Showing posts from June, 2009

peak oil hummous

The drive shaft of my food processor is down the back of the dishwasher. Down the back, unjtil an unwelcome repair to the dishwasher or oven shall reunite us.

I didn't give up straight away. I tried to wiggle the dishwasher, realised it had no leverage room and might crack if I pushed it. I shone the torch down and saw other long forgotten relics down there, but no drive shaft (which I observed fall down the back earlier this year with my very own eyes). I got tongs out and also looked down the back of the stove, but it's gameover.

My six year old food processor, which only gets used for pesto and hummous and has no grating blade, is now at the very top of the highest cupboard, a long way from the functional hum of the rest of the kitchen.

I've been missing my hummous though. The bought stuff isn't worth buying now I'm used to my own. So today I cooked up chickpeas (and had to accept that my pressure cooker has some dangerous fault so downgraded to cooking it t…

The yam experiment, Whataroa potatoes

I planted my garlic this morning, fitting it in around the various rose bushes I have moved to or begun along the back of the house and in the old tobacco bed.

My strawberries, transplanted just over a week ago, now have bird netting over them. The strawberries are in a wooden raised bed which Favourite Handyman made for me last December. He used the partially rotted wood boards which he had had to replace from our largest shed. This made it fairly easy for me to nail in some black piping (hanging around from when FH built the poultry palace and the piping turned out not strong enough) and hoop it over the square bed. Then I had a raised form to stretch the bird netting over. I put lots of nails in around the edges to hold the netting. This way I can lift and replace it easily come summer.

My third gardening project today was the yam experiment. The punga raised bed was overrun with yams and they all needed to go. I pulled all the tops off, many of which were rotted or rotting and put t…

Local food: gnocchi

Tonight, for the first time, I made gnocchi from scratch. I used a recipe from today's Christchurch Press, by Maxine Clark. Although gnocchi has always seemed exotic and probably difficult to make to me, I used (following the recipe to the letter) home grown potatoes, egg and sage. I used New Zealand grown flour, cheese and butter.

It turned out pretty well.

Cook 600g floury potatoes in boiling water for 20-30 minutes, until very tender. Drain well. Mash the potatoes, add 1 teaspoon salt and 200g flour. Make a well in the centre and crack in an egg. Mix together, knead lightly to yield a soft, slightly sticky dough. Roll into long sausages, 1.5cm in diameter. Cut into 2cm pieces. Lay on lightly floured tea towel.

Bring big pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches. Drop into the boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep hot while you cook the rest. Mix 200g melted butter with 2 tablespoons …

Community education: stories and how to protest

Last night I got some more details on the ways in which people are protesting against the night class cuts. At my local high school there is a petition asking for the reinstatement of night classes (though they often extend beyond just nights). If you drop into the reception of your local high school, I expect you will find a petition there to sign. I've also got a postcard to send in in protest and I've found out about the Stop Night Class Cuts website. I've joined the facebook group protesting the cuts and I'll be writing to my MP also.

I've seen figures of 200 000 people doing night classes each year and also 400 000 people. Despite the huge discrepancy, it is still clear that they are used and valued in each adn aevery community within New Zealand.

In my last post I wrote about working class lives a little before jumping on to the community education slaughter. They are linked. I remember my Mum going to night classes from when I was quite small. Just as I have d…

Working class facts and artefacts

Paul Maunder, a writer and a working class man who has contributed hugely to the development of the Blackball working class history project, recently sent me a draft of an article about working class heritage. I found it very helpful and will post details just as soon as I hear that it has been published (paper or web). Two things stuck with me in particular.

Maunder discusses the development of heritage parks as a commodified version of history. We've all been to a few, taken the kids and spent a fortune on expensive lunches and admiring scrupulously clean and well maintained artefacts of wealthy colonial life. Our local one, Shantytown, is mostly free to locals, but eye-wateringly expensive to anyone else. If you climb up the back of the 'village', you can see a rough pub and a prostitute's hut. There is also an old hut (an original actually used a long time ago I think) hidden up another track where visitors scarcely ever go. But few visitors see these - much…

Garden lust

July's NZ Gardener came through my letterbox today. There was a profile of Akaunui Gardens, near Ashburton. If you click through the link, you will see a lovely stately house. I don't covet a stately house, but I do covet a rambling rose climbing all over a shed as per the photograph on page 50 of the NZ Gardener. I quote from the photo caption: "The Noisette rose 'Claire Jacquier' covers the shed by the herb parterre." I'll have to google both Noisette and parterre, but I'm captivated by noth the romantic view and the romantic names. Favourite Handyman liked the photo too...

