Gardening in Extreme Heat

Leave a comment

My apologies to those of you who live in the northern hemisphere.  Here in Australia summer has just begun (officially) after having sweltered through the driest and second-hottest spring on record.  Daily temperatures in excess of 30C, and sometimes 35C, have been the new normal here for several weeks.  Hot, dry and windy days have increased the fire risk to ‘severe’ on many days.  We live at about 400m above sea level and within 30km of the coast so our conditions are nothing like those facing the drought-stricken farmers further west.

Growing food in our current weather is a challenge but one I am prepared to try.  Summer means salads and salads mean lettuce.  So, I am growing lettuce.  I have some in one of the main garden beds which was grown from seed as well as some in styrofoam boxes that were purchased seedlings.

I water the plants thoroughly twice a day – early in the morning and again late in the afternoon.  I cover them during the day and so far this seems to be an effective strategy.

2019-12-07 01

2019-12-07 02

We picked the first leaves today and are looking forward to plenty more salads based on lettuce grown without chemicals within 10 metres of our back door and completely devoid of packaging.

2019-12-07 03

2019-12-07 04

Making a Difference

Leave a comment

Australia has just recorded the driest spring on record – EVER!  Additionally, it was the second-hottest spring on record and fell just 0.04C short of the record.

We live in what is generally regarded as a high-rainfall, temperate sub-tropical area, however, that description seems but a distant memory.  As the hot, dry weather continues we are constantly looking for ways to save our precious water.

Our water supply is entirely rainwater which we collect in the 2 large tanks with a combined capacity of close to 100,000 litres.  In the 14 years we have lived here we have barely scratched the surface of that capacity, however, the current drought has made us consider what measures we can take to preserve every precious drop. If we were to run out, our only option is to buy water.  Even purchased water has to come from somewhere and there does not seem to be an endless supply.

In an effort to be as self-reliant as possible we are trying to grow more of our own food which necessitates watering crops in the dry weather whereas during a ‘normal’ season they manage quite well on the natural rainfall except as very small seedlings.

We retrieved a square plastic washing-up dish from our camping equipment and it now lives in the kitchen sink to catch any excess water from washing hands, rinsing dishes etc and that is then tipped onto various ornamental shrubs to help keep them alive.

The other thing we did was to buy 10 metres of hose to attach to the washing machine outlet.  Before I do a load of washing I unroll the hose out of the laundry and across the verandah so that it empties the washing water onto the hibiscus bushes at the front of the house.  The only problem is what to do with 10 metres of hose when it is not in use.

Today, we located a bracket that we had and GMan kindly attached it to the wall above the sink and now the hose coils neatly in place when not in use.

2019-12-02 01

What changes have you made to save water or other resources?

A Golden Oldie

2 Comments

Prompts from several different sources inspired me to make a Lemon Delicious pudding yesterday.

First, a Facebook group post encouraged members to make a post recipes for a childhood favourite food.

Second, my brother, sister and brother-in-law were coming for dinner.  What better, than to share a dessert from our common childhood memories?

Third, another Facebook group discusses how our grandparents lived, including cooking and preparing food.

I had not made Lemon Delicious since 2012 when I began eating a gluten-free diet, however, I was not going to let that stop me.

I have posted the recipe for Lemon Delicious on the blog previously.  See here.  Unfortunately the photos have disappeared from the old post and I am unable to retrieve them.

So, here it is again – with the addition of the gluten-free option.

LEMON DELICIOUS

1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour (use gluten-free flour if required)
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add flour, juice and rind.  Mix well.  Separate the eggs, add yolks and milk to mixture.  Place the whites in a separate bowl and beat until stiff.  Fold the beaten egg white into the mixture.  Pour into an ovenproof dish.  Stand the dish in a tray of water (about 2-3cm deep) and place in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is firm to touch and golden.

2019-05-05 01

The finished product is like a lemon self-saucing pudding.  This can be served warm or cold with ice-cream, cream or custard.

NOTES:

As a nod to past generations, I did not use my Kitchen Aid mixer to cream the butter and sugar.  I used a bowl and tablespoon – hard but satisfying work.  I also beat the egg whites using a hand-held rotary beater.  The results were equally as good as any I have made previously using electric appliances.

The ‘sauce’ of the pudding was somewhat thicker than other efforts and I think this was probably due to using gluten-free flour which does tend to absorb more moisture.  I would probably ad the juice of another half a lemon in order to rectify this.  Despite this, the pudding was extremely well-received by the dinner guests and I will definitely be making it again before too long – especially as the lemon trees are absolutely laden with fruit.

 

Warts and All

Leave a comment

I am sure we have all been guilty of only showing the good/perfect/happy stuff online.  In fact, I do not believe we should feel guilty because none of us share everything about ourselves  – either online or in real life.

However, I do try to keep things as real as possible in what I discuss here on the blog and today is no exception.

I have microwave oven which sits in a purpose-built cavity below the bench in my kitchen.

2018-11-23 01

For a number of years I have had a piece of non-slip mat under the microwave which which works reasonably well.  I remove and clean this mat but over time it has become stained with mould and even soaking it in bleach and scrubbing does not restore it.  This is not a long-term solution as I try not to use bleach.

