Friday, April 20, 2012

Valuable Surplus

On a recent decluttering frenzy, I was surprised at my inability to toss or give away certain items that I no longer needed or used. This led to an assorted collection of books, toys, outgrown ballet clothing and other miscellaneous items collecting in a box in our study. A table at the local farmer's market proved to be the perfect outlet for these goodies and resulted in a few jingles in our pockets. The market bug bit, and my mind started whizzing at how I could exchange our unwanted excess for money in my pocket, preferably without spending a cent in the process.

Here are a few of my subsequent market makes from the past few months:

Cream cheeses made during our milk flood and marinated sundried tomatoes, all prepared and ready for a Valentine market, when deluges muddied the farmer's road resulting in a canceled market, and a delicious picnic for us. The only cost to me was the price of the tubs, and my time. Once Rosie has calved and is providing milk again, I hope to sell more of my cheeses.

Vigorous strawberry runners captured in recycled tins, then decorated with paper scraps look so pretty. Total cost for this venture was zero.

The options are as varied as my imagination and creativity.

I have some ideas for selling knitted items using wool scraps, but I am hesitant to compete with the grannies from the old age home. Their colour choices leave a lot to be desired, and I know my items would be popular. I just would feel awful if I stole their business.

I am thinking homemade soap, lip balm, and other delectable honey and beeswax cosmetics, or how about pickles, pat├ęs, breads and bakes. Fabric scraps could be turned into cushions, kids clothes, bags, beanbags, toys...

Toddler's dress made by my daughter
My daughter has also jumped on the market bandwagon with her delightful tutu's.

Enticing ideas leap into my mind, all I need to do is put them into practice. What do you have that is waste or excess to you, that will delight someone else? It doesn't have to cost you a cent, except your time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pumpkin Leaves

One of my mottos as Elastic Mom is USE IT - DON'T LOSE IT. So I am thrilled when I can learn new ways to stretch the use of my resources to their limit rather than wasting them. One such tip came from the beautiful Blantina. This lovely lady hails from Zimbabwe and when she saw the enormous pumpkins growing in my veggie patch, she decided to educate me in their traditional use of their leaves. 

If you like spinach, then read on, because pumpkin leaves are WAY more delicious.

Pick a handful of hand-sized, young pumpkin leaves.
Strip the tough vein fibers down the stalk and off the back of each leaf.
Wash the leaves very well so that they are not gritty. I use salty water for this.
Chop the leaves like shredded spinach and cook them in a closed pot until they have wilted and released liquid.
Drain them well, pressing all the liquid out.

Melt a knob of butter in the same pot and gently fry a chopped onion and two to three tomatoes.
Once these are soft, add the drained pumpkin leaves and gently cook altogether.
Season to taste with salt and serve.

This savoury dish is so delicious, my mouth is watering as I type and remember the taste. It is traditionally served on a maize porridge, mieliemeel. I like to serve it as a side dish on it's own.

Apparently it is also good with a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter stirred in.

So there you have it, another way to make the most of the whole pumpkin plant, rather than just the fruit.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Slow Living in March

Two special ladies, Wendy and Wendy, have written beautiful posts motivated by Slow Living Essentials and have inspired me to record my March month. As the days slip through my scrabbling fingers, a pause to look back on tasks accomplished will hopefully reassure me of time well used.

Muffins, pancakes, porridges and baked goods are standard breakfast items here. Soups and stews are slowly replacing salads. Brinjal moussaka, venison stew, homemade pizza and pasta bring comfort as our evenings turn cooler. Bean and lentil dishes have made their appearance too as I have been working my way through the pantry. Here is a delicious salad I made - potato, bean, walnut, rocket, sun dried tomato and chunks of my first gouda in a sun dried tomato vinaigrette.

We have bottled apples and pears, dried cherry tomatoes and filled the freezer with many bags of cherry tomatoes just waiting so be popped into winter stews.

Reduce and Reuse
I have reduced my food budget considerably and am attempting to eat from what we have as much as possible. I converted a pretty pink T-shirt that had stretched out of proportion into a shopping bag and baby's bib. My daughter and I are reusing second hand books to create surprise gifts.

All our lights were out for green hour because I was already sleeping soundly on my pillow, falling into bed just after sunset. Early nights under a warm duvet do a lot to save in terms of light and heating.

We have started a new compost heap with another one ready for digging into the garden and another maturing. Horse, chicken and cow manure all do their bit to nourish my garden. Our little worm farm produces buckets of 'worm tea' for the garden and our smelly comfrey tea also helps to nourish our vegetables.

We are coming to the end of our enormous marrow and tomato harvests. We still have lazy housewife beans, green peppers, brinjals and broad beans coming in. We have planted bok choi, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beetroot, red carrots, parsnips, garlic, onions, radishes and turnips for autumn and winter. There are plenty of bright orange pumpkins lying around in the garden waiting for the first hard frosts to mature them before I pick them. Our vine on the verandah has produced copious amounts of grapes, lovely for snacking on. I was delighted with many small watermelons springing up in the garden, but I have a sinking feeling that they are actually tsamma melons - for fodder... and my cows don't like them.
The unborn calf, long awaited continues to grow in Rosie's belly.

I am creating order in my study, sorting fabrics that have been boxed for many years. Seeing their inviting colors has stimulated my creative juices. I made a pair of urgently needed pot holders and I have many more ideas for all that lovely material. My challenge to myself is to create as many items as possible using what I have without shopping. I am still working on my daughter's stripy crocheted blanket. I am 75% of the way there. I hope to complete it before winter. I have also started knitting a cosy gift for my smallest nephew.

I was given the privilege of sprinkling pretty pearly sparkling powder over the exquisite wedding cakes that my sister-in-law made.

The sunflowers that enhanced our entrance and back garden were splendid in their full blown glory. They fed the wild birds a bit, and we have collected the heavy heads for our chickens too.

My husband's family history has been researched and very carefully presented to us in charts and on disc by his generous aunt in New Zealand. It has been fascinating to discover his roots stretching way back to the 1600's.

We spent ten days of this month in Cape Town enjoying time with our extended family. It was my brother-in-law's wedding. Family time is always precious, and treasured even more now that we live so far apart.

The autumn cosmos lining the farm roads is breathtakingly pretty.