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!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Natural supports for climbing legumes

by Francesca, FuoriBorgo

A year ago, I wrote about using bamboo canes for staking tomatoes (here). In my corner of the world, in fact, all supports and trellises, including those for climbing and vining plants, are built with natural materials that come from the immediate area. Even the strings used to tie the grape vines to their chestnut trellis are made with fibers from broom and other shrubs.

natural supports

Some of the most clever natural supports, though, are the stakes used for climbing peas and pole beans. Over here, we sow peas and beans in winter at the beginning of the year, and the plants are big enough to need support by springtime, when the fruit trees have blossomed, and are pruned before they leaf.

natural supports

These fruit tree prunings are saved - especially from the peach and apricot trees - and people use them to stake the climbing varieties of beans and peas.

natural supports

This way there's no need to build or buy trellises at all!

natural supports

It's a simple way of life where nothing is wasted, and everything is re-used - even the prunings - in the cycling of seasons that determines the rhythm of the traditional agricultural cycle.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Thinning and Transplanting

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I really don't know why it happens. Starting with the same three to four seeds per pot, in the same planting mix, kept in the same environment - and one little pot has lots of seedlings, the other little pot has none. Now, if I were formulating a scientific hypothesis, I'd guess that maybe when one brave seed sprouts it produces some sort of happy enzyme or hormone - something that says, "Oh boy! It's great to be alive! What a wonderful place to put down roots and raise a family!" The other seeds in the area hear that (feel that? smell that? or just soak it in?) and think, "Me too! I need a place to reproduce lots of little seeds too! This looks like a great place!"

Meanwhile, over there, across the tracks in the bad neighborhood (even though there is no difference I'm aware of), the same seeds, the same packet, stored the same way - those seeds never sprout. Not a one! I don't know why. But it happens quite often.

Or maybe it's like my bar tending days. I spent years living in a mining town high in the Colorado Rockies. I held a lot of different jobs; sometimes seasonal work like construction or in ski resorts; sometimes some free-lance artwork of one kind or another, other times I'd tend bar in one or another of the many different places scattered along the main drag of town. Common knowledge among bartenders, especially in a small town setting, is "crowds draw crowds." When it's really slow, someone might start to come in, see that the bartender is the only one there, and decide to go check out what's happening down the street instead. So if you do have that one customer that braves the empty bar, you try to engage them enough to stay. If it's just one customer, get out the cribbage board; once you get another brave one in the place, get the two of them playing each other, three - challenge them all to a game of pool. Crowds draw crowds; the more people in a place, the more people will want to be there too. More people equals more tips, somebody is going to play the jukebox, and that makes for a much better working environment. Maybe seeds are just sociable like that too. I don't know.

Whatever the reason, when my little seedlings get their first true leaves, they'll do better if I get them separated, transplanting those that have sprouted each to its own little space. The wind and sun outside are too drying for such tender little plants - this is a job that usually takes place on my kitchen counter. Too, my kitchen holds the perfect tools for such a job - tools just as small as those seedlings. A dinner fork is my spading fork, a chopstick my dibble. First, I water the plants well - this is going to be stressful enough without the threat of drying out too. I prepare the new planting hole. Holding it by a leaf, never that thin, weak stem, I tease one small seedling away from the others, lifting roots and a bit of planting mix with the fork, and move it over to any empty space.

When I have enough small plants moved around, I can then take the scissors to the extras. Snipping excess plants instead of pulling them gives the ones left room to grow with less disturbance to their roots. If the ones I've moved have more than a couple of leaves, I'll snip a few of the bigger ones too - that way the roots can get settled back in without having to provide for too many leaves up above. Yum! It looks like I've got enough for a salad for dinner tonight! **Note: I'm eating the thinnings from cole crops: cabbages, kales, and choi - don't eat leaves from tomato, eggplant, or pepper plants.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

My Little Reminders

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

When I lived by the sea all I needed was a walk along the coast to remind myself of my journey, to remember the importance of breathing deeply, loving widely and living gently. When I moved away from a more rural live I was scared I wouldn't find those little reminders, but oh they arrived, little daily reminders about the joy found through a simple, green and frugal life.

