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11 February 2016

The humble rosella

If you're in a warm climate, rosellas are a very useful and unusual plant to grow in the backyard. They're a wild hibiscus, native to west Africa, and grown in many places here in Australia, particularly in the north. They're also grown in south east Asia, the West Indies, Mexico and the US, I'm note sure about the European countries.  Let me know in the comments if you're growing it. 

We haven't grown rosellas for a couple of years but there was a time when they were regulars in our garden and I made jam and drinks with them every year.  It's an easy plant to grow if you have the right climate for it so that's why it's back in our garden; we want to grow simple plants that are useful in the kitchen. It takes about six months of frost-free warm weather to grow them to maturity. The red sepals, seeds and green leaves are all edible. Red Zinger tea contains rosellas, it's what gives that tea its red colouring. There are several health claims made for rosellas but I'll leave that for you to research because I don't know which claims are true.

This bowl is our first harvest this year.  When the plants are still quite small, they flower and then set fruit. You harvest that small early crop, tip prune the plant at the same time and let them set about producing a bigger crop for late summer, early autumn.  So that means that for this year, it's too late to plant these in Australia.  The red sepals from this small crop can be dried and used to make tea but I've frozen this lot and they will be added to the main crop later in the year.

The fruit is ready to pick when it's bright red and plump. When we harvest our main crop later in the year, I'll take photos and do another post on how to process them and what to make with them.

The rosellas above are damaged and will be dried out and used for seeds.  You can see from the little rosella (above) sprouting from its capsule that they're good growers, but all depends on temperate and climate.

These are some of the seeds I've collected from the rosellas above. There aren't many but I'll take some on my book tour so if you want to try growing it, ask me if I have any left. Otherwise you can buy them here and here.

Rosella is one of those crops that fits in well in a simple kitchen. It's easy to grow from seed from your previous crop, and it has multi-purposes in the kitchen. And if you're a gardener in an area that has hot summers, it will soon become one of your go-to plants for jam and drinks.

Here are recipes for rosella jam, tea and cordial from Frances at Green Harvest. Do you have any rosella recipes to share?

8 February 2016

Luxuriating in isolation

I love living within the confines of my home and after closing the gate to luxuriate in the isolation I often stay here for days, and sometimes weeks, without going out. I find contentment in my household patterns, the regimen of chores done hundreds of times before, the discipline of organisation and the rare freedom of being in control of my own life. Some people don't understand why I live as I do but I doubt it needs to be understood, it just is.

Even though I prefer isolation, I am interested in what's happening in the wider world. Writing my blog and reading the comments many of you write keeps me interested. I love it when someone new comes along and when there is a comment from a reader who has been visiting me for years. When I click on your names and go to your blogs I read about new babies, I see people moving house or renovating old homes, I find new recipes and ideas to try. I see how diverse and similar we all are. Slowly I build up a mental picture of my visitors and every new comment adds another piece to the puzzle. My blog reminds me that although I might have isolated myself, I am not alone. That keeps me going sometimes, that and the enjoyment I get out of helping provide a good life here for the two of us. It doesn't take much to stay interested in life if you're interested in people.

I am mindful that for me, isolation must always be balanced by sociability and friendship. Being out of my comfort zone helps me see new perspectives and it stops me from becoming an old fuddy-duddy. I'm looking forward to going on a book tour soon. I was working on booking our accommodation yesterday. What a palaver! I haven't finished yet but I should get through it this morning. I'll put up the itinerary soon but in a nutshell we're going to Wollongong, Canberra, Albury, Wangaratta, Echuca, Bendigo, and even to Tasmania this time. There are more places in western New South Wales and along the coast. I'll let you know the places and dates very soon and I hope I can meet you during the tour.

Just a reminder that Penguin have temporarily dropped the ebook price of Down to Earth to $4.99 from now till 24 February. We were talking about this on the forum yesterday and I was really pleased to discover that you can order the ebook now at the low price and specify a delivery date for later in the year.  I tell you that because you may like to buy the ebook as a birthday or Christmas gift and I think $5 for a book is pretty good value.

Today I'll be doing my normal Monday tasks and ironing. I have a small mountain of ironing I want to get through before we go away and the only way I'll do that is to stay there until it's done. I'm not the greatest fan of ironing but I love using my French press and having piles of freshly pressed clothes and household linens to put away. When I do that it feels like I'm taking care of us.

