Wednesday, September 30, 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. Cultural mores around baby feeding (p.74). Stuart compares western norms for offering the baby a plate of food in the highchair which mostly decorates everything but the child's intestines, with the practise in India of hand feeding the child gobbets of the adult's food. Less mess, less waste.

2. The fishing industry (chapter 8). Quotas are set and assessed according to what a boat brings ashore. So if they catch what they don't have a quota for, it goes back, usually dying or dead. If they find they have nmoire than they are allowed, the 'excess' is also discarded to rot in the high seas. One statistic suggests that of an annual European catch of 186 million, 117 million are thrown back. Our oceans are being depleted and we aren't even eating most of what is killed.

3. A fascinating chapter on the evolutionary origins of surplus which I want to come back to after I've slept properly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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 periods roaming free in the back section and my poor garden is much the worse for it. They have eaten most of my lettuces and much of my rocket. They have nibbled on the garlic leaves though that should recover. Some of my rose cuttings failed the trauma test of the chooks' fossicking but at least I know that the survivors are hardy. They have scattered my newly laid mushroom compost to all corners of the section it seems and the last amount still sitting out the front will go on replacing soil around my poor myrtle ugni and a few other plants. I'm pleased I didn't get the potatoes planted last week - they can go in soon.

We are all on holiday here, both this week and next. This is when so much seems and is possible, as no one has to rush out the door and devote the daylight hours (and some of the darkness) to projects outside our home and garden. I have even redecorated the toilet. Just like in a Vogue magazine of course. I wiped all the walls and removed the bedraggled picture of a West Coast rainforest from the door. Then I cut up a book from the Sallies on an art collection in an Australian gallery and stuck the pictures on the walls. There is room yet for some political articles as well. We had a phase of maps on the walls until they fell down and I had looked at the historical sites of Israel on one side and Western Europe on the other for long enough.

As I nipped into town and bought some blu-tac, I recalled my first big decorating experience of my own. At 18 and in my first year of university, I moved into halls of residence in Christchurch. I remember trips into the Arts Centre, posters from Greenpeace and a couple of pot plants, some photos and overwhelming pride in having a space of my very own. If you were pooing at my place tonight, you could squiz at an intellectual called Elena, a still life with newspaper, a pomegranate laying beautifully with apples and a ginger pot and some dodgy lawyers from around the French Revolution:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

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 not be at the height of the study window. I went outside with the torch and found that the temporary shelter had blown over and the poor chooks were trying to roost on the shelter cloth which was supposedly protecting our lemon tree from the gale.

Hmmmmmmmmm. I found the wheelbarrow, put the chooks in it (some kind of wind shelter) and put the barrow inside the temporary shelter and tied the shelter to the tree hut post. Yes they did make it to the morning.

Since then, on Friday and Saturday morning I let them out for a few hours to go and lay their eggs in their usual laying hutch (solid wood and unaffected by the storm). I put bird netting on top of the temporary shelter so they didn't fly out and eat even more of my garden. I came home on Saturday morning with more bird netting to protect my punga raised bed to find one chook already in there, eating what they blackbirds had not yet devoured. Since then they have been kept inside and had to lay their eggs (a reduced number unsurprisingly) inside the temporary shelter.

It is time for a change. Favourite Handyman should not need to rebuild the chook run every Spring. No longer is bamboo in fashion round here. We looked at building a geodesic chook run. They looked extremely funky and yet ... and yet... It was going to cost us almost $300 for the pvc pipiung alone and the instructions we looked at noted the vulnerability in windy situations.

Perhaps situations like ours?

This morning when we were disassembling the tangle which was once a proud poultry palace, the neighbours suggested we build it up against our shared fence. Whiich I had wondered about but canned on the grounds of it being cheeky to ask the neighbours this. But as they had suggested it and were very happy with the idea, off we went. FH went to Mitre 10 and bought 24 lengths of H3 2 by 2 treated wood. We have the basic structure up (and being rained upon this very minute) and if the weather is moderately kind to us tomorrow, we will get it finished then and move our chooks in. It is longer and lower and is going to look more aesthetically pleasing than our super sized bamboo run. I am going to dig the poor, bashed up feijoa trees out tomorrow - they fared very badly from the crashed structure. We will put shadecloth and plastic on top (plus wire netting) but only wire netting on the side. This should mean I can see them from the kitchen window in the morning which is something I really missed when the old structure got more and more cladding on the outside.

