Showing posts from September, 2009

Reviewing Waste

Tristram Stuart's Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (London, 2009, Penguin) is an excellent book.It has sobering (shocking) and powerful statistics and stories at both micro and macro level. For me, I found it empowering that I could do so much about waste/landfill/emissions/blah blah blah at home, from home, without being dependent on local recycling facilities or needing to spend any additional money.

Since starting Waste, I have scrutinised my food use more closely. We've had shepherd's pie, oat bread from porridge and leftovers quiche several times and I know I've room to improve further. Ehile I was reading the book, I refrained from commenting in depth here, thinking I needed the perspective of having read the entire book. Now I have read the entire book, I partly forget much of what I wanted to say and partly am overwhelmed by how much is in the book versus how close it is to bedtime. A few things which stuck out at the time of reading and now:

1. Cul…

chooks, still life and dodgy lawyers on the toilet walls

Our new chook run is complete. Favourite Handyman made it with 2 by 2 lengths of wood grown and milled locally and by reusing the wire mesh and plastic from the old poultry palace. The structure is much much stronger and the loveliest thing is that we can now see the chooks easily from the stody and kitcehn windows and of course from most parts of the back section. The structure is clad in wire mesh but the plastic is over the roof only. We have filled it with our last three bags of wood shavings from the high school wood room and they have a built in roost. It is great to know that they are warm and dry tonight without any risk of entangling themselves in bird netting (they roosted on the bamboo rafters of the temporary shelter for four nights, with a risk of getting themselves caught in the netting which lay upon them as they roosted. Of course they now have unlimited access to their laying hutch and I'm looking forward to full egg production again.
They have had extended period…

the storm and the chook run

Last Thursday was a little windy in Wetville. Not far from us a wind speed of 113 kph was recorded.

Which is why when I got home from work on Thursday afternoon, the poultry palace was collapsed to one side and our five chooks were wandering free. I had left our car with Favourite Handyman who wouldn't be home until after dark and there was no one around who I could ask to help me make emergency chook arrangements in the hideous, wet, very cold and windy weather.

I put them inside the temporary shelter. I walked around outside, got very cold, went inside, thought more, went searching outside again, repeated this pattern umpteen times and then some more after that.

Before dark, I moved the temporary shelter over to the big tree, under the tree hut, where it appeared to be less windy.

Later on, I went out for a couple of hours of communal knitting (and gorgeous baking) and got back home soon after eleven pm. Looking out the study window, I noticed a chook. Hmmmm. Chooks should no…

kitchen notes: jointed shoulder of lamb

Today I cooked a jointed shoulder of lamb. I had this at my aunt and uncle's place in the weekend but didn't know what it was called. This is the food of my childhood but mostly Mum taught me to bake rather than cook, so as I return to more meat cooking again, there is a learning curve.

Jonesy the butcher obliged as usual. I wonder if one of his grandchildren would marry one of my kids. I wondered that with our excellent mechanic too. He asked me some questions, worked out what I wanted and took me to the boning room to check and jointed it on the spot.

I checked on Nigella's lamb tips as I wanted some seasoning. Plain roast meat is a trifle too bland for me. I chopped up rosemary and garlic and mixed it in olive oil and smeared that down the sides of the chops and then salted the layer of fat on the top of the roast. Nigella likes meat (or lamb and chicken at least) done fast and hot. I am supremely confident that this is because she is so rich that someone else c…

Curry plant, polyanthus and home

For the last few months I have been reading Rhonda Jean's blog Down to Earth. I really appreciate the wealth of knowledge which she shares in her blog but I also felt that posts were often padded out to make sure to provide a post every weekday, every week. Down to Earth has a proper dedicated audience, not like mine with my bro and sis, some friends from my nappy days (UK and NZ) and some fellow gardeners (er three). But then I do have some weird thing where I never tell my local friends about my blog and apart from my sister I haven't told any family. Just imagine, if I didn't have 'blog' and 'real life' in two separate compartments, I might have three more readers each and every week. Or month.

