making it yourself

Why make it yourself?

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This is often the question that I get asked?

It has been a busy, busy week. You know when the proverbial fertiliser has hit the wind displacement device when you have to do two weeks of work to be able to take a week off to go on holidays. To say my current work load is unsustainable is to state the bleeding obvious. This is a story for another day though.

Added to that I have had some issues with the second car and we are trialling having only one car and me using public and the bike as my mode of transport to and from work. this is working out well but means I have to be a bit more disciplined and means it requires more organisation.

So that has been the reason for no posts over the last weeks. We have however been trying to keep living the life and to a greater extent we have been.

I have cooked meals for friends and family and we have offered friends to stay in our house rather than paying for accommodation and keep the money go round going. We have carted our kids, and still grown our food and all this with a couple of people working far too long hour’s is it any wonder we need a holiday 🙂

I try to cook our meals as much as is possible from scratch that is not to say that I don’t use some items such as yellow curry, garam massala mixes and items like mustard (although I will be making my own mustard soon enough)

Last weekend I made up a porchetta with fresh herbs from my garden for dinner, pancakes with no mix. We ate veg and salads from our garden including a tomatoes and basil salad with 5 different types of tomato and3 types of basil. During the week we ate meals that we had cooked for lunches and I started the week with $45 in my pocket and ended the week with $43 in it and no sense of hunger or having missed out.

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So why go to the trouble of making our own from scratch especially when we appear to be time poor? Well the cost is a major issue. We don’t work to work, we work to allow us to get ahead and in time. If we work long hours and just waste the money then we are going backwards.

I also like the challenge of doing things from scratch. I talk a lot on this blog about the developing of skills. Making it yourself makes you less of a slave to the system and ensures that if the time comes when you cannot easily buy the service you can always do it yourself.

It also means I know what the inputs into something are, especially useful with cooking and knowing what our bodies and the bodies of our children get put into them.

It gives a real sense of the cost of things to the world. Sometimes it is not cheaper such as the bacon I make. I can buy cheap bacon for much less than I can make. But that would factory farmed pork, in unsustainable practices to a large multinational taking the money of shore. And it does make you wonder what the final cost to the world of such an item really is when you realise it costs me twice as much to make it and I don’t even consider the labour involved.

So it makes you look at the world differently.

It makes you realise what real things should taste, feel and be like. Not the bland hand to mouth no thought I will buy more stuff to make me feel better lifestyle.

And the final reason is that it is interesting and fun. Which helps to keep me sane on the stupid go round that is the culture we often deal with.

As I have said a part of the week as been in seeing if we can cope with out the second car. Our kids love the simple joy of being carted by us in the bike trailer from crèche rather than by car and despite the organisation and discipline the time spent carting the kids has reacquainted me in an odd way with the world around me as I cart the kids or walk to and from the station I check out the herbs. See mallow and mallow cheese in abundance, edible nightshade, dandelion and other ‘weeds’. I also see some interesting things people. Guerrilla gardening, by putting plots in unused spaces, wild harvesting and gathering. Keep an eye out for items I can use later on and the huge waste of space that we have in the cities that could be used to solve a great many of the problems we have from homelessness to growing our own fuel and food to connecting as a community.

 It is also feels a damn side more useful than a lot of people I see rushing home so they can change to go out to do some exercise…

So while busy the week has been good with more time in many ways than most to look at the world and enjoy the time with family and friends.

This week I am in Apollo bay for the week with family for a beach side holiday. Tomorrow we will catch up with Libby from libby cooks for a meal including quite a few foraged dishes and we will then explore the area, hopefully do a bit of foraging and just enjoy the time with family.

If I don’t post I will definitely have to come up with a new excuse other than work 🙂 wont I ?

Homemade Porchetta.

Butterfly a roast and lay flat on a chopping board. I left the roast in the fridge uncovered for 5 hours to allow the skin to dry out to get the best crackling prior to this step.

Dry toast 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.

