No more supermarket

As part of goal to become more resilient we’ve decided to avoid supermarkets as a source of food. We’ve gone cold turkey and are only using it for things like toilet paper now. Eventually we will fun alternatives to other supermarket items as well, but baby steps.

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As part of the changes, we have to find alternatives to pre-made lunch box items for Pip. Today I’m planning on making some cookies. I like to do double or triple batches and freeze the extras, this means I cut down on baking and frees up time for other food prep, like cheese making (restarting this on Thursday) and extra food prep such as the soaking beans you see above.

This is the first time I’ve ever used beans that weren’t fresh or out of a can. I’m trying with the overnight soaking method, I’ve got the beans soaking in three times as much water as beans. Another method I cam across suggests placing the beans in cold water, bringing them to the boil and then letting them soak for 1-2 hours. To cook them you then need to drain them and cook in fresh water for 1-1.5 hours. They can be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge or frozen at this point and then added dishes.

These beans are destined for a nice batch of chili tomorrow night. So I guess I will need to start dinner at around 4 to ensure its all cooked by 5.30. I’m hoping that 2 cups of beans plus 250g mince beef will make a lovely large pot and I can freeze at least half of it.

The main ingredients I’ve had trouble replacing from the supermarket just now include ice cream, butter, tasty cheese and oil (other then olive oil). I’ll be replacing the cheese with my own homemade cheeses and I’ve got a local source of raw milk. Hopefully this milk will result in enough excess cream as well for various sweet treats, maybe even ice cream every now and then. Instead of flat breads I’ve started using crepes, but I’m not sure I want to do these every week. I’ve started cooking bread again but I’d like to add crumpets, English muffins, and flat breads on regular rotation.

The real problem for us isn’t so much finding ideas for alternatives or making our own replacements, its me (Tracey) needing to do all the cooking and prep work while also trying to do some weaving, looking after Pip, cooking regular meals and getting enough rest so I don’t crash (becoming complete useless to do anything).

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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.

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.

And we’re back!

I have so much today now that we are home and rested a hardly have the time to stop and write this post.

I’ve just ran around to the house of a lovely lady from Auckland Freecycle who has given me several bags of Romany fleece (white and black). My Ashford Book of Spinning tells me that Romney is a great fleece for beginners to spin, which would be me. If you don’t know about the Freecycle network you should seriously research it for your area. It’s a great resource for those 3 R’s.

Ashford Spinning WheelAmong our clothing and christmas gifts I also managed to bring back my spinning wheel and spent a lovely time (except for the bit when I was swearing at the stupid screw thinging that wouldn’t go back into the hole it had come out of and had to grumble until Craig came and fixed it for me – love husbands *grin*). Anyway, I mostly happily put my spinning wheel back together, which gave me a much better understanding of how it all works, oiled up all the oiling up parts and now have a lot of reading and practice to do.

My new drum carder should arrive on Monday (yay), so I need to make sure that I wash at least some of the fleece I now have (I think I now have about 8 big bags). Researching my drum carder and my spinning wheel as made me realise there are still few things I need to add to my arsenal of wool craft tools. The most important ones right now being that it seems I have only 1 bobbin for my spinning wheel – which will become a problem very very quickly and I don’t have a Lazy Kate (but I may be able to make one or improvise) *sigh*

Aside form the crafty things today, I’ve also been in kitchen whipping up a batch of Kombucha Tea (or Manchurian Tea, whichever you prefer). This tea is apparently renowned for all sorts of health wonders, it’s a fermented iced tea, basically, and I tried some and liked it so am now the proud owner of my own “Kombucha mushroom” (which is the started, somewhat like you would do for yogurt or sourdough). Once I finish writting this I will FINALLY get around to having a go at making my sourdough starter.

Woodworking wise, Craig and I purchased a bed on TradeMe.co.nz, only to get it how and find it was WAY too short so we drove al the way back to the North Shore (North East of us) to give it back (long story) and thus we have decided to make our own bed again, so this Saturday is early morning farmers market shopping followed by bed making in the workshed, should be fun.

Gardening – my three sisters are doing wonderfully and people have been telling me how many courgettes they’ve been taking, the corn is coming along wonderfully and the climbing beans look so cool  winding their way up the corn stems. I also purchased a bunch of new seedlings for the balcony planter box (spinach, basil and chives) as well as an aubergine (egg plant) to go in a garden somewhere. I need to clean out the last of the “potato box” broadbeans and tulip bulbs and I’m going to fill it with some lettuces. I left paper bags over a few things – spinach and celery) to collect their seeds but it didn’t really work – partly because it seems that a few bugs really like to nibble at the paper resulting in big holes *pout* so my seed saving in that regards has failed. It also seems that all my broad bean plants have been harvested and sacrificed to the new clothes line/pagola and nobody has mentioned saving much of the seeds (which was the point of that planting) – so my seed saving efforts for this past season have gone a miss, ahh well, it’s the journey and the learning right 🙂

The last thing I wanted to share today was the recipe for tonights dinner, I really enjoyed it and before I forget what I did I need to get it down:

Chili Bean & Pork Mince

  • Heat pan and oil
  • Add garlic, chilli and onion – fry till fragrant
  • Add 1/2 kilo of pork mince – brown
  • Add a dash of saki, tamari and sesame oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (frehly ground of course)
  • Add a handful of flat beans  cut into 2cm lengths and cook  to taste (we like our beans to still have some crunch).

Serve on a bed of lettuce (next time we would add some light items like cucumber to the lettuce and perhaps also serve with some asparagus).  Delicious!

