Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1000 Page Views! Time For A Giveaway...

Thank you to everyone who has been visiting my little blog. To mark the occasion of 1000 page views, I would like to offer a fabulous prize to my readers.

I will be giving away a set of Onya Weigh Reusable Fruit and Veg Bags from Divine Harvest to one lucky reader. All you have to do is comment on this post, and I will random.org the winner tomorrow night (Wednesday the 1st of December) and let you know. If you don't know me personally, please keep checking back to the comment thread to see if you have won.

Onya Weigh Reusable Fruit and Veg Bags are made from tulle, are see through and strong and reduce the amount of plastics you bring home from your grocery shop. There are five in the set and they can be used to rinse your fruit and veg in before you store it. They are lightweight, so they do not add any weight to your fruit and veg on the scales.

Thanks to Divine Harvest, a fantastic business operating out of the Wheatbelt in Western Australia, for making a range of sustainable products available to us country folk! Divine Harvest have a great online shop... check them out using the link above.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Buying 'Ban'

I decided a couple of weeks ago, inspired by EcoMILF's pledge, I decided to take up the challenge of buying nothing new for 365 days. I will begin this challenge on January 1st 2011, and end it on December 31st 2011. Nathan has agreed to join me on this journey (and, no, he was not coerced!) so as a family we hope to achieve a few goals:
  • Reduce our environmental impact by keeping things out of landfill, reducing the amount of packaging we bring into our home, and placing our purchasing power behind more sustainable ways of living.
  • Reduce our addiction to consumption and the pull of marketing.
  • Learn new ways of providing... such as sewing, mending and repairing and sourcing things second hand.
  • Save some money - now that we will be on one income, it is important that we readjust our spending patterns so that we can live within our means.
So what's off the list?

New clothes, shoes, accessories
New craft supplies, kitchenware or kitchen appliances
Home decorating items, including linen, photo frames etc
New furniture 
New CDs, DVDs or books (yes, this may be my undoing!)
toys, gifts, stationery
Items from party plan demonstrations (eg Tupperware) - sorry friends!
Gardening supplies

So what are the exceptions?

Underwear, makeup (although as I finish items from my makeup bag I will be replacing them with 'greener' brands)
New items made entirely from recycled materials
Local handcrafted items
Pre-loved items from ebay, opshops and markets
Food and drink
A laptop - I may not fit this into this year's budget and as I need to relinquish my work laptop when I complete my employment, I am in the market for a new one. I looked at the ecological benefits of buying a refurbished laptop vs a new one from a company that is working to improve its environmental policies and features, and it seems that in this case, new is the way to go.
Gifts from other people - we realise that this is our journey and no-one else's and do not wish to offend anyone or cause discomfort, so on gift-giving occasions we will be thrilled to receive any gift that has been chosen by our loved ones.

So join me on what I am sure will be a challenging journey. Those of you who know me well will realise that this is a rather large step for me! Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spitikos Domatopoltos (Homemade Tomato Paste - Greek Style)

I borrowed this recipe from here but will write it out in full anyway.

2 kilos end-of season, overripe tomatoes (peeled)
1 sweet red pepper (I used a dried chilli instead)
1 - 2 tablespoons of sea salt

Peel tomatoes by cutting the tops off, immersing in boiling water for a few minutes, then plunging in cold water. The skins should then peel off easily.
Place tomatoes and pepper into food processor and blend until well pulped.
Transfer to a pot and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 or 3 minutes.
Place mixture in a muslin lined metal sieve and suspend over a large bowl in the fridge for 12 hours, to drain all excess liquid away.
Transfer mixture to a glass or ceramic bowl and stir in salt. Leave standing until mixture is at room temperature place into oven to dry for 15-20 minutes at 95-100 degrees celsius.
Spoon into warm sterilised glass jars, avoiding air pockets, and cover with 1 cm of extra virgin olive oil. Let cool then store unlidded in fridge. Will keep like this for a year.

As the tomato paste is used, add more oil to the top as needed.
Jars can also be loosely covered with foil (does not replace oil - always use the oil), if desired.