I've got a lot of chook damage to my garden to repair or replace, but for the moment, our superb protein producers have first claim on my time. The errant camera which is clearly on its way out but sometimes deigns to work, would not work today. Shame, I would like to be able to document this project.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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 cleans her oven. If you cook meat at 200 degrees celsius and above, it makes such an unholy and odorous mess of your oven that even if you are a fellow sloth you will find yourself compelled to clean your oven.

Maybe you like cleaning your oven each week.

I cooked today's roast at 160 degrees for three hours and it was delicious and moist, tender and tasty. I wasn't looking for traditional trimmings and instead whipped up some hummous (remember, in my virtuous charity shop Spong manual mincer?) with lots of garlic, lemon and parsley. I also used my new toy from Nelson, a julienne grater, to make a beetroot, silverbeet and carrot salad. If you have a depressed teenager around (we don't), then don't own one. I'm only sporting one plaster after making the salad but it does strike me as a fairly efficient and effective way of slitting ones wrists.

Which obviously I don't recommend. This isn't a God blog, but it is a fairly positive one where giving up relates to housework, not life. Even when the two year old gives up on eating during the day and sleeping during the night, I still embrace life. I only briefly consider selling her to the slave traders.

The last bit is my using up the porridge leftovers bread. Black strap molasses is a distinctive taste. Very distinctive. The texture was great and I think next time I might a) split the sweetener into half treacle and half molasses and b) put some spices like caraway seeds into the dough.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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 and tidy every day, sometimes posts like this don't speak to me at all. But this idea of the home space being a nurturing one, well it could be a garden space.

I remember when Favourite Handyman and I first lived together. We were working long hours and mostly relaxed by going out for dinner or breakfast. The flat was a mess but we did both enjoy the pots of cacti which FH lined the steps with.

Later we went to London where for four long years we lived in a tiny flat which had so little natural light that even the cactus on the kitchen window sill died. We had our first child in this flat and I put a lot of my home making energy into organic foods and 'environmentally friendly' products.

Our last year in London was quite different. We rented a terraced house and set about clearing the messy back yard and planting food seeds. I LOVED that.

Back in New Zealand, renting still and pregnant again, I planted out some food in the raised beds and some spring bulbs in pots. The house wasn't ours and was mostly rather cold.

Now, as we are five weeks short of three years in our own home, the garden and the kitchen are where I nurture, make food, flowers and learn all the time about plant and human nutrition. The rest of the house gets scant attention. Divine home maker I am not, but the places where messes are made and they transform - the garden and kitchen - are where the love happens round here. Off you trot fly lady, alchemy doesn't need your organisation.

Today I bought a curry plant for the herb garden. I also admired some asparagus plants but at nearly $6 each, I held off for another time. Has anyone used a raised bed for asparagus? I'd be interested to know how it went/goes if anyone has. Back home I planted out the curry plant and also the box of polyanthus which a friend had rescued from the doom of the dump for us. I still have some chrysanthemums from my aunty which I am yet to determine the best spot for.

The rest of the time I was at work and it was only after a dinner of leftovers (cold and not very exciting but nevertheless virtuous) and storytimes that I addressed the leftover porridge. I used this recipe to make slow rise oat bread. Except as one of my current projects is to sneak black strap molasses into more food, I subbed bsm for the treacle.

We have a lot of eggs. Chooks are wonderful for home loving. Tomorrow, I will hopefully fit in some very eggy baking. Wonder how hard roulade would be to make if I have never made it before and I have two two-year-olds in my care at the same time...

Monday, September 21, 2009


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 glasshouse and not long ago Barry told me he didn't expect he would use it this year. Last night I asked Brenda if I could cultivate the glasshouse and share the produce with them.

... and she said yes!! Hurray hurray hurray!. A glasshouse opportunity. Our plans for our own glasshouse are still at the plans stage so this is wonderful news for this summer. I will get it ready for summer tomatoes, basil, chillies and maybe try a capsicum as well. Then in winter we can get lots of greens going the whole way through.

Three jerusalem artichokes are through the ground and looking happy. My globe artichokes seem to be recovering, albeit slowly, from the trauma of my recent dividing tactics.

I have miners lettuce popping up and looking cheerful. I still don't have enough salad leaves to make a big bowl of raw greens just yet.

The chooks are happy. I found a double yolker this morning. I made a rice and vegetable bake all bound together with five eggs (and plenty of home grown herbs) for dinner. Tomorrow I will have plenty of eggs for the food bank, my first egg delivery to them.

