Creating an urban homestead and news about life.

Monday, June 30, 2008

independance days update

Planted: More lemon grass, native mint and marjoram. Brocolli seeds, Jerusalem Artichokes. Transplanted my first batch of lettuce from a pot where they were not growing well to the garden. Banana sucker.

Harvest something: Coriander for a soup

Preserve something: Nothing

Store Something: Hmm, this one's hard as I'm trying to get through what I already have.

Manage Reserves: Have gone through almost all my food supplies and only kept 1-2 of anything in the kitchen cupboards, moving the rest to the stockpile. My kitchen is returning to some sense of order.

Prepped: Have been digging out agapanthus from where I am going to plant my espaliered fruit trees. Went to a friends who has horses and picked up three large feed bags of horse manure.

Worked on Local Food Systems: Friend with horses also gave me some of her chooks eggs. Made contact with local cafe who have bought a block of land for a community garden and beginning to liase with them around setting up a local food forum. Whilst digging up agapanthus plants I also pulled out some buffalo grass runners. Went to list agapanthus on freecycle and as an afterthought added the buffalo grass. I had a quick response not for the aggies, but for the grass. Soon worked out the person I was talking to is a local permie I had been trying to contact, and she brought some guys around today to remove my entire front lawn. In return I will go and have a tour of her garden and get some cuttings!! She is also keen to set up a food and growing network to share excess and plantstock.

Reduced Waste: Gave away plants rather than disposed of them. Composted.

Cooked something new: I cooked a sweet potato soup I made once many years ago when first living in a share house. It was very popular but I lost the recipe and found it on a blog last week. It was delicious. I had leftovers for lunch today. Next time I want to make it with my own dried beans rather than the tinned variety.

Learned a new skill: How to get rid of a lawn. Give it away and let them dig it up.... lol

Friday, June 27, 2008

Winter Solstice and Housewarming Party

Friends around the fire. I got this brazier off the side of the road and it's lovely, works best with small branches which I often pick up when walking home from work. Australian gum trees have a habit of their branches dying on the tree and then falling down in the wind. This means that just about anything that falls out of one of them is good for burning.
Please ignore Deb's bare legs and feet, and instead look at my socks, long pants, scarf and jumper. It was cold, but the fire kept me toasty warm.

My Brother was chef Extraordinaire. He did want an apron though, and this is now the BBQ apron, it's plasticcy, so you can wipe it down.

Friends, Debs and Mera around the fire

Me and my little sis Jonina

There were people inside as well, Michael and Erika my old housemates laughing at Deb's crocodile antics with the tongs.

Figured a party with a fire was a great way to pass the shortest day of the year, now I'm looking forward to the days getting longer, and the food my garden is starting to produce!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Kitchen Fusspot

The Kitchen Fusspot

They are, in the kitchen at least, late developers. Often genteel, effete, with alittle too much time on their hands. Meals emerge from their kitchens with a sense of expectation, each ingredient having been painstakingly sourced, every direction in the cookery book followed to the letter, and inevitable late. The meal has something of the theatrical production about it, albeit amateur dramatics, as if it has all been so, so much trouble. Which of course it has. And don't we know it.
The kitchen fusspot prepares dinner - a charming though slightly too creamy soup, meat with a syrupy, over-reduced sauce, a dessert as elaborate as an ascot hat and probably just as indigestible - while his guests get more and more hungary, not to say a little pissed.
The kitchen, once tidy enough to appear in the pages of World of Interiors, now resembles a bombsite of stacked roasting tins, saute pans and sieves.
Fusspot is almost always male. He only cooks once a month, if that, and needs endless encouragement and ego massage. The production starts several days before, with working out what to cook with the aid of a pile of cookery books of the celebrity chef variety, and a shopping list, often taken to bed. There may be a tasting of the wines to be served, many of which have come from his own cellar. The menu will be changed every day, each dish chosen for it's ability to follow its predecessor perfectly, to match the wines, to show the cook at his most competent.
The directions will have been analysed in a way the poor cookery writer never dreamed of, each line dissected and filleted and the given a jolly good roasting.

from "Eating for England" by Nigel Slater.
As I read this passage over breakfast it reminded me of some meals that have been cooked for me. I'm sure some of you will relate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Independance days challenge

Planted: Lemon grass (from local markets) Comfrey, from my friend Sue and Frilly Endive (seeds from friend Roberta)

Harvest something: Nothing this week

Preserve something: Ditto

Store Something: Coles have weekly bulk buy specials here lately. I bought 5 tins of tomatoes ten individual serves of tuna and 12 tins of coconut cream, all of which I use quite a bit through this and got them all for more or less half price.