A note on sterilising jars:
My method of sterilising is to wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water, and dry well. I then place them into a cold oven and heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius, and leave jars in there for 10 minutes after temperature has been reached. Make sure the jars are not touching each other in the oven, and be sure to keep them hot until your preserved product is spooned in, as hot foods being put into cold jars will cause the jars to crack.
If using screw top lids, I boil these in a saucepan of water until needed, and use tongs to lift them out and place onto jar. Seal immediately, because as the food cools, it will cause the lids to 'pop' inwards, creating a full seal.
To remove labels from jars easily, I soak all jars in a tub of hot water with some eucalyptus oil, then use a soft scourer to scrape labels off. Make sure jars are then thoroughly cleaned, dried and sterilised as eucalyptus oil is toxic.

Well, my large box of tomatoes is nearly gone, just a few stragglers remain in the bottom. I am thinking I might oven dry these and use them in the pasta sauce that will be accompanying Nath's freshly caught squid tonight!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cooking With The Kids

Miya and Eden both had one of those rare three hour sleeps today, doing wonders for every one's moods. When Miya woke up (even she was surprised at finding out she had, actually, fallen asleep!) the first thing she asked for was whether we could make some biscuits together.
I recently bought a fantastic cookbook called "Additive Free Kids' Parties" by Tegan Benfell and Rachel Davies Burrows. It is full of fun recipes for treats that don't contain any harmful additives. As Miya reacts badly to additives, this is becoming a well-used cookbook in our house.
We chose to adapt a recipe from the book and made Wholemeal Vanilla Biscuits (with 'faces' on). The girls helped scoop, measure, mix, pour and spoon (oh! the learning that happens naturally!) and decorate their biscuits with sultanas and almonds.

The results were impressive, and I caught the girls on numerous occasions sneaking out the back door having stolen one or two from the cooling rack... with only 1/2 cup raw sugar for the whole batch, I feigned shock and horror while revelling in the joy of watching my children enjoy a food journey from beginning to delicious end.

Wholemeal Vanilla Biscuits 
(adapted from 'Additive Free Kids' Parties' Vanilla Cream Biscuits recipe)

2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
2 eggs
4 tsp milk (more if needed)
Sultanas and/or nuts to decorate

Preheat oven to 160 degrees and line or grease baking tray
Place all ingredients into mixing bowl and mix. Tip mixture out onto floured workbench and knead until all ingredients are well combined - adjust consistency with flour and/or milk
Roll dough out with a rolling pin until it is approximately 3mm thick
 Use a circle cookie cutter to cut biscuits. Place them on baking tray and decorate with sultanas and/or nuts.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges brown
Cool on wire rack

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Bedside Table Booklist

I love books. I have books shelved in nearly every room in the house, scattered on coffee tables, kitchen benches and bedside tables, and face down, much to my mother's disgust, on the floor, the bed and the couch.

I don't just read one book at a time. I might have on the go books about cooking, parenting, gardening, spirituality (and the odd trashy novel to keep me grounded).

Nath is buying me my current wishlist of books for Christmas, so I am clearing space in the 'important places' for my new offerings to my collection. This means reshelving the odd assortment of books I have scattered around the house, which, of course, means reading them - again- before I do so, to make sure I haven't missed anything!

My current wishlist:

Coming Home To Eat - Wholefood Cooking For The Family (Jude Blereau)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)

Seven Times The Sun (Shea Darian)

The Creative Family (Amanda Blake Soule)

Handmade Home (Amanda Blake Soule)

Creative Play For Your Toddler (Christopher Clouder)


 Sew Darn Cute (Jenny Ryan)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time For Me

I am passionate about feeding my family nutritious, whole, natural foods.... and yet I struggle with my own weight, and often make poor food choices.
I am intentional about planning time where the girls are outdoors, being active and engaging with nature.... and yet I rarely prioritise my own exercise.
I engage the children in creative, soul-feeding activities, such as reading, singing, dancing, drawing and making... and yet I push my own creative needs to the bottom of the list.
I make sure that Miya and Eden interact and socialise with children their own age... and yet it feels so difficult to take 'time off' to be with my own friends.
I diligently protect my children's rest time, making sure they have enough sleep to fuel their bodies for their active days... and yet I seldom feel justified in pausing in my own tasks.
I actively seek opportunities for Miya and Eden to experience learning, and make the most of the incidental chances for learning to occur naturally... and yet I feel guilt over the time I spend reading, researching and pondering.
To be a mother is to be so many things.... the most important of which is to be one's self.
I pledge to take the time to be selfish, to be reflective, to feed my soul, to nourish my body, to grow my mind, to be me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peace For Yuletide

