"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Sunday 28 November 2010

Homemade Ginger Beer

I was reading Paula's blog yesterday and on it she had a recipe for ginger beer - I just had to try it!

It was ABSOLUTELY delicious. Never again will I purchase ginger beer from the shop.  Even RMan, who normally doesn't drink ginger beer, declared it delicious and downed 1 1/2 glasses.

So, here goes:

Keep an empty 2lt bottle (2 1/2 pint) from a previous cooldrink.  Rinse it out well.

Take 35 - 45 gm (1.25 oz) of unpeeled root ginger and chop roughly.  Place it in a food processor and add 1/4 cup sugar, and the zest of one lime or lemon (I took a lemon from my tree, washed it, and used that) - process until everything is finely ground and syrupy.

Using a funnel, pour 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon yeast into the rinsed bottle.  Add the syrupy mixture to the bottle, and the juice from the lemon you zested.  Using water of your choice (I used tap water which had been filtered), add water to the bottle leaving 2.5 - 5cm (1 - 2") headspace at the top of the bottle.

Place the cap on tightly and shake well to mix (the skin of the ginger will float at the top).

Leave the filled bottle at room temperature until the bottle is hard - roughly 1 - 2 days.  (I left it lying on it's side and 22 hours later mine was rock hard).

Place in the refrigerator until cold, then pour into a glass using a strainer (to strain out all the bits) and enjoy.

I'm so happy that the bottle was hard after 22 hours - I seriously couldn't wait to try it.  And the 4 hours it was in the fridge were the longest ever...

The only change I will make to the recipe next time is to use 55 - 60gm (1.8oz) root ginger - I like my ginger beer strong, so that it tickles the back of my throat :-)

Thanks Paula, for sharing the recipe.  Does anyone have a recipe for any other cooldrinks that they would like to share?

Sunday 21 November 2010

Ginger (zingiber officinale) update

Since my posting on 31/10/2010 my ginger plant has been coming along nicely on my kitchen nursery windowsill.

It now looks like this - and will be potted on this coming week.

It now has enough roots, so I shouldn't lose this one :-)

It's taken a while though - I suspended them just touching the water around the beginning of September this year!

Yummy - my own ginger next year.

Friday 19 November 2010

Days of Yore

I'm going to have another soapbox moment today...

A few weeks ago I watched the complete BBC series "A Victorian Farm".

It was absolutely brilliant and utterly and totally frustrating - as I was left wondering why on earth the powers that be in this country don't purchase programmes like this for us all to watch? Educating, informative and uplifting. Who needs the latest movie which focusses on how to crash as many cars as possible in 1 - 2 hours of "entertainment", or produce a film which gives all those idiots / terrorists out there the latest outrageous idea's on how to inflict pain, torture and punishment on their fellow man?

It is a series which provides good, salt of the earth kind of information - which is sadly lacking in today's modern society. Especially for all of us who enjoy growing our own food, rearing whatever animals we are able, and getting on with our lives in as simple a way as possible.

"A Victorian Farm" dealt with life on a farm 100+ years ago for the period of a farming year. There were three main characters - I can only remember Ruth's name (and I think a guy called Alex) - because the names are not important - it is the lifestyle and methods from the days of yore which are.

But I was also left with wanting more...

So I googled a "Victorian Farm" to see if there were any more episodes, and I discovered that there was an earlier series called "Tales from a Green Valley" - the 2 DVD pack arrived a couple of days ago, and it is an even better series.

It is absolutely riveting and thoroughly enjoyable.  It is a perfect example of putting theoretical history into practice and provides a fascinating insight into how people lived their lives over 400 years ago.

I loved the bit in the unseen footage where Ruth was explaining that, in place of our modern shampoo, they would use fullers earth to remove the oil from their hair, rinsing it out straight away.  (Ruth further said that one couldn't do this too often, as the fullers earth really stripped away the oil from a persons head - they used to use fullers earth to remove the oil from fresh shorn sheep wool, etc.)

