I so wanted to get this post done right at the start of July, but boy it’s been a hell of a month so far. We’ve had raging fevers, hacking coughs and rivers of snot…. sorry that’s probably a bit too much information. I’m now in the midst of preparing classes for my return to teaching next week and have just returned from an impromptu visit to my parents place. June was a pretty ‘slow’ month, not so much in the slow living way, more just in the slow, procrastinating, too-cold-to-do-anything kind of way.
June has been all about experimenting with my new slow cooker and I’m loving it. I haven’t *loved* everything I’ve made in it, some dishes have been bland and I have had some trouble getting the gravy or sauce to be a thick enough consistency. Several dishes though have been mouth-wateringly delicious. What I have enjoyed most is the convenience and ease of this form of slow cooking. To be able to get things organised the night before and just set the thing cooking either in the morning or even before I go to bed makes my days go much more smoothly. It’s also wonderful for making big batches to share with others or stock pile in the freezer.
June saw me add to my cook from scratch repertoire with flat breads and cereals now being made regularly. The flat bread is oh so easy to make and super fast to cook up, though rolling it out to the desired thickness (or thinness) takes a little practice. I make up a big batch of them and freeze in packs of about five. They thaw out quickly and are even better wrapped in foil and then warmed in the oven. The cereal took a little bit of tweaking to get right and as me and dairy don’t go so well together this is mainly for Mr Good. I decided it was time to ditch the over-priced box of salt and sugar in place of something more wholesome, I was not prepared for Mr Good’s finicky cereal criteria however. At first I tried a simple mix of rolled oats, some seeds, nuts and dried fruit. I soaked it overnight and then stirred some yogurt through. Personally if I was going to eat cereal everyday this is how I would like it, the rest of the family did not agree. Next I tried a toasted museli, similar to the above but with some honey stirred through and then toasted in the oven. This time Mr Good complained that it didn’t have any ‘flakes’. Finally I found a recipe for home made bran flakes (which has also taken me a couple of goes to get right). This combined with a coconut granola and some crushed nuts (walnuts, almonds or cashews), seeds (linseed and sesame seeds) and dried fruit (figs, apricots, nectarine, pear, sultanas or raisins) seems to be the winning combination. Unfortunately Miss Three declared that she “doesn’t like Mum’s cereal” and refuses to try any of my attempts, so it’s now toast for her. I’m sure she has been sent to test me and if that’s the case she certainly doing her job thoroughly!
There’s two areas I’ve tried to reduce in the last month. Firstly is food waste. I’ve been doing a really good job of using up any perishables before they go bad or beyond salvaging in the back of the fridge or the bottom of the crisper. It helps that I am now cooking more vegetarian dishes and I make a concerted effort to look at what I have in the fridge regularly and then base meals around what’s there rather than shopping for food we don’t really need. It’s amazing what you can pull together into a tasty family dinner by using up the half used and then forgotten vegetables. The food scraps are going to composting or my worm farm (which is going well, but I get very little worm juice, why is that?). I’ve also started collecting food scraps to make stock from as suggested by Christine (thanks for the tip).
The second reduction is in the area of energy consumption, with the solar panels on the way (actually they were put on yesterday) I wanted to get our usage down in order to take maximum advantage from the free power we would generate. I’ve done several things so far: turned off the deep freeze, unplugged the rarely used printer and second modem, starting turning the microwave off at the wall (we don’t use the clock on it anyway), vigilantly turning off lights including in the family room when it’s just Mr Good and I up in the evening (don’t worry, we don’t sit in the dark, we just don’t have ALL the down lights on all evening) and turning off our computers overnight. I’ll be interested to see how much this saves (I’m sure I’ll be disappointed), I suspect our downlights are power suckers so I might have to investigate some alternatives, perhaps a lamp or two would work. My goal is to reduce our power consumption from around 18k/w per day to around 10k/w per day.
My shopping habits have taken a real turn over the last month or so. I’ve increased what I purchase from the farmer’s markets and Aussie farmers to reduce our food miles. This also means that I can shop quickly and easily (and even from home) knowing that everything is fairly local and in season rather than spending ages reading labels. Thankfully, I also noticed that Aussie farmers do walnuts so there’s no more Californian walnuts around here. The regular Saturday excursions have become something of an enjoyable habit for Miss Three and I, she loves wandering around (especially if it’s at the Collingwood Children’s farm) and seeing what is on offer, insisting on dried apricots, apple juice and mandarines, hoeing into the free samples and using pester power to convince me to buy her a juice icy pole despite the freezing temperatures (never before have I felt so at ease succumbing to the powers of a three year old knowing it was all organic, natural and healthy, and she actually ate it!)
I’ve added quite a few things to the garden during June. I planted out some more root crops, carrots, turnips, parsnips, beetroot and radishes. They all seem to be growing, if a bit slowly. I also planted some pay choy and chinese cabbage seeds in the trays along with some snow peas and a few things that I’ve now forgotten. My planting got a little sporadic as Miss Three was helping and I just don’t know what ended up where. As for what’s already in the ground, the cabbages and broccoli are going well, the broad beans are starting to get tall (though thankfully not as tall as last year). The peas are flowering and the celery is getting bigger. Harvests were mainly silver beet and herbs, a couple of turnips, and the last of the capsicum. My flowering bulbs are all starting to look good as well with one deciding to start flowering way before the rest.
Sadly very little has been created. I’ve done these few practice granny squares – you can see my progress. I’m quite happy with the last one and have decided to take the plunge and start my project. I’m enjoying the ease and speed of crocheting and the fact that it is quite simple to pull out a few stitches to fix a mistake, unlike knitting. I bought three colours for a simple granny squares blanket, but I think I need a fourth colour so I need another trip to the wool shop soon. I’m doing a combination of block colours and multi-coloured squares, which I saw in a magazine, so I can start with the block ones before I get the extra colour. I also need a bit of practice at changing colours before I get stuck into the rest of the squares.
I’ve been trawling the local library for food related books, easy reads that I can sit down with when I get to enjoy a quiet moment during the day – rare and short lived so the books need to be easy to pick up and put down. I’ve been fascinated with Michael Pollan’s In the Defense of Food and also Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. They’ve been interesting to read at the same time as they have some very similar themes but come at them from different perspectives. Pollan’s book is clearly a journalists take and goes through the political and advertising influences on the creation of a modern western diet. Kingsolver is also concerned with how Americans came to eat what they do, but she offers a more practical guide to how her family made a complete shift to a sustainable, local and organic diet. I’ve also been digging into River Cottage Veg Everyday and watching the River Cottage DVDs.
As always this one is a struggle. There have been weekly trips to story time at the library, we’re starting to get to know the other regulars which is nice. We often do a wander around the local shops and sometimes stop for a coffee or even lunch while we’re there. I’ve had a couple of friends having babies in late May or June so I’ve visited them, shared some home made soup and enjoyed a cuddle with a newborn.
June is a quiet month in our family, no major events or special days. We’ve enjoyed some lovely quiet weekends together as a family. Miss Three and I have enjoyed our regular market trips, Miss Three and Mr Good have enjoyed their days at the footy. Miss One and I enjoyed a lovely sausage-making day with a friend. The weather has been quite wintry so we’ve indulged in warm winter foods and curling up under blankets. The days that have been sunny have been enjoyed in the garden.
And that’s my slow slow living month, there are lots of other entries at Slow Living Essentials