Slow Living 2012 – Month Four

My second attempt at this, I think I’m going to fail in the same areas, but we’ll see how it all pans out in a few minutes.

Most of this month was devoted to emptying my over stocked freezers, full of meals I’ve frozen but then never used.  We had all sorts of lovely meals, beef and noodle stir fry, cauliflower and prosciutto pasta, beef pho, Thai green curry and lots of soups.  Towards the end of the month I did start cooking again with some family favourites and a few new recipes.  I have been trying to focus on restraining the amounts I cook so only one thing is added to the freezer each week and one meal is also eaten from there.

I thought I had finished the pickling and preserving last month having made green tomato pickles, cherry tomato relish and lots of fig jam.  However the cucumbers have had a late burst and I picked enough to make two smallish (and one not quite full) jars of bread and butter pickles using my Nana’s recipe.

4 lbs. cucumber
2 lbs apples
2 lbs. onions
1 pint vinegar
2 lbs. sugar
2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon cornflour

Cut up vegetables and boil with vinegar for about 30 minutes.
Add sugar and boil for further 15 minutes
Mix turmeric and cornflour (add more for a thicker mixture) with a little extra vinegar.
Thicken mixture with this and boil for a few minutes longer.

As well as the bread and butter pickles I also made some orange and grapefruit marmalade after I was gifted some home grown yellow grapefruit.  It was an unqualified disaster!  I had decided to throw them out after all that hard work, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I know it has set impossibly hard in the jar, but I’m thinking if I warm the jars up I might be able to use the marmalade to make marinades and glazed.  I love marmalade used like that with pork especially.  I did learn an important lesson though, when you have sick kids and a sick husband, don’t try preserving – or even cooking probably – just focus on looking after them.  And finally I made another batch of chicken stock using some carcasses I had in the freezer.  It only ended up being about a litre, but the flavour was definitely the best I’ve achieved to date.

April saw a major effort to reduce the stockpile in the freezers so that we could turn one of them off and therefore reduce our energy consumption.  The family were very patient over the month never once complaining about all the reheated meals – some of them did not reheat well, others were great.  We have now reduced it to a reasonable size, allowing the upright freezer to be turned off and only using the freezer over the beer fridge (I haven’t been able to convince Mr Good to give up the beer fridge).

I don’t think I have anything new to add here, just the usual: vinegar and bi-carb for cleaning just about everything, cloth nappies, recycled loo paper and paper towel, the master/slave power boards to eliminate standby power, composting/worm farming, tank water on the gardens and for flushing the toilets.  I really feel like I need to revamp my green thinking, especially in terms of waste leaving the house.  I have some ideas for repurposing, but am yet to go beyond an idea.  Does anyone else have any simple tips for green living to add to my regular routines?  The only new thing I did was start using vinegar and bi-carb in the washing machine and to clean out the dishwasher.

This month all those seeds I planted last month in the mini green house went out into the garden.  I planted out seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, peas, lettuce and onions.  I planted more garlic and some celery seedlings.  I interplanted the root vegetable garden bed after not that many came up the first time with more carrots, parsnips, turnips, and beetroot.  I counted about 8 carrots out of the last plantings, two parsnips (very disappointing), six turnips and only two beetroot (after the ease I had with growing beetroots late last year I’m not sure what happened here).  In the non-edibles arena I planted out lots of bulbs and some sweet peas. I’ve been picking eggplants, capsicums, cucumbers, lettuce, basil, parsley, rosemary and mint.

I was hoping to have a few things for this category this month, but two of them didn’t quite get finished so they will have to go into next months wrap up.  The one thing I did get finished with Mr Good was a toy box for Miss Three’s birthday – he did the building, I did the sanding and painting, both working to our strength.  And while this present may have been over shadowed by some other things she got from very generous family, it’s just what we needed to organise her things and she loves pushing it around and filling it with the things she wants to use each day.

It might not be much, but I was so proud of how it came up – that first coat of green did look pretty nuclear, a few coats later and and once it dried I was much happier with it.

Two words Mo Willems.  He’s a children’s author that Liz from Suburban Tomato put me onto and he is AWESOME – as Miss Three would say.  I love reading them as much or even more than Miss Three.  If you haven’t yet discovered him and you have kids, seek them out.  The Knufflebunny books are fabulous and the Elephant and Piggie, and the Pigeon books are hysterically funny.  On a more mature level, I’ve borrowed  Jackie French’s New Plants from Old guide to propagation which will hopefully increase my success rate at growing from cuttings and dividing plants which will help with my front garden plans.

Ever since the Regional Living Expo excursion I’ve been pondering the connection with community concept.  It’s one thing I really miss from living in the country and something I haven’t found as much in the city – though after having kids I have many more friends in my local area.  I wonder whether this is just because I haven’t made a real effort in the past.  I’m not naturally outgoing so I do get a bit nervous about pushing myself forward.  What do others do to find that sense of community and connection?

One thing I did do that perhaps falls into this category is to have Miss Three’s playgroup friends (and a neighbour’s daughter who Miss Three is very close with)  over for her birthday party.  As is the practice with small children’s parties I prepared take-home gifts in little cardboard ‘noodle’ boxes.  As well as the standard balloon, party blower and lollies I also added a little packet of sunflower seeds that Miss Three and I had collected from the flowers we grew together.  Our seeds were gifted from Andrea of Harvest with Glee, so it felt really nice to pass them along again and spread the sunflower joy.

It was all about the birthday party this month, and enjoy it we did.  It was fairly stress-free once I left the room while Mr Good did the cake.  The weather was pretty wild at times, sunny at others in true Melbournian style, and the coconut from the top of the cake was spread liberally throughout the house, but it was lovely.  Miss Three loved having her friends over to play followed by a BBQ dinner with family – grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It was not extravagant, but ticked all our boxes of an enjoyable birthday.  We have a first birthday coming up very soon, so I’ll have to start thinking about that one now too.  Again it will be small, this time just with family, and simple.  Mr Good is not volunteering to do the cake this time though.

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10 Responses to Slow Living 2012 – Month Four

  1. It sounds to me like you had more than enough to write about. 😉

    I love the toy box.

  2. Liz says:

    Really glad you like Mo Willems. My little girl is standing behind me as I type this and she WANTS that toy box!!! It looks great. Hugely impressive!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Mo Willems must be unknown to many around here as we could borrow quite a few from the library on our last visit – unlike Maisy and Hairy McLary books.

      Thanks for the compliment on the toy box, I was rather impressed myself.

  3. Andrea says:

    What a busy month in the Good Household !! I think you both did a great job on the toy box i’d love one just like that for all my sewing projects.
    Good luck with the propagating and Autumn is a great month to divide plants actually did some today.

    • Barbara Good says:

      The box could work well for a sewing box with a few modifications, being on wheels makes it very useful. I’ll be out dividing up some of my native irises at the next opportunity – after I’ve read that section in the book – to bulk out the planting in the front.

  4. Andrea says:

    You both did a smashing job on the toy box, it looks fannnnntastic, love the butterfly. Over shadowed you say…perhaps for now…..when miss three is thirty three and reflecting on her childhood these are the kind memories she will cherish.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I hope you’re right Andrea about the cherished memories. I actually have the original toy box my dad made for us, which has since been converted in a planter, then a tv unit and now resides in the nursery as a little table next to the rocking chair for when I nurse baby Good at night. A very versatile piece of furniture and I love the re-purposing that has happened along the way.

  5. Pingback: Slow Living 2012 – Month Five | The New Good Life

  6. Pingback: In my kitchen – preserves | The New Good Life

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