So I can trail a rose up over the new lean to and the shed behind it. I think it would be too shady to trail a rose up from the south side of the shed though. I can trail roses over various fences and I have the beginnings (tiny, small beginnings currently) of a structure along the back of the house for my roses (to be surrounded by garlic and in summer, lettuces and herbs…

Chocolate cake

She's alright, is Nigella (Lawson). I bought her book when we were new to London, How to Eat, and pored over it, reading all the delicious, helpful wordy bits in between the recipes. She doesn't do budget - I doubt you will find her rolling out a tips to be frugal book for $25 as seems to be the rage at the moment. They make the book small so it looks like a bargain, but it is still $25 and everything in those books is on the net. From How To Eat I learnt how to make risotto, chicken stock and hummous, cooked with chestnuts for the first time (her lentil and chestnut soup, good enough to win over any carnivore visiting for dinner) and drank in some wonderfully sensible thoughts on feeding babies and young children.

Today, after deciding we weren't dying and that by afternoon, what with the DVD player dying instead, we could do some baking, Fionn and I looked through some recipe books in search of a chocolate cake recipe. Nigella's was a winner, not least because th…

Rapahoe Wednesday

When she was inside me, I knew she would be my water baby. Conceived on the wild west coast within sound of the ocean, born on our lounge floor as the waves washed up just a few hundred metres away.

Today we knew there was more to life than cleaning. There had to be a better use of time than doing more dishes, vacuuming. That was so yesterday.

We drove out to Rapahoe beach with a pile of plastic bags in my pocket. Perfect sunshine, warmer than town had been in the morning. It has been quite calm weather here of late and the seaweed haul was light. Brighid carried the bags, one for rubbish and the other for seaweed. She added a few sticks to the seaweed bag, sure they were also of use and relevance. We wandered along in the perfect sunshine, scarcely credulous that this was mid-winter. I gasped at the tiny perfection of her tiny footprints and we inspected the shape of a dog print from earlier in the day. No one around us, no where for H1N1 to be an issue. We talked about stones and stic…

Hungry blackbirds

Yesterday, being a day free of things like school in our region, the children and I gardened. Which was a truly wonderful thing as for the last far too long, I have been unable to garden without my daughter murdering along behind me. At 29 months, it appears we can do a few gardening things together, though I did deliberately wait to transplant the rose until she was otherwise occupied in the sandpit.

We filled the wheelbarrow with compost and the children helped me scoop it on to the new strawberry patch. I realised why Brighid was so enthusiastically emptying the wheelbarrow - when she finished she climbed straight into the barrow ready for a ride around the section. There were lots of worms in the compost and I looked with satisfaction on my project. In Spring, I thought, I would need to cover it from the birds.

But blackbirds are around now and they are hungry. Now. Tonight I noticed that they had been playing in my strawberry patch and made a right mess already. I hope Favo…

Solstice strawberries

There is a plot of potatoes out the front which basks in the last rays of sunshine each day (well the days when it isn't raining) before the sun falls behind the sea.

The most special physical aspect of our home is that it is near the sea. From the lounge and from our bedroom, you can watch the sun set across the water. You didn't used to be able to see the sea from our bedroom until one of our neighbours died and her bereaved husband and son pulled down the old shed out the front of their section.

The horizon line hosted burnt orange rays this evening as I planted my strawberries. I'd sneaked out during the day to lift the last of the potatoes, weed the onionweed which poked up in several places and to fork in a bucket of wood ash from the fire. Later I sneaked out in the car to buy some strawberries.

