Construction Progress

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Today I thought I would share some of the progress on a couple of construction projects.  After some time in the design and preparation phase, the cold frame is beginning to take shape.

We bought the 2 hardwood sleepers to create the back wall of the cold frame.

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They are now in position.

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The compost tumbler which can be seen in the background was quite close to where we were working so it has been moved.  GMan is yet to decide on a final location for it.

The area under the house is perfect for storage of materials and construction jobs.  The panels of wire on the left hand side are earmarked for the top of the pergola.

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The wire will be installed once a couple more crossbars are in place.  But first the crossbars need to be painted.

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We normally do the painting under the house but on a sunny and windy day like today it was perfect to paint outdoors.  The shorter pieces on the trestles at the right of the photo are the corner posts for the cold frame.

There will be more photos when the construction is completed.

Road Trip

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For 2 months we have mostly stayed at home apart from a weekly trip to buy fresh produce and dairy and a couple of forays to Bunnings for necessities for the renovation projects.  Over the last week or two we have also made a couple of visits to family.

COVID19 restrictions have been eased slightly but I have no real desire to go browsing in shops or mix with people whom I do not know.

However, we needed to get out and a road trip seemed like the perfect answer.  

Packed up and ready to go.

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We set out with a vague idea of going to Toowoomba. That did indeed become our destination, albeit via a rather circuitous route. Our first stop was for petrol so we then took the back road via the Glasshouse Mountains lookout to Woodford.  From there, we headed through Kilcoy, Yarraman and Oakey before arriving in Toowoomba.  It was definitely the road less travelled.

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It was time for a late lunch by the time we reached Toowoomba and we found a Turkish restaurant that were also offering takeaway meals.

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Despite the cold weather (apparent temperature about 2C) we headed for Queens Park to find a picnic table where we could eat. 

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We were rugged up with jackets and I had my knitted cap which kept my ear and head warm.  There were other people in the park but social distancing was certainly not an issue.

A couple of views of Queens Park and some of the autumn foliage.

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Our return route was via the highway to Brisbane where we made a brief stop to visit my mother and then back onto the highway for home.

In no time we had a fire going to warm the room.

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Our day out was an adventure which broke the monotony of the days at home.

A Winter Wardrobe

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Some of you may be familiar with Project 333 by Courtney Carver.  While I briefly flirted with the idea some years ago, it was never really my intention to try to manage on a specified number of items for 3 months.  You can read one of my early posts on the subject here.

It is now the latter part of May and we are fast approaching the official start of winter.  Although our climate is fairly mild we do still need winter clothes which are more than summer frocks or shorts and singlet tops.  The maximum temperatures this week are between 14 and 18C (55 – 65F) where I live.

I finished full-time work at the beginning of July last year.  Although my workplace accepted a business casual dress code, my clothing requirements have certainly changed in the past year.

The change of season is as good a time as any to review the contents of your wardrobe.  This is mine before I started today.

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Not everything is hung up so here are views of the 2 drawers in my dresser which contain outerwear.  My underwear, pyjamas, swimwear and scarves are in 2 smaller drawers.

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I removed everything from the wardrobe that I do not envisage wearing in the next 3 months (end of August) and have hung it in the wardrobe in the spare room.

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A couple of items that were previously folded have now been hung in the wardrobe and the contents of the drawers re-arranged.

This drawer is what I may wear in winter.

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All of the summer shorts and tops have been consigned to the bottom drawer.

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Then it was time to tackle the shoes.  These are the summer ones I have put aside.

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The end result looks like this.

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Due to washing and wearing requirements there are a few pieces missing from this photo.  2 pairs of blue jeans, a rugby top, 3/4 sleeve tshirt, long sleeved jumper and my black ankle boots.

The total inventory is:

Jeans/trousers x 5
Trackpants/travel pants x 3
3/4 sleeve tshirts x 3
Long sleeve tshirt x 1
Short sleeve shirt x 1
3/4 sleeve shirts x 5
Rugby tops x 3
Cardigans x 3
Jumpers x 3
Dress x 1
Vest x 1
Polar fleece jacket x 1
Waterproof jacket x 1
Trenchcoat x 1
Long boots x 1
Ankle boots x 2
Dress shoes x 2
Casual shoes x 2
Walking shoes x 2

In addition, I have scarves, beret, hat, gloves and a couple of thermal tops.

Is it enough?  Or too much?  I am sure there will be some items that don’t make the cut at the end of the season and there is a good chance that there will be some additions.  My aim is that any new pieces will be sourced secondhand or made from fabric I already have on hand.

