A harvest meal, real food, Freecycle and bartering.

We dispatched our first chicken last Sunday. One of our roosters has been limping for a few weeks and he hasn’t improved so the decision was made to end his misery, despite not having reached maturity or harvesting age. His end was as quick as we could make it with no prolonged suffering and he has been waiting in the fridge, resting until we were ready to cook him up. I decided to roast him, despite the lack of meat on his scrawny carcass and so he was roasted with some Chinese 5 spice rubbed into him, with plums inside the cavity and around, roast spuds and peas and corn. I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, not by a long shot but it was tasty. The plums which I had bottled the other week were sour but the rest of the meal was good. The bones are now simmering on the stove to make stock (waste not want not) and I am feeling comfortable with our decision to raise our own meat.

 

Roast chook stuffed with plums, surrounded by crunchy spuds and more plums. Best looking meal I’ve ever made that’s for sure. 🙂

 

I had a friend come visit today and we were talking about food. She jokingly asked what “real” food we had in the house, referring to conventional supermarket foods and we went to have a look in my fridge, freezer and pantry. What we found makes me beam with pride. There are a few condiments, vinegar and the like, frozen peas and corn and a few leftover berries, milk, a beer (home-brew is on the cards one day) and a few other bits and pieces. I am proud to say we make the gross majority of our food from raw ingredients. 😀 I don’t have an issue with buying things and I am sure I will in future but I love the fact that I can “damn the man” and make it myself. I just wish I could find a recipe for homemade Vegemite. Supporting Kraft, even as infrequently as one buys Vegemite sticks in my craw. 😦

Who says you can't sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage - the kids can play in them :D

Who says you can’t sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage – the kids can play in them 😀

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? 😀 I love Freecycle for that reason. Freecycle is a place to list your unwanted goods or to put up a wanted ad if there is something you are after. You will not be offered things like a good car or the latest LED TV but people list unwanted books, furniture, unused garden items (gravel, plants, seeds), kitchen items and occasionally some pretty wonderful items too – I missed out on a knitting machine once which I sought for a friend (I already have one) – as well as the more commonplace. I’ve seen requests for glass jars, school uniforms, newspapers, yarn, and offers for kitchens (we listed our old one), topsoil, kindling, hot water units and more. Almost anything goes although different groups have different policies and those policies differ often around the placement of wanted or offering animals/pets.

The other day an offer came up for a 6 seater extendable dining table, something we have been after for quite some time. We have 5 of us crammed around a 4 seater table and Martin or I end up sitting on a folding chair as Orik’s high chair clips to a normal chair. I fired off a reply as soon as I saw the ad and was lucky enough to be offered the setting. The description wasn’t encouraging – laminate and timber – so I was expecting an old, possibly late 70’s early 80’s brown wood look laminate table and the matching vinyl chairs but needs must. I was jaw-droppingly surprised to discover we had just become the new owners of 6 lovely high backed chairs and a deep reddy-brown timber veneer extendable table with only a little damage. I am stoked! 😀 Freecycle, you RULE! We have some more stuff to list now, including our old table as well as some other unwanted items that are too good to throw out. If they don’t find homes on Freecycle then it’s off to the op shop. I love the idea of eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and any other similar webpages, just like op shops, as they do one HUGE thing. They keep usable items from ending up in landfill. There is nothing wrong with our old table except its size but without a second hand market out there it’s a perfectly good and undamaged item that will sit there for all eternity (glass doesn’t decompose).

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner - first time I've used it and I "canned" chicken stock.

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner – first time I’ve used it and I “canned” chicken stock.

Another concept I love that I am just delving into which is fast becoming the new black, at least in my circles, is bartering. Swapping this for that. Offering your goods or services in exchange for other goods or services. Effectively buying things but without exchanging money. It’s fun and it’s challenging, just like op shopping. 🙂 The challenge of locating what you need is far harder than just walking into a normal store and grabbing the item off the shelf. Now where is the challenge in that? I LOVE the thrill of the op shop hunt and the open mind that you must have too. You may not get exactly what you dreamed of but that’s the joy, the flexibility. 😀 Well, bartering is the next level up from that! Not only are you searching for what you want BUT you must have something to offer in exchange that the items owner wants. It all of a sudden becomes a dual challenge. You find yourself assessing your goods and services, what you can offer, afford to spare or are willing to give up. Recently I had made a wonderful barter swap with a fellow blogger and hippy Narf7 from Serendipity Farm in Northern Tasmania. Steve carves the most amazing and wonderful spoons from locally sourced timber, some even from their own farm and I have been gagging to get my hands on one of these amazing works of art. But what did I have that I could swap. Turns out I was rich in 2 things that Narf7 was after, sourdough starter and knowledge and kefir grains. We faced the potential problem of customs as Tasmania is pretty rigid regarding the importation of anything that could harm their beautiful island so seeds and plants are out (sorry Narf7, otherwise I’d split my mangel wurzel seeds 50/50 with you) but after discussing the issue with my local postmistress I was pretty sure it would be ok. I bundled up Audrey the sourdough starter into a couple of leak-proof layers and did the same with the offspring of Kiefer our kefir grains, threw in a handknitted dishcloth and some rye flour which I pulled out again. I figured it wouldn’t clear customs and rather than tempt fate it was better to leave it out. It arrived yesterday and both the kefir and starter as settling into their new homes. 🙂 MY parcel arrived today. 😀 In exchange for my items I have received not 1 but 2 hand-carved spoons and some parsnip seeds (the ban on posting seeds only works one way 🙂 ) To say that I am happy is a major understatement! I AM STOKED! My salt spoon is the sweetest cutest and most practical little spoon perfectly suited to its job. It now lives in the vintage ceramic salt cellar I purchased off eBay a while back, helping to spoon Himalayan salt into my cooking and baking. As or my second spoon, I am not sure what its purpose will be quite yet but rest assured it will be an honoured position. I feel very very proud to be the owner and recipient of not 1 but 2 of these gorgeous spoons.

