Monday, 14 September 2015

My Simple Living Progress

Well, here I go again with my visual diary for August to document my "Simple living" progress for this month........and boy, what a busy month it has been.

I baked and made a great meal of...... Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce.  This was an amazingly easy and very tasty dish that allowed me to use some of the many dried tomatoes I have in the fridge.   Here is a link to the recipe over at "Damn Delicious"

I preserved..........hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes.  I froze lots, oven dried more, made homemade tomato sauce and bolognaise sauce, froze more and ate copious amounts fresh in salads.  I am actually pleased that the bushes have finished fruiting now so I can direct my preserving efforts elsewhere.

I handmade.........some lacy crochet jug covers that are a great gift for simple living friends. Not only do they come in handy for covering the milk jug but are great on top of jars of sourdough starters, kefir cultures and other fermenting treasures that can be found in a busy kitchen.

I repurposed/recycled...........some old T-shirts into garden ties.   The stretchknit fabric is great in the garden as its softness and flexibility doesn't damage the stems of plants that have been tied up.

I saved money by.............planting some lavender cuttings.  The beginning of Spring is a great time to do this.  My lavender bush, as usual, will die off shortly when the wet season starts.  A Queensland Summer is definitely not the best situation for lavender, but my little cuttings will grow healthy during this time in their little pots ready to be planted out again next Autumn.

I planted seeds/seedlings of..............quite a number of compact, flowering shrubs and ground covers during the revamp of the garden outside my front door.  Hutchy and I get together each week and "stitch" in this area so I wanted to give the area a flowery cottage feel.

I harvested...........the last of the Winter crops.  I am now in the process of turning over the garden beds, fertilising, mulching and preparing for the Spring planting.

I tried something new.............each year at this time I have swallows that like to try and nest on my verandah.  Not only are they extremely noisy but they also leave huge amounts of bird droppings at the back door.  This year I purchased a fake, resin "bird of prey" look-a-like from Bunnings and have swung it from the is working well.

I read and was inspired by..................The Readers Digest "Complete Book of Herbs" that I borrowed from my local library.  This is a great book for the herb enthusiast and contains not only loads of info of herb growing but an awesome selection of recipes, preserving techniques and loads of craft ideas too.

I finally tackled................the pruning of the grape vine.  For those who have done it before you will know that this is not an easy or pleasant job and certainly one that keeps getting put to the bottom of the list.

I really enjoyed............Getting back out in the garden now that the weather has warmed up.   I find it very soothing to have some dirt under my fingernails again.

On that note I will sign off with a lovely quote from David Hobson.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Chilled Lime Cheesecake

As the warmer Spring weather has arrived here already I decided to try a new recipe for something cold I could take out of the fridge for a treat.   The "Sweet Poison Cookbook" came to my rescue again with another great recipe from David Gillespie.

This vanilla and lime-scented cheesecake is everything a chilled cheesecake should be - soft and creamy with just a touch of sweetness.


  • 500 gms cream cheese, chopped
  • Finely grated lime zest from 1 lime (I then peeled and sliced the lime thinly for garnish on top)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cups dextrose
  • 350mls thickened cream - beat until soft peaks form
Coconut Base 
  • 3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup dextrose
  • 80 gms butter, melted

Preheat oven to 170°C  (150°C fan forced).  Lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line with baking paper

To make the base, mix the flour, coconut, dextrose and butter in a bowl until combined.  Then press into the base of the prepared tin

Bake the base for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden.  Leave to cool completely

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the vanilla, lime zest, dextrose and beat until mixed.  Then gently fold through the whipped cream until well combined.  Spoon onto the prepared, cool base in the tin and smooth the top.  Refrigerate for 4 - 5 hours or until set.

Remove from the spring form pan and place on a serving plate.  The cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, although it probably won't last that long.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Whopper Crop!!

A lot of people ask me why I garden............................

In late April I planted 4 cherry tomato seedlings in the vege patch - they had come up self sown in the compost.  I added a little aged chook poo (compliments of the girls), a large stake to help keep them straight, watered them every second day, but basically I just stood back and watched them grow. 

After 4 months the bushes are looking a little tired and straggly but they have certainly provided an abundance of fruit.

