Of Ferments, Foments, Fizzing Synapses and the odd good book

Hi All

I have noticed that a lot of the blogs that I am following are starting to delve into the subject of thrift and frugality. As a penniless student horticultural hippy I am more than aware of the value of thrift and am not only immersing myself in thrifty pastimes but am incredibly excited and rewarded by finding as many ways to live as frugally as possible as I can. I spend a lot of time hunting out how to do things myself. I decided that my “special” thing would be that I knew stuff. Not anything that would get me that million dollars on a game show but useful stuff like how to make milk out of nuts, how to start a fire with knicker elastic and a stick and how to approach a grumpy dog without having your jugular ripped out…you know…”useful” stuff.

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Thinking about cutting my long hair short…I reckon I would look just like Audrey Hepburn…

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See…EXACTLY THE SAME! Told you so 🙂

I think that the power of not being wealthy is that you have to learn to rely on your wits to get you what you want. You have to learn to plan, to organise, to save up and to find alternative ways to get to your goals. I also think the most important thing about being on a low income is how you look at your situation. Steve and I might be living below the poverty line but we certainly don’t feel poor. We manage the money that we do receive well and I feel positively rich. I was gifted a good education (what price that?!) and am able to head to my local library and find books on almost anything I need to know. Whenever I want to find out how to do something I can head straight to the internet and there will be a tutorial or pdf somewhere with my name on it that will give me the information that I need to know for the task.

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That innocuous little pile of “stuff” in the shadows there is netting that we cut to start the long and laborious process of covering our garden bed

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My able assistant showing you how we have to unroll the massive heavy (did I say HEAVY?!) rolls of rainwater soaked fish-farm netting so it could dry out enough for us to cut it in half to use to cover the top of our fully enclosed veggie garden

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I am not just performing my morning Tai-chi routine here folks…I am tying up hundreds of metres of nylon rope in the hope that it will hold up the weight of the heavy fish farm netting

Steve and I are both problem solvers. We are diametrically opposed in just about everything and even that has its benefits…we tend to be able to see all sides of a problem (when we can stop bickering enough to unite our efforts that is 😉 ) and usually, not always, we can nut out a way to at least stem the tide till we can afford to do the job properly. I have a bucket list of wants. At the apex is a wind turbine, closely followed by a HUGE rainwater storage tank. After that I have various smaller wants that mostly revolve around us doing things, planting, plotting and most importantly “DOING”. The numero uno of everything that matters.

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“Check it out Leroy!” part 1 of 3…

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You can see it better from directly underneath this  portion…16m long and 5.5m wide (remember this is only one third of the total size of this MASSIVE great garden area. You can see the old veggie gardens dwarfed underneath this part of the garden

As a seeker of the truth of useful stuff I have a most amazing series of hard-drives cram packed to the brim with what I have found. I have been doing this for years and it’s only comparatively recently that I have started to put what I have learned into practice. Jo, from “All the blue day” recently asked her readers how they had been living more frugally. I commented but it got me thinking about what we do, that we no longer even think about that is frugal. I like to make as much as I can from scratch. That makes good business sense to me. Take out that useless middle man (BASTARD!) and you are left with a lot more money in your pocket so narf7 is on a mission to cure her penniless condition by making as much as she can out from raw materials and recycled “stuff” herself (and apparently talking in the third person makes it even better…)

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I found a very clever idea on Pinterest for half burying wine and beer bottles in the ground upside down for a most aesthetically pleasing and thoroughly sustainable garden bed. “STEEEEVE…GET DRINKING!” 😉

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Some of the seeds that we bought today to start planting out in our veggie garden as soon as we get it under cover and the beds sorted

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A selection of little babies to go into the garden…can you see their little smiling faces? No? Well you aren’t looking hard enough then! Picking up tomatoes and eggplants next week as we like to plant them straight into the garden as soon as possible

