The Silence

I woke up late and fairly tired yesterday morning. The previous night I moved the back hive to my parents place. In many ways it was a triumph as no bees died in this move (which means by default I didn’t get stung). I am getting the structure of the hives down pat and managing the bees is becoming easier in some ways.

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On the other hand the movement of the bees is a complete disaster. We had a complaint late last Sunday that our bees where attacking our back neighbour. Threats ensued of calls to the council and pest exterminators so we made a decision even though we are flat out and it is five our round trip to get them out of Dodge City for a while.

From what we can tell the neighbours had a swarm in their compost. Dug up the compost got stung looked over the fence and saw the hive which has been there for three years with different bees in it. Freaked out and became very, very, very irrational about it. (Quite scarily irrational to be honest) and started yelling and screaming.

It is a great shame as this is a very urban friendly hive. If they had one fault they were so indifferent to humans that they would fly near them and not flee. This lead people to believe they were being attacked, swatting them and getting stung.

Our 5 year old is devastated, my wife is devastated and I am far from happy. This is a swarm we got as a fist of bees and just filled the hive to the point we needed a new box on top.

So the last two mornings I went up to open up the chicken run and went past the location where the hive used to be, had a quick look to check if any had been left behind (nope all clear) and noted the absence of them in the flowering kale, again I noted it in the lavender out front.  Thursday in far less sunny and warm day the back yard and front yard hummed with bees.

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And today? Silence.

The neighbour’s husband while I was talking to him was raving at his almond tree and the productivity of his vegetables last year. Well not now. And this is the big debate that needs to be had in a culture where a person get to reach into another’s back yard and be irrational about something well with that comes a responsibility.

The person in question invoked the ‘I am worried for my children’ comment for her own fears. Well I am worried for my kids future but not because of a few bees which they know about but because this very same rational if taken to its extreme (and that is something humans are good at) will lead to my children having a poorer future.

‘I will get arguments about well as a community we all need to respect each other’s views’. Having grown up in a small community YES you do and they will not be your views so you need to suck it up and move on! A community of like minded souls is not a community it is somewhere between a cult and self-validating support group.

A. ss annoyed as a scientist she wants a rational conversation with people and that is simply not happening with people these days. It is not just the urban folks it is also parts of the alternative community and permies. The bigger picture is hidden as everyone want their ‘personal rights’ to supersede everything. Everyone is getting into their own bunkers and not even bothering to look at empirical evidence or each other’s views.

On the upside there a small number of feral bees around and at some point we will likely move the bees back and put them in a private location where people cannot just look over the back fence (mind your own business people) and away from this neighbour. We will be quiet about it and work on our desire to get people to realise the value of these beautiful creatures in a way that allows us not be target by this type of person.

It is the old flying under the radar vs. getting things done argument and on this occasion low flying looks like the option.

I still cannot shudder at a world that our children seem to be destined to inherit!

Enough for one day I have swarm trap to setup in the hidden corner of the chicken run !

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Organic Yep there is Fauna.

This is the non cool view of organic food. This is from my father and as you can see it is more than healthy.

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I found this when working out what I could make from what I had in the house . With A. staying home for 12 months for number 3 (more on that later) our budget is being pounded (however there is still a lot of fat in there to be honest compared to many) and we are living on what is in the house and what we have.

So we had a nice cabbage from my father and some cooked rice we had for dinner the night before with some left over curry. So my thought cabbage rolls.

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We did a big purchase of meat from a local farmer at the farmers market and some of the good bacon, a leek, and a few bits and pieces. Below is the recipe I used. So there was a meal for last night along with fresh bread just made and still warm.

This needs to be the philosophy for all, what you have, what is local, a few luxury items and not letting anything to go to waste.

Cabbage Rolls

For the rolls

  • 500 grams of mince
  • Leek finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 rashes of the good bacon diced
  • A cabbage cored and as leaves.
  • 2 -3 cups of rice
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs to bind
  • Bowl of iced water to quench the leaves.
  • 2 table spoons of passatta sauce.
  • Grated cheese.
  • ½ cup red wine
  • Bread crumbs

Sauce

  • Two cans of organic tomato. Buy European organic if you can (I know not local) as they have rules on BPA in the lining
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½ cup of water
  • Table spoon of molasses
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • A handful of perennial basil or other herbs (optional)
  • Teaspoon of chilli or to taste.

