31 January 2013

Homemakers and disaster survival

I think homemakers could play a vital part in helping people survive a disaster. When disaster strikes, homemakers, mothers, fathers and carers come to the fore. We are not among those running to the supermarket to stock up when the conditions are dangerous and cash registers and ATMs are not working. We rely on our stockpiles or our well-stocked pantries instead. We've already cleared the toys and gardening tools from the backyard before the storm hits, and without being told to do it. Homemakers think, we're used to doing all these things, we know our homes inside out - we know how they work, we know the dangers lurking, and where the torches and candles are. We know it's vital to conserve energy and water, we have our refilled water bottles ready, a couple of different ways to prepare food as well as food that can be eaten cold or raw. We'll be able to keep everyone fed. When you know how to feed one family, you know what's needed to feed a neighbourhood. 

Our main jobs in disaster relief could be to help people prepare as much as they can and maybe even to help resettle the home when the disaster is over. The SES, police, the military, public servants, transport and electricity and water authorities, they can get on with it during the disaster, we would carry out the important task of getting homes set up to help everyone get through the crisis in their home, if emergency evacuations were not necessary.

We have to stop thinking about disasters as something that will never happen to us, and have emergency awareness and preparation as part of what we grow up learning about. If we continue to believe we'll never be involved in a catastrophe, when we are, we're not only unprepared, we're scared because we don't know what to do. If we plan for disasters and know how to respond, how to help not only ourselves and our families, but neighbours and the elderly too, we'll be ready for most things that could happen.

When you think about the skills most homemakers have, it seems to me that many of them would be ready for most emergencies. We are already set up for survival. We don't need anyone to hold our hand because the shops are closed, there is no power and the phones don't work. We have our homes set up for the production of food, bread, soap etc. Most of us could make an oil lamp or candles if they were needed. Most of us could stretch a meal for four to feed eight.  If we're prepared for all this and remain calm, it will increase everyone's changes of survival.

Our home management journals should contain a disaster survival plan. You can find Australian information here for a variety of emergency situations - before, during and after. No matter where you are in the world, Google information about your local procedures, it's different in every country and the information you need in your town may be different to that in the next town. Find out. Phone your local authorities and ask about disaster plans for floods, fires, earthquakes etc. Work out a safe evacuation route that will take you to a safe area or your local muster point. Print out the map, mark out a couple of different routes and discuss it with everyone in your family. Small children and the elderly may need to practise leaving the house and going directly to a designated area.

My job during a disaster (I created this job for myself) would be to find all the people driving and walking through swollen creeks and rivers, along with those who swim, surf and jet ski (or light fires) just for the fun of it and frogmarch them into an area where they'd get a clip in the ear and told to smarten themselves up. Then they'd be dispatched to work with the SES for the duration of the disaster. I'd be good at that.

The above is only slightly tongue in cheek.

I would love to see short disaster preparation courses set up in our communities - Preparing your family and home for a disaster. They could be run by any homemaker worthy of the title, in conjunction with the emergency authorities. They could co-incide with community classes on life skills, cooking from scratch, preserving, mending, sewing, baking, fermenting etc. I would like our governments to realise that as catastrophic climate events become more common, and that is the prediction, we need to develop the mindset to survive them, and for that to become part of our common knowledge. The disaster preparation alone only addresses part of the problem. The other problem, cutting down on our greenhouse emissions, will begin to be addressed, in part, when many more people bring production of common household goods back to their homes again - the life skills classes. We need to know more than how to shop for what we need.

What's happening in your neighbourhood? Are you as prepared as you'd like to be?


30 January 2013

I'm back! We're all safe and settling in

We finally got our phone and internet back this morning. What an incredible couple of days. Kerry, Sunny and Jamie arrived, not mid-afternoon as they expected, but at 9pm. I was starting to get worried. The roast chicken and vegies I had cooked for them was transferred to the fridge early in the evening and I sat in the lounge room knitting, listening to the wind and rain. They couldn't call me because the phones and internet were down but when I saw that first flash of light when the truck drove down the driveway, everything was fine again. I was so relieved to see them.

