It's not easy being green

11 February 2008
I had a lovely day yesterday working away quietly in my home. Hanno was up on the roof cleaning 10 years worth of dirt off with Jens' pressure cleaner hose and as he stayed up there most of the day, I think he enjoyed every minute of it. I started off my day watching the end of a DVD one of the ladies here sent me. It was the BBC program It's Not Easy Being Green - 2 DVDs, eight programs. It's the true story of an English family who moved from a city to a small village in Cornwall on the road to a greener life. We started watching it the night before and I very really keen to see their progression from normal suburban family life to being self sufficient in water, electricity, biodiesel and much of their food. What a wonderful program! They installed a water wheel, solar and wind power, used water from their own spring, grew organic vegetables and kept pigs and chickens. None of which they'd done before. Their website is here with recipes, a great forum and lots of info.

I did the ironing when I finished watching and thought about that family while I worked. They were quite inspiring and when the DVD ended they were starting to conduct school groups through their farm to teach children the importance of a green lifestyle. That part is significant, I think. It's not just the doing of it, we have to be showing others what is possible and how we can all play a part, even if that part is small.

Our garden is looking pretty grim at the moment. Most of the garden beds are empty or just hold the last sad remnants of our summer garden. I cut into our last pumpkin yesterday, we are eating store bought tomatoes again and bitter, tasteless lettuces from the market. I even bought canned tomatoes to make some tomato and chilli relish! I usually have enough tomatoes to make sauce, whole tomatoes in jars and lots of relish but this summer's rain knocked the tomatoes on the head early in the season and we scraped by with fresh tomatoes for a short time and then started buying them from the store. I really dislike buying tomatoes because they are invariably perfect looking but lack taste. Nothing beats the fresh organic vegetables we grow in our backyard.

I started planting seeds yesterday afternoon. So far I have a tray of Siberian kale, a short bush variety of cucumber, zucchinis, pink farmstyle pumpkin - the seeds from a local friend, and sugarloaf cabbage. I'll go to Green Harvest during the week and see what goodies they have for the new season, and to the green grocer for organic potatoes to plant. I hope they have Dutch Creams as I fancy a garden bed full of them.

This is the recipe for the tomato and chilli relish:
  • 6 chillies, chopped finely - the type you choose will determine how hot the relish is
  • 1 large onion - finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 150 mls white vinegar
  • 1 kg (2.2lbs) tomatoes - I used canned tomatoes, chopped finely
  • large piece of fresh ginger - chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds

Sweat the onion and chilli in the oil, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until it comes to the boil and then simmer very slowly until it reduces in volume to give you a thick mix. It will thicken up more when it's cold. If you like a very thick relish, you can add a small amount of cornflour (2 tablespoons mixed in a little water) to the relish to thicken it. Make sure you cook it another minute after adding the cornflour.

Add the relish to clean hot jars. We will eat our three jars of relish in 4 or 5 weeks, so I didn't bother processing it. If I wanted to keep it in the stockpile cupboard for a few months, I would have added water to a large saucepan, placed a folded up tea towel on the bottom of the saucepan for the jars to rest on, carefully placed the jars in the water, made sure the water was over the top of the jars then brought the saucepan to the boil with the lid on. I would have kept the water on the boil for 45 minutes, then removed the jars to sit on the bench until they were cool enough to put in the cupboard. But my relish is now in the fridge and Hanno has already eaten about a quarter of one jar. It won't last long.


  1. Hi Rhonda, That relish looks delicious, not surprised it won't last long! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I didn't see "it's not easy being green" as I don't have a tv, but I have recently had the book (same title, goes with the series) out of the library, and it was a great resource, combined with a good read.Lots of humour too. This family are about 45 minutes from my bit of Cornwall!I've nearly finished reading 'Choosing Eden' so will be passing it on soon. Diana x

  2. I will have to see if my local library has either the DVD series or the book. Looks quite fascinating. Cornwall is on my list of places to visit too :)

  3. There was another excellent radio program on Background Briefing yesterday, coincidentally also subtitled "Its not easy being green".
    Here's the link if you want to listen -

    It discussed how "green" has just been hijacked as another first world commodity and warned about being wary of labels and claims about various "green" products. A particularly good discussion about the cloth vs disposable nappies debate - their conclusion was that it was probably more effective to carbon offset within your own home by investing in a better rated washing machine rather than agonise over which option was more environmentally friendly. Also a few eye openers about the airlines' carbon offset programs. A very thought provoking discussion, and a reminder that we shouldn't take everything we hear at face value.

  4. I liked the programme you mentioned but I think that you have a better balance. Self-sufficiency as they practice it is the the road to poverty. Its fine to butcher your own pig until you fall and cut your leg on the knife - who then is going to kill your pigs for you. It is better to have electric and proper sanitation etc. for everyone run by an authority and then do your bit from there. John Seymour did all this in the 70s anyway. Check him out.

  5. Hi Rhonda,

    Love your pumpkin. I harvested my first one for the season today so it's pumpkin soup for tea, with homemade bread rolls.

    I am having trouble with tomatoes too this year; the possums have eaten them all while green so I can't even bring them indoors to ripen. It's also very, very dry here still, so different from Sydney and further north.


  6. Hi,

    You mentioned earlier that you use your homemade soap to wash your hair instead of shampoo... How long have you been doing that? Did you have to wean your hair over to it? Have you noticed any difference in your hair? I'd like to go over to soap, but I'm too vain to run around with flat frizzled hair!

  7. That tv show is on here now in it's second cycle through the series. I really enjoy watching it. That waterwheet is wonderful and to have it generate enough power for all the lights in the house is just amazing!! I also thought the greenhouse is so very clever!

    They really seem to enjoy what they are doing and the lifestyle they are creating for themselves.

  8. Rhonda, could you clarify the way the Australian growing 'seasons' work, for those of us the other side of the world? You mention the end of the tomatoes, and then at the same time 'starting planting' which for those of us with one main growing period is a bit strange! If you felt inclined I'm sure many of us would be really interested to see how the practicalities of gardening at the other side of the world works :)

  9. I'll check out the program, it sounds interesting. So sorry about your garden, very disheartening when that happens and your forced to buy inferior produce. I'll try your relish recipe out in the spring. But I have one question, do you reuse the lids of your jars (the gingham lids) do you cover them in hot water to get them to reseal or how do you use them?

  10. Thanks for passing the book on, pebbledash.

    Marg, thanks for the link. I'll listen to it on Thursday when I have a bit more time.

    Lizzie, I've read all John Seymour's books. He had a lot of sensible things to say and lead a great life.

    Hope you get some rain soon, Kate.

    Rebekka, I'll be doing a post on shampoos, soap and creams soon.

    A second series! Wow, I'd like to see that, Jacran. Enjoy. : )

    Hello Sarah, I'll explain our seasons soon - which are all over the place and anything from snowy mountain tops to hot tropics. I'll slip it in when I do my next gardening post.

    Hi Niki. Yes, I reuse the lids about 6 times before I buy new ones. I haven't tried to replace these gingham lids yet though. They don't need to reseal as they would for canning. When you store them in the fridge, it's enough that they're covered and airtight. They'll last 4 or 5 weeks, easily, in the fridge as the tomatoes are acid, and there is enough sugar and vinegar in the recipe to help with short term preserving. If I was to store them in the cupboard, I would do a full water bath preserving process with them.

  11. Thanks for the relish recipe Rhonda Jean. I have just made some using our gaden chilli and tomato. Yum.



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