In mortar and pestle or the food processor in a pre apocalypse kitchen put together a selection of fresh herbs from the garden, lots of basil (or basil mint as I used in this case) and parsley are a must, as is garlic and some rosemary (not too much) other than that just use what you have. I used oregano, thyme and sage as well and could have added some French tarragon I had if I wanted to. A little bit of salt and pepper and some chilli to taste. Blend with as little olive oil as you can to make a smooth but not sloppy paste.

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Spread over one side of the butterflied roast, grate a little lemon zest on the top and then roll and secure the roast with twine or wet skewers.

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Liberally coat the skin olive oil and salt and fresh black pepper.

Pre heat an oven to 250 degree Celsius

Put roast in for 30 minutes and you should see the crackling start to blister. Drop the heat back t 150 degrees for 2 hours or so then ramp the temperature back up to 250 degrees for the last 20 minutes until the crackling is perfect.

Serve it? We had simple boiled Dutch cream potatoes and other vegetables to go with it.

Any leftover should be sliced thickly and eaten on sourdough for lunches 🙂

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Photos of the making of porchetta below.

A local meal

So I am not going to be completely successful in my attempt to do a blog post every day in March as I have missed a couple of days already. I would like to say there was a good reason but that good reason was me falling asleep on the couch as the 10 days above 30 degrees hit me and a sudden cool change allowed me and everyone else without an aircon in their bedroom to sleep 🙂

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I am often on about eating as local as you can and tonight was a good example of what we try to do. We had local goats haloumi, , salad and figs from our back yard, local Dutch cream potatoes and my homemade cordial for a drink.

Of this only the vinegar was of unknown origin, even the olive oil was local (we get it from the cleaner at work whose mate has a local olive grove) and even the salt was from South Australia and pepper from NSW which is the furthest ingrediants

The meal was simply the potato’s boiled in a little salt and being Dutch cream nothing else was required, a simple green salad seasoned with vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper and of course the haloumi and figs that where simply fried in some olive oil. To me there is little better that the salty flavor of haloumi and sweet fig they work so well together.

After dinner I made a quick batch of ezi sauce plum sauce with the last of the Satsuma plums from our back yard. This sauce works a treat as a marinade for meats and is awesome as sauce in stir fry’s. It was good to use up the last of these plums and make sure they are not wasted and these bottles will get used.

Tomorrow I have to bottle up the quinces I have and try to get the elderberry tincture done but for tonight I am going to crash.

Below is the recipe of the sauce and as I said it is great. My mix today was a half mix as that was all of the plums I had.

Place 3 kg ripe dark plums, roughly chopped; and 1.5 liters of water into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Stir occasionally until stones loosen and plums are soft and pulpy. Push through a colander over a large bowl, removing stones. Return pulp and liquid to rinsed saucepan. Add 1/2 cup ezi-sauce, 1.5 kg sugar, 6 tsp salt, and 2 tsp ground ginger ( mixed with sufficient water to form a smooth paste ). Boil gently uncovered for 1 – 2 hours or until a thick pouring consistency. Fill using a small funnel or jug, into hot sterilized jars and seal.

This is where you need smell a vision internet

“This is where you need smell a vision internet” said my wife as I striped the leaves off the basil.

We picked a full shopping bag of basil along with the haul of veggies and other items from mum and dads place yesterday. It would have been better to process it last night but getting back and getting ready for the week ahead and only one car precluded that.

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Again tonight in the heat it would have been easy to leave it untill it cooled down tomorrow as I have now done with the quinces I need to bottle and the plums to sauce, but the closer to the picking the better the pesto. And while it unseasonably hot, it is autumn and time to start to lay down food for the winter and pesto is such a great item you can really never have too much of it.

I also had the problem that I did not have enough almonds for such a big mix (I don’t really like pine nuts and make mine with almonds or hazelnuts) but I did have some really good salt and pepper cashews from the farmers market so waste not want not. We always have garlic and this was my father’s giant Russian garlic and we are lucky to have access to the good Italian parmesan.

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The recipe is very much by hand lots of basil leaves, a good handful of nuts, 3 or so cloves of garlic, and good sized piece of parmesan grated. You will need salt and pepper but these cashews had enough on it I did not add any more.