Manage Reserves: Have made one of the cupboards in my laundy my stockpile and am going through the kitchen cupboards to keep only 1-2 of each item there and any multiples will go in the stock pile so I can manage my food better.

Prepped: I had some friends come stay on the weekend, we spent sunday morning pruning and then I spent the afternoon mulching after they left. I think in future I will keep all the long branches to use as stakes and pea trellises, but only thought of that after I had had fun turning them into woodchips.

Worked on Local Food Systems: Volunteered at our local organic food co-op at the markets. We were out of most of our bulk produce as the co-op had a stall at world environment day and obviously did a brisk trade. There were the usual free range eggs and fruit and veges from local growers but the local sourdough bakery messed up our order and lots of shoppers were disappointed.

Reduced Waste: Mulching prunings (I think I won't do the rose prunings though as I have too many thorn incidents as it is. They will have to go off property. I want to try and do a compost tea with the weeds I pulled out. I won't put grass runners into the compost, but if they decompose in water first and create liquid fertilizer I think they may actually die.

Cooked something new: Trying to think. I don't think I really cooked much this week at all. Oh, I made rissoles, and I don't think I've ever done that without my mother standing beside me telling me what to put in.

Learned a new skill: Pruning roses!! Never had them growing up, so that was definately a new skill. Somewhat painful as they were severly overgrown and I couldn't find my gloves.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A dinner party, and my trip to work...on foot.

Well, two weekends ago I went to canberra to pick up furniture from some relatives. Last weekend, I had my first dinner party. It was a lovely night of delicious food and great company. Robi and Adam on the right brought a lasagne, salad and garlic bread, Tracey and Jill on the left brought dessert (cheesecake and apple pie) and Lynda brought drinks. I provided an entree of a Tom yum soup, with fish and dried mushrooms and rice noodles.

All these guys are people I know quite well from my church, but none of them really knew each other before the night. I quite enjoy introducing people and building community. Invite them, chuck them in a room together and watch new friendships grow. Whether anyone decides to catch up again apart from at another dinner party I hold, I love the fact that when they meet again they will no longer be strangers.

Also, I thought I would share my walk to work with you. This is only possible because of the direct decision I made to buy a home close to town. I am now located in a place where I literally would never need to drive a car again. At the moment I am still driving, although only to places I can't walk to. My church is a 7 minute drive away which is not realistic to do late at night. Should petrol become un realistically expensive I will either have to carpool more with others (I am already trying to do this where possible) or consider moving churches, which is not an option I really want to consider as I love my church. The other option is riding my bike, which I have bought and used now. Anyhow, also withing walking distance are all the local shops, the town's main bus station, from which I can get to the train station, the beach, and most capital cities in Australia. I can also walk to my mother's home, and numerous friends, hospital and doctors etc.

These hibiscus bushes are my first stop. They were overgrown and completely covering the path until someone who will remain nameless and is not me took to them after an evening shift (about 1am) with a pair of branch loppers. This has made the path accessible and the bushes a profusion of flowers.

The bushes are next to a doctor's surgery which has the most beautiful cottage garden, including a pathway of lavender bushes. These are always full of flowers and smell divine when the sun is out. I am planning to take some cuttings soon.

This is our central town park. Within the park is the local guide hall where I did Brownies and Guides from age 7 to 15. This park was definately part of my childhood. It has some lovely rose gardens and more recently camellia gardens which add to to park. A regret for me is that council decided to remove the waterlillies which used to cover the surface of the water. Now the ponds are much dirtier and much less attractive, and I worry about the nutrients which flow into it I believe as storm water. I have often thought of secreting a couple of plants in at night. Any one have any that need dividing???

One thing I love in our town is that local artists were commissioned to paint all the electricity boxes. There are some brilliant ones and this one is by no means my favourite, it's just the one I pass on the way to work. One has a circus theme, another cows. If I remember, I'll try and photograph some more if anyone would like to see them. It definately improves the streetscape.

This photo is one of the last parts of my walk, and probably the most depressing at the moment, a constant reminder of the rising cost of living, but also as I walk past it an encouragement that everytime I walk I am not only saving the environment, but also my hip pocket. It definately motivates me to think of ways to not need to use the car, like shopping at the hardware store in town rather than Bunnings, like riding the bike to my friends house, which is harder and takes more time, but leaves me fitter and the planet healthier.

