Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

I have the luckiest life. In lots of ways, but one of them is that we have a creek running through our place, one that starts from a spring up in the forest with nothing but forest upstream. When we first moved here, nearly 30 years ago, we used to dip in the creek pretty much every day in summer.  In the heat of the day several mums would take the babies and toddlers down to a shady pool and we'd paddle and make little dams and catch guppies and try to lure the shy yabbies into sight and body paint ourselves with ochre and race little leaf boats down the stream.  

Then we had drought years for a decade and though the creek never totally dried up, the swimming holes weren't quite so inviting. And kids grew up and life got busier and busier. Until, the other day, after mowing a bit too long in the heat, I decided I needed a dip and realised, it's years since I've done this. 

There is something very profound about skinny dipping in a mountain stream. I drift floating in the water, looking up through the leaves of the overhanging trees at an impossibly blue sky, and think: this is life. There are some things I think you need to do at least once every year to keep a sense of perspective, to remember what is important and valuable, to stay sane. And some years, the whole year goes past without me doing them!

So these are my New Year's Resolutions. 

At least once this year, I will
Go skinny dipping in a mountain creek
Sleep under the stars 
Get pounded by the surf
Go for a daylong beach or bush walk
Sit around a bonfire till all hours
Go to a really good concert 
Spend a few days completely alone, including from internet, phone, and radio 
Tell everybody I love that I love them, in a way that they actually hear

I had a few more but I edited them out - I'm sticking to Resolutions I'm absolutely going to keep. Are there others you think of to add to the 2012 essential bucket list?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Upycling Christmas Cards

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

I receive Christmas cards, as do my children from their friends, despite the fact that we rarely send cards ourselves. There are many ways to recycle your received cards and I started up-cycling mine yesterday into decorations for the tree next year.

Start by cutting 8 circles from your card fronts. They can be any size (larger circles are easier to handle for small children).

Trace a triangle shape with equal sides, that fits neatly (with the points against the edges of your circle shape) and cut out.

Trace around the triangle onto the back of each circle and fold the drawn edges towards the printed side of the circles.

Start matching the folded edges together (see image above) and join with glue or use double sided tape. Join two sets of four circles together and then join the two halves.

Leave a small opening at one end to thread a knotted piece of string through so the paper ball can be hung.

Easy, whimsical and a great way to up-cycle your cards! This is also a simple enough project for kids get involved in these school holidays.

Hope readers here had a lovely Christmas and I will back writing on my blog later this week.


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Making Broth a Habit

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Being almost done with the holiday eating season, I figured an article about broth would timely. We can all use a few health giving and cleansing eating habits, not just to deal with holiday food overload, but everyday.

I've found in my kitchen that upping the nutrition level in foods can achieved easily by using more broth in place of water during the cooking process. This adds flavor to sometimes bland foods, broadens their appeal and makes food easier to digest.

In our household we go through about 7 - 8 quarts of broth or stock a week. What triggered all this was my husbands autoimmune problems. He needs every calorie to count, so all his meals and snacks need to be nutrient dense. I first had to attack this problem by making more broth and stock. What was an occasional foray in the kitchen with the results committed to the dungeon of the freezer became a weekly habit. I rarely freeze any broth and if I have any leftover, I can it so it is shelf stable and convenient. But for the most part I devote space in the refrigerator for the weekly broth. If it's there, I use it, and it's an added incentive to use it before it gets old.

We use broth for:

Soups and stews.

Hot broth for a quick pick-me-up on a cold day, or to begin the day.

Braising vegetables, or for adding a dash of liquid to stir fry.

Cooking grains.

How do you incorporate broth into your cooking?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Preserving Time

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Summer and Autumn for us bring abundance from the garden that Spring and Winter don't offer.  Sometimes, we have TOO much.  And we can't give produce away because everyone else has TOO much!

One of my favourite fruits are in in abundance right now - passionfruit.  I love to eat them straight from the shell, in smoothies and iceblocks, as cordial or jam, in cakes and icing...  For information and recipes, see this post.  We have several types of passionfruit vines planted, including some planted by birds (which are the most productive)!

