Sunday, July 29, 2012

Like a merchant ship...

On Mondays I do a quick weekly shop now as it fits into my week better than a Saturday morning. Over the last 4 years I have gone down from having a "two-trolley" monthly shop to a 1/4 trolley weekly shop. I never noticed the reduced amount in it until this past Monday and was quite surprised and pleased. I wrote an article a couple of months ago entitled "Does Your Grocery Trolley Reflect Your Green Values?" and I didn't feel like a hypocrit pushing my trolley around Pick 'n Pay.

Our chickens, we have 10 and delight in them.
In the book of Proverbs in the Bible a wife of noble character is described as being and doing many things. But verse 14 says: "She is like the merchant ships loaded with foodstuffs; she brings her household’s food from afar." This is not talking about "food miles" but rather the ability to source the best she can for her family. So as I was pushing my trolley the Lord brought this verse to mind.

Broad beans about to come into full swing

A few days ago I shared that we eat free range pasture fed meat, chicken and pork so for those in Cape Town I thought I would share a little bit about these sources and then for those elsewhere you may be inspired to try and reduce how much you buy from the store but rather get straight to the source of your foodstuffs and build a relationship with the local farmers. I am also going to briefly touch on how else you can reduce your dependence on shops, so if I ramble a little, forgive me and enjoy the rabbit trails :-)

Food can be broken down into a few places for our household. The first is fresh foods. My first place to "shop" is obviously the vegetable garden. I see what is in and plan to use it that week. So for this week we have cauliflower, spinach, peas, Asian greens and herbs. Whatever else I need in the fresh department I get from the veggie man who comes to my door each Tuesday. When I pop into Woolworths for their specials and our drinking milk I will pick up any other seasonal veg we need. I do not buy at Fruit & Veg as their stuff is generally below standard and goes off quickly. Of course our chicken's give us lovely eggs - about 15 a week but we need more.

I drive to fetch milk (from 10 - 20 liters) from Lou Docker in Noordhoek every second week to make into yoghurt and soft cheeses. It's a lovely drive and I use it for thinking time if alone or take along a kiddo or two for company. I don't like to use this milk in tea and coffee, not because there is any wrong with it, but it does taste quite wild due to their feeding on the marshy land and scrub. For baking and yoghurt it is wonderful.

Our beef and lamb is ordered and delivered monthly via Alicia at Go Natural and have for the past 3 or so years. You can go to their website and subscribe to their newsletter and be notified of the dates for ordering by email.  All the regular cuts of beef and lamb are offered. We have found the beef mince to be superb and knowing that this is grass fed beef/lamb and that we are supporting a local farmer gives us peace of mind when we enjoy the meals made with it. We also get our nuts, seeds, sprouting seeds, honey, spelt grain and toothpaste from them.

The happy hogs

Pork comes to us monthly from Happy Hog Farm. Either my folks bring it through for us when they visit as they travel past the farm from their home on the Garden Route or we get a courier to bring it to us. Linda at Happy Hog is a gracious lovely woman who is passionate about her pigs and as we have been to visit the farm we know exactly what the conditions are for the pigs - and they are good! No sloppy pens and rubbish for food, really the best living conditions she can give them. As I write this blog post, one of her deboned shoulder roasts is slowly cooking away in a sage and garlic rub, filling our home with the most delicious aromas.

One of the chickens my son supplies. You pay for what you get, no brine, no fat.

Chicken is also eaten with relish and while we used to buy either the Woolworth or Elgin free range chickens we now only use my son's chickens which he gets from a farm on the Garden Route. I buy whole chickens from him and joint them for casseroles and use the carcasses for stocks and soups. He also sells bulk chicken breasts which we use a lot of. We also buy the eggs from him as and when we need them.

Indigenous Boschveld Laying Hens eggs.
I don't cook a lot of fish due to my sons allergies but when I do we try to get from The Little Fisherman always choosing sustainable species.

Our other basic staples are the dry foods which we get around the corner from us at Health Connections and we buy our supplements and oats, organic dry beans and a few other spices from them. These kind ladies are down to earth and appreciate our approach to eating food as close to it's natural state as possible and don't push weird esoterical philosphies on us.

