How the time has passed!

It’s been a really, really long time since we’ve posted anything to this blog. I’m hopping to change that once again as things are getting interesting again in our lives (at least for us) and we are slowly finding more time to do a variety of things.

AVL 16 shaft dobby loomMostly I (Tracey, your most frequent poster) will be doing a few more articles on weaving, including my exploits into the use of my new (old) 16 shaft AVL Dobby loom. This is not a computerised dobby, but a peg system (I’ll talk more about this later) and weaves a width of about 36″ happily (although it’s about 40″ wide full width). I’m really really loving this loom, loving it like I never have loved a loom before (and remember I now have a large Ashford Rigid Heddle and a 4 shaft countermarch). The Rigid heddle is back in use, currently it’s warped up to teach a friend of mine to weave, but I’m starting to get interested in weaving on it myself once again. However, I’m thinking that I might purchase a small folding loom around 12″ wide and leave the larger rigid heddle for friends to learn on.

The other wonderful treat that came along with my gorgeous new loom was the visiting instructor in the form of the equally wonderful Karuna. It has been invaluable to have Karuna come and visit with me on a few mornings, going through how to setup the loom, warp on a “teething” warp as she called it and weaving through half a dozen or so weave structures. I’ll go over this experiment in more detail in a later post too.

In other related exciting news, we are about to embark on a 10 week holiday to the USA, primarily New York and North Carolina. Craig will be attending a bunch of woodworking classes and also going along to the American Woodworkers Conference in Ohio (is it Kentucky?). I will be attending a week long class at the John C Campbell Folk School on 18th century household textiles which I’m really excited about. I could probably spend a good half of the year attending full-time classes at the folk school by the look of their class list. So hopefully this trip will also trigger some other amazing posts full of colour and interest 😉

Until then, happy crafting.

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And summer turns to autumn

We’ve moved into our new, temporary, home across the road from our block of land at Atamai Eco-Village. The temperature in the mornings is turning chillier and chillier and evening meals are longer comfortable and refreshing out doors. Summer is fading fast, the trees are changing their colours and a new bread of cooking is taking place.

Last week we had tomatoes bubbling on the stove, roasting in the oven and cored and popped whole in the freezer. This week it will be peaches as bags arrive from my friends gardens. So far on the peach use wish list is peach pie filling (to freeze), peach cobbler (to eat warm with vanilla bean ice-cream) and preserved peaches in syrup (for breakfasts and quick desserts). Winter is starting to sound pretty tasty.

Gardening:
We need to start thinking about what to plant on our block while we await the rains. There will be trees, mostly Tree Lupins for now and also green manure crops, most likely in the form of broad beans and lupins. We aren’t sure if we will have the time to get an other vegetables planted, but we will see. Things that could still be planted include, lettuces and other leafy greens (spinach, silverbeat, chard, kale), broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, Pak Choi, Swedes, Turnips and Spring Onions. Hmmm, that list is making me realise even more how important that vegetable patch is at this time of year.

So what have we been up to?

Blogging and cooking are both things I’m finding very little time or energy for at the moment, much to my distress. However, I have managed to turn my hand to making some Lemon Butter (Curd) with some success. I had to try setting it twice (as in I thought I had cooked it enough, bottled it only to have to cook it a second time because it was too runny). It still wasn’t quite set enough, but it made a lovely lemon curd tart which Craig and I happily devoured over a few days. I have another bag of locally grown lemons to have another go – I just have to find enough time (it takes longer then a single baby sleep cycle to make and at the present Will is still in need of help to resettle during the day ). I’ve made lemon butter successfully in the past so all I can think of is that I had a lot more time to stand slowly stirring a pot over low heat in the past. I do get inspired by lemon butter and want to make orange butter, lime butter, lemon and passionfruit butter and all sorts of other combinations, one day 😉

The other joy in the kitchen recently has been our “italian” inspired week of dinners. Last night I made what was going to be cannelloni into a lasagna instead. I made the pasta dough on Saturday and then put it through the pasta maker last night. We actually left it to hang while we pottered around doing other things and so the past dried and thus we were unable to roll it into cannelloni. In the future we will make the filling for the cannelloni FIRST then roll out our pasta. I have to say that this has been one of the tastiest kitchen mistakes I’ve ever made. I layered the pasta with a home made sauce of tomatoes, bacon (cured by a local, SO GOOD), onion and garlic, then the main filling was 1 egg, 60g of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, 140g local ricotta, parsley and 1 head of silverbeat (cooked). All these ingredients were mixed up then dolloped onto the pasta. Everything bunged in the oven for a little while and served with a fresh salad. We finished off the last of it for lunch today.

