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Biochar video

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A little something for the weekend…

The French Experiment

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Have you read ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food‘ by Pamela Druckerman? I did last year and it was so interesting to read about how children are raised in France. It certainly dispelled any mother-guilt about sending my child to daycare.

I’ve recently read ‘French Kids Eat Everything‘ by Karen Le Billon which is a similar story about a Canadian woman living in France with her French husband and two young children. It explores the relationship and attitudes that the French have with food and compares the French diet to the typical American/Canadian diet. Karen’s experimentation with the French way of eating doesn’t always go to plan and she fails time and time again to understand the French philosophy but with each failure she seems to get closer and closer to the truth of French eating habits. By the end of the book she has developed an appreciation for the French diet and her once picky children have broadened their palates to include seafood, olives, spinach and beetroot.

The French seem to have a strict authoritarian approach to food from birth and their appallingly low breast-feeding rates are not something I envy. However the stories contained in this book are encouraging when it comes to broadening children’s palates. Karen emphasises the French enjoyment of their food and the powerful persuasive nature of peer pressure in getting children to try new foods and enjoy them. There’s a delightful anecdote about a family dinner and the children’s table which is set apart from the adults and carefully decorated, where the children are left to eat together and the older children successfully encourage the younger children to eat seemingly ‘adult’ foods.

Reading’ French Kids Eat Everything‘ has encouraged me to stretch my daughter’s food preferences and the array of receipes at the back of this book have been so helpful. We’ve had several four course dinners as a result. Starting with soup, then bread & cheese, then a main and dessert. And while, there has certainly been more washing up, the joy of spending time as a family, instead of rushing through dinner to get back to TV has definitely been worth it. Oh, and I’ve finally been able to get my daughter to eat her greens!

Sophie’s Spinach Surprise 

  • 1 zucchini, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • optional: 1 tsp butter and, if the spinach is bitter, a small spoonful of honey
  1. Bring zucchini and water to the boil in a medium saucepan, simmer for a few minutes until zucchini becomes translucent.
  2. Add spinach leaves and allow to wilt for 1 or 2 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and blend

For more recipes visit Karen’s website: http://karenlebillon.com/

Highlights of 2012

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Bellis, May & August

We visited Jerry Coleby-Williams‘ garden Bellis twice this year for the open days. It was inspiring to see the possibilities of what can be achieved in a suburban backyard garden.  In May the Rosella’s had matured and the garden was full to the brim of other delights like Pidgeon Peas, amaranth, marigolds and greens of every sort.

Jane Street Community Garden Blitz,  May

In May I spent the day at the Jane Street Community Garden for a Permablitz shovelling mulch and planting seedlings, oh and taking lots of photos of the day. There was plenty happening over the course of the day with new garden beds installed, weeding and mulching of the adjacent slope, disposal of rubbish leftover from last years’ flood, installation of an aquatic garden,  clean up of the orchard, among other things. By the end of the day the place was barely recognisable.

Before

After

Kitchen Gardening with Young Children with Morag Gamble, September

In September I attended this workshop at the Fairfield Public library. Brisbane Public Libraries offer sustainability workshops throughout the year if you’re interested in learning more about composting, fruit & vegetable gardening, backyard pests and pets, keeping chickens, etc. Some of the cuttings from the workshop have been flourishing and others died in the first few days. Morag Gamble is a director of SEED International and a permaculture & transition town advocate.

Latest Edition to Our Little Family

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There’s been a recent addition to our family:

White German Shepherd

white german shepherd

Zara is a white german shepherd. She loves nothing better than a good cuddle and playing chasie around the yard 🙂

Garden Update

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It’s been a while but I thought I might update on what’s happening in our garden… 

There’s a new garden bed on 14th October: 

Image

 

Here’s what it looks like today: 

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Minimalism Vs Self-sufficiency

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It’s probably been about two years since I stumbled across the minimalist movement. It first began with a Times article on the 25 Best Blogs of 2009 which featured Zen Habits. From there I was hooked. I consumed every minimalist blog I could find: Becoming Minimalist, Miss Minimalist, The Everyday Minimalist, Exile Lifestyle, Castles in the Air, Mnmlist, Minimal Student, Rowdy Kittens, and many more that have come and gone.

