Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Message from the Goddess

I selected a Goddess Guidance Oracle Card this morning just for fun. I thought the message was pretty relevant to a lot of us just now, so I decided to share it with you.

Message from Oonagh:
"Nurturing a cause or a relationship is a long-term commitment, and one that can't be rushed. This level of devotion comes from a place of deep loving and concern. I care what happens to my planet and to my loved ones so much that I'm willing to stick with them through thick and thin. This isn't always easy, but to me, it's the only way to ensure that matters are resolved and healed. I listen to the passionate stirrings of my heart. I reach out and take action to let my loved ones know that I deeply care about them. I take action to spur on my pet causes. Never mind what other people think; you will benefit by carrying through with your priorities. You'll feel so good about yourself if you make time for the relationships and projects that truly count in your heart. Do what's important to you, and do it with absolute devotion! But remember that there's no competition for your true life's purpose, so there's no need to worry, hurry, or feel that you have to force things to happen."

I think Oonagh said it all!

love and light

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Survival into the 21st Century

I was reading Molly's post on the food crisis and thought I'd post some information I found in a book just this morning. The book is called Survival into the 21st Century: Planetary Healers Manual by Viktoras Kulvinskas, published in 1975. I inherited it from my father, a wise old Piscean who was definitely ahead of his time (or maybe behind it?).

Anyway, the book discusses how to survive in the future and it is interesting that a lot of the issues raised are ones we are now talking about, although it is by no means a book on self-sufficiency. In preparation for survival, the author suggests (among other things):
  • buying land at least 100 miles (160 km) away from major cities, preferably in the mountains or somewhere that people won't consider to be agriculturally attractive
  • having hidden, underground storage areas for food, water, tools, books and seeds
  • storing for each person: 25kg unhulled buckwheat seed; 50kg wheat; 12kg mung beans; 12kg unhulled sesame seed; 25kg navy beans; 15kg honey; 1L liquid kelp
  • digging a well for water
  • moving to your land at the first sign of unrest
  • using a car, but always carrying a bike

The list of food may seem a bit strange, but the author was seriously into sprouted food. I'd like to see some veges on the list, but maybe you'd have vege seeds and grow them once you'd gone to your land.

Quite an interesting read, with a bit of a giggle now and again.

love and light


Saturday, 24 May 2008

Winter Warmer - Woolly Socks

As part of our mission to cover up more and heat less over winter, I decided to make my partner some woolly socks to wear around the house at night. I contemplated knitting with the traditional three or four double-ended needles or crocheting in the round, but in the end I decided upon using one of the knitting looms I had bought the children. Here are the results!

The socks pictured are about Australian men's size 11-12. The loom is about 13cm (5.5") across and has 24 pegs on it. I used two strands of 8ply (DK) pure wool, making the yarn 16ply. The socks required about 300m of 8ply (150m 16ply), which is a smidgen over 150g. I didn't put any elastic in the tops, as my darling reckoned that his furry legs would hold them up! But you could thread a soft piece of 6mm (0.25") elastic through the top at the end if you wished.

To make socks:
Cast on by wrapping the yarn around each peg, then wrap a second row and with the hook supplied, pull the bottom row of loops up and over the top row. (This is like the "French knitting" we did as kids.) Continuing in this manner, knit 30 rows.

Next row: wrap half the pegs (12) and pull loops up as normal, then work back on the same 12 pegs to the start - this gives two half rows. Then work a full row. Repeat this process (2 half rows and 1 full row) five times. This forms a bit of a heel.

Knit another 30 rows, then cast off. Do this by lifting off the first stitch, placing it on a crochet hook (I used a 4mm one) and pulling a loop through. Pick up the second stitch in the same way, then pull a loop of yarn through both stitches, leaving one loop on the hook. Continue around the circle until all stitches have been removed from the loom, pulling the thread through the last loop to tie off. Casting off in this manner draws the knitting in a bit, to form the toe.

Turn sock inside out and sew up the toe. You may also need to stitch up the holes formed by the half rows when forming the heel. Thread through any loose ends and you're done!

To make a smaller adult size, just do fewer rows on the foot part. To make children's socks, you'd probably need a smaller loom.

I really enjoyed making the socks this way - it seemed like a bit of a game (appealed to the child within). Not sure if it was any quicker, but they were so easy, you could literally get the kids to make them.

love and light

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Frosts and Heat

So far we've only been down to -1C in frosty Canberra this autumn, but tonight, after a few above zero nights, we're heading down to -3C! I've covered the maize and the remaining tomatoes, but the poor dears must be feeling the cold. If only I could bring them in at night . . .

