The last week and a bit

The last week has been one of the most intense in a long time. It’s been a week of sadness, of joy, learning and sharing and most importantly, a week of family.

For those that didn’t seeΒ the post, my Nanna passed away aged 91 years. The funeral was Thursday morning in Temora, NSW. In the interests of not leaving a huge carbon footprint in the wake of my attending the service, of leaving my husband and 3 kids with a vehicle and also of making sure I had a safe means of travel, I decided to catch the train. Martin had work on Wednesday but was able to be home early where we swapped Myki and children over at the station in the middle of the first decent lot of rain we have seen in town in ages! Full on downpour, thunder and lightning. Lovely! πŸ™‚ Martin was given the list of chores most urgent; turn off the tap that was dribbling water for my parched fruit trees, bring in and attempt to dry the bed sheets (I’d washed and dried them where the rain had once again soaked them) necessary to put kids to bed and a few other small but urgent jobs.

Just a few spots of rain.

Just a few spots of rain.

I managed to misread the train timetable (lack of sleep, a frazzled brain and being a worry wart all contributed) and my coach came and left without me, leaving me with a 12 minute window between the next train due to arrive and the XPT to Sydney leaving. With a pounding heart and much worry I made my train with 10 minutes to spare. The trip to Wagga was uneventful and my cousin kindly met me at the station and offered me a wonderfully comfy couch where I caught a couple of hours sleep before we drove to TemoraΒ for the service was a wonderful and fitting, laying Nanna to rest and then catching up with family (including my favourite uncle down from Coffs Harbour) and family friends including Nanna’s first friend after her marriage. They were friends for over 64 years! Nanna is at peace and once again with her husband. She will be missed by many.

After the service and the wonderful food put on by the church and friends we all did what families do when they haven’t seen each other in ages. We talked. Some slept, some shopped (that would be my mum’s cousin and I at the 2 local op shops πŸ˜‰ ) and others chatted, visited the Temora Aviation Museum and more. It was a good afternoon which finished up with dinner at the pub and then the farewells as people drifted back to cars to drive home or to motels for the night. I know my mum and her brothers had a great time together. It’s a rare thing to have both sets of twins in one place so they made the most of it.

I crashed out on my cousins couch again, bidding him goodnight and heading off via taxi for my 2:47am train back to Melbourne. Aside from attracting the attention of the drunken passenger who decided I was in the mood for a good old chat (which I so very much wasn’t) it was an uneventful trip home and I was met by my family in Ballan. Truly, I felt I’d been away from home for far longer than 39 hours. Yes, a mere 39 hours although admittedly not easy ones. I still squeezed in some “me” time, reading a very thought-provoking book Entropia which I first heard of via Gav’s blog post. A fascinating book which kept me awake long after I should have been asleep, reading and researching and planing and dreaming permaculture plans for more with our block here.

So excited to see a copy and at a special price at the festival too. I'd been planning an online purchase but flicking the paper pages was just too good an opportunity to miss. It's read and with many pages marked to reread, analyse, study and consider.

So excited to see a copy and at a special price at the festival too. I’d been planning an online purchase but flicking the paper pages was just too good an opportunity to miss. I finished it and left many pages marked to reread, analyse, study and consider.

Other things that went on this last week has been a round of pressure canning. My freezer was overflowing, mostly with home-made bone broths and stocks I’ve made from simmering the bones of meat we’ve eaten. I like to give honour to the animals whose lives have been sacrificed for us to partake of their meat by making as many meals as possible from them. Each chicken gives us often in excess of 15 meals, 3 each including kid sized meals, and often more. The last chook we ate, one of our own, fed a family of 5 with 40 clove chicken, the excess meat was picked off for use later and the bones simmered for 24 hours with a splash of apple cider vinegar to help extract all the goodness in the marrow. The broth of a factory farmed chicken will rarely gel but mine often set like commercial jelly (sans artificial colours, flavours and sugar of course πŸ˜‰ ) but I tend to stretch them further by doubling the filtered water. I think I likely get 2-2.5L of broth or stock per bird. That’s 4-5 jars of stock when pressure canned in a #20 Fowlers Vacola jar. I use 1 jar per batch of brown rice risotto and each risotto probably makes 8-9 meals (3-5 adult and 3-6 kid meals). I use some of the meat leftover to add to the risotto too. I guess if I counted in 9 meals per jar of stock plus the initial meal there would be nearly 50 meals per bird! Not bad at all. πŸ™‚

I also cracked open my jar of fermented onions I’d made using home-grown potato onions and following this recipe. I’d fermented them for around a week as the recipe suggests but when I cracked them open they were fizzing and bubbling like crazy. Given my onions were whole and hence larger than the sliced ones I popped the lid back on and put them back int he cupboard for a little longer. When I tried one a week later I have to tell you they are SPECTACULAR! I cannot recommend this recipe highly enough. Easier than pickling in my book as you take the same amount of time peeling all those onions but then just stick them in a jar with brine and bobs ya uncle after a little while in the pantry. πŸ™‚ The jar of onions depleted somewhat over the 39 hours I was absent too. I guess I’m on to a winner. πŸ˜‰ Thankfully I have 2 more jars including 1 massive one on the ferment as we speak. πŸ˜€ They’re still fizzing so another week to go I’d say. πŸ™‚

I also had the opportunity last weekend to attend the Sustainable Living Festival. We went in on the Sunday and it was a welcome break from brooding about Nanna’s passing early on Saturday.

