Friday, October 24, 2014

Our wedding anniversary

Pete and I got married on the beach four years ago yesterday (23.10.10).  I wrote ALL about it one our first anniversary, so if you're interested in simple wedding ideas, here are the links:

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception


Any simple wedding tips to add?


eight acres: our simple wedding



eight acres: our simple wedding

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hand sewing - hems of skirts and trousers

Hand sewing is an important skill and the ability to mend garments by adjusting hems, sewing on buttons and darning small holes, can be a good way to save money by making clothes last longer.  I was lucky to learn to hand sew by doing cross-stitch as a teenager, which involves learning to make small neat stitches.  My mum taught me to hem when she got sick of adjusting my school uniform skirts as fashions changed.  Since then, I have been able to adjust hems as required.  I'm tall, so I often extend hems on trousers, and skirts can go either way.


eight acres: hand sewing - adjusting a hem


First step is to unpick the hem (or as often happens in cheap clothing these days, it will come apart before you have a chance to unpick) and decide what length hem you want.  Then iron, measure and pin the hem.  (Ironing is a pain, but its worth the effort for a neat finish).


eight acres: hand sewing - adjusting a hem
Here's a hem that came apart ready to sew back together

Next, choose some thread as close as possible to the colour of your garment.  Thread a needle and tie a knot in the end of the tread (I make a knot in the fabric, but I couldn't find that on youtube, so it might be just my weird way of doing it, maybe I need to assume that you have a basic sewing ability here, if not, go and practice some cross-stitch first!).  Start at a seam (so that you can hide the knot) and work around the hem in "blind stitch".  The idea is to pick up a tiny stitch on the "good" side of the fabric every half inch (centimetre) or so, and create a large stitch on the inside.  Work all the way around and tie off the thread where you started.

eight acres: hand sewing - adjusting a hem
If you have a full skirt, you will need to make a
small tuck as you work around so that you get a smooth finish.

eight acres: hand sewing - adjusting a hem
These trousers were too short, so I had to make a very narrow hem

This isn't the easiest technique to explain in a blog post, so you might want to also watch this excellent youtube video, particularly from about 2.30 minutes onwards.



Do you hand sew?  Do you adjust hems to suit your height or fashion?  Any tips?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Valley Bee open day - learning about bee keeping

Last Sunday we travelled to Kandanga, near Gympie, for an open day held by Valley Bees.  It was a wonderful day, I was surprised by the professional and informative displays.  We learnt about solitary bees, Australian native stingless bees and top-bar hives.  We bought a couple of books, but no bees yet!

Why keep bees?  Pollination, honey, wax and another addictive hobby!

eight acres: bee keeping open day
honey!

eight acres: bee keeping open day
wax for candles and making salve

eight acres: bee keeping open day
Here's a couple of the books we bought

Overall, we decided that the easiest thing to do would be to encourage solitary bees in our garden.  This should help with pollination, but we won't get any honey!  Here's a good post about solitary bees.

eight acres: bee keeping open day
solitary bee hotels

eight acres: bee keeping open day
more examples of how to attract solitary bees

The next step would be a hive of Australian native stingless bees.  These are relatively easy to manage because they don't sting!  They also make a little bit of honey and wax.  At the open day we saw how one full hive can be split to create two hives.  In this way you can expand the number of hives and spread them around your property.  The bees only travel 500 m, so you can keep them in your garden to help with pollination.  There are a few different varieties of bees and if we can find some wild ones on our property we might be able to persuade them to live in a box....


eight acres: bee keeping open day
an Australian native stingless bee hive

eight acres: bee keeping open day
Houses for Australian native stingless bees

eight acres: bee keeping open day
Australian native stingless bee hives

Surprisingly there wasn't much information about conventional bee keeping!  But we did get to see a "top bar hive", which I had heard about, so it was really good to see one up close.  If we do eventually get European honey bees, I am interested in using this type of hive, or at least understanding the concepts of natural bee keeping.  


eight acres: bee keeping open day
a top bar hive

eight acres: bee keeping open day
alternative hive design

eight acres: bee keeping open day
here's a job for Taz is she doesn't want to herd cattle!