I was researching today the origins of the word 'Yuletide'. Tide was easy... this means season, or time. Time for what, though?
The word 'yule' has contested origins. Most sources merely state that the meaning of 'yuletide' is 'the Christmas season' or 'the period extending from Dec 24 to Jan 6'. It seems that the 'christianisation' (and commercialisation) of this festival has resulted in a loss of meaning, not just of the event itself, but even the literary roots of its name. In fact, the Oxford dictionary reportedly will only accept the meaning of yuletide that relates specifically to Christmas, despite the fact that the winter festival that Yuletide originates from predates Christ by a few centuries.

So what could I find out? Traditionally, yuletide marks the festival of the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its southernmost point. Some believe that the word yule has its origins in the Nordic jol (wheel), which may be derived from ancient Indo-European word meaning 'to go around', the assumption being that yuletide refers to the turning of a season, or the time at which the year is at its low point, ready to come round again.

Whatever it truly means, my research today has served to highlight that our contemporary society has lost the ability its predecessors had to mark with celebration the passing of time, to join in meaningful festivities that bring together communities in rejoicing in the most mundane of daily and yearly tasks, to find value in the ebb and flow of communal life.

On a personal level, I am entering this festive season with these things on my mind, having made some significant decisions over the past couple of weeks. Last Friday, I resigned from my employment, and will finish up there next Friday. I have been working three days a week for the past (almost) 18 months, while the girls have attended day care locally, at the town day care centre initially, and more recently with a fantastic home family day carer. I have decided to return to being a full time, stay at home mother, wife, home maker and woman. Our family is looking forward to this change, and I am so excited about settling into a precious rhythm with the girls, and being able to spend more time learning, exploring and creating with them.

It feels like the end of an era for me, one that was rewarding in a lot of ways, but one that also had its challenges and limitations. It truly does feel as if our family life is coming into a more settled, peaceful period, kind of like the wheel at its low point, ready to come round again. I very much look forward to seeing what the next turn of the wheel will bring.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home Made Tomato Sauce

This sauce is just so delicious... I will never buy tomato sauce from the shop again.
I adapted Sally Wise's recipe from her book "Out Of The Bottle". My adaptations are in green.


6 kg fresh, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 kg onions, peeled and chopped (I used red onions, as I like their flavour)
750g sugar (I used raw sugar)
2 cups white wine or cider vinegar (I used organic brown rice vinegar, because that is what I had in the cupboard!)
120g cooking salt
1 1/2 tablespoons whole cloves (I ground these in the mortar and pestle, along with a whole star anise)
1 1/2 allspice berries (I just used ground allspice) 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used a very ready dried chilli instead)
1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Combine all ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring regularly, for four hours. Strain mixture through a sieve (I disregarded this, being the 'whole foods' girl that I am, and just stuck a hand blender into the pan instead) into a clean saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat and then simmer for five minutes. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately. Invert bottles briefly.
Store in a cool, dry and dark place for up to two years.
Makes approximately 7 litres (more like six in my opinion)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Loquat and Lemon Jam

Loquat and Lemon Jam

1kg loquats (stones removed)
2/3 cup water
1kg white sugar
juice and rind of two lemons

Add loquats and water to large pan and simmer until soft.
Mash or blend until desired consistency is reached.
Add lemon juice and rind and sugar, dissolve sugar into loquats.
Bring to full rolling boil and boil and set is reached on a cold saucer.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Slow Sundays

Eden sleeping to the mellow sounds of Angus and Julia Stone
After a crazy couple of days, it's nice to slow down and enjoy a lazy family, house-y day. It's a funny old day today, weather wise, with alternating rainy, stormy patches, and bursts of golden sunshine in between. The thing with lazy days, is I usually end up achieving much more than on those rushing-around, busy, un-relaxed days.

