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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Free Patterns For New Arrivals

I have been knitting up a storm.
We are expecting a new arrival at the beginning of April.
I am discovering the joys of top down knitting (no sewing! he he)
And this little sock pattern is a big winner. 
Every sock knitter has some left overs for these!
The little cardigan is from a free Ravelry pattern here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Don't Mean To Alarm You But...

I don't mean to alarm you but.....
I'd like to give you a personal account of chemicals and your food.
There is a local farmer I know and to his credit he is trying some alternative methods in agriculture but his farm which has been owned for five or six generations also still uses chemicals and he likes to point out, and rightly so, there are chemicals and there are chemicals.
(I should point out these are not his sheep they are merely for decorative illustration of our purposes and blog ascetics.) 

The shearer is pretty sensitive to smell and even more so that we are chemical free at home and in garden. The more chemicals, and even scents, regardless of how natural they are, will cause a degree of loss to your sense of smell. Again, the old adage, all things in moderation. 
He was shearing the other week and as the sheep passed from the shearers they were penned below the shed where farm workers were spraying the sheep with a systemic chemical. It's important that sheep be treated for lice and fly strike. As the wind gusted it blew the chemical and the shearer certainly smelt it and was aware of slight tingling about his mouth and nostrils.
When he raised the issue with the farmer he was treated in a very off hand manner ( "I can't smell it" )and when he was pressed for the chemical specs was handed the torn off label from the bucket. As far as the farmer was concerned it was completely safe and if the shearer didn't like it he was free to leave.
Well of course everyone is free to leave but regardless of who you are as an employer, you have a duty of care and that is the law, but I'm not getting into that in this post.

The shearer brought home the label and looked up the specs. What the farmer didn't know is that the shearer has had a lot of chemical handling training. He wasn't looking up anything anecdotal, he only accessed the company's specification sheet. It turns out that this "perfectly safe" chemical is incredibly toxic to a huge range of animal species but particularly to water/marine animals and carries special warnings to prevent the chemical entering any water ways or run offs. The sheep must be withheld for a minimum of  two months before butchering and the wool must not be handled for a minimum of six months. The fact that it is systemic means that it is taken into the system. Protective clothing and eye wear are supposed to be worn and the area well ventilated.
The farmer's own son was spraying this chemical on without protection.

Now my point is this....
Chemicals like insecticides are sometimes necessary in our mono-agri businesses and I think Australia does a pretty good job with the regulations BUT what is the point if those using the chemicals don't know what they are using or how to administer them. The scientists have done the tests and the math and come up with the with holding periods and the danger points but it is only as safe as the user who reads it. 
If a well known and well educated property owner can be so ignorant can we have faith that the food is safe? 

I don't mean to add another notch to your paranoia but I encourage you to try to understand the source of your food and grow as much as you can. Always question and do not follow like sheep just because the guy up front says it's safe. Just because a chemical doesn't have an overwhelming smell doesn't make it safe. And I certainly don't want my man working in a hazardous chemical environment.

This goes for the ordinary householder too. Please for your family's sake try to avoid chemicals and if you can't please be absolutely sure of what you are doing and read ALL the directions including how to dispose of equipment. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Creating Unique Gifts With Red Bubble

part of a series to count you down for a homemade Christmas

During the past week I have got stuck in and made the annual preserved peel and I have trays and trays of golden stickiness drying all over the place. In a couple of days I will toss the pieces in castor sugar and store in airtight glass jars. Some will be used for the Christmas baking and while some will be stored for a years supply, a portion will be set aside in small attractive jars for Christmas presents. I know a certain chef who looks forward to the annual peel preserving quite keenly, not for baking but for snacking on. 
The juice has been turned into cordials, some for our supply but mostly for gourmet hampers for Christmas presents. It is such a good feeling to produce from your own harvest and make really delicious treats for sharing at Christmas. 

My next annual make has just been completed also.
Every year I make a calendar from the best of the blog photos throughout the year.
It is available for public purchase and I find it really great for far flung family members as they are easy to post. If you would like to do a calendar for family too I am happy to recommend Red Bubble. The quality and production are so professional and very attractive. 