What I also found fascinating in both series, is discovering the origin of phrases like "upper crust" - i.e. the larney people :-) .  That came about because bread was cooked in a bread oven which was dirty from the wood with which they had heated it  - similar to a modern pizza oven, but more basic, and they had to work quickly to remove the burnt wood and residue mess so that the oven didn't lose too much heat before they "sealed" their dough in it in order to bake their bread.  The base of the bread picked up all that ash and mess.  The upper classes would slice and eat the top of the loaf, leaving the bottom (dirty) part of the loaf for the kitchen staff / lower classes.

Watching both these series highlights how much ingenuity was required on a daily basis - and affords a prime example of how little we use our brains to do our daily tasks today.  Modern conveniences have certainly caused man a reduction in use of that vital organ - and a dearth of the personal touch and care that was given to tasks in those days of yore.  Nowadays it's all about chemicals and profit!

And consuming the latest drug in order to "enhance" brain function.  Or possessing the latest iPad, BMW or designer clothing.  We've gone from cherishing and worshipping nature, to idolising and elevating possessions and people who are famous and wealthy, not because they are better, but solely because they are the "latest" and famous.

How sad.

But then there's the other aspect too - man, in general, has today become so focussed on me, myself and I - and in the VF or TFTGV it is apparent how important community was - for assisting with tasks on the farm, be they using the neighbour, his / her plough and horse, or at harvest time, and sharing in times of famine / loss, etc.  Interdependence within the local community created a richer, warmer relationship between them which, sadly, is  certainly lacking in our towns and cities today, but, also, to a smaller degree in our rural area's too.  Cities, in my mind, encourage peer pressure, jealously, hostility and greed.

Both "Tales from a Green Valley" and "A Victorian Farm" showed tasks that were performed sometimes better, often in a simpler way, although not necessarily quicker - but perhaps that is exactly what is missing today - we don't spend enough time thinking about what we are doing - we just blindly get it done as fast as we can, before we move onto the next one, so that we can finish as soon as possible and have our "time off"!

I highly recommend both of these series - if you can get hold of the DVD's on Kalahari or Amazon grab it / them with both hands :-)

Has anyone got any recommendations of what I can watch now - I'm hungry for more knowledge...?

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Solar cooking - part 2

Yesterday I made RMan and RSons' dinner in the solar oven :

Beef Shin with beans and lentils

The night before I rinsed 1/2 cup lentils until the water ran clear and then I placed them in a container with enough water to cover.  Then placed 1/2 cup of haricot beans in a pot on the stove with 1 cup of water and boiled them for 5 minutes.  I then added the lentils to the par boiled beans, covered the pot and set it aside to soak overnight.

I placed the beans and lentils in a black pot and added 1 X 115gm tin of tomato paste, adding 2 extra tins of plain water.  1 tbsp mixed herbs, 1 tsp garlic flakes and 1 crumbled beef stock cube was added and mixed together. (For a hotter, spicy dish the optional extra spices to add are: 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds and 1 tsp chilli powder)

I removed the bones from 680 gms of beef shin and added the bones to the pot – the marrow in the bones will assist in providing a tasty gravy. I then cut the meat into 2cm cubes and added that to the pot.

3 X carrots were peeled and sliced and I roughly chopped 3 X large tomatoes. (If using potatoes, just wash and cut them to the required size – there is no need to peel.) On top of the beans / lentils I added the meat, then placing the vegetables on top of the meat - to cover it.

The pot was covered and placed in the solar oven which had been pre-heated to 130 – 140oC.

(If you find the gravy is a little thin, blend 1 – 2 tsp of maizena / cornflour with water and add to the stew 2 hours after placing the pot in the oven.  Allow to continue cooking for another 1 - 2 hours.)

Ensure that your pot faces the sun for at least 3 - 4 hours, and that the temperature inside the oven is above 120oC. This dish should cook for 3 hours – but all day will also do – it will not burn – the meat will just get more tender the longer it cooks.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley prior to serving.

I added a pot of rice (in boiling water) to the solar oven and let that cook for an hour - it was perfect rice with no starchy stickiness clumping the lot together - that is because the rice doesn't boil and release it's starch - it just simmers away.

The verdict from the menfolk - very tasty, delicious, tender and all gone...