Today I have had my two little helpers underfoot on hand, lending their assistance wherever humanly possible. It can be so tricky to harness this enthusiastic energy and desire to contribute with everyone coming out the other end unharmed and un-yelled-at. Miya is at a great age now to be set to a task, and it be an enjoyable experience for her. So far today, she has sorted the clean washing into family members' piles, shredded the silverbeet pilfered from her great-grandad's garden into a saucepan for cooking and freezing, and 'helped' me with my list making.
On my list for the day is nappy washing, tomato sauce making (picked up a box of WA tomatoes for $8 yesterday at the Sawyers Valley Fruit and Veg market), loquat jam making (fresh loquats!! Such a wonderful childhood memory...), sewing (continuing the Christmas bunting for the girls I started at my mothers' group sewing night the other night) and descaling the $10 old stove top teapot I picked up at a second hand shop yesterday in Guildford.

 On yesterday's treasure hunt with my good friend Bec, I also managed to grab an entire pane of glass for a miserly $2, to be used for the solar oven, and Bec picked up a glorious wooden dollhouse with removable front for $20. These forays into secondhand and opshops are likely to become a regular event, as I have started seeing 'junk' in an entirely different light! I used to hate the clutter and non-uniformality of opshops, now I see treasures hidden in all of the dark and poky corners of these shops, and begin to imagine uses for objects I could not even begin to name!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turning Up The Cool...

Today in our town it is 38 degrees, and will be for the next three days. I have resisted turning on the air conditioner up until today, but this morning the beast went on, and will probably stay on (during the day) until Saturday. If it was just one high temp day, I probably wouldn't have bothered, but three hot days in a row means that the house doesn't cool down again in between, and as we are in a thin-walled, uninsulated fibro house, the rooms heat up so quickly and cool down so slowly. I set our air conditioner to 25 degrees, close all unnecessary doors, keep the windows and curtains shut, and turn it on early so it uses less energy to get down to its set temp.

As if to alleviate my guilt, our power bill arrived today. It's our first one since we started making changes to our energy usage, and I was keen to see the results. While we are far from 'low' electricity users, we have definitely made progress. Last year in the same billing period, we used a staggering 1800 units. That averages to 30 units a day. This year, we have halved that for this billing period, to 15 units a day. This will increase again soon if we make no other changes, due to warmer weather and the use of the air conditioner. But I am still fairly pleased with that. I just need to now train the rest of the family to turn off lights when they leave the room (Nath), decide what they want from the fridge BEFORE opening the door (Miya) and remember to take the next night's dinner out of the freezer to defrost rather than using the microwave (ahem, me). Does anyone else have some electricity saving tips they have found to have made a difference that they can share with a beginner like me?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chickens, Shower Paddles and Moonshine.

My husband and I enjoy a fine beverage or two and recently discovered that our favourite tipple *ahem - Bundy* rated poorly in the Ethical Shopping Guide. This was one of those situations where a little bit of information proved to be just the tip of the iceberg, and the more research we did, the more questions we ended up with.
A friend's husband stills his own spirits, and they kindly allowed us to 'sample' a (1.5litre) bottle of 30% alcohol (no names here, given the questionable ethics/legalities of this arrangement. I believe the long arm of the law may refer to this as 'bootlegging', and apparently this is frowned upon.) It looks like vodka, and the idea is that you add an essence of your choice to flavour it. It had such a clean, crisp taste, and was lovely with a bit of coconut essence mixed through it (like Malibu). We sampled that small amount over the weekend, and, having not quite decided whether to pursue stilling our own alcohol, came away from their place today with an 8 litre bucket full. I can now say I am quite convinced that buying a still will prove worthwhile. Dear Santa.......

Last night we were faced with the unpleasant task of killing one of our chickens. It had been looking unwell for a couple of days, and yesterday began hobbling unsteadily, and its rear end was caked in poo. We stunned it and killed it quickly, buried it and sprayed the yard and coop with vinegar. Today, one of the other chooks has been a bit wobbly and subdued, and didn't lay today, so I think this will be a task revisited sooner than we had hoped. This brings us from three layers down to one, and I am praying that whatever it is doesn't infect the Silky Bantams and ducks. I am now on the hunt for some more layers, as it has been so handy having our own supply of fresh eggs.