We don't each much bread these days - maybe 3 loaves a week - but that I make myself from the spelt or Eureka Flours.
50% rye load made for lunch today.

As for the rest of the trolley, well we make our own cleaners now with the exception of dishwashing liquid. So I buy Earth Sap for our dishes, and we use soap nuts in the dishwasher. I must still write about soap nuts but I want to see if I can sort out some of the problems we are finding with them first. 

We make our own soap so I miss that isle, but I do buy Earth Sap shampoo and conditioner.

The lavender soap I made in May. We just started using it - rich and creamy.

We have a lady who delivers 100 toilet paper rolls to us straight from the factory and we don't use other paper products, so I miss that isle too.

So what fills my trolley at the end of the shop? A few speciality items, the few toiletries we need, some stationary sometimes, if my one daughter is with me she will sneak a small sushi tray in that I will pretend not to notice! There are some products which I buy that are not organic like tomato sauce to feed one child's addiction, mayonnaise as my children don't like my attempts, coconut milk, rice and some good red wine :-), obviously vinegar, bicarb, Sunlight soap and other things needed for cleaning, but that is pretty much it.

Lucky doing her daily garden inspection

As they too are part of the family, our dogs are also given the best we can and that is a raw diet. We did cook for them for 3 years but Zeus just got thinner and thinner. In January we switched them to Dog Matters which is premade raw dog mince, raw carcasses and pork bones. The mince is either chicken, beef, ostrich or venison in season. For breakfast they get 3 and 1 chicken caracesses each, at lunch Zeus gets a pork bone, Lucky finishes it off for him, and then at supper Zeus gets 2/3 of a mince pack and Lucky the other 3rd. This is delivered to our door every 2 weeks and stored in the freezer. We defrost as we go and it is super simple to implement. 
Newlands Spring

Lastly, this is not possible for everyone, but it is for Capetonians...we do not cook with tap water and distilled water is too pricey to use. Weekly my son and I, sometimes Superman, will go to the Newlands Spring for 75l of water...this is for drinking, mainly cooking...and its FREE!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pop in and say "Hi!"

My son and I will be selling his free range pasture fed chickens and eggs tomorrow at Porter Estate Market.

If you are in the area, please pop in and say "Hi!". We may even twist your arm to buy a chicken or some eggs, but it would just be great to see some of you in the flesh.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can we afford to eat free range, organic and fair trade food?

It's late, much later than I would usually find myself sitting here writing a blog post, but I have this question burning in my mind that I need to get out into cyberspace. Incase you missed the title the question is: "Can we afford to eat free range, organic and fair trade food?"

You see the more I look at mass food production the more I know that my conscience and my health cannot carry the cost and that frugality can never be an excuse for me to buy food that I do not trust. Perhaps I should say what spurned my needing to put my feelings into words, yet again, about knowing the source of, if not all, most of your basic foods.
Eggs - fresh and glorious.

When we started growing vegetables in 2008 we realized how long it takes to actually produce a decent carrot, a healthy butternut and a harvest of spinach. Doing it with only natural soil, compost and worm tea takes a whole lot longer and as we decided to not use any pesticides the produce almost never looks perfect. This makes one question what is actually happening to the food that is grown and that we buy off the store shelf.

We soon found a source for free range pasture fed beef, chicken and pork and got to know the farmers and could trust their word. This makes another question surface - how do the rest of the creatures live and die? We quickly formed the opinion that if we were going to eat meat we would eat only that which we know has lived a good life and died humanely. Now vegans may have a problem with this completely and I understand your viewpoint, but we choose another way.

Celery giving us a second round!

With the beginning of my son's chicken and egg business we again affirmed that we really need to know where our food comes from and whom we are supporting with our hard earned cash. He recently had to do a report for his school work and he wrote a piece on battery chickens (see his blog in the link above).

Further to this, yesterday I had the most delightful visit from a woman who is busy with her thesis at Stellenbosch University on sustainable agriculture and wanted to see what we are doing here on this tiny scale. While we were chatting again God was confiming in my heart that we have not "lost the plot", we are not "slipping off the deep end" but that this is part of His plan for our family. Why? I don't have all the pieces of the puzzle, but we continue on under His guidance.