I'm reminded of this commitment and life every time I:

:: Purchase fresh produce from local farmers at the market!

:: Put fresh bedding in my vermicompost!

:: Find light in my home or snuggle with the furries

:: Take my knitting everywhere I go - even when in dim light, which may explain the holes which plague my knitting ;)

:: Enjoy a plain Jane cup of tea after a good day's work or a long hike!

Do you have beautiful little reminders which help you delight in your journey/choices/values?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Baking Basics

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I taught my children to bake from an early age. I am not really one for baking. I don't like cakes or biscuits much, and really just prefer to spend my time in the kitchen making meals or preserves.

We started with very basic recipes, and from there they've learned to substitute ingredients for health or flavour. They are confident enough to know how to do this and not create an inedible result, which is a skill many adults haven't grasped!

Here are some of the basic recipes we started with...

Cookie Cutter Biscuits

2 tsp natural vanilla extract

250g butter, softened

1 cup raw sugar (or less)

1 egg

2.5 cups plain flour (wheat or spelt both work, wholemeal or white)

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add egg. Beat until combined. Sift flour over butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Shape each piece into a ball. Chill until firm.

Roll onto a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Cut with floured cutters. Place biscuits, 3cm apart, on prepared trays. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes at 200 degrees C, or until light golden. Cool on trays for five minutes. Twist if stuck or simply slide onto a wire rack to cool completely. Freezes well.

Variations include adding some coconut (use less flour), icing and decorating finished biscuits, and adding spices and using brown or rapadura sugar.

Bulk Biscuits

750g butter

1.5kg raw sugar

6 eggs

2kg wholemeal flour + baking powder (one teaspoon per cup of flour)

3 tsp natural vanilla extract

Melt butter and let cool. Mix in all ingredients, starting with 1.5kg of flour and adding more if the dough is too oily or wet. Mix it with your hands unless you have a large food processor.

Form dough into balls the size of a 10c or 20c coin. Put on baking tray. Bake at 220 degrees C for 15 minutes. If you like softer biscuits, cook for a shorter time.

Makes over 150 biscuits. Freezes well.

To these you can add carob or choc chips, nuts, coconut, sultanas or other (diced) dried fruit, oats, rice bubbles, etc. You can also add cocoa powder to this mix to make a chocolate bikkie.

Pizza Bases

2 cups wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder (omit if your flour is self-raising)

1.5 cups full fat plain yoghurt (or enough to make a dough)

Mix all ingredients, divide into 2-3 balls, roll out on floured surface. We place the bases in the oven which is warming to 210 degrees C (fan forced) at this stage just for a couple of minutes. We then add sauce, toppings and grated cheese and bake until cheese is golden.

To this mix you can add herbs and garlic, parmesan cheese, use fruit yoghurt for a sweet pizza, use different flours... And of course the topping combinations are endless!

Five Cup Cake

1 cup SR flour (or 1 cup plain with 1 tsp baking powder)

1 cup white sugar (or less)

1 cup dessicated coconut

1 cup diced dried apricots

1 cup milk

Combine first four ingredients, add milk. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Pour into greased and floured loaf tin. Bake 45-55 mins at 180 degrees C. Serve hot with a dollop of cream or cold.

So for years we’ve used that 1:1:1:1:1 ratio to make dozens of cakes. We actually usually halve the sugar, so it’s not the exact ratio, but you get the idea! As long as we stick to the 5 cup ratio, and substitute for like ingredients, this cake works. A great cake to freeze, no eggs for those with allergies, easy to make a vegan version too. Try it!

Honey Oat Cookies

475ml honey

2 eggs

300g butter, melted

100ml milk

10ml natural vanilla extract

500g rolled oats

100g coconut

600g wholemeal spelt flour

2 tsp bi-carb soda

1 tsp spices - eg: nutmeg and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Beat together butter, honey, egg, milk and vanilla until creamy. Add combined dry ingredients and mix well.

Drop dessertspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Makes 75 cookies approx 8cm diameter. Freezes well.

Variations include using different dry ingredients in place of the oats/flour/coconut - just aim for the same weight and it should be fine. Ideas include LSA, ground up nuts and different flours.