This is our little one lane, dead-end street. All that debris on the road surface was shaken from the trees during the fierce winds we had the other night. The larger branches had been removed.

Hanno had driven up with them and they were all exhausted. Even though they had a couple of friends to help pack the truck, it was up and down two stories with no lift, so they didn't finish until the evening. Then they had a 200km trip north in the rain. Poor little Jamie was asleep and Kerry carried him in, took off his shorts and let him sleep under a gently moving fan. They got their frozen foods into our freezer, packed their cold food in the Esky, had drinks and showers and everyone was in bed. We all were up at 5am the next morning because the truck had to be unpacked over at the new house and back at the depot at 9am. Hanno went with Sunny and Kerry to help unpack, Jamie was still asleep so it was just him and me. :- ) When he woke up, he came out to the kitchen, smiled when he saw me, put his arms out to be picked up, then decided to run through the house looking for Sunny and Kerry. When he didn't find them, he wanted to see the chooks, so we got some bread and went outside to feed them. He had a quick play outside with the sun shining, then we went inside for breakfast - blueberries, a piece of toast with Vegemite and a cup of milk. 

After breakfast, I changed and dressed him, and we read some books. He has a favourite book about cats and this time, he realised the ball of wool the cats are playing with in the book is the same wool that I use. So after saying "wool" about 20 times, we went on to the next book. It's wonderful to be with him at this stage of his life when he's learning so much. His dad came to pick him up after he returned the truck, Jamie gave me a big kiss and cuddle when he left and off he went to his new home. Kerry had some good news too. His work called to ask if he could come back to work early. He was supposed to go back tomorrow. He apologised and said he couldn't, that he'd just moved his family from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast and they hadn't organised the house yet. The woman then asked if he needed extra time at home to do that and offered him an extra week off to help get his family settled. Sunny was very pleased. It will be such a help to have him there for an extra week and for him to have the time to show Sunny the shops, beaches, libraries and church.

Thank you all for your comments and messages of love and support for us. We all appreciate it - every one of us. It's like living in a kind and caring neighbourhood were neighbours look out for each other. I wish all our real neighbourhoods where more like this but hopefully we can help change that in the future. I'll be back tomorrow to write about the importance of homemakers during disasters.


29 January 2013

We're safe !

Hello everyone
I'm At Kerry and Sunny's tapping this out on an iPhone because we've lost all phone and Internet access at our place. This is the second day it's been off. We've still got power but with Telstra and bigpond down here there is no way to do the blog till it's back up.
Kerry, Sunny and Jamie are here I'm at their home now. They are all fine.  Shane, Sarndra and Alex missed most of the rain because they were in New Zealand for a family reunion. They're back now and have no damage at their place.
I wanted to let you all know we're all safe and sound here. Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments. I miss you and will be back ASAP
Rhonda and Hanno xxx

28 January 2013

Weather stops the move

It was a typical day here yesterday although the summer sun was shaded by thick clouds and heavy rain. I love days like that, knowing that the rain will pour down, making me feel cosy and safe. I rose at 4am and checked the blog.  Nothing much to be done there so I had a chance to look in my Reader and go visit a few of my favourite bloggers. Emails were waiting too I answered about 10 of them then realised I could be there all day, so I went to the kitchen and put on some oats for breakfast. While they cooked, I went outside, talked to our blue parrot boarder Chiko, fed Hettie and then, with umbrella in hand, walked out across the wet grass to let the chooks out. They went a bit mental when they saw the umbrella - so I put it down while they ran passed me, then collected an egg and walked back inside.

Remember that parched backyard I took a photo of a few days ago. Well, this is it yesterday afternoon.