Fry up the bacon and leek and add the mince, cook till almost brown then add the garlic crushed for a further 2 minutes add the spices for a further 1 minute. Add the red wine and passatta. After 5 minutes add the cooked rice. Cook for a couple of minutes until mixed through. Drop into another bowl to cool.

IMG_3488-2000 IMG_3487-2000Blanch cabbage leaves 4 or so at a time for around 1 minute in lightly salted water. Refresh them in iced water and drain in a colander.

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Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce ready to add.

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Once the filling has cooked add some cheese (of your choice) and two eggs to bind. Mix through and add bread crumbs till the mixture is no longer sloppy.

Once the filling is ready put a tablespoon or so in each blanched leaf and fold, putting the fold down the bottom. Fill the container with rolls ladle over the sauce and either put in an oven until the sauce has thickened or on stove top till the same.

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I served it with grated cheese but some sour cream would be nice as well.

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We need to get over the fact that there will be bugs that things will not be perfect in our vegetables. Be grateful we have food and help out the world by eating what is there not what is perfect. We cannot in the long term afford to ask farmers to throw away straight banana’s or bent carrots. And why should we?

Increments

There is always more to do in the hippy household and less time.

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Just to add to my time (and with number 3 a week away) I have enrolled in a diploma of ‘Organic Farming’ to fill my time.

In the end all you can do is what you can do. I want to be able to have some flexibility with my kids and know in their teens I am going to need to be around a lot more. I can also see a time with the way things are going that having a business is going to be important to ensure some of my children at least have a place to work.

Despite the lack of posts we are still working towards self-sufficiency more now than before and it is well worth while reminding myself of the increments get done each day.

This weekend has been busy.

I picked up a second hand bath and built a new garden bed. I am very much into the ‘obtain a yield’ principle at the moment.

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While we are not perfect from an environmental point of view it has been a long time since we bought salad greens, eggs or many veggies.

We still get some veg from farmers markets and my parents but each plant, each garden bed, each bath used as wicking bed brings us a little closer to being independent. One more dollar or set of dollars, one more increment to move towards other goals.

It is the same with cooking from scratch or drying my own nettle tea rather than buying it each little amount adds up and allows you to do the next step. For us the cash saved from foraging wood for the fire, and heating with it will hopefully allow us to put PV solar on by the end of the year.

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Each day you pick up new skills. Who would have thought 12 months ago that I would be able to quickly whip up a bee feeder to make sure our third hive will be ok over winter. (again we have not paid for honey in the last 12 months and have traded it for a number of other things over time) each day pickup new skills and work on you and ours resilience.

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But mostly enjoy 🙂

Oh and I must admit to being a bit chuffed so far my perennial basil has been producing both leaves and flowers with no heating or costs. Just a nice spot sheltered spot. No greenhouse gases and full flavour, kids loved it for dinner in the spag bol

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A New Easter

As I sit here eating left overs I would have to say the urban hippie household has had a great Easter.

IMG_1916-2000With the sad passing of the matriarch of our family my grandmother last year this was the first year where we mixed new and old traditions. Making new traditions or reviving old traditions is becoming more and more important. Our culture has had 50 years of traditions being ‘reinvented’ every couple of years to keep the market going and keep the economy ‘healthy’. Buy your traditions is the motto of the defining western culture 😦

For us every Good Friday was at my grandmother’s house. A traditional German fare of pickled foods, heavy casseroles and my Oma’s famous ‘vegetarian’ chicken stock dumpling soup 🙂

This year I hosted my immediate family and we had by any rule of thumb a feast. Wild salmon, smoked salmon, local fast growing sustainable fish and squid crumbed and fried. A few old favourites such as the herring salad my mother resurrected from grandmothers recipe and fish casserole.