And, today I have cooked Greek Chicken which I will serve with one of John's solar baked loaves of bread - that'll be perfect for mopping up the gravy.

Am I starving the men in my life?  RMan has attacked the hot freshly baked loaf - and the chicken has only been in the oven for an hour - with we still 5 hours still to go until dinner time...
To prepare and cook Greek Chicken is dead easy.

Rub 7  - 8 pieces of chicken with an oil / garlic / salt and pepper mixture.  Then take 7 pieces of cinnamon and place them at the base of your pot - put the chicken pieces on top of them.

Slice 3 tomatoes and place them round the chicken.  Add as many olives (halved) as you like and then cover the chicken with 7 - 8 slices of (unpeeled and washed) lemon. 

Add 100mls of white wine, cover and place in a solar oven pre-heated to a minimum of 130oC for 2 1/2 - 3 hours - any longer will only ensure that your chicken is fall off the bone tender.

Chicken cooked in the solar oven is an absolute treat - tender, tasty and moist - it will brown, but won't go crisp.  And the gravy that it produces - delicious.

It's 4.15pm and the chicken is cooked - it's now in the hotbox until dinnertime.  Note the gravy which has been produced.  What a clever little oven... :-)  And my dinner preparation is over for the day - what more could a woman ask for?
A tip for keeping the cooked chicken hot until dinner time - place it straight from the hot (130 - 150oC) solar oven into your hotbox (haybox) (http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/p/trying-to-make-difference-start-of-our.html and scroll down the page to the 2nd photograph of my hotbox).

The total amount of electricity I consumed in cooking both meals was that which was used to boil two cups of water for the rice.  Otherwise - the sun did it all for me :-)  And the herbs, carrots and tomatoes came from my garden - as well as the lemon.

Monday 15 November 2010

Solar Baking - biscuits

I know all my northern hemisphere readers will think this posting is not applicable to them, but I think it is pertinent to both northern and southern hemispheres.  And, in addition, my northern friends have their entire winter to investigate the availablity, and source their recipes to plan their 2011 summer cooking schedule, whilst they are in the grip of all that lovely snow... :-)

A couple of days ago one of the blogs I follow had a recipe for Christmas Cherry Ripe Biscuits.  It sounded too delicious!  So I had to take a peek.

Yummy, yummy, yummy - all my favourite ingredients!

The recipe is as follows:

Beat together:

125gm softened butter
1/2 cup raw sugar (I didn't have raw, so I used brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten (I didn't beat - just shoved it in with all the above and beat the mixture well)

Finally, mix in:

3 tbls glace cherries
1/2 cup choc chips
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup self raising four )
3/4 cup plain flour         ) I didn't have plain flour, so I used 1 1/2 cups of s/f flour

The rest of the ingredients ready to be mixed in the bowl.
I then rolled portions of the dough into balls about the size of a walnut, placed them on the baking tray and flattened each ball slightly with a fork.

But, this is where I changed the method.  Instead of putting it into the oven to bake at 180oC until they were light golden in colour I put it in my preheated solar oven.

Batch # 2 - plus two eggs I'm hard boiling for tuna salad tonight
Cooking took approximately 45 minutes.

RMan couldn't wait - he swiped one off the tray whilst I was putting the next batch in... :-)

10 minutes work in the kitchen, then let the sun take over and this is the result - brown, crispy and delicious!  This is definitely a keeper!

The only electricity I used was my hand held blender, for 3 minutes, which beat the butter, egg, sugar and vanilla together!

But, it's a funny thing - I prefer the cool of winter to the (sometimes overbearing) heat of summer.  However, this year I am looking forward to hot sunny days and cooking more and more in my solar oven.  Watch this space for more eco-friendly recipes... :-) 

Saturday 13 November 2010

Ricotta cheese, yoghurt and cream cheese

Do you like yoghurt, ricotta and cream cheese?  Would you like to make it like your mother and grandmother used to?  Do you know how easy it is to make and how much money you can save?

Well, it starts with 5 ltrs of full cream milk, a couple of teaspoons of vinegar and a small 125ml tub of yoghurt with live cultures.