I love stirring food at the stove. It is a quiet and slow activity that allows me to think. I stood there stirring the porridge and thought about the rain falling on our roof, how it was cleaning out the creeks and rivers, filling up tanks and dams and how much we all rely on rain to keep us alive. Meteorologists are predicting increasing severe weather events due to climate change. There have been catastrophic summer floods here for the past three years. So as I stood there stirring, with the rain pelting down on the roof, I made a silent vow to cut back on everything that isn't necessary and to encourage others to do that too. With the hot porridge in a bowl, I poured on some milk and honey, made a cup of black tea and enjoyed my breakfast. Hanno was still in bed listening to the flood updates and enjoying the sound of rain on the roof.

This is our creek, it went from almost empty and stagnant, to this overnight. We can usually walk around where you can see the water. The bottom of the photo is at the level of our backyard so if it rose another couple of feet, we'd be flooded. Luckily, I can't see that happening.

We've had 421mm/16½ inches as of 3pm yesterday afternoon. Certainly enough to fill many rivers and dams and here, our tanks are full, the grass is turning green in front of our eyes and it's a magnificent boost for our fast approaching main vegetable planting. We had wind gusts overnight that sounded like freight trains rushing past. I hope it settles down today and that everyone to the north and south of us are safe.

And now my exciting news! Kerry, Sunny and Jamie are moving back here to the Sunshine Coast. Yesterday was to be the day, but it was too wet and dangerous to even think about it. So the move is on today, I think. Kerry has lined up a couple of friends to help pack the hired truck and Jens will help at this end. Hanno will travel down to the Gold Coast on the train this morning to help Sunny with her car. She's not used to driving on the highway and with Jamie and the wet conditions, Hanno offered his help to drive her here. So if all goes according to plan, the truck will be packed by about lunchtime, Hanno, Sunny and Jamie will drive up in the car and Kerry will follow in the truck. The'll all come here for something to eat and drink, unload some of their gear here in our big shed, then Kerry and Sunny will take the truck and car the few kilometres over to their new home. They're renting a house from a family friend about 15 minutes away. Jamie will stay here with us for the afternoon while Kerry and Sunny get everything settled in their new home.  :- )

I am so happy they'll be close. No more 400 km trips when we want to see them. We'll be able to help with Jamie if we're needed, they'll be there if we need them and we'll be close for Sunny while Kerry's away at work. He's working away two weeks on and two weeks off. We won't be living in each others' pockets, none of us want that, but we'll be close enough to offer help in the difficult times, to have family lunches every so often and to see Jamie grow up. And I'm sure all the other grandmas and grandpas will know how that feels.


26 January 2013

Australia Day

Happy Australia Day to all my fellow Australians! We're all lucky to live in this great country. I hope you have the chance to celebrate that today.

Here is a little extra weekend reading to help brighten your day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

25 January 2013

Weekend reading

Ladies and gentlemen, we have rain. It started early yesterday morning and rained gently all day; the heavier rain came overnight. We got about 30mL yesterday, I haven't checked the rain gauge yet but I'm guessing it would be up to 100mL/4 inches by now. All the tanks are full. 

There is a monsoon low bringing the rain right down the coast from an ex-tropical cyclone. I know there has been flooding up north. We have many readers in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rocky and Gladstone. I've been watching the weather radar because Shane and Sarndra live in Gladstone now. Rockhampton and Gladstone been covered in green and yellow rain for nearly 24 hours. I hope you are all safe and sound up there. And for those of you south of us, I hope you get your fair share of this wonderful rain. The sound of rain on the roof  is one of the best sounds I know. 

- - ☂- - ☂- - ☂- -

Building community in your neighbourhood

The Sufficiency Economy

Counterspill - take action

Stickman - this is my type of computer game :- )

Nigel's eat well for less recipes

Paying less

How to make a $4 wool nappy cover/soaker from a blanket


Mrs Dishpanhands

The happy larder

At my September cottage

24 January 2013

Every time we shop, we vote with our money

Like many Australians, I watched Food Inc. the other night when it aired on TV here. I'd already seen the DVD of it a couple of years ago but it did me good to see it again. If nothing else, as our ex-prime minister Gough Whitlam asked of us, it helped me to "maintain the rage". And watching it again certainly helped me do that. If you haven't seen this documentary and you're in Australia, it's on SBS On Demand for another four days.  For those who haven't seen it, it's an account of the unsustainable and unhealthy practices in parts of the food industry in the USA; but the conditions discussed are happening in many Western countries, not just the USA. It features Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and Eric Schlosser.