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And an old favourite with a small twist my potato salad with wasabi and the crunch of fresh cucumber.

For desert pavlova from my parents pasture eggs with cream and berries.

We tried to make the event as sustainable as we could. Potatoes and veg where from the local farmers market, local olive oil to fry, pole and line caught tuna for the casserole, local fish such as bream, trevally and local shark (quick growing and sustainable in the way it caught here) we had wild salmon (frozen and transported but wild caught) the only down side was the smoked salmon and gravlax that came from somewhere in Europe and was probably farmed.

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But with the feast and the over cater gene I got from my grandmother comes left overs. Which is what we had for the next day. We try to waste as little as we can in our house.

Sunday was again family with a Croatian feast with A.’s family cabbage salad, potatoes, pork and beef cheeks. Baked cheeses, polenta and lemon meringue for dinner. None of which I am sure of where it came and if it was local or sustainable or anything else but you need to be careful to make sure that you are leading. People can be non-Newtonian liquids forcing your views on them is not going to work unless you lead by example. My local dinner was pretty damn fine and you can taste how fresh the just caught local fish. Fish most people have not eaten not because they are no good but because they are not exotic enough or are ‘not in fashion’

After the big lunch we all grazed in the evening feeling stuffed and I got a little insight into how not to waste things. A’s mother had some of the left over polenta with milk for dinner which all the grandkids proceeded to try and all loved. We have to relearn such uses. Nothing should go to waste.

We need to remind ourselves that feasts should be just that. Something special, a time to eat those things that we only have once in a while. One of problems with the middle class of which arguably most permaculture people are from (whether they choose to believe that or not) is that most western middle class folk eat better than kings of bygone eras. To that end we will be living off left overs and the last of my parents and my garden for a few weeks. Seasonal food to balance out the feast.

But enough comments. I hope you all had a brilliant Easter and are living of the left overs of your feasts J post some left over recipes if you can be interested to see what people do with their recipes. Below is the recipe for fish casserole we eat each Easter and the potato salad with wasabi and cucumber.

OH And as a bonus for me J I planted out some of my winter brassica’s just an hour or so in the garden to weed and plant and bit of pruning but it was very nice 🙂 need to get out there a bit more don’t I 🙂

Fish Casserole

  • Potato’s for 3 layers in your container parboiled and sliced
  •  Two 2 gram tines of tuna (you are looking for skipjack tuna pole and line caught. Aldi sells a good one) alternatively my mother has used baked fresh fish in place of tinned fish
  • 6 – 8 hardboiled eggs sliced
  • Mustard sauce as below
  • Cheese to top.

Mustard Sauce.

  • 80 grams of plain flour
  • 80 grams of butter
  • 900 ml of milk
  • Mustard to taste (you need to use a bit I used a small whole jar of German mustard)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Fry off the butter and flour to make roux or paste. Make sure you fry off the flour long enough to make sure you remove the flour flavour. Add a little bit of milk and mix to make paste and then add a bit more as you got to make smooth white sauce and mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

To put together the casserole put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of a casserole dish, a layer of the tuna, then add sauce to cover. Ad the eggs and another layer of potato and tun then more sauce then a final layer of potato and the last of the sauce to cover then add the cheese to top.

Cover and cook for a while remember most of the ingredients are already cooked so it is just combining and warming it thought. At the end take of the lid and let the cheese brown off.

Freezes well and tastes better next day 🙂

Potato Salad.

  • 1 kg of potatoes cooked till just cooked (not over cooked) an important thing for both the casserole above and the salad is to start the cooking from cold water and bring to the boil it is a trick I learnt making chowder as it stops the potatoes starch breaking down incorrectly.
  • Mayonnaise (as A. is pregnant I used kewpie mayonnaise) about a cup
  • One cucumber deseeded and sliced into 5mm squares.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Wasabi paste to taste.

Cut up the potatoes once warm but not hot mix through the ingredients and serve and room temperature. Needs an hour or so of sitting time to combine the flavours.