Handmade pastry - getting up close and personal with food

This meeting helped me cement in my mind that we can afford to eat free range, organic and fairtrade produce because not only is it right for us to support those who are being wise stewards with the earth and it's creatures, but it is also the best thing for our bodies that He gave us to take care of.

So how do I know that we can afford free range meat, organic and fairtrade products? Well this is how I think:

1. We make our own cleaning products - soap, vinegar and bicarb for the house, laundry soap or liquid.

2. We cook from scratch every day 3x a day.

3. We hardly ever eat out - it always leaves us feeling greasy and gassy and yucky...reason enough.

4. We do home based entertainment, anything else social for the kids they pay for with their own earned cash.

5. We grow as much of our own veggies as we can.

6. We keep chickens for their lovely eggs, companionship, bug removal and manure.

7. We are careful about using our car on a whim....

Which means that there is more disposable income for good clean food, organic products and far trade items.
Stock - using up leftovers, offcuts and giving us nourishment
I am sure there are more, but this is off the top of my head (and late at night for an early bird). Perhaps for others there may be more hints that you have and will care to share, so please leave your comments for other to read.

The short unnatural life of a broiler chicken
Notes from the frugal trenches
Down to earth simple living series

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winter garden catch-up

I have said many times before how grateful I am that we can grow veggies year round due to our climate. Our winters are cold and wet but we do not get such low temperatures that frost becomes a problem. Our days range from 5 - 13 degrees C most days and as long as there is no storm raging, like yesterday, we can enjoy some mild sunshine each day.

This is what is growing and going on in our garden at the moment...Hart Nursery has a winter special on for shrubs and trees so when I was in the area last week I picked up a lemon, olive, clementine and blueberry bush to plant. Winter is a good time to establish new trees and shrubs.

Lemon tree planted under my daughter's bedroom window

Olive tree planted neat compost heap

Clementine planted in reworked potato planters that didn't work. Chives are going to be planted around the bottom as a companion planting to keep away aphids.

Blueberry bush in a wine barrel. We need to get another variety for pollination but the nursery didn't have at the time I was there.

Broad beans growing strong, sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower and beets in front.

Garlic looking good with self seeded calendula growing pretty.

Peas gone crazy and the wind knocked over their support yesterday, should be able to start eating some this week.

Desperately trying to finish up the lettuce so that we can get the next planting in of brassicas which are waiting in newspaper pots.
This week we harvested some of the purple cauli and sprouting broccoli for a delicious vegetable curry.

I am picking armloads (keep forgetting the basket inside) of chard a couple times a week which is always yummy no matter how we make it. 5 ways with spinach post coming up soon!

So that's it for the garden's yours growing? Are you in winter or summer?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rich fragrant vegetable stock

As our wormery is in no need of peelings and our compost heaps are breaking their boundaries, I decided to hold back a couple of days vegetable peelings and make a rich stock. I'll admit to being quite generous in the celery department by not using the leaves in other meals so that they could be added to the stock, but for the rest it was just the parts not used like garlic and onion outers, tops of marrows and squash, ends of tomatoes and carrot peels. After 2 days we had a packed bowl full.

I gently browned a few cloves of garlic in some olive oil....

Then tipped the peels etc into the pot.....

And covered it with spring water....

About 1 hour later I added a huge bunch of herbs - thyme, parsley and majoram. I also added about 10 whole peppercorns.

Allowed to simmer for 3 hours, then left overnight to cool.

This morning I strained it and put it into jars for use this week and some into plastic containers to freeze for later use.

I wish I could explain the fragrance of this stock. We have been making meat stocks for a couple of years now and they have their own warming smell. But this vegetable stock had such a full bodied smell....can't wait to use it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Homemade Laundry Liquid ~ Quick Easy Savings

I have vascillated between using my homemade washing powder, Earthsap's lovely product, soapnuts and Biowash Ball for the last 3 years. A few nights ago I read Rhonda Jean's post about homemade laundry liquid and when I saw the cost saving (even if it was in Aussie $'s) I thought it was time to try it.

I have included a costing for you, but I am really not the kind of person who calculates this kind of thing all the time but I did want to see how it translates in South African Rands.