I hope you have a lovely week ahead. Take care everyone. ♥︎

5 February 2016

Weekend reading

In 2011, the Australian Women's Weekly visited us at home to take photos for a feature article they did on me. In one of the photos, I was standing in the garden holding a chicken, a barred Plymouth rock girl called Lulubelle. She was four or five years old when the photo was taken and she happily sat in my arms for a long time while the photos were taken. She was a gentle girl, a good layer and a real character. Sadly, Lulubelle died last week after living with us for about ten years. RIP Lulu.
I had my eyes tested a couple of weeks ago and decided to treat myself to a pair of new frames. I'm sure they're not everyone's cup of tea but I like them. If you can't make out the pattern, they're tiny flowers. :- )
- - - ♥︎ - - -

This is an amazing video of how you can use bulldog clips to organise yourself.
Don't know how to use the feet on your sewing machine? watch this.
10 foods to make from scratch to save money
Meals for less than £2 a head? Impossible ... isn’t it?
The health benefits of knitting
Baby's peasant dress free pattern

And over on the forum:
Learn to build a stockpile with me, written by one of our wonderful moderators, Kristy.  Join in this discussion on how and what to stockpile. It also includes where to store your stockpile, stock rotation, pantry moths, putting aside money for stockpiling and why you might consider starting to stockpile.

You can stockpile fabric and craft items too and sometimes it can get out of control. Don't ask me how I know that. If you've been trying to get rid of some of your fabric then this is the thread for you: Fabric stash busting: February 2016.  Started by our moderator Nannachel, it's a fun thread with a range of projects you might make to use some of your supplies. And as usual, there is plenty of support and encouragement along the way.

I hope you have a relaxed weekend ahead. Thanks for your visits this week. I'll see you again on Monday. 

3 February 2016

I do a lot of baking

I do a lot of baking, it's my preferred method of cooking and I'd say I use my oven four or five times a week. We had to replace ours about six months ago and I bought an AEG oven. What a find!  In addition to normal baking, it grills, turbo grills, has bottom and top heat, it defrosts, dehydrates, has a pizza setting, I can bake various things on multi-levels at the same time, it has telescopic runners, a child lock and it cleans itself. The instruction manual tells me I can do preserves in the oven but I haven't tried that yet and doubt I will. The oven temperature ranges from 30C to 250C so that allows me to do a wide variety of cooking, baking, grilling, defrosting and dehydrating. This is not a sponsored post.

It fits into the same space the old oven fit into but it's bigger inside. The baking tray slides in from wall to wall so when we have visitors here, I can bake a leg of lamb and enough vegetables for large meal in the one tray. Even heavy trays on the telescopic runners are very safe and I can pull the trays right out to check what's cooking and nothing falls or is unstable. The metal shelving and two trays it comes with are all non-stick and really easy to clean.

The little grey spots you see above and below is the very fine ash left behind after cleaning.

When I need to clean the oven, I remove the trays and shelving and wash them separately. Then I wipe over the inside of the glass door then turn on the pyrolytic cleaning function and walk away.  The oven locks itself, increases the temperature to 500C and goes through the cleaning process, when I come back 90 minutes later, all I have to do is wipe the ash away and replace the shelving. I love it.

And if you're looking for some inspiration in the kitchen, read these two threads over at the forum. Herfordhare has written about her own food challenge. She bought fruit and vegetables at the market and she's turned that produce into all sorts of nourishing preserves and meals. She's cooking to a budget too, so there are details on the money needed to do her challenge. Click here to go to that thread.

And Jenny has written an inspiring post about her preserving year and how she uses her preserves. She's making sauces, chutney, mustard, mincemeat, pasta sauce, jams and cordial, including the delicious sounding cherry plum cordial. Her post is followed by many members writing about their own preserving. It will have you searching for preserving jars right away. Click here to go to that thread.

Our kitchens tend to be the heart of the home where we prepare food, sit with a cup of tea or gather around the table to talk and feast.  What's happening in your kitchen today?

1 February 2016

The work we do in our homes

There is a lovely feeling of contentment attached to doing work I enjoy, whether it be paid or unpaid work. When I worked for a living, I always strived to do my best. Nothing's changed now I'm doing my own work at home. I get paid in contentment and satisfaction now and that always motivates me to keep going. Last week I was ironing, baking bread, cooking and doing my usual housework and I'm pleased to say I'm back into the rhythm of it. This week will be much the same, but different. I'm sure many of you feel that too. The work we do in our homes tends to be the same over the weeks, but the mindset of self-reliance and productivity makes it feel fresh and meaningful.

