Monday, 30 May 2011

Rhubarb Curd

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I affectionately call rhubarb "Poor Man's Citrus", but maybe I should call it Northern Man's Citrus. Poor ol' rhubarb, the ubiquitous kitchen garden and sensible farmyard perennial has made its way into the foodie culture. A spring herald around here, and the first fruit abundant enough to be eaten and preserved, tart and tangy rhubarb deserves the attention it is getting; a secret farm wives have known for years.

Faster than you can shake a stick, well not quite, you can pull a few stalks, slice, add a tiny bit of water, sugar and vanilla to taste, cook in covered pan for 10 minutes more or less and you have sauce for...the possibilities are endless.



We have always called this rhubarb pudding, but many call this rhubarb curd. Take your pick, it is delicious, eaten plain or used as a filling for tarts or pies. This dish is common on our table in the spring when eggs and rhubarb are abundant.

Rhubarb Pudding or Curd 5 one cup servings

4 - 5 stalks trimmed rhubarb or enough for two cups of rhubarb sauce.
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla

Wash, trim and cut rhubarb into one inch slices. Combine rhubarb slices, 1/2 cup sugar and water in covered saucepan. Cook on medium heat until rhubarb is tender - about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Measure 2 cups cooked rhubarb sauce and purée in food processor or blender until smooth.

Separate egg yolks and press through a fine mesh sieve into double boiler (this removes any egg white left behind). Add puréed rhubarb, remaining one cup sugar, butter, and vanilla, whisk together. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. This takes about 10 minutes. Spoon into serving size dishes, chill before serving, or not, it is delicious warm on ice cream!

As an aside, I grow the hardier green rhubarb that has flourished on our homestead since it's inception (1881), and have just a few plants of the red variety which have yet to show much growth this cool spring. So as you may have noticed my rhubarb curd is almost tan, which may appear unappetizing to some. Growing up with food coloring in the kitchen cabinet, I have chosen to eschew this practice and present food in my kitchen as it appears. The newer red commercial variety will yield a pretty pink curd, but the taste is the same. Also pressing the yolks through the sieve is only necessary if you don't want a guest getting a tiny piece of rubbery egg white stuck in their teeth. Often when short on time and weary of washing dishes, I skip this step - it's all food.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Fun, Feel Good, Free

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I know many of you are busy with work, home, and family. The last thing you need is something else on your calendar. Maybe you'd make time for something fun, but money is so tight right now it's tough to figure out what to cut in order to afford it. I'm going to recommend you look into event volunteer opportunities in your community.

Non-profit organizations have their regular staff and scheduled volunteers. If you have the time and inclination to commit to a weekly volunteer position, by all means go ahead. But this post is about having fun - cheap thrills. Those same non-profits probably put on an annual fun fundraising event or two. And they're often going to need extra volunteers for that. As folks that volunteer know, giving of your time to help others is reward enough in itself. But there are usually other perks for event volunteers.

Maybe it's just a t-shirt. But there's also the sense of camaraderie - the building of your community. Find groups or events that fit with your interests or objectives. I'm active in a local group that advocates for pedestrian and bicycle safety and access - more paths and trails within our community. As an informational outlet, plus as a service to the community, we staff a free bicycle valet booth at our Farmers Market throughout the summer. I've signed up for a couple of Saturdays that fit my schedule. And I love it! Usually, when I stop by the Market to shop, I've got other things on my mind - a whole list of things to do. But the couple of times I work it, I know I'll be there the whole morning. I treasure the time to visit with friends and neighbors I haven't seen in a while.

Or maybe it's some time to yourself - time to just be. I recently spent a Saturday morning working a fun run/bicycle event for kids. Most folks worked the sign-in and start, but I volunteered to work the turn-around spot for the 5K. I spent a quiet couple of hours with my music and a thermos of coffee, gazing out over a green pasture watching the sunlight play over the clouds and the mountains beyond, clapping and cheering on each participant as they made it up to my spot then started back.

But sometimes, volunteering earns even greater rewards. For lots of events, volunteering is the ticket to get in free; oft-times even a chance for some quality time with someone special. My sister and I both like music - together, we'll volunteer-usher concerts we want to see. I've signed up my husband and me to work the local Taste of Downtown event next month. Instead of paying $70, we'll work as greeters at the door at one of the restaurants for part of the time, then "taste" for free the rest of the time. We'll also be working a few evenings at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare and summer concert series. Since we always volunteer to work both before and afterwards, we get a meal too - gourmet dinner for two and a show under the stars. Date night, free! What's on your schedule?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Greening a textile habit

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Learning to make for yourself the everyday objects that you need is liberating in a world where few people are engaged in any form of manual labour. There is something therapeutic about being able to craft something useful and beautiful. My go-to craft is crochet, but I am capable enough across a range of other needle crafts too. I know that in the past my stash building habits haven't been particularly green or frugal and I am working on changing that by using up the yarns I already have before buying any more.