Bug-Free Brassicas

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I have occasionally managed to grow cabbages, broccoli and to a lesser extent, cauliflower but it is a constant battle to keep them bug-free.  I choose not to use pesticides, therefore, exclusion remains the best option.

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After much research, I finally bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered a quantity of Vege Net from eBay.  I was particularly pleased to discover that the seller was located in my home state.

The order was dispatched promptly and I received it within 2 days of placing my order.

Then it was time to wrestle with 120 sq metres of knitted polyethylene fabric.

My plan was to make a reasonably fitted cover to slip over the hoops we had positioned over the garden bed.

I cut a large rectangle which would cover the majority of the bed and 2 semicircular pieces for the ends.  Pins are useless on this type of fabric so I used some old pegs to hold the pieces in place while I stitched the seams using a regular sewing machine.

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Once this was done, it was simple matter of slipping the cover over the hoops.  Because this is a raised garden bed the extra fabric simply hangs down to completely enclose the desired area.

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View of the new seedlings safely undercover.

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I anchored one end with some rocks so that it will not blow off.

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I am considering adding some lead weights to the other edges or making a long elasticised tie to go right around the raised bed.

There is another cover to be made for a second garden bed which is not raised so I will just anchor that one with rocks all the way around.

The total amount of fabric I used to cover the 2 beds was about 24 sq metres or 20% of the total.  The remainder is back in the bag for use to cover fruit trees or other garden beds in the future.

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I spent $125 on the fabric (including postage) and believe that it has been money well-spent as it is an investment in our future food production.

I would definitely recommend this product if you are considering exclusion netting for any plants.  It is available in smaller quantities and you could also simply drape it over the area rather than making fitted covers.

Winter Warmer

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We live in a temperate, sub-tropical area with relatively mild winters but that doesn’t mean that we do not need some warmer clothes for about 4 months of the year.

I try to predominately buy secondhand clothes and today was no exception.  We were in our local town and I popped into the Salvos thrift shop to see what was on offer.

I found this pullover which is completely devoid of labels.  I do not know the brand, size, origin or type of fabric.  However, for the princely sum of $5 it came home with me as it fitted and I love the colour.

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It may be too short on some people but is perfect for me.  I really like the fact that it does not have bands on the sleeves or the lower edge.

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I will not be pairing it with the green patterned jeans which I happened to be wearing today.

This piece will fit nicely into my smallish wardrobe.  I will team it with either black or dark denim jeans and one of my collared shirts or alternatively with a patterned scarf.  I will just need to find something suitable.

 

 

Pandemic and Packaging

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As Plastic-Free July looms on the horizon, perhaps it is time consider one of the little-discussed ‘victims’ of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For well over 20 years I have worked on reducing the packaging that comes into our home.  I take my own containers to buy dry goods (flour, nuts etc) from bulk bins.  I have been able to take my own bottles to the local Co-op to get them refilled with apple cider vinegar, tamari and olive oil.  The local IGA supermarket and butcher accepted my own containers for meat, fish and deli items including sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

However, everything changed as COVID-19 arrived.  I can still buy dry goods in my own jars as long as they are scrupulously clean and have no remnants of previous contents.  We eat very little meat so I have not been to the butcher since the pandemic began.  Neither the Co-op or IGA are accepting containers to refill at the moment.  Will this change back when things settle down?  Will it become the new normal and the years of action on single-use packaging be unravelled by one virus?  Only time will tell.

These changes have forced me to reconsider my shopping habits.  The item which has been impacted most significantly is olive oil.  I used to take a litre bottle to the Co-op for it to be refilled but now I am obliged to buy a new 750ml glass bottle for $2.95 each time I wish to buy the local, organic olive oil.

This bottle will simply be refilled from the drum of olive oil as required now.  No more bottles.

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We use a significant amount of olive oil so my interest was piqued when I saw a sponsored post on Facebook from Nuggety Creek Olives.  After a bit of reading I discovered that I could buy a 20 litre drum of olive oil for $180.00 delivered to my door.  The extra virgin olive oil is produced from olives grown without chemicals and I believe the farm is currently being audited for organic certification.

The Nuggety Creek olive oil arrived safely and is now stored in a cool, dry cupboard.  I even made a drip catcher from an old dip container and a piece of wire salvaged from the shed.

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20 litres may sound like a lot of oil but I will be sharing it with at least 3 friends.  Thinking outside the box has allowed me to continue to minimise the packaging that we generate.

Bottles filled and ready for distribution to friends.

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I have not bought any of the other items I mentioned as yet but my next project is to look into a bulk source of olives.  While I understand that all foodstuffs must come in some sort of packaging or container, unless you produce it yourself, I am keen to buy in larger quantities, and therefore, minimise the impact.

