Saturday, August 2, 2014

Slow Living Monthly 9 - July 2014

Hello! I'm very much looking forward to sharing my month here with you once again under the nine banners that form this link-up. Many thanks must also go to Linda from Greenhaven, who has stepped in to take on the hosting, so we can continue to share in the little community that has formed here. Please be sure to stop by Greenhaven to see what others have been up to, or to link up yourself. It's so wonderful meeting new people through the blogs!

July 2014

The bitter cold of winter hit hard this month and so it was out of necessity to stay warm, well fueled and nourished that I focused on soup after soup after soup. I have my old favourites that I often return to and find these the most comforting to dish up throughout these cold times. I am sure there is also something to be said for using bone broth as the basis for soups - it just feels good for the body and I'm not sure if it's psychological or not, but I really think it is boosting my immunity - so far no dreadful colds here..touch wood. A good standby, lentil soup was also revisited this month, which is great when veggie supplies are running low and one turns to the pantry for supplies.

Elsewhere, I revisited some sourdough baking, as it had been a long, long break between loaves and a friend had kindly gifted me some of her starter to save me the trouble of starting up my own again (after hubby emptied the fridge and my robust starter along with it!). Still wary of foods high in gluten, I have tried a few loaves with rye, buckwheat and spelt as the flour content. Although still containing gluten, these loaves I am finding are a lot less 'bloaty' than the full wheat loaves I used to bake..(and love so much!)..

Spelt sourdough made with rye starter. Sunflower seeds added to the dough. 

Yep, soups again. So much soup. Soup for today, tomorrow, the rest of the week and the freezer. Where on earth would we be without soup?

I have been making more of an effort to batch cook this month (due to necessity and time constraints more than anything else). Baking school (and work!) snacks while dinner is in the oven is my favourite way - it's amazing how much a person can cram in the oven when they really try!

Thinking craftyness, it was good to dive into the stash this month to finish of a vest when I ran out of the main colour on the home stretch. There is definitely something to be said for a well stocked stash. Looking forward to wearing this number..

Not so much what I have done this month, but what I really need to do - skin care is top of my list at the moment. Through my current workplacement I am finding myself in a situation where I am frequently washing my hands and they are becoming incredibly dry, sore and even cracked from the harsh soaps and alcohol based sanitiser. I simply must get around to making some more calendula salve and also some soap - I am inspired to revisit goat's milk soap, even though it means buying the milk. I don't know anyone locally who milks goats!

Slow times here in the garden this month. A little fruit tree pruning took place and some harvesting of herbs - rosemary, parsley and perennial leeks which always seem to be in abundance. While tending to a neighbour's chooks for a few days, I noticed the most glorious cumquat tree, and was pleased to bring some home, as they were just falling to waste on the ground, after providing their magnificent display. Hoping to tackle a marmalade soon..

I enjoyed spinning up a quick 100g of woolly fibre this month and crocheting it into my favourite hat pattern. There's nothing like a new hat to make a person feel good while out and about. And sometimes quick and easy really hits the spot!

July was a month of sadness in my circle as a dear friend traveled through the toughest of times. I hope that the small gestures I put out bring some comfort and a feeling of support for her. It is so very difficult to see someone you care for in such a painful place, without being able to do anything to change it. I hope she knows how much support she has around her. x

July was huge in discoveries for me. I am entering my fourth week of a work placement as part of my studies in aged care. While initially confronting (there is only so much a person can get out of books), I have since found myself feeling that this is exactly what I am meant to be doing and all the new challenges that come along are details that can be learned, discussed and added to my range of skills. I love the interactions with the residents, and the feeling that I am in some small way bringing something of value to them or providing a space where dignity can be maintained and small pleasures of life still enjoyed. It's enormously heart warming. 

See above. As a bonus we also received a lovely surprise snow fall, which makes everyone feel cheery, even in the dark times of winter. Having our neighbourhood turn into a winter wonderland was completely magical and exciting all at once!