Firing up the trusty new iPad to her recipe I used the local equivalent products...Sunlight Soap Bar, Buffalo Borax (from PnP) and Washing Soda from the local hardware store.

Rhonda promised that it was 1/2hr of my time, so why not try? I grated too much soap but it's in a baggie for next time. I figure that at the rate we wash I will have to do this once a month.

At one stage I didn't think the soap would dissolve but it did just at boiling point. As soon as I added the cold water to this mixture it started to gel and had to work faster to get it into my containers.

I had saved 2 Earth Sap buckets and had to use another Tupperware container to hold it, but there it is - 10litres of laundry liquid and it actually took less that 1/2hr.

The costing:

Washing Soda R37.95 = 5 batches = unit cost R7.60
Borax R10.49 need just over 1 = R12.00
Sunlight soap R10.49 for 2 bars = unit cost R5.25

Total cost to make = R24.85

As I was using Earth Sap (with no softener) I was spending R270 per month on washing powder. This translates into a saving of R245.15 per month. That's R2941.80 per year.

I will try it on the next wash day and let you know what it's like to use.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A bit of this and a bit of that

Being cold and wet for more than 3 days now we were in need of some serious comfort food.

Baked Oatmeal using that recipe but I added a layer of blueberries and chopped apple underneath and it was superb.

 5 Minute bread and soup for lunch. 

 Went into the garden in a break in the rain and stood admiring our lovely broccoli.

My veggie man had cheap tomatoes from local farmers growing in tunnels...not the best frugal choice but they made delicious tomato ketchup.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In the kitchen this week....

This week we have been left with no doubt that there is snow coming to the mountains that circle the Bay...there is ice in the air which calls for fires in the evening, warm puddings, more soup and blankets on our laps. This week I have had some fun in the kitchen in between running errands and my children's social lives :) to do some things that were on my to do list.

This months recipe for our next batch of soap was cinnamon, clove and nutmeg added to the basic soap recipe that I follow from Down To Earth.

I took 20litres of milk this time from our free range farmer as versus the normal 12 and tried my hand at making mozarella cheese. The above picture are the curds...all was going so well until I tried to stretch the curds and the consistency just wasn't right. I am a bit frustrated at the waste but the chickens gobbled up the curds. I used 12 litres to make vanilla flavoured yoghurt and plain cream good.

Talking about chickens, our 10 girls are enjoying scratching over the fallow beds. These are the beds that get no sun in winter and they are allowed in there for a while each day.

They are giving us 3 eggs and 5 eggs on alternate days so we enjoy eggs in one form or another for breakfast in the morning.

No, this is not one of my girls, but it is my son's chickens we bring in from a farmer each week. They are beautiful plump birds and last night I taught him how to joint one. You can see the tutorial on his blog.

Littlest one needed a snack in a hurry and pancakes it was...such a nice treat for a chilly afternoon.

Our citrus cleaner is working well and we use it now throughout the house for kitchen, bathroom, sealed wood floors, windows and more. The bonus is that oranges are cheap and prolific in winter and we get lovely fresh orange juice daily.

We had lasagne with friends this week and how can one eat lasagne without a nice Italian bread to go with it? That just wouldn't be right!!! We make a simple white bread dough and after the first proof period I roll it out like a long flat sausage and add a row of pitted chopped olives, rosemary and garlic down the centre then roll it up and allow to rise again before baking. Always yummy and never enough.

So how has your week been?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

This week ~ bargains, recipes, thoughts and ramblings

The second week of our school break has flown by and leaves me feeling slightly panicked about what still needs to happen in this last week of holiday before we hit the books again. Time seems to slip through my fingers even though I am careful not to waste it.

I have been pondering how I spend my time for a while now in light of this scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:10
"For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing]."

There are so many good things that I can do but are they the best?

Our week has been a good one...starting off on Sunday with my oldest daughter cooking us a fabulous meal from Jamie's 30 minute meals. This young lady is a little kitchen shy due to an unfortunate episode when she set our oven alight at 13 when she forgot to take mini pizzas out of the oven! Bravely, she has overcome this fright and presented to us a delicious meal of beef fillet, dressed baby potatoes, Asian leaf salad, fragrant baby carrots and Yorshire puddings to boot....give the girl a round of applause...she is a star!

