Monday, August 27, 2012

Porter Estate Market Spring Day Celebration

A quick note and invitation to Capetonians to come to the Porter Estate Market this Saturday 1st Sept and take part in a raffle in which you can win an amazing produce hamper full of contributions by all vendors.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gone planting....

I will be taking a break from the blog for a while because I fear that there are too many balls being juggled by myself and I may drop one (or two or three). AND we have to plant seeds....

Will be back in the not too distant future.....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The love affair continues.... I love you, let me count the ways....corney I know but my family and I have an ongoing passion for stocks.

Having eating soup almost every lunch time over winter we have gone through a lot of stock. I have at least 5 jars of beef and 5 of chicken in the fridge at all times. I recently made vegetable stock too which has come in handy in a variety of meals.

Chicken necks browning

Now that we are in the flow of it I just keep making stock as I see we are coming to the end of one type. When I started making stocks for the first time about 18 months ago I set aside the task for a weekend day but now it just flows with the rhythm of my kitchen.

Beef bones are ordered monthly (4kgs) from our grass fed beef supplier. Theseare frozen in 1kg bags and taken out as needed. Chicken carcasses are left over from our meals as I joint whole chickens to save a little. These chickens are from my son's pasture fed farmer's farm (gosh is that a sentance!) and once I have cut off the thighs, drums, wings and breasts the rest is put aside for stock. Specific vegetable peelings are collected and kept in a bowl in the fridge and used for beef and chicken stocks or used in pure veggie stock.

The other day I bought a whole Yellowtail and while the fishmonger filleted it he offered me the head...this was the first time I entertained the thought of a fishstock. So of course I said YES! and it is now waiting for me in the freezer so that I can make fish stock for a great soup recipe I have my eye on.

Self seeded celery, so glad it did!

One of my son's clients asked if we could get her chicken necks...when I enquired why she said that she made stock from them as the spinal fluid had antiviral properties. I have looked all over the web but have found nothing to justify this comment, but this article explains why we should make bone stocks anyway.

I found that the chicken necks are nice a cheap (and being free range pasture fed this is a good thing!) so I bought us a couple of packets.

Here is what is cooking on the stove as I write:

Brown 1kg chicken necks in a little butter
Add the peels of a weeks worth of soup preparation i.e. 1 large bowl of garlic peels, onion tops and peels, carrot peels, turnip peels, tomatoe bottoms, courgette tops.

A few days of soup veg peels
I had to run out to the garden for some self seeded celery as there was none in that collected.

Add 5 Bay leaves, 10 peppercorns and cover with spring water.

Bring to the boil then turn right down to a soft simmer for about 4  - 6 hours. I will turn the pot off at 9.30 when I go to the land of nod.

The liquid will be drained in the morning, the vegetables thrown away, the necks given to the dogs and the stock placed in 1 liter jars for use.

Tomorrow as I am out for most of the day with one child or another, the stock will be used in broccoli soup which the "left-behinds" will make for I remind them to keep me a bowl!

Linking up to Simple Lives Thursday

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The garden pantry

It's so exciting to see the winter crops come into full production. While we have been eating Asian Greens, spinach, broccoli and peas for a while we now have the long awaited broad beans making their appearance.

There are loads of pods on the plants, and even though many were damaged in the storms of the last weeks, we will have plenty on our dinner table over the next while.

The last of our beets are big enough to harvest now so we will clear this bed out this week so that I can plant the last spinach of the season which should see us to December. A nice bowl of steam baby beets will go down well with a roast chicken this week. I also use the leaves like spinach, so perhaps a spinach and feta pie will be on the menu?

 The last purple broccoli is waiting to be picked, we still have some of the sprouting variety so these two combined will go into a pasta or broccoli cheese for a meal.

 Peas are nice and fat in their pods and we have mange tout for salads at the moment. I am also harvesting the pea sprouts that we planted in our asparagus  beds for salads.

And then our shy Mary Washington asparagus is arriving. We have about 10 spears in different stages peeping through and will make a lovely hors d'oeuvre one evening. In the book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" they talk about asparagus being the first sign of spring...this may well be but it is still freezing here.