For the Ricotta cheese:

Pour 2 ltrs of full cream milk into a pot, add 3 tablespoons of vinegar and bring to the boil. 

The milk curdling / curds and whey forming with the addition of the vinegar
Boil for 30 seconds, remove from the heat, and allow to stand for 15 minutes.  This allows more curds to form and also allows the mixture to cool in order to squeeze it.

Take a strainer and lay a muslin cloth inside.  When the mixture is cooler, carefully pour it onto the muslin and allowing the whey to strain into another container below the strainer. 

When it has finished dripping, gather the cloth together and slowly squeeze out any residual moisture.  What is left in the cloth is your ricotta.  (The whey, which was strained off, can be used in baking - very good in home made bread - use it to dissolve your yeast in.)

For the yoghurt and cream cheese:

Place your 3lts of milk in a pot on the stove.  Bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool enough so that you can leave a finger in for 10 secs - then add your small tub of shop bought yoghurt.  Mix well.

Then put the mixture in sterilised jars, seal and place them in a cooler box overnight - wrapping them in warm towels or a blanket.  When you wake up the next morning you will have your home made yoghurt.

I kept 1/2 of the batch as yoghurt and used the other half to make cream cheese:

I placed 1/2 the yoghurt into a muslin lined strainer and suspended it in order to allow the whey to drain out.

This takes a while (about 1 - 1/2 hours).  When it stops dripping, give it a gentle squeeze to remove the last of the whey.

Then pack it into your tub, place in the fridge and voila! ricotta, yoghurt and cream cheese is back in stock!

Seriously, it couldn't be easier!

2 ltrs of full cream organic bst hormone free milk made:

246gms ricotta cheese
and 1140ml of whey (which I'll add yeast to next time I make bread)

Total cost: R16.39

If I purchased 250 gms ready made ricotta cheese it would've cost me R22.95

I thus saved: R6.56

3 ltrs of full cream organic bst hormone free milk and a 150gm tub of plain yoghurt (with probiotic cultures) made:

1.5kgs of yoghurt
and 500-odd gms of cream cheese

Total cost: R25.95 (milk) and R7.45 / 150gm (yoghurt) = R33.40

If I purchased 1.5gms of yoghurt it would've cost me R41.10 and 500gms of cream cheese would cost me R31.90 = R73.00

I thus saved R39.60

But, the cherry on top, is that I will retain 125gms of my home made yoghurt to use in my next batch, so, in future, I'll save that cost too.

Therefore my total savings making my own yoghurt and cream cheese will be R47.05

My power consumption was approximately 500 watts at a total cost of 46c

Monday 8 November 2010

Kitchen implements

How do you prepare your food?

Do you have the latest gadgets, with all their bling and razzmatazz? Do you use electric or manual implements in your kitchen?

I thought I'd share with you what I use:

My baby pestle and mortar does just what I need it too.

My single blade Mezzaluna - perfect for chopping fresh herbs from my garden.
My handy manual processor does just what I need...

and all the blades which came with my processor fit into the back of the unit for easy storage

The sands of time cooks MKids boiled egg perfectly, without the need of a wind up mechanism nor batteries.

An antique genuine ravioli maker - making ravioli is an absolute breeze
And then to reward myself for not using any power in the preparation of our meal, RMan gets a cup of (minimal power) filter coffee...

with beans ground with a coffee grinder...

My antique coffee grinder

and... I get a cup of Rooibos tea :-)

A perfect one cup teapot with strainer - who needs tea bags?

So I ask you - who need power guzzling kitchen helpers to make delicious food?  My only regret is that I was unable to find all my plastic items in wood - but I console myself with the fact that at least I'm not using any power when I need their help in my kitchen.

What implements do you have in your kitchen which are "off the grid"?  I would love to see a photo of them - you can e-mail me at: dani at ecofootprint dot co dot za.  If you like I will do another post to show them off for you...?  :-)

Thursday 4 November 2010

Our journey...

Following on my post Make a difference yesterday, and for those who haven't visited my web page, I thought I should share our side of the journey thus far...

