Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Guilt free food

I was driving in the middle of nowhere today when I saw something by the side of the road. I quickly did a u-turn and sure enough....
it was what I thought. A wild tree laden with quinces!
Fancy these being here by the roadside in the middle of Victoria! On a road I rarely travel. And at the time of year for quince picking!
I picked them and drove away elated. I found myself pondering how these trees (well, bushes really) got to be there. Was there once a homestead where the road now travels? Did someone plant these or did they self seed? I'll never know the answers.

What really amazes me is that the fruit was still on the tree when it was ripe for the picking!! Maybe no-one knew what they were?! This is the best kind of food to obtain. I suppose I was scrumping though it certainly wasn't stealing. These quinces would have gone to waste had I not picked them. They used absolutely no resources in the growing process. No one watered, fertilised or cared for them in any way and...... they were free.
I picked just over two kilos of tiny quinces and am stewing some of them now. I imagine they will be just scrump-tious!

I know where all the wild trees are around our town. I've only found apples. This year one was burnt in a fire and the council radically trimmed another when they reduced the roadside bush. I won't be doing much scrumping this year so this quince windfall cheered me no end.

Do you have scrumping trees near you?

Monday, 14 April 2014

Herbert Peabody

More and more these days, interesting opportunities seem to come up for our family.  Maybe it's because, although we're very busy, we can be flexible with our time.

Last week the children were invited to a radio station to meet with a children's author.  It was a great experience for them.  While they were initially very timid and really didn't say much throughout the whole show, it was a great learning experience.  I like to take them out of their comfort zones and it was good for them to see what a radio station can look like.
The author was Bianca C Ross and she was lovely.  She spoke about her book for a while - Herbert Peabody and His Extraordinary Vegetable Patch - and then read to the children.  They were eating out of her hand by the end of the interview (though still not very forthcoming with any vocal interaction).
I really wanted to tell you guys all about it because I think this book will be right up your alley!  It's a book about a farmer who has a huge veggie patch.  He's right into his veggies, just like you and I, and it's a great story in chapter book style. 
A friend of ours had her five year old daughter there too so I can tell you that this book had all age groups entranced from five through to eleven.  Belle (eleven years) loves a book that relates to our lifestyle and Pumpkin (seven years) just loved Herbert Peabody!  She came home and wanted to be him.  She dressed in her farmery-est clothes and went out to play.
 I think it's fantastic to see authors writing kids' books that relate to gardening, real food and sustainable living.  This book will be released on the first of May in bookstores but you can also purchase it online.
There is also a website with printable pictures to colour in and even a blog about all-things-garden.  I love it when my kids get enthusiastic about something like this.
If you do get a hold of a copy, don't forget to let me know what you think.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Real food lessons for adults and children

We've had an interesting food journey over the last few years.  As a family, we began connecting with real food due to our efforts to live more sustainably.  In my attempts to reduce  the fuels wasted in transporting food to the supermarkets and to buy less processed (again a waste of fuel) and packaged food we found ourselves buying a lot of local and seasonal produce.  We also began to take our veggie gardening efforts seriously.

Gradually, very gradually, without me even really noticing, we've changed the way we think about food and cooking.  I've had to find new recipes that made use of the ingredients that I sourced.  I have begun to use ingredients that I never used to cook with.  Along the way, I have become more creative with food by default.  I used to read a recipe and think, "Oooh!  Dry, white wine!  I don't have any!"  And off I would race to the supermarket to get the vital ingredient.
It was as I was cooking soup for guests this morning that I became aware of the mind shift we have all undergone.  Not only do I now deliberately cook with local, seasonal ingredients, but the supermarkets tend not to jump to mind.  The soup I am making is a potato and leek soup.  I didn't reach for a recipe book.  How many leeks should I use?  Well as many as I purchased at our local, organic stall yesterday of course!  In fact, the purchase was the inspiration for the soup.  I didn't go there with a meal in mind.  I did it backwards.  I went to see what was on offer and decided on my menu from there.  And how many potatoes should I use? As many of our home grown potatoes as I feel would enhance the amount of leeks in the pot.