Speaking of which, I'm curious about what people consider to be adequate heating in such a climate as ours. We set the thermostat (yes, we are blessed by ducted gas heating) to around 17-18C (about 63-64F) and turn it off when we go to bed. We only turn it on if we really need to (often we don't bother in the morning before we go to work), preferring to warm our bodies with extra clothing, rather than to use excessive amounts of fossil fuel.

Talking about heating at work the other day, I was surprised to hear that my colleagues thought our house must be freezing and that the minimum they would consider was 20C - btw, that's our maximum if someone is ill or we need to get some clothes dry. Some heated their homes to 23C or even 25C.

So, how hot is hot enough? I'd be interested to hear your views. See the sidebar for a poll on this.

love and light

Monday, 19 May 2008

Tagged by Hedgewitch

OK - a new challenge sent to me by Hedgewitch on her Earth and Tree blog. BTW, if you haven't yet gone to Hedgewitch's sites, I'd highly recommend it - lots of lovely environmentally focused crafts and tidbits of information and musings - a really good read.

Here is the deal: you pick up the nearest book set in a foreign country and then . . .
1) Open page 123
2) Find the fifth sentence.
3) Post the next three sentences.
4) Tag five people and acknowledge who tagged you.

My book is The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

p123 from the 5th sentence:
Now ego poses as the righteous arbiter of all conduct: the shrewdest position of all from which to undermine your faith, and erode whatever devotion and commitment to spiritual change you have.
Yet however hard ego may try to sabotage the spiritual path, if you really continue on it, and work deeply with the practice of meditation, you will begin slowly to realize just how gulled you have been by ego's promises: false hopes and false fears.
Slowly you begin to understand that both hope and fear are enemies of your peace of mind; hopes deceive you, and leave you empty and disappointed, and fears paralyze you in the narrow cell of your false identity.

Wow, pretty heavy stuff for a Monday evening. Funnily enough, I was just talking to some colleagues at work this morning about the only two true emotions - love and fear.

Now I am seriously in danger of waxing philosophical and don't really want to bore you with my ramblings, but I wonder how this applies to us all at the moment with respect to topics such as food and energy crises? Although I am sure we are right to read the signs as we are, maybe we need to implement our plans for survival with a lighter heart and not one based on fear; to rejoice in what we are collectively achieving day by day to reduce our footprint on dear Mother Earth; and to be grateful for her bounties.

As I said, a bit heavy for a Monday night . . . . .

As for those lovely people I would like to tag - I think I'll just pick two (given I've recently tagged a bunch of you):
The Crone - who provides us with such entertaining reading of her journey in reducing consumption and impact on the planet and
Molly - who finds such terrific information on what is happening in the world that she almost single-handedly keeps us up to date

love and light

Sunday, 18 May 2008

I've Been Tagged Again!

The dear Crone has tagged me again, so here goes:

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
I was living on a 360-acre (144ha) property, trying to do the self-sufficiency thing while working full-time and building a house - I don't believe I was actually trying to do all that!

2. What were five things on my "to-do" list today?
Making goat milk yoghurt
Making goat milk cottage cheese
Cooking oat cakes (ala Apprentice Domestic Goddess) for breakfast
Straining two herb tinctures that have been sitting there brewing (Plantain and Solomon's Seal)
Vacuuming the house

3. Snacks I enjoy
Chocolate (who doesn't?)
Fresh fruit - especially figs and persimmons
Fresh dates with cheese
Oat cakes
Left overs

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
Definitely ensure family and friends were setup financially
Finish my course and do healing for free
Work for charities
Keep gardening, especially growing fresh food
Help others to establish their own food gardens
Establish a national food seed bank that was accessible to the public
Buy up heaps of land and save it from developers

5. Places I have lived
Australia - SE Queensland (mainly Brisbane); NSW; ACT
London (3 months)

6. People to tag
One Busy Mama
My Wildlife Sanctuary
Erbe in Cucina

love and light

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Today in the Garden

I am, as ever, thankful for the bounties supplied by my garden. A couple of months ago, I cut a couple of cauliflowers from their stems and didn't remove the rest of the plant. The result is that they have now sprouted a few mini caulis each. The biggest one (pictured) is now about 12cm across and I am looking forward to harvesting it very soon.

Meanwhile, the baby broccoli plants are getting a move on and the biggest head (pictured) is now about 10cm across. So, soon we will be starting on our winter pig-out on broccoli.

