Thursday, February 14, 2019

Home veggie gardens can save the world

I have been following the articles posted on The Conversation.   Research from The Food and Agriculture Organization has discovered that in actual fact three quarters of the worlds food is grown in family farms.  I get quite frustrated when I hear of all the food that is actually sent to landfill from large scale agriculture.  I know that each little deformed tomato or spotty cucumber out of my garden has been loved along its growth journey and gets pride of place on my plate, but I certainly don't grow enough to feed the family.  I think Morag Gamble at our Permaculture Life has done some marvelous work in introducing permaculture classes to families in Kenya. Every little family farm and home veggie garden should be inspired and helped in every way possible.

I am a great believer in building up healthy soil in order to produce lots of healthy produce in my little garden.  There is so much conflicting thought on the matter, and in fact without planning it I have ended up with one no dig garden bed, one perrenial bed and one conventional raised bed. The one right at the back that started out as being a hughelkulture mound was contained into a raised bed, then I laid a thick layer of newspapers on top and covered with a thick layer of council mulch.   I cut slits into the newspaper to plant out a few cassava plants, because I had nowhere else for them to go.  Then as I noticed more and more volunteer sweet potatoes coming up, they were also moved into the bed.   That is what grows best here in the tropical wet season. I think when it comes to planting season, I will have to dig up the cassava and sweet potato, but might then cover with newspaper and mulch again, simply cutting out little slits to plant the seedlings into. I like this system.

For now though, I cannot grow much in the garden as the                                grasshoppers and numerous other insects seem to be very                              hungry.  I am growing microgreens and sprouts inside,                                   while I plan what I will plant outside once the weather                                                                             cools down.

The other bed has the few little volunteer plants that remained from my old garden.  The lettuces that keep going to seed, and then reviving themselves.  The everlasting rocket, cast iron parsley, and of course all the lovely ginger.  Every time I found a little bit of ginger I would pop it into this bed, and my gosh I think I am going to get a bumper ginger crop.  I have been digging out the turmeric volunteers as I always have way too much turmeric, but last year I got a bit low on ginger, so am making sure that doesn't happen again!
Of course with all the rain there is lots of colour in the garden - this is off to the side, outside the bedroom window.

Farmers footprint is a short film about how regenerating the soil is helping farmers to move away from heavy chemicals.  Well worth watching.   In the meantime I am working on creating lots of compost to add just before our growing season starts. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life - week 5

Just as well Jenny is spurring me on weekly to do a blog post, and she is the one going through the extreme rain event in Townsville.  My best wishes to everyone affected by the flooding.  May the sun shine on you and the spirit of community lift your hearts.

It is nice to have a theme and this weeks theme is  Playtime, or informal play - something I always struggle with.
I always want what I make to have  a purpose, to be useful, even before re-using and re-purposing became a "thing"  I was doing it! 

In journal writing, when told to just write without thinking, I have a blockage.  When told to just paint without a plan, all I can think about is the waste of the paint and the paper.

I think frugality holds me back a bit from spontaneity.

I love shows like Escape to the Country or Songs of Praise, and the James Herriot series.  I really enjoy seeing the English countryside, so a trip to the English countryside is on my one day bucket list.  Then again, armchair travelling is suiting me quite well - the weather is climate controlled!  I am a sucker for stained glass, and even tried my hand at it for a couple of years, and I must say thoroughly enjoyed it.  Last year I had an amazing trip through Spain and France with my older daughter and her husband.  It would be hard to top the stained glass I saw in Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Gardening and cooking shows are also a big favorite, and I was even blessed with a visit from Costa to my very own garden when we had a local garden competition! 

I guess what I like to watch is things I could imagine myself doing.  Really it all boils down to living the gentle domestic life the best way we know how to. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life week 4

 Week four is here already in the living the domestic life series hosted by Jenny..  A subject close to my heart is reading, and reading about other women's lives is my favourite way to while away an afternoon.
I remember been totally immersed in books such as
Ann of Green Gables,  (remember when she dyed her hair green?)
Daddy long legs by Jean Webster.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
One pair of hands, by Monica Dickens
After seeing, and loving, the series Call the Midwife I managed to get the book out of the library.