I dreamed of living in a minimalist studio apartment

Minimalist Apartment

or minimalist tiny home

of living in a treehouse in the wilderness

or living out of a backpack like Colin Wright & Nina Yau.

The idea of having few possessions and a million possibilities appealed to me. And the benefits of minimalism? Reducing my consumerism, reducing my impact on the world, reducing my household responsibilities (cleaning, cooking, shopping), releasing my time for worthwhile activities (like yoga & writing & travelling). And yet, by relinquishing my possessions I found that I became more and more reliant on the world around me. Giving away baking trays would mean buying store bought biscuits & cupcakes & breads. Giving away my sewing machine would mean not being able to mend unravelling seams or make my own clothes. Giving away baby items meant I would have to buy them all again when we have another baby. Minimalists also seemed to travel a lot, by air, and we all know how much fuel and energy flights require. These things didn’t make sense to me. They seemed wasteful & expensive. I also needed to shop more often as I didn’t have a spare tube of toothpaste, or packet of rice. With little forethought about meals there were often nights eating takeaway or dashing to the shops for missing ingredients.

And then I turned to simple living sites…

Women baking bread, knitting dishcloths and tending their gardens. Men planting seedlings, making compost, and building retaining walls. Their days were filled with day-to-day responsibilities. And their homes stocked with supplies and the necessary tools. But they didn’t need to shop every day as their pantries were stocked with a months worth of food. They bought in bulk which did three things: reduced the time they spent travelling to and from the shops, reduced the unit cost of items and reduced the amount of packaging products required. These simple living enthusiasts were working towards similar goals as minimalists but in completely different ways.

Both minimalists and homesteaders write about reducing debt, reducing consumption, caring for the environment & their communities, appreciating the moment and the wonder of everyday life. Those are high ideals. Commendable goals. And truly, truly worthwhile endeavours.

Rosella Jam

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This is a photo of the Rosella harvest. I grew two shrubs in the vegetable garden this year and this is what they produced. Rosella’s are a member of the hibiscus family and their fruit is used in tea, jams, cordials, and even food colourings due to their rich red colour. You can also eat their leaves & flowers in salads (something I haven’t yet tried) and use their fibrous stems as a replacement for jute. All, in all, an extremely useful and ornamental plant.

Yesterday I made jam for the very first time. Using a recipe from my great-grandmother and advice from my mother I cut & boiled, measured & stirred, and here’s the delicious result… two and a quarter jars of delicious tart fruity goodness (I think I’ll plant more shrubs next year to ensure a bigger harvest – you can never have too much Rosella Jam).

Morning Tea

As for the recipe, it’s really easy. I also sterilised the jars by putting them through a wash in the dishwasher rather than following traditional sterilising practices. Being my first batch of jam and knowing that it will be eaten very quickly I wasn’t too worried about boiling the jars or chemically sterilising them. First time ’round I just wanted to concentrate on getting the jam right. I also didn’t bother brand name jam jars like Mason jars. Instead, I’ve saved the jars from jams and other condiments I’ve bought in the past and reused them. Here’s the recipe if you have a few Rosellas growing in your backyard.

Rosella Jam

Ingredients

  • sugar
  • rosellas
  • a few drops of lemon juice

Cut off stalks; separate the seed pods and husks. Put stalks and seedpods into a saucepan; cover them with water. Boil for one hour or till liquid is thick and syrupy; strain through cheese cloth (or sieve) into a  saucepan. Add the rosella husks; boil for 20 minutes or till pulpy.  Measure; add one cup of sugar for each cup of pulp; add lemon juice. Boil rapidly for 20 minutes, stirring continually; a little should set in a cold saucer.  Bottle and seal.