Thanks so much to Linda for hosting this link-up. Do pop on over if you wish to join in or read what others have been up to!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Slow Living Monthly Nine - Introducing our new host!

Good Morning!

I have some very exciting news to share with you today. A person who I have come to admire and respect through our interactions on the blog has so very kindly offered to take on the hosting of the Slow Living Monthly 9 link-up. 

If you are a regular participant, then I am sure you will need no introduction at all to Linda from Greenhaven. Linda has been a regular face in the link-ups since they began in 2012, and is someone who is pursuing her slow living goals as opportunities arise on her journey. I really admire the effort and dedication Linda displays in sharing her journey with us on her lovely blog, and her insights as new discoveries are made. I hear there is even news about beekeeping in the pipeline!

So please make Linda feel very welcome for her first time hosting and pop on over to her blog: Greenhaven, say a big hi and catch up on what's been happening under the nine banners during her month. Of course all are welcome to continue linking up and I know that Linda will add her own personal stamp on the link up as time goes by, which I am really looking forward to seeing.

I hope to get my post up over at Linda's in the next few days - hope to see you there!

Christine x

Friday, July 25, 2014

Passing the baton

Good morning,

It's been far too long I know. I have a million reasons why I have not visited this space of late and yet none of any real consequence. I could be here though if I really thought I needed to. But I suppose that is it, the feeling that I perhaps don't rely on this space as much as I used to. A choice between immersing myself in a beautiful world full of memories, notes and pictures, or the physical world, with all of it's ups and downs, laughter and sorrow, smiles, tears, hugs, movement and conversations (not to mention fatigue, sleeplessness and the occasional ache or pain!). At the moment I am choosing this physical world. Which is not to say that I won't be back here at some time, although now is not that time. I will know when it is, and you may catch me dropping in then. 

In the meantime, I feel terrible about letting the Slow Living Monthly 9 link up slide, and don't think that it's fair that even though I am not here to host, those of you who enjoy linking up are missing out. So in the spirit of sharing, I am offering the link-up to one bloggy person who is willing to take it on. Passing the baton, so to speak, which could be rather apt, considering the commencement of the Commonwealth Games.

Are you interested?  Send me an email: slowlivingessentials(at)hotmail(dot)com

What would be involved? Basically the same as what you have been doing up until now, writing your monthly post using the nine banners, as found here. With the only exception, including a small piece of code at the bottom of your post that allows fellow bloggers to link in. I can either continue to use my link account to supply the code, or you may create your own account with a linking service of your choosing.
You may also change the name of the link up to suit the theme of your blog, however, by offering this link up, I request that the original nine banners remain in tact. You may add extra though if you choose to (I know a couple of you already do).

Still interested? Send me an email! If there are a number of responses showing interest in hosting the link up, I will choose one blogger who I think will carry it on well. Let me know! The alternative is that the link up dissolves into nothing and loses the little community that has formed within it. I think it would be awful to see this happen. Help save the Slow Living Monthly 9!

I would also hope to link up from time to time, too.

Do you feel ready to pick up the baton and run with it? 

Yours in Slow Living,
Christine x

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Food growing inspiration from Veg Out Community Garden - St Kilda

As I kick my behind get my act into gear and gather my thoughts for my current Slow Living Monthly 9 post, I want to pause my reflections for a moment and share a place I came across over the weekend. If you were ever feeling in a slump regarding food growing inspiration, one brief wander through this hidden treasure of a community garden in St Kilda, Victoria - just a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of the Esplanade, busy Acland Street (Cake St) and the regular squeals from the scenic railway at Luna Park- will excite food growers alike and call to the repurposer within...

It had such a great vibe as soon as I walked through the gates..

The gardens are used by community groups and private individuals. In addition to the growing plots, Veg Out includes a chook pen, composting area, communal spaces and art studio..

For those who don't know..
I never seem to get tired of seeing rusty tins used for growing..

Fabulous murals..
I love love love this bike wheel!
Most plots I saw had a letterbox. Besides being extremely charming, they seemed to be the perfect place for plot holders to store gardening gloves, seed packets and the like! Snail mail between growers, too?
My absolute  favourite!
Happy growing!

