My what a busy year you have had.

My what a busy year you have had.

Well it has been a very, very, very busy year.

As I am sitting here having eaten a nice meal home cooked with my family and knocking back a nice cold elderberry champagne I must admit I am pretty content.

Not complacent just content. I wandered around my back yard this evening thinking I need to do this. I need to do that but I reminded myself of the many things I have done.

In some ways the approach I am taking to lighten my step on the earth is working but it is still way too heavy. I am not the worst or the best and if the whole world lived like me we would be in trouble. Conversely if the whole of Australia lived like me we would perhaps be starting down a better road (just my opinion here).

So where to from here? Well for me I intend to keep going. I have a number of things I would like to do this year as listed below but one of things I will do is take more time to spend with my family.

While I was always interested in the world and the long term living of within means, my children bring home why I have to continue to change.  For anyone reading this it is a long term thing. Each day you look at the world a little differently and hopefully a little better.

Achievements this year.

  • Garden more productive than last year.
  • Passive solar changes for the house underway
  • Front yard full of idea’s (most would call it full of junk)
  • 87 posts on this blog (some of them readable)
  • Lots of good meals with friends and family
  • Some bartering for services.
  • Lots of plant swaps.
  • Most of my seedlings self grown (or bartered)
  • New skills such as salami making, meat curing and stone carving learnt
  • A lot of booze brewed (some of it even drinkable – cheers)
  • Foraging skills for plants, materials etc  increased.
  • Bees in the back yard
  • Started a few people on the road to growing their own gardens
  • A reconnection to local food through the garden, the ceres box, and the cheese and tofu coop.
  • And mostly two happy little kids who love the world.

It is short list but there is a good number of things to be happy for I think.

For next year

  • Shed move
  • Retaining walls.
  • Retro fit the house for energy saving
  • The new plot in the community garden
  • More garden beds
  • Cellar space
  • Harvest Honey
  • Hot house
  • More time with my family and of course…
  • two happy little kids who love the world 

This list is shorter as more things will creep in and the last two items will be a strong focus. Time spent smelling the roses and enjoying friends and family more.

I still had to work tonight and again tomorrow, a reminder of the bad old days for me in the corporate world but I am starting see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Happy to be working at the end of the day and working towards the rest of my goals

May you all have a great new years and safe break (if you are having one) see you all next year (yes that is tomorrow)

New Years Eve Dinner (yes it can be a food blog at times)

Chicken

  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs (you can use breast fillets but thigh are better flavour and will not dry out so much)
  • 2 table spoons fish sauce
  • 1 table spoon of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Table spoon of water
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • Teaspoon of fresh chilli
  • Walnut sized piece of ginger grated
  • 4 or 5 spring onions sliced up.
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 table spoon sesame oil

Put the chicken breasts in foil and pour over the rest of the ingredients you have mixed in a jug. Wrap up and seal the tin foil and cook in an oven at 170 degree Celsius for around 30 to 45 minutes (breast fillets 30 minutes, thighs longer)

Meat will fall off the bone and both children where getting right into it.

Salad

  • 1 cucumber sliced on grater slicer
  • 1 zucchini sliced on grater slicer
  • 1 carrot peeled and sliced with a peeler in long strips
  • 1 tablespoon of flaked almonds (I ran out tonight)

Mix vegetables together and season with macadamia/olive oil, vinegar salt and pepper  leave for a while then toss in the almonds prior to serving.

Works very well mixed together on a plate with chicken meat, and steamed rice.

An excess of feasting

Well Christmas is over for another year. For us it has been a good but busy … holiday period. We spent a lot of time with family, travelled a lot and hopefully had slightly greener Christmas for the sake of the kids.

We feasted as royalty could not have 200 years ago. Pork product after pork product after pork product. One of the things about being of German decent on one side and redneck on the other is I have always been exposed to a urbane European background on one side and a very old school country up bringing on the other side.

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For me Christmas has always been about the feasts. On Christmas eve we would gather at my Oma’s house and eat a tradition German meal, soup, good frankfurts, herring salad and of course my oma’s potato salad which still has no equal in my eyes. At that time things like the specialty chocolates would be sent from Germany and there would be counting of them. We would gather eat, open our presents and enjoy each other’s company.

Christmas day was for the other side of the family. Mum slaving over wood fired stove in 40 degree Celsius weather and the far simpler evening meal at my Australian grandparents farm but surrounded by dozens of my cousins creating chaos as only kids can.

In all of this the act of getting together has been the main aim. In times past the act of a feast and a gathering to celebrate was a major thing. To roast a whole leg of something or a large bird. What an luxurious thing. It helped people to bond and was something people could look forward to.

Now with obesity at record levels and the fact we can get anything (including those specialty chocolates) at any time of the year the feast could easily be looked at as just another party.  But the chance to spend time with family is as important as it ever was. Perhaps more so now that I have children and want them to grow up with those same strong bonds I have had with family.

