Sorry for the delay. I usually start uploading photos on Sunday and I’m ready to publish my post on Wednesday. This week I just didn’t get around to it and now it all feels like ancient history but here it is anyway…
What’s in the garden?
Spring is almost here. Pictured below are the first eggplant and capsicum to grow on the plants that we grew in the greenhouse last summer.
Spring is almost here. I found out the hard way that it hasn’t arrived yet. I decided last week that it was warm enough to start planting the summer crop and unfortunately, I lost my pumpkin seedlings and a few bush bean seedlings to frost.
We’ve had a lot of rat and mouse damage in the last couple of months. I set some snap traps and caught about 10 mice earlier in the winter. But now, despite that fact that I’ve scrubbed the traps clean, they seem to be wary of them. My rat traps haven’t caught the pesky rat that is destroying the beetroot and carrot seedlings. It’s getting so hungry now that it’s started to eat the fully grown carrots and the lettuce seedlings. I am persisting with the live rat traps for another week then I’ll have to bring out the big guns and try something else.
We divided the chicken pen in half and put the coop at the front with access to both pens through two little doors at the back. That means that we can let them eat all the grass and weeds on one side and then close off their access to that side and let them into the other side to eat the insects, weeds and grass there. They’ve done a good job of cleaning up the left side so I’m going to swap them over in the next couple of weeks.
The banana’s are still green but the king parrots are eating them so I’ve cut them down and I’ll string them up in the kitchen to finish ripening.
What’s on the menu?
Slow cooked lamb stuffed with rosemary and garlic, pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, carrot, broccoli, stock. My lovely neighbour Bec came over and enjoyed this delicious meal with me.
We love vegetarian dinners and often prepare vegetarian pasta, stir-fry, soups and curries etc. This year, however, we are eating more of a paleo diet with a lot of meat because it’s healthy and it’s filling when you aren’t eating much grain.
At the end of last year, I bought Izzy a bunch of tins of baked beans. She was talking about becoming a vegan and she had eaten baked beans at someones house and said that she liked them. So I bought some cans and then Etienne had the same idea and he bought some cans. We ended up with about six cans. Then she realised that they were not a good meal to eat in the morning before school (for well documented reasons.) So they sat in the cupboard all year. In the last few weeks, I have been making gourmet baked beans. First I fry onion and garlic. Then I add cherry tomatoes (which have grown right through the winter) capsicum, celery, carrot, a dash of homemade sweet chili sauce, a dash of homemade red wine vinegar and lots of fresh herbs from the garden. I simmer this for about ten minutes and then I add the can of baked beans. Simple and delicious.
Another slow cooked miracle. This time it’s pork with lots of thyme, oregano, white wine, stock and vegetables. I used a shop bought stock powder that I keep in the cupboard for times when I don’t have home made stock. Winter is a great time for making stock because we can boil it for hours on the top of the combustion heater.
Activities of the week
I’ve been dyeing shirts using avocado pits. The colour is an awesome dusty pink. I soak the shirts in soy milk, which acts as a mordant, then I boil them in the avocado pit water on the combustion heater for a few hours. The end result is a great colour that lasts for years.
The lack of rainfall is effecting the local wildlife. We’re seeing a lot of wallabies on our driveway and down near the orchard, looking for greener pastures. When we’re driving into town, we see wallabies and birds gathering on the sides of the roads eating the green grass that grows in the shade cast by the trees. Over the years, people in our valley have brought us injured wallabies that been hit by cars and if their injuries are treatable we call WIRES, a wildlife rescue service that has a couple of volunteers in our valley, or sometimes we take them into Keen St Vet (depending on the seriousness of the injury). If their injuries are too extensive, Etienne euthanises them. Now, hypothetically, there was a time in the past when we may or may not have consumed roadkill ourselves. I can’t comment on this because there are licensing rules in regards to the possession or consumption of native animals. We support these rules because they’re necessary and important for the protection of wildlife. However, it seems like a shame to waste fresh, sustainable, organic, free range meat when the animal is already dead! Now days, if we have a dead animal we might cook it for the dogs or bury them under the banana trees providing a good source of blood and bone for the plants. What I can tell you, is that Etienne’s barbecued organic, free range non-native cane toad legs taste similar to chicken kebabs.
All my life, I’ve been aware of the environmental consequences of mass consumption, so I’ve never been a big consumer. That being said, I’ve always loved a good op shop bargain. I get a lot of value out of my possessions; my camera, laptop, shoes etc. But this year, I’ve found more happiness without buying anything (ok, you all know that’s a lie – I was super excited when I bought a block of cheese recently, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) In fact, this whole consumer lifestyle is a bit of a trick. It assumes that you buy a new dress and that will make you happy, But what I’ve found is that the new dress only stays new for a short period of time and then I’m on the hunt again. This year, I changed my mindset and just didn’t think about things and whether or not I needed them. It’s been eight months and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I just changed my thought pattern and instead I found that this simple life is rich in personal time, health, and happiness. That being said, we are not minimalists because we need a lot of paraphernalia to be semi self-sufficient. There are specific tools and equipment that are needed when you are making things rather than buying the finished product. So, we tend store things that we use periodically and also things that are given to us that will be useful in our quest to live frugally with as little impact on the planet as possible i.e. honey extractor, sewing machine, mechanical tools, brush cutter, rope, glue gun… Our neighbours laugh when they see how Etienne has reused things that they were throwing away. For example. one neighbour gave us a bunch of old steel bed frames which have become the gates on the goat stable.
$933 left in the self-sufficiency fund.
I purchased four new tyres for the ute in the last month so the total cost was around $440 (bought two tyres and then two more a couple of weeks later).
We haven’t received the bill from the equine vet yet, but it’s expected to be around $300. Madi, our old horse who died, was buried for free by a neighbour, Christan. He buried Madi with his excavator and in exchange, I’m giving his lovely son some free maths tutoring.
We paid for Izzy’s Year 11 ski trip with the FTB money that we’ve been receiving this year. We put it in a separate account so that it didn’t get mixed up with the self-sufficiency money and only spent it on Izzy when she needed it (we didn’t want her to miss out on the Year 11 ski trip with all her friends, just because we want a year off.)
Fuel is expensive so we are hardly using the car at all.
$933 left – It seems the end of our little experiment is near. It’s been a fantastic journey and I’m going to try to make this last bit of money get us through until mid September, if possible. But soon, I’ll have to make a decision about whether we dip into more of our savings or whether to get back on the treadmill of life… Whatever happens, I’m very grateful that I’ve had all this time for a deep and lengthy contemplation of this wonderful life I’ve been blessed enough to live. I feel calm, relaxed and connected to nature and to other people. That feeling of connection is immeasurable and invaluable. So, lovely people, if you want some kind of advice based on the lessons I’ve supposedly learned this year, I would say: wherever you are and whatever you are doing, take time to recognise all your blessings, and make time to cherish your family and friends.