Big Weather

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Did you watch the latest offering from Craig Reucassel on the ABC last night? It is ‘Big Weather (and how to survive it) and if you missed it you can watch on iview. Last night was the first episode of a 3-part series.

Watching this was a reminder to check our preparedness for a range of scenarios. Last summer was a wake-up call for me because although I have always considered myself to be reasonably prepared for most situations, bushfires had never really been a consideration. This was due to our location, however, the summer of 2019-2020 changed my perception of that as the affected areas were unprecendented in both location and scale.

For the first time in our lives, GMan and made and articulated a clear bushfire evacuation plan last year. You can read about it here. While bushfire is certainly not the only severe weather risk, it is probably the one most likely to put you in the position of potentially having to make a split second decision to leave.

Emergency planning for severe weather or other events should really fall into 2 categories.

  • Evacuation – this is primarily due to destruction, or potential destruction of property. Examples include bushfire, storm damage or unwanted/unexpected incursion.
  • Self-reliance – total or partial isolation. Possible reasons include pandemic, other illness or weather events which isolate your property from some or all services (flood, fire or storm damage).

There are 3 possible responses when presented with the need for emergency planning.

  • Ignore – simply believing that ‘it will never happen to me’. After the past 12 months, this is a foolish and totally inappropriate response.
  • Inertia – being overwhelmed by the enormity of possible scenarios.
  • Logical action – regardless of how prepared you are or not, starting to take incremental steps to improve your overall preparedness.

Everyone will have different needs and priorities but there are plenty of checklists and hints online. Reading and considering these could be an excellent first step in developing your personalised plan. The Australian Red Cross one looks like a good place to start.

An emergency evacuation plan and kit does not need to be complicated or impact significantly on your day-to-day living arrangements. In fact, the more simple it is, the easier and more likely it is that you are going to be able to implement it effectively if required.

This is ours.

One plastic crate and two sturdy plastic bags. Our household is two able-bodied adults so we could literally grab this and make one trip to the car then leave.

One bag holds the feather doona and the other has a woolen blanket with space to quickly add a spare set of clothes for each of us – long pants, long-sleeved top, socks and closed shoes. The plastic crate includes a box of important documents as well as the list of items to add before leaving and a notebook and pen. The list is the afore-mentioned clothes, medications, toiletries, wallets, car keys, laptop, phones and chargers. A second list is a reminder of extra things we have identified that we would pack if we had some extra warning time (more than 10 minutes).

Do you have a plan? When did you last review it? Is it still fit for purpose?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

The Pandemic Pantry

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…………and refrigerator and freezer.

There are several reasons why we may need to be able to create meals from what we have on hand rather than rushing off to the shops for a particular ingredient. During the current pandemic there is a chance that any of us may be quarantined or supply lines disrupted.

Therefore, it is beneficial to maintain a selection of shelf-stable goods that can form the basis of basic meals.  A refrigerator allows us to keep perishable foods but during times like this it may not be possible to restock perishable items on a regular basis.  Finally, a freezer can be useful for storage of a variety of foods, including processing gluts of fruit and vegetables.  These may be sourced from your own garden or when you have taken advantage of seasonal bargains.

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Tonight we had a large shared serving of nachos.  Corn chips and canned tomatoes from the pantry teamed with a jar of refried beans from the freezer and some grated cheddar cheese and we had a filling meal.  I make the refried beans from dried kidney beans.  The recipe is here.  They are really versatile and can be used in a number of ways.

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We do not usually have dessert every night so this was a bit of a treat.  We currently have an abundance of eggs from our chickens as well as a steady supply of lemons and the oven would be turned on for the nachos…………..so, I made a Lemon Delicious pudding.  It is a relatively simple combination of butter, sugar, flour and milk along with the eggs and lemon.  Recipe is here

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What is in your pantry?

 

 

 

 

Prepared – Not Panicked

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As you can probably guess this post is about the current global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This post is not meant to replace any government directions regarding travel or quarantine periods.  It is simply my thoughts on the current situation.

Here is the official Australian Government Department of Health website.

It would not hurt any of us to stop and consider how we would manage if there were widespread cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Australia.