Over time our family has moved away from conspicuous consumption. When I was a kid items like bikes where the gifts we received we then went through the same phase everyone did of lots and lots and lots of presents and now the children get lots of gifts but we keep it toned down for the rest of the family. Books, food items, even plants and seeds are given away. This year a number of us gave Oxfam cards including a well I purchased for my whole family. While we valued and appreciated the gifts given to us by the family as my wife said the best gift we received was a couple of goats that would go to someone who really needs them somewhere.

For us in our conspicuous society it has perhaps come time to realise that less is more, and the act of giving and spending time with family is more import to us that the gifts.

One of the good things about my family is most of them are great cooks, my grandmothers potato salad, my mothers pavlova with berries from her garden, homemade fish pate with fresh dill, salads, trifles, baked meats and more. For me the this year apart from providing the sliced ham from our artisan smoker for Christmas eve I was to bake a leg of ham of ham for the Christmas day lunch.

Now where practical and possible we have purchased heritage pig smoked by artisan for ham however as I had to bake this for a large gathering and at $30 per KG of smoked goodness I couldn’t bring myself to use it for the baked ham. I went for a good leg of Australian ham (which cost me about the same for 4kg as for 1 kg of my artisan ham) and after skinning it and putting together an orange marmalade, Australian Banksia honey, spices and bourbon glaze and baking it in the oven for over an hour I must admit that the taste of the artisan ham would have been wasted on this dish.

It is difficult thing I find. I know that the cost for the better ham would have been small in comparison to my wage and I should get the ethical ham but I suppose I can salve my conscience a bit by looking at the cost difference being most of the well I bought.

Again at the lunch gifts where small and well thought out. Light on the world as much as is possible and in a season of hope I must admit to being quietly optimistic seeing pre war, baby boomers, gen x, y and w all not worried about the material side of the holiday season and just enjoying each others company. It bodes better for my kids future. There will still be a lot to look at raise for them but at least perhaps this message is starting to come across.

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Value the time, family and life you have. Drink blackberry whisky with your father, let the kids play with their grandparents and family as in the end it is all that really matters.

Baked Ham.

Take a good leg of ham  3- 4 kg and skin making sure you leave as much fat as you can. Slice into the fat in a diamond pattern of about a cm or so.

Stud the upper side with a good number of whole cloves (I do one about ever ½ a cm). While doing the cloves in saucepan mix the other ingredients and let them reduce just a bit.

Coat the top of the ham with about 2/3 of the mix and put in a pre warmed oven at 170 degree Celsius  and baste with the remaining glaze every 20 minutes or so. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half.

Leave to stand for about 10 minutes (or longer) then slice and serve.

Ingredients

  • Ham 3-4kg leg.
  • Whole cloves to stud the leg

Glaze

  • ¾ of a cup of orange juice
  • Jar of marmalade (around 1 cup)
  • 1 cup of honey (I used banksia honey for a bit of an Australian twist.
  • 4 table spoons of Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) of fresh chilli.

Merry Christmas to All

Well it is Christmas and I have been just a tad busy with the month to post anything.

Enjoying the season at my parents place with family drinking elderflower champagne and just chilling.

I will be back on board soon and posting again. I have few things to update on including a new plot in a community garden. As you can see from the photo below it is a clean slate and I am looking forward to permi it and get production up and running.

Hope you all have a great Christmas. Enjoy family and enjoy life.

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Of Cherries and Tarragon – why we do this again

We often drift into things.

I have always been interested in living as sustainably as possible but up until 5 years ago it had been 20 years since I had, had a garden to work with. Travel throughout the world and an interest in martial arts and climbing had kept me more than busy over that period of time.

Food had always interested me and I had always tried to eat as local as I could. Be it caribou in Greenland or salmon in Scotland to dhal baat in Nepal the food and cooking it always doubly interested me and it was actually the idea of cooking that pushed me more and more towards my garden when I finally had a place to set up one.

One of the first things I had tried to locate was Tuscan kale. This was long before it became popular on master chef as I had recipes and simply couldn’t find it. So the answer was simply find some seed and grow it. Which I did and still do.

One of the recipes that also caught my eye was recipe for pickled cherries with French tarragon. After decent old search I found the French tarragon and have been growing it for four years now adding it to the French dishes that I seem to lean towards as a style of cooking, but never quiet getting around to making the dish that pushed me to find it in the first place and explore this style of cooking.

 

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Well it is cherry season and I have tarragon in the garden so I have decided to make this recipe tonight. I made up two batches as I ran out of white vinegar and used some red wine vinegar we had in the cupboard.

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Let’s see in six or so weeks if it turns out. It might be completely inedible or not to my taste but nothing is lost. I will still use the tarragon, I will continue to enhance my garden, and I will still head off into new area’s and plans.

 In the end all I loose is a few cherries and time which I enjoyed anyway.