A nothing and everything weekend

9 August 2010
These past few mornings have been a real reminder that Winter is here and most mornings I sit at my computer in woolly slippers and at least three layers.  It's 10C now, yesterday it was 6C at this time, and when I go out to feed the animals, my breath comes streaming from my nostrils.  It's good to see your own breath before you; it's proof of life.  Not that we need such proof, we have our daily tasks to show us every day that life, and the way we have chosen to live it, is full of life affirming actions, organic growth and the constant productive forces that make up a simple life.

Back inside again and I light the heat under the soaked oats already in their pot and waiting to be cooked for breakfast.  We rarely have the same breakfast two mornings in a row.  Saturday it was bacon and eggs, yesterday we had porridge. Some mornings it will be poached eggs on toast, the next, tea and toast.  It depends on what we have too much of or what needs to be eaten.  It's cold inside now, not the coldness of outside, but cold enough to yearn for an open fire.  We have reverse cycle air-conditioning, but I'd rather freeze than use it.  I am hoping that by next Winter we'll have enough money to install a wood burning combustion stove.  In my future, I can see warm days and nights knitting in front of that fire and the thought of it warms me now, just enough.  It also makes me think of Bernadette.

As the day warms up we both move silently towards our tasks for the day.  Hanno is erecting climbing frames for the new cucumbers and beans, digging up sweet potato and fertilising the gardens with blood and bone and seaweed tea.  I am writing, cooking and knitting.  Yes, this is still the jumper I said would be ready for Hanno at the end of June.  I'm just finishing shaping the arms on the front of it, the back is done so I only have the two sleeves to go.  As soon as that is finished I'm onto some other knitting that I'm planning out now.  Actually, we have some big things happening here that I'm not quite ready to tell you about.  Be patient, my friends, all will be revealed soon.  Just know that I'm smiling almost all the time.

I forgot to take photos of the garden until late in the afternoon, so these photos are darker than usual.  You'll be able to see the three mounds where Hanno has planted three zucchinis, there are new bok choy plants as well as beans, tomatoes, lettuces, radishes and cucumbers.  The last of the cabbages was eaten this weekend and now we're getting ready for Spring and Summer.  Life goes on.

I made a loaf of bread for lunch on Saturday but yesterday it was scones - plain and with dates.  We have plenty of our backyard tomatoes for sandwiches at the moment and these simple lunches, with a cup of black tea, fill us until our evening meal.  And that reminds me, Gabrielle is sending me some of her sourdough starter and that should be in the mail today.  What a thoughtful and exciting gift!  Click here to go to her very interesting website, Beechworth Sustainability.  Thank you Gabrielle.

A few days ago Laurienna asked for the apple cake recipe I made last week.  I make up most of my recipes as I go depending on what's in the fridge and pantry, so even though I've probably shared an apple cake recipe with you before, this will be different.  Most cakes are a mixture of butter with sugar, add eggs (one at a time), and when fluffy and light, add the dry ingredients - flour and your flavourings.  I know most cook books say that baking is a science and not to stray from your recipes, but I always do and it generally gives me delicious cakes.  So reduce the sugar or eggs if you want to, add cinnamon (I didn't have any), add more apples, experiment.  Be bold!


Cake filling
2 granny smith apples - peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon butter + cinnamon if you have it
Combine the above and cook in a small saucepan for about five minutes with the lid on.  Remove from heat and cool. When cool, cut up a small handful of pecans.

180 grams/6ozs room temperature butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not vanilla flavouring - throw that out, it's not good for you)
4 eggs at room temperature

2 cups SR flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder OR 2 cups of plain flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder
enough milk to make a thick batter - depending on your flour and the humidity, between ½ - 1 cup.

In a mixing bowl add butter and sugar and cream it.  Creaming is beating the living daylights out of the ingredients to incorporate air.  When you cream butter and sugar, it becomes lighter in colour, and fluffy.

Add vanilla, then add eggs, one at a time.

Take the bowl off the mixer, fold in the flour by hand and a little bit of the milk. When all the flour is mixed in, add more milk until you have a nice thick cake batter.  Add half the mix to a cake tin, I used a round springform tin, then sprinkle on some crushed pecans and the apples.  Cover that layer with the rest of the batter.  Sprinkle pecans on the top.

Bake on 180C/350F for about 35 - 40 minutes or until the cake is brown on the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (with no uncooked batter on it).

It seems to me that Sunday is the perfect day for baking.  When I was a girl it was common to smell the roasting legs of lamb and apple cakes wafting through the air on Sunday.  Nowadays it doesn't happen much and I wonder what our neighbours think when they smell cakes, bread and meat being cooking at our place.  Maybe they don't sense the invisible nature of it. I guess most people now aren't used to taking in the natural environment and noticing different aromas that surround them.

At the end of our day we had a simple dinner of crumbed fish from the local fish co-op, coleslaw made from the last backyard cabbage and spicy potato wedges made with our home grown potatoes, still in their jackets.  A glass of water each helped wash it all down.  There was a little apple cake still there but neither of us wanted any dessert.

It still amazes and delights me, even after all this time, that our weekends, once filled with more public and expensive entertainment and leisure, now satisfy and nurture us with their productivity and involvement in ordinary activities and work.  We made a choice many years ago to leave what is superfluous to our needs behind.  We have not yet regretted that decision; I doubt we ever will.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that this week will be a good one for all of us.   Take care, friends.