Carob Fudge Balls (no bake)

Mix together 1/2 cup nut butter (peanut butter, tahini etc), 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup carob powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup dessicated coconut (can substitute some sesame seeds here).

Roll the mixture into balls and coat in more coconut if desired. Refrigerate.

You can substitute all sorts of fruit, nuts, puffed rice, seeds etc into this recipe and roll into balls with the carob/honey/nut butter combination and create a variety of different treats.

Sourdough Bread (thank you Mere)

Step 1 - Place sourdough starter into glass bowl, add 4 cups lukewarm water, 4 cups flour.

Cover with woven cloth and a rubber band.

Leave for 6-12 hours.

This mixture will increase in size and have bubbles through it.


Step 2 - Store the removed starter (half a cup or so) in the fridge in a jar for the next batch of bread.

Step 3 - Add flour/s to this mixture (and any other ingredients you like such as seeds, oats, sprouts, raisins, spices, garlic, herbs, onion, cheeses etc) until you can only just stir it in. If you put it into two oiled loaf tins now, you will get lovely, heavy moist loaves.

If you wish, you can add more flour, and put onto a floured surface and knead, and form into rolls or plaits etc at this stage.

Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 4-10 hours. It will double in size, or more.

Step 4 - Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Place loaves into hot oven for 10 mins. Turn back to 180 degrees and bake for another 30-40 mins.

Freezes well!


3 cups self raising flour (or 3 cups flour + 3 tsp baking powder)

pinch of salt

80g butter, chilled, cubed

3/4 cup water

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the water and combine until a dough forms. If too dry, add a tiny bit more water.

On a floured surface, knead dough for a couple of minutes. Form into a round loaf about 20cm across and place onto a greased tray. Use a knife to make a cross-hatched pattern on top and dust with some extra flour.

Bake for 30 minutes at 220 degrees C. The loaf is ready when it makes a hollow sound when tapped. Best served warm, traditionally with butter and golden syrup.

Variations on this recipe include using milk instead of water, adding cheese and herbs, adding fruit and perhaps a little sugar or honey and spices... The sky's the limit really!

Basic Muffins

2 cups flour + 2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup oil

1 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Spoon into muffin papers or a greased muffin tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 18-20 minutes.

Muffins are one of the most versatile baked goods to adapt. They never seem to fail! We love to make savoury muffins (omit the sugar, add a little salt, herbs, grated parmesan, corn kernals) and fruit muffins and very wholegrain muffins (which The Dad calls 'horse food') and iced muffins for birthday cakes, and citrus/coconut muffins with a light glaze, breakfast muffins, picnic muffins...

As well as these, our older children make bread rolls, pancakes, pikelets, scrolls and various sweet-treats (especially for parties). We don't buy baked goods (apart from very boring sliced bread), so that is their incentive to bake! And they enjoy it. Most of our recipes create large amounts, and so we freeze some.

See my post on Cooking With Kids for more ideas.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Feta Cheese Tutorial

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Back in March 2010, I posted a basic walkthrough on how to make Feta.  This cheese is wonderfully sharp and tasty.

Feta (Greek: φέτα) is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is an aged crumbly cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g the Greek salad), pastries and in baking. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Well after much practice, I believe that I have perfected my technique and I have recorded it on video for prosperity.  The video is taken from my YouTube Channel.

As I didn't list the recipe within the video here it is so that you can give it a go.


4 litres full cream milk (1 gallon)

1/4 teaspoon of lipase diluted in 60ml (quarter of a cup) of non-chlorinate water
2.5 gm (a heaped smidgen) direct set mesophilic culture
2.5 ml rennet diluted in 60ml of non-chlorinated water
2.5 ml calcium chloride diluted in 60ml of non chlorinate water (if milk is homogenised)

2 litres water (boiled)
1/3 cup salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 drops calcium chloride
Boil brine for 5 minutes then cool to room temperature before adding finished cheese.

I hope you enjoy this simple to make cheese and give it a try at home.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A spending diary

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Recently I have gone back to recording all of our expenditure in a diary. At the end of every day I list all amounts spent, along with how (card or cash) and what they were spent on. I also have a tick column for whether or not the expenditure was budgeted for this month. All receipts are kept and gone over too; and mental slaps on the wrist given where I know we could have been better.