I have also produced a Tasmanian calendar this year from our visits around the State.
If you would like to have a look at the calendars click on the links below each photo.
To make your own calendar it is very simple to upload your photos from file but make sure they are saved in the largest format. Red Bubble does give recommended specs but the bigger the better resolution.
Give it some thought now as it may take you a few days of fiddling and gathering of images and then you can order and have them shipped in time for Christmas giving.
You know what else is really cool (and super organising), you can also use your own images and Red Bubble can help you create your own unique Christmas Cards.

I will keep prompting you at times from now until Christmas to help you pace yourself and prepare for a home made Christmas that is stress free.

The calendars may be viewed any time by clicking the links as well at the top of the page under the blog banner.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Vanilla Extract

At the end of the last post discussing preparations for hand made gifts I mentioned making vanilla extract.
I was in fact away interstate at the time but I got back last night so here is a bit of a run down on how I have got my extract under way.

A woman in one of my face book groups bought in some bulk vanilla pods as it is much cheaper and was selling off her excess. They worked out to be 0.50 each so I bought a very large bundle. I figured that I would make some extract and maybe some vanilla sugar for gifts and even giving a plain old bean is a lovely present on it's own or in a hamper. 

As far as proportions go I used 
40 beans which was about 150g 
to 750 ml of vodka (3 cups)

I snipped the beans in 2-3cm lengths (1")
and placed them in a glass screw top jar with the vodka
Now give a bit of a stirring shake daily and let it macerate away for a couple of months.
Closer to Christmas I will strain through a coffee filter paper in a strainer, the same way I do my infused oils for salves.

Now I'm on the hunt for bottles....
This could be my source if I fail to find any suitable through second hand means.

So far I estimate that I will get at least 20 bottles of 30ml sized extract that has a breakdown cost of $2.50 per bottle not including any cost I might incur buying the bottles.
This makes a very reasonable and charming gift for friends, teachers and neighbours.
Feels good to have the Christmas gifts under way.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Home made Christmas Planning

A hand made Christmas does not happen overnight and even though it sounds early and you hate the way retailers start hanging all the trappings, start making a list of possible presents you would like to achieve this year along with any decorating activities and baking. This way you will be able to time plan it.

I only mention this now because there are some things that really do need quite a few weeks to cure.
You really need to make soap now as it needs 6-8 weeks to cure and harden.
There are plenty of tutorials and there is even mention on this blog too (type "soap" in the search box to the side)
Soap is always appreciated by male and female alike and if you make a very basic soap later I'll remind you about crocheting a string bag and turning it into a great gift for gardeners.

If you are planning to give Christmas cakes, those can be made now too and it's a good time to get yours under way as well, that way you can be "feeding" it weekly with a drizzle of scotch or brandy etc for a lovely moist flavoursome cake.

Trouble is you have to resist cutting them!

And the only reason I suggest doing your lemon peel now is because it is plentiful and in peak season. The peel not only comes in handy for your Christmas baking but it makes wonderful gifts in little bags with a ribbon or pretty little jars. You've heard me go on a couple of times about lemon peel before so I'll leave you to check out that post too.

One last thing that I am preparing now for Christmas is home made vanilla essence. I have bought some vanilla beans in bulk at just 0.50 each and a bottle of vodka. I am going soak/macerate the beans in the alcohol and then decant into little bottle and label for gifts this year. As this will take some weeks it's a good time to get this started this month.
You can check out a post here

Monday, October 7, 2013

Home of the Artisan

There is a little cafe in the township of Longford (Tasmania) making a quiet sensation and the secret cannot be kept for long.
By day a very cool cafe with great coffee (Ritual) and daily offerings of savoury muffins of pumpkin/spinach/feta/pinenut served with Bill's red capsicum relish, beautiful old fashioned style biscuits and genuine Portuguese custard tarts (I'm talking oh-so-real-butter!) just to name a few of the delectable. Lunch is seasonal and ever changing, most of the ingredients sourced from within a few kilometres.
Originally the cafe was the old apothecary of Longford and some of the original shelving lines the walls laden with Tasmanian Gourmet Kitchen preserves and gourmet nougat, hand made gifts and accessories. 

By night,
and it is only on a Thursday night,
it becomes a quiet intimate candle lit restaurant.
The menu is simple, seasonal and Tasmanian produce inspired.

The night we dined I was enchanted by the spring bouquets and the candlelight reflecting through the beautiful green water glasses. We chose to enjoy two course; a main and a dessert.
I chose confit duck leg with baby spinach, cherry jus and pomme Anna.