Yesterday we received our shower paddle in the mail, and Nath installed it easily last night. The idea is that once you have reached the right temperature, while you are 'soaping up', you hit the paddle and it cuts the water off to the faucet, and when you hit it again, it flows again at the same temperature as you had set it. This will save money and water, especially when the girls are showering, as it can require a gymnast with eight arms to get them both washed and shampooed. Not that they don't take water conservation seriously... Eden particularly can be obsessive about making sure EVERY drop of water makes it into the bucket....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shopping Day

Market Day!
My favourite day of the fortnight these days... I love coming home and filling the fridge with fresh, local produce, and I am lucky to live near a fruit and veg shop that has a great range of organic, WA fruit, veg and dairy.

Material Girl
I dropped in at an op shop today to look for some material... my mothers' group is having a sewing evening (I know, how CWA!) this week to make 'softies' for our little ones. I don't have my own stash, and didn't want to buy new material, and was lucky enough to find a terrific range today at a fraction of the cost. I'm looking forward to dusting my sewing machine off and learning some new skills.

Some creative play...
Miya and Eden were so proud to show me the beautiful peg 'flower' they worked together on. They remind me in so many ways what is important in life, where I should be looking for joy and beauty, and what my greater purpose is. The learning we can do as a family before Miya goes off to three-year-old kindy next year will hold her in good stead for the rest of her life. I need to stay focused on fostering these precious souls' sense of wonder, and providing them with some treasured memories of their early years.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some Beginnings Of Projects...

A while back, we joined freecycle. We have found our local group so helpful, and been able to source 'just the right thing' for a number of different projects we are working on. We have been gifted an old fridge that was converted to a worm farm and a battered old kitchen sink to be put into a stand for a garden sink, and have been able to offload a couple of things that would have otherwise been destined for landfill.

Weekends are great for freecycling. I love logging on to see what treasures have been listed for offer, or to see if I am able to convert some of my own junk into someone else's treasure.

This week was no different, and Nath has had a hankering to try his hand at building a solar oven/food dryer. This is mostly because the electric food dehydrator we have on loan drives him to distraction with the constant whir of its fan, and the thought of all those kW being drained over long periods of time. (Drying fruit takes anywhere between six and fourteen hours)

After some research, he decided an old oven and some mirrors were exactly what he needed to create a fabulous solar oven. We have some old mirrors lying around waiting for a new purpose in life, so it was onto freecycle to try our luck at finding an old oven.

Success! Within an hour, not one, but two locals had offered us old ovens. They sounded quite different, so we decided to grab both, and spent most of Sunday with the trailer hitched up lugging heavy old ovens around and sweeping away fat redback spiders, disgruntled at the sudden disruption to their home.

Here is a picture of Nath hard at work stripping back an oven ready to build a solar oven. It will take some time to make it look (and perform) as we need it to, and I have quite firmly reminded Nath a couple of times that there is a fine line between 'rustic' and 'junkyard'.

One of the girls who responded is a dear friend who lives on a farm, so we drove out there to have a look and raided her 'junk' pile while we were there. It makes me wonder how many farms around the country have similar junk piles that are hiding some real gems. We picked up an old wooden crate that is definitely 'rustic' as opposed to 'junk' - this will form the outside of our solar oven once Nath finishes dismantling the oven.

Also hidden on my friend's farm, and the reason we went out there with the trailer, is replacing my preserving pan as my 'secondhand score of the century'. This will be stored until we are in our own home, where it will be lovingly restored and take pride of place in our kitchen.

An old Settlers wood stove, in beautiful condition with only some surface rust, and all pieces intact. This is such a generous freecycle gift from my dear friend, and it will become a much valued addition to our future new home, as in winter it will heat the house, heat our water (you can plumb water through it to act as a water heater) and provide heat for cooking. I have visions of a lovely warm kitchen, sitting around the table eating fresh bread and jam that have been cooked on the gorgeous old woodfired oven.

Joining freecycle, as well as our local buy and sell facebook page, has given us so much more of a sense of community, being able to offer other people what they need, and gaining resources for our own projects in return.

