Unexpected

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Two weeks ago I published my last blog post.  The content emphasised the ordinariness of my day.  I had made breakfast and a new batch of gluten-free muesli.  My day continued in a similar vein as I did some housework and then spent time in the garden.

I came in to the kitchen just before 5pm so that I could begin preparing dinner and the phone rang.  My younger daughter had just found out that her partner had died suddenly and unexpectedly.  To say that her world had been turned upside-down would be an understatement.

At times like this everything else becomes totally irrelevant.  30 minutes later I had showered and packed a bag.  GMan had booked a flight for me and we headed to the airport.  I flew interstate to be with my girl at what was undoubtedly the most difficult time of her life.

She has received an enormous amount of love, support and strength from family, friends and work colleagues.

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On Monday we farewelled ‘the tall guy’ who was on the threshhold of the rest of his life and my daughter has lost her life-partner.  He was much loved and an inspiration to many.

Rest in peace.

I cannot end this post without a reference to the health condition which contributed to his death.  This link explains a little about Marfan Syndrome.  The incidence is apparently about 1 in 5,000 which is more common than I realised.

Making Breakfast

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It is Saturday morning here in Australia so it was time for a slightly more leisurely breakfast than our normal weekday routine.  We leave too early to consider having breakfast before we go so I have all of the necessities in my desk and I eat breakfast at the office.

Today, however, I had to make up some more cereal as I had run out.  I eat a gluten-free diet so I make my version of muesli.

Gluten-free Muesli (bulk quantity)

3 cups pepitas
3 cups sunflower seeds2 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup flaxseed meal
2 cups almonds (chopped)
2 cups sultanas
1/4 cup powdered cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and then store in an airtight container.

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Breakfast

3 spoons of muesli
1 spoon chia seeds
1 spoon psyllium husk

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I then add 2 – 3 serves of fruit and enough water to absorb the chia and psyllium.  You could use milk or yoghurt if you wish but I choose not to have them on my cereal.  If the fruit you have is lacking in moisture or intense flavour you could also use a little fruit juice.

Today I used 2 cubes each of frozen mango puree and passionfruit pulp which were surplus from the summer as well as 1/4 of a home-grown pawpaw which was given to me yesterday.

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A truly refreshing start to the day.

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Saving Scraps

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I have read many times about people saving their vegetables scraps/peelings and using them to make vegetable stock.  I take a slightly different approach and dehydrate them to make stock powder.  The end result is the same but I find it easier to make and it takes up minimal storage space.

This is my dehydrator.

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I had some broccoli stalks, kale stalks as well as some carrot and onion ends stored in the freezer so I spread them on the tray of the dehydrator and let it work its magic which took about 24 hours.  You need to make sure that the vegetables are thoroughly dried.

This was the result.

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I place the dried pieces in the small spice grinder attachment for my food processor and blitz them until they are a fine powder.

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I generally store the jar in the freezer as it does not contain any preservatives.  This partially filled small Vegemite jar is the yield from my tray of vegetable scraps.

While I have chickens and a compost heap, it is nice to actually be able to use these scraps and not have to buy packaged stock powder.

A Lasting Legacy

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When we consider what constitutes a legacy, recipes handed down through the generations may feature.  However, it is not often that the recipe for a salad eaten in a restaurant would be remembered in these terms.

The salad we ate at Antique Taco in Chicago last year was no ordinary salad.  Fortunately, there is a reasonably detailed description on the menu.

I have made my version of this salad several times and it is an absolute favourite.

The kale we have growing has reached a suitable size so it was an obvious choice for dinner last night.

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ANTIQUE TACO SALAD

Finely chopped kale (remove and discard the thick central stem)
Finely chopped onion
Diced capsicum (bell pepper)
Spiced peanuts
Dried cranberries

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Combine the ingredients and then make the dressing.

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DRESSING

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon lime juice

Mix thoroughly and season with a little salt and pepper.

Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to thoroughly coat the kale.

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This was our dinner – soft corn tortillas filled with refried beans, spicy pan-fried capsicum and onion strips and grated cheese.  Served with kale salad, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes.

I am trying to incorporate something we have grown into each of our meals and last night it was cherry tomatoes and kale.

Garden Notes – Seedling Success

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It is 8 days since I planted the seeds which I wrote about in my previous post and I am pleased to report success, almost beyond my wildest dreams.

Here are the trays of cabbage and cauliflower.  It looks as though the germination rate was almost 100%.

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The cauliflower had begun to lean towards the sun so I brought them out from their sheltered spot and they are now in the full sun on some mesh which is covering one of the garden beds.  The mesh is to keep the scrub turkeys out of the sweet potato which I transplanted from the compost heap.

The broccoli seedlings are also looking good but a few days behind the others.