Overall, it was an excellent day out, and enjoyed by many others, the hall was packed!  We have some books to read and lots more to learn, so this gave us a good overview.  If they run the day again next year and you're anywhere between Brisbane and Maryborough, I recommend you try to go along.

I have started a pinterest board "keeping bees" to keep track of all the bee posts I find.  I'm thinking of running another series of interviews on bee keeping.  Email me on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to volunteer.

What do you think?  Do you keep bees?  Or attract solitary bees?  Any good resources you can recommend for new bee keepers?





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Friday, October 17, 2014

Sustainable soap - 100% tallow!

We don't use much soap, so I haven't been able to experiment much lately.  My last batch was a disaster that had to be rescued by a hot-process rebatching, so we have had a massive excess of soap to use up from what turned into a triple-batch.

When we had our last steer killed we asked the butcher for all the kidney fat, so we were both keen to try making some more soap using the tallow (how to render the fat).  Pete helped me to make a batch of bath soap using tallow, coconut oil and olive oil, so get my confidence back after the last disaster (caused by not measuring properly).  When we saw that batch was a success, we decided to finally try 100% tallow.

eight acres: 100% beef tallow soap
our 100% beef tallow soap!

The reason that we hadn't tried 100% tallow before was the higher temperatures required to keep the tallow liquid during the mixing for cold-process soap.  I was nervous about it and wanted to practice using coconut oil and olive oil mixtures first, at lower temperatures.  I modified the bath soap recipe that I published earlier to use 100% beef tallow.

100% beef tallow soap
1 kg tallow
6% superfat
132 g caustic
300-330 mL water
lavender essential oil

I melted the tallow, while Pete prepared the caustic.  When both mixtures were at 55 degC we added the caustic solution to the melted tallow and essential oil, and mixed using a stick blender until the mixture reached "trace".  Then we poured the mixture into one of Pete's stainless steel moulds.

When we saw the mixture starting to enter gel phase we both panicked that it was going to get too hot and volcano out of the mould.... so we put the mould in the bath, in luke warm water and positioned a pedestal fan over the soap mould..... maybe an over-reaction!

While gel-phase had been very breifly mentioned in the soap book I read originally, it didn't really explain the details, it was explained better here.  Now I can see that the centre of our soap "gelled", but as we cooled the edges, it was a "partial gel phase".  Would it have volcanoed if we didn't cool the soap mould?  We will never know.  But next time I would like to mix the soap at a lower temperature, as suggested by this blog.  And we might let it go through gel-phase, just to see what happens.

The soap hasn't finished curing yet, so we haven't used it in the bath, but I will be interested to see if it smells like tallow.  And if I care that is smells like tallow!  Our goal with soap-making has always been to create a sustainable bar of soap, and using 100% tallow is about as close as we can get.  Next step is to try to make our own lye....

Have you tried to make soap from tallow or lard?  What temperature do you use and have you ever ended up with a volcano!?!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My soaked dough bread recipe

I haven't shared my bread recipe before, I think because I was still refining it, and then I memorised it, so I didn't really need to write it down!  Also, I'm hopeless at following recipes, so I forget that other people want to use them.  This bread is a "soaked" flour recipe.  This means that you add some kefir or yoghurt to slightly ferment the dough before baking, but it does not rely on wild yeast or a starter like sourdough.  It takes longer than a standard bread recipe, but does not require any "dough conditioners".

eight acres: a soaked dough bread recipe


Soaked flour bread in a bread maker

3 1/4 cup flour (wholemeal wheat, spelt etc, it will rise better if you add some white flour due to the gluten content)
about 1/2 cup seeds - sunflower, chia, hemp etc

about 370 mL of water (this is why recipes are a problem for me, you just get used to what the dough needs to look like, this will vary with the flour you use and the amount of seeds)

1 Tbsp (i.e. a splash) of kefir or yoghurt

1 tsp of honey (to taste, this was originally more, but I don't like my bread sweet)

1 tsp of olive oil

Mix all of the above 4-24 hours before required, and leave at room temperature (this is the "soak" time that allows the microbes and enzymes in the kefir or yoghurt to break down the proteins and carbohydrates in the flour).  This also depends on your room temperature too!  I the middle of summer, it probably only need 8 hours.  In winter I put the bread maker next to the woodstove to stay warm.