In the weekend my aunt gave me lots of frozen raw milk from her farm (she freezes for winter but calving started early this year, before she had run out) and so I thawed the first packet out today and am feeding it to my kefir.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


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 where many of them grew tomatoes. In the late 1980s many men told me of their work growing tomatoes and how it would go with them as none of their children were interested. They weren't cross with their children but proud of their achievements and diverse careers.

Twenty years later, the area has all been cut up for subdivision. In a peak oil world, the town which has many committed greenies is full of small sections with houses on them, motels with Italian names and very little green space on the part of town which would be a perfect orchard and permaculture reserve to grow food for the city dwellers to purchase and eat with a very low carbon footprint.

There is one Italian gardener still going. Beside some swanky looking pub in The Wood is a small sign and then a few boxes and trays of fruit and vegetables for sale in front of the garage of a house, with the glasshouse visible out the back. Today (at a fraction of the Saturday market prices) I bought an aubergine, a bag of tomatoes, a florence fennel bulb, three leek seedlings, two tomato plants, two basil seedlings and a bag of red peppers for a the total of $10.40. We are heading north for family reasons again next month and I'll be back in Grove Street again then.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

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. They are not especially gorgeous but they do seem to do well here in wetville. So I dug them up today, mixed mushroom compost into the soil and put half of them back and the other half I have planted about 1.5 metres away, on a pile of ash to which I added compost.

Found some buds on the clematis and on the yellow banksia rose today. All go on the flower front. Even so, the best thing flower-wise is that the yellow kale flowers are attracting heaps of bees. I saw about a dozen on the kale plants near the poultry palace today. In a world threatened by colony collapse and ultimately dependent not on machines but on bees for our food, my kale plants are nothing less than heroic, or so I like to think.

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 dough from the dining room floor and smears of baking soda round the bathroom taps instead of toothpaste swirls (don't even get me started on toothpaste or liquid soap waste).

So naturally I cooked more vegetables than were necessary and roasted a huge leg of lamb. Meat no problem, shepherd's pie soon (not tonight as my daughter got her first black eye so I resigned from kitchen duty to do a little 100% mothering). Vegetables.

Vegetables. Crikey I do guilt well. I thought about these vegetables for ages. Just as I came to the conclusion that no one would eat bubble and squeak for lunch and the chooks would have these very good quality grown for human consumption calories instead, I found my efficiency button and turned them into 16 mini quiches, most of which are now in the freezer for FH's work lunches. Not content with this minor achievement, I mixed up 24 banana muffins while the quiches cooked so that I could make efficient use of the oven heat. The bananas, I'll have you know, are rejects which our vegetable box delivery people sell as cake bananas for 50c per kilo. So I am saving food from landfill, a modern day heroine?

Until I smelt the fridge and reached into the depths of one of the two vegetable bins. Ladies and gentlemen, there is not room for romantic vision, no room for environmental puffery. More like even more Hail Marys than the priest used to give me for being mean to my brother and sister back in the eighties when heathen families were tucking up with a takeaway in front of the tele and we were at confession with a little book to help me examine my conscience on the drive there. (That little book disappeared after I asked what masturbation was but that is another story altogether).

I am toying with a blog project where I weigh my food waste and record the journey. Not quite brave enough just yet.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

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. There is something very special about nikau trees. Time for us to have a go at growing one at our home.

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 pick everything up when the little person is intent on pulling more stuff over.

But now she is playing roller derby which looks like some seriously gutsy feminist sport with dressups to boot while I sit on my fat bottom considering whether I will start some new knitting tonight. We have a brother as well. He is visiting us all next month. Big excitement over this.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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 the children. Tomorrow I am gathering a stash of stickers to send back with Kafuko for the new entrants teacher, as that is one thing she had hoped Kafuko could bring back.

Useless useless with the camera. After having it operational and found for just two days, it went funny on me when Brighid and I were walking on the beach on Monday. So no chance to take photos of anything until either Favourite Handyman solves the mysterious camera problem or we buy a new one.

The children and I went garden shopping after school. I am too impatient to leave my lovely new soil vacant until some seeds germinate (so far one has in the punga raised bed). We bought celery, beetroot and lettuces. I've planted the lettuces and left the others until tomorrow. We also bought red poppies and Fionn chose white chrysanthemums. He was quite excited by the daisy picture. I haven 't succeeded with growing red (Flanders) poppies from seed but have wanted some in the garden ever since my cousin Lou (WW2, POW veteran) died.