I have recently noticed that the kids have shifted their perception of their food origins too.  If they are eating apples from our tree and those apples run out, they see it as a natural occurrence.  When we were supermarketers, they would automatically cry, "Mum!  We need more apples!"  This thought process is very obvious with our new source of milk.   Since I began milking the goat the children have reduced their intake dramatically.  I haven't insisted on a reduction or sat them down to explain the new situation.  They have just accepted that the milk is finite.  I hear them telling each other to not have too much because it's the goats milk!  They can easily accept that, if they finish it, they need to wait until I milk the next day.
Do you see the difference?  At first we went out of our way to change the way we shopped and while it was wonderful, it was a conscious and deliberate choice.  Now it is becoming the norm for us.  The kids don't rifle through the cupboard looking for a particular product but, rather, looking to see what is on offer.  It feels natural and it feels like we are connected to our area, our gardens and our seasons. 
It's not always possible to eat completely according to our values but every now and again it just works perfectly.  Tonight I will serve sourdough bread baked by a friend.  I will cut it into small pieces and make a platter along with her zucchini pickles and pesto.  I bought all of these at our swap market.  I will also add some local olives purchases from another friend at last week's farmers market and some cherry tomatoes will complete the platter.  Then the soup.  We'll follow this up with a simple dinner of barbecued local sausages from our butcher along with crumbed eggplant from the swap market.  Dessert will be quinces (swap market) baked in honey (my bees) and butter.  Of course, we will have some local wine to quench our thirst.  I'm really looking forward to dinner.  I'm probably not offering enough veggies with dinner to make it a proper meal but it's simple, it's no fuss and it's all good wholesome food.  If I've thought it through properly, only the butter, seasoning and some stock were from commercial sources!  Oh, and of course I will be serving the quinces with lashings of cream!  That was from the supermarket too.
I love our new attitude that crept up while we weren't looking!  This IS the food connection!!  We respect our food and where it comes from.  As a result we appreciate it so much more.
Have you been through similar changes in your awareness of food?  Where at you at in your food journey? Maybe you are just starting out with veggie gardening or possibly you are at the point where you produce most of your own food.  I would love to hear what others are doing!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Carrot, Potato and Garlic Soup

It's cosy inside.  The rain is pattering on the roof and I'm contemplating lighting a fire.  It's the time of year that I search my memory for quick and easy soups to make for yummy, warming lunches.

I harvested potato last week so the following recipe came to mind.  It is incredibly easy and delicious.  A very garlicky soup for those who love garlic as much as I do! You'll find the recipe below.

We've had a lovely week.  We caught up with Lou Lou (my eldest) and my granddaughter in a beautiful park.  It was a joy to watch her and Pumpkin play.
 Buddy played too, then was happy to sit and enjoy a book.
Autumn weather has seen me in a food mood all week.  We've had an apple pie made with our own apples.....
 quiches, chicken casseroles, spaghetti bolognese.... all the comfort foods.
Now for that soup recipe.

Carrot, Potato and Garlic Soup

5 large potatoes
8 carrots
1 head of garlic
3 litres chicken stock

Peel and chop potatos and carrots.  Peel garlic cloves.  Place in pot with the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, then cook until the veggies are tender.  Blend in pot with stick blender.
Top with a little cream and sprinkle with paprika to serve.
Couldn't be easier really, could it?

Today I didn't have my own chicken stock so I just used three litres of water and added powdered stock when it came to the boil.  I like it much better when I use homemade chicken stock.

Do you have a favourite soup that is easy to make on a cold day?

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Great Tomato Search

Last week, armed with my new preserving knowledge, I set off to get tomatoes.  I knew it was getting late in the season.  I travelled for an hour to a place full of orchards and tomato growers.

