02 May 2013

Slow Living Month - April 2013

Time again to look back and review the happenings and successes of the last month with Christine at Slow Living Essentials and the gang.  Pop on over and check out what everyone has been up to.
In learning more about food sustainability, I've been buying meat for some time now direct from farmers at farmers markets, and am learning that it's important that not just the prime cuts are eaten, but also the less popular or well-known ones to ensure that there isn't wastage of the animal. With this in mind we've been experimenting with new cuts of beef each time we buy a piece.  So far we've tried skirt, hangar and banjo steaks and have some flat iron in the fridge for this week.  Each piece has required a bit of work, and some thought about how to best cook it to ensure it's not tough (although starting off with high quality organic, free range meat helps) which also has the advantage of some extra variety in our meals.  By eating small portions we are able to buy high quality meat from farmers that we know treat their animals well.  I expect that as we get into winter there will be more slow-cooking with other types of cuts.  The dish below was Gyudon using banjo steak - sadly not styled as well as Bill Grainger's in the link, but delicious none-the-less! 
The basil in the Country Garden just continues to grow and grow, so each week I've been making more pesto.  The freezer is full, but there's still more basil picked this week to address, good job I love it!
I think last month I mentioned that I'd cleaned out the shed and turned it into a useable space, which was then leading to me think that I needed to organise a Garage Sale.  By complete coincidence, the next day my neighbour dropped me a note in the letterbox saying "Saturday's weather looks good for a Garage Sale, are you in?"  So there were no excuses, it was on.  The results of the sale were average, we both sold a bit, but the weather turned out to be less perfect than it promised at the start of the week, and it was the end of the school holidays, so not really enough people around, but I loved it.  It was so nice to have an excuse to sit out on the street all morning and talk to passersby, catch up with neighbours that I rarely see, and just enjoy my 'hood, while reducing a bit of stuff.  I can't wait to do it again in Spring (on a warm sunny day).

This was my harvest from the Country Garden this week: Silverbeet, celery, sorrel, beans, capsicum, eggplant, squash, radish, rhubarb, basil, sage, parsley.
I've been working in both gardens to prepare for winter:
  • In the Country Garden we've planted the garlic, deciding to just plant under the rose bushes this year after last years experiments, but have prepared the ground better than last year, digging it up more and spreading compost through.
  • Also planted are purple sprouting broccoli, brussels sprouts, fennel, carrots, turnips, beetroot, kale, broad beans, leeks, onions and more lettuce, rocket and radish.
  • In the City Garden there is purple sprouting broccoli, silverbeet, broad beans, pak choy, rocket and horseradish growing.
The percentage of home grown vegetables dropped slightly this month, but was still around 85%, and that was really due to me buying a few different vegies as the variety in the garden reduces.  The challenge over winter is to keep finding interesting ways to eat more of the same varieties.  Here's my favourite silverbeet/ kale / spinach recipe.

I put the eternal granny blanket aside for a bit and knitted a beanie for the new-born baby of one of my friends.  It's supposed to have a pom pom on the top, but I liked the pattern of the reduced stitches so left it off.
For the last six years we've had two chairs on the verandah but no table.  It's a lovely place to sit in the morning sun, but every time I sit there I really want something to put my cuppa on.  Finally I got around to it.  I've had the top sitting in the shed for years, cut out from some rejected timber from my sailing dinghy's transom.  So I took it out, sanded it down and oiled it, then painted a cheap timber fruit crate I found at a farm-gate shop.  I was going to face the "hole" to the wall, then decided to face it outwards and pot up a few succulents to put in there to give it some colour.  Voila, after six years it took me 30 minutes to make!
Ages ago I went through my library's online catalogue and requested several River Cottage DVDs and books.  For some reason they've all turned up in the last few weeks so I've been enjoying going back and watching how River Cottage started, and then jumping forward a bit to see how it grew and some of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's more recent cook books.  Lots of inspiration. 

One of my friends has a growing itch to buy a small place in the country.  We catch up regularly for lunch and it's become fun to exchange books, ideas and information about her search (and my vicarious search!) for property. She is quite open to where it might be, so we've been trawling maps and online real-estate sites for inspiration.  Last week we explored the area around Talbot and Clunes, timed to also visit the Talbot farmers market.  It's a great way to find out more about Victoria, and a good excuse for country drives.

As part of the Garage Sale I decided to have a launch of the herb garden I've planted out on the street.  So I added a few more pots, made a proper sign inviting people to enjoy it, eat it, water it, nurture it, add to it and made up some posies of herbs from the Country Garden to give to anyone who bought something from my garage stall.  I also bagged up some herb seeds that I'd saved and sold them on the day.  The response to the garden continues to be really positive.  Many people stopped to say what a great idea they thought it was, and now that the herbs are a bit bigger people have started to take little sprigs as they walk past.  Last week I found a pot of basil there that someone had left to add to the collection.

I have just joined Oxfam's  GROW Challenge.  It runs for six months and aims to increase awareness of food sustainability issues.  

It's been quite a low-key month really, but I've managed to spend quite a bit of time in the City Garden and pottering around at home which has been really lovely, as well as catching up with dear friends.  

How was your April?


  1. Loving your 30 minutes work! Thanks for introducing me to the GROW challenge - I shall definitely take part.

    1. Yes the GROW Challenge looks interesting doesn't it? I"m looking forward to getting into it.

  2. Your street pot garden is so wonderful, T! Great to hear that the response to it has been so positive. And I am loving your fruit crate table - isn't it funny how we keep putting off those kind of jobs when they hardly take any time at all to do! :)

    1. Thanks Christine, yes sometimes I think about how productive I could be.... :)

  3. Love your harvest and the street garden :)

  4. I love your little table and the baby hat.

    I imagine it must be pretty great to have you as a neighbor... glad to hear others are participating in the street garden now.

    1. Well maybe, apart from M's electric guitar-playing! ;)