Some time in 2007 RMan decided that he'd had enough of the retirement / insurance companies making their huge profits, at his expense, and then paying out peanuts when payment was due.  Their projected income when he took out his policies in the early 1980's, for his retirement in 2018, fell far short of the cost of living increases which we've experienced in the intervening years.  I reckon that is their trick - ensnare individuals to take out a policy which seems to offer incredible incomes on their retirement, with no mention of CoL increases - which reduce that retirement income to a barely liveable amount.  RMan decided that he would withdraw what he was allowed (which under South African law equates to 2/3's of the current value - the other 1/3 has to be re-invested) and with that 2/3's he would purchase a property - our plot :-) 

History has shown that property is the best long term investment - and is not dependent on the R/$ or R/£ or R/¥ exchange rate, like gold, stock market share, etc.

If one purchases a property wisely, maintains it and improves on it, then your investment cannot help but grow.  And, in the case of a recession, such as we've just experienced / are still experiencing, yes, properties will drop slightly in value, but when that recession is done and dusted, property values will leap up again - without the risk involved in gold, shares, etc.

So purchasing a plot for investment purposes was our original intention.

But, then the bug hit - RMan wanted to go to the plot over the weekends in order to escape from city life.  That entailed having to have somewhere to stay - it was pointless increasing the bank balances of the local B+B's as that completely defeated the aim of withdrawing money from his policies!  So we decided to build a small house.  As we could afford it.

But - and that is a big "but" - I saw this as the perfect opportunity of doing it right - of treading more gently on this planet through leaving as small a footprint as possible.  Of making a fresh start in our lives...

And thus my hunt began ... and it started with the question which was the most practical and eco-friendly way to build?  We initially thought of building a sand bag house, but due to the bag on offer at that stage, and due to the wind, which constantly blows, and was blowing away more sand than we could get into our bags, we ditched that idea.

The shower room, constructed with sandbags,
which disintergrated with the wind
My second option was a cob house, as we had stayed in one in Barrydale, and it was amazing - cool in the heat of day, and warm when it was cold outside.  And the atmosphere that pervaded the interior - calm, peaceful and serene.  I loved it - in fact we both did!  However, a cob house takes manpower, and in that we were in short supply.  RMan doesn't like strawbale houses - he is concerned about vermin gaining access to the straw and having a party - for generations to come...

Unfortunately, it therefore had to be a brick build - my proviso was that if I couldn't have a sandbag / cob or strawbale house, then we had to build with local materials.  (And at the time I stamped my foot to emphasise my proviso :-) )

Serendipitously, in our closest town, Swellendam, there were locals who produced clay bricks.  So clay brick it was!  Our brick had a total transport footprint of 25kms.  Our labour we obtained even closer - using the locals from a small village 12 km away.

Thus we were providing employment and income to the locals.  Perfect.  We were giving back as we were taking.

Slowly, slowly choices were made.  We would be off grid in our new home.  I completely covet a wind turbine, and I'm sure that one day we will have one when we are able to afford it.  After all it is a perfect power generator for our windy plot :-)  I am so enamoured with wind turbines that my eyes glaze over every time I see one on the TV :-)

We have installed double glazing (not the norm in South Africa) windows and I found a company which recycles all the car bumpers / computer casings / plastic milk bottles etc. into resin roof tiles.  I also discovered Freecycle, and that membership has provided us with our kitchen counter and burglar bars for all our external doors.

Our cooking and warmth is provided by a wood harvested from alien trees, and cut by Working for Water, and which we burn in our Dover stove, which was also purchased within 45kms of our plot, and our clay floor tiles are again manufactured in Swellendam.  I have to tell you that the warmth (both visually and underfoot)and beauty of natural clay floor tiles is incomparable to what is on offer / what one can purchase at your local hardware store.  Mass production certainly short changes man.