...and for dessert 

A poached pear in a woody flavoured syrup of cinnamon and spice served with an amazing egg-nog ice cream and rapadura sugar topping....

Fine dining without the pretence and the price.
Bookings are a must and do ring early to avoid disappointment as they are routinely booked out well in advance. 

59 Wellington St Longford Tasmania
(03) 6391 2042
Mon-Wed 09.00-16.30
Thurs 09.00-21.00
Fri 09.00-16.30

Home of the Artisan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 4, 2013

Books/Marjorie Bligh - Living Better Oct '13 Part IV

The final part post about our Living Better group meeting....
(I told you it was a big one!)
At the time of our meeting last week, Marjorie Bligh had just passed away at the age of 96. She was described by many as a housewife superstar. If you google her name there is a wealth of images and information about this woman lesser known outside of Tasmania and certainly belonging to a previous generation, yet her wisdom and advice is still as valuable and pertinent today.

She wrote many books and the one that own as seen above is called Homely Hints on Everything. Jo leafed through the book sharing wonderful snippets from egg preservatives to lemon tree pruning to enamel paint...

"Trouser tip: Sew a couple of buttons to the inside back of bottom of leg. The shoe or boot then rubs on the button and not the trouser hem."

As Jo read us these little snippets, Katherine was able to expand further on the life of Marjorie Bligh as she had read her biography. 

Katherine told us about her home famous landmark home in Campbeltown called "Climar" (the first three letters of her husband's and her name-a common practice here in the 1950s). It was the dream home she built with her first husband. The unique fence of musical notes is from "The Melody of Love".
She was a resourceful woman who wasted nothing and made homemaking a mission of passion and love.

"The Weed Forager's Handbook" was again a favourite reference book at the meeting. It is written by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland and is an Australian guide to edible and medicinal weeds. The references pictures and drawings are particularly helpful and clear and pertinent.

I also brought along Australaian Poultry Aug/Sept '13 issue. Articles included; identifying predators, best practice worming and feeding and biosecurity in fowl yards.
I don't buy every issue but always find something interesting a few times a year. It is also a good resource for finding local breeders or clubs and sourcing equipment and supplies.

"The Hedgerow Handbook" is a new addition to my library and though it is distinctively British, it features many of the plants that were introduced into Tasmania by the first English settlers into a climate not dissimilar. Hedgerows are a common feature in rural areas here. As a resource for recipes and remedies it is an interesting and welcome addition and I'm sure we'll be referencing it often.

The Living Better group meets on the last Thursday night of each month except December from 7-9pm upstairs at the Launceston Workers Club.
It is a free and informal group.
All are welcome.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Living Better Oct '13 Part III - Cindy Shares

Cindy brought in a bottle of her Worcester Sauce for a taste test.
I was extremely impressed with the taste and the simplicity of the recipe.
Cindy believes the secret of this sauce lies in the apple and she used foraged apples from the side of the road which are typically less sweet than the commercially grown ones.

Here is the recipe....
It was from a CWA book and credit goes to Maty Coleman Rosebud Branch VIC.

Worcester Sauce
1kg of apples
1/4 clove garlic
1 cup salt
4 1/2 Lt of vinegar
100g ground allspice
100g peppercorns
100g whole ginger
2 fresh red chillies
1 1/2 cups treacle

Cut up the apples and garlic coarsely. Cover with water and boil to a pulp, then strain through a colander into a large pan.
Gradually add the vinegar to the strained liquid. Add all the other ingredients except the treacle and boil for 2 1/2 hours.
Add the treacle and boil for another 30 minutes.
Strain and bottle. Store in a cool dark place. Keeps well.
Makes about 2 cups.

Cindy also shared her newspaper seedling pot technique.
I should have taken more photos of course.
It was a very simple technique and when one knows the knack you could easily make dozens for your seedlings. Very timely for this time of year although there was much lamenting around the table at the sheer amount of rain that has turned everyone's yards into swamps and bogs. It will be some time yet before the planting can really get going.

Nothing like a taste test and a hands on activity to inspire a group. If you are local and have been thinking of joining our group, just pop along. It's free and we discover lots of diverse things. Even more in the next post!
Thanks Cindy x

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