Craig is also getting back into the kitchen, trying his hand and baking bread of a morning. We pulled out the grain mill and milled our own flour yesterday, using two different sifters to get a nice light flour. There are now two lovely loaves rising on the dinning table.

I’m reading back over this email and realising that there is so much missing, so lets see if I can add anything. The flour mill is an attachment for our Kenwood Major (make sure if you buy one that you demand your stainless steel attachments and not the coated rubbish they give you, the sticker on the machine say’s “stainless steel”). So anyway, Craig has been using the mill to grind coffee recently but we have finally put it to use for it’s intended purpose (although we had to ditch the first batch of wheat we’d been holding onto for ages because it had a bad case of itty black weevils). We are using the slowest setting to grind so that we can avoid “burning” the flour. The difference in taste of freshly ground flour compared to pre-purchased is huge so the time it takes to mill is worth it. We are currently letting the milled flour fall into a large bowl sifter over another bowl so that we can separate the flour from the bran. The bowl sifter has fairly large holes (for a mesh sifter), we are then discarding the larger grain husks and sifting the flour once more with a finer mesh to get our flour. This second lot of sifting actually results in flour and fine bran, which we intend to try cooking with. The larger waist is probably going to end up on the garden. It took most of the morning to grind and sift 700g’s of flour so we are thinking about ways to make this process faster. The sifting is what really takes the most time as the mill can be left to it’s own devices while we go aff and do other things. At the moment we are thinking of making a tiered box system with different grades of mesh so that we can just shake the box and have everything work it’s way down to be collected in three separate boxes.

A time of great changes

A long while back I said that we had a new adventure ahead of us, I promised details and now I have a few minutes to tell you about it.

As you know, we have a new son, William, who is now almost 10 weeks old. He’s growing well and developing wonderfully well, keeping us very busy and pretty tired and deliriously happy. 2 weeks ago tomorrow we bundled him up into his car seat and headed off on a long drive from Auckland to Wellington, stayed with friends over night and then hopped a ferry to the South Island, another 2.5 hour drive and we ended up in our new home. That’s right, we have moved islands, from the wet and grey winters of Auckland to the perpetually sunny crisp winters of Motueka.

Now you might think that it’s simply the joy of living in a sunny environment that would encourage this move, well that turns out to be just a bonus. We’ve actually moved here to be part of a new eco-village called Atamai. Atamai Village Council currently owns around 30 ha (74 acres) of land on the Motueka Valley Highway, and has the option to lease or purchase a further 69 ha (170 acres). The sight is divided up into mostly commons plus 11 lots around 1 to 2.5 acres and an intensive housing area similar to Earthsong eco-neighbourhood (where we are selling our gorgeous studio apartment).

We plan to purchase a 1-2 acre block where we will build our traditional timber framed home. There are still several lots available for sale in Atamai and they haven’t even started on the intensive housing sight. We’ve been here for less then 2 weeks and already we are organising pot-lucks and a heard of 20 goats. It’s an extremely exciting time, with everything at the very early stages. The land has been purchased, the council permissions received and development just starting. Transition Towns, Carbon Neutrality, Climate Change, Community Development and Community Currency are all high priorities for those fueling the project.

I’m going to end with a few photos of the sight from our January trip and a link to more.

Currently this is the only pond on the sight, but once the main earth moving has been completed every property will be in easy access (I believe bordering) a body of water like this.

This is the river across the road from us.

More photos of the property are here.

Australian Bush Fires

A few days ago a friend sent me an email about her labour experience, at the end of it she mentioned “so hearing that Kinglake has virtually been wiped from the map and that there are fires in St Andrews and Kangaroo Ground must be difficult”. I had no idea what she was talking about so quickly jumped online to check out The Age newspaper. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t just the area we had once lived next door to that was being devastated but also the area surrounding my parents property, areas I’d grown up in. I called my parents and they tried to reassure us that they were fine, they had everything under control and the fires wouldn’t come near them. It didn’t make us feel any better.