Yarn crafts don't readily lend themselves to the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra. If you have the patience, old knitted items made from good quality yarns can be carefully unwound and the yarn washed and reused (a detailed set of instructions can be found here). The yarn from old cotton sweaters is particularly good for knitting and crocheting dishcloths. One of the projects I am currently working on is a rag rug, using inch wide strips of fabric cut from old sheets and crocheted with a large hook. This is a fairly fabric intensive technique, but the result is a hard wearing rug; thinner strips would lend themselves to pot holders, shopping bags and cushion covers.


Something else I have been experimenting with is felting (by experimenting, I mean that I accidentally shrank a jumper in the wash and then decided to go the whole hog)  - garments with a minimum 80% wool content are washed on a hot cycle with detergent or soap, which causes the fibers to shrink and mat together. It isn't an exact science - it may take several hot washes to fully felt a garment, colours may run and seams may mat together, but the result is usually a durable, insulating, non fraying fabric.


I am fully aware that a skilled sewer could have got a lot more mileage from those old sheets than my fabric strips; and that I need to get over my sewing phobia. Most of the raw materials that surround me lend themselves to cutting and stitching more than any other technique.  The world is awash with cheap, disposable fashion - an awful lot of fabric waiting to be taken out of the waste stream and turned into something useful. I am starting small - a drawstring bread bag made from an old tea towel and a felt pincushion are all I have managed so far, but now that I have a little confidence in my ability to (crudely) stitch two bits of fabric together, I am saving the old jeans and shirts that were previously destined for the textile recycling bank for some bigger patchwork projects.

By making things ourselves of course, we reduce the length of the supply chains that furnish us with goods and we have greater control over the ethical impacts of the objects we own. We also get to express our creativity; and the process of making things in itself can be a form of relaxation. One of the greatest advantages of making things yourself is that you can utilize a vast array of valuable resources that would otherwise go to landfill.

So, how does recycling and reusing fit into the crafts that you do?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Being Different

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I am different.  Yes, really different, but I hope it doesn't stay that way for long.

However, I know that I am not alone.  Slowly growing within the consumeristic heart of western culture and society, there is a special kind of person that is different from the mainstream.  Sometimes they are hard to spot, but with a bit of careful observation you can pick them out from the crowd.

You will see them shopping in op shops buying clothes and other essentials.  You will catch them on weekends in their gardens growing their own food.  You will find them in their kitchens cooking meals for their family.  You will see them mending and repairing, reducing, reusing, and recycling items around the home.  You will find them talking about the antics of their chickens instead of talking about weekend football or some other trivial pursuit.  You will notice their friendly demeanour, and note that they give endlessly of their skills and knowledge.  You will finding them buying local produce and goods.  You will find them using less resources in their lifestyle.  You will hear them enjoying life and not have a nagging feeling in their gut that something is missing in their life.

In fact, these people are you.  I can see you out there as our audience, changing your lives, being different from the rest of society, every single day of the year and living life to the full.  Having fun and finding the courage to be someone different who stands up for the future of humanity and all creatures on the Earth in each and every action you take towards your simple, green, and frugal lifestyle.

It feels good to be different is a small way, however what would please me much, much more was if everyone lived as if the welfare of Mother Earth, Gaia, Mother Nature, or whatever label you put on this big blue-green marble we live on and call home.  I yearn to see the day when we are all the same.

Being different is maybe good in the short term, but a big green groundswell that reaches a tipping point is far superior.  Change at the community level is the only thing that will make a difference in the long run to our environment which without we do not stand much of a chance.  It makes me laugh when I hear the term "Save the Environment".  As I know full well that the environment is not something separate from humans, what that term really means, and has a bigger punch in the process is "Save Humanity and all other Species on the planet".  It has a better ring to it, and a worthy goal.

So lets take the "different" and make it "the norm".  Reach out to your local community and share all the different things you do in your sustainable lifestyle, and I bet you my best laying chicken, that you will make a difference to someone's life!

Who is up for the challenge?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

My 8 year old's first sewing project

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone!

This is just a short blog post from me. I've finished the $2 a day Live Below the Line challenge only yesterday and we've been very busy celebrating (and eating :P).

My daughter got her first sewing machine a few weeks ago. We found a small but a real one that suits her small hands. Its great! I've tried to teach her how to use a sewing machine before this but she found my big machine too intimidating. This one suits her just fine.

For now we are sticking to sewing simple rectangular draw string bags. These bags are great as they have so many uses! And they're easy to sew.

Steps are:

1. Get a big rectangle piece of fabric and fold in half lengthwise - right sides facing together.

2. Sew each of the long sides.

3. Fold the top half down on the outside. Sew almost all the way round, making sure you leave a gap to put the string through.

4. Attach a paper clip or safety pin on one end of the string, feed it through the gap and all the way round. Tie a knot once the string comes out through the gap again.

The finished products. (Readers of my personal blog may also recognise that she's also still using the egg carton sewing box I made for her 18 months ago.)

She has been using her drawstring bags for toys, to hold her sewing gear, and as her library bag.

We may try some simple applique next using polyester fleece (so no hemming required) for her next draw string bag.

Anyway, I am off to eat out with my family. I hope you are all having a great weekend!