On Monday when I wasn't bemoaning my bad luck with the camera, Brighid and I gathered seaweed from our local beach, rinsed it at home and piled it on the old chook run garden. Which Brighid has decided is her garden. I can see she has an affinity with it when she wanders through it with a bucket on her arm, collecting kale and celery leaves. The heavy spring rain, or so I plan, will wash the seaweed nutrients into the soil. I will top it with pea straw at some point to keep it moist and help it break down.

Four eggs from the chooks today. One with a broken shell though. At least I now know from last time that thin shells, thick shells and general egg oddities are quite normal when they begin to lay. I've been putting supplying grit and the other eggs are nice and strong.

I'm still slowly reading Tristram Stuart's book on waste and I can see that there is more I could do to make efficient use of all foods the everyday norm. I forgot to clear the bench after our romantic night out so the leftovers were not hygienic for further use from the children's dinner. Then I was too exhausted to cook tonight and now I have realised that my plans for turning leftover risotto from Tuesday into a kind of fried/reheated rice with black pudding don't really fit into the celebratory mode of hosting more guests for dinner tomorrow night, guests who are related to FH and have not seen Brighid ever and not seen Fionn since he was four months old. And anyway maybe I'm not supposed to keep cooked rice beyond 24 hours? Though I certainly have done so before. At least chooks love rice. I see a visit to Jonesy (the butcher) on the horizon. And a very eggy luscious dessert as I have 13 eggs waiting for my culinary experimentation and more eggs likely to come inside tomorrow. Must send some to the food bank in the morning, as per the plans when I ordered five chooks instead of three.

How about black pudding and poached eggs for a Friday breakfast? Make up for the poor food showing at dinnertime tonight and boost our jaded bodies ready for one more day of work/school for the males. Perhaps it will give me the energy to clean. ha de ha ha.

Off to show my kefir grains some love...

Monday, September 7, 2009

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 in that plot and then pile it up with mushroom compost and begin Fionn's flower and food scheme.

Here is a pea growing under the protection of an apple juice container. We've not had much success with peas before and I've got my fingers crossed for a breakthrough this year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

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.

Then we had visitors and played in the sunshine and I mended the chook run after one chook escaped (hmm in precisely the place Favourite Handyman had said the wire needed replacing) and we collected three eggs today so all is looking good on the weekend eggs for breakfasts front and then it was time for the Friday swimming lesson and it was too late for bread. So I googled no knead sourdough bread 20 minutes ago and have added flour and yeast and water and salt to my starter and left it in the hot water cupboard for the night. Sometime tomorrow we should be eating fresh bread.

And tonight, after about four months without a camera, Fionn found our camera. Sitting quietly in the side pocket of the nappy bag. So given that now I have my own memory stick and FH has agreed to show me how to down/upload photos myself, I might even have photos to go on my blog later this weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

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 Queen of Sheba would fancy it, wanted for the school lunchbox means I have hit the jackpot! I took some with me to a friend's this afternoon and that went down well also. I served it sliced and spread with butter.

At least one of our new chooks has started laying. I took the torch out tonight just to look at them...

Next amongst my cooking projects is some more recipes with turmeric in them and also some black strap molasses recipes. I have made baked beans from scratch with molasses and I think they all liked that. I am torn at the moment between wanting to get out into the garden and fearing the consequences of Brighid's 'assistance'.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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 Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal at the library. I do love a good food politics book and I especially love to find a recent one at the library. The photographs alone are poweful.

Progress with our local primary school food garden has been so slow that I am embarassed. The obstacle of needing to jackhammer out the old concrete sandpit and before even that to check the proximity of pipes (waiting on this bit now) before we can even lay in some soil has hindered me to the point that nothing has happened all year. But today I chatted with the keenest teacher and we are going to get some food growing in pots very soon. I can't bear for it to be spring and us not get something happening. Last year we had a potato growing competition. This year we are currently thinking of growing salad greens and harvesting them as part of a school shared healthy lunch. The school did a lovely shared lunch at the beginning of this year but plot to plate would be even better.

The New Zealand Gardener magazine has it's gardener of the year competition regional finalists in the current issue. Stan from the health food shop here in our small town is the West Coast finalist. Stan is a quirky fellow with a passion for roses. He is also a great resource with his stock and knowledge in his health shop. It's pretty exciting knowing a finalist.

As usual, community projects involve lots of raffles. I've been buying hockey raffle tickets aplenty lately, to support our young hockey players in their national tournament coming up. This afternoon I bought a camp raffle out at Jonesy's butchery. I always buy camp raffles for the lowest decile schools, no matter how piffling the prizes. My son's school has a relatively privileged intake and many grandparents and ex-pupils around to buy up generously. Not so every school.