Winter solstice. Death and new life. If I wasn't a migrant from a culture rooted for thousands of years in northern hemisphere living, then I would be celebrating the…


Our town runs on raffles. When we first moved here I was a bit puritanical on raffles - didn't buy them and never asked anyone to buy them either. Three and a half years later, scarcely a week goes by without me buying a raffle ticket. At a quick memory flick, in recent weeks there has been the raffle for P- school because we have many friends at school there and the prizes were garden things; there was the Catholic Women's League raffle because it seemed like some kind of insult to my Mum not to; there was the local high school netball trip raffle - I know some of the players; the quilt raffle to get one of the Catholic high school students on an exchange to Australia; the flash sewing machine raffle to support a big South Island quilting conference being hosted here this winter; the stroke support group who had a trailer load of wood as one of the prizes. I can't remember whether I caved on the municipal band raffle or not. If nothing else (and there is always more …

turning poo, squashing dirt

There I was, bravely striding into my third day running of intense cleaning. It was true that the lounge floor was now clean and clear of crap and that I'd put on my domestic goddess hat at just after 7am and whipped up ginger spice biscuits in time to put in Fionn's school lunch box. It was true that 176+ pieces of dubious possibly once food stuff had been lifted from the dining room. We were all wearing sock pairs.

Something was wrong. Seriously wrong. The washing had gone out and the rain was ignored - another rinse would be fine. I was still inside.

So the washing machine made a stronger statement. You should be outside in your garden it said. In a kind of passive aggressive language. Passive-aggressive behaviour from a washing machine involves it refusing to carry on, mid-cycle.

I got the message. Outside in the garden where I belong, I put some chickenwire on stakes for one of the roses to grow up. I weeded the once infamous fleahouse which is now just a pile o…

myrtle ugni

On Friday I bought myself a myrtle ugni. Sounds like something from Dr Seuss. It's also known as a Chilean Guava. It's going out the front beside my glove artichoke, when it ever stops raining. Next pay I might buy a real cranberry.

And the one after, a plum tree.

Which just goes to show that I'm not one of those voluntary simplicity girls after all.

I found another way of getting garlic into us, read it in a newsapaper food column, I think it was in the Chch Press. You pound garlic and olive oil and parsley together and then spoon it on top of your bowl of soup. I tried it tonight and it was nice. I spread the leftover from the mortar bowl on a piece of bread (home made of course skitey skite) this evening and that was pretty good as well. Local garlic, home grown parsley. Oil from a looong way away though.

World wide knit in public day was Saturday and we had a lovely session up at Frank's Lounge Bar. Wine, wool, women. Then live music as well. Shame when it…

Not buying local

There has been a small truck around town of late, looking interesting but mostly out of my reach. It had an advert on the side for meat, eggs, fish and veges. Just plain writing, looked kind of localish and suitably small time.

Today I met Mr Smalltime.

Not Thompsons' from Hokitika as I had speculated. Not from Nelson or Christchurch as are the next most likely options here in Wetville. Mr Smalltime hailed from Otago. He had genuine Southland swedes at prices which seemed a little posh. Especially considering I could buy genuine Reefton swedes on the roadside for one sixth of the price last year.

He had sausies from Mosgiel and savs too. He had fish from Talleys. I had to grill for both of these pieces of information. I didn't quiz him on the eggs. The apples weren't cheap and I was unexcited about the spuds, seeing as I'm still digging my own.

Mr Smalltime tried a little charm. He comes all the way to my town because of the beautiful women.

No, really? You come…

The Blackball Working Class HIstory Project

I'm in need of some technical advice. We've made a small start on our blog to go alongside the offical website of the Blackball Working Class History Museum. I've got a fairly clear idea of how I want it to look/be organised, but I'm not sure how to go about achieving it. I would like to have labels along the top, rather like the way this blog has. I could not see that feature on the template options when I set up the history project blog. Can anyone tell me where to look or what to do to achieve this please?

I would ultimately like to have a section on stories of our working past, stories of our working present and discussions of where we go to as working people together in the future. So that's three labels to organise each post into. On May Day Eva Brown read some lovely poetry and I would like creative work like hers to feature as well as stories and discussions. At some point I also need to get myself a podcast tutorial as I would like oral histories an…

Home made washing powder

Extreme measure? Piffling playtime while the world burns?

Maybe/probably/who knows, BUT given that Persil have changed all their formulations as a covert way of significantly raising their prices...

...leaving Fionn with eczema again...

Removing myself from the grip of the big brands and their annoying, nonsensical and patronising advertising campaigns seems worthwhile.

I used this recipe from Towards Sustainability's blog. I opted for the second version. The first load seems fine - no fragrance which I like. I'll do a nappy load tomorrow to give it a decent test.

