Saturday, February 25, 2012

Productive times...

I have been feeling like I am being lazy and not making the most of things but when I take stock of what has been happening over the last couple of months I haven't been doing as badly as I thought I had. there has been foraging and growing and cooking and all sorts...
I have been picking blackberries and made jam and apple and blackberry crumble topped pie.
Foraged some elderberries and made elderberry cordial. I would post a recipe but it is a bit from here and a bit from there and no firm recipe. I did use honey and cloves as I wanted it to be a wee bit medicinal and hopefully ward off winter coughs and sniffles

I have started ordering seasonal local veg boxes again and due to having two large cauliflowers I have now tried my hand at making piccalilli. I am supposed to wait 5 weeks before eating ...5 weeks? Oh dear, patience is not my strong point at all. My recipe is based a bit on the hairy bikers and a bit on the River Cottage recipe, if it is good I shall claim it is my own and if it is terrible I shall blame Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall! Having the boxes is a great fun challenge, finding ways to use such lovely produce and have as little as possible go to waste. there are lots of leafy greens as well in this one.
The garden (being a courtyard really) has courgettes, chillis, volunteer pumpkins (seemingly ubiquitous and follow me around to every house I move too!) little tomatoes and we found some baby carrots today (gobbled very fast by two small boys!) as well as all our usual herbs. 
Today we planted purple sprouting broccoli (hopefully not too late) radishes (I think it is too hot but master 5 reaaaally wanted some) and some beetroot having rejuvenated the soil with some blood and bone, chicken manure and cow manure.
I am now attempting to rest a while as it is over 30 degrees C again. Oh and I must go check on the solar dehydrator  I have made from a silver lined insulated bag and see how the pears and apples are doing now.
OK, so writing it all down makes me feel better, throw in making a few loaves of bread, several kilos of yoghurt, some blogging on a major parenting site, eldest starting school (now that has mucked up my schedules!) and expecting baby number three in September ( I think the nausea is subsiding now) whilst still running the business things have been reasonably productive (and reproductive!) in their modest pootling along sort of way, sometimes taking stock of your life can be very beneficial!


I have received an award from Sara:

And I am beyond stoked (or for those of a less Antipodean persuasion- I am delighted) and happily bestow the award on some fellow bloggers:

1.Veggiegobbler: Honest refreshing etc . This woman gets busy(in the garden and kitchen!), grows and blogs 'nuff said.

2. Cast Iron Balcony :Feminist Blogging far out of my league this one is by Helen who I am proud to say is sort of my Aunt by a complicated arrangement involving second marriages and unofficial adoptions but very dear to my heart.

3. Dave Hamilton's Blog at Selfsufficientish Another blogger far beyond my humble attempts but I would like to award this one to Dave to let him know that his lovely blog is much appreciated and read and not just by people who want to put links to their Russian Bride websites!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Grow Your food for Free , Well almost" By Dave Hamilton: review

I have been lucky enough to be offered an opportunity to review copy of "Grow Your food for Free , Well almost- great money Saving Ideas for your Garden" By Dave Hamilton. Those not familiar with Dave's work need to acquaint yourself forthwith. I first encountered him through his website Selfsufficient-ish which has lots of interesting articles and the most practical, down to earth good humoured, no nonsense bunch of people I have ever encountered using the forum. I have learned an awful lot from the forum and glean much inspiration from it and I am a big fan of Dave's previous book "the Self Sufficient-ish Bible" which he wrote with his brother Andy (also of the fame). It sits snugly next to my copy of Alys Fowler's Thrifty Gardener and I like to think they take tea together when I am sleeping...back to Dave's book!  The title pretty much lays it out there as to what it is all about- it is a guide to saving money whilst growing your own food!

There is a danger when releasing a book such as "Grow Your Food for Free" that a lot of the subject matter will be a rehash of previous work and although there are similarities in the layout and illustrative style as well as subject matter there is a definite "Dave-ishness" which shines through, the book is written in a conversational, personable style and Dave's personality is present in all of his splendid ideas which manage successfully to avoid cloning the "Bible". Charming illustrations by Ellie Mains, many showing useful practical things such as how to dismantle pallets and how to build insect hotels as well as being lovely decorations, are a good foil for the photographs and build on the friendly manner throughout the book .

When reading gardening books written by Northern hemisphere authors there is often a confusement (my own word, it seems like everyone has their own words these days) in my head as I try to switch it all around in my brain for us Australians and then just go onto Selfsufficientish forum and ask someone to figure it out for me. I didn't feel at all confused by "Grow your Food for Free..." as the advice is set out in seasons and I find it directly applicable to our Tasmanian seasons (it might not be so useful for those in far North Queensland or NT but what do you expect living all the way up there with no proper seasons?). Here in Tasmania we have many of the same wild food and weeds about the place as in the UK so I found much wisdom regarding the use of weeds and foraging which I plan to put into action very shortly if I can get past all our ripe blackberries!

Making paths, ponds, cloches and raised beds are all covered and very clear, foraging, working with the plot you have, recycling, what not to use in the garden and just about everything you might find helpful is covered, the book is not full of fluffy fillers but good quality practical advice without being at all dry.

The physical feel of the book is good too, whilst the Selfsufficient-ish Bible is a weighty (if somewhat floppy- I have the paperback) tome, a copy of "Grow Your Food for Free.." can be easily carted around with you and is easy to flick through time and time again (and it is printed on recycled paper using vegetable inks).

 All in all anyone who is interested in a self sufficient lifestyle in an urban setting and wants to grow food for minimal cost and enjoys being creative (which I know is all of my readers and anyone whose blog I read also!) would do well to have a copy of this lovely and useful book on their shelf, the tips contained within would more than offset the purchase price!

"Grow your Food for Free, Well Almost" is printed by Greenbooks UK (on recycled paper using vegetable inks) available through many good book shops in Australia.