Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Monthly nine -- January 2105

Hi there!  January is done and dusted and I'm late with the link-up again!  I have good reason.  Not only is the end of January back to studying time for the kids; it's also the time of year that everything fruity needs to be preserved for the cooler months! 

I'm setting aside some time right now to sit and recap January.  This is a great idea dreamed up by Christine at Slow Living Essentials.  We all get together and list our achievements for the previous month under nine different categories.  Please write your own recount of January and link up or just join in by visiting the other fabulous blogs taking part.

NOURISH: This month has seen us enjoying tomatoes.  I love the daily task of collecting them!  I made my first tomato soup for the season last week.  Delicious!  And oh so easy.

Tomato soup

Melt a generous dob of butter with a dash of olive oil.  Slice an onion or two and saute.  Add heaps of chopped up tomatoes fresh from the garden and simmer until very soft.  Add chicken stock in the right amount to give a nice, soupy but thickly tomatoey consistency together with a teaspoon of sugar, some salt, pepper and a couple of teaspoons of dried basil (or a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped basil).  Squeeze in a little lemon juice and simmer for five minutes.  This soup is lovely with fresh sour dough bread.

PREPARE: Christmas before last Hubby gave me a preserving kit and I nervously began preserving a few jars. Never did I imagine back then that I would throw myself in preserving in the way I have done this year!  I have made trips to orchards, had preserving days with friends, made jam and taken up a kind offer of plums from a generous local lady.  She purchased a property this year that had HEAPS of different types of plums.  More than she could possibly use.  She put out an offer for people to come pick what they liked.  It was plum heaven!  I have preserved plums, made plum jam and dried some prunes.  In fact, I really should be in there cutting up more right now but there's only so much plum-ing one can do before they need a break.

It's a busy time of year because the fruit won't wait.  I've been juggling the preserving with my determination to start the year teaching my children with some sort of regularity.  Not an easy task but so far I'm feeling on top of things.

REDUCE: I recently had to put a call out for PET bottles for making ginger beer because we don't use purchased soft drink.  I now have heaps put aside for the task.  Sadly I didn't get around to making it in time so I'll need to make up a new plant soon.  Too many damn hats that I'm wearing.
I re-used some material to make chair bags for the kids.  I made one of them from a torn sheet and the other from op shopped material.  Only one child had a chair bag last year.  They are invaluable for keeping books close without creating a mess.  Last year we used plastic tubs and they were too bulky for our small home.
GREEN: I tried coconut oil in my hair this month.  I was whinging on a Face Book group about how dry and brittle my hair has become.  I don't wash my hair often and when I do, I use soap that I have made.  I often use cider vinegar as a rinse but it doesn't seem to help much.  Someone recommended trying coconut oil.  I've never used coconut oil before.  It has to travel from Queensland which is an awful long way so I usually find a substitute if a recipe has called for it.  Anyway, I decided to give it a try.  The result wasn't great.  I washed my hair, applied what I thought was a tiny amount and brushed my hair.  It was soooo oily!  I'll persist and see if I can apply even less this time.
GROW: My tomatoes have been great this year.  I prepared the soil really well and have (at great expense) managed to keep the water up to them.  We've been enjoying strawberries but only as a rare treat.  I never have enough at any given time to create desserts or anything else special.  Zucchini was a spectacular fail!  The plants were magnificent.  Best I've ever grown.  That was, sadly, no consolation for me as I eagerly awaited the appearance of zucchinis....  I think we picked about six for the whole month!

CREATE: Apart from the chair bags I have created nothing.  Unless all the things I've been working on in my mind count as the process of creation. ;-)

DISCOVER: I've been enjoying using The River Cottage Preserves Handbook to create new yumminess from all the fruits I've managed to get hold of.  I've made a variation of sloe gin with some damsons I picked.  It will take quite a while before I can report on the results.  It will take about ten week to bottling and the recipe suggests I store it for eighteen months before drinking!
We also learnt about a little bird that came to visit.  We've been calling Belle our butterfly whisperer but I may need to extend it to wild birds as well!  For two days it played around our dairy and Belle was determined to tame it.  We looked it up and Belle tells me it's a juvenile grey fantail. "That's why it's brown."
ENHANCE: Together with friends we've bought fruit, shared preserving gear, enjoyed company, initiated WWOOFers into the art of preserving and been the recipients of the generosity of a woman with plums, plums and more plums.  Thank you Jane!!