Sourdough Starter Pasta and User up Pasta Sauce

It is a busy time of year we harvested, honey and have been madly preserving and  drying fruit from the back yard. Getting vegies in and keeping stuff alive in the heat (a break down on how that went soon)

But no matter how busy it is we are always up for a visit by a friend. It has been a long while since we caught up with this particular friend and it was great to see her. Time flew in her company and a bottle of wine and good food was had.

The kids had a great time number one son was enamoured and spent the whole time showing off ‘for the lady’ and number one daughter was still talking about her well into the next day. She makes a great aunt for our kids such a wealth of experiences in her life to share with them in the future.

Opportunities like this are great and you want to make good food to go with it but not be completely tied up and spend all your time in the kitchen so for me a good slow cooked pasta sauce over some homemade pasta is the deal. It started with a simple starter of onigiri with blanched green shiso and toasted sesame seed (recipe later in the week) and as it is that time of year simple fresh Satsuma plums for desert. Yep life is hard.

The pasta is something I have made before it is a great user up of excess sourdough starter which happens when our busy life doesn’t always allow us to get bread made but the starter needs a feed.(the other option is the chooks love it 🙂  )

IMG_0601-2000 IMG_0602-2000 The pasta dries beautifully and is really filling and yet strangely light. It is not good pasta to fold through ingredients as it tends to break up this is a drop of good pasta sauce on the top and cheese pasta. As you would expect it is little sour which adds a lovely extra level to the food.

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The pasta sauce I started around lunch time and cooked long and slow it is a user up sauce. I had a end of salami I froze when we went away and some keep the ham skin both where added with fresh herbs and good wine and cooked for 2 -3 hours. The extra ingredients again add a depth of flavour to the sauce.

While this may seem complex it is simple to make with lots of down time to get on with what else needs to be done.

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To me nothing epitomises what I want from life more than good time spent with family and friends and well cooked food to go with this. If everyone did this just a little it would make a hell of difference to us all 🙂

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Enjoy the week ahead everyone.:)

Sourdough Pasta

  • 1 Cup of sourdough starter
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • A little water as required

So add the flour to the sourdough start and eggs and mix through and roll into a ball (you may need to add a little water to get it to bind). Once in a ball put the covered bowl in a warm spot for 8 to 24 hours to rise.

Once the rising time is over roll flat and as thin as you like and cut into strips (as you like). Add to boiling salted water and when it rises to the top check to see if it is cooked. Drain and try not to stir to much as it breaks it up.

User up Pasta Sauce

  • One bottle of passata (750 ml or so)
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • Onion finely sliced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 500 grams of ground organic beef or pork
  • 3 small carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 4 -5 bay leaves
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • 2 table spoons of molasses or sugar if you have no molasses
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Piece of Salami or cured sausage
  • Ham skin or bacon rind or some bacon bon or some ham anything really

Fry the onion till translucent then add beef/pork then garlic and herbs. Drop in the carrot and celery and herbs for a minute or two to sweat. Add in the passata sauce, wine, salt, pepper and molasses, ham bits and cured sausage.

Cook at a low heat for an hour or two or so. I serve only the ground beef and sauce but you can server it all if you want. I top with fresh grated Italian parmesan of course. This well worth the money and food miles 🙂

The heat is still on …

Well day 3 of the heat wave is almost over. It should cool down at about 2am with the way things are going 🙂

Garden has done ok. A few sections have taken a hiding but the one thing that surprisingly so far has taken a real beating was the banana tree I had been gifted. I am surprised as this I though in a good container of water would have loved the heat. Clearly wrong on this one. It will recover but it interesting to see how things operate in these conditions. In many ways we are in uncharted territory with so many once in a life time heat waves in in 5 years.

I covered the bees with some shade in the form of a trellis but after A. got an email from the Victorian apiarist association we did a bit more work. They suggested a sheet or box of polystyrene on top of the hive to help insulate. Seems to have worked as the last two days the back hive had none and there where bees outside cooling it but yesterday and today in even warmer temperatures they seemed fine.