Wiz it in the food processor adding olive oil as you go until it gets to the constancy you want.

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This is also the recipe I use for making my foraged nettle pesto (which I think is even better than basil pesto) and parsley pesto.

Bottle in sterilized bottles and put a layer of olive oil on top or pack in plastic containers to freeze. I did both this evening.

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I will probably get one more crop of my basil and have some beautiful purple basil I am very eager to try in making pesto to see how it goes. In winter it will be a little bottle of the smell a vision added to our meals and will hopefully last till the nettles are ready for their turn.

Look after the earth and it will look after you.

I have been at my parents place for the last two days. And as always we have eaten very well from their land. How many kids get to go to their Pa I want to pick my own apple and then get into it for morning tea, or eat grapes picked 30 seconds before from the vine.

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We at the most beautiful carrot so sweet they tasted as if they had been drizzled with honey, fresh beans, potatoes, parsnips and pumpkin. The only part of our meal that was not from food feet rather than food miles was the chicken that my parents picked up at Aldi.

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They harvests rain water, grey water, composts, worm farms, integrated vegetable patches, herbs, orchards and all on his 2.5 acres. He hits the local zone 5 and gets excess deciduous tree mulch and animal manure from the people he knows.

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Wild harvests as they can.

Builds from recycled and reused objects raiding the local pallet pile before it gets burned.

They bottle, dry, salt, pickle and freeze produce.

He leaves fruit for native wild life and  today we saw multiple native species on his block, bees are everywhere as are other beneficial insects.

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He raises pasture chicken for meat and eggs, ducks and some very happy looking sheep.

Keeps his own seeds and rarely if at all uses sprays.

Nothing gets wasted. This is how my parents have lived they eat well and pass on good values to their grandchildren. If you were to ask my father does he practice permaculture he would shake his head I just do what I do.

He has lawns, he has monoculture beds as well as the integrated ones and heaven help me if I ask him to keep those weeds I love to eat nope, they go to the chickens and sheep son. And you feed them to our grandkids …

I have heard from a number of permies that David Holmgren has often said that many people who think they are practicing permaculture are not and many who do not know what permaculture is are.

I am amazed at what they can grow and with so little. We are talking the biggest tubs of basil you have ever seen, kilos of fruit and berries any type of veggie you can imagine. Pretty much they put it in the ground it grows. They are blessed with great soil I will admit the rich red volcanic soil helps a lot but the main thing that helps is that my parents have worked on this land for the last 40 years. They have looked after it, mulched it fertilized it it you name it they have helped it.

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And now even though they are getting on, they and are healthy but slowing down a bit, the land looks after them producing all they could need and want.

We came home to Melbourne with enough grapes and apples to take to work and feed the kids for a week, carrots parsnips, beetroot, lemons, mint and a full sized shopping bag of fresh basil for me to make pesto tomorrow!

It certainly inspires me every time I go up there to get into my garden and make it better for my family.

There is something in this for us all. If you look after the little bit of earth you have in the same way my parents look after their patch we might all just get by.

Cordial and Summer Days

This is another story of community as a bit of bad luck would lead me to. For those getting sick of this subject there is a nice recipe for a orange, lemon and honey cordial and you can bypass the rest of this post  🙂

So we decided to head up country for couple of days and visit my parents. Get out of the city and lets the kids spend a couple of days with their grandparents running around in nature.

Given the luck we have had with anything related to automobiles it was perhaps a given that we would have some trouble and sure enough about an hour from home and an hour from my parents place, we had a blow out that destroyed a tyre on the hired trailer and damaged the wheel arch very badly.

So what does one do on Sunday of a long weekend with a blown tyre and trailer on the side of the highway with an old bath in it for dad’s aqauponics system 65km from home and 65km from the destination?

Well I decided that no one was driving with that trailer any time soon so I made it safe on the verge of the road and headed to my parents home wondering how I was going to sort this all out.

Should have known to relax. Within an of hour of getting to my parents place my father had sourced 2 tyres of different sizes, tools for the removal and tools for the repair for the trailer. All in a town of 400 people on Sunday afternoon of a long weekend…

I probably couldn’t do this in Melbourne a city of 3.5 million and certainly not that fast.