My new celery top pine salt spoon. :D

My new celery top pine salt spoon. 😀

It's so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

It’s so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

My second piece of art.

My second piece of art.

 

LOVE how the spoon "bowl" sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

LOVE how the spoon “bowl” sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

Well, here’s hoping for an early night. I AM trying to get to bed before 10 and be up before 7. Truly!

Advertisements

How many sleeps?

I’ve got a bad word I want to say. It’s a really scary word, brings about many mixed feelings and often results in its hearers grasping their wallets, either in glee or horror.

 

CHRISTMAS!

 

It’s only 55 days away!

So what does Christmas mean? For those of religious persuasion, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. For many others it’s a day like any other, except with higher pay rates. For most though, it’s a day where you give and receive many gifts, a day spent with family and friends, overindulging in fine foods and drink. It’s a day, generally celebrated with excess.

But who pays for that excess?

Firstly,  we do! Our credit cards will be groaning and the retailers we have visited will be rubbing their hands in glee at the glut of spending.

But who else pays?

When we purchase that gift to give someone, who is paying the true cost behind the gift? Who bears the brunt of the manufacture costs, production waste and then who performs the labour? What is the real price of the t-shirt you’ve just bought for $20? Well, if you think about a cotton t-shirt, where is the cotton grown? Is it GMO cotton and what impact does that have? Who picks the cotton? Then, where is it transported to for spinning, dyeing and finally weaving into a t-shirt? Who deals with the waste products and dirty water after dyeing? How far does the t-shirt then travel before it reaches the shop where you pick it up, purchase and package it into the shops bag which may well be plastic, before it comes home and is wrapped in paper before resting under the tree.

It’s pretty scary when you stop and look at what it takes to produce a simple t-shirt. Or pair of jeans, shirt, shorts or even the good old fallback jocks and socks. But is it any different from a technology gift? What is the footprint of an iPad, or a new laptop, or for the kids, toys. Plastic toys made from crude oil fossil fuels. Hmmm.

Christmas for us is also complicated by the addition of Allegra’s birthday just a fortnight before and my nephews birthdays in early January and early February. It is always a challenge to find appropriate gifts for them that don’t compromise our values (I try to avoid buying plastic when and wherever possible) and don’t cost the earth, figuratively and literally.

So, what can you do to reduce the impact of Christmas?

1. Make your own gifts. Pinterest is a wonderland of gift ideas that can be made at home, often using ingredients found in your pantry. From homemade body scrubs to cookies in a jar, there is a great idea here for many people. If you can sew, knit or crochet, there are heaps of ideas out there for small or larger gifts that can be made.

2. Buy an online gift. I’m not talking about shopping online for a gift but rather buying a gift that can be downloaded to their phone, computer or kindle such as a book or a film or tv series. These are great gifts for people overseas as the carbon miles are reduced greatly. Yes I know there is still impact, but the environmental cost of a digital book would surely be less than a paper book.

3. Give an experience. You could make up a book of vouchers or simply buy tickets to an outing or event for the person, and you could even buy tickets to make it an outing that you share together. Take the kids for a ride on Puffing Billy (for those in Melbourne), a trip to Luna Park (Sydney or Melbourne) or another theme park or even a trip to a local trout farm, or fishing on the bay. Make it a special day out including vouchers for ice-creams, fish n chips for dinner or other things the kids will enjoy that may be a bit of a treat. Chances are they will remember the experience far more than a gift that may well be obsolete or forgotten in a few weeks. For adults, tickets to a concert, lunch at a flash hotel or restaurant in the city or even a voucher for a spa treatment could be the perfect gift. As a full-time mum, the idea of an hour off for a massage, or even just a haircut is gold! (No, I’m not dropping hints.) Alternatively, give the gift of a short course or class. This may be a little harder when you have to plan dates but what about a cheese making class or a French cooking lesson?

4. Give a growing gift. In these times of rising food costs, buy a nice pot now, plant a variety of tomato seedling you think would be appropriate and remember to water it until Christmas. How lovely it would be to have your Christmas gift ready to start giving you tasty fruit that you could even use for Christmas lunch if you’re lucky. Plant some basil and chives around the bottom, buy a tub of bocconcini or a mozzarella cheese (or make your own if you’re a cheese-maker) and a box of crackers and you have ready-made fresh bruschetta to go!

5. If you do choose to buy a gift, try to buy one that is environmentally sustainable. Toys made from sustainably raised plantation timber, not old growth forests, organic and fair trade items whenever possible or even something that helps reduce energy costs like a bicycle or solar charger. Or support a local business. You could even look for a gift that replaces a disposable item such as a reusable coffee cup.

The impact of Christmas is not just in the gifts we give but also in the day itself. However, I have rambled enough for tonight and it’s time for this little hippy to get some sleep. That will be another post for another night.