I don’t want to go into the details of the fires and deaths, it’s too hard and I keep crying and feeling useless so instead I want to leave you with a photo a friend posted on her LJ that I’ve just found very poignant. Koala’s are not friendly cuddly animals, they are shy, they sleep during the day and they have very sharp claws and will protect themselves if necessary. 

There has been so much death and destruction, humans and animals have lost their homes and lives, and most of a result of certain individuals who think fire is fun or pretty or are just simply sick and twisted individuals. 

There are loads of ways you can help if you wish, many more options if you are actually in Australia but even if your not and you want to help you can buy items from the Etsy Oz Bushfire Appeal. All items have been donated to the appeal and so far they have raised over $2000 AUD to help.

Embodied Carbon in your food

I had an interesting response from someone on my recent pantry post. A few things in her comment sparked my need for this post. This is in now way an attack on Coral or her opinions, it is simply that her comment inspired further thought for me and a need to share some knowledge that I have and others may not.

“i live in the usa… ok… so yeh, i get that ‘we’ consume way too much and that ‘we’ are an import haven of sorts… but i do not personally take that for granted… i love to eat a great variety of foods and i think about other countries as wonderful and to be discovered in any way i can…”

“when i buy a banana i hope it came from Africa… and when i have coffee i want it to come from Brazil…”

“if i buy pasta i would be happy to note that at least the product was inspired by Italy”

“i want to feel a part of the world as a small place after all and that we are all in it together…. we walk on the same soil and share waters from the same oceans and look up at the same planets and stars…. and share the same wind…”

“i love that part of my pantry…. in fact i am going to go check it out just to celebrate the imports…”

Thank you for the offer of grape jelly Coral but I’d much prefer a copy of the recipe to make some myself from my own abundant grapes. I think that their is greater value in the sharing of recipes across the world then sharing of food. I guess it’s part of that “teach a man to fish philosophy”.

So here goes the sharing of knowledge.

Food production contributes to climate change in the form of packaging, transport, processing even marketing. These all require great amounts of energy consumption. The closer to home your food comes, the fresher and less processed it is, the less energy is required to provide it to you
In her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” Barbara Kingsolver (et al) points out some startling facts

1) Americans put as much fossil fuel in their refrigerators as in their cars
2) 400 gallons of oil is used per person, per year (about 17% of total USA energy use) for agriculture, a close second to theirs cars
3) Synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides,  use more petroleum then all the gas gusling machinery put together, more then 1/4 of all farming energy is in just the synthetic fertilizers
4)  “Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles!
5) Then there is the energy use for drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking, packaging, warehousing, refrigeration etc. This comes to more energy calories then is in the actual food!
Just think on this: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce out country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” Key words here BARRELS & EVERY WEEK! I recommend EVERY person in the USA reads this book.

Climate Change is a fact, polar ice caps are melting, polar bears are resorting to cannibalism because they are running out of ice to live on and thus also seals that would normally sustain them through their long sleep. New Scientist wrote an article on just this back in 2002 so this isn’t new news, it’s old and still we, as a world, are paying very little attention. According to http://www.foodcarbon.co.uk “The latest reports from climate scientists suggest the trapped heat energy is begining to change the climate of the entire globe. Glaciers in many parts of the world are retreating, extreme weather is becoming more common, rains across semi arid lands are failing, condemming millions to drought and famine.” Have you noticed that the price of cereals (grains) has increased?  If your not up-to-date on the topic of climate change please go to the WWF site here and read up on it.

Polar Ice Cap melt

Polar Ice Cap melt

And one more link for those in British Columbia (still interesting for the rest of us) LifeCycles has some interesting info on food miles, reasons to buy local and a very cool map to show you where you can get locally produced items in BC. Craig has also been working on something similar as part of the Transition Towns movement for our community. 

