Etienne is in Mongolia for a month and Izzy is on her Year 11 snow excursion so, with both of them away, I’m up every morning at 7am to let the dogs out of their bedroom – which is our bathroom, and make my own cup of tea (usually Etienne brings me a cup of tea in bed in the mornings). By 7.30, the animals are making a racket, waiting to be fed. I try to relax and drink my tea in bed but once Candy sees that the dogs have been let out onto the veranda, she starts her usual ritual of screaming ‘MMMMAAAAAAAAAA’ at the top of her lungs constantly. The sheep, who has decided that Candy is in her flock, then realises breakfast must be coming and jumps on the bandwagon, adding her loud low-pitched “BBBAAAAA” to the chorus. The chickens, who are housed at the front of our house, soon add to the din, squarking for their breakie. So, I sit in bed, frowning and trying to concentrate on my book which I am intent on reading while I drink my morning cup of tea. By 8am, I’m all rugged up and out in the paddock, talking to the animals like a crazy woman. “Good morning ladies, are you ready for breakfast?”
What’s in the garden?
We’ve got lots of veggies in the garden, but not a lot of fruit: we pick a couple of strawberries everyday, but there aren’t enough to make anything with them. We’ve got lots and lots of oranges and mandarines. I like mandarines but they aren’t filling so I’m having porridge or toast for breakfast at the moment, followed by a mandarine.
Jicama don’t usually grow that big. That is a really, really big bulb. I thought it might be old and brown but it was young and crisp. I boiled some, roasted some and put some in the casseroles.
What’s on the menu?
I’m posting meals from the last two weeks.
I made this pork casserole twice last week because the first time I made it, I put too much of our homemade apple cider vinegar which is really strong. The second time, I put a third of the amount and it tasted really good.
Gratin (pictured above) is usually prepared by putting sliced potato, sliced onion, and diced garlic on an oven tray, adding a cup of milk and popping it in the oven for an hour (stirring a few times). Remove from oven, add some eggs (depending on how many potatoes were used) and salt and pepper, stirring through and grating gruyere cheese (tasty cheese) on top. The bake is popped back in the oven for twenty minutes and once the cheese is starting to brown it is finished cooking. We don’t have potatoes, milk or cheese so I used pumpkin, sweet potato and vegetable stock. I used in a lot of garlic and it was delicious even without the dairy. Izzy loved it.
I made aioli using a recipe from the internet. It required a cup of olive oil. I used a cup of 100% cold pressed olive oil. It was very bitter. I was quite disappointed but after twenty-four hours the bitterness has softened enough to be able to use a little bit at a time. I have been experimenting with adding to salads after I put on the dressing. It’s not too bad because it adds a garlicky flavour but it isn’t great.
Made marmalade, lovely and light, not quite set but good enough.
This was probably the most amazing dish I’ve made this year. A fellow blogger, Irene, who grew up in Mexico but lives in Canada, published a Mexican recipe on her blog. I adapted the idea to our ingredients and made my own version: In the bottom of the slow cooker, I placed a cup of chickpea, lots of carrots, some pumpkin, six bay leaves and lots of sprigs of oregano and thyme (as pictured above). I covered it with a cup of water and half a cup of white wine. On top of that I placed some pork pieces. I sprinkled on a pinch of salt and some pepper. I put on the slow cooker and left it. When I checked it in the afternoon I decided to cover the top in diced pumpkin. It was mouthwatering. A friend, Kel, came over for a wine in the afternoon, and when she stuck her head in the door she said “oh my God, what are you cooking?”
Chocolate brownies. I used honey, cocoa, vegan butter, eggs, stoneground organic plain flour, stoneground organic wholemeal flour and rice flour. The texture was really good.
Roast pork pieces, jicama, pumpkin and sweet potato with rosemary, salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil (not much because there is a lot of fat in the meat. Delicious.
Activities of the week
Shopping week 30: organic, stoneground wholemeal and plain flour, rice flour, tea, onions, garlic, sweet potato (69c/kg at Farmer Charlies how could I say no!!!), apples ($1.69 per kg), 2 tins of diced tomato.
Shopping week 31 – jar of mustard, washing powder, kitchen brush. On Saturday after I dropped Izzy at the bus, I bought a block of Nimbin tasty cheese.