Community Gardens St Kilda

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Slow Living Monthly 9 - May 2014

Slow Living Monthly 9 link up - an opportunity to review and reflect upon nine different categories of our lives. Nourish, prepare, reduce, green, grow, create, discover, enhance, enjoy. Join in if you wish! Everyone is welcome. How you ask? It's simple, just leave a link to your blog post using the nine categories (detailed here) and enjoy that sharing experience that follows. I am running well behind the eight ball this month but will try to get my post up soon. Have a lovely month people! xx

Slow Living - May 2014

May, May, May, what did you see us eating? Cold weather here means the appearance of sniffly noses and coughs so it was with great love I focused this month on building my family's immune systems up mainly by cooking nourishing meals with bone broths as a base. Osso bucco, lamb shank and barley soup, chicken stock in different types of soups all contributed to a feeling of improved well being, at least from  my observations ;) There is something really comforting about dishing up nourishing food to your family that not only hits the tastebuds but does great things for their insides, too. 

My dairy/gluten free journey continues to wind along it's unknown path and over the past couple of months I have found myself slowly re-introducing small amounts of dairy - homemade yoghurt, minimal cheese and lactose free milk, which all seem to be quite okay for my system to cope with. On to gluten and my ponderings over a paleo approach with my food, I have come to the conclusion that while cutting out all forms of grain would be a little extreme, my body seems to cope quite well with the elimination of wheat from my diet. Which means that stuff like barley and oats, which are not completely gluten free, can still be enjoyed - hooray! And without abundant gluten and therefore bread in my diet, I am turning to rice and potatoes to fulfill my lust for carbs..

I am 99% sure my next ponder will would I go with small amounts of low wheat sourdough? Stay tuned..

{banana muffins - gluten free} 

Wow, May really saw a a load of preserving going on! Out of nowhere our town had roadside harvests of crabapples, the branches gorgeously lining the streets with their brightest of red offerings. Out came the jam pot and batches of crabapple jelly were made. When I had had enough of this, I added mint to make mint jelly and then had a go at making some lemon verbena jelly using some lemon verbena from my garden - it was unusually pleasant! Quince paste is also lurking in my kitchen (I  fear for my blood sugar levels in the next month!), and on a healthier note, the last of the tomatoes along with some I picked up at the fruit shop were roasted with our (sprouting!) garlic and a few chillies and turned into a deliciously thick, spicy tomato-ey, garlic concentrate which I then froze in small containers. 

Not a great deal to report here..

This month, in an effort to not have masses of drying laundry clogging up our home, I strung up a length of rope under our veranda to use for drying sheets and towels. It is a fair assumption that any washing I hang up outside from now until October will stay there, as the rain is just too regular and the air too damp to dry them! I am feeling quietly smug as I bring dry sheets in that have not been rained on - whoop! It's only taken me six years to get onto this, crazy, huh! What I'd really like though is one of those hoistey, timber drying racks that I can raise right up into the ceiling rafters where all the warm air collects - this would send my smugness factor through the roof...quite literally!

Garlic shoots have emerged from the damp earth along with a bed of broad beans. Kale is doing reasonably well although my broccoli which I planted in the hopes of a winter supply has all gone to seed, agh! The chooks went off the lay and tomatoes and beans gave up virtually overnight with the arrival of the frosts. 

I am navigating my way through a knitting project at the moment that is giving me no relaxation. Wanting to use some of my handspun/handyed yarn in a project, I decided on a (simple?) vest in an argyle pattern. Masses of tangled wool and then running out of wool towards the end was seeing me pull my hair out in frustration. It was strange though, because the project felt like it was reflective of my life at the time and the challenges I am feeling myself facing. Coming to the end of the project now, in all it's imperfect glory, I am glad I persisted and no matter how unique it is, it is made by me and so many of my thoughts have been poured into it, I feel the need to wear it, to complete the cycle. Ah yes, and I also came to the unsurprising conclusion that mixing colours is absolutely not for me! Photo when I am completely finished with this challenging project.