Glorious Food!

Monday saw us using our first bargain of the week...a visit to Ratanga Junction theme park for R50 per rider as versus the normal R135! The kids had a blast as it was so quiet there they could do their favourite rides over and over and over and over and over again without having to wait in a queue.

4 pairs of feet are my precious children somewhere up there.

Only children would do water rides in the middle of a Cape Town winter!
It is only in Africa would you see roosters and chickens wandering around a theme park...isn't he beautiful?

He struts his stuff with his little flock following.

When grocery shopping this week I found Kingklip on special. We all love fish but since Superman sold his boat a couple of years back we just don't eat it like we used too. Our two sons are also allergic to seafood so it always means cooking two seperate meals and making sure no knives, chopping boards etc come into contact with each other.

I couldn't resist the Kingklip though and as our current comfort food is curry I made a delicious fish curry with it. Recipe follows at the end of the post.

I also pop into Woolworths once a week to buy our drinking milk and always check out their specials. Their hard cheeses, baby potatoes and onions, butternut and sweet potatoes were on special this week. This called for some onion marmalade. The recipe is from here.

We all make mistakes some times, don't we? I made a big one when planting out fruit trees in December 2010. This week was time to correct this mistake now that winter is settled in. On Thursday we moved the fig tree to the back yard after removing a tree that we have left for climbing which the children have outgrown. We also moved the grafted avo tree to a new sunny spot and transplanted the lemon verbena to the old avo spot.
Grafted Avo tree

Leafless Fig

Verbena cut back and about to be transplanted

Goodbye "three trees"

These choices will result in more space for the fig tree as well as constant sun for both fig and avo and at the same time stop them from casting shade in summer on the vegetable garden.

I picked up some fennel plants at the market and made my mum's delicious fennel soup. Here's how:
Fennel Soup
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with a glug of olive oil.
Brown 2 bunches of washed chopped leeks
Add 4 cleaned chopped fennel bulbs and soften by sweating.
Add 1 liter chicken stock and cook until everything is very soft.
Allow to reduce a little then add 250ml cream.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Sprinkle over some fennel fronds and enjoy.

On Friday we left home early at 8a.m. to drive over to the Palmiet Hydro Electic Station to learn more about the station and power supply in South Africa. It was throroughly entertaining and Superman kept the presenter on her toes with questions on the Kyoto Protocol, Fracking in the Karoo and others. We then stopped for lunch at a little farm stall and went on to Hermanus to visit his folks for the night.

A lovely walk on the cliff path, no whales yet sadly, and then home to a delicious dinner cooked by Granny. The next morning was the mandatory visit to the Hermanus market for breakfast and then home again to Cape Town. A delightful little interlude in the week.

Here's that recipe I promised....

Fish curry recipe

You need a while to make this so take that into planning. It is made in 2 parts and is so worth it for the flavours.

Curry Tomato Paste
Cut up 6 tomatoes and place in a small pot with some curry leaves and a tablespoon of masala. Allow to simmer away slowly until soft then blend with a hand blender. While that is cooking make your...

Curry sauce
In a large skillet or pan fry up one chopped red onion, 2 red peppers, 4 cloves of pressed garlic and 2cm grated fresh ginger. Allow to soften.

Add 1 tablespoon of masala, curry leaves from 2 stalks, 1 stick of cinnamon, 4 cardamom pods, 1 heaped teaspoon of each ground cumin and coriander. Add one cup of water.

When the curry smell invades all your senses add 1 can of coconut milk. Allow this to reduce slowly while you prepare your chosen fish into chunks.

When the sauce is slightly thickened add your tomatoe paste and taste. You will need salt for sure but you may want to add a little sweetness in the form of a teaspoon of brown sugar.

I don't mind holes in my greens...but no slugs allowed!
Now add your fish and any leafy vegetable like pak choi or mustard greens or spinach. Put a lid on the pan and let it cook until the fish is tender....this happens quickly - no more than 7 - 10 minutes.

Serve with fresh coriander....Enjoy!