But this post has prompted me to respond here. It talks a lot about the benefits of home making and the rewards of a life based around home rather than the shopping mall. Given that I don't have the love of a beautiful house sufficient to make it clean a…


Some of the things I noticed or achieved today...

The seeds of romanesco fennel which I sowed last month have germinated. Much better prospects so far than last year's attempt.

I have yellow freesias out.

The Dublin Bay rose has buds, as does my clematis.

The blackbirds are swooping, diving, digging and feasting on my tiny seedlings in the punga raised bed. Tomorrow I will have the car and can buy some bird netting and assemble it. Should help keep the food for my family.

I shifted more mushroon compost and sowed coriander, sorrel, pak choi and radishes.

I sowed tomato and chilli seeds and have them in punnets on the kitchen window sill.

I transplanted a strawberry, a borage plant and the leeks I bought in the weekend.

I harvested more kale and began digging up one end of the old chook run in readiness for planting out my Maori potatoes.

I gave some of the kale to my lovely neighbour Brenda who really liked the taste when I gave her some last week. Brenda and her husband have a glassh…


This weekend I took the children north to see my Grandad who isn't well. On the way to and from seeing Grandad, Grandma and lots of aunties/uncles/cousins, we spent some time in Nelson, my childhood home town. On Friday night we stayed in a backpackers in The Wood, a lovely area very close to Nelson's central city area.

When I was sixteen and had to choose a local history topic for my sixth form history assignment, I chose the Italian community of Nelson, who from memory arrived in three waves: the 1890s, the 1920s and the 1950s. Lots but not all came from the village of Sorrento. I got to interview lots of people for this project and it was probably the spark for my love for history and particularly of oral histories which give dignity to the lives and experiences and family stories of the elderly people in any community. The Italian community was centred on the area of Nelson known as The Wood, a sunny place with a fabulous micro climate for growing food and this was whe…

Back yard

First iris of my season.
The newly rebuilt temporary chook run. Our new chooks like to fly so bird netting needs to go on top of this. It gives them a chance to get more green in their diet without free ranging them completely.

Gathering the harvest from 'her' garden. She eats kale raw from the garden. I must be doing something right...

Tree hut. Home built, recycled materials. The kids are home built from recycled ingredients as well.

Dividing the tropicannas

Not content with practically annihilating the globe artichokes yesterday, I got stuck into the tropicanna lilly without so much as a glance at any book or website which might tell me if this is a good idea now or at some other time of the year. When we arrived at our new home, replete with a mortgage rather close to the price of the house, a baby in my tummy (well womb to be more precise) and a three year old who wanted to go back to the old house alternately with going back to London, way back in October 2006, there was one small lilly plant and no flowers or energy whatsoever. No light either until Favourite Handyman got stuck in with loppers, then a saw, then an axe and ultimately every tool we could lay our hands on to help exterminate the shadey, shady, ugly, overgrown by twenty years shrubs.

I dug some bokashi in beside the lilly and found some fishbones. The next year we got some flowers. Since then it has been all go, proliferation of lillies without us lifting a finger. T…

Food waste

Tristram Stuart's book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal is shaping up to be the most important book I've read this year (obvioously this is incredibly significant given that in between cooking and gardening and writing and caring for children and going to paid work and procrastinating and sleeping and the tiniest smidgen of housework, I read 8000 books per week). I'm going to save my urge to quote from it liberally until I have read the entire book, but for now, some of my attempts to improve my own act on the food waste front.

On Friday we had visitors. Related to FH visitors. The kind who bring out the inner old fashioned kiwi girl in me. Which means I have the instinct to cook way more than anyone can eat. And shout at everyone to help me clean. That's the short version of the things I said as we embarked on a cleaning frenzy which resulted in three lounge chairs and half the couch being clear and available for sitting on, a complete absence of play do…

Sounded so easy in the garden newsletter

Dividing globe artichokes that is. The NZ Gardener weekly email told me a while ago to shove a spade down in between new plants and old to divide them up. Right time right now and they will all be happy.