ENJOY: More than anything I enjoyed friendship in January.  That and the local swimming pool.  The kids and I have just about lived at the pool.  Most Januarys see us take a short break, do some sitting around and I also usually contemplate the coming year.  For some reason it wasn't like that this year and I'm trying to ignore the niggling feeling that I'm beginning the year feeling burnt out before I've begun. It has been all my interactions with friends that has saved me from falling in a heap.  A bit of laughter here, some connecting there, a huge dose of 'yes, I relate to what you're saying', a good measure of working alongside other women and plenty of feeling cared about!  Where would we be without friends?!!

Please join in for our January linking with other friendly bloggers.  Just link below.


selina said...

you sound so busy! all those yummy plums! love the blood plums (red flesh) myself. neat idea with the chair bags too!
loved the little willy wag tail, so cute, probably looking for a bit of company too. i hope your belle grows into an animal whisperer, she seems to be genteel & have a talent there. good luck
friends, we all need them sometimes
thanx for sharing

sustainablemum said...

Wow look at all those plums, how wonderful. I love the idea of chair bags they look like something we could do with here too!

Preserving takes up so much time as you rightly say, the fruit can't wait. I have frozen plums successfully and bagged them up into amounts that are perfect for cooking with.

Thank you for hosting again :)

Linda said...

Hi Selina, the blood plums are wonderful. They look so pretty in the jars too. I think Belle will definitely grow up to do some sort of work with animals. She has such an interest in them!

Hi Sustainablemum, the chair bags were so quick to make up and the kids are finding them easy to use. In fact, they pack away better now that they have a closer spot. Thanks for the tip on freezing plums. I may need to do that soon if I can't process faster than they ripen!

Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

Those plums look amazing and how wonderful that so many people can share them instead of them going to waste. My mum adds big slices of fresh ginger to her bottled plums and it is amazing so you could give that a try if you want some variety (goes great with icecream) and she makes lots of asian style plum sauce.

I know what you mean about felling burnt out I have the feeling that some days I am teetering on the edge. You have had a great month and achieved heaps. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,
I am so glad that you could come and pick and preserve our plums. We certainly had a lot on our trees!

Kathy said...

Very envious of your preserving efforts what a wonderful thing to master. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

Cheryl said...

Plums galore!
I wish I could get on to someone here who has surplus anything!
Sounds great!

Anonymous said...

We call those Grey Fantails the "Creaky Gate birds" due to their lovely squeaky creaky chirrups. They fly around my veggie patch eating any flying insects they can catch. How lovely to see one so tame!

Love your bottling adventures. I reckon you're ready for pressure canning next - safely bottling all the low acid foods that you can't vacola-ise. :) Let me know if every you want to come and play. I think we are pretty local to you (we're in Ballan).

My zukes are slow this year too. I've only picked 3 I think. :(

Kathy said...

Hopefully I am laughing with you and not at you when I commiserate with my first experience with coconut oil on my hair, it took me 3 days to stop looking like an extra from "Grease" and it got on everything, bathrobe, pillow cases etc. Sigh... live and learn! Chair bags seem like a great idea, very clever! Envy the plum harvest, not really the harvest, just the jams and stuff!

Suzie Simplelife said...

Hi Linda, wish I had access to all those plums...I love making plum jam.. unfortunately my tree hasn't produced fruit as yet. The little bird is gorgeous and remarkably tame. Looks like January has been very busy and very productive.

Linda said...

Fiona, the ginger sounds interesting. I've never heard of that before.

Jane, I'm so glad you shared those wonderful plums. Many happy families!! :-)

The preserving's been exciting Kathy!

Cheryl. The orchards sell boxes of fruit quite cheaply for preserving.

Rabidlittlehippy, I'd love to take you up on that offer one day. It's the next big scary step.

Lol Kathy! It's greasy, persistent stuff!

Suzie, plum jam is divine. Our plum tree never produces well either.

Evi said...

Whew! I finally managed to get this month sorted and written up! You seem to have been so busy this time, Linda, not that your months ever seem empty!
Thanks again for hosting this and making me get it together to remember what I've achieved!

Linda said...

Thanks for joining in Evi. I'm off to read your post.

Anonymous said...

ahh, the blue of those plums sets my heart a flutter. I would grow them even if i didnt like eating them, they look so beautiful. How wonderful to have a bird/butterfly whisperer in your family.

Linda said...

They are beautiful Louise, aren't they!