The program examines unhygienic conditions in feed lots, the large increase in the number of E.coli and other bacterial food contaminants, appalling factory conditions worked by illegal immigrants - with a blind eye from the authorities, how the cheap price of food does not reflect its real price, how the meat processing business has moved from having many participating and often local players to now being in the hands of four huge corporations, how Monsanto sues farmers for saving their own corn and soybean seeds, how food labelling laws are set to deceive rather than inform, and much, much more. When you see it for the first time it's shocking and very confronting. When I saw it again I was just plain mad.

It took me a while to work out how to discuss this in a sane and rational way. The subject is so emotive and the program is difficult to watch because it shows animal cruelty and the unbearable conditions cattle and chickens are routinely kept in. We keep our own animals and chickens in good conditions,  but I felt real shame that we've (all of us) allowed the conditions some farm animals are kept in to build over the years and not done anything about it. Many would argue that not much can be done, that these corporations are so powerful that nothing will stop them but I don't believe that. Our dollars will stop them.

Every time we shop, we vote with our money. Every single time. All potential customers with money to spend have the power to keep a product going or to bring it down. Buying isn't just about the product we choose, it's also about those we don't choose. By not choosing local products, slowly, the local businesses die off. That has already happened in Australia, and probably many other countries too.

The main decision I made when watching Food Inc is to support my local businesses as much as I can and to cut down on buying meat. Now I'm buying free range and organic meat only and to make up for the cost of that, I'm buying the cheaper cuts and we're eating less of it. It's the only way we can do it. I know it will be difficult at times but doing nothing is no longer an option for me. I don't approve of the way that animals and chickens are treated; I want food labelling to change; I don't think that higher profit margins justify cruelty; I think we have to get used to the fact that there is no such thing as never-ending economic growth. Not buying cheap meat and foreign foods will send that message.

I should have done it sooner.

We need to think about the environment more. We know the climate is changing but many people think it's up the "the government" or "them" to do something about it. When I saw those huge feedlots and thought about all the methane going up into the air, it almost made me weep. The faecal waste of piggeries and chicken farms floating down what were once clean waterways made me feel sick. We all have to make our own changes - we have personal responsibility in this. The buck stops with all of us.

I'm not going to harp on and on about this except to say out loud: every time you shop, you vote with your money. Please think about that. I'd rather hand my money over to farmers who treat their animals well, who harvest organic or local foods and who are more interested in producing fresh, heathy food than in what a faceless stockholder will think. We may not always eat in the way we used here in my home but I can no longer be part of the shopping majority who keep these conditions going.


23 January 2013

Knitting - small and useful projects

Thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments yesterday. It seems that what I thought is a localised drought is being felt world-wide.

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I haven't had a lot of time for knitting lately but every time I sit down, there I am, clicking away. Knitting is such a pleasure for me because I make household cloths I can't buy, make gifts that are unique and it gives me something to do when I sit down, so I feel productive. Knitting isn't something I make time for as a craft, I see it as part of my day-to-day housework, so I knit most days. I use the beautiful yarns from Vivian at Eco Yarns. Their organic cotton is the best I've ever worked with. I'm also using her super fine merino in fingering weight and NZ royal lambs wool for a scarf and matching arm warmers for my sister Tricia. It was her birthday on Saturday so when she arrived here yesterday afternoon, I had a nice little parcel for her.

This top dishcloth is bamboo, the bottom two are pure cotton. All were made using the end pieces and scraps from my yarn stash.