"Reflections From A Loving Mama"... borrowed from EcoMilf

EcoMilf wrote this beautiful reflection on motherhood the other day, I was so moved by it, I asked her if I could share it on here.

Written Thursday, November 11th, 2010:
It’s 7:46pm. Brad is in New Zealand for the night. The wee ones are fast asleep in their beds up the creaky stairs, surrounded by silky comforters and fluffy bears. North’s cheeks are probably flushed, his hair twirled into a whirlwind, his thumb has probably gently fallen out of his mouth by now. Indigo’s shallow and silent breaths are filling the basket beside our bed. She is double-wrapped to ensure her houdini hands don’t escape and flail around, waking her from her peaceful slumber.
I made these two gorgeous and innocent creatures. From conception to birth I helped them grow.
I sustain these beautiful, compassionate and pure beings. I provide. I love. I kiss. I comfort. I feed their little mouths, their little minds, their little souls.
I protect them as best I can. From falls down stairs, from bees, from hot ovens, from overstimulation, from UV rays, from growing up too fast, from everything that is wrong and sad in this world. When they hurt, I hurt. I feel for them and with them.
Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent. By these two spirits who came to me in perfection and who I will influence as positively as I can, but who I will, and life will tarnish.
Tonight as I sit back, take a breath and be thankful, I remind myself that nothing lasts forever. They will some day, too soon, grow up and live without me. But in this moment, I love them totally and utterly. They complete me, and I complete them.
What a wonderful stop in this blessed journey called life.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Life

Some random pics from weekends in our part of the world.
Some of our MCNs drying on the line.. so much prettier than disposables!
Eden playing with the 'new' toy from our local Toy Library... a new Saturday morning ritual.

Our latest harvest

Miya, who won't eat carrots served up hot on a dinner plate, loves them straight out of the ground.

Our 'lolly bags' from a birthday party we went to today. I thought this was a FANTASTIC idea!

When Life Gifts You Apricots....

Today a good friend of mine gave me a bag of apricots from her mum's tree.
I took the opportunity to try my hand at apricot jam. I've only ever made tried making jam once before, with mulberries. As jam, it was a disaster.... as mulberry toffee, it was delicious!

Since then I have purchased a preserving pan, one of my best op shop finds! It is a very very old cast iron and enamel one and I just love it.

I used a recipe from Thane Prince's "Jams and Chutneys: Preserving the Harvest".
1 kg just ripe apricots
freshly squeezed juice of three lemons
1kg of white granulated sugar
125g liquid pectin (optional)
  1. Cut apricots into quarters and remove the stones. Put the fruit, 400ml of water and lemon juice in a preserving pan and bring mixture to the boil. Simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the fruit is very soft.
  2. Add the sugar, allowing it to dissolve into the fruit. Try not to stir the mixture too much, as this will break up the apricots - you want to retain some large chunks to give the jam texture.
  3. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 4-5 minutes, then stir in the pectin and boil for a further 2 minutes. If making the jam without pectin, it will need to be cooked at a full rolling boil for 15 minutes: this will produce a softish jam.
  4. Remove from heat and test for a set.
  5. When the jam has reached setting point, pot it into hot sterilized jars, seal and label.
It will keep us going for a while, and it is lovely and 'zing-y'.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Healthy Earth, Healthy Me: My Twelve Top Tips