Carding & knitting

When I return home there are several bags of fleece for me to wash and play with and several bags awaiting my collection. Apparently my shearing friend Kevin says that he can’t sell coloured fleece, so any fleece that is not considered to be white is mine for the taking – free! This means that I will no longer have to worry about “waisting” fleece as I practice and play and I have packed up my spinning wheel and will be bringing it home to Auckland (from my parents house in Wodonga) and dedicating a chunk of time to relearning to spin.

Also, for christmas my mum has agreed to either buy me a knitters loom (about $180NZD) or to contribute towards a drum carder (about $350NZD) and now I have decide which one I wan/need more. At the moment I think I’m leaning more towards the carder as I don’t even have any hand carding paddles anymore so…

While researching drum carders I did come across the most coolest toy and would LOVE to get my hands on it. It’s a double carder

Double Carder

and it’s probably about the size of my lounge room. Now if I got everything I wished for I would need a museum to keep it all in I think. We just went for a visit to a second hand store in Yackandanda, which is about 15 minutes from my parents house and I found a very cool butter churn, two 19th century cameras (they are HUGE, and cost several grand each), add that to the double carder and the floor looms *sigh*

Now I know that I’ve been silent for the last several weeks, but I haven’t been totally no crafty while I’ve been visiting oz. I’m actually proud of myself really, I’ve been knitting, well I’ve knitted one thing, a beret, it’s the first knitted project I’ve ever actually finished and didn’t give up on out of boredom (scarves suck and so do blankets that are essentially scarves sewn together). Doing this hat, I managed to do increases and decreases, undo and repair mistakes (I made a lot of them) and pickup dropped stitches, and I’m very proud of my finished item.

Freedom Spirit Pattern

I still need to do the little flowers to make it extra pretty but they will take very little time to whip up. I’ve never been very excited about knitting, my grandmother was an amazing knitter and I’m sure I’ll never match her for speed, but I have decided to attempt a little more knitted projects – just no scarves thank you very much.

Ply?

I have just ordered a huge amount of “2 ply” cones of wool and it brought up the question of what is ply? For the most part, it means the quantity of “strands” making up that piece of wool. When you have an 8ply yarn, you have a piece of wool that is made up of 8 strands twisted together. This in no way tells you how “thick” your yarn is though. A 2ply yarn might be thicker then an 8ply yarn, why? Because the 2ply has been spun to be bulkier then the 8ply.

In short, “ply” has nothing really to do with the thickness of your yarn, and with more and more yarns becoming available from outside Australia and New Zealand we can no longer rely on labels saying 8ply, 4ply, 10ply etc when selecting yarn. There is a little more discussion on Pearl Bee about this topic, with some very important clarification and information provided by the mystery “Pat”.

Pat commented that “there was a standard as to measurement of yarns. It was based on the number of skeins of yarn that can be spun from one pound of fibre. This is dependent on how fine the spinner can spin; a larger number means a finer yarn (of wool). This gets confusing. Wool had a different system than cotton which was different than linen, and acrylic wasn’t even considered then.

Today there are several different methods of measurement: tex in Europe, 1-8 by the Yarn Council of America, ply system in Australia. The best seems to be wraps per inch — how many threads laid side by side in one inch. Another standard is yards per pound (ypp), or metres per kilogram (mpk). Obviously, 1500 ypp would be finer yarn than 1200 ypp.

Cotton usually uses a numbering system: 2/8 means a yarn of 2 plys each being of size 8 (standard measurement in cotton). 2/16 would be a finer yarn, being 2 plys but of size 16. 4/8 is a thicker yarn: 4 plys of size 8. 8/2 is 8 plys of a size 2 yarn.

And then we get into compound and cabled yarns; these are all differences in construction– nothing to do with size.”

Drop Spindle Spinning

Drop Spindles & WoolI’ve found what looks to be a great resource for learning to use drop spindles: The Joy of Handspinning

My parcel of goodies arrived yesterday, and as I did manage to finish my table runner (more later) I let myself open it to find my two new reeds and a 1kg bag of cleaned and carded wool. My preference is to clean and card my own wool as well as spinning and weaving it but we do what we must for now. The wool is from Ashford and is very nice, I’m pleased with it at the NZ$18 per kilo I paid for it. It will also be great for a few of the weaving projects I’m keen to do.

20 minutes late: I’m trying to take heart from “Kathryn of the Hills” when she says:

“…and the spindle falls, don’t be discouraged. Just pick it up and try again. Many people will tell you that it is called a drop spindle because it just dropped. Take your time and practice, you will get it with time. It only looks easy after you have learned how. It just takes a few minuets to learn how to spin; it takes a lifetime to perfect the skill.”

Drop Spindle

Spending money

I’ve just ordered the new 5dpi and 12.5 dpi reeds for my 32″ rigid heddle loom and a 1kg bag of carded wool. With any luck they will all arrive tomorrow *much excitement and bouncing* The wool is so that we can have a play with the drop spindles and also for a future pillow case weaving project I want to do (because you can never have enough planned projects).

This morning for breakfast we had a yummy treat, I left a loaf of bread to rise overnight and served us a few warm fresh out of the oven slices slathered in butter and topped with poached eggs for breakfast this morning- oh yum.

This afternoon’s craft plans are to sit down at my loom and finish off the table runner I had started a few weeks ago. I’m not going to allow myself to open my new package when it arrives tomorrow unless that table runner is finished!

As for my crochet blanket, I’m onto the last “square” for this strip. I’m still not sure if I will do 1 or 2 more strips after this is finished, but I do know I need to get more wool no matter what I decide, this has really taught me the value of testing your gauge before starting a project, I would have used less wool in the end if I had have switched to a smaller hook. Its so strange, I knit super tight and crochet loose, I’m not used to that. Anyway, I do like the feel of my blanket at it’s current gauge so I’m not terrible annoyed with it.

Right now, lunch and then to weaving.