I went through my yarn stash over Christmas and pulled out all the odd and ends. I'm using all of them in the coming weeks to knit up another set of dishcloths. I'd like another 10 so I can retire some of the older ones. When I first started off on the dishcloths, I always used 8ply pure cotton, now I prefer a lighter cloth for washing up. I've knitted up a few of the bamboo scraps and they make a light and useful cloth. They're very soft, fit easily into wine glasses and small sippy cups and they dry out quickly. I've also done a couple of 4 ply cloths on large needles. Using only plain stitch, I get through one in a couple of hours. While I love the look of the fancy dishcloths, and when I give them as a gift I always do up Deb's waffle weave pattern, my own preference is a much simpler cloth. I always do my own cloths in plain garter stitch.

Tricia's pure NZ wool scarf - almost finished.

Are you a knitter? I know very many readers of my book started knitting dishcloths even before they finished the book, and wrote to tell me about it. I think dishcloths and laundry liquid were the first two projects most people tried. I certainly received a lot of mail telling me about grandmas teaching knitting years ago and now this! A welcomed return to knitting via the dishcloth. To me, dishcloths and aprons are symbols of this way of life. They're homemade, simple and part of every productive home. Making a dishcloth is a great way to start knitting. If you can pick up some knitting cotton for a reasonable price, all you need is a pair of needles, the size doesn't really matter because what you're making doesn't have to fit anyone. If you want a tight weave, choose fine needles if you're after a loose weave, choose thicker needles. You could make a beautiful gift for a new baby by making a simple set of organic cotton wash cloths. Knitted or crocheted, what could be better than a set of organic cloths and gentle, nourishing homemade soap. For that the ideal cotton would be Eco Yarn's organic cotton.

Lion's organic cotton made up into a little scarf and held together with half a vintage knitting needle with a  beehive tip.

If you get the knitting bug, see if you can find some thick organic cotton like Lion's Organic. I've made Tricia a couple of cotton neck warmers for winter. She lives in Blackheath and although she loves the cold weather, like I do, she and I both feel uncomfortable if we have cold necks or hands. Enter the homemade scarf and arm warmers. She can wear these in winter and remain warm during the day without lighting the fire. You can make a scarf by casting on as you would for a dishcloth, then knit plain stitch for every row - that's garter stitch. When you can wind it around your neck loosely a couple of times, cast off and sew both ends together. Or, even more simply, when it's long enough to go around your neck once, add a bit more for a twist, then cast off. You'll get a nice looking cowl scarf without having to master the mobius twist.

The wonderful thing about knitting is that you can make useful and beautiful pieces quite soon after you start. All the knitting on this page is very basic, yet it's all useful and will keep the wearers warm or the dishes clean for many years. Start off with simple practical projects and after you develop your skills, move on to more complicated patterns. If, like me, you end up loving the feeling of twisting and turning yarn with sticks you'll always have something to do because when you're a knitter there are always new patterns to be discovered and all those dish cloths to knit.

What's on your needles right now?

Eco Yarn blog - lots of great posts and photos about knitting and some patterns.
At the D2E forum we have a very popular thread to showcase finished knitting projects.
Ravelry - online knitting and crochet community
Eastern European knitting

22 January 2013

A drought in our backyard

One of the reasons we chose to live in this area was that the climate and rainfall would help us grow food in the backyard. Usually we get about 1300mm/51 inches of rain a year here. The January average is about 200mm/8 inches, so far this year it's 0. In the past six months we've had a drought in our neighbourhood. It's not a generalised drought over the whole region, it just seems to be contained in our small area. Strange. Hanno and I went for a drive out west a couple of weeks ago, we drove through the rainforest and came out the other side in a town that is usually dry and brown. But this time it was as green as could be. It seems our rain moved west.

The next few photos are our garden at various times throughout the year. As you can see, Hanno does a great job organising the plants and keeping the weeds down while growing the most delicious fresh food for our table.

I think we've had only about a quarter of our normal rainfall in the past six months. Luckily we didn't keep our vegetable garden going over summer because even though we have town water and two water tanks, we don't like using the town water on the garden and the tanks are almost empty. It breaks my heart to see the backyard now. In the 15 years we've lived her, this is only the second time I've seen it like this. Usually our grass is bright green all year, we never water it with the hose, it's kept that way with natural rainfall. But now it is brown and the grass crackles under your feet.

