The tomatoes are done! The big order is bottled and safely away. The pantry is groaning.
Let it be known… I am not the best at making decisions that bring together ALL the elements. Not my strongest area, not even remotely close to it actually. I’m not very good at planning things at all. I’m better at coming up with harebrained schemes or dreaming about things for ages but putting things into action with forethought and direction? Naaaa.
I decided Monday that I wanted to pressure can some chick peas. I stuck them in my stock pot to soak as I am following the instructions from this blog and they soaked overnight. Yesterday morning I remembered that the forecast top temperature was 32C. Probably a little warm to have the stove on all day but not much I could do by then. I’ve ended up with 11 of the size #20 Fowlers Vacola jars (about 11 pints – the #20’s are pretty close to a pint and close enough for working out pressure and time 🙂 ) but of course, whilst I’m filling up and putting on lids I discover that I’m 3 lids short. I’m just sooooo good at planning ahead. 😦 A mad scramble finds me 3 jars of which I can pilfer the lids and we’re good to go. Then I discover that the canner fits 9 jars, not all 11 so the remaining 2 are waiting to be pressure canned along with the 5 #31’s of pumpkin soup ingredients (the #31’s are 900ml and I pressure can them as quarts – again it’s close enough. Please note, NEVER puree the pumpkin soup before canning. It’s too thick to can safely, yet as partially cooked ingredients it is safe. 🙂 ) I’ve followed my own pumpkin soup recipe but the canning information is here and also in my canner instruction manual. 🙂 At least I had the lids and rings and clips all ready for the #31’s. 🙂
So I now have 5 jars of pumpkin soup ingredients and 11 jars of chickpeas all cooling and settling and ready to go as convenience foods which I know all the ingredients. It’s exciting. 🙂
Chickpeas MUST be pressure canned. A Fowlers Vacola won’t process them at a high enough temperature to make them safe to eat as they are a low acid food. PLEASE be vigilant with this if you want to process your own foods. 🙂
Now, if I am to be perfectly honest, I had no absolute need to can those chickpeas. They’ve been sitting snug and dry in their jars for several months and will happily sit there snug and dry for probably a lot more than several months more but the real reasons I wanted to can them was because I am having a ball canning things and I love seeing all the jars lined up nice and neatly in my pantry. I also love the convenience of grabbing a can from the cupboard and hey presto, dinner is served but as many cans are lined with plastic containing BPA and I have no idea just how many or which brands (this article states it’s as high as 92% of cans) I made the choice to avoid canned food as much as possible. Yes, that means my kids have not had the pleasure of canned spaghetti nor of baked beans very often (although they did the other night) but once I get some navy beans and tomatoes I can make my own tomato sauce (tomatoes have been ordered) and then my own baked beans. I can’t wait!
MUST get more lids and rings before then though. AND more jars. 😀
We have our first death in the household since moving here. One of our 4-5 week old chicks, named John after our builder who first saw he wasn’t well, died last night. I got home about 10pm from bottling (more on that in a minute), got the kids into bed (I don’t normally kep them up that late but Martin was in Spotswood packing up the old house and we had been working hard until then so it was a needs must situation) then I finally got the chance to bring in our chicks. They’re around 5 weeks of age which means they’re nearly ready for life in the big pen but in the meantime they’re being slowly acclimatised by being taken out each morning and brought back in every evening. They’re enclosed in our old chook house, a small kit build one a friend gave me about 2 years ago which is plenty big enough for now 8 small chicks and it gives them time to get used to the other hens and roosters, and them to the smaller chicks too, before they’re in the pen proper. Well, when I brought them in last night John was a pretty miserable bundle of feathers. He was cold and stiff and I was convinced he was gone. Given how sick he’s been and that he hasn’t grown in a couple of weeks I had been fully expecting it and, if I’m brutally honest with myself (and you too of course) I was grateful too. A sick chick IS a lot of extra work AND he would have been so very miserable. Well, as I picked up this cold stiff little bundle of feathers he drew in a very sick gaspy little breath. Unbelievably he was still alive. I bedded the chicks down inside and said farewells to John (I am a sentimental fool I know), knowing full well he would not be with us in the morning. He was not. Orik couldn’t care less of course and Allegra just took it in her stride. It was just another piece of information to her as she’s still a bit young to really comprehend what had happened but Jasper is fully aware of what had happened and was most upset he couldn’t pat John again and couldn’t see him again and so on. We had a pat and said goodbye, both of us with streaming tears and John is currently sitting on top of Ignisa our wood heater, in a small tin awaiting Daddy to come home to perform a funeral. It seems kind of silly to hold a funeral for a 5 week old chick but I think it’s probably a necessary thing for Jasper to complete the hard little life lesson he’s just learned. He knows about death but it’s never been such real and tangible thing, only ever an abstract concept gained from his Granddad having passed years before he was born.