I think the trend I see here is following along on a woman's journey, growing up courageous.  I dont actually keep a lot of books, being a bit of a minimalist, and with libraries able to find any book I find that frees up a bit of space.

Well, it is the end of the week and I am only just getting back to this post.  Everyone posted pineapple upside down cakes, I just eat my pineapples cut up in chunks - especially the free ones that I grow from old pineapple tops! 
We had the heavy monsoonal rain last week, and now it seems to be heading down and settling around where Jenny lives.  The garden loves all this rain, and all my landscaping around the veggie patch seemed to work well as the excess water drained away from the house.  (Well most of it!)
 Lots of colour bursting forth.  the tsliandia above and the lipstick plant below - the flower pops out of the tube like a lipstick. (sorry about the photo quality)
 Since I had tons of free time and we were marooned for four days I started a baby blanket for our new little grand daughter.  I just love this pattern, no big holes for little ones to poke their fingers into!

Hope everyone stay dry and safe this weekend as another wave of the monsoon washes over our area!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Living the gentle Domestic life week 3

I dont know if it because I am slightly older and seeing retirement edging ever closer, or if something else has shifted.  I suddenly feel the need to simplify things.  To make only useful things, things that bring joy.

The gentle domesticity book study is right in line with those thoughts. and this week we are in week three. Link to Jenny's post here, for some lovely insights and her thoughts on the subject.

This week we are thinking about inspiration.  Being aware of ones surroundings, and using those thoughts and ideas to carry on into the rest of our lives.  This does not mean that you have to make something every time you see something beautiful.  Rather I think it means that you carry those little bits of beauty and joy around with you.  Hold onto those moments and let them become a part of you.  Sometimes that memory will come back and inspire a deed or action, sometimes it will just sit with you forever and make you happy.  This is one of my favourite quotes:

I loved the Summer in Cumberland painting by  James Durden, painted just after WW1.  What a wonderful time to be painting a scene of joy and calmness.  I love the light in this painting, and the way her legs are crossed as she sits holding the tea cup very properly.  I noticed myself sitting up straighter (and taking a short break to make myself a cup of tea).  I also home schooled my two girls for much of their schooling, out of necessity, because we lived and traveled around the world on a sailboat.  My youngest went on to achieve a PhD in Art History, and yet I don't remember even once studying the arts with them!  From her I have learned a lot about looking deeper into paintings to see the hidden meanings.  I see a lot of circular things happen in our lives, and learning from the children I once taught gives me such a feeling of joy and pride.

Every afternoon my hubby and I go for a walk on the beach and every afternoon the beach is different.  The gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore is mesmerizing and calming.  We often think to take a photo, but then find that yet another photo has not captured the essence that we feel.  Often we pull the folding chairs out and sit and watch the sun set.
Sometimes I bring bits of the beach back with me, this early morning photo just as I was leaving for work sets up my day:

 I picked up a palm tree seed pod on the beach to use one rainy day when I need to occupy the grand kids.  We will paint it and then use it for candles, or fruit or wherever their imagination takes them. Since they like to use their ipads I might get them to look up ideas on pintrest.  We have often used items from the beach to make up different crafty garden decorations.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Menu planning - Vegan recipes

I have a daughter in law who cannot eat eggs or milk, so am always on the lookout for recipes that I can use when she is coming around. On Saturday we had 7 people to dinner, and I cooked cassoulet again.  That is fast becoming a favourite meal for a crowd.  I serve it in my big bessamer pot, and I like to make it in advance so the flavours can meld as it simmers slowly on the stove.  This means I am not rushing around preparing dinner at the last minute.  Alongside I served a big salad with spinach and a mix of tomatoes, cucumbers,red onion and chick peas marinaded in a lemony olive oil dressing.   Of course there is bread to mop up the juices!  Oh!  and bubbly (not French my budget doesnt run to that,)  and French red wine. 
For dessert I had to do a bit of research and planning.  I have had this recipe for vegan chocolate cake on my evernote feed for quite some time, and eventually tried it, and it is a keeper!
I did of course mess with the recipe a bit.  I couldn't find applesauce so took some pears canned in their own juice, drained them and mashed them.  I also used canola oil, instead of coconut, and used 1 cup of sugar instead of  1/13 cup.  OH!  and I also made half the frosting, didn't add the chocolate chips, and that was plenty!   That recipe is a keeper.
Since I had the oven on, and you can always have more dessert, and I had just opened a can of chickpeas for the salad I decided to try cooking with aquafaba.  For the uninitiated, this is simply the liquid from a  can of chickpeas, and you will not believe it, but it whips just like eggwhite.
That in turn became those pillowy little cookies. :)  Once again I didnt add chocolate chips, because quite honestly in my little town you are not going to get vegan chocolate chips, and anyway I think these traditionally only contain nuts.   If you want to try the recipe it is here.
Next week the menu will be super healthy!  (Oh there is one birthday, so maybe not!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Living the gentle domestic life part 2 - domesticity

