature.

Ok, so here's the evidence. No before photo - you all know what a band tee shirt looks like and I struggle with putting photos of myself on here - but too bad.

Derek bought me that tee shirt, so I did a dummy run on another one first, just in case it failed, but he agrees it looks better too.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

My Homemade Solar Dehydrator

A few posts back I let on that I intended to make a solar dehydrator, like this one that I found pictured in Mother Earth News. (The instructions are there too)

Well now it's finished and has my first batch of rhubarb and apple fruit leather in it to try it out.
It took me a couple of hours to make - most of which was searching around here to find the materials - it cost me nothing! Yep, I had everything right here.

My home made solar dehydrator

Double layer of apple and rhubarb fruit leather
I used:
2 cardboard boxes - one long and narrow, the other a banana box type.
1 acrylic sheet, that Derek had previously saved from being thrown out when his work office moved (yay, score!)
Some duct tape to join it all and cover extra holes in the banana box
A blade to cut the holes at the ends of the long box
1 mesh window screen for the top of the box
2 cake racks
Some black weed mat, in lieu of black paint, which I was too lazy to do

The construction (typical of me who never measures anything) is a bit wonky, but hey, it works.
I tried the heat producing part out yesterday - wow, the hot air was pumping through there.

Ok, so it has only been going for a couple of hours, and I expect the fruit leather will take maybe 24 hours to dry?, but I'm all excited about it so I'm putting on here today. Then there will be an update next time - success or fail?!

Make Do And Mend

Don't you hate it when you buy stuff, and they have spent so long designing it to be ergonomic but it fails to actually function efficiently. I was on to my second bottle brush. With the first one the tip was too big to actually fit into a bottle neck, the second one I made sure would fit in - but it had such a fat handle (and was too short) that it would only reach halfway into the bottle, and we all know the bit that really needs cleaning is the bottom of the bottle.
Well I was not going to buy another one. I found that the brush bit just unscrewed, then I found a nice slim piece of bamboo, drilled a wee hole in it and screwed the brush tip securely into it.
Bottle brush - new bamboo handle, old handle next to it.

 Man, I felt like a winner! It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

If You Like Butter Chicken, You Will Love Butter Chickpeas!

This recipe, which I found in The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook, by New Zealanders Alison and Simon Holst, is a winner.

It's quick and easy - which meets my cooking criteria, is a tasty meat alternative and is healthy too - no butter in this butter chickpea recipe, and the flavour is that of butter chicken.

Butter Chickpeas - now I wish I had picked up that piece of potato that fell over!

I cook my chickpeas from dried and soaked, then freeze them, but you can use canned chickpeas. Likewise, you can use ready-made garam masala or concoct your own, as I did (recipe for this at the end)

Butter Chickpeas

310g can of chickpeas
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of canola oil
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp  ground cumin
300g can of condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup of cream (I used canned reduced cream)
200 grams of boiled, cubed potatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic, cook.
Stir in the curry powder and spices, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the tomato soup, cream, chickpeas and potatoes.
Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Serve topped with chopped coriander on a bed of Basmati rice, with some Naan bread.

Garam Masala

2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp cardamom seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cloves
2 dried chillies (no seeds)
2 Tbsp ground turmeric

Toast the seeds in a frypan, then grind all - or if you are like me, I just approximated the above ingredients using the powdered forms that I already had in the pantry and the recipe was still delicious.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Something For The Allergy Sufferers and a Simple but Clever Idea

Derek's two daughters are fondly referred to by me as Sniffy and Sneezy, the Allergy Sisters. This time of the year (Spring in New Zealand) is not fun for them, finding them often with stuffy noses from allergy.

I made an essential oil concoction that I read about, with equal parts of eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender essential oils, of which the sufferer puts a wee dab just at the entrance to each nostril. And it worked! Nose cleared.

So I stopped in to the Himalayan Trading Post in Whangarei where they sell lots of these dear little cork-stoppered glass bottles - lots of different shapes and sizes. This one was $1.50. 

I added a tiny little screw-in eyelet to the cork, and a silver jump ring. The little bottle was then filled with the essential oil mix so that the girls can wear them and use as required.

A Good Idea To Reduce Single Use Coffee Cups
This idea came through on my Facebook page the other day and I thought how simple but clever, by the Cuppow company. We don't have this company's products here, but I just loved the idea.

I could have left it there, but thought it was an idea worthy of sharing. I have started messaging local cafes with this picture to see if any of them will run with it.
The beauty of the idea is that it doesn't just reward a single patron who brings their own refillable cup, but encourages a group effort and makes it an interesting concept - right there on their counter. 

A Giftwrap Idea
It has been years now since I purchased giftwrap - preferring to recycle all manner of paper and materials to make a gift still look as attractive as possible.
For a culinary themed gift last week, I pulled out one of the old cookbooks that I bought for not much, and that I use to cut up for collage etc. 

The page on celebratory cakes made perfect giftwrap for this little gift don't you think?