  • Buy local as much as possible... go to markets, check the label. Try not to buy products that claim "local and imported" or "imported" ingredients. This isn't always possible, for example dates, which are a terrific dried fruit because of no preservatives and a great sugar substitute are a product of Turkey, I buy them anyway and try to look for "packaged in Australia".
  • Buy organic where possible, and if not organic, biodynamic. Again, not always possible, and there is a real ethical dilemma about non-organic and local vs organic and imported. Personally, I choose local.
  • Buy products with little or no packaging. Hmmm... very very hard to do!!! Markets are great for this, and always better to buy bulk as it immediately reduces packaging.
  • Don't buy products you can make yourself. Bread, yoghurt, pasta, jam, snacks, dehydrated fruit, pasta sauces, pita bread, dips are all things I no longer buy, instead choosing to do it myself.
  • Become acquainted with food additives. There are some great websites, otherwise a couple of books I highly recommend are "Chemical Maze" (can't remember author) or "Additive Alert" by Julie Eady. Buy products that are as close to nature as possible, with as few additives and preservatives as possible.
  • Eat wholegrains. Fantastic health benefits and Earth benefits as white products require so much more processing. Pasta, bread, cereal etc.
  • Replace cane sugar where possible. Use honey, agave, dates (chuck them in the food processor after soaking them to make a paste) or rice malt syrup. Cane sugar crops have a massive detrimental effect on the environment and require so much processing, and aren't very good for us anyway.
  • Load up on vegies and to a lesser extent fruit. Market shopping can be so much fun and vegies should constitute most of our diet.
  • Watch your portion sizes. If you are eating natural, unprocessed food mostly, and learning to take your cues from your body about when you have had enough, you will learn to eat like our predecessors ate, just enough to fuel our bodies and give us the good stuff :)
  • Avoid Genetically Modified products or ingredients. Look for products that state "No GM/GMO ingredients"
  • Buy Fair Trade where possible. Communities that Fair Trade supports are traditionally 'raped and pillaged' by "Corporation/Big Business" looking for our money when their products hit the shelves. The Story of Stuff website has another little video on it, which is the original Story of Stuff video, that goes into the "true cost" of the products we buy in really good detail.

Check out these websites too:





Thursday, November 11, 2010

Responsible Renting.....

One of the things that has been rolling around my head over the last couple of days is.... if I don't have my own house to make changes to in order to live more responsibly, then how can I make the most out of this lifestyle? How can I reduce my impact on the environment when I am restricted by my surroundings?

This was a really big factor in my disappointment about losing the house. I had so many plans and dreams, and it seems so difficult to implement some of them when we are living in a rental. We can't install solar panels, for example, or ceiling fans, and a water tank seemed out of reach too.

We are limited in the type of chicken run we can build, which limits the amount of chickens we can keep, which in turn limits the amount of eggs we can use to barter with. We already trade one dozen eggs every two weeks in exchange for another household's food scraps to upkeep them, as half our food scraps go to the chickens and ducks, and half go to the Bokashi composting system.

Yesterday, I had a hypnotherapy session. I came out of it with much more clarity and peace than I have felt in such a long time, and with an awareness that I was only limited by my own imagination. A significant proportion of Australian families rent, and sustainable living should not only be for the 'rich' or for homeowners. There has to be changes that every Australian family can make, regardless of their living situation.

So I got to thinking. I can still have a water tank... I can have an unplumbed one that services the garden, the chickens and provides drinking water.
I can still have fruit trees. I can buy dwarf versions and plant them in large pots.
I can still build a chicken coop... the materials for it can be shifted when we move house. (At the moment, our chickens and ducks are free range during the day and are closed into a smallish moveable coop at night to protect them from foxes... the coop is too small to keep them in all day.)
I can still live frugally, reduce my usage of energy and water, reduce my landfill garbage (this week, our half size wheelie bin was only one quarter full!!). I can still make sure I am living each day more responsibly than the last.

Some of our range of water collection containers and our Bokashi bucket

Our rudimentary vegie patch; carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, garlics, spinach, capsicum and cucumbers currently growing.

Our homemade chicken coop

Our duck family.... hours of entertainment and fantastic pest control

 Homemade tortillas... best I have ever tasted!

2 1/2 cups wholemeal self raising flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm milk

Sift flour into bowl. Combine milk with salt and oil, whisking briefly to combine.

Slowly mix the milk mixture into the flour to form a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly for a couple of minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes covered by a damp teatowel.

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls. Cover and rest for another 20 minutes.

Roll the balls out very thinly on floured surface. Fry one at a time in a very hot pan sprayed lightly with oil. Turn after 20 seconds and cook other side. Keep warm and covered until finished; serve immediately.

May also be wrapped and frozen after cooking for up to a month. Thaw and reheat in foil in oven. (Nath and also fridge the dough once it has been rested both times to cook the next day... this works just as well.)

These are really yummy cooked on the BBQ :)

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