Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fuel for family

We try very hard to constantly assess how we are living and identify areas that we can reduce our impact on the finite resources of this planet.

We do fairly well in many areas but there is one thing I feel very guilty about.  Our use of fuel for transport.  We try to keep it in check by buying food in bulk and growing what vegetables we can.  This reduces our need to run to the shops.  I also often get Hubby to pick up groceries we might need as he comes home from work.  However there are many more events in our days that require us to travel.  We drive in a large and very old car that uses gas.
Our last trip to visit my daughters!  We eventually made it!!
We have weekly visits to the library and swimming lessons.  And then there's our family.....  the closest family are my parents.  They live forty five minutes driving time from us.  Hubby's parents are an hour away.

My precious adult girls live two and a half and three and a half hours away respectively.  To visit Lou Lou is a huge task.  It makes for a very long and tiring day to complete the five hour round trip plus visiting time.  I often feel like a nap when I arrive!
As for Rosie, I don't find it possible to visit her and return home in one day.  That would be seven hours of driving.  It takes us a couple of hours to get organised to even make the trip because with three children in tow, I need to pack drinks, food, books etc.

So if I want to visit Rosie, I always stay at least one night.  I don't want to miss the special moments that are represented in these photos.  My granddaughters are beautiful and changing every day.  I want them to know us.

I would have loved to live close to my daughters.  I always imagined being the kind of grandmother that was called upon regularly.  I would have loved to look after my grandchildren while my daughters shopped, went to the doctor or had a night with their partners.  I'd love to be an everyday part of the little girls' lives as they learn to crawl, walk, start kinder, learn to read.  I'd love to be able to support my daughters on a practical and emotional level as they journey through the tough task of parenting.  I'd love to enjoy their company just for fun!  So, for me, there is a real sense of missing out because of the distance that separates us.  However, I understand my daughter's choices to live elsewhere.  They made good decisions and are living good lives.
So given that I can't have my dream of children living in my local community, I choose to visit as often as I can (which is about once every couple of months).  This uses a lot of fuel.  At least they live in the same direction so that I can usually make each trip count twice.

There are also many other things that take me out in the car locally.  I have so many things I want to learn and be involved with!  I attend workshops, swap markets, local farmer's markets and visit anyone willing to teach me new skills.  Only this week, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit a biodynamic dairy goat farm.  It was a drive of forty minutes but I didn't want to miss the visit for the world!
Do you do better than me in the fuel department?  Maybe it doesn't bother you or maybe you've found a solution.  It is something I have a real dilemma over.  I know I am choosing to justify driving whenever I want to do something badly but that doesn't make it right.  I would love your thoughts.  Keep in mind, in our rural situation, nothing is nearby and bikes are out of the question on our tiny, dirt roads with three children to take with me.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


I'm feeling gooey about life.  It's easy to feel gooey when you're on a break with the family.

This week I'm loving lots of things.  I love having time to play with my camera. I tried to capture the morning light.  I failed dismally but had such fun in the process.  Hopefully, one day, I will find a photography course near me.
 I love having generous friends who deliver homegrown goodies to your kitchen workbench while you're out.
 I love the smell of the apple cider vinegar as it develops.  I think it's working!  I might start another batch today if I get time.
 I love devoting snatches of time to making something new for one of my girls.  I have illusions of actually finishing this project!
 I love finding our resident echidna at the door of the shed.
 I love cooking with children.....
 and eating the resulting macaroons!! 
 I love harvesting apples from my own trees.  Year by year it gets better.  Some years are good, others bad but gradually we go forward and our harvests are getting bigger.  Had I beaten the birds, we would have had three times this amount.  They discovered a hole in the netting at the eleventh hour.
We've been visiting family, socialising with friends and living life to the full.  What's not to love?!
I hope you're having a wonderful Easter break.  What are you loving at the moment?

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