Above is this area of the garden a couple of years ago. Below is the same area yesterday afternoon.

Producing organic vegetables and eggs is an important part of our lives now. We don't want to lose that. We usually end our vegetable planting in November, keep harvesting till December, then let the soil rest until we sow our annual crops in March. But the garden is looking parched and dead. I wonder how long it will take the worms to come back once the rains start again.

But we won't give up. In the next couple of weeks, we'll plan our 2013 garden. We'll start most things as seeds sown in the bush-house, then transplant to the garden when they're big enough. This is the most cost effective way of producing vegetables.

From seeds, they'll grow into seedlings and will then be planted out.

Generally we have enough for us and to give away to family and friends. It gives us a good feeling to be able to do that.

Above is the garden last March when we had just started to plant up for the year.

This is what it looks like now.

The drought has severely effected the citrus. Many of the small lemons are falling off now and our orange trees, usually packed full at this time of year, have very few fruit.

In these two photos - above and below, you can see our back lawn. It usually looks like this all year round.

But this is what it looks like now.

Above is the chicken run last year. Now it's a dry dust bowl.

This flock of plumed whistling ducks landed in the yard late yesterday. They didn't stay long, they were looking for green grass and water. Photo by Hanno.

Above is what the garden looks like when viewed from the back verandah. 
This photo was taken from the same spot yesterday afternoon. Those few patches of green are chilli and capsicum/pepper bushes. They're still growing well.

I have no doubt our climate is changing. Australia is experiencing the hottest summer ever recorded. The weather bureau has added a new colour to our weather map - it's for over 50C/122F. We need to change how we live.

Hanno said the other day that he'll be starting the garden off early this year. It's essential we get those seeds sown in February so from about late March we have the beginnings of nine months of fresh organic food. But we can't do anything without water. Hopefully it will rain soon, the sub-soil and the top soil will be wet enough to entice the worms back, we'll sow our seeds, they'll start growing and the vegetables will turn this brown landscape into a green oasis. It all depends on the rain.

I sometimes get the feeling that many readers here think our garden is perfect all the time. Well, nothing is perfect and the photos above show you that we struggle as much as anyone. There is no golden ticket for anyone when there is no rain. But over the years we've learned patience and acceptance and I know that it might not be tomorrow but soon that monsoon will bring rain and new life to our backyard.

What is your greatest worry in your garden right now? If you have any photos to share of your backyard, post them over at the forum and we'll have a talk about it during the day.


21 January 2013

Valuing shared work

I have been watching a few Amish documentaries on You Tube while I've been ironing lately and it made me wonder why I enjoy watching them so much. I guess I'm inspired. Not by their lifestyle so much as by the way they work together. I love seeing that. It reminds me of days I've read about, a long time before the advent of supermarkets and department stores, when we use to work together as families, and in groups to get more difficult work done. When I see people working along side each other like that, it makes me want to join in. I love seeing the CWA ladies working away on their various fundraising ventures - buttering scones and making pots of tea; I love watching quilters working on one piece together; I admire the strength of the men who raise Amish barns and the grace of the women who provide food and drinks to keep them going.

Yesterday's blueberry muffins.

I get a lot of mail from readers who regret they can't find anyone who shares their values. Many of us feel the same because we live in towns and cities inhabited by people who are firmly and seemingly happily cemented into their mainstream lives. They have no interest in learning life skills or in reducing their spending and consumption. I doubt they'd understand the concept of shared work. I think that's one of the reasons so many people read here. They find validation here in what they do, they know I don't think they're strange because they're knitting dishcloths, growing pumpkins and baking bread, because I do it too. It's like we're working alongside each other. And that may be hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart but you know I am here, I know you are there and together we're quietly working. People gravitate here and to the forum to read about like-minded people going about their everyday business of homemaking, growing crops, storing and preparing food, raising pigs and milking cows and goats.  And they are satisfied and fulfilled by it.