In other more positive news, yesterday was spent up to the eyeballs in apricots, finished off with super sweet white nectarines. I headed over to Phoenix Park, a great caravan park with cabins and a most marvelous hall where we set up the pressure canner, Fowlers Vacola water bath, dozens of jars, bowls and between us, 30kgs of apricots and 5kgs of white nectarines, all organic and absolutely delicious. We had freshly made Vegemite and cheese scrolls and brown rice mushroom risotto for lunch, then got stuck into halving our apricots. I had decided to halve them and if the halves were complete and whole I would bottle them but if they were blemished or bruised etc, then the apricot minus the blemished part would be turned into apricot nectar for drinking. I bottled 16 of the #27 jars of apricots in water and 4 of the #36 jars and a #20 of nectar but sadly I forgot the golden rule and I unloaded hot jars onto a cold bench (in my defense I had only made it to bet at 1:15 the night before with a 5am wake up and I was pretty much exhausted when I was unloading the jars) so I’ve broken 2 of my #36’s and I have a 3rd of questionable condition as it’s leaked over 1/2 of its contents. It’s made me stop and think about several aspects of bottling juice but I’ve not given up yet. It sounds crazy, even to me, but it took us 11 hours to bottle 16 jars of apricots in water, 8 in light syrup, 7 bottles (I think) of nectarines and 6 or 7 bottles of apricot nectar as well as processing 30kgs of apricots and 5kgs of nectarines but we also had my 3 monkeys and a 9 month old in the mix! Not a bad achievement in my books.
So, here are the photos I promised from yesterday.
This morning was a very slow start after the late night we’d had. Orik slept until 7:30 (although he came in for milk at some ungodly hour of the night before dawn), Allegra after 8 and Jasper slept until almost 9. I think he would happily have stayed in bed longer except for his sister being insistent he get up accompanied by a grumbly tummy. As we broke our fast at around 9:30 10 I went out to take the chicks outside and was greeted by a couple of visitors I hadn’t expected to see. I knew we had kookaburras around as one had been visiting and eating the resident skinks from my potato beds and compost heap and then had returned that evening with a friend whereupon they’d caught the mouse Minnie had rejected the day before and another skink or 2. Given their predilection for snakes and other reptilia they are so very welcome. 😀 In fact we will be encouraging them to come visiting.
The fellow on the trampoline flew off a little so I followed after him and was blessed to be able to stand about 3 metres away from him. They really do have the most amazing glossy hard black eyes. Predatory, without being cruel if that makes sense. Sadly I didn’t get laughed at (never thought I’d say THAT in my life) but I was snickered at, a slow craaaak… craaaak… craaaak… but not the full-throated belly laugh. Is there any other bird in the world with such a distinctive and joyful call I wonder? It is simply marvelous to hear them chortling and chucking away in the trees across the creek and it never fails to make me smile. 🙂 If you have never heard a kookaburra’s laugh, check out this link. Well, Mr Kookaburra was warmly welcomed and most cordially invited to drop in whenever he fancies and no need to call first. In fact he was told he’s welcome to make himself at home whether or not we are at home BUT he was warned off the baby chicks (not that he can get to them at the moment anyway but still). What a wonderful cheer me up after John’s discovery this morning. I just wish my photos were better but with limited zoom and an iPhone only and being a less than average photographer… Oh well.