I didn't quite find it that easy and now the divided plants are both flopped on the soil. Hmmmm.

I also sneaked out of the house before anyone woke up (thank goodness for spring but not yet daylight savings to make this possible) and weeded the onion weed, planted celery and cleared Fionn's garden and piled it with mushroom compost. I dug up the lovely dahlia which is in the very wrong place and although I couldn't get it all out (been there for many years, certainly at least four and probably far more than that), I got out enough to divide into five pieces for growing more pretty dahlias in a more suitable spot. Fionn wants flowers so the dahlias, the poppies and the chrysanthemums will all go in his patch.

Planted another cabbage tree. We drove to Punakaiki this afternoon…

blog comments

My sister, who is going to be a roller derby star this weekend (or roller derby bruised at the very least), has just told me she that my blog won't let her comment. Is there something weird about my blog settings? Well I had a look insofar as I know how and there is no obvious explanation for why even when I comment on this blog, it initially tells me that it cannot be done, but if I press publish again, then it does work. So there you go. I stopped anonymous comments ages ago because I never talk to people in real life who refuse to give me their name, so why participate in such dishonesty online? I know some people just don't have a blogger or google account or whatever other accounts work for commenting purposes but also lots of people just hide behind anonymity to say unhelpful things.

When we were little, I was bossy and my sister was a danger to chemist shelves. She pulled them over. In my care. Chemist shelves have a lot of small things on them and it is hard to …

Zonked, Zambia

On Thursday nights I kind of fall apart. Not as in not cope but as in just too exhausted to do anything. A good Thursday is a day without any bought food. I managed that for lunches but got fish and chips for dinner. But by the end of Thursday I have finished my paid work for the week and can get back into home mode on Friday.

Last night was totally wonderful as Favourite Handyman and I went out for dinner to celebrate being married for an even longer time than last year.

The night before we had a guest from Zambia for dinner. Our friend Cheryl fundraised for months to visit Zambia and work in a school there for two weeks and now Kafuko, from Cheryl's Zambian school, is in New Zealand for two weeks. We enjoyed the evening and I loved seeing my children learn about somewhere else in a mutual learning setting. The photo book which my sister in law made for Brighid about the animals in South Africa on their South African holiday was a central point of discussion for Kafuko and t…

More garden photos

The shelter fence Favourie Handyman made for our lemon tree. We may yet extend it but it is a helpful start. We are pondering putting a lot more shelter fences up (and perhaps underplanting with shelter trees/shrubs) and bnuilding paths to make a series of gardens plus a more interesting effect for the children to ride their bikes/trikes through. That won't be tomorrow though.
A strip I cleared along one edge of the compost corner. It is currently nurturing some jerusalem artichokes (thank you Corrine).
Our new chooks. The light is odd and the green sheen from the run shade doesn't quite do justice to my lovely healthy birds.

Daffodil Polyanthus Sandra. Just out today. Saw it at the Warehouse in Autumn and thought I had to give it a whirl.

Recent planting/sowing

This is our lemon tree, planted above our buried chooks, raised up by some gifted recycled wood and some logs from the beach. I've got rosemary and thyme growing in a hole in the closest log.
Fast growing rocket amongst my garlic. This spot is against the (brick) house so quite warm even in late winter.

My first rose cutting experiment is growing vigorously. It did help that I chose one which is almost a weed around our countryside.

This is a plant from the first bunch of cuttings I made from our neighbour's lovely rose collection a few months later.

A cabbage tree which I planted in our bog patch last week. An old log is rotting behind it and mint and nasturtiums are clambering up and over it. These are welcome weeds but I am less excited about the tradescantia which also lives here. At least the chooks like it.