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The germination rate of these is also excellent as I think there were only 20 seeds in the packet – they are a hybrid bred specifically for our warmer sub-tropical climate.

The celery and spinach are still in the sheltered area and I continue to be hopeful.  I think I can see some celery just poking through the soil but the spinach are not showing any signs of life just yet.

The red cabbage seedlings have doubled in size in a week and the beans which I planted directly in the bed are growing at a rapid pace.

On another note, and related to the garden, I wanted to show you a bit of work we did last week.

When we fenced the area for the vegetable garden we installed a couple of gates.  Due to the slope of the land we set this timber sleeper beneath the wide gate.  It has stayed in position and works well.

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There did not seem to be a need under the standard width gate but over time we have noticed that the ground had settled and a few rocks were placed to thwart the efforts of the chickens to access the enclosed area.

So last weekend we found another sleeper and cut a piece for this gate.

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I need to encourage the grass to grow on this side of the gate.  I am not worried about the enclosed area as that will eventually all be mulched with no grass at all.

While we were doing this we decided to also do the gate for the chicken run which had the same problem.

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The gate is propped open as the girls were out free-ranging when I took this photo this afternoon.

Garden Notes – Raspberries and Rocket

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We have fruit trees and a vegetable garden.  Some years the vegetables garden does better than others.  A lot depends on the weather and how organised I am.

This year I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to successfully produce more of our own food.  Since the hot summer is over and we finally have some moderate autumn weather I have made a start on planting.

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The lettuce and kale seedlings which I planted about 5 weeks ago are now thriving full-sized plants and we are enjoying plenty of fresh lettuce.  I planted red cabbage seedlings about 10 days ago and they are established and looking healthy.

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On the weekend I sorted through a pile of seed packets which I store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Many of them are expired but I decided that I had nothing to lose by planting them.

There are bush beans interplanted with the red cabbage. Coriander and rocket are in the freshly-dug strip in the background of the same photo.  I am excited to report that exactly 48 hours after planting them, the rocket seeds have germinated and I now have hundreds of tiny, two-leaved seedlings.  Other beds have carrot, red onion, peas and radishes.  If they all grow I will have a bumper harvest, if not I will try again with some fresh seeds.

Some seeds are best raised in seed trays before transplanting them.  These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and spinach.  Here they are on a temporary potting table which I created from a couple of sawhorses and a piece of pool fencing.  There is another piece of pool fencing over the top in an attempt to prevent the chickens from digging them up when they are free-ranging.

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Here is a close-up of the trays with their labels cut out of an old ice-cream container.

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Finally, I wanted to show you the raspberry canes on the left-hand side of the photo below.

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We have a substantial clump of raspberry canes from the original 4 canes that we planted about 3 years ago.  In an attempt to control the growth of these we have tried to contain them using star pickets and a couple of strands of wire.  When we dig up the canes which are beyond the designated area we will plant them in the vacant area beside the gate.  Our goal is to have a raspberry patch stretching from the front boundary to the gate and extending 600mm either side of the fence which forms part of the garden enclosure.

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Many people are quite surprised that we can grow raspberries in our climate.  Ours are an autumn fruiting variety which are suited to our climate and we are very happy with the yield.  This year has been the best crop so far.  While we are not exactly inundated I am picking about 50 – 100g every few days at the moment and that is definitely enough to have for dessert with some ice-cream.

Growing our own food means that it is raised without pesticides and artificial fertiliser, it comes with no additional packaging and it saves us money.  What is there not to love?

 

 

 

Fit to Wear

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There are many ways of approaching the goal of producing less waste but for me, one of the most obvious things is to consume less and make do with what you have.

Mending, repairing and refashioning will significantly extend the life of items, save them from landfill for longer and of course, reduce the need to purchase a replacement.

Here is a practical example that I did this morning in less than an hour.

This is GMan’s sweatshirt which he wears on the weekend when gardening, mowing and painting as you can see.  The cuffs and lower band are all frayed and badly stretched but the body of the garment is still relatively sound.

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When I said that I could replace the cuffs, he commented how much he liked the fit of it – although I don’t think ‘fit’ is actually the right word.  So, The first thing I did was to make a pattern for future reference.

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I use lightweight interfacing for this purpose and have a roll of it.  I find the patterns cut on interfacing are durable and unlikely to tear.

There are only 2 pieces required – one for the front and back (with different necklines marked) and one for the sleeves.

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Next, I had a dig in my stash of ribbing to find a suitable piece.  I found some bottle green which was exactly enough for the lower band and sleeve cuffs – no wastage at all.

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I then found a piece of black for the neckband and set to work.  I will not try to explain how the ribbing is attached as there are plenty of good instructions which can be found using Google.

The final result.

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GMan is happy and I am sure this will see plenty more wear in the garden.