As the weeks of records build up, I can see a pattern emerge of when I am most likely to spend money and what on. I have the information I need to tweak our budget - I can see the areas where I am being overly optimistic and also the areas where I could trim a bit more fat. Flicking back over last year's entries, I can see that almost every time we went into town to run errands, we ended up eating out; and quite often not particularly frugally or greenly. That expenditure is now for the most part gone - because seeing it written down and tallied up the last time made me change my mindset. The diary also tells me that four years after first promising to change my habits, I still spend a ridiculous amount of money getting to and from work and buying food when I am there. Not so good.

The prospect of having to write down every last expenditure and then deduct it from the remaining budget each day has already made me unload one online shopping basket and put down several impulse purchases in the local shop. In short, it has made me very conscious of how I use my money and just what I am consuming. Every expenditure represents the consumption of energy and resources and usually the creation of waste in one way or another; and being confronted with a long list of 'stuff' that we didn't need is as galling as seeing a large sum of money that didn't need to be spent. Money also represents the investment of time and energy that we made to earn it - something else that I don't want to fritter away. 

A spending diary, even if you only manage to keep it for a week, is enlightening and you will probably be surprised at just where the money goes. Spending money is not a bad thing in itself - but it is better to spend it consciously, in line with your priorities, than without thought.

Have you ever tracked your daily expenditure? What did you learn? Did you change your habits as a result?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion (note that I had posted this in my personal blog last month but thought it would be good to share here as well)

Hello everyone,

A couple of months back, I posted here a little ramble about my thoughts on pocket money, rich and poor. In that post, I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on "work" and I thought I'd expand those thoughts here.

See I like work. Its true I do. And when I say I like work, I don't just mean paid employment - I am talking about all the things that people call work - making my house nice and clean, ironing my clothes, and re-ordering/decluttering my house. Most of all, I enjoy helping people with their work.

To me work is primarily about being social and being healthy. Since the dawn of time, we have worked together to survive - to hunt or grow our food, to build our houses and our towns. Through work, I have learned how to get things done with people who are very different from me and most of all I have received the social benefits that come with being productive. "Work" is a tie that binds.

My children walking someone else's dog - not because they wanted money but because they wanted to help out...and they really love this dog. :P

The weird thing is that for some reason there is a predominant view that "work" is something that we should try to lessen. The less work we have then the happier we should be. Is that really true?

I don't know about you, but when I don't work...then I feel:

a) overwhelmed - because I am unorganised and it takes me longer to get ready for the day because everything is all over the place,

b) socially inept - because I inevitably arrive at social gatherings unprepared or with the wrong things

c) lethargic - because for some reason, the less I do, the more tired I am and therefore find it harder to even start working.

d) unproductive - because...well, hardly anything is getting done.

On the other hand, when I work, I get the satisfaction of seeing the results of my work and the self-confidence that comes with knowing I have done a good job. I am active and have more energy. And best of all, my world opens up as I connect with people who are very different from me and through those connections, I know that I have many sources of support.

Now some of you may have noticed a benefit of work that I have not mentioned - money. That's because to me money is only a secondary outcome of work. See, I love my work. So I pay attention to it. I spend time learning all the different ways to do it and take care to get it done right and well.

And because I want to learn about it and take care of it, then at my paid work this approach has resulted in an increased income in the form of promotions and bonuses. At my unpaid work at home and to my community, it has meant increased savings because I have been able to make things or fix things, and swap or receive things from others.

But while I enjoy the security that comes with an increased income and increased savings, I know that it has come about because I have loved work in the first place and appreciate the joy it can bring into my life.

And so to me, the best thing I can pass on to my kids is a love for work itself. Because if they love work, then they will always reap the personal and social benefits and with that will be the increased income and savings that work can bring.

What about you? Do you have work that you love?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Account Balance is Low

When hunger dogs winter's heels, old traditions point your feet straight to the pantry, cellar, or whatever little hiding place you may have carved out. It's time to go in and spend your culinary savings account lavishly. You'll feel mighty clever!