Our herbs of coriander, majorum, celery, origanum, rosemary and thyme have been used heavily this winter. I also have a Bay tree but it is infested with it is being is actually in the wrong place anyway. Today I planted a new Bay in a pot and put Penny Royal and Thyme at the base. I need to rethink all the herbs I do have growing as I use so much of them that I need to allocated more space....time to plan!

What's growing in your garden?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The ordinariness of life...

This has been what it looked liked out of my kitchen window for the most part since last Saturday. Am I allowed to complain about the rain even if I know that when summer comes all this water in our dams will be a good thing? I suppose I can, even if it won't change anything and to be quite honest, I really don't mind the rain IF I don't have to go anywhere!

In between the rain we have been trying to get washing dry making our backyard look like a Chinese Laundry, but at least we don't have to use the dryer (and only do in an emergency).

And life plods on...everyday a similar thing but a pleasing cycle to the days. Often just living a life that is of a this family, me giving the best food I can to my family, the life that is about growing vegetables and cooking from scratch is actually quite plain and ordinary.

Today I tried a new soup recipe, well, its a basic vegetable soup that I make, but I saw on Down To Earth that Rhonda added meatballs to her soup instead of shin for e.g. and we gave it a go. It was quite delicious and we were pleased when a friend popped in and we had enough for him for lunch too!

Our chickens have been giving us 5 and 4 eggs on a cyclical daily system...I am not sure how they decided who would lay on which day and even though they have 3 laying boxes (in Superman's workshop) they will often all rush to the last one and sit on each other to lay!

Talking about chickens I thought I would show you the little ladder that we built to help the oldest girl up to the roosting pole at night. All of the chickens managed to fly up there, so we thought! But the other night I had to go and check on something outside and saw the old gal sitting on the ground. Now that we have built this and my son has shown her how to get up the ladder, she is roosting again on the pole with the rest. He told me tonight that they all use it

So while the days just tick over, we all take comfort in the routine of the day and week and besides for those hair raising days when we are out until 6pm there is a flow of meal making, cleaning, chores and more. There is the anticipation of Spring in us all, despite the weather. Perhaps from the children's side its more a bracing themselves as they know that the Saturday's of September are all about the garden, but they too know now that it's worth it for the just picked taste of organic vegetables.

Today while the oven was on for bread to go with soup, I made a quick batch of lemon poppy seed muffins for a mid morning snack...

2 cups Eureka stone ground cake flour
2t baking powder
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 large eggs
1t vanilla
Zest and zuice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of poppyseeds
1/2 cup (left over homemade) yoghurt...or buttermilk or milk!

Beat sugar and butter, add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, zest and lemon juice and poppy seeds. Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl and then stir adding the milk/yoghurt as you go.

Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Linking up to Simple Lives Thursday

Monday, August 13, 2012

Simple Green Living is sold

Dear Followers, 

Simple Green Living is sold.This website was a wonderful way to get a message out that we need not be weird and whacky to be green, just by making some simple choices in your home and the way you live and the choices you make.

It has however got to the stage that there are just too many distractions for me to actually achieve what I want in my life, family and home. The biggest thing is spending more time in the Word of God and not having my afternoons and weekends so limited by online work.

You see, I have 3 other websites and an offline business to attend to, so as these are priorities I need to let go of what is not.

With the site goes the Facebook group and also the Facebook account which I only used in a professional capacity. But FB is not a place I want to spend anytime in, I rather want to be living life fully with my Lord and family. 

So the man who is buying my site will continue the group, if you want to stay. 

Please remember that you can always follow my blog if you don’t already via email or if you are a blogger yourself. I love hearing from you there!

Kind regards

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunshine....on a cloudy day.

Boy its is some sunshine to warm you up!
Sunshine on dinner rolls rising

Sunshine on a windowsill

Sunshine salad picked in between showers

Sunshine omlette ~ bright yellow eggs from the chickens

Sunshine on dog ~ Lucky doing her bit for the garden ~ looking beautiful.
Sunshine in a jar ~ freshly made lemon curd   

Lemon curd on fresh 5 minute bread.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spring planning and preparation

Today feels like the furtherest from Spring than we will ever be with a wild Cape storm that started in the night. Freezing cold temperatures, hail, wind, rain - we have it all.