This morning, I also picked a colander-full of tomatoes, still surviving even though we've had a couple of light frosts now. And amaizingly (pun intended), the maize is still alive and the little cobs are starting to fill. I will definitely be planting it earlier next season.

I also dug over a new patch this morning and planted some oats and the old costata zucchinis, which produced so brilliantly this year, were cleared to make way for some Yakumo Giant snow peas.

love and light

Monday, 12 May 2008

Feeding the World

Tonight on the ABC was a very interesting edition of Landline Extra. One story related to our ability to feed the world (click on the link to see transcript and view the video). The program was presented in the context of the growth in world population, the failure of crops in Australia due to drought and the increased use of grains for biofuel production.

They listed world population figures, which I have plotted up. As you can see, we still have a linearly increasing population growth, which is not predicted to slow down for another 20 years or so.

The program discussed how businesses and investors are starting to look to the rural sector as a potential cash cow. (It always worries me when big business gets involved in our food chain.) Also, in the past year, the price of corn has risen by 31%, rice has increased by 74%, soya beans are up 87% and wheat is now 130% more expensive than it was 12 months ago.

All this adds up to the need for us to take more personal responsibility for our food production. I think I'm starting to repeat myself - I'm sure I said this yesterday . . . So, I'll repeat myself again and say - go forth into your gardens and multiply! Put some seed or seedlings into the ground and start growing more of your own food. And while you're about it, teach your children how to grow food as well - their future may very well depend on it!

Don't mean to sound paranoid; I just think this is a very important issue. Who will feed us if we don't at least try to feed ourselves?

love and light

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Our Bees, Our Food

Just saw a story on TV about the Varroa mite. Apparently, Australia is the only country free of the varroa mite, a little critter that affects bees. It rides in on the backs of bees into the colony (or hive) and infects the bee larvae with a virus, killing them.

The reason this is so important (apart from the damage to bees and our honey supply) is that bees are critical in the production of our food. Australia is now exporting bees overseas in a bid to help other countries maintain their food production.

Without bees, many plants won't be pollinated and will therefore not produce their fruit, which is what we eat. The only other option is hand pollination - not really possible on the scale of production of much of our food. Imagine a world without honey, stone fruits, apples, pears, melons, pumpkins, almonds and avocadoes, to name a few of the foods that could be affected.

This is yet another reason why it is so important for us all to take some responsibility for producing the food we eat. Every step you take to grow your own food will reduce your impact on the environment, as well as securing yours and your family's future.

So get into your gardens and plant some food, even if it is to put a few lettuce seedlings or herbs in a pot on your balcony. Every little bit helps and you will enjoy the freshness and vitality of your own produce. And the satisfaction of creating a meal from your own produce is unparalleled. Happy gardening!

love and light

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Eating on a Budget

Following comments by The Crone and Molly regarding eating well on a budget, I thought I'd share an old-time family recipe with you - home made baked beans. These are infintely superior to the tinned ones and if you have a good supply of tomatoes on hand, pretty cheap to make.

Baked Beans
2.5 cups unsoaked dried navy beans or haricot beans
3.5 cups tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
0.5 cup tomato paste
0.25 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons oil
1 large, whole onion (peeled)
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil

Soak beans for a few hours or overnight and cook in salted water until tender. Drain the beans and put them in a large baking dish. Add the tomatoes, salt, tomato paste, sugar, honey and oil. Mix well. Place onion in the centre and bake, covered, in a moderate oven for 1 hour. Add basil, stir well and bake uncovered until the liquid is thickened.

This recipe will feed a tribe of six. Depending on how sweet you like your beans to be, you can add only the sugar or only the honey, rather than both. You can also add other things, if desired, like more onion or bacon or chorizos.

love and light

Death and Life in the Garden

I always feel a little sad in autumn when the plants that have served us so well with fresh food over the summer are dying back and need pulling out of the ground. It's a little like a friend dying.

So this afternoon I was clearing up number 1 tomato bed, lamenting the passing of my friends. But after adding cow manure, dolomite, mushroom compost and some trace elements, I was back into planting mode again and I put in some spring onion and leek seeds, with hopes of new life and a crop by spring.

Then I moved onto the next bed and removed some spent zucchinis and assorted weeds. After manuring the bed, I put in peas (red flowering and greenfeast), Asian vegetables (wong bok, pak choi and Senposai greens), kale and winter lettuce. Bare spots in a couple of other beds had broad beans planted. And the broad beans, red flowering peas and the greenfeast peas were all from seed I'd saved myself, so I'm feeling pretty happy.