At the end of a fairly mild summer, last week was very humid so not too much was done outside. There is always something to do inside so we were lucky to be able to stay out of the sun close to the fans. We even had the air-conditioning on a couple of days. It was the perfect time to preserve a few lemons and make mint sauce from the summer mint in the backyard.  This sauce is delicious with lamb and it can quite easily sit in the cupboard for six months because of the high vinegar content - vinegar is a great preserver. So that is one less thing I have to rely on the shops for and I use more produce from my backyard.

I did a lot of knitting last week and finished Tricia's cowl scarf (above). She lives at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains and the winter temperatures can be bitter. It snowed there last winter. I wanted to make her a scarf she can wear in her home that will keep her neck warm but won't dangle down to hinder what's she's doing. I used the fabulous EcoYarns O-Balance, which is 50 percent organic cotton and 50 percent organic Merino wool. I also cast on another shawl in EcoYarns Organic Cotton in the Virtues range. I chose the beautiful soft dusty pink, Pride, this time (below). It's such a lovely yarn to knit with.

If you're a new knitter and you're looking to move onto a larger project, this shawl may be just what you're looking for. Making a smaller version will give you a great wrap-around scarf. You'll need circular needles long enough to hold a few hundred stitches. I used size 5 needles and my yarn is 8ply. Cast on 8 stitches, knit the entire second row, then on the next row, knit 2, then yarn over and knit to the end of the row. This will increase every row by one stitch. Repeat knit 2, yarn over and knit to the end of the row until your shawl is as big as you want it to be, then cast off. Look at this You Tube video to see how to do a yarn over between knit stitches. Happy knitting everyone!

The Down to Earth hardback book is available on the American Amazon again. If you're in the US, Canada or Europe and you've been hoping to buy a copy, they have stock ready to send.  Also, the Down to Earth ebook will be available for the special price of $4.99 between Feb 3 and Feb 24 from all ebook vendors in Australia – Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google, Booktopia, eBook etc. If you do buy my books, I'd love you to write a review online, it helps with the sales. Thank you. :- )

So, what's on your agenda this week?

27 January 2016

Home production and what's on at the forum

There was some much needed rain here yesterday. Our small 5000 litre tank overflowed an hour after the rain started.  It was short lived but the tank is full, the larger tank is probably three-quarters full, and if there is no more rain, that will see us through the next few months. It's enough and enough is all we need.

It's only now that I see these photos that I realise I didn't add enough milk to this cake batter.
They still tasted good - vanilla with lemon cream cheese frosting.

The rest of the day was spent sewing and knitting. It's such a satisfying way to spend time. Creating clothing out of wool and cotton fabric shows just how much we home producers can do for ourselves. We choose to do as much for ourselves as our time allows, using the materials we already have on hand. We create our own self-reliant, productive circle doing that by making use of what we have here, which helps us cut back the amount of waste we produce.

There is a feeling of accomplishment in being able to produce our needs without running to the shop to find bits and pieces. It often involves compromise and flexibility but I think that's part of the creative process too.  Being resourceful with materials pushes us to consider ideas that may not have occurred to us otherwise.

During the week I hope to finish off a scarf and make a new nightie for myself. I'll just cut the pattern from my old nightie, I have some very soft cotton lawn here and it should make a comfortable, pretty nightdress.

If you're wanting to get yourself into the routine of doing a bit more at home, or you want to rearrange your current routines, Becci has set us a wonderful challenge over at the forum. Read her Morning Routine Challenge here and the sister thread Morning Routine Challenge Chat Thread here.  Have you ever thought about helping out a charity with handmade goods? There are many charities who need various items that can be made at home and sent in. There's a thread about that on the forum too, with a list of charities that need help. It does my heart good to see the work being planned by the members.

Rose is also writing about routines and her thread Developing a weekly routine that works for you started last night. It's a good insight into how to develop your own routine based on what has been working for Rose for a long time.  She also has a very popular Christmas 2016 savings group. Read about that here.

Have you ever thought about making a raggy quilt?  Damac, one of our sewing moderators, is leading a raggy quilt-along. Read the thread to see what's involved and how to sign up. It won't cost anything to join in and you may be able to use some of the fabrics you already have at home. The raggy quilt tutorial thread has just gone up on the forum, so read through it, check your supplies and dive in. It's a great quilt for newbies and there are plenty of members joining in and following along.

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