Have you considered changing your shopping habits since the pandemic began?  Would community bulk-buying be an option for at least some products?

Isolationism or Self-Reliance

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I have seen the following text and similar being shared in various posts on Facebook over a number of weeks.

Two can play that game China
Threaten our economy
All products from China will be left on the shelf !
Who’s With Me

However, there never seems to be any commentary from the person sharing the post as to how they actually propose to achieve this goal of not buying products that are made in China.

I believe that wherever possible we should be buying food produced in Australia.  Fresh and unprocessed food are generally the best nutritional option.  Additionally, packaged food may be produced in Australia but presented in packaging from China or elsewhere.  It is highly unlikely that you would be able identify where the packaging was sourced.

Food is not the only thing that most of us buy.  There are clothes, shoes, homewares and hardware supplies.  When was the last time that you checked where your purchase was manufactured?  Does it matter?

In my opinion, it is more important to be a conscious consumer generally rather than targeting goods from one particular country.  Buy only what you need (not want), understand what is ‘enough’, care for and repair what you have and source pre-loved items where possible as ways of stepping away from over-consumption.

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Over-consumption means that we are drowning in ‘stuff’ that is cheaply mass-produced in countries such as, but not exclusively, China.  Become a conscious consumer and you will immediately significantly reduce the products you are buying from China.

Your thoughts?

Not Only Food

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The past couple of days have focused on food recipes but those are not the only recipes on the blog.

You may have seen a recent episode of ‘Gardening Australia’ which featured a recipe for making an exfoliating hand scrub/balm with lemon and rosemary.  I have lemons growing and access to a source of rosemary from a friend so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Here are the details in case you missed them.

Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Rind of 1 lemon
Sprigs of rosemary

The ingredients and utensils assembled.

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Finely chop the rosemary and lemon zest.

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Add the chopped ingredients to the sugar and combine.

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Add lemon juice and oil.  Mix thoroughly.

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Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.

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This could make a great gift for a keen gardener.

This recipe is indexed on the tab ‘Recipes – Other’ along with other non-food recipes.

Refreshed and Updated

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It is now over 9 years since I began this blog.  There have been some hiccups along the way which included losing photos from the early blog posts.  Some have been restored and others have not.

After some time, I decided that an index was required as the recipes could be difficult to locate.  I created this but it was incomplete and certainly not up-to-date.  I have worked to rectify that but it will be an ongoing project.  The index contains hyperlinks to the posts containing recipes.  You will find the index under the tab labelled ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the blog.

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In an effort to make it easier for users to peruse the index, I have created various categories and listed the recipes in alphabetical order.

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There are over 70 recipes currently listed and include some which have been handed down through several generations as well as more recent acquisitions from friends and the internet and some of my own creations.  Many of the recipes are gluten-free or are able to be adapted to gluten-free as I began to eat a gluten-free diet early in 2012.

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In addition to the recipes I have also updated the blogroll on the right-hand side of the blog.  These are a selection of blogs that I find interesting and which have some similar themes to my own.  Blogs come and go so I have removed several which are no longer relevant or active and added others which have captured my interest more recently.  Please feel free to drop by and check them out.

 

Sweet Chilli Sauce

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As promised, here is the recipe for the sweet chilli sauce.

A couple of weeks ago my sister gave me these chillies.  They are milder than our birdseye chillies and she assured me that they are just perfect for making sweet chilli sauce.

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As always, I consulted Google for a recipe and found this one.  It is from the Australian Women’s Weekly and it was refreshing to find an Australian recipe that I did not have to interpret or substitute either ingredients or measurements.

I had enough ingredients for a half quantity so this is what I used.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

125 gram fresh long red chillies
375ml white vinegar
250ml water
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Remove green stems from chillies, chop chillies coarsely with their seeds. Process chilli until finely chopped.

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in large saucepan. Stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Add chilli, boil, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Add garlic; boil, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 3 cups (375ml). The sauce will thicken on cooling. Stand sauce 10 minutes.
Pour hot sauce into hot sterilised bottles, seal immediately. Cool, refrigerate.
NOTE:
I probably boiled mine a bit too long.  I think the cooking times need to be reduced for the reduced quantity.  It looked and tasted wonderful when I poured it into the bottle but the seeds and skin were too hard and chewy.
I left it for about a week while I considered my options.
Yesterday I removed it from the bottle and added about another 125ml of water.  This all went into my high-speed blender which effectively blitzed the skin and seeds.  I then simmered it for about 5 minutes before re-bottling it.
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We had Zucchini and Corn Fritters last night and the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  It is rather more opaque and smooth than the commercial varieties but the taste is second to none.
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