Thursday, December 20, 2007


I have just begun extending the vegetable patch so that it is four times its former size. The problem with our little vegetable patch was that it was not big enough to keep us in food all the time.

We would have 20 lettuces come on all at once, then 30 cobs of corn then 400 tomatoes. The new approach is to grow multiple lots of the foods we eat, but at different stages.

This will require a lot more space and involves developing a plan, being organised and keeping records.

One of the weaknesses in my garden is that I don't have a proper area for propagating seedlings, so it is a task I am always putting off or avoiding. The propagation area is like the furnace room of the garden, so I really need to address this issue. I am going to propagate under our big locut tree at the edge of the veggie patch and I need to get it set up so that it is an easy space to work in.

The foods that are popular in our house, at least with the children, are : corn, cucumber and carrot. So I am aiming to be totally self sufficient with these. I should also be able to be self sufficient for much of the year with potatoes, pumpkin, onion, garlic, lettuce, tomato and a few culinary herbs, which are other foods we consume a lot of.

There are probably lots more, but the though of trying to achieve everything all at once is overwhelming...

I have planted sunflowers and marigolds to attract birds and repeal insects, plus I love both these flowers.

I am digging circular plots and covering the pathways in between them with cardboard to try and kill the Kikuyu grass. Eventually I will dig out the pathways and fill them with sawdust- free from the local mill. Sawdust takes a lot longer than cardboard to break down.

Around the border of the veggie patch I have planted comfrey, which is an excellent competitor for Kikuyu and a great fertiliser for composting. I am also planting lemon grass to try and compete with the Kikuyu.

The theory goes: comfrey and lemon grass will not overtake the Kikuyu but will hold their own. So to increase coverage you need to keep dividing and replanting in the areas you want them to grow. In our new huge veggie patch this will take a while to achieve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Bill finally finished renovating the chook shed. We decided to renovate the old chook shed rather than build a chook dome (which would have been more practical for our gardening requirements, but means the chooks can never roam free) because it had so much character abd I really love the idea of restoring it.

Last weekend we took the children to get some chooks. It was a bit of an anti-climax actually. The guy we bought them off just picked five out a pen and roughly threw them into our cage.

I said to Bill on the way home, "These chooks are going to be so much happier with us."

We bought Isa Brown pullets. Pullets are young females.

Isa Browns are renowned for their 'prolific laying abilities,' according to the guy we bought them from. Our girls are a couple of weeks off the point-of-lay. So all going well they will begin producing eggs soon.

We have bought organic laying pellets as feed. There wasn't any organic laying mash available and nutritionally they are identical. Less food is wasted with pellets than with the loose mash. We are also giving them a selection of food scraps.

As a roost we are using an old low-boy wardrobe with straw in the bottom of it. They seem to like it in there. We have also placed a couple of perches up high near the roof so they at least stand a chance should a fox or snake get into their internal cage, in which they are locked in at night.

Bill is in charge of the chooks and the cats are fascinated by them.

MINDFULLNESS and the house cow

I have a new approach to my morning ticking session with Brandy. Instead of trying to intimidate her into thinking that I am boss, I am trying to be 'one with her.'

The past few mornings while I was ticking, during her her morning bucket, I have gone very slowly over her body with my hands using the Buddhist technique of mindfulness. I try to remain aware and focused on what I am doing to her and what part of her I am touching.

She is a very anxious animal, and I am also anxious about her horns/poles, with which she is constanlty trying to stab me. The idea is if I am more calm, she will be more calm?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Home Baked Bread Recipe

We make our own bread most days. It is easy, it doesn't take very long and has chopped our bread bill down by a quarter.

You can buy 25 kilo bags of organic wholemeal flour for around $45. This works out to be $1.35 per loaf. We pay up to $5 per loaf for organic bread in the shops. So it is definitely worthwhile.
Spelt costs about $75 per 25 kilo bag, so again it is still worth baking your own.

People are always so impressed when you mention that you bake your own bread (So I'm always mentioning it). Here is a easy bread making recipe that will make your friends and neighbours think you are the ultimate earth mother (or father) :

3 cups of organic wholemeal or stone ground or spelt or rye
(for a fail-safe recipe use 50% plain flour and 50% wholemeal)
1.5 cups of warm-hot-ish water'
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 Teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
You can substitute .5 of a cup of water for yogurt, which is what I do.

Mix the yeast into one cup of warm to hot-ish water. Let it sit for maybe two minutes, it will froth a little which just shows the yeast is active.

Mix all the ingredients in together, holding back .5 of a cup of water which you will mix in as needed.

Kneed the mixture into a firm dough. It should not be too dry of too wet. If it is sticky it is too wet and if it is crumbly it is too dry.

Don't kneed too much. Roll the dough into a ball and leave to sit, covered, for about an hour.

After an hour the dough will have risen. Grease an oblong baking dish and stretch the dough-ball longways to fit into the baking dish. Leave for another 15 minutes to recover its spring, then bake on 160 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes in an oven.

Remove when golden brown.

For a soft loaf, wrap in a towel or cloth nappy (preferably clean) this stops the moisture escaping as steam. For a crunchy loaf leave to cool in the open.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

We have been making our own yogurt for a little while now with consistently good results.

Here is the recipe I use, the children really love it with a teaspoon of honey swirled though it.

I use the Paris Creek bio-dynamic organic yogurt as a starter because it is the only commercial yogurt I have found that does not have any thickeners in it, it's just milk and cultures.

You can also get starter sachets from the supermarket, but I don't know how to do it that way.

We use raw milk from our neighbours jersey cow. I skim a cup of cream off and then use three cups of un-skimmed milk mixed in with the cream. In the city you could try the Parmalat organic milk, it is really creamy.

I make the yogurt in a kefir pot (a ceramic jar with a lid), this is what they use in India, but you can use anything.

For incubation
I use a little Kenwood yogurt incubator to put the pot on, it is a little platform that heats up to the exact temperature required to make yogurt.

But you can also use a hot water system, a sunny window, a thermos, or the pilot light in your gas oven for incubation. It is also possible to use an electric oven by turning it on full boar for 5 minutes and then turning it off- I haven't done it this way, but it may be worth a shot if you are really keen and don' have any other alternatives.

So, here is what you need to do:

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A FOOD THERMOMETER: heat your creamy milk in a thick bottomed pan, or a double boiler, on the stove to the point just before boiling. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool down to the point where it is between hot and warm.I call this "high fever" point, because it is the point just above a normal body temp (36-37 degrees) - between 39 and 41 degrees Celsius.

IF YOU DO HAVE A FOOD THERMOMETER: heat your milk in a thick bottomed pan, or a double boiler, to the point just before boiling. Allow it to cool to between 39 and 41 degrees Celsius.

Add .5 of a cup of culture ,stirring gently. Now the yogurt needs to be incubated. It must not fall bellow 38 degrees. The longer you incubate it the tarter the taste. I wrap the kafer pot in two or three old cloth nappies and put it on the incubator. It takes about 4 hours.

Once it is done immediatley put the yogurt in the fridge.

Homemade yogurt is runny compared to commercial yogurt, and it has lumps in it. If you really want thick yogurt you can use gelatine, just disolve it in at the heating stage. You can also add powdered skim milk which is what they do in a lot of commerically made yogurts.

For creamier yogurt you can add pure cream.

You can add honey at the heating stage too.

I use use this yogurt in bread making as well.

Save .5 of a cup of yogurt as starter for your next batch.

It may to a little while to perfect but it is worth it for delicious home made yogurt. Good luck!