Then I investigated eco-finishes.  I found a manufacturer of low VOC varnish, undercoats and paints in Cape Town, and we transport what we need, when we need it, with us when we go to the plot.  The render we applied to our walls contained a large amount of lime - lime cures by a slow process of carbonation, reacting with atmospheric carbon dioxide over a period of weeks ( www.buildingconservation.com/articles/cement/cement.htm )  Therefore some of the carbon dioxide we have produced whilst we have been building is now being absorbed by the lime render - again a case of taking and giving.  I love it :-)

I have discovered that 12 volts of power is plentiful for our needs and one can still have home comforts such as music (provided by the car radio I bought for RMan) and lighting (12 volt CFL's and LED lights).  There is even a 12 volt TV available which I have my eye on - I have to watch any episode of Grand Designs I can, and RMan needs to watch the Boks beat the Wallabies and the All Blacks. 

Our only problem area is a fridge - and I have sourced a solar powered 12 volt freezer.  I intend to use the freezer to freeze 5lt bottles of water which I will rotate and which will keep a cooler box at the right temperature so that it can be used as a fridge.  No doubt RMan's beers will have to have a stint in the freezer before they can be kept in the "fridge" - wouldn't do if he had to drink warm beers on a hot summers day - or anytime...

The last two items are like the wind turbine - all finances permitting...

And our hot water is provided by the sun in summer, and a gas instant hot geyser in winter.  Plus the grey water from our kitchen and bathroom is being directed to a simple reed bed.

Raised veggie bed in the making...
But the periods between being here in Cape Town and being on the farm are great and I was getting frustrated that my eagerness and new found ingenuity was getting stifled.  There was so much I wanted to do - for instance I was aching to plant vegetables on the farm, so that I wouldn't have to schlep them up with us each time.  But the raised veggie bed needs completing, irrigation taken to it and a shadecloth cover installed over it to keep out the local hares and fallow deer.  So that has to wait.

But, one night, as I was falling asleep, I suddenly had a light bulb moment - a lateral thought.  What was to stop me from doing what I want to do in our "fresh start", right here in Cape Town.  After all, I didn't have to wait for the right moment - the right moment was right now!
Hand knitted dishcloth

So, once again, my investigative powers took over.  There are some seriously wonderful blogs out there, such as  Gillie, Mr H, Mia, milkwoodkirsten, onestrawRhonda,and sprig's blogs to mention but a few.  With their assistance I have learnt how to make no knead artisan bread(perfect for my arm), soap, eco-friendly insecticides and household cleaners, essential oils, lip balm, a food dryer, a chicken house, a hot box, a wicking bed, an eco-friendly food dehydrator and knit my own dishcloths out of 100% pure, unwaxed, unbleached cotton, a simple shade cloth tunnel for my vegetable patch, and preserve all sorts of foods, amongst many other things.

And I have started a vegetable patch, or should that be patches, which have all the appearances of providing us with our needs in a couple of months, and which, because I now have the confidence and from which I have already had some reward, I will continue to sow in and reap from.

Shade cloth veggie tunnel

But, the most surprising discovery I have made is that I have enjoyed re-educating myself.  It is the most brilliant on-going journey I have ever embarked upon and one that I highly recommend!

It really is true - one is never too old to learn - all you need, and have to be, is willing.

What we need is to make a concerted effort to inspire and motivate the menfolk in our lives, so that they are willing and eager to join us on our journey ...  trust me though, the eco-friendly journey is a lifelong one - and one whose boundaries are constantly moving as you and I jointly discover, and share, ways to simplify our lives, and the way we live them, and lighten the load we are placing on our planet, without turning back the clock 100 years.

How are you fairing with the man / men / children in your life?  What has been the easiest eco-change to make - and which ones are they resisting most?

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Make a difference

Forgive me - I'm going to have a soapbox moment.

I need to state first and foremost - I am not a feminist.  I believe there is a place for both genders on this planet, and some of the things which each gender does are more suitable to the make-up of that gender.

For instance, I had tennis elbow about 7 - 8 years ago, and being full of know-it-all wisdom, ignored the pain for the first two weeks - after all I was younger - and was going to live forever!  When I finally went to the doctor it was to receive a course of cortisone injections.  Bad mistake.  The injections removed the pain, but not the damage.  I should've had physiotherapy.  The result of my hot-headedness is that I have a useless right arm, with very little power to do what is needed - even opening a jar is beyond my capabilities - and that is where RMan comes to my rescue.  I don't like this feeling of uselessness - it restricts me completely.