Small towns are like that the neighbour who supplied me with a spare tyre said don’t worry use it for as long as you need it no rush. And we did need it as in the end it was the tyre that fitted. This is not a wealthy man but actually a person on a disability pension. This is what community looks like it is helping out each other knowing that they will be helped if needed. I remember this from when I was a kid and my mother had a bad accident and casseroles just appeared from neighbours to help out das when mum was in hospital for some time.

Animals just got locked up, fed watered all sorted while dad was away with mum. And in return dad has probably helped these people or people who have helped these people. And so the circle goes around and so it does up to and including today.

We have kidded ourselves that we can purchase the services we need. Operating as islands and purchasing being free of the commitments and we can get anything we want, which we probably can at a cost to ourselves but it does not replace that helping hand that we need and it disempowers us. We used to rely on each other and it is not always the people that fit in our click or we fit in who are the ones who help us.

So dad and I collected the trailer replaced the wheel, bashed out the wheel arch (a little knowledge of metals and their craft is a handy thing) and got home to find the kids having a ball with their nana.

The neighbour advised me that I could have the tyre for $20 as he has enough of them. But he will get a couple of six packs of good beer to go with it as well. That level of helpfulness can’t be bought off so cheaply, and is not ever expected but doesn’t need to be as in the end the gift of the beer is just part to of that circle we discussed.

The day finished with a simple meal in the cool evening outside in my parents orchard. Homemade passatta  with lots of beans and fresh veg and small amount of meat and lots of pasta. A couple of beers and great evening had by all.

dinner When we checked out dads triffid like sunflowers in his garden I noticed bees hard at work in them and was reminded I needed to post a recipe that I was going to post last night till the homebrew got to me.

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So below is a very tasty and refreshing little cordial that takes a few minutes to make and works really well in the hot humid conditions we have at the moment.

Brew a batch and sit in the garden with family and friends and just enjoy life and remember that you are not an island and can’t be if you really want to be part of society.

Orange, Honey and Lemon Cordial

  • 3 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (or frozen home squeezed juice works as well)
  • 2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice(or frozen home squeezed juice works as well)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of honey

Combine it all a stainless steel pot stirring in the honey so it dissolves properly

Bring to a gentle boil then drop the heat and simmer for 5 minutes stirring to make sure the sugar and honey are combined and not sticking to the pot.

Pour into sterilised bottles. Should keep in the bottles for up to a month but better stored in a fridge and if you open the bottles definitely put in a fridge. There is not the usual amount of sugar that preserves most cordial for long periods of time. You could also add some tartaric acid to help with preserving it but in our house hold this does not last long enough for that to be an issue 🙂

Serve with ice and mixed to your preferred strength.

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Post 100

Should be some kind of enlightened post at post 100 but I have been drinking homebrew with my neighbors for the last 5 hours so barely able to type…

I did just wander out and it is warm, ridiculously warm for close to midnight in March “global what?” as our probable future prime minister would say …

See you all tomorrow.

So you want your local society back…

So we Permei, Transition, Locavore types are the best?

I think NOT. I have often ranted about the how so many of the people who are in  the transition, permaculture, locavore and other movements are nowhere near as good as they make out to be.

It is as if the very act of being these things allows them to be A holes in every other aspect of their life. I have found the same a lot of the time with people who do prominent volunteering.

Don’t get me wrong my rant is a gross generalization of the groups and there are many fine people who do good things in all of these and other systems and they generally understand how community needs to work.

I was lucky and grew up in a close community and while it is not the utopia that so many seem to think it will be it. It was good, very good. Lots of good people around but as with so much else in life there was compromise often the needs of the one could be overridden by the needs of the many and that is just how it works out. Too many people want this but on their terms. They are happy to negotiate and are willing to embrace change but only when the negotiations go their way or the change is to the direction they want it to go.

I have three recent examples that made me think about this.

