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Doing the Sustainability in the Chaos

26 Jul

With a large contract to work on, blogging has taken a back seat over the past few weeks. It’s also been school holidays, and the entire family came down with the cold and spew bugs in the same week. Messy.

What is interesting is how all the little sustainability projects I’ve been experimenting with have helped me get through the busy times.

The apple cider vinegar drinks helped clear our noses.

The seeds on the mantelpiece and in the cold frame have been germinating well, left to their own devices and squirts of water – giving me a little thrill to look at every time I walked past them on the porch.

Aloe vera masks with a drop of lavender oil helped my stressed skin.

My hand scrub (plus I used it on my feet) was a lovely pamper treat tonight at the end of a very crazy (but successful) work week.

It took no time at all the clean the bath and microwave, and do a quick dusting session with my sustainable solutions. These were chores I had very little time to do.

Homemade greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of homemade lemon curd stirred through has become my fast, easy and deliciously tangy breakfast.

These busy times are when I thought I’d drop the ball on being a Sustainable Wench, but I’m happy to realise that I’ve set some positive habits for myself.  Didn’t stop me from spending the money and treating ourselves to fish and chips tonight however.

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Seeds go Postal

9 Jul

A bit of a thrill today when seeds arrived via courier. The reasons I ordered them online were:

  • I was getting cross at the lack of herbs my local garden shop supplied (they’re great with veges and flowers though). Three times I went there looking for German Chamomile, with no luck for seeds or seedlings.
  • Getting things in the mail that aren’t bills is exciting.
  • It’s inexpensive.

It’s good to know there is no excuse for not planting your favourite herbs. It’s also a lovely winter thing to do so you can get some of the spring planting planned.

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Winter Cuttings

7 Jul

I took some cuttings tonight from Teucrium which I snaffled from a friends garden. This is such an easy way to get free plants. It’s the kind of thing I do without planning – you don’t need to know where you’ll put the plants when they’re big, otherwise you’ll never get round to doing it. The more you try, the more likely you are to have success. Plus it only takes 10 minutes. Teucrium is a really easy one to practise on in your kitchen. I also use this technique with great success on hydrangeas, lavenders, rosemary and lonicera.

  • Put some propagation mix in a container (I use seed-raising mix because I am lazy), and dampen.
  • Cut just below a nodule. This is the bit that goes into the soil. Depending on how long your original stem is, you may be able to get more than one cutting from each stem. My cuttings vary from 5-10cm in length.
  • Cut the soft wobbly top of the stem, and gently pull off the lower leaves.
  • With the secateurs, make a little wound at the base of the cutting. Dip this bit in rooting hormone or manuka honey and stick into the soil.
  • Put in a spot where the temperature is constant and mild. Keep the soil moist, or they die, which happens to me quite a bit.
  • Check out Yates for more cuttings info.

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Seedy

2 Jul

More seed planting tonight while the oven heated up for lazy bread. The reasons for this were:

  • So I don’t have to splash out a small fortune on seedlings in the spring
  • To supplement my (so far very lazy) chickens’ feed
  • To provide me with something to trade with over the coming months (esp. for lemons)

I chucked seed raising mix into 3 punnets and planted more basil, silverbeet, and bok choy. These three punnets get the sunny spot on the lounge windowsill. The seedlings that were there go in the cold frame outside, and one of the punnets from the cold frame is now hardening up under the eaves. Bit like musical chairs. One is always left out in the cold.

It helps that all this is done within an eight metre radius. Not too much walking required. Then the bread went into the oven. Whammo. Sustainability Wench-ness achieved, thus cancelling out the takeaways we had for dinner (no actual scientific evidence in this theory).

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Winter Pasta Sauce

25 Jun

The bottom shelf of the pantry is looking a bit empty of preserves. We’ve exhausted our supplies of homegrown tomato sauce and relish. Sadly, the midwinter garden vege supply is not very forthcoming. My solution is to make a massive batch of pasta sauce from tinned tomatoes. I’ve done this before in the summer, but below is my winter recipe.

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  • Buy the biggest tin of chopped tomatoes you can find, or use a whole bunch of tins (6-7 if you only have regular size tins)
  • Saute 6-7 roughly chopped onions until clear, in a dollop of whatever oil you have
  • Add fridge remnants like half a dozen anchovies, some preserved peppers, capers, spinach, broccoli etc
  • Add a good couple of tablespoons of sugar and salt to taste, and a few bunches of herbs (I used parsley, rosemary and thyme today)
  • Simmer the whole lot for half an hour or so
  • Whizz up with a stick blender if you have one (bit tidier than transferring it into a food processor), then pour into hot sterilised jars and seal

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You can see my ingredients list and measurements are pretty relaxed. The sauce is good with pasta, in casseroles, with rice and veges and all sorts of bits and pieces.

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Snow Prep

18 Jun

Apparently it’s going to snow lots over the next few days. Christchurch as a city gets a bit panicky in the snow. We’ve had snow in the city every winter for the past few years – not a whole lot – but it’s still a big novelty. Most things shut down. Which must be hugely entertaining for the Canadians I think.

I thought it best to get the garden ready this afternoon. The thing about gardening though, is that weather happens. You can only do so much to help the plants. Sometimes they die. That’s life.  My task list was pretty small:

  • stake all the large broadbeans (a couple of months ago it snowed and they got hammered). They look a bit wonky in the pic below. That’s because I ran out of tights to tie them up. I will have cold legs.
  • pick all the ripe limes, lemons and mandarins
  • tuck the seedlings away in their house
  • put the shovel and secateurs close to the garage entrance
  • admire my winter garden while it still looks good . . . because next week it may all be under water
  • open the doors of the house to give it a big dose of fresh air before we hunker down

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What’s quite good about this Sustainability Wench bizzo, is that if the shops shut, I can:

The hardest bit will be keeping the small fry entertained.

Using Up ALL of the Apples

16 Jun

My friend Kàren looked out my kitchen window the other day and noticed the ‘rustic’ display of windfall apples in our backyard from the tree next door. We’ve just had considerable rain which has really helped the apples look revolting on the ground.  ‘They’d be perfect for apple cider vinegar’ said she. So the seed was planted in my head.

This is what the apples looked like:

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The tree next door is very big – it hasn’t been pruned for years. Consequently, the apples fall quite a distance and either impale themselves on the corrugated iron fence, smash on the little concrete pad, annoyingly placed right below the tree on our side, or the lucky ones fall into the Herb Tyres or onto the grass. I’ve managed to brew a few bottles of preserves out of some of them, but didn’t think there was any hope for the rest.

After some Googling, I found this recipe that suited my needs. There were others that didn’t include adding existing vinegar, although they seemed to take much longer to brew. I used lots of medium sized jars because I didn’t have large jars, and it’s silly to spend money when you can make do. I also used lots of chunks of good bits of apple, not just the peel and cores. There’s no conventional hot water cupboard at our house, so I hope that on top of my kitchen cupboard will be warm enough.

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