The Weekend is Here.

As per my post on going back to work and in particular the article on your life being planned for you my weekend is packed.

BUT trying to keep it cheap and cheerful much to do and a lot of projects that don’t need money and the kids and A. can join me in 🙂

Till then waste not, the extra tortillas from the fine folks from La Tortilla being air dried in my oven. I will turn them into real corn chips tomorrow. These where left over after two meals we have already had from the packet we bought home from our local farmers market.

Not home made but go to love traditional Mexican method of making up ground Australian corn and some salt (the only ingredients on the packet). These are a go to on our menu and I will be going into the go to meals we do on weekly basis next week.

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See you over the weekend.:)

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Preparing for Winter.

We haven’t had to use the stove since early December and it is unlikely we will see weather in the next few months that will require it but already I am getting ready for winter.

Last winter the pallet numbers dropped off dramatically late in the season as it got cold and people were looking for wood.

We chose to use up our wood for space with the granny flat project and had about 2 barrow loads come end of winter. I did a run up to wood for good and got a load and most of that is still left.

Since then I have managed to hit a few local fallen branches from people and locations, a good load from a friend up around Macedon along pruning from trees.

I am also getting in pallets making sure they are all heat treated timber and preferably hardwood.

So the hunt is ongoing. I have a hand saw and loppers in the car if I come across anything decent. Even a small branch can be a half to a full days heating in our very efficient stove.

Managed to harvest below and another barrow load locally after a large branch had come down in the wind over Christmas.

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And tonight I noted a tree dropped and nicely cut up into foot long blocks by an arborist two streets down on my way home. A quick knock on the door and a question and invited to take half. But the best was to meet and speak to a neighbour who I had never meet. An older guy very nice chatted for some time on his tomatoes and gave him some advice on his new lemon tree. Good to get to know the locals.

Three big barrow loads and the offer of the rest if his friends do not pickup there’s by tomorrow. I took the longer pieces as I have access to cut them up the other people may not have this. You need to be fair.

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Pity some of the branches where not a bit longer or I would have inoculated them with some shitake but beggars cannot be choosers.

As it is this wood is still a year of drying away from being used but it will get used.

And didn’t even need to use a car to bring it home that is local.

Cut up it will fuel us for a week or more 🙂

 

Working with or against Nature? (fat hen spanakopita)

I visited my parents place over the Christmas period had a really nice relaxing time. Foraged some items, took the family to a few different places but mostly just relaxed.

My father is the king of the drip system. He has beautiful rich red volcanic soil that is free draining, very free draining as such he tends to drip water the plants and along with 40 plus years of adding organic matter to the soil means his vegies grow incredibly well.

Because of this he also has minimal weed issues how ever one thing I did note that fat hen sometimes called lambs ear (Chenopodium album), dock and the purslane where doing really well. IMG_9318-2000

I grabbed some purslane to plant at my place and grabbed a large bag of fat hen which I made into spanakopita (recipe below).

To me it is interesting that this high protein crop that by my father’s admission (he is a rabid anti weed man 🙂 ) the chickens and sheep love is torn out spayed out and treated with disdain.

And there it is growing without water or love and just doings its own good thing. From a point of view of plants we are going to have to start to look at what will work by itself without lots of inputs or work and this is potentially a great option for fodder and food. The broad acre style of farming the crops you want rather that what will grow easily is simply not going to hold true in the long run.

And much to my father annoyance his granddaughter loves the fresh leaves of this plant and now it is naturalised in my back yard we have access to it for salads, cooking or as fodder for the chickens.

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As for the taste of the spanakopita. A. and I made up two batches of rolls and a pie with a half side fat hen and half spinach and apart from being slightly more beefy texture the kids and wife could not tell them apart and all was eaten.

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This is one good weed.

Recipe for Fat Hen (or spinach) Spanakopita.

  • Packet of filo or puff pastry (or if you are a better cook than me make your own 🙂 )
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 gram of feta
  • 75 grams of ricotta
  • 75 grams of quark cheese (could use another 75 grams of ricotta)
  • 2 bunches of spinach or equivalent or more of fat hen.( I like lots of green in my mix) shredded.
  • Butter melted and a brush
  • Two onions finely diced.
  • 1 or 2 Sprigs of mint finely sliced (to taste)
  • 1 or 2 Sprigs of dill finely sliced (to taste)
  • Dash of nutmeg.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients apart from the melted butter and pastry in a large bowl.

Lay out the filo or puff pastry. If using filo make sure you keep a damp towel over it put brushed melted butter over each sheet as you layer them. A. helped me with this process as two people make this easier. We use 3 or so layers for a roll and 3 or so layers top and then same bottom in a pie. Puff pastry is just one layer.

Spoon mix onto the pastry sheets and roll or make into pies. Do not over fill.

Butter top and make sure you butter the tray they are sitting on.

Put in an oven at 150 to 170 degrees Celsius till cooked through and browned (about 45 minutes) slow cook is a better option for your health than the western desire to deep fry/fast cook everything.

Once cooked leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with a nice salad.

Finishing Christmas with a simple meal and simple lesson in life

So we have had our Christmas splurge. In reality ours while generous it was not the masses of excess I have seen other years or from others.

I will say this, it may be the crowd I hang with but the year seems to be a lot quieter at this time of year. A great many people are simply not buying into the sales and mess (could have been spending Christmas in a depressed regional centre as well)

Our Christmas plans were interrupted to a degree by a bought of gastro in the house. We ended up simplifying them and reduced travel time by 2-3 hours and the pace just felt a lot more relaxed.

We ended up at my parents, dry and warm but quiet and relaxed.

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The meals for us where generous but relatively simple, presents where practical and not ostentatious and the main thing was simply time spent with family. In time this will become the norm rather than the exception. The decline perhaps has already begun with a great many people so the chance for waste and excess will become less.

On the last day at my parents place we decided to head to the local trout farm as we had promised the children that they could try fishing and sitting on a river bank for 4 hours to get nothing will not attract children to fishing (it put me off most fishing 🙂 ).

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So we spent about an hour got 9 beautiful rainbow trout

Cooked simply n a BBQ nothing better. A salad from my parents’ house, chips from their own potatoes. Simple but good.

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And the kids well they again know where the food came from and the only comment was from the 5 year old that she would eat the fish but not bloody 🙂

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 🙂