"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

Friday, 18 March 2011

Helping yourself - for your benefit

I cam across an interesting report today.  It is all about the energy required to make food which is available to the consumer. 


I had always presumed that transporting food to the consumer took up a fair wack of the energy use and costs.  We have all heard about food miles, and have been urged to grow our own / purchase local produce.  So I was surprised to see that half the energy used during the actual processing and production of the food, is where all the energy is going.  When I think of factories, I think of manufacturing factories like a glass manufacturer, a steel producer, a car factory, etc.  I didn't think of biscuit, crisps or cooldrink factories as high consumers of energy.

Apparently, the processing of the raw goods into ready meals / junk food use more than half of the energy - in order to manufacture highly processed "foods" like - crisps, doughnuts, cola (pop) and beer.  We won't even go into how much is used for things like biscuits (cookies), sweets, etc.

And the above is not taking into account the packaging of all the ready meals / junk food.

A real eye opener and surely yet another reason not to support junk food.

Bad for the planet and bad for your body.

No contest!

And did you know that this report discovered that preparing food in your kitchen uses twice as much energy than the farm consumed producing the food in the first place? 

I am not going to go into detail about the article as I have inserted the link above for you to read.

But I will say this:

If you need a plate of crisps, use your vegetable peeler and cut thin strips from a peeled potato - heat up your oil and fry them yourself.  Add your salt when the crisps are cooked and the oil has drained off them onto a piece of brown paper.  Popcorn - ditto.  Or sprinkle with sugar if you want it sweet instead of savoury.

Fresh fruit and vegetables - what
could be better for your body?
Cakes - nothing nicer than the smell of fresh baking pervading your home - and you know exactly what ingredients have gone into it.  The same applies to biscuits, toffees or turkish delight, etc.  Or, for that sweet craving, have a handful of raisins, and dehydrate slices of your favourite fruits, so that you can enjoy them out of season.

And, if you are as fortunate as I am, you can use free energy to bake your foods - via a solar oven.

Solar baked biscuits
There are alternatives to all the junk food out there - but they require that you expend some thought and energy into creating them.  Or is that actually the crux of the problem?  No-one has enough time anymore, even with all the modern conveniences we all have at our disposal?

Or is that just the excuse we all use for the convenience of buying food which is highly processed, ready-made and filled with chemicals to prolong its' shelf life?

Ultimately, though, are we prolonging our lives by consuming that food - or are we adding to the problems which we could encounter as our bodies age? 

How many chemicals should we add to our bodies?  To my mind, the less the better.

But - it goes further than that...

Have you even considered how many chemicals you add to your bodies via daily items such as toothpaste and soap?

The slab of soap waiting to be cut into
the required portion sizes
Yesterday, I made my first ever batch of soap.  I was very nervous, as the propect of using lye frightened me.

But, with the incredibly generous guidance of a friend, RC, who makes soap for a living, I managed to produce 15 bars of the most incredible looking / smelling soap that I have ever seen.  I so wish I had a powerful enough camera to take a photo of the inside cut edge of this soap - the creamy, smooth and luxurious soap that my photo's don't do justice to.

I used a ruler to divide the slab into equal portions :-)
Okay, as I will only have a few selected electrical appliances for use on the farm, I decided that my first batch I would make with a baloon whisk...

My baloon whisk

After carefully measuring out the ingredients, and when the two liquids were at the correct termperature, I carefully blended them together and proceeded to beat the mixture.  And I beat the mixture.  And I beat it some more...

After exactly  hours of beating I finally reached trace stage and could proceed with placing the mixture in the mould.  To say that I had no right arm, nor wrist, at the end of the 1½ hours is an understatement.

It was a complete labour of love... but I did it!!

Fifteen pieces of 200gm soap, on the drying
rack, and placed in my spare bedroom - I
can't wait until they are ready...
I am so chuffed - and I have a new hobby which will benefit the whole family :-)  Although, I have to tell you that I am going to be investing in a low powered (below 1200 watt) blender - apparently trace stage is reached far quicker with a blender...