Allegra in an upcycled doona cover dress on the train on our way to the city.

Allegra in an upcycled doona cover dress on the train on our way to the city.

Allegra and I were dropped at the station as the boys were off to the Vintage Tractor Pull up the other end of town (yes the irony of half of us at a fossil fuel guzzling event and the rest at an eco event didn’t get missed :P) and we had a wonderful girls day out.

A washing up station powered by solar heated water instead of the ubiquitous plastic crockery and cutlery.

A washing up station powered by solar heated water instead of the ubiquitous plastic crockery and cutlery. When you purchased your food or drink you paid a deposit on the cup which was returned when you returned your dirty cup or plate.

We wandered up and down the stalls, stopping to chat sometimes, wandering by at others, signing petitions, and sampling of the wonderful kombucha from the brew cart making the rounds.

Free samples and then a glass cost $4 with a return of $2 when you returned your glass.

Free samples and then a glass cost $4 with a return of $2 when you returned your glass.

The orange, passion-flower and turmeric one tasted just like the orange and passionfruit fizzy drink on the market but with a gazillion more health benefits and better depth of flavour too.

Impressive garlic. It must have been 180cm tall or 6'! I was told it was Russian Garlic and I fully intend to grow some in the future. :)

Impressive garlic. It must have been 180cm tall or 6′! I was told it was Russian Garlic and I fully intend to grow some in the future. πŸ™‚

I bought a bottle (turned out to be apple and mint flavour) which had a tiny scoby in the bottle and I have just decanted my first batch of kombucha and started my second brew. It’s spectacularly healthy stuff. πŸ™‚

Composting toilets! I didn't need to use the loo but surely these could replace all portaloo set ups at events. Surely!

Composting toilets! I didn’t need to use the loo but surely these could replace all portaloo set ups at events. Surely!

When we did need the loo earlier I found this sign which is awesome. Every little bit helps and public toilets conserving water in such a busy place as Fed Square is NOT just a little bit. Awesome!

When we did need the loo earlier I found this sign which is fantastic. Every little bit helps and public toilets conserving water in such a busy place as Fed Square is NOT just a little bit. Awesome!

I’ve also managed to squeeze in some time in the garden attend my favourite form of therapy in the garden. I think I’ve managed to successfully transplant some dwarf beans from 1 bed to another and I’ve planted out a heap of beetroot seeds as I have 3 that are growing in the bed. Here’s hoping for a greater success rate and no more frying 40Β°C’s to cook my garden. Allegra and I harvested the front hugel of most of its spuds. I’ve left a few with flowers as I hope to collect some true potato seeds from the pods that will follow the flowers. Some of the spuds were tiny, others massive and almost all of them squished into bizarre shapes due to the logs in the hugel bed. All in all I’m happy with the harvest. πŸ™‚

Ready to harvest with the Cinderella upside down dolly knitted by my Nanna and Kitty her toy cat from her Nanna to help.

Ready to harvest with the Cinderella upside down dolly knitted by my Nanna and Kitty her toy cat from her Nanna to help.

The spent plants at the back (yes I know they hadn't died down yet) and the harvest at the front.

The spent plants at the back (yes I know they hadn’t died down yet) and the harvest at the front.

Holding the cream of the crop on display. There are some green ones which are no good for eating but we've got a goodly supply there and 4 more beds of spuds plus 2 more plants out front to harvest as well as several pots of spuds too.

Holding the cream of the crop on display. There are some green ones which are no good for eating but we’ve got a goodly supply there and 4 more beds of spuds plus 2 more plants out front to harvest as well as several pots of spuds too.

Allegra also planted out her own garden bed and opted for bulbs, pansies and turnips (they were purple πŸ˜‰ ) Jasper also has a bed but wasn’t all that interested but I know he loves carrots so I’ve planted it with potato onions (early I know) and carrots in between. They make good companions. πŸ™‚ I’m sure he will show more interest when the carrot seeds start to show. πŸ™‚

We’re picking a small handful of strawberries every couple of days, small and with a reminiscent pineapple flavour too. My buttercup pumpkins are doing well and I’m seeing a few more cobs setting on the corn too. Most of my garden this year is rather lacklustre though. I am chalking it up to poor quality imported soil, a late start to summer and then a very hot dry one to boot. Still, it’s been another wonderful learning experience and I’ve learned a lot which s the whole reason for it I guess. πŸ™‚

My very own small but pack-a-punch strawberries. They're sending out runners which I am encouraging to root down where they are for now.

My very own small but pack-a-punch strawberries. They’re sending out runners which I am encouraging to root down where they are for now.