Elsewhere, I spied our willow tree with the eyes of a potential weaver. Oh, how wonderful it would be to gather all manner of grassy fibers and twigs and weave them into something beautiful and functional! Perhaps one day..for now, just call me a wannabe weaver. 

I was blessed with the gathering of a group of women in my garden this month. Friday veggie group continues to be a strong element of my week, and having them gather around my table, filling my kitchen with their raucous laughter and chatting fills me with great happiness. Having some work tackled in the garden is really just a bonus, in my eyes.

Our local spinning group also hosted a "biggest morning tea" to fund raise for the Cancer Council. I do my best to participate in these events, having lost my own father from cancer two years ago. The group puts on a fantastic spread with everyone contributing and then offering an auction full of handmade goodness. Our small group did very well and raised $1100 for this cause.

Discoveries took place for me on a deeper level this month. Spending time to focus on my inner self was exactly what I needed and as the journey continues, I enjoy more and more finding out exactly who I am. Hopefully not too deep a thought to include here..

Hubby and I treated ourselves and spent a weekend in the top end (Darwin) at the start of the month, in celebration of his birthday. Exploring this area, just for the briefest time was something we had been meaning to do for the longest time. Back at home, as always it's the simple things that cause me to stop and smile, hitting the mark and saying something that makes my daughters' burst out laughing does if for me every time. Seeing the leaves drop from the trees and be replaced by foggy mists and frosty mornings. Walking the dog through the damp bush and stoking a hot fire. Giving someone's hand a squeeze in my aged care volunteer work and knowing that even though they may not remember it, the moment did happen and they felt it at the time. Wishing you a beautiful month. x

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tips for mushroom season...

Mushroom season has hit our area with the arrival of heavy rains and the resultant damp earth. Before the weather becomes too cold with the bitter chill of winter, the ground sends up fascinating offerings to view and admire..and sometime even eat. After spending a few outings recently collecting such offerings I thought it would be a good idea to talk about mushroom hunting for anyone considering partaking in this most enjoyable (but cautious) activity.

I first learned to identify a handful of mushrooms a few years ago when a good friend and I booked in to participate in a fungi workshop offered through our local neighbourhood house. For anyone considering going out into the wild to partake  of some edible delights, I would definitely suggest booking yourself into a similar course FIRST, so that you are not relying on heresay when identifying your 'shrooms.

The workshop my friend and I went to was extremely informative and included an entire morning spent viewing photos and slides of all types of fungi, from the lethal to the edible. The workshop also had a spectacular display of locally gathered fungi in various stages of their development. During the afternoon, the group headed out to a nearby location for hands on fungi identification and tasting. You can read about this workshop, way back here. 

Once you feel you are armed with more than enough knowledge to avoid the dangerous (lethal) mushrooms, and safely identify those praised for eating, you will want to consider the logistics; where to go, what time of day, what to take and so on.

Where to go depends largely of your knowledge of the local area, or, if you are not within mushrooming range, knowledge of the area you intend to travel. Find out a little about the area you are heading into. Is the area elevated and subject to heavy mists/fog or cooler temperatures? Pack extra coats! Is it on a steep slope? Wear sturdy footwear. Is the area on a dirt road and is this accessible after heavy rains? Plan your vehicle or perhaps consider parking a safe distance away and walking. Common sense plays a big part here. :)

What time of day should I venture out? Often, the most prized hunting grounds are already well known by other 'hunters' in your chosen area. If you are serious about hunting your mushrooms, you may like to consider heading out early, before day trippers from further afield make it to your location before you. It can sometimes even pay to make a short session or two mid week if you are close by, when most day trippers are tucked up at home or work and not planning a trip until the weekend.

It is also not uncommon for cafes and local restaurants to gather wild mushrooms to include on their menus, or market stall holders to offer at farmers markets, so if your favourite area is also frequented by such folk, heading out the earliest you possibly can after a bout of rain, can prove to be more successful than waiting until the weekend.

What to take?