I am unable to produce any woodwork, install an irrigation system, change a tyre (even jumping up and down on the tyre wrench doesn't shift the wheel nuts) and, because of my arm, even starting a petrol engine lawnmower is out of my league.

However, I am more than capable of growing our vegetable needs, and am working on producing our daily bread using the least power available.  I have diminished the amount of chemicals brought into this house and try and recycle / re-purpose whenever possible. 

And I am able to nurture and nourish my family and keep my home in order, using the minimum of chemicals and the maximum of eco-friendly options.  And that nuturing has, in recent years, been given an additional direction - that of doing my bit in caring for our planet.  One small step at a time.

Don't think that I am a typically helpless member of the fairer sex by any means - I will try and do anything, and, only when that fails, will I ask for assistance.

However, with the blogs I follow I have noticed a trend.

Why is it that most of the people that leave comments on blogs which deal with self-sustainability and trying to make a difference to this planet with the lifestyle we choose to live, are mainly women?

Please - don't get me wrong - there are male bloggers out there that have stunning blogs, with all sorts of brilliant ideas.  For instance: GreenpaDarren, frugal canadian hermit, John Wells, tffg, Herrick Kimball and Doc.

But the pattern continues.

Do women have the upper hand in leading the way forward for this planet?  Are we the Professors of the Present, as well as the Front runners of the Future in the field of sustainability and eco-awareness? Is it because we are constantly teaching our children / grandchildren, and it seems, in this instance, also our spouses? I understand that women have / make more time to blog, and are more interested in ways of the world, whereas the menfolk are more focused on providing the wherewith all for their families.  But, if we women don't make the effort, to educate ourselves, and therefore our families, how would we heal this planet?

Do we appreciate the responsibility of our task?

Personally, I revel in it - I thrive on making a difference, no matter how small - for all our collective baby steps can end up circumnavigating the planet if we but stay the course.

The more I discover the more I can share - in my home and on this bog - and, as Barney says, "sharing is caring" - be it caring for ourselves, our families, our neighbours, our country or our planet.  With a sharing / caring mindset, I believe, what we leave for the next generation can only benefit them.

So, more power to us women - let us willingly and happily, lead the way, direct and assist others - for all our sakes and, more importantly, for the sake of this beautiful planet we inhabit.

Does anyone care to join me on my mission? I would love to hear how you personally are fairing on your eco-friendly path.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

My Chicken Ballottine

As promised, here is a photo of my version of the finished Chicken Ballotine.

It was a calm, warm and wind free evening.  The end of a beautiful day - we didn't have the predicted 28oC but it was certainly warm enough.

Unfortunately, the solar cooker didn't achieve the 200oC required for baking the bread, so we had to buy rolls.  But, now I am even more determined to purchase a small gas bbq to make my bread in - I need it just small enough to take a loaf - not one of those gizmo's with all the bells and whistles and in gleaming stainless steel.  No, siree, just a small gas bbq.

Whilst a bottle of our favourite wine (KWV Roodeberg) caressed our throats, we consumed the chicken - much to RMan's delight.  He declared the meal "amazing" and "fabulous"  and definitely worth repeating.

Then we had dessert of ice cream and home grown strawberries - our first and absolutely delicious.  Over the past 5 - 6 days I had been hiding the ripening strawberries under the leaves of the plants, away from the birds - and away from any prying fingers wanting a taster.  It worked :-)

It was a perfect evening and very reminicient of our wedding day 30 years ago - we had organised to have the reception at home, and it poured with rain - so much so that even the marquee we had hired was flooded.  Not having had enough chairs we all ended up sitting on the floor in our lounge - which was guaranteed to remove any polite restrictions which normally abound at weddings.  It was the most relaxed and laughter filled wedding I have ever attended.

Last nights meal, candlelight and conversation was a perfect and a fitting day to celebrate our 30 years together.

Chicken Ballottine is normally cooked in an jelly (aspic) stock made with calf's feet, pork rind, buckle of veal, carrots, onions, leeks, bouquet garni and chicken stock.  I chose to cook it in chicken stock with onions, carrots, and fresh herbs from the garden and it was delicious.