And finally, I put my kids down for naps this morning as I could see they were cranky from too little sleep and although I know they’re not very eco at all (we’re getting back into cloth again but we have been using sposies just whilst we got settled 😦 ), Allegra who is just toilet training went back into a nappy for her nap. Jasper was being helpful and went to fetch it for me…
I watched A Crude Awakening last night. Not a wise move for a deep, refreshing sleep. I crawled into bed around 12:15 with my brain racing at a million miles an hour and on the edge of panic. Peak oil really is here.
Peak oil is the point at which the maximum amount of oil extraction has been reached, where after production will never be as high again. It means the last remaining easily accessible oil reservoirs have been tapped and are in the process f being drained. Like a mountain, when you reach the summit, the only place to go from there is down.
So, what does this mean? It means that many of the things we take for granted that we use day to day will either be no longer available or will be so expensive that only the elite can afford them. Things like plastic toys, furniture, cosmetics, transport, cooking, power and food. Yes, food. Food is heavily reliant on the fuel industry. Think of labels on food and when they tell us it is made in China. Or India. Or anywhere that isn’t local. The production lines are almost certain to be run using fossil fuel produced electricity, is then potentially kept cool (if needed) and shipped to us, then further divided and shipped around the country. All of that process, from the grower to our plates uses a LOT of fuel. A LOT of crude oil in various forms.
This is my panic. When the Peak oil Crisis really begins to bite, many of the out of season or non local foods we are now used to being able to buy whenever we fancy; fish from foreign seas, tropical fruits in our southern states, cold stored fruits that are out of season; all of these will become too expensive for the average Joe Bloggs. Most fruits and vegetables including things like tomatoes, carrots, bananas, even apples and oranges, will either cease to grace our places altogether or only be available during their growing season. And there will only be those able to be grown locally that we will be able to afford to purchase for our plates. We will not be able to afford the fuel to drive to our workplaces in the city, or drive the kids to school or even to the supermarket. Unless we can walk or cycle to these places, they may very well be out of reach.
Solution? Yes, there is a solution and it is something we can all do. Grow as much of our own food as we can, preserve in some way the excess and try to only source locally grown foods now. The less fuel we use now, the more will be there to help us when it reaches critical times. Putting in large vegetable beds, raising chickens for meat or even just eggs may not be an option for everyone, but every little bit helps. Even if all you have is a balcony, plant a prolific fruiting tomato, a large cropping bean and I even saw the other day how to grow carrots in 2L drink bottles! If all you have is a window sill, grow your own herbs. If you have room, plant a potato sack. You would be surprised at just how many potatoes you can harvest from a single spud bag. It may not feed you all year long but even if you get a month or 2 worth of supply, that’s only 10 months of the year you need to buy it.
Through my research and reading of blogs from all over the globe I know there are many others out there doing this. Homesteading as they call it in America is not a new concept, just not as common as I believe it is going to become in the very near future. It was also very common to grow ones own food during the war when there was food rationing. Well, once again I believe we are about to face food rationing. There is a lot of information too on preserving and you can kit yourself out with a Fowlers Vacola preserving unit and some bottles from as little as $40 on eBay if you’re lucky. The accessories are sold by many on eBay too as well as many hardware stores and the jars are often found in op shops too. Pressure canners (pressure canning allows safe preserving of vegetables and other low-acid or non-syrup preserved foods) are readily available on Amazon. The jars too can be sourced on Amazon or eBay too. There are also many other companies selling them.
Dehydrating is another way to preserve fresh food for the future. Again these can be easily sourced on the internet and I have even seen instructions on Pinterest on how to build a solar dehydrator. It’s how it used to be done! And blanching and freezing requires no other equipment other than what most people have in their kitchens already. Lets enable ourselves whilst we can, before it becomes an absolute necessity.