This week in our book study over at Jenny's blog she is talking about  domesticity which is a bit different from the normal drudgery of cleaning, and keeping house.  That stuff still does need to be done, but domesticity seems to be the cherry on the top, the extra little bits that make a house a home.
Mostly this is handed down from generation to generation, and I especially remember my great Aunty Ellen.  She taught me to crochet when I was about eight - not with wool and a big hook, but with thread, a tiny hook, and  a complicated doily pattern!  Later she taught me tatting, which I think not many people have the privilege of knowing.   She lived a thousand miles away, and we used to go down to the coast once a year at Christmas.  I loved how she didn't treat me like a child, but a fellow crafter. I still use her shortbread recipe to this day. 

 When my girls were little and I was sewing, they would pick up the scraps and "design"  an outfit for one of their dolls.  Honestly their dolls had more changes of clothes than they did!  Now I have the joy of introducing crafts to my grandchildren.  These days I think it is even more important to pass these gentle domestic arts on.  They dont have to be expensive, using preloved fabrics and buying thread from the thrift store somehow takes these crafts back to the way they used to be done.
I had enough left over from the binding of my quilt to make a little dress for my grand daughter in America.  Her Mom always talks about the fond memories she has of a favourite dress I made her. The pocket had a little applique of a deck chair and a palm tree.  I have decided that this little pink dress needs a special pocket, so am embroidering a butterfly!  I am hoping to find a little butterfly toy that will fit inside the pocket.

I hope that down the road she will remember her little pink dress with an embroidered butterfly pocket!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Menu planning

We have my stepson staying with us this week, and I thought I had better get a bit organised with my menu plan.    What  I normally do is write down on the left hand side of the page a few dinners that I would like to cook for the week, and then on the right side of the page write the ingredients I need (after checking what I have on hand).  Breakfast and lunches are normally leftovers or regular rotation, so certain things are purchased every week.  I have being doing intermittent fasting for about 6 months now, so each day is only two meals.  Lunch and dinner over the weekends, and then breakfast and lunch during the week.  I thought I had better do a bit of baking to have some things on hand.  A staple growing up was my Moms crunchies, and they changed over the years to a healthier option.  Every time I make the recipe I change a few things as I use up whatever is on hand. This time they are walnut and date based.

Sunday: Roast chicken and vegetables, and I made stock with the bones for Saturdays Cassoulet.
Monday :  Roast vegetables with some leftover chicken.
Prep day: Extra roasted vegetables to go with salads for the week.   I chop a bowl of kale and massage himalayan salt into it.  This really softens the leaves, and they are used with roast veggies for salad, and the leaves sit quite happily in the fridge for days. Hummus or another protein is normally added.
Ham and  cauliflower pots, these are kept in the freezer to be taken out for lunches with a salad as needed.  This is a tasty way to use up the christmas ham. Here is the recipe.

Tuesday:  Pizza out.
Wednesday:  Hubby will make his beef curry, with lots of vegetables added.
Thursday:  Pork chops with potatoes, I like those low carb ones, and parsley (and of course butter) with a mixed salad.
Friday: Dinner out with family
Saturday:  Cassoulet, a little reminder of my lovely french holiday this summer.  This will be cooked in my big bessemer pot which will feed a crowd. 

Do you meal plan?  Do you have  a fairly loose arrangement like I do?


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