When ready to bake the bread, add 1/2 Tbsp of commercial yeast and 1/2 Tbsp of salt (to taste).  Knead (20 min on the bread maker, possibly shorter by hand!) and leave to rise for about an hour.

Then you can either bake the bread in the bread maker, or tip it into another bread tin (we don't like the size of the bread maker tin), allow to rise again to desired size, and bake in the wood stove or Webber BBQ for about an hour.

This bread doesn't always work perfectly, it depends on the ingredients and the temperatures, maybe I need a more repeatable recipe!  But when it does work, you get a lovely tasty loaf.

I'd love to know if you try this recipe and what you think!  Do you have any other simple bread recipes to share?

Here's my previous bread post, with more photos and thoughts and instructions....

Overcoming the breadmaking challenge
The home-made bread compromise
Homemade bread - so far so good after 4 months
Still baking bread - using the BBQ over summer

And for more about fermentation, see my posts about Nourishing Traditions:
Nourishing Traditions review - Mastering the basics
Nourishing Traditions - from start to finish
Nourishing Traditions - more chapter reviews
Nourishing Traditions - Grains and Legumes
Nourishing Traditions - Snacks, desserts and "superfoods"


Monday, October 13, 2014

Milk Cow Kitchen - book review

I know I keep saying this, but if you want to get a house cow, you need to read every book you can find on cows.  Even if you don't agree with everything in every book, the more you read, the more you will understand what your options are.  And some books cover different topics in more detail.   Milk Cow Kitchen has excellent step-by-step photos and discusses topics that I haven't seen in other books at all.  Its definitely worth adding to your house cow reading list.

Read the rest of my review over at my house cow ebook blog.












Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on ScribdLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.







Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"





Gavin from Little Green Cheese (and The Greening of Gavin)




Friday, October 10, 2014

Three simple ideas - Saving money on groceries

Last week I wrote three simple ideas for growing your own food, because I wanted to start a discussion about ways to start living a simple life.  There are lots of options and the path you choose will depend on your priorities and abilities.  I've been thinking about some good (easy and cheap) places to start, based on my own experiences.  This week I'm thinking about saving money on groceries (apart from growing your own veges, see previous post!)

Simple: Make your own yoghurt from powdered milk
A 1kg bag of milk powder costs about $7, and will make about 10 L of yoghurt, so it is a very cheap way of making yoghurt! I use an easiyo thermos, which costs around $20, but if you have a small eski or drink cooler that can fit a jar, you can use that to make yoghurt too. I see easiyo thermoses at markets and op shops all the time, I bought a second one from the dump shop for $2.  Look out for one, buy it and make cheap yoghurt!  See my posts about yoghurt here.




Simpler: Use natural cleaners
I usually don't clean with anything much more than hot water and a cloth, but if I need something stronger I use vinegar.  If you using expensive chemicals at the moment, you can try making cheap and natural cleaning mixtures instead, see here and here.



Simplest: Soap nuts
Soap nuts have worked out to be so easy to use and better for our greywater than using laundry powder, and about the same cost as laundry powder, read more here.

What do you think? What are some other ideas to get started with a simple life? I will have more next week....





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How I use herbs - Parsley

If I was to encourage you to grow just one herb, whether you have a large garden or only a small balcony, without a doubt it would be parsley (Pertroselinum crispum).  Parsley is incredibly easy to grow and propagate, it goes with nearly every meal and has a number of important medicinal properties.

eight acres: how I grow and use parsley
parsley flowers

How to grow parsley
Depending on your climate parsley may be an annual or biennial (mine is annual in the sub-tropics, it seeds and dies off in the heat of summer).  I can't actually remember where the parsley in my garden first came from originally.  I think I bought a small plant about seven years ago and planted it in the garden.  That small plant grew into a large plant, flowered and set seed.  And ever since then, parsley has popped up in my garden whenever I need it.  I took a couple of plants when we moved house, and the cycle continues.  I do save some seeds from the plants, but I usually just sprinkle them all around the garden, and weed out any extra plants that grow.  I never intentionally plant parsley!