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We really need to get quilt boxes for them all and some Warre style tops as well. Warre hives maybe not in our plans at present in what we are doing but parts of the design I can see working with our langstroth hives.

The water bowls are checked each morning and it is nice to see the stone carving I did 18 months ago working so well as a reservoir for our bees 🙂 It is really important that you have stones or gravel in the bowl. Bees drown easily and this or floating rafts in the water supply help them to stay out of the water.

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Ducks and chickens are really feeling it the shaded pond seems to be helping and they are just staying in the shade.

The water from them is keeping some of the trees happy and it is being swapped out regularly for them.

Shade and water is all they really need.

The kiddie pool idea worked out well even my wasabi so far has stood up well (touch wood) the other plants seem fine and the wicking beds are doing their thing and the fruit trees are ripening well and even that mint seems to standing up to the heat. If a small section of food forest works like this interested in seeing how half the backyard will work.

One area we are struggling with is the house. We really need the insulation in the house. Being uninsulated it is just not staying cool and locking it up has had minimal effect. The shade sail is working well though and the back half of the house really makes a huge difference to the heat in that section it has been cooler than the back half. This sort of passive design is a winner.

When the kids come home they ask for a cool bath and this seems to make a huge difference along with a couple of small fans.

Other than we are just ensuring we keep our fluids up.

It is interesting but I think people have forgotten how to deal with this in their lives. Lots of people have lost pets by not setting them up correctly (not even enough water) and people look broken limping between air conditioned buildings and onto the train.

If this is the future people are going to need to adapt to it in regards to them and their properties. I was discussing with A. with the way that power grid is simply not standing up to the load I am wary of relying on this technology. Our house is better than most and we have the capacity to improve it to be less reliant on systems that can fail so we will.

Two days to go so hope all the Melbourne people are doing as well as me. Interesting times ahead and we will see more of these heat waves I believe.

On the upside it is not to bad to come home and go out into the backyard and be hit by the smell of warm honey and fennel 🙂 not to bad at all.

Here comes the heat !

We have some heat on the way. Our summer has been quite mild and I have not had any requirement to water the tree’s or really do more than basic management of the plants.

Tomorrow our summer starts in earnest. We are expecting a hot week with a 2 or 3 days over 40 degrees Celsius which is not unexpected in our summers but after such a mild summer such a jump will be hard on everything.

So this afternoon after some friends left I did some preparation.

The most important thing was to get the potted plants into the shade and some water to allow them to wick up moisture. I had some kiddie pools and an old bath so I put these under the shade cloth and filled them up to a level then put the pots in. I will monitor these.

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The wicking beds have handled the few hot days well but with no rain for a while they were getting down so I checked and filled all of the reservoirs till they overflowed. These will be fine now.

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I also did a deep water of all of the tree’s and any potted plants that I couldn’t move such as the bay tree. It is quite amazing how many tree’s we have onsite here now. My friend visiting today thinks I have the correct number of tree’s but I am missing an acre or so of land to go with them 🙂

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So far I have 34 trees on the block and space and plans for more.

As you can imagine it takes time to do that many deep waters. Each tree received about to 10 to 15 minutes of water which adds up to around 4 hours in total for each of the two hoses we have. There is little point in just doing a short water on trees as you end up causing the tree to develop shallow rooting and make them susceptible to any dry spells. Better a good water once every 1 – 2 weeks if required than a short water every second day.

I have noticed I am water the trees less these days and the area up the back that is food forest is quite moist even with no extra watering and it being a bit dry, water loving plants such as mint are thriving. The plums and the nectaries are plump and doing well. The plan is to keep building on the food forest and see how much food this low maintenance gardening  can produce.

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Even Gibby’s toy barrow got a use for A.’s angelica plant 🙂

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I didn’t forget the animals of the urban hippie household either the ducks and bee’s both got some relief from the overhead sun with the back hives getting a piece of some gifted trellising to caste dappled shadow and the ducks pool getting the same.

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So now on for the rest of the week. This amount of work will hopefully mean that I wont be under so much pump to keep an eye on it during the week. But I probably will anyway.

Have a good week all 🙂