I've also been playing round with my cromarty cob bread making method. I did a triple batch today and cooked it in three loaf tins. Excellent results. I have worked out how to knead the dough in the bowl (a giant plastic one from the supermarket) which makes a lot less mess than on the bench top. Actually I made the bread in the bowl on the dining room table as there was no room in the kitchen due to mess. Why I make …

Small Wet Town

ginger garlic echinacea vitamin C chilli bone broth orange juice probiotics onions leafy greens astragalus

and wait there is more


Fingers crossed for a full recovery from the latest lung infection for Favourite Handyman. Many prayers offered up for him as I housewif around and around and also for some improvement in my mothering skills. Specifically my patience.

But the good news is that the children are in bed right now and I am back where I belong of an evening - doing my own reading/writing/crafty stuff. The dishwasher can wait. It does every other night.

Two good DVDs this week. Buying that tv was a great idea. This is England with it's sobering portrayal of the lure of the National Front to the dispossessed, the lonely, the lost. Then Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006). That was brilliant. Unutterably sad at the same time. Set in Ireland in 1920, as war against the Black and Tans gives way to civil war.

The book I have just finished: At the Edge of M…

a bag of flour

some lentils, spuds, onions and carrots. Useful stuff if you need to limit your food spending severely. We already had the latter items and indeed quite a lot of flour, but I went to the supermarket for just one thing this afternoon - a bag of plain white flour. Once I had that, I could carry on with the cooking fest. Yes, a public holiday in New Zealand, with a window for a bit of serious saving through making yummy food. I can attest that feijoa and ginger muffins taste good, though I can't post a recipe as I had to adapt to a terrible online one as I went. After next time. The last half I hid in the freezer for school lunches before they disappeared.

I made two different kinds of bread. The Cromarty Cob, which I cooked up an hour ago, was a success. I put it in a tin this time and I can see that will be a lot more practical for making school/work lunches than the sprawled-out shape I have previously made with this recipe. The other kind was Caraway Rye Bread and that i…

The garden lives!

Despite such neglect, the cold winds and cooler nights, the rain and sometimes even the hail, my garden continues. We are eating kale every second day and there is still plenty more. My favourite is the cavolo nero, but I am going to stake it next year. I had been assuming that taste from my pumpkins, which grew in partial shade, wouldn't be so great. But last night when I was short of ingredients for my soup, I grabbed the little pumpkin from the windowsill and decided it would be soup fodder instead of a jack-o-lantern. It seemed to taste good. There is hope! Perhaps I can grow pumpkins here after all. I think it is time to get some more horse manure and pile it on my best spot at the top of the garden, ready for another go at pumpkin growing next year. I'll go for Musqee de Provence again - they are so beautiful to look at and eat.

The oldest garden bed is in need of a revamp. The brick path which we laid between two garden beds succumbed to the weeds. The main tr…

mutton soup and fancy beetroot

I think of my Mum and of strikes when I think of mutton soup. She used to (probably still does) cook up veges and split peas with mutton bones in her big soup pot on rainy days. I also associate childhood soup with freezing works strikes. Dad worked at the local freezing works (abbatoir) for most of my childhood and for much of that time the freezing works was a staunch union with a penchant for striking. Sometimes they were six weeks long and during strikes, we had a lot of soup at home, no ice cream and us kids knew without being told not to ask for pocket money. I recall from a very young age the hushed silence as Mum and Dad watched the news each night at six to find out whether he would be back at work the next day or not. It wasn't a sign of worker empowerment to be dependent on the news like that, or not that I could see through six year old eyes. My parents were not union enthusiasts at all. I've gone on to be a lefty, but I retain a suspicion of union execs, p…

Home made

I think I'm making some progress on this home made from scratch crafty lark. For a slapdash clumsy sewer like me, this is no small feat.

Given the recent gift to me of two huge boxes of fabric and the birthday invitation on the fridge door for Fionn to attend, I decided to have a go at making a dress for Alice, soon to be six and lover of dresses. I toyed with a few skirt ideas and discarded them for a dress pattern which I found at our local Bernina shop. New Look 6195, easy one hour. Which translates to do-able four hours for me. Fionn picked out the fabric from the boxes - garish pink with some lace which must have been left over from an eighties ball dress to go on top in the front. I had several hiccups but the most important thing is thatI overcame them! I made an entire garment without having to return the machine to the repair man. Progress, I promise you. Despite all the wobbly stitching and the rough edges in places, when it was time to turn it the right way and …