For a normal western household, food is just about the biggest contribution to global CO2 levels that we can make. You can probably have more success in reducing your carbon footprint by changing your eating habits than by getting rid of your car. Many world leaders are calling for an 80% reduction in our CO2 emissions within the next two decade, and many scientists believe that even this is not enough. Where can we make these reductions that least affect our quality of life? By supporting local food, the idea is that we can quite possibly increase the quality of life in our local community, particularly for small farmers, while making a huge impact on our carbon footprint. Reductions in our fossil fuel use also assist our civilization in dealing with declining oil extraction rates, and in reducing the political pressure which tends to cause conflict in certain oil rich states (particularly the middle east).

I love that I can have chocolate, coconut milk and many other exotic items that don’t grow in NZ. If your life is made richer by the import of exotic items then great, revel in that, but don’t buy tomatoes from Australia if it’s winter where you live, don’t buy something soaked in oil when you can get it organically. We fill our pantries with food from all over the world, not because it’s exotic and we want to be part of the global community, but because we’ve come to expect “fresh” tomatoes in winter rather then feasting on winters abundance. Seasonal eating has been kicked to the curb in a world that is obsessed with getting what you want, when you want it, rather then looking forward to the joys to come.

Coral mentions that she wants to eat pasta that is at least “inspired” by Italy. So do I! That’s why I want to buy it from the italian guys who make it fresh as I watch at the local farmers market rather then buying a packet of dried, or worse filled with preservatives to make it look fresh in a supermarket and imported from somewhere on the other side of the planet. I want to remember that not only is pasta inspired by the italians, but it’s roots also reach back to China – I love our global community and the inspiration it gives me. Life to me is about inspiration, excitement and desire. I want to live in a world of decadence, not a world of excess and destruction.

Look in your pantry

As you do on a Sunday morning, I decided to pull everything out of the pantry and onto the kitchen floor, there is a reason for my madness. 

  1. I wanted to see where our food came from around the world
  2. I wanted to see what we actually had in the pantry that was actually food and not just junk full of sugar, additives and preservatives
  3. I wanted to know what we had that never got used and get rid of anything out of date

The only things that went back into the pantry were those things that were

  1. Home made (jams, preserves etc)
  2. Locally made (market purchases of preserves etc)
  3. NZ produced and made (these had to be 100% NZ, no NZ & imported ingredients)

Everything else went into the cupboard in the laundry. Not to be thrown out, not to be left unused, but to remind us of the extra effort these foods require, the carbon miles they accrue just to get to us. We had food from Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka, America, Italy and China to name but a few. Much of it was organic, most of it was actually in the “real food” category, so it wasn’t too bad a pile. However, it disturbed me to see things I consider to be basic necessities that are all imported.

All our oils, pasta, rice, vinegars and sugar, possibly the flour too but I’m checking up on that one, all come from some other country. We live in a wine growing country, how hard is it to turn some of those grapes into vinegars? We have a huge sugar factory that makes sugar products, golden syrup etc, but all the sugar comes from overseas (probably Australia so not too far but still). We live in a world that takes food for granted, we don’t bother to think how far that item has had to travel, the working conditions of those growing or processing it for distribution, the chemicals going into the ground to produce it, the unsustainable conditions used. I remember earlier in the year feeling “uncomfortable” that our bananas came from Ecuador (not even Australia!) because we had decided to choose organic and I didn’t want anyone deprived of fruit (bananas were actually one thing I really wanted in those first months of my pregnancy, I was eating at least one a day when normally I might have one a year). Now I’m afraid if anyone wants bananas they will have to settle for our home grown “lady finger” variety and may even have to deal with frozen over fresh.

I dragged Craig out of bed to join me over the food pile and waited (im)patiently for Buffie to also wake up, I needed to draw them both into this discovery, discussion and new plan. We are going to try to be “Locavores” of some type. We are going to attempt to buy locally grown, locally made products, expand that to NZ wide and include a few special items such as herbs & spices (as they require very little to produce and transport), Fair Trade chocolate & coffee and also sugar. We are going to try to put nothing in the pantry that does not fit this category. (oh crap!). 

So far I have a local source of goats milk for us, I’m working on the cows milk. We can get oil from the local market but it’s going to be very very expensive considering how much we use (especially during the preserving seasons). We are about to get a grain mill so will mill our own grain for flour. Oh, there is one more exception area and that is for Buffie, she’s allergic to the wheat family and can’t have lactose. Because this has already wrought huge changes to her life and diet we don’t wont to make life more difficult for her at home, so she gets to have a few extra special items (such as soy & rice milk, rice crackers etc). We will start to work towards making our own flours for making bread, pastry & pasta for her at some point.