This morning I read and liked the Thunder Brewery Facebook page. This is a brewery that is powered by solar panels and is one of the largest solar sources in our council area. They make small scale, low volume local beers trying to be as green as possible. On the page was a letter to the leader of the greens asking for help with dealing with the local council and putting forward a case for help to get a license to serve the local beer they make in their factory.

I thought the letter was well written and raised some complex questions. Questions the greens (and I am paid up member of the party) need to look at. Questions of how local jobs can be built and smart jobs created.

On the page where several what appeared to be locals to the brewery abusing the letter and the page in a rather childish and dare I say unhelpful manner. Not that their views where not valid but just that the way they were put across made them look bad. I understood their concerns but from a point of view of a sustainable world a balance needs to be struck between the life you feel you deserve and the fact that we cannot continue in the long term to have people traversing to the far side of the city a 100km’s away for work and then back again. This is where the compromise and some vision for community needs to come in. At some point this month I will dust off a started post on a trip I took to Japan and some views on their cities and communities.  

I think perhaps those abusing the letter need to take a bigger picture view and see that they cannot be islands and expect that they will be a part of everything on their terms.

The second example came from the community garden I am in.

A could of Sundays ago I was there finishing off some beds with old sleepers. Being the redneck with the chainsaw I have finished a bunch of the beds off for the personal plots. A lot of people have helped not just me but it is the same usual suspects.

 In the garden is a community section and a section of personal plots. One of the plots I finished off that day was for an older lady in her 60’s of Italian decent whose husband had broken his leg and she was busy on quite a hot morning barrowing in compost for the bed which is 10 square meters. She was obviously in distress by the time I realized what she was doing. There were a fair number of the group who work on the community garden there and none of the offered to help. So while she was sitting down with her feet in a bucket of water I quickly finished the last set of barrows about 7 or 8 of them and dropped in the last of the sleepers to finish it off. Not another person looked to help, one lady did make sure the elderly lady as ok. The general view seems to be that if people have their own plot it is their responsibility to work it. I kind of understand this but equally I think that these people have perhaps better skills that hauling barrows of compost around.

Ttheir knowledge as elders is greater and these people know what grows in this area and when to grow it. Young people have lots of energy let them do the work. It is how our society worked for countless generations prior to the age of individual freedoms and rights above all responsibility. Don’t get me wrong you have a right to that view point but don’t tell me you are interested in building a society when you do that. Respect for your elders and helping them and anyone else who needs it is a core part of any society

If it is everyman for himself then you are not going to get much of a society worth spiting on.

The third example happened this evening when I pulled into the chiropractors car park and the poor 25 year old Suzuki suddenly busted something.

It would not go forward or back we had the other car with the kids and I could get home so no issue there but it was stuck.

As with most alternative practices they are good people at this practice and have looked after the whole family for the last 18 months since we took Gabriel there at 6 weeks with some problems from his birth. We know the receptionist, she loves our kids and after explaining the car might be parked there tonight because of the problem she announced her partner was coming soon for a consultation and he was a mechanic.

He arrived in his V8 fuel sucking Ute not a socially responsible Prius and after a quick chat was under the car for 20 minutes and covered in oil got the car going, at the end of his working day in the heat on a Friday before a public holiday! So we all could get home, then refused for me to fix him up in beer or cash and said he was happy to help as we had kids and needed to get them home.

A more down to earth helpful individual and member of society you could not ask for. But I am sure that this young, tradie, tattooed driver of a gas guzzling car would be looked down upon by those who think they are leading the life style of the evolved.

I know I seem down on the systems I most seem a part of but to me the actions rather than the tittle you give yourself is the definer. So to that end I will continue to do what I can and remember this and make sure my kids learn it as well. 

Sabrina said on the way home ‘the man helped daddy, he is a nice man’ and that is a good lesson for her to realize that helping other is nice and good and leads to you being helped when you need it. That is what societies are.

As a side note the young mechanic runs a home business and he will be getting the business for my car repairs.

Local jobs, smarter jobs. David Holmgren discussed this at a retrofitting the suburbs seminar at the Wheeler center a while ago. I would suggest you all look this one up and see what he has to say. It is far more eloquent than my writings.

Nuff said.