We all go through various stages in our lives and we have to be open to those changes and flexible enough to adapt as we age. In the past I have worked with many women and men. The workload we all shared was made easier because we worked together. Now I'm working alongside my husband and I reckon we make a great team. We both do what we think we have a talent for and the jobs we like doing and luckily for us, that divides the tasks neatly down the middle. Most of our tasks are easily done by one person but when one of us is ill, the other takes it all on; when something is too big for one, we both do it.

When you look back on it, all those stages of work make up a productive life. Whether you're working in a large group or a small one, working as a couple, or you're alone raising children, or as a carer of adult children or parents. We're all working alongside each other and if you feel isolated and alone, all you have to do is to reach out here or at the forum and I or someone who hears you will reach back. No one is working alone when they work towards their own simple life. We're all connected by the work.


18 January 2013

Weekend reading

Free eBook on self sufficiency. If you don't have a Kindle, do what I did and download the Kindle software for your computer. It's fast, simple and completely free. Then you can read the book on your computer. Please note: this comment was sent my Barb: Here in the US that self-sufficiency book is $2.99 to buy, or you can 'borrow' it for free if you have an Amazon Prime account. Just a warning, for those who might click without thinking.

What's in the water?

People are slowly waking up to the fact that you teach children to be consumers from a very young age.

The temperature is rising


Chez is writing about their holiday in West Australia

Minnie and her cats

Queen of the armchair is baking, caring and stitching

Hanno and I want to thank everyone for the thoughts and prayers sent to us this week. Hanno's test have finished now. The news was pretty good and helped along, no doubt, by this beautiful community here. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Relax and put your feet up if you can. If not, take time out to sit with a cold drink or a hot cuppa. A few minutes alone can do wonders.

See you next week.  xxx


17 January 2013

Cleaning and organising cupboards

I'm quite comfortable with chaos. I like order because it helps me be productive and efficient, but chaos is an old friend. Recently, Sarndra told me she'd clean out my Tupperware cupboard when she was here next time. The toll bell in my head rang immediately - I knew it was time to clean it out. I generally use some of the time over the Christmas holidays to get these organisational tasks done. If I can get to them all, it makes a big difference to the year that follows. When I go into the year knowing that, like a saint, I've cleaned and polished every nook and cranny, done all the ironing and every room can take a white glove inspection, well, I'm at peace and I work better during the following months.

I don't like doing it though and it doesn't always get done.

So I cleaned out the cupboard, threw out all manner of lids and containers I had no idea I had and just kept what I use. The cupboard is easy to see into now, I can easily and quickly reach what I need and I no longer dread going to the cupboard for a container or water bottle. On the contrary, now I stare at all my clean cupboards. And the oven, I cleaned that too, ditto the kitchen bench cleaned and rearranged and the laundry, spare room cleaned out and clothes cupboard decluttered. (I would understand if you left now. LOL)

This is what it looked like. No wonder Sarndra offered her help.

I dumped them all on the kitchen bench and examined them.

 Decided what I needed to keep and what was a lost orphan.

 Then cleaned the cupboard out and replaced it all.

All lids and bottoms are together. I don't have to search for them now.

All cheese making equipment together, plastic dishes for the grand-babies are together, water bottles together. I can even say: "it's in the corner cupboard" without embarrassment and know they'll find what they're looking for.

I'm not telling you this to be a complete pain. I just want to gently remind you, as we slowly move through January, there is still time to do these tasks before the real year begins. Even though they seem monumental before you start them, most of them are quick and easy and they make you feel SO good when you finish. That feeling lasts a long time too because as you work through the year you keep secretly patting yourself on the back for being such an efficient homemaker. Well, I do.  ; - )

How are you going with your annual organisational and cleaning tasks? Do you have one time in the year when you do these things, do you do something different, or nothing at all?


16 January 2013

Pumpkin ravioli - made from scratch

A few years ago we were vegetarians. That lasted about eight years but ended when Hanno wanted to eat meat again and it became so difficult to get genuine vegetarian meals when I was travelling for work. In the bush here vegetarian = a boiled egg salad if you were lucky and hot chips if you weren't. When I started eating meat again, I felt better for it, although I regret the lives lost to feed me and if I do waste food, I feel real shame when I waste meat. We still eat vegetarian meals, still enjoy them but I feel our health is better when we combine a small number of meat meals with vegetarian ones or reduce the meat portion of the meal.