I need to find a source of vinegar for all my preserving and how on earth am I going to substitute vegemite!

I used up the last of the flour tonight to make 4 loaves of courgette bread (to freeze) and potato, courgette & corn fritters for dinner. Interestingly, I made Buffie’s courgette fritters with Quinoa flour and they tasted better then the other ones, had more flavour to them and held together better, so I think that recipe will happily get the locally grown switcharoo.

I’m really looking forward to the market this weekend now, I need bread from our local baker and pasta from the pasta guys, as well as mounds of fruit and veg that we didn’t grow or grow enough of so that I can start getting winter soups and things into the freezer (potato & leek, and tomato are the top of the list). I’m also going to have to pop into the butchers for some chicken carcasses to make up some stock.

So to end, I want everyone reading this to have a quick look in your pantry, check out where your food is coming from, what’s in it, do you use it? I’d be interested to hear if others move further towards  the locavore mindset too.

Shaker Village

Craig just shared a link with me that I wanted to pass on. It’s a Flickr slideshow of a Shaker style village at Pleasant Hill, in America. There are some stunning photos depicting a very simple country lifestyle with some fantastic shots of people making brooms, showing spinning wheels and also weaving. Gorgeous woodwork throughout. 

Link

Spring blessings

In case anyone was wondering as to “why” I’ve been under the weather of late, I thought I might introduce you to Sprocket.

 

Sprocket is just about 12 weeks old and we couldn’t be more pleased!

Although Craig is still a little confused as he spent most of the time looking at the wrong screen and is convinced this is what’s in my tummy:

In other news, the ducks eggs have hatched and we have 11 little ducklings (photos to come) and the chicken has hatched 3 eggs, a yellow, a black and a speckled black & yellow (although last night we could only find 1 so we are a little worried now). The poor geese are still sitting on their nests, it’s so sad. And the hawk has been spotted trying to get the ducklings but Craig and the geese (the non broody two) saved the day!

Not happy with Ashford

I really wanted to get down to some weaving today, discovered that there was no easy way for me to warp up my Rigid heddle loom to do the tea towels I’ve been wanting to do for months, in the craft room, so decided to warp it up in the lounge. It was supposed to be ok, it would take me a few hours and then I’d be out of everyone’s way. That was until I discovered that when the Ashford Book of Ridid Heddle weaving says that you need 8/2 cotton white 150gm, 8/2 cotton navy 20gm for the warp it lies. My warp is 220cm long and I am just about at the end of the first cone of cotton which is a 200gm ball and I’ve only done about 53 or 198 ends I need to do! I need almost 4 balls, and that’s not including the weft thread. I had been a fan of Ashford, but I think it’s just because it’s a brand so close to home. I’m really disappointed with the DVD I got (actually I had to send the first copy back as it didn’t play), it lacked any real information and was more a promotional video then anything else, their cotton isn’t very nice to the touch, but perhaps it will be different when woven up and washed. The rigid heddle book isn’t clear and complete. It misses information about the types of yarn they use and most of them aren’t supplied by Ashford and there is no listing on where or how to get them. 

Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! I have no way of getting the cotton thread today or tomorrow, none of the shops that sell Ashford products sell this thread (or at least none of the ones open). I can get onto my usual supplier of Ashford products but then he’s not going to be able to post it till Monday so it could be Tuesday or Wednesday before I get it! So what the blazers do I do with this warp in the mean time? I can’t leave it set up in the lounge room for 3 days as it’s utalising the dinning table – apparently I can, Craig say’s we can work around it and Kain says we don’t need to eat at the table – but that’s not the point! Things just aren’t going my way today. I did attempt to spin some newspaper this morning, which was an interesting experience that I think I’d really enjoy, if I had a spinning wheel with a larger orifice, like the ones for novelty yarn spinning (which I guess this is).

 

Candles

Candles

I was hoping to use this for my candle bundles that Ines and I will be taking to markets, unfortunately she doesn’t like the look so we have to find something else.

And now I’m simply feeling like I’ve spent far too much time in front of my computer today and haven’t actually achieved anything *sigh*