Self sufficiency tips
Soak the grain. Every morning when I feed the animals, I refill their buckets and cover the grain in water. The grain absorbs the water and begins to sprout which means that a lot of the goodness (i.e. the amino acids) becomes more bio-digestible. From a financial perspective, it takes a lot less grain to fill them up. So I am giving the chickens one and half kilos of grain, but I start with less than a kilo of pre-soaked dry grain.
It is important to restore calcium to the chickens if they need it. Chickens lose a lot of calcium through laying eggs. Most of that calcium is in the eggshell. If your eggshells are really thin, crush the eggshells and put them in the scrap dish to feed back to the chickens. A couple of months ago our chooks had a rest from laying eggs. When they started to lay again, the shells were very fragile and brittle. As I used them, I crushed the shells into powder and put them in the chicken scraps to feed back to the chickens. Over the following weeks the eggshells got stronger and stronger. Even though they are completely normal now, I still crush the shells for the chooks to avoid them ensure they maintain a good intake of calcium.
Speaking of grain, as you know, we bought twenty-five bags of farmer hobby mix (mixed grain) to feed the animals this year. Well, all of the animals get some grain every day so we’ve almost used up all the bags. We’ve only got three bags left. I opened one last week and it had some mould growing on the top portion of grain. I’m not sure if the other two bags will be edible.
More about heating: Well, we have the wood fire stove but the key to comfortable indoor temperatures is actually in the ergonomic design of the house. Summer and winter, I’m always appreciative of the great insulation provided by strawbale walls. In winter, the high windows which run the whole length of the house, let in a lot of warmth. The strawbale walls are excellent insulation and capture the heat of the day to make the house warm. In summer, the position of the sun is different so that it doesn’t shine in the windows, and the bales capture the cool in the house so that for most of the day it is a few degrees cooler inside the house than outside.
The above video was supposed to be a commentary about the ergonomic features of the house, but just became a tour of the lounge room. LOL (My kids are going to watch this clip and make fun of me. Brit, Izzy and I looooove teasing each other- and let’s face it, there’s some good material in that video!)
I’m enjoying being home by myself. Like most mums, my family is the most important thing in the world to me. My life is devoted to their happiness. I prioritise them above myself. I compromise myself to make sure they get what they want and need. I put all my energy into looking after them and I feel like I don’t have a lot of energy left for myself. So, now that I’m here alone, I’m enjoying the freedom to do what I want, when I want to do it. Living a frugal, semi-self-sustaining lifestyle means preparing food from scratch (as scratch as it gets, people!) and that is very time consuming. But, with everyone away, I don’t have to cook or clean up after other people. I don’t have to do anything for anyone else. I read a whole book on Sunday. Heaven! That being said, I’ve had loads of lovely visitors making sure I’m not lonely so I’ve been making lots of cups of tea and enjoying some good wine time.
Etienne and I have always valued our periods of separation from each other. It sounds strange but we pretty much make sure that most years one of us goes somewhere for at least a month. There are two main benefits to this:
- It seems to me that we have become ‘Cathienne.’ Sometimes, I don’t know where I end and he begins. We’ve spent so much time together that we have literally grown together – we share a lot of the same values and have identical opinions on lots of things. So when we’re apart, we get the chance to reconnect with ourselves, to remember who we are as individuals. We both love that.
- It’s like a honeymoon when we reconnect, refreshed and eager to spend time together. We have new discoveries to share with each other and that leads to lots of quality time spent together listening to each other -really listening! Sounds great, but it’s not all marshmallows and roses. There’s often a settling-in period where we have to practice compromising and old issues bubble to the surface. We basically have to find our rhythm together again.
Tiger Man by Eka Kurniawan
Tiger Man won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. My theory is that the Man Booker International Award is not just designed to reward the best writers around the world. The prize is about exposing authors who write amazing stories that allow us to inhabit an unfamiliar world- often another culture. The authors can be non-English speaking and from cultures that are unique and complex. Sometimes the authors are mainstream westerners who are exploring alternative aspects of our own culture such as people who are misunderstood or represent difference. These novels are not necessarily heavy with eloquent, intoxicating prose but rather they are books that make you think, books that tell us something about our humanity. These are the sorts of books that I can get engrossed in.
Tiger Man tells the story of Margio, a young man living in a small village in Indonesia, who believes he is inhabited by a tiger that forces him to kill his neighbour. The story begins at the end and then goes back to explore the life histories of all the characters involved until it slowly leads to the inevitable conclusion. It is a story about violence, in particular domestic violence, in a community that condones it. It’s a sad and beautiful tale that I devoured in almost one sitting.