When I was clearing out the tomato bed, a couple of the stakes broke off at ground level - they are quite a few years old and I guess they've finally rotted. I've been eyeing off some new ones at the hardware store - made from recycled plastic or something so they should last a lot longer - maybe an option for next spring?

Also, for all of you gardening women out there who wear tights/pantyhose/stockings in winter - if you should get a ladder in them, don't throw them out. Simply clean them and then put them aside for plant ties. I use them to tie up my tomatoes and they are fabulous - long lasting, soft and elastic. And you get to use them again and again until they disintegrate, which has to be better for our planet.

love and light

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Tomato Sauce

I was still looking for things to do with tomatoes and I had several small Granny Smith apples from our tree, so I put them together and got tomato sauce.

Here's the recipe:

3.25kg ripe tomatoes
0.75kg apples
450ml apple cider vinegar
500g sugar
30ml veggie salt
15ml paprika
2.5ml teaspoons cayenne
20ml cornflour

Wash the tomatoes, chop them and place in a large pot. Wash, peel and dice the apples (retain peel and cores for apple jelly making, if the apples are not sprayed). Put apples in the pot with the tomatoes and place on low heat until everything is soft and pulpy. You shouldn't need to add water, as the tomatoes will be juicy enough.

When tomatoes and apples are cooked, leave to cool for a while. When cool enough to handle, press through a sieve. This will remove most of the seeds and the tomato skins. Make sure you push the apple through, as this adds a bit of bulk to the sauce.

Put the puree back into the pot (which you have rinsed) and add the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently; cook until mixture has thickened a little. Combine cornflour with a small amount of water and stir into mixture. This will thicken it a little more. You may add more cornflour if you like particularly thick sauce.

When the sauce is cool enough to handle, pour into clean screw-top bottles, leaving a little room at the top of the bottles. Put lids on bottles and sterilise in the following manner:
Place filled bottles in a deep pan of hand-hot water (about 50C). Make sure the water does not cover any of the bottles. Put the lid on the pan and heat until simmering (about 88C). This should take about 30 minutes. Leave the bottles in the simmering water for another 30 minutes. When finished turn off the heat and let it cool down until you can safely take the bottles out. Make sure the lids are still well sealed. Label and store.

This a fairly basic recipe. You could experiment with adding different herbs and spices, like garlic, basil, chilli, etc.

You need to be very particular about sterilising the bottles of tomato sauce. This is because the main ingredient is tomatoes and they can result in botulism if not processed correctly. Having said that, this method is possibly a little bit of an overkill, but where my family's health is concerned, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

This amount of tomatoes makes about 3L of tomato sauce. That's probably more than a year's supply in our house . . .

love and light

Saturday, 3 May 2008


At last, I seem to be able to keep a brahmi plant alive. My previous attempts have ended in premature death of the poor herbs, but this time things are looking good.

The trick to keeping Brahmi alive seems to be keeping it moist and protecting it from too much sun and also too much cold. Apparently, they like semi-shaded, moist conditions.

This Brahmi is in a 20cm pot and now that things have started to chill down here in Zone 2, I've brought it inside. Hopefully, it will survive the winter. I'll let you know its progress.

love and light

Moon Gardening for May 2008

The New Moon at 10:19pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on Monday 5 May sees the start of the lunar planting cycle for this month. Leafy annuals (eg, broccoli, spinach, cabbages) can be sown and seedlings can be transplanted from 10:19am to 9:20pm Tuesday 6 May and from 9:03pm Thursday 8 May to 11:10pm Saturday 10 May.

The First Quarter will occur at 1:45pm Monday 12 May. Fruiting annuals (eg, beans, peas, corn) can be sown and seedlings can be transplanted between 1:46pm Thursday 15 May and 12:12am Tuesday 20 May.

The Full Moon will occur at 12:12pm on Tuesday 20 May, so remember to put your crystals out overnight to recharge. Given that the full moon is occurring near midday, I would probably choose the Monday night during the waxing moon, rather than the Tuesday night when the moon will have started to wane, to recharge your little friends.

Root crops (eg, carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips) can be sown between 1:55am Friday 23 May and 1:53pm Sunday 25 May.

The Last Quarter wil be at 12:57pm Wednesday 28 May and the New Moon will occur at 5:24am Wednesday 4 June. Between these times, weed your garden and make compost.

Happy gardening!

love and light