Orchard one - closed.  Orchard two - Heaps of fruit, no tomatoes.

Disheartened, I asked in town.  I got many leads, some of which would have taken me miles out of my way.  I decided to try one lead in the direction of home.  When I arrived in the heart of this tiny town, I saw a lady of about eighty walking down the street.  I stopped to ask her and she pointed me in a very vague direction and assured me I could find tomatoes there.

Off I went again, this time becoming confused as to which road I should be on and even unsure which road I actually was on.  Finally I found some men in a paddock so asked them.  Yes, just up the road on your left.  Yahoo! I pulled up and saw...........  yep, tomatoes!  Heaps of them pouring out of a chute into the back of a truck.  I was so excited.  I had begun to feel like I was searching for the Holy Grail.
All the signs said no cars, so I parked up and walked in.  I could see fork lifts and trucks but nothing that resembled a shop.  My heart dropped as I realised it was a factory, not a tomato outlet.  A man approached and I explained how I had arrived there and the mistake I had made.  He said, "Hang on a sec.   I'll get the boss."
Out whizzed a man on a forklift.  He asked how many boxes I wanted.  "Four ten kilo boxes.", I told him.  He delivered a huge bin near the car, gave me four boxes and left me to it.  I couldn't believe it! My luck was in.  And I only paid five dollars a box.
I went home elated.  Somehow the adventures of the Great Tomato Search made my tomatoes so much more special.  I travelled about two hundred kilometres and spent six hours but I found my tomatoes.  What a shopping day!!!
Next year I will go earlier.  My big preserving day began the following morning.
 Now my shelves are groaning with tomatoes.  Something I have dreamt about for years!
How do you shop?  LOL

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Slow Living in March

I can't believe another month has flown by!  It's time for the monthly link-up with Christine at Slow Living Essentials.  But before I give you a run down on what I achieved in each of the categories I have some important business.

Today it was time to draw the winner of the PIP Australian Permaculture Magazine.  And the winner is.........  Louise from Winks to Remember!!  Congratulations Louise.  Could you please send me an email with your address?  My email is on the right of my blog but it doesn't link through (it was too complicated for me).  Soon you'll be reading a copy of the first edition of an inspiring new magazine!

So back to the month of March and the lovely link-up with other slow living bloggers;

Nourish - Belle turned eleven in March so we had some party food.  I decorated the cakes with violas from the garden.  Actually Christine, I used your recipe for the cup cakes but coloured the batter to make rainbow cup cakes (a birthday request).  Love that recipe.  It's so quick!
I picked up the most amazing basket of summer goodies at our swap market.  I also had a go at making apple cider vinegar this month.  It was incredibly easy.  The recipe was from the last edition of Grass Roots Magazine if you want to give it a try.
 Prepare - Ha!  This is the category I've been looking forward to!  I finally have some serious preparing to report.  Guess what I did this month?  I went to a preserving workshop!  I kinda knew most of it but I gained a lot of confidence by working with others and under the tuition of someone much more experienced than me. Now I'm madly bottling more tomatoes at home.  I'll have heaps for the winter.

I've also been making a lot of salads-in-a-jars for Hubby's lunches.  A friend reminded me of their existence and I'm loving the convenience of making several lunches at once.  Google it.  You'll love them.

Reduce - At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm still trying to reduce the STUFF in this house.  I've done well downstairs.  I have one cupboard to go in the kids room.  Then I'll start upstairs.  That's our bedroom.  I'm actually scared of it!!  It's the room that no-one enters so if I have something and I don't know where to put it, that's where it goes!!!  Argghhh!  Now is the time.  No more procrastinating.  And you will never, never, never see a photo of my bedroom as it stands!

Green - Can't think of anything new except the beautiful shoots of grass that are coming up after months of dirt and dust.  A little bit of rain causes magic to happen!!