Last but not least, Friday afternoon once I got home from NSW and then playgroup in the morning I hit up the sewing machine. I’ve had 2 dresses in the works to wear to my cousin’s wedding but sadly the floral one didn’t get finished in time. In fact, neither were finished on Friday morning and I had to make a decision which I was likely to complete within the limited time frame. The floral dress needed buttonholes, a lining, hemming and buttons. The green one needed a zip and a hem. Give you 2 guesses which I finished. πŸ˜‰ We all arrived dressed beautifully to the wedding which went well. I can’t remember the time I saw all of both sides of my family within a 48 hour window. πŸ™‚

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Just take the photo already. I am not in the mood for smiling right this second.

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Mummy made my shirt from 1 and a bit upcycled pillow cases.

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Mummy made my dress from 2 upcycled pillow cases too. I’ve just been told off so I’m not in the mood for smiling either.

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And the trifecta of grumps and also in an upcycled pillowcase shirt. 4 out of 5 in our family wore bed linen to a wedding. Or, you could look and say that 4 out of 5 of us wore brand new outfits made with as thrifty a means as possible.

Sunday was spent relaxing, swimming for the older kids with Daddy (last day of the swimming pool being open this summer) and catching up on a few other things. We’ve been working on de-fossil fueling our house, practicing using our new Kelly Kettle and just the rest of daily life. It’s been good and a lovely day to wind down from an intense week.

It's like a rocket stove and a kettle all in 1. Light the fire underneath, put the kettle on top and then feed the kettle by dropping fuel down the chimney int he middle of the kettle. It's completely hollow!

It’s like a rocket stove and a kettle all in one. Light the fire underneath, put the kettle on top and then feed the kettle by dropping fuel down the chimney in the middle of the kettle. It’s completely hollow!

I am glad to be home and glad to be back into the swing of things. πŸ™‚ And thank you to all who rang, emailed or commented with condolences. I’m deeply touched. Thanks all.

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11 thoughts on “The last week and a bit

  1. Lynda says:

    You are one clever clever girl young Jess. Your outfits look great and you would never know that at one point they were on my bed. The pink Laura Ashley pillow cases and the striped blue sheets were on my water bed when i was 19. Can you work out how long ago that was? I cant work out which dress is my favorite. The blue checks or the pink.

    My hand is up for the book if i cant find it at the library.

    Such a big big week Jess. I hope you take this one a little slower. Mummy Jess needs to be running at 100% not wiped out with a cold or sniffle or tired and wearing cranky pants.

    When are the tomatoes being bottled?

  2. narf77 says:

    Howdy pard. Looks like you have been going mental on the gardening, sewing and emotional fronts. I agree with Lynda, take a bit of time for yourself (wherever you can find it). You really do put me to shame when it comes to effort. My motto these days tends to be “F-it” at the moment due to a severe lack of rain, tumbleweeds flying past the deck when I head outside to check the view and the rats that were kept at bay by the feral cats now eating all of my pumpkins…I guess you live and learn but you appear to be living and learning more than the average bear. Kudos on your sewing, everything looked excellent and your green dress was a triumph. Have a great week and I look forwards to more green and active posts πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I do need a break but it was unlikely to happen until I put my back out badly this morning. *sigh*
      Bugger re the rats. If it wasn’t the rats something else would be out of control although possibly having pumplins take over the farm isnt such a bad thing. πŸ˜‰ I guess a balance is required and you’ve now got the necessary info to try and find that balance. Could you set up a perimeter fence around the garden which allows Earl full patrol rights perhaps? Any rat that could get past Earl and into the garden and survive to tell the tale would be welcome to your pumpkins I’d think. πŸ˜‰

      • narf77 says:

        Any rat that could get past Earl would be welcome to anything he liked because that would be one bolshie bugger indeed! Sorry about your back. Probably all that effort you put in over the weekend? Just rest as best you can and hugs from Sidmouth πŸ™‚

  3. I am pleased your Gran’s funeral went well. They are such sad times but also happy when family all gets together. I hope you find some healing soon and can take time out for yourself.
    I am going to have to find a copy of Entropia, that sounds great. I flicked over to Gav’s site and read his review, sounds right down my alley.
    Love your green dress, you clever girl!

  4. I am SO happy you enjoyed the onions! I love your excitement over opening the jar. Made me smile! Cheers! πŸ™‚

  5. Linne says:

    Glad your week has gone well, in spite of all the emotions. sad and happy is an odd mix, isn’t it? Love the clothes you make! That green is my Mum’s and my favourite colour . . . nice to have the photos, grumpy faces or not . . . But the “rubber chicken”!!! Ok, I have to find my wide, long skirt and put it on so I can curtsey in the proper manner (can you tell I watched the final Downton episode last night?). . . you are now officially the queen of thrift! I abdicate, post-haste . . .

    The others are right; take some time for yourself or your back will take charge of you . . . Big hugs and nice to have you home again. ~ L

  6. Linne says:

    Forgot to say I love that Kelly Kettle! What a great idea!! Somehow, looking at it reminded me of the swagman’s kettle . . .

    • Aren’t they great! The swagman who camped by the billabong was boiling a billy – a pot and lid only but yeah it is similar. πŸ™‚
      LOVE my kelly kettle and I can make my little percolator coffee on top at the same time too. πŸ˜€ All for a handful of twigs!

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