I know it's difficult if you're cooking for people who feel they must have meat and nothing else will do but I would suggest you try one vegetarian meal each week and see how that goes. If you can't successfully introduce one vegetarian meal a week, you may get away with something like this meal, which is substantial and filling, to which you add a hint of meat (bacon or chorizo) to the sauce or the filling.

This is what we had for dinner last night - roast pumpkin ravioli - completely home made, of course, and made without a pasta maker.

FILLING - enough for two
¼ small japanese pumpkin or ½ small butternut - chop into small pieces and roast in a hot oven till brown
1 garlic clove - roast this, in the skin, with the pumpkin
chilli (optional)
salt and pepper
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs - made from stale bread
½ cup grated cheese - I used Mersey Valley, a very sharp cheese, you could also use parmesan - it needs to have a lot of flavour
thyme, parsley or chives, chopped (optional)

When the pumkin is cooked and cool, put it in a bowl and mash it. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin and add it to the pumpkin. Add all the other ingredients and let it sit.

PASTA - I only used half and froze the rest
2 cups pasta flour or 000 flour - you can buy this at the supermarket. If you can't find it, use plain flour.
4 eggs
½  teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
a small amount of water to add teaspoon by teaspoon if the pasta is too dry

I made mine in the bread maker. Just put all the ingredients in and knead for 10 minutes. Take the dough out, flatten it a little, cover in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to relax for 30 minutes. I used half the dough for this and have half in the freezer. I'll make a thick strips pasta with homemade spicy tomato sauce later in the week.

Use plain flour is you don't have 000 flour.
Kneading the pasta in the bread maker is the easiest way to do it. If you make it by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour, add everything to the well and slowly start incorporating the flour into the wet centre. When it's all mixed in, knead for 8 - 10 minutes.
When you roll the dough out, don't use too much flour on the bench - it will make the pasta tough.
The ravioli is cooked when it rises again in the boiling water.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. When they are added to the pot, they'll sink. When they rise to the top again, they'll be cooked. That will take about 5 minutes, depending on how many you have in the pot.

Generally I have a tomato-based sauce with pasta but not with pumpkin. I don't think they go together well. You could make a coconut cream and chilli sauce. Just open a tin of coconut cream, put it in a pot, add salt, pepper and chilli sauce or flakes and stir. You could also do a cream herb sauce, using the same herbs you used in the ravioli in the sauce.
If you have filling left over, like I did, you can make this: place the extra filling in a saucepan, add half cup of cream, half cup of water and stir. You'll have to use your common sense for this. If it's too thick, add more water, if you don't have much filling, add more cream and less water. You could also use milk, not cream and water. 

To make up the ravioli, divide the pasta up into smaller portions because it's easier to handle that way. I divided mine in two and froze half, then divided the remainder in two. Roll the pasta out with your rolling pin until it's as thin as shop bought pasta. Try to roll it into a circle or a rectangle shape - it's easier to cut. Grab a scone cutter or a large glass and cut the round shapes for the ravioli. 

To fill the ravioli: in the middle of each shape, place a small teaspoon full of the filling. Pick up the shape, fold the pasta over the filling and crimp the edges, pressing them together firmly so no filling escapes while they're cooking.

If you want to make this ahead of time, lay the filled ravioli on a baking sheet in the fridge. Make sure the pasta isn't touching because it will stick. Make the sauce up and keep it in the fridge. When you make it up, all you'll have to do is to cook the ravioli in boiling water and warm the sauce.

Now that we've eaten this, I'd change two things. I'd add herbs to the sauce, or a sprinkling of herbs over the dish at the end, because it looked too bland. I would also make a side salad to have with it. It was delicious though. Hanno said: This is good! And after another mouthful: This is VERY good!

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