But I know that spring will come by surprise one day because my one asparagus plant is already sending up spears!

Yesterday I took out all my seeds that I have collected over the years and went through them to see what I can plant when over the next few months. While the kids each made their allocated stash of newspaper pots (up to about 100 now!) I got rid of ones that were expired and seperated the others into what can be planted in August, September and October.

Ones that have to go into the ground directly like beans I will wait for spring to truly be here before they go into beds. But all the others that enjoy being transplanted like tomatoes will go into the pots.

Seeds collected over the years and some new heirlooms bought in the UK recently job down, so many to go!
Then later in the day a surprise was waiting for me at the post office. I ordered some organic seed from the Pasadena Urban Homestead and they arrived just in time...I am so excited about these cucumbers.

I am also so grateful for our friend Des, who came to dig in all the compost and prepare the first planting areas. These two areas are in complete shade during winter so as the earth turns they will be ready for planting up as soon as the outdoor temps rise a little.

Dug over, composted and ready for plants

We grow corn and trailing squash here to maximise space.

So one step closer to being ready for spring. How are your plans coming?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Get the foundation right...

The other day I recieved an email from a woman who is battling to grow vegetables on her Northern Transvaal farm. She has a host of factors working against her but we identified that perhaps the foundation is not well enough prepared.
2010 a wasteland waiting to be converted to productive space

The foundation of any vegetable garden is the soil. You can plant and plant and plant but if your soil is not healthy you are setting yourself up to fail. There is nothing more disheartening as a veggie gardener when you have sown and nutured seeds only to find that the soil cannot support the plant to harvest time.

When we converted our last part of the garden at the end of 2010 we knew that the soil was dead. It had been sucked dry of all it's nutrients by grass and big trees. Knowing that this area would become our main growing space we had to do some drastic soil improvement.

Once the raised beds were in and the stone chips down for pathways we dug in loads and loads of compost and manure. We then planted lucerne as a green manure and when that had nice shoots we dug in into the bed.
Compost heap in process

Each season since then we have added more manure and more compost. This could have been a costly affair it is were not for our two large compost heaps that we have. They more or less provide us will compost for the garden twice a year.

In the compost goes all our kitchen green waste like eggs shells, peels, past fruit and veg, coffee grounds. We also add shredded newspaper, empty toilet rolls, cardboard boxes and other paper packaging. All the leaves that fall from our stinkwood in Autumn go into the compost as well as our neighbours weekly lawn mowings. Lastly I add spent borage plants and the sweepings from the chicken coop to speed up the decomposition process.

Happy chickens eating crubs in newly sifted compost
In winter we have enough rain to keep the heap nice and moist which also aids the breakdown of the heap, but in summer I put the sprinkler (using borehole water) on it once a week. We also cover the heap with old sacks or cardboard boxes to allow the heat to build up and the critters that are busy working away breaking down the stuff like to have a roof over their heads.

4years ago I would gladly have climbed into the compost heap at the beginning of each season to turn and sift it, but my back, now that it is better, will not stand any abuse. So a young man, Kayeni, comes each season to do the job for me now.

Today he emptied one heap and sifted out all the larger undecomposed bits. The chickens came to see what they could find to nosh on...

Then he cleaned out the "deep litter" from the coops and started to layer back the top layers of the heaps so that they will be ready for next Autumn.

Clean hen house
The chickens were pleased with their clean coops which we do every 3 months. We sprinkle a later of Diatomaceous Earth on the shavings for mites.

So now we have this wonderful heap of compost which should see us through our summer plantings. This is the foundation of any successful veggie garden - feed the soil.

I have seen over and over again how people get understandably enthusiastic about growing their own veg, only to give up when the plants don't meet the expectations. Truly, it is better to spend a while building up the soil with good compost and manure before you plant a thing.