 Because of their thicker skins, they are not bothered by fruit fly here in Queensland.  Occasionally, I get a bit of leaf rust if the weather is humid, but all in all the good old cherry tomato is relatively simple to grow.

Bright red, sweet and juicy, "cherries"  make a great snack as you wander through the garden.    My family have certainly been eating their fair share of these little treasures on sandwiches, in salads and sliced up on a cheese and biscuit platter.

Over the last 4 weeks I have harvested nearly 3 kilograms of fruit from the bushes every week.  It is literally laiden with them every couple of days.

With that many ripening each week I have been busy preserving them for later in the year.  Here is what I have achieved -

Just on 3 kilos of tomatoes quartered and frozen ready for soups, stews and casseroles.

4 litres of sugar-free tomato sauce for the freezer
(the link to that recipe is here )


3 large litre jars that I dried in the gas oven.   I just love semi-dried tomato with fresh feta on a pizza.

(The oven drying method
 can be found here)

So..........this is why I garden.  
And guess what?? 

I still have a bowl full on the bench, waiting, as a welcome home gift for "Hutchy" when she returns from caravanning in the wild blue yonder later this week.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Spring is in the Air

The weather has warmed up here considerably over the past week.......Spring is in the air.  

I have been busily turning over the front garden beds and planting an array of plants that will hopefully add an abundance of colour in the coming months. 

The soil was very dry as we have been without significant rain for the past couple of months.  However, the rain gods were smiling upon me yesterday when they sent down a whopping 39 mm of rain just when I needed it.  I had turned the garden soil, planted all my new plants and then, miraculously, everything received a good drenching ready to be mulched this morning. 

I caught "Wilma" and her new little joey out first thing this morning surveying the front garden and enjoying the damp ground.

In my free time of late I have been visiting some plant nurseries in the area looking at what they had to offer and at what price.    I was able to spread my purchases amongst 4 local, family owned businesses and was very pleased with the price as well as the overall health of all the plants that I purchased.

My overly large, very lazy cat, Minnie started out as being the supervisor of the great garden makeover.   This lasted a full 10 minutes as you can see....... the warm sun enticed her to sleep for the rest of the day on the lawn.  

So now, part of my Spring gardening is done.  Some more showers of rain and the warmer weather on the horizon should see the plants grow rapidly.  Another story, however,  is my vege patch  - which is just about finished with the Winter vegetables and needs some love and attention before being planted out with the new season crops.

Monday, 17 August 2015

"Oz Revival"

When I first glanced at 'Ozpig', after leaving him alone and unattended in the shed for 12 months, was not a pretty sight.  Queensland's high humidity had left a thin film of rust all over his belly as well as quite a thick, heavy helping on the cooking plates.  Poor fella.................he was in trouble.

I had to do something.   'Oz' is a great mate who cooks our meals when the power goes out and he also keeps us warm when we hang out on the verandah on a cold Winters day.  I also won't mention the quite substantial amount of my hard earned cash that he cost me in the first place.

A wire brush, two large bits of wet and dry paper and lots of elbow grease later, Oz is now ready for a coat of pot belly black.  The same cannot be said for the cooking plates which have been soaking in some white vinegar as we speak.    A good friend, Hutchy, passed on to me that she had read about the virtues of vinegar as a rust removal aid, on the internet, at some stage.   I was willing to try anything that may help.

A few hours later I hit the plates with a solid effort of steel wool treatment.  All the rust has now gone but the plates have been left pitted, and of course, not the prettiest looking things to be cooking on.  There is no other answer.  It's POWER TOOL TIME!!!  (This happens to be the grinder with an emery attachment)

Yep!  Worked like a treat........................two shiny clean hot plates, ready to go

So, two coats of pot belly black paint and two days later - Oz is looking his old self again,  positioned nicely back on the verandah.  

And when Summer comes again I need to remember to 'slip, slop, slap'.  Slip Oz into the shed, slop some oil on his cooking plates and slap on a cover.   I am off now to forward plan that in the diary so I will remember.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

My Simple Living Progress

One of my favourite threads over on the Down to Earth Forum is 'My Simple Living Progress".  I find it very inspiring to read about all the interesting, fun things that others are doing.  And,  it gives me some great ideas for my own journey as well.   I thought some pictures to go with my achievements, each month, would make a great visual diary for me to look back upon.