Connie Green and Sarah Scott from The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

When I read this quote I smiled to myself. It was mid-winter and my basement pantry was stocked with all kinds of goodies. We had boxes of potatoes, onions and garlic. There were also rows of glass jars filled with all sorts of vegetables and fruits. Bright orange pumpkins and green squashes filled one corner of the dining room and the freezer was full of venison.

Basement Pantry

Figuring out how much you need to preserve to get through winter can be a little difficult at times. You don't want to end up with too much food come spring, but you don't want to run out before those first green shoots appear in the garden. You want to make sure your pantry savings account it low, but not completely empty!

Cleaning out the Pantry

This is the best time to think about the coming preservation season. Take a good long look at your pantry, what did you eat up quickly, what is still on the shelves not touched. Is there anything you won't be canning again? What will you can more of? Is there anything you can grow during the cold winter months to help supplement the pantry food so that you don't have to spend as much time in summer canning? Did you eat more dried fruit than canned fruit? Did you have enough garlic, potatoes, and onions? Did you run out of popcorn halfway through the winter?

A little time spent planning now can make your winter food savings account a little more balanced to your personal tastes and can make you feel mighty wealthy all winter long!

How do you decide how much and what to preserve each season? Has it changed throughout the years?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves and Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Many Uses of a Hoophouse

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Justifying the purchase of a hoophouse can be hard to do if we think of this useful structure as just a place to grow warm weather crops.

That's a good use for sure, and in our cool, maritime climate, a hoophouse is insurance of a pepper and tomato crop. But building a hoophouse isn't cheap. Our 20' x 20' hoophouses came in at about $500.00 not including labor to build. That price included metal legs and bows, hardware, and greenhouse plastic. We used scrap lumber for end wall and door framing and if you had access to cheap lumber you could also build a frame from lumber instead of the metal bow system we used.

Actually we built hoophouses this size specifically for brooding chicks for our egg business. And I have to say a light and airy chick brooder is the way to go. Natural light encourages the chicks activity in the early days. We provide heat lamps but most days the lights are off only being used at night. Not using the lights so much is a cost savings, and a huge improvement over our earliest efforts at brooding chicks in a dark area with the only light being provided by heat lamps.

What is good for the chick - a light, warm draft-free environment is also a good place to start plants. To utilize more of our space we have our plant starts above the chicks suspended on temporary shelves. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is true in this case. Once mice discovered how cozy the hoophouse was with a ready made larder, (chick food) they moved in as well, and discovered a liking for pepper and spinach seeds :(

It's hard to pin down the single best use of our hoophouse, all are important in our food raising plans. The more ways we can utilize this space throughout the year, the faster we get to the payoff of the original expense.

Time line for our small hoophouse:

January - nighttime sheep housing during inclement weather.

February - ditto.

March - begin starting plants with supplemental heat and covering as needed.

April - continue plant starts, and prepare for chicks.

May - finish brooding chicks on deep bedding, continue succession seeding.

June - move chicks outside to pasture, remove deep bedding, prepare for planting warm weather crops inside.

July - warm weather crops.

August - ditto.

September - harvest crops.

October - remove plants and rest space.

November - rest.

December - nighttime sheep housing in inclement weather.

Of course each situation will be different, and more uses could be found:

1) Such as winter time housing for rabbits, chickens, sheep or goats on a deep bedding system. In spring when animals are moved to pasture the bedding material could be removed and utilized for garden areas, still leaving enough residual to grow a summer crop of ??? Larger hoophouses make excellent winter time housing for hogs in high rainfall or cold areas.

2) A place for rapid growing succession crops such as mesclun or braising greens.

3) A place to raise broiler chickens off-season if you have a year-round market for your birds.

4) Hen house, provides natural light during the winter, and with shade cloth provides summer time housing.

Keeping all this in mind, planning a gap of at least 90 days from fresh manure to harvest of any vegetables to avoid any possible contamination of edibles, the possibilities are almost endless, with just our "ideas" to hold us back. Hoophouses can marry the idea of livestock and vegetables on a farm in a way our ancestors wouldn't have thought possible.