What does the rising price of petrol challenge you to do??? I'd love to hear some of your creative ideas, and focus on what we can do to change. There's lots of fears and concerns but lets help each other find the answers.


ps. Rhonda at Down to Earth just pointed out an interview that screened last night in Australia with Richard Heinburg, oil expert. You can read the transcript here

Monday, June 16, 2008

Independance Days Challenge

Sue at Dog's Little Acre has been posting about her independance days challenge each week I think, and I thought I would try and do it too as it sets out different tasks and if I have to list it out, I'm more likely to get it done.

Here goes for last week:

Planted: lettuce, 2 varieties, turnips, kohl rabi, parsnip (although I am unsure whether this is still viable) christmas lima bean, sweet pea, nasturtium. Oh and garlic (found 4 heads on sale for 50 cents as they were sprouting. can't hurt to chuck them in and see if they grow.)

Harvest something: Parsley

Preserve something: Lemon Curd

Store Something: Rice. I am eating a bit at the moment as part of a challenge with Tear fund australia.

Manage Reserves: Have found all stored food from when I lived in Sydney I think and am trying to manage using it all up so I can start preserving fresh produce.

Prepped: Bought reclaimed steel spikes for holding up retaining wall and star pickets from council tips buy back centre. Picked up old logs from family's old house to use as retaining wall for new garden. Just need to drill holes through them and get them in now.

Worked on Local Food Systems: None, but will be this coming weekend.

Reduced Waste: Composting non shiny paper in the compost. Using old coffee cups (paper) as seedling pots. Mulching with dried out lawn clippings.

Cooked something new: Lemon Curd, see above. Tom Yum Soup. with fish and dried mushrooms (entree for Sat night dinner party)

Learned a new skill: Can't think of anything for this week.

Lemon Curd (Mmm)

This photo from here (I forgot to take a photo last night)

I made lemon curd yesterday and though I would post the recipe

2 lemons zest and juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons butter

basically whisk constantly while bringing to the boil, (you don’t want eggy bits cooking on their own) and then lightly boil for 5 mins and pour into clean warm bottles. This amount makes one bottle but you can just multiply the recipe to make more. It was very easy and quick to make, only about 15 mins work all up at a maximum.

I got this off a blog (can’t remember who sorry) and thought I would make it as I had homegrown lemons from my grandpa to use up and free range eggs in the fridge and the markets are on this weekend so I will be getting more! The smaller butter method will keep in the fridge for a few weeks and and they said if you want to keep it longer replace the 2 teaspoons butter with 2 table spoons of butter and it will keep up to 12 months unopened and then the same.

Can’t confirm the storing ability, but can confirm the yumminess. Great use for eggs and lemons. A friend and I had some on banana bread yesterday and it was delicious.

There will be more posted tomorrow with developments at my long as I can get a photo taken in the morning. You have to guess what of!


Thursday, June 12, 2008


June long weekend is a special weekend in Canberra. It is the only weekend of the year you are legally allowed to let off fireworks. This year was the most restrictive ever, with fireworks only going on sale Friday morning and only to be used between 5 and 9pm saturday and sunday of the long weekend. It's a Public holiday in honour of the queen's birthday, although it isn't actually the Queen's birthday, please don't ask me to explain that one.

My grandparents had some furniture they were giving me and my friends were doing fireworks so I thought I'd combine the two trips into one. It actually turned out to be a very productive trip. Firstly because my aunt and uncle had a bunch of furniture they gave me as well, photos will come soon after it's all set up. All told I was given a three peice lounge setting, a coffee table, a dining table, five chairs (to match three I already had and make 8 in total, a rug for the garage, a heater, some blankets, some books and some home grown fruit. There's more I have to pick up another time.

It was also productive in that I was able to catch up with lots of people who are important to me and spend time with them. I drove the back route 4WD through Nerriga (unsealed road after the rain = lots of fun, but I only did it unloaded and came back via the sealed road) and visited a friend who is building a low impact house there. I had lunch with my Grandma and we went shopping. I stayed the night with aunt and uncle and spent some good time with them. I went to church with a friend from Sydney who has moved to Canberra and caught up and encouraged each other. I spent time with my Grandparents on the other side. I caught up with three of my cousins and with a bunch of friends. And then on the way home stopped in on old friends from high school youth group days.

This is Xavier, my surrogate nephew, he loves this jumper and it's right next to the kitchen, keeps him amused while mum is busy cooking.

