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.



SAVE SOME STARTER



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!



Damper



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.