Since we do not have work commitments to consider my main focus is simply to ensure that we have enough supplies to ensure that we could take care of ourselves for an extended period if required.  I have not been stocking up on food as we always carry enough to feed us for at least a month but probably much longer than that.  While they may not be gourmet meals we could adequately nourish ourselves.

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I have also read recommendations that people ensure that they have plenty of their prescription medications.  I have checked that I have enough but noticed that my current prescriptions expire in about 6 weeks so I have made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow to get new prescriptions.  If the virus does have a significant impact in Australia over the next couple of months, I do not want to be trying to get new prescriptions at that time.  Doctors will have far more pressing demands for their skills and I do not want to be in a waiting room full of potentially infected patients so it is much better to plan ahead and get it done now.

Preparation is not panicking, it is commonsense to take responsibility for your own well-being.

Crazy Corn

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We were away for 4 days but by the time we arrived home 2 days ago the corn was ready to harvest.  I picked a total of 28 cobs.  Apart from setting aside 1 cob for GMan to have for lunch today I processed all of the corn.

My preferred option is to blanch the cobs then strip the kernels to freeze and use as required.

To see the full details of the process I use please check this old post from 2014.

This year I ended up with 2.5kg of frozen corn kernels.

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The corn is not the only produce we have in abundance at the moment.  We have been picking, eating and giving away figs aplenty.  The persistent rain over the past week has been the enemy but I am not about to complain.  Additionally, we have been fortunate to able to pick dozens of mangoes from a neighbour’s trees.  I shared some with friends and family as well as freezing multiple jars of pulp and containers of mango pieces.

Processing large quantities of a particular harvest can be a bit time-consuming but it ensures that as little as possible is wasted as well as providing the opportunity to enjoy your own local produce for an extended period through the year.

My Minimalism

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I often read or hear people asking quantitative questions with regard to minimalism.  These generally revolve around how many of something you need.  Examples include, “How many pairs of shoes do you have?” or “How many sets of clothes do I need for a 2 year old?”

Additionally, there are numerous blogs and articles out there which exhort you to get rid of appliances or say that one set of crockery per person is all you need.

Conversely, I maintain that minimalism should not be prescriptive and that each person has different circumstances and will make their own choices.

The thing that defines minimalism to me is that whatever you own is mindfully curated and limits are set.

In particular, I have been reminded recently of variations in kitchen requirements.  We grow some of our own food and naturally we end up with a glut of certain produce from time to time.  I do my best not to waste it.  Processing a large quantity of produce is generally when appliances come into their own.

I can happily squeeze 2 or 3 oranges using this vintage glass juicer.

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But when it comes to juicing the 160 grapefruit that we have picked in the last 2 weeks I have neither the time or energy to do them by hand.  My trusty food processor with the citrus juicer attachment comes into its own.

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This was one batch of about 60 grapefruit that I juiced last weekend.  In the space of 30 minutes I had several bottles of juice for GMan plus containers of juice to freeze for future use.

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Citrus are not the only produce that I deal with in bulk amounts.

Some time ago I bought a 20kg bag of onions.  Once again, I routinely dice one or two onions using a sharp knife but the food processor with the cutting blade is invaluable for processing larger quantities of onions.

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I chopped 3kg of onions and then used another appliance – my dehydrator – to dry them.

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24 hours later  – back to the food processor, but this time with the spice grinder attachment.

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The end result was dried onion flakes and onion powder which cost me $3 and a little time as compared to nearly $13 to buy the same quantity from the supermarket.  As an added bonus there is no packaging either.

I have used the deydrator to make garlic powder, tomato powder and vegetable stock powder using the same general method.

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Then there is the Kitchen Aid mixer which I regularly use to make spreadable butter, pizza bases, combine various flours for my gluten-free flour mix, the occasional cake and GMan uses it when making sourdough bread.  It also has a pasta attachment which I use occasionally.

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The high-speed blender is also used regularly to make smoothies, mango sorbet and peanut paste to name but a few.

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So, my minimalist kitchen is probably a joke in some people’s eyes but it works for me.

However, I do not have single-purpose appliances such as a waffle maker, ice-cream maker, hot dog maker and so on.