Empty area to start new heap
If you are on a budget then rather choose to make a deep trench bed, by digging up a doorsized plot then digging it knee deep. Into this pit through your kitchen peelings, grass and manure (cheap from stables) and a layer of sand repeating until it is full. Top it off with a bag of bought compost and then plant just this one patch while you start the next trench bed.

I must just say that I do add another ingredient at planting time and that is volcanic rock dust. I just sprinkle it onto the sifted compost and then it moves to the beds as it comes. Superman thinks its a sales gimmick and that I would buy bat guano if I could :) but either way I do add it even though it is a little costly.

Over a few months you can work yourself up to a good few plots this way an almost no cost to you. The money you will save on failed plants is so worth the wait and rather invest that money into the soil.

Our heaps now filled with undecomposed stuff for next season.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August is the month for...

Each month has it's own to do list depending on where the earth is in relation to the sun. August whispers to me that Spring is just around the corner, while it pours out rain from the sky. August tells me to hurry hurry hurry you need to get ready for the main growing season of the year.

But I do not want to hurry hurry hurry or be busy busy busy all the time, I want to crawl into my warm bed with my dog, warm bean bag and Bible and soak up the Living Word for a bit. I want to make a cake for tea and rusks for the week...I don't want to be getting ready for Spring. I type this the rain has started and I am excused from working outside :)

On another day, when it is not so cold and wet, these are the plans for the garden in August:

Garden ~ Foremost on my mind is that the 1st of September is Spring. I think it is still going to be wet then but we can get all our newspaper pots ready. We need over 1000 of them to start off our spring plantings. The crops we always plant in Spring are:

Beans (bush and runner)

Some of these we have to start in newspaper pots as they give them a fighting chance and it gives us time to finish the crops in the beds so that when they are done we can dig in new compost and manure and plant the seedlings into the ground for Spring. Others, like beans, carrots, potatoes can go into beds directly and will have to wait until the ground is clear.

I need to source mowed grass for our compost heap as we are lacking in this vital ingredient. I also need to turn the compost, but will get faithful Des in to do that.

Home ~ The fullness of days Monday - Saturday leaves my home in an unorganized state. This makes me feel quite frazzled. I am not a neat freak, but I do like a semblance of order and right now we are very far from this mark. Part of the problem is discpline of myself to return things to their rightful place immediately, the other problem is that we have 6 people with lots of interests and 4 businesses (2 big and 2 little) running from this space. All this makes for tight space constraints and we cannot afford to be disorganized.

The plan is to allocate an area each week to be cleaned and sorted. So Monday will be the lounge/dining room, Tuesday my bedroom, Wednesday and Thursday the kitchen, Friday my office area and Saturday will be overseeing the kids rooms. I have one child who is a born organized and she will be off the hook on Saturdays...mmmh maybe I will set her to work somewhere else.

Food ~ I have to admit here in cyberspace that cooking takes up most of my time when I am not schooling the kids or taxi-ing them to sport, art or music. I do feel the need to simplfy our eating but I just love love love to cook and bake and try new things. However, I find that while producing gourmet meals is great fun and very welcomed by our taste buds and stomachs, I must cut down on time spent in the kitchen.

The plan is to limit myself to two really special meals a week. This will be on Sundays when I have loads of free time and Tuesday's when we generally have a single guy from our little church for dinner. For the other 5 days of the week supper needs to be simple.

Soups are still on the menu for lunch until the weather warms for salads and breakfast is in a flow with a variety of protein based options.

My little baker has been a bit slack of late as she has been getting her upcycled denim business going, but I think I will get her back into the snack baking habit.

August is also the month to be I have been watching this BBC series of Alys Fowler called the Edible Garden. While her garden is tiny and she is only growing for her husband and self, it is so inspiring and full of hints and tips.

I also am about to start reading my all time favourite gardening book called Living the Good Life and will dip in Harvest Diaries as each month looms.

 So what are your August plans?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Slow Living 2012 ~ Month 7

After many months of no bread, it is back on the menu a couple of times a week. I have had great fun making this 5 minute bread from Down to Earth.  I have made a 50%rye, Spelt and white loaf so far and they taste really great.