Early September garden

Celery still going strong. I've been picking it stalk at a time for stews and stocks throughout winter. Behind it is kale gone to seed. In the weekend we had different insects (mostly hoverflies I think but am not sure) feasting on the kale flowers. This has reminded me that a 'tidy' garden with no gone to seed slightly straggly plants works against rather than with biodiversity. I'm planning on having some plants seeding more often now.
Thyme and oregano. This is doing very well ever since I moved it from the area which kept getting flooded.

The dark stuff is mushroom compost. I've day dreamed about buying a big lot of compost and raising this bed substantially for years and now we have finally made it happen. The yellow path is from wood shavings collected from the local high school. There is a rhubarb plant at one end of the path. The funny hooped garden is going to be Fionn's. Slowly we or the chooks will eat the rest of the silverbeet and kale …

soak and cook

I started and soaked things all over the place last night. The biggest risk with soaking beans and refreshing sourdough (and in the case of last night, also soaking flour in kefir) is that the next day I will not even slightly feel like looking at the kitchen.

Today I was quite well behaved. I turned the soaked beans into home made baked beans. I used Sally Fallon's recipe. We had them for dinner and the rest of the beans are now cooling before I freeze them. The recipes in Nourishing Traditions are generally designed for about 8 people. I made gingerbread out of the soaked flour and kefir/yoghurt. It turned out quite nice, not as sweet as standard issue gingerbread but with a lovely depth of flavour. I can't recommend her recipes for measurements though. How useless is the measure 3/4 cup of butter? Once I have made the gingerbread recipe often enough to convert it to sensible measures, then I will post it here. Most of today's gingerbread is now in the freezer.

Friday projects

Thursday preparations:

I've got small white beans soaking for home made baked beans.
I've got flour and kefir/yoghurt soaking for gingerbread a la Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

I've got sourdough starter our of the fridge and refreshing ready for some more home made bread. Hoping to play round with some different flavours for the bread.

I've already got hummous in the fridge and the ingredients for shepherds pie for dinner. I've got kefir on the go and seeds in the garden.

Now in the morning I need to seriously get my head around efficient use of the oven for all of this.

Writing all this down so I don't forget.

Carrot and ginger loaf

This is the latest in my experiments with carroty cakes. It is adapted from a recipe for Double-ginger cake from Ysanne Spevack's Organic Cookbook. I started off aiming for more ways of getting ginger into my son and then when I found the recipe called for zucchini, I knew there was no way I was buying zucchinis at this time of year, so more carrots...

Cream 225g sugar with 250g butter. Beat in three eggs. Mix in vanilla essence. Then add (I never bother to sift anything but apparently I should) 240g finely shredded carrots, an inch long piece of root ginger finely grated, 3 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 t cinnamon (or more, I tip it straight from the packet), 1 t ground ginger.

Tip it into a large greased loaf tin and cook for 55 minutes. Leave in tin for 20 minutes and then tip onto cake rack to cool fully.

Fionn came home from school and asked what the cake was in his lunch box and could he have some more as it was yummy. So really who cares whether Gordon Ramsay or the Que…

Our town

Our small writers' group in town has a wonderful writer. Tonight I have been reading the manuscript of a book set in 14th century Paris, told through the eyes of a pet cat. I am gripped! Best thing I have read for some time. We meet once a month in the snug of a local pub and we've been meeting for almost a year now. Apart from my garden notes and occasional rants here on this blog, the only other writing I do besides writing shopping lists is something for writers' group each month. This month I have started a story about our family life here on the wet west coast for Favourite Handyman's niece who turns five next month. I'm not usually moved to write for children (cooking, cleaning, taxiing and reading for children being more than enough), but I did want to make a non-consumerist gift which would introduce Isabella to the life of the two small cousins she has never met.

I have got more to read that promises much. Today I found Tristram Stuart's book Wa…