You see, minimalism really is what is right for the individual and their circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Scraps

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I have read many times about people saving their vegetables scraps/peelings and using them to make vegetable stock.  I take a slightly different approach and dehydrate them to make stock powder.  The end result is the same but I find it easier to make and it takes up minimal storage space.

This is my dehydrator.

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I had some broccoli stalks, kale stalks as well as some carrot and onion ends stored in the freezer so I spread them on the tray of the dehydrator and let it work its magic which took about 24 hours.  You need to make sure that the vegetables are thoroughly dried.

This was the result.

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I place the dried pieces in the small spice grinder attachment for my food processor and blitz them until they are a fine powder.

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I generally store the jar in the freezer as it does not contain any preservatives.  This partially filled small Vegemite jar is the yield from my tray of vegetable scraps.

While I have chickens and a compost heap, it is nice to actually be able to use these scraps and not have to buy packaged stock powder.

Pizza Recipe – An Update

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It has been brought to my attention that I made what could only be described as a monumental error in the recipe for the pizza bases which I posted yesterday.

There were 2 lines which were different quantities of olive oil – one line should have read ‘warm water’.  This has now been corrected and I sincerely hope that no-one has made it from the original copy.

Secondly, in response to a comment on the post I will explain a little about psyllium.  Yes, it is a laxative but that is not the reason for using it in the pizza bases.  As Monica Topliss, the author of the recipe book explains, it is the ‘secret ingredient’ in many of her gluten-free recipes as it provides the elasticity that is lacking with the absence of gluten.  Using this theory I have managed to successfully make my own gluten-free pasta.  Psyllium is also purported to assist in lowering cholesterol levels.  Here in Australia it is readily available in supermarkets and health food shops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future-Proofing

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Well, it is 3 days since my last post in which I shared our concern for the residents of north Queensland who were in the path of Cyclone Debbie.  What a 3 days it has been!

In 72 hours Cyclone Debbie has flattened the island resorts of the Whitsunday Islands and the adjacent mainland towns of Airlie Beach and Prosperine as a Category 4 cyclone before being downgraded as it moved inland.  Most of these areas are still without power or water and this situation is likely to continue for several more days, at least.

As predicted, the system then turned south east and headed towards the densely populated south-east corner of Queensland, including Brisbane.  For almost 24 hours we experienced substantial rainfall and some high winds – but of course, nothing like the conditions endured by those who were in the direct path of the cyclone.

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This is a view of part of our backyard this morning during a break in the rain.  The water in the background is not normally part of the landscape.  The ‘lake’ develops as the run-off from the mountain behind us pools in the low-lying part of our property.  It is not as extensive as some other occasions and will drain over the next few days.

The area where we live lost power about 2pm today and do not expect it to be restored until at least midday tomorrow.  There are currently thousands of consumers in Brisbane and the surrounding areas without power.  We are fortunate to be reaping the benefit of our decision to install a grid-connected battery system almost 18 months ago.  You can read about it here.

While it is great to be able to use our stored power each evening, the real benefit of the system is that it provides us with a power source in the event of a power failure from the grid.  Whether it is extreme weather or any other reason it is reassuring to know that we are not reliant on the grid for power.  This experience has confirmed the importance of a degree of self-reliance and we are extremely glad to be in this position.

 

Stay Safe

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My internet has been somewhat unreliable over the past few days, hence the lack of posts.  I had several ideas but have shelved them for tonight as I would simply like to say to everybody in north Queensland who is in the path of Cyclone Debbie, “Please take care and stay safe.  We are thinking of you and praying that you will be safe”.

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What I Do

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It is nearly a week since I last posted and you are probably been wondering what I’ve been doing.  Some days I wonder the same thing.  My full-time job keeps me pretty busy and t here is always plenty to do when I am at home.  So much so that I barely have enough time (or energy) to blog about it.

Here is a sample of one of the things I did today.

GMan picked up a large bucket full of passionfruit that had fallen from the vine.  The easiest way to store passionfruit is to simply scoop out the pulp and freeze in ice-cube trays.

Some of the fruit ready to cut.

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Work in progress.

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Ready for the freezer.

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Despite the fact that the garden gets minimal attention we still manage to harvest a range of produce.  Over the past few weeks we have picked passionfruit, pineapple, mangoes, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and raspberries.