Me with my gorgeous cousins. We had the couch outside in the driveway to watch the fireworks.

My cousins playing with sparklers. I love special effects. We had goes at writing our names but the shutter didn't stay open long enough.

The boys setting up the fireworks. We all took turns lighting them, even my young cousins (with close supervision.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend, Now I just need to recover!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Around the house

This is the delicious cauliflower soup I made this week.
Cauliflower, potatoes and onion (and I added two turnips) chopped up and put in the pot.
Add a tablespoon of oil and 1/4 cup of water, heat until bubbling then cover and cook on medium for ten minutes. Veges should be steamed and softened, but should not be dry.

Add tblsp grated ginger, crushed clove of garlic, 3tsp turmeric, tsp ground coriander, tsp cumin seeds s+p and cook stirring on med-high for two minutes (this is the point at which the photo was taken. The veges all got more yellow still. Then add 1Litre vege stock and simmer 20mins. Puree before eating.

This got praise from all my siblings, my brothers girlfriend and friends. (and I thought it was pretty good too.

The other night I made Risotto and there was some left over so I made some risotto balls. Just got some mozzarella and put a small piece in the middle of a chunk of risotto and molded it much like a meatball, then rolled them in breadcrumbs.

I think traditionally they would be deepfried but instead I sprayed them in light oil and baked them while a cake was in the oven. Delicious fresh and reheated. Great way to use leftovers.

In the growing challenge I have some sprouts emerging from my seed trays. Broad beens lettuce, and peas of some kind (I can't remember if they are snow or ordinary.) I also planted some more and mostly things I haven't grown before: pidgeon peas, chicory, thyme, dill, warigal greens. Can't wait for them to come up. I do need to get some silverbeet in too, as it's so good in winter.

I'll also explain my potting cups. These are the cups you get coffee in, and I get all my coworkers to rinse their cups out and keep them for me, I then rip the bottoms out and fill with potting mix and seedraising mix. They do need to be in a sealed container such as an ice cream container or plastic tray to keep the soil in but by the time they are planted out the roots generally are holding all the soil together.

Because they are waxed they do not wick the moisture away from the plants like the newspaper pots can sometimes do, and when they are planted out they provide a small barrier to protect tender young seedlings from the slug attacks that used to decimate my plants. they then gradually breakdown and add to the organic matter in the garden.

Now I have to wait for the ground to dry out a little, (it's been raining since the weekend) so I can prepare some more garden beds to plant out all these plants.

Also on the weekend I went out to our local tip which has a buy back centre and found a perfactly good electric mulcher. I have been thinking about getting one of these for a long time, but the cost was prohibitive. This was only $15 and was thrown out a branch was jammed. The tip manager just dislodged the branch and hey presto as new mulcher.

I promptly went home, got a cord to fit and mulched some weedy trees. I believe they are a native legume so I will use thema s mulch and in the compost. I also picked up some cheap concrete reinforcing wire. One of the sheets I have set over the broad beans and will support them as they grow. I simply folded it into an a frame shape and the wire was cut off with spikes that I pushed into the ground.

You can see the broad beans have grown a lot since the last post You can also see my sexy gumboot (there are two) that I got in new zealand. There is another sheet of wire I will use to grow the snow peas on and then I'll have to go back for more.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day at the abbey

I spent Friday night and Saturday at the abbey at Jamberoo. This was the abbey that featured in the recent tv show however, I have been visiting here since I was in high school. I am not catholic, but I am contemplative in my spiritual journey as a christian and have found it a blessing to visit and spend time with the nuns here.

This weekend was a Taize retreat day. I went up the night before as I like to visit the abbey and spend time in the grounds and in quiet, and love the early service at 4:30am. It's really special to wake before the world does and walk under the stars to the chapel which is lit only by candles and gather with others to pray for the day.

The retreat day was also great, joining in song and prayer and having sessions run by one of the nuns and the chaplain who is a carmelite priest. The theme for the day was silence, about making space to listen, to engage with the world. So often the noise of the world can drown us out, and we need to still ourselves. That may be simply turning off the TV, lighting a candle, or just engaging with those around you. I am inspired to practice silence more.

Actually one interesting thing was that I didn't feel as much of a difference going there as I normally do. It usually feels so different to be still and quiet. However I think not having a TV has allowed me to be a bit quieter and listen to those around me, listen to God, listen to myself...

The drive there is lovely, along the coast of south eastern Australia. I was going to post a photo but it didn't load up. Have a lovely night all.