We have enjoyed purple cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach and peas from the garden and of course the herbs in our soups and stews. 

I have also given in to the winter need (note: not temptation) of puddings and cakes every now and again.

We made this orange and coconut cake which was stupendous.

I also made another gorgeous blueberry and apple pie this time with a Jamie Oliver short crust pastry which he adds lemon zest to. So light and tasty!

We tried some new soups this month, which is still the mainstay for lunch in our home. This one was shared with me by a friend and it really is filling and scrumptious.

Chicken and corn soup.

Roast a chicken, and use the bones for stock, and save breast meat
2 Onions (or leeks if that is on hand)
Sweet red/yellow peppers (2-3 medium)
3-4 ribs celery
Lots of garlic (I use 5-8 cloves)
About 2cm piece of ginger
Cumin (I just shake, and I use a lot, probably a Tbs)
Chop and fry all of above together in olive oil until onions and celery are opaque.
A   Add stock. Add vegetables of your choice like: Potatoes or sweet potatoes, Baby marrow, Carrots, Butternut

Add more stock to cover veggies. Cook until potato/carrots are soft.
Blend everything to a smooth consistency.

Cut raw corn off cob (I usually use 2 mielies) and add this and finely chopped chicken meat to soup. Add 1Tbs of coconut oil for a yummy eastern flavour (goes well with ginger) if you like that.
No need to cook further – (I like my corn more on the raw side).

I serve it with a blob of Greek yogurt. We add herbal salt at the table. 

Lots of stock was made but a new thing for me was collecting all the veggie peels once a week and making a gorgeous veggie stock.

Also made ketchup from tunnel grown tomatoes, expensive but tasty.

I made some onion marmalade and lots of yoghurt for my one yoghurt-olic child. I added some vanilla pods to the warming milk and it had such a nice flavour.

Soap needed to be made this month and it was the basic recipe with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg added to the oil to infuse. We are using the lavender soap from May and it is deliciously creamy.

I have managed to kick the plastic bag habit completely and only use cloth bags. I was always a more cloth bag person but I had to build up my stock of them to cover all the bases.

Now I need to work on reducing products bought in plastic. While we do recycle I want to reduce what I have to recycle….we’ll see how it goes by next month.

We refashioned our potato planters to be a container for our clementine. We reused bamboo poles for broad bens support and a dog deterrent around our transplanted fig tree. We planted some broccoli and calendulas around the base to pretty it up a bit…need to keep big white dog out.

This month I made and used this laundry liquid and so far it’s working well. I pre-treat stains with some of it before adding to the wash and it lifts them out.  

I also am enjoying the citrus cleaners and have a host of them in different stages of development. 

They do not get rid of the brown marks around stove plates from spills so what I do is put a little Bicarb on the mark then spray the citrus cleaner onto the bicab. There is a great fizzing and then it settles. I will then go about my dishwashing and at the end of that wipe off the bicarb. Lifts the marks off very well.

I finished a cowl this month, which should have been a snood but I an out of wool before knitting the length.

I have also started another pair of socks…I really like knitting socks!

We planted some fruit trees this month – lemon, clementine and olive as well as a blueberry bush. I also planted the last planting of broad beans for the season. 


This month saw my son launch his Funky Chicken business at a local market. It was great fun to meet many people and see their eagerness to buy the chickens and eggs. I was so blessed that a few homeschooling friends also chose to come and support my son.

My daughter made a lovely personalised beanbag for a friend’s mom who recently burned herself with a hot water bottle. 

And I had a delightful visit from a former homeschool mum who is now studying at Stellenbosch and needed to see micro agriculture for her thesis. Such a nice chat!

I love that the Lupines and other bulbs are up on Dreyersdal Farm and while walking there is not so pleasant now that they are allowing builders to dump rubble in some areas, we still walk on the top fields and my son plays hide and seek in the lupines.

I have had a good month, enjoying it most of all at night when a warm bath, a cup of tea and warm bed end off a busy day.