  • Aside from the obvious warm clothing and sturdy footwear, pack a coat and hat as mushrooming grounds are nearly always cold.
  • Fingerless gloves are another welcome addition because when you find a good patch, there is little time for hands to be sitting idle in warm coat pockets!
  • A small knife is a must, as when harvesting mushrooms, it is the etiquette to cut just below the surface of the ground, to leave the unearthed section behind to reproduce again the following season. Some people prefer specialty mushrooming knives that come with a brush attached to one end, however I find that a simple steak knife is quite adequate for my needs.
  • A basket with lid is also a welcome addition. I have hunted without bags, large shopping bags and open baskets before, but by far the best investment was a $3 wicker picnic basket from my local thrift shop that has two hinged flaps to open, thereby protecting the mushrooms if it happens to rain. The basked can also easily be hosed off once emptied, in readiness for the next session. 
  • A mushroom guide book (or app), mobile phone, map of the area, snack and water bottle and camera are also items worth considering. 
  • To begin with, I would suggest always hunting with another person, as with two people identifying, errors are less likely to occur. As you gain confidence in your mushrooming abilities, solo ventures will start calling to you, but remember to tell someone if you are 'shrooming alone, for safety's sake. 

When out there..
**Only take what you know to be 110% safe to eat!! It seems obvious, but you have really got to be absolutely certain that what you are picking is not going to harm yourself or your loved ones.**

Try and steer clear of other hunters, as it could be considered impolite to hunt alongside them. There is plenty of forest out there, so find another section to look in.

Only take what you need! It can be all too easy to come home with a basket overflowing with mushrooms that you don't get around to using, so please, only take what you intend to use and save the rest for other keen hunters. I believe that is the golden rule of foraging - always leave something behind for the next person.

Have fun! Once you know what you are looking for, mushrooming can be great fun and an enjoyable social activity or an opportunity for peaceful solitude. Either way, it's a great way to spend some of these autumn days before the seriously chilled blast of winter hits.

Do you hunt mushrooms? Do you have any tips for the new hunter that you'd like to share? What is your favourite way to cook foraged mushrooms? Please share in the comments section below!

Be safe out there and happy hunting!

**I choose to hunt only Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarious Delicious) to feed myself and my family. They grow well in our local area in the pine forests and are extremely difficult to mistake with any other mushroom. They have a distinctive orange appearance, ooze a saffron coloured sap when cut and their flesh turns an oxidised green when it is bruised. More information on this edible mushroom can be found here.**

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Slow Living Essentials - Monthly 9 link-up - April 2014

Hello once again! It's nice to be in this space again. April saw our weather turn and a sudden need for firewood and woolen tops where previously there were swimming towels and thongs!

 Join me as I reflect on the past month and progress made in our everyday lives under nine banners. Feel like joining in? It's simple, just leave a link to your blog post written using these nine categories, in the box below anytime during the month of May and enjoy hopping over to like minded blogs to see what others have been up to.

For more details on this blog link-up, please see this post. 

April 2014

I love when the cooler weather hits and dictates bonfire season! Fire restrictions were lifted and suddenly our town was marked by plumes of smoke rising from little pockets through the trees. This change in weather also announced woodfired oven season. Having been way too long between firings, it was so nice to enjoy cooking with our big outdoor brick oven this month, and using the smaller chiminea and campfire for intimate gatherings on weekends.

Home cooked woodfired pizza and homebrew pale ale - a match made in heaven!

Baked apples were a new discovery for the woodfired oven, they go so well in it - producing a wonderfully tender, apple with a caramelised crust that oozes golden, juicy goodness! So, so good. We have also been returning to warming soups and slow cooked meals, and I am finding this way of cooking so very convenient. Slow cooked pulled pork served with stewed local apples, lamb shank and vegetable broth and good old hearty vegetable soups are my current favourite sources of comfort in the kitchen these days. Oats are also big on the menu for me, and with cutting back on wheat for health issues, I am finding I that oats are still totally ok for me, which is great because I love having a big steaming bowl full for breakfast on these frosty mornings! They keep me going for hours..