I took the time, overcame a mental hurdle, conquered my fear, and we will all benefit.

I just love it.  Thank you so much, RC - I owe you big time.

I reckon that if we all got off our collective derrière, and did more for ourselves, we, and our planet, would reap the benefits.

And, simultaneously, we would be teaching the next generation to help themselves, and not too always expect help from outside - making them more self-sufficient.  That, surely, must be good for them?  :-)


Jane said...

Dani, I use a stick blender to make soap. It's wattage is way less than a regular blender and it makes the soap in about 15 minutes or less. Plus you do not need to transfer the mixture around in the dangerous pre-saponification phase. You make it all in one pan.

Dani said...

Jane - meant to say stick blender :-)

How do you make it in one pan?? Interesting...

Mr. H. said...

I looked at the article you linked to and the amount of energy used to for junk food compared to other foods really is amazing, which is pretty pitiful considering the worthlessness of that type of food. Like you said, "Bad for the planet and bad for your body."

I like your new hobby. Good job on the soap making, your bars look great.

Dani said...

Mr H - thank you :-) Now, I'm impatient to try them out...

Mrs. Mac said...

Thanks for the article link .. The soap looks great! Will be a treat to use. That's a lot of stirring .. but you did it .. yea! I use a stick blender to reach trace .. in just a few minutes.

Dani said...

Mrs Mac - I have a confession. I told RC about my hour-and-a-half stirring marathon and she advised me to get a stick blender. I purchased a Safeway 200 watt stick blender this afternoon - perfect wattage for the farm, and it was on sale too :-)

So I'm sorted for my next session LOL

African Bliss said...

Your soap looks absolutely great... well done!!
I think that having a veg garden, producing and eating from it, is far healthier for the whole family, plus a lot more fun and far less time consuming than going out shopping. About 70% of our meals come out of our garden. Every night, myself and Rae sit back and feel a sense of joy and pride, as we look at our plates of food, knowing that the majority of it comes out of our garden.

tffnguy said...

Dani, being off grid we have to learn to conserve like crazy and aren't able to do a lot of the stuff we once did. No doubt you know this from being at the farm. Problem is that for the most part the average person has no desire to live off grid or even try to conserve on energy in any way. Unfortunately the attitudes of those people will filter down to us and we will be paying for their desire to have it all because of high gas, grocery and other prices. Until the masses get it through their "I want it ALL" skulls that everyone needs to start conserving then we are all screwed. I guess in away I'm part of the problem to because at this point there isn't much chance of me growing my own food. Maybe next year? At least its getting to the time of the season when native desert plants can be used and eaten though. I'm thinking strongly about transplanting a bunch of those here and tending them because they already are pretty well self sufficient and easy to grow.

Dani said...

Africn Bliss - I couldn't have done it without your unbelievable generosity and assistance :-)

Yes, RMan and I feel very chuffed when we consume produce from our garden too - definitely tastes better - even if I'm predudiced...

Reckon bartering with one's neighbours is the way forward LOL - at least one knows the food bartered is whoelsome and grown with no chemicals.

David - yes, we have also reduced our energy use / waste - both here in Cape Town, and far more so on the farm.

But, I think the more people who make the effort, and share what they are doing with whosoever they come into contact with, the more the message / trend will spread. That is my greatest wish.

Consuming desert plants sounds brilliant - why not do a blog on which plants, and how to prepare them - I for one would be fascinated! And they require a minimal amount of water...! Cool.

Anonymous said...

Your soap looks edible. I thought it was a cake at first, then I continued to read. Lovely! I enjoy making our soap. It is definitely an addictive habit, but we benefit so much from it.I use a stick blender too, in a few minutes - DONE! A little at a time, I do what I can to reduce what we use and how we use it. Love the soar biscuits. I do see a solar cooker in our future. I love that idea (& not using electricity to cook too!)! Emily

Dani said...

Emily - it does look yummy doesn't it :-)

A solar cooker is the only way to go - especially in summer - meal preparation is a breeze!