After some particularly wet weather a couple of weeks ago it was looking awful and I decided that I had to change my strategy.  I decided to make a towelling mat from an old bathmat.

2018-11-23 02

I cut the bathmat in half.  The next step was to find some fabric suitable to bind the edges.

Bias strips cut and ready to join.

2018-11-23 03

A roll of home-made bias binding – just like a bought one!  All you need is a ruler and iron.

2018-11-23 04

The finished product.  No cost and not a lot of time.

2018-11-23 05

Back to the microwave and the cavity.  Once I removed the microwave it really does look disgusting.  Time to get rid of the mat.

2018-11-23 06

I cleaned the space and once it was properly dry I added the new towelling mat.

2018-11-23 07

After cleaning the microwave inside and out, I replaced it in the alcove.

2018-11-23 08

I have enough bias binding to bind the other half of the bathmat so I will be able to alternate them and wash each week.

Awesome Araldite

1 Comment

I think many people are probably like me and imagine that the wonder adhesive, Araldite, has been around forever.  In fact, this is not the case.  It was introduced to the mass market in the late 1940s and can be used to fix almost anything.

With an introduction like that, I expect that you can guess what these 2 items have in common.

2018-10-16 -01

2018-10-16 -02

Yes, they have both been mended using Araldite.

The first photo is my clothes airer which I have had for about 7 years but it is somewhat older than that as it had previously belonged to my mother.  It is a deceptively simple design but I constantly needed to be careful as the poly pipe could easily come apart at the 4 corners near the top if you pulled the airer to move it.  The design is such that it can be disassembled if required but we decided that since that had not been necessary in the past 7 years that we would permanently secure the joints with Araldite. It seems to have worked perfectly and now I can move the airer easily without worrying that it will all collapse.

The second photo is my jewellery box which was a wedding gift from GMan so it has significant sentimental value.  The lid is hinged and some years ago the glue on one side of the hinge came loose so it always just sat in place.  A bit like the airer, it was not a major problem – just a niggling annoyance.  GMan had to clean and remove the old glue before fixing the hinge back on using the Araldite.  He was not convinced but it appears to be successful and I can now open the lid of the box as it was originally designed.

These are simple repair jobs that can be undertaken by anyone.

What have you repaired lately?

 

Nothing Special

Leave a comment

Sometimes I don’t write any blog posts, simply because there does not seem to be anything extraordinary to write.  It is easy to forget that the little things I do day in, day out which may be just the tip that will help someone out.

Here is one of those.

We often make sweet potato chips, usually when having salmon for dinner.  I bake the chips in the oven and like to add a little bit of seasoning.  Since I eat a gluten-free diet it cannot include regular flour.

Spicy Seasoning Mix

1 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder

This is reasonably spicy but you can adjust to suit your own tastes.

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

2018-08-15 01

These are the chips – I usually pre-cook for a few minutes in the microwave first then drain add place in a preheated tray with a little coconut oil.

2018-08-15 02

Lightly sprinkle with spice mixture.

2018-08-15 03

When I toss them after about 10 minutes I usually sprinkle them with a bit more.

As well as for the chips I also use this mixture to coat potatoes when I am baking them.  I rub the potato with a tiny bit of oil then roll them in the spice mixture before baking them in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high.

French Shepherd’s Pie

1 Comment

Some years ago I first heard this mentioned in an online forum.  Carol, who is sadly no longer with us, described a meal served by their French hosts which was essentially an upside-down shepherd’s pie but with much less meat than we traditionally use and with the addition of ratatouille.  I did not really take a lot of notice at the time but the general principle stuck with me and I recently created this version of my own.

First layer – mashed sweet potato – simply cooked and mashed with nothing added.

Second layer:

1 onion, finely chopped
250g mince
1 cup red lentils, soaked in 3 cups boiling water
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
Tomato paste, tomato sauce or 1/2 cup canned or fresh tomatoes

Saute the onion, add mince and brown, add lentils and any excess water. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until moisture is reduced and lentils are soft.  Add seasoning/flavouring as desired.

Spread the mince/lentil mixture over the sweet potato.

2018-07-31 01

Third layer:

6 mushrooms, sliced finely
1/4 large red capsicum, sliced finely
1/2 large eggplant, sliced finely
1 can crushed tomatoes
Heaped teaspoon mixed herbs

Add a small amount of oil to a pan and add the eggplant and capsicum.  After a couple of minutes add the mushroom then the tomatoes and herbs.  Simmer gently until liquid is reduced.

Add the vegetable mixture to the dish.

2018-07-31 04

Topping:

1 tablespoon each of flaxseed meal, almond meal, grated parmesan and cheddar cheeses.

Combine in a small bowl.

2018-07-31 05

You can bake this in the oven but since the components are all cooked and it really only needs heating, I heat it thoroughly in the microwave.

Finally, add the topping and place under the grill to finish off the topping.

2018-07-31 06

This is virtually a meal by itself so I simply serve it with some stir-fried cabbage.

Finely shredded cabbage tossed in a little coconut oil and seasoned with black pepper and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.

NOTE:  This is my own creation and it is based on the ingredients I had available as well as personal preference with respect to the flavours.  Change and substitute to suit your own tastes and circumstances.