It's also choko season.  I've written on the co-op blog about these versatile and under-rated vegetables (fruit?) before, here.


We have an early harvest of pumpkin (squash).  Some of them are Kent pumpkins from last season's vines, and some are enormous bugle pumpkins.  Since this is my favourite vegetable, I have no trouble using up pumpkins!  I wrote a bit more about this vegetable here.


We're also enjoying couple of gluts I haven't written about before...  Chilli is the first one, and what we haven't used in cooking I have put into the first batch of sweet chilli sauce.  I just used a basic recipe from my Thermomix cookbook, and it's a little runny but tastes and smells exactly like sweet chilli sauce should!  There are so many recipes online, if you have excess chillis just do a search until you find one containing ingredients you have at hand.  Mine contained chillis, water, rice wine vinegar, garlic, raw sugar, salt.  Next time I'll try a little cornflour to thicken the sauce. Our bush is still laden with chillis, so I will get to try a few different recipes.  My 12 year old son loves this sauce!


Also in abundance are mangoes.  Not from my own trees, but they do grow about 40km from here!  Where we live, the winters are too cold...  With the excess mangoes I will probably dry them.  It's time to get that dehydrator out because we'll do some herbs (too hard to air-dry in our summer rainy season) and also some bananas when those are ripe.  Dried fruit is such a handy snack for kids when we go out in the car.  I love drying my own because I know that nothing has been added and the fruit is fresh and organic!


What is in abundance where you live right now?  What are some of your favourite recipes to use and preserve these harvests?

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Great Straw Bale Adventure of 2011

by Megan @ The Byron Life

Here we are approaching the end of the year already.  I hope you had (and are sill having) a wonderful Christmas holiday.

When I was invited to write for the co-op, back in September, I began with a post about setting up my very first straw bale veggie garden. You can read that post here. It was an experiment, an adventure, and I had no idea what I was doing! Luckily I'm all for throwing myself in the deep end and seeing how things turn out...

Since this is my last post here for 2011, I thought I'd show you how my humble straw bale veggie garden has developed over the past couple of months...

This is how we started: the straw bales were watered down, left for a week, then the first seedlings planted.

Around four/five weeks in and this was how it was looking: The first beans were ready to be picked, tomato plants were flowering and cucumbers were ripening.

We have had an unusual summer so far, weather-wise. Extremely hot days in November, followed by the coldest summer weather in 50 years this December. Some plants did not like this turn of events: the tomatoes developed some kind of mouldy stuff on their leaves from all the rain, so we haven't had great success there (although some yellow pear tomatoes planted in a tub are now starting to fruit, fingers crossed!).

However, other plants enjoyed the rain and cold: the cucumber vine has been fruiting wonderfully and my basil plants have not yet bolted on me, so we have been enjoying handfuls of basil in meals every week.

And this is where we are at now: The extension of the straw bale garden. These new bales were delivered on Christmas Eve and promptly put into place before the rain came down. This time I am really going to pack on the manure and compost to feed those straw bales before planting, and I am thinking of sowing seeds directly into the compost this time, instead of planting seedlings as I did previously... the experiment continues.

I realise that, aesthetically, this little garden looks messy: There's my wonky clothesline in the background, my drainage pits around the straw bales have yet to be neatly finished with ag. pipe and pebbles and the straw bales, as they break down, may not be to every one's style. But, for me, looking at this picture brings me such joy. I have a veggie and herb garden, and in that garden I am growing food - Wow! Tiny harvests of food, but food, never-the-less. How very exciting.

You can also see my new pride-of-joy in there, too: a compost tumbler bin. I picked it second-hand up for a fifth of the price of a new one and it is already churning up some mighty compost and the kids think it is fun to turn it over (start 'em young, I say!).

Today it is Boxing Day. Our fridge is full of Christmas day leftovers; the kids are happily playing in the backyard, I am on holidays and friends are dropping over for lunch - I may just go and pick a handful of herbs for a salad... such a simple pleasure.

Wishing you all the very best for 2012. I do hope it is full of joy for you.