I make my own sesame milk for my tea. I used to make almond milk but almonds are expensive and so I started to do a few experiments and sesame milk is my new go-to milk sweetened with a little homemade date paste to give it a rough approximation of regular milk in tea. Aside from that I now culture kefir and kombucha, both of which add valuable probiotics into my non-dairy diet. I can make a very good approximation of yoghurt out of seeds and nuts but now I am delving deeper and have found that I can make a tangy cheese out of cooked beans and my spent sesame seed husks from making milk when cultured with a bit of non-dairy kefir tastes amazing when you dip raw apple slices in it. I am UBER excited about the fermentation process and how invisible industrious little critters can be beavering away in the background making our food digestible. By the way, did you know that our bodies contain more microbes than cells?

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I buy raw buckwheat kernel’s so that I can process it freshly as and when I want buckwheat porridge for my breakfast. That way it is both cheaper and better for me as the nutrients are retained inside the grain. In the background you can see a little bowl of soaking soy beans for my homemade organic soymilk kefir.

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I used the last of Brunhilda’s winter latent heat to cook all of these dried, pre-soaked beans so that I would have some beany material to experiment with over the next few weeks. I am going to perfect making fermented beans to add even more probiotics to my already seething bacteria laden body 😉

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Sometimes my endeavours to make everything myself backfires…

I also attempt to grow as much of what we eat as possible. Living 50km away from the city we shop once a fortnight and we shop well and if we run out…too bad. We are in the process of attempting to grow a food forest on Serendipity Farm to shore our future but the “penniless” bit gets in the way somewhat. Where regular people head out to the nearest Bunning’s we have to get clever. That’s where 4 years of horticulture and decades of watching my mum and Grandma take cuttings, grow from seed and just generally “make a garden from bugger all” comes in. We have figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, avocados, carob trees and lots of other food bearing shrubs that we have grown from seed or cuttings. Sometimes if you want something you have to go about getting it another way than the accepted norm. There is usually a way to get what you want but you might just have to think outside that box or learn to do things yourself or stand on your head to see things from a different perspective to get it

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Last years cuttings and seeds that are this years transplants into our garden. Learning how to grow your own food and plants is a fantastic idea if you are monetarily challenged

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Our friend who used to be in the witness protection but who outed herself and became “Jenny” gave us a stack of raspberry canes and 2 Marion berries today from her garden to transplant into our garden. Aren’t good friends wonderful? Jen has been our friend since we all did horticulture together in a local Polytechnic. She says that we are the only people that she would let into her house when it is messy (not that it ever is 😉 ) and the sentiment is mutual…THAT is friendship folks 🙂

If we need something we try to make it out of something that we already have. Enter Steve the amazing. I SWEAR his mum pinched him from a gypsy because this guy can MacGyver his way out of anything and can make pretty much whatever we need here with bits of wire, a bottle cap and some tree sap and what’s better…it lasts. Our temporary dog compound around the house to stop Bezial from wandering when we first moved here 3 years ago has stood the test of time. It holds Earl the fearless in and away from the feral cats that meow and spit at him through the gates so it must be strong. We are in the process of building a fully enclosed vegetable garden the size of a decent tennis court. Another means to an end. I also saw a lovely homemade basket woven willow cloche for preventing chooks from scoffing your preciouses that I am going to start making ASAP so that I can grow things in the garden again (who says Pinterest isn’t useful? 😉 )

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Despite Steve’s little joke with the sharp knife, this ISN’T what it looks like…no still beating heart was held for a single moment by this good vegan (can I still stay in the vegan confraternity this time?…Please?…) what you see before you is the squished husks of a couple of kilos of blackberries that we only remembered that we had when we were cleaning out our freezer in the shed. What to do with a couple of kilos of blackberries? Why make WINE of course!

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Part 2 of the wine making process. Part 1 was squish and soak in water for 24 hours…part 2 is where you sieve out the seeds and pulp over sugar into a sterilised container. Our container is somewhat larger than this small batch of wine needed but we are ever hopeful that one day we WILL fill a container and the “craic” will go on for weeks!