Baked apples - a seriously good addition to any woodfired oven baker's repertoire 

Somehow, I don't know how, I managed to keep on top of all those beans that we had last month, so my preserving was focusing mainly around preparing meals and freezing them. We had nowhere near enough tomatoes to bottle this year, which was a bit of a disappointment, but this has motivated me to try all the harder (earlier?) next summer. 

I have been 'making do' in the garden this month. Pulling old, not in use climbing frames out for growing peas on and repairing areas of edging and fencing where we could really do with new. I bought a second hand rabbit hutch and with a few minor adjustments, am using it for a mobile chicken tractor for my silky mama hen and her (fast growing!) chicks. Opp shopping also proved fruitful for an upcoming child's birthday present and a warm jacket for myself. 

Mushrooming season hit our area this month and it was with great delight I took to the mountainside, pooch falling in step beside me, to comb the piney earth for edible treasures. Forgaging, fresh air and walking for leisure while exercising the dog, is there a greener way to spend an afternoon with such entertainment value? 

Biking is still happening and I am advancing into territory I have not traveled before - slopes and gravelly back roads, pine forest tracks and bush bashing with chains flying off, all new experiences that enhance my exploration of our local area.  It's amazing how many hills a person notices once they start biking! I could've sworn we lived in a fairly flat part of town, but apparently not!!

With the frosts came the slowing down of the beans and other summer veg. Old zucchini plants were pulled up and the beds dug over to be replaced with broad beans, peas and very soon, garlic. Several chooks are having a moult so egg numbers are also down.

What was surprising was finding a secret stash of potatoes where I was sure I had previously harvested. How is it that you can miss a spud the size of your hand the first time around? Very weird. Perennial leeks are also back and kale is getting to a harvestable size, and we watch and wait in anticipation for the first broccoli. Oh, and we have lemons! The lemon tree is at long last producing some decent sized fruit!

Autumn always makes me want to dye things! Maybe it's the crispness in the air that makes my mind shift towards all things woolly and warm and then thinking about colours of such woolly things that does it. I satisfied a small urge by redyeing a cowl and some fingerless mittens that I had knit some time back and just wasn't happy with the colour. They were a bright green and just not me, so after a soak in the pot, came out a deep gray/blue which I am much happier with. Unfortunately no pic of the knits, just the dye pot I'm afraid! The spinning wheel has also been out and treadling, it has to be the cool weather, yep, I'm absolutely sure of it. ;)

I recently picked up a couple of copies of PLY from my spinning group's library and fell in love with this publication! Created by Jacey Boggs, who I think is just amazing, I was completely absorbed from cover to cover. 
Michael Pollan is also on my bookshelf at the moment with 'Cooked' and number one on my reading wishlist at the moment is My Darling Lemon Thyme - a cookbook focusing on gluten, dairy and sugar free that looks just soo good, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! (hint *mothersday**cough*hint)

Being on the receiving end of this category is always nice. I was at a spinning friend's house this past week picking up some preserving jars that a local preserver was offloading and she asked if I'd like to take a look around the garden. After the immediate yes (and subsequent hour and a half tour plus leaving three times, three times I say, before I actually passed through the front gate), her and her husband sent me off with a wealth of new gardening facts, a bottle of their homebrewed apple wine, a big bag of allium bulbs to plant and another bag of early cropping tomatoes for me to save for seed! Gosh, I just love it when gardening folk connect, we all talk the same talk and walk the same walk!

Out and around town, I was also excited to come across a magical little door that had recently appeared. What fun to see this on my biking travels! Too special..

Over the school holiday portion of the month, I took my youngest daughter away for a camping weeking up on the Murray River. Glorious weather, good company and simple camping style made for a great time away. We also had a beautiful family gathering here at our place on the Easter weekend, with my family and nieces and nephew. Again, great company, the woodfired oven, campfire, toasty marshmallows and mulled wine made for a memorable, relaxing day. I love this kind of gathering!

 How was your month?

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