Grow - I have failed dismally in this category.  I have harvested some stuff this month but I can't even plant the seedlings because we have no garden water.  The dam is too low to pump from so I'm waiting for big rains.  The photo below will give you an idea of how desperate I am.  The poor children would love a bath but it's showers only for us!!
Create - I made some pads this month and I reckon they look pretty good.  I still need to buy the press stud-y bit to do them up.  I've returned to knitting a jumper for Buddy Boy now the weather is getting cool again.
Discover - I was lucky enough to hear about a crowd funded magazine about permaculture.  I wasn't able to go to their launch but I did help fund the magazine.  The first issue is out and it sounds like it is about to sell out.  It has been received very well.  You can subscribe to PIP Australian Permaculture Magazine online.  I have really enjoyed playing my very small role by donating.  There is a certain feeling of life being 'right' when people achieve amazing things without relying on govt. or big business.
Enhance - The preserving workshop was fantastic!  To get together with a bunch of people and work together was amazing.  It was wonderful to have experienced people sharing their skills with others.  What goes around comes around I hope.  And as I always say..... that community, connected feeling just can't be beat!
Enjoy - I found this month quite hard.  I had a mini-melt down which felt quite horrible.  I like doing these posts and remembering all that is good in life.  I enjoyed lots this month.  I particularly enjoyed catching up with family and seeing my granddaughters that I really don't see often enough!  Especially one little new person that I live far too far away from.  I loved having special cuddles.
And it was nice to see my big special people too.
I hope your March was wonderful and your April is even better!

Slow Living Essentials Monthly 9 link up - Grab my button!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A good start

Autumn has begun.  We have come through the first month.  I love Autumn!  Finally the weather is easing.  The unforgiving, burning, parching, exhausting heat of summer is leaving now that we have passed the Autumn equinox.  Once again I have energy as I look around me.

I feel good as I anticipate the changing of the season; the leaves turning on the trees, dropping to the ground to create humus for the soil.  I feel good as I anticipate the cold; starting gently, it begins as crisp days suitable for digging, creating compost, starting to repair the damage that summer has wrought.  Gradually it becomes colder until I need to retreat inside to sit in front of the fire.

I LOVE Autumn!  Bring it on!!!
On the weekend, I took part in a work-shop where we learned to preserve tomatoes for the winter.  On a practical level, it was great because I now have some tomatoes on my shelf.  On a community level it was fantastic because I was working alongside people I know and others that I was meeting for the first time.  I love connecting with people.  I also gain a very strong sense of security in knowing I'm not the only person trying to reduce packaging, cook with less waste, reduce usage of fossil fuels etc.  These type of workshops reinvigorate me!
Tomorrow I plan to travel to buy more tomatoes from an orchardist.  Then I will attempt to finish bottling enough to see me through the winter.  Wish me luck!
We have also begun our experience of WWOOFing.  Our first WOOFer arrived on Sunday, only for us to discover he was not registered. We have now sorted that out and we are having so much fun!  For those who may not know, a WWOOFer is a Willing Worker On an Organic Farm (though I believe they have recently changed the meaning of their acronym).  Generally someone from overseas, a WWOOFer is looking for an experience on a farm.  They receive food and lodgings in return for a few hours of work a day.  We benefit because we are often short on time or money (or both) and by learning about other cultures, and they benefit by having a friendly, welcoming family to stay with while learning about Australia and organics, for example.
We are thoroughly  enjoying our new Italian friend and the kids think it's great.  They think it's funny to watch their mother communicate through mime and drawing pictures!  Somehow the children are able to get away with less communication, while still forming good friendships. 
 This month I thought I could see a change in the activity of insects.  I saw a swarm flying near our house.  Luckily I called the children so they could explain these were actually fairies, not insects!!  Can you see them in the photos?  Little and white.
 The biggest Autumn news......  We had rain.  REAL, fair dinkum rain!!!!!  Two days ago - and look at my barren paddock today!
I love Autumn.