I make bread and just about everything else that we eat here from scratch. The more you bake/make it the better you get at it. I sub a lot of vegetarian options to reduce costs because meat is expensive and Steve could care less because the things that we cook taste delicious with or without meat. It’s all about sauces, spices, herbs and finding the right flavour bases (which we also make ourselves). We are not scared to delve into other cuisines and have found a wealth of amazing recipes, techniques and food ingredients this way. My current adoration of fermentation came from messing around with ferments myself but then reading about homemade miso, tempeh etc. and learning that fermented soy products are the only healthy way to consume soy…and why stop at fermenting soy? Just about every bean, grain, fruit and vegetable has some way to culture it and when you think of all of those little internal microbes you realise that adding a few more to the mix might just add something positive to the balance.

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“I Spy with my little eye…”

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“Itsy bitsy spider but she is flipping’ HUGE!” That will teach us to leave the fish-farm netting rolled up and out in the elements for months without touching it!

I spend a lot of time researching (from 3am till 7am) and then putting into practice what I have learned. I read a lot. I take books out of the library and read them. I am currently reading a book about creating gardens from bugger all (a good book indeed!) and the traditions of community when creating gardens. I am also reading Patty Smith’s autobiography and it’s an amazingly good read. I couldn’t tell you what she sang but I now know a whole lot more about this fascinating complex lady. Reading feeds your imagination and your soul. I am having some amazing dreams and remembering them now. Just needed to fire up the old brain box again 😉

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We took the dogs to the dog park. Note Bezial standing to the left doing NOTHING but sniff the same blade of grass for well over 15 minutes…may as well have a nap…

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Me attempting to stop one of the dogs noticing that this wonderful tree trunk is VERY close to the external fence and performing parkour moves before we could catch them…I don’t think that Beaconsfield is ready for Earl in full parkour

Our studies are also fermenting exciting possibilities. We now know how to knock together a rudimentary website. Nothing fancy at the moment but we are fast learners. Keep your eye on this space. We plan on turning Serendipity Farm into its own little blog space in good time. I am also getting a niggling feeling like I am neglecting our local community in all of this research. What if I was to start a group of like-minded people in the local area? Predominately we could get together over crafts at the local hall or perhaps we could form a baking circle? What about if we started a gardening group/club and shared our information and plant material? What about if I headed over to the local community centre and showed people how to do more with less? What if? What about? It all boils down to taking all of this amazing information and sharing it and THAT dear constant readers is what narf7 is all about. That’s what this blog is about. I have an omnipresent overwhelming NEED to share. I think I was born to share. Imagine how exciting a community of like-minded people could be? Take your stagnant little suspicious neighbourhood and turn it on to possibilities…Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is showing small communities how to get off the grid entirely with wind turbines…a large wind turbine is too expensive to even contemplate for a family… for a couple of families…but what about an entire community? Can you see the possibilities?

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This is the only way that Steve can get the dogs to run around in the dog park…note the bag of dog treats in his hand…

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You can see why these 2 are particularly active if you look to the right of this shot…sigh…

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Earl after running around like crazy, “smiling” up a storm

I am all about the excitement of new possibilities and not giving in to the depressing morass that society has found itself bogged down in lately. I am not an ostrich, I KNOW that we need to be aware of Global warming and the current crazed economic threat of world monetary collapse BUT I can’t personally “do” anything about that…I CAN show people how to do more with less. I vote with my feet and my moth filled wallet and I can learn to do more with less. So can you. Have a great rest of the week folks. Get stuck in to trying to do what you can with what you have. Make it a challenge, not a chore and see how your life and your degree of satisfaction increases exponentially with the results 🙂

Confraturnity of Chrones

I just wanted to share a gorgeous image that my sister shared with me on Facebook. THIS is a life well lived folks and what I am aspiring to with not only my wonderful sister Pinky, but each and every one of my fantastic confraternity of prospective crones. A reprobated and bolshie old age to each and every one of you 🙂