My journey from July looks a bit like this :

I made a great meal of................cauliflower soup
Huge cauliflowers are only 99c each here at present (at my local green grocer).  So Cream of Cauliflower soup has been on the menu regularly in my house for the past month.

I preserved......................beetroot
I planted 36 beetroot seedlings in the vege patch in late April.  They all grew tremendously and I now have 6 full jars, 'pickled', in the fridge.

I stockpiled..................loo paper, toothpaste, rice and olive oil
All were on special at various times this month but boy! - what a boring pic (you don't want to see that)

I started to handmake.............a new quilt
"The Garden Scenes" quilt by Lynette Anderson.   These are the first few stitchery blocks I have completed so far

I recycled.....................some old planter pots
Lots of treasures can be found at the recycle centre.  I soaked and cleaned a set of four concrete planters getting ready for a bit of a Spring revamp I am having in the front garden

I saved money by.......................walking
Instead of a quick trip to town, in the car,  to buy some necessities I have regularly been walking the 4 kilometres there and 4 kilometres back again.

I planted..........................4 new fruit trees
We lost some of the trees in the orchard during the May flood so mid Winter was an opportune time to replace them.  2 new lime trees and 2 tropical peach

I harvested........................calendula flowers
I needed to replenish my stocks.  I use the dried petals, infused in olive oil, as a base for my homemade skin creams

I tried something new...................EPP (English Paper Piecing)
I have always wanted to have a go and I find the hand basting and stitching of the shapes very easy to do in the evenings when hanging out with 'hubby' in the lounge room.

I read and was inspired by......................'Earth Garden' Magazine
The frugal me stopped buying the mag a while ago but I succumbed to temptation this month.  It really is worth the money though.  Great articles from some very knowledgeable people.  I learned lots.

I finally tackled.....................the weeding and pruning in the Orchard
With 25 trees now in the Orchard this is a big job.

I really enjoyed........................Making a swap item
I made an applique hand towel, 4 dishcloths and a crochet jar lid cover for my swap buddy, Meg (Bunnylady) from the DTE forum

It will be interesting for me to compare this with next months accomplishments

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Lucky Spin

On a recent poke around in my local opportunity shop I found a sight most of us can only dream of........... an 'Ashford' spinning wheel standing, unloved, next to a pile of old blankets.    On closer inspection, my heart started to race, when I discovered that it was in such good condition that a new belt was the only requirement to have it turning like new again.

Now, did I smile nicely at the saleslady?  Yes I did - and after 5 minutes of negotiating and $40 later - you guessed it - ALL MINE!!!!!!

An internet search revealed Ashford Australia had what they termed a 'Spinning Wheel Maintenace Kit' for $23 available for purchase online.  This included some new flyer hooks, tension springs, oil, rod joints, a brake band and a drive band.  This extra  outlay would have my new spinning wheel in top notch condition in no time.

So now only one thing is missing - something to spin.   Friends on a nearby hobby farm have several alpaca that guard the rest of their livestock.  I am going to be the lucky recipient of their fleece when they are shorn in the coming Spring.  Not long to wait now.

Upon settling my new found purchase in the family room, the simple living, country girl inside me started to feel a little bit nostalgic.  Now, I know my mate Phil over at House of Simple loves to dwell in treasures of the past so I thought I would show a few of the 'old wares' that adorn some of the corners of my home. 

The Crown stove that sits at the end of my kitchen.  Not in use, just for lookin'.   Inside the big heavy beast, is a great place, that stays a somewhat constant temperature and is good for storing my garden seeds. 

A butter churn.   Churns butter to perfection and adds to the upper arm muscles considerably - I tend to use the blender though......much quicker

A rug beater - lovely to just hang on the wall now.   Thank god I am lucky enough to have a vacuum cleaner.

And....the Singer treadle sewing machine.   Another great find (at a garage sale) from years ago.  It is in working order and I always turn it regularly to stop any of the moving parts seizing up.  The belt, (because it is rubber, and we have lots of humidity here in Queensland)  I remove,  and keep wrapped up in the cupboard.  

An old boiling copper - these days it's a  perfect planter pot for the ponytail palm.  (try saying that ten times without stopping)

I hope you have enjoyed the little trip down memory lane.