If you do start from seed, be aware that it can take up to six weeks for the seed to germinate.  If you're impatient, then I recommend buying one small plant and allowing it to produce seed.

There are two main types of parsley (apparently there are also many varieties within those two types): curly leaf and flat leaf.  I currently grow the flat leaf type, which is supposed to be hardier.  I did have a curly leaf plant at one stage, but it never went to seed and eventually died off.  And now its the flat leaf that survives and proliferates in my garden today, with very little encouragement from me!

The parsley flowers are not only beautiful, they are also a feed source for beneficial insects in the garden.


eight acres: how I grow and use parsley


How I use parsley
For a start, parsley is high in vitamins A, C and E, and in iron, which are all good reasons to eat it.  Parsley has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  It is a diuretic (stimulates urination) and settles an upset stomach.

NOTE: parsley should not be used in large quantities during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant (and is also known to be helpful for period pain).  

Parsley has a pleasant fresh taste.  I like to add it to casseroles, soups and salads just prior to serving (it doesn't need to cook for long).  I also use handfuls of it in stock, and in dips and salad dressings.  I love parsley with scrambled eggs.  It would be a good herb to add to juices or green smoothies.  There are plenty of opportunities to use parsley, I use it nearly every day.

You can also grow a different variety of parsley and use the root as a vegetable.

If you end up with excess parsley, you can preserve it by drying it.  I haven't had any success using my dehydrator, but this winter, I found that if I left parsley in a colander for a couple of weeks and it dried slowly, while retaining its green colour.  I was then able to crumble the leaves into a small jar to use later.  Even though I do usually have some parsley in the garden, during a hot dry summer, there isn't always an abundance, so it will be handy to have some dried parsley to use as well.  The other option is persillade, which is a mixture of parsley and oil, I made this for the first time this year.


eight acres: how I grow and use parsley


Do you grow and use parsley?  Any tips?  Which herb would you recommend if you had to choose just one?

See my other herb posts: mintaloe verabasilginger, galangal and turmericcalendula, marigold and winter tarragonsoapwortcomfreynasturtium 



Monday, October 6, 2014

Garden share - October 2014

We had a little bit more rain in September, about 10mm in a "microburst" that nearly blew over the neighbour's shed and destroyed one of the blinds on our veranda!  But I'm not complaining because everything is still green, only just, but its nice to start spring with some green because the forecast is not great for the next few months.  My vege garden is in transition from winter to spring.  Its still full of greens, but many of them are starting to go to seed.  I'm still harvesting silverbeet, mustard greens, kale, parsley (and various herbs), calendula flowers and celery.  I have leeks and carrots growing very slowly.  And maybe some garlic.

Last month I planted seeds and I had a bit of trouble with them. I wanted to put the seed tray in the mini greenhouse to stay warm, but a mouse dug up my seeds, so I put them inside the house, but then the seed tray dried out. Some seeds sprouted but didn't really grow much, and in the end it just didn’t work out and I had to start again. I also panicked a little bit about not having veges started as early as I would like (I need to get them established before it gets blisteringly hot and dry in my garden), and I bought some bush bean and button squash seedlings, which I split up into small pots and put in the mini greenhouse to get a bit bigger. I also dug up some tomato seedlings that sprouted from the compost and put them in pots. I was getting desperate at that stage!  But then some of my seeds did sprout, so I will have lots of beans and squash and at least one rosella. The problem with buying seedlings is the limited choice, there are so many unusual veges that I would like to grow, so I would prefer to grow from seed (I'm just having to accept that sometimes the timing won't work, and seedlings are a good back-up plan as well!).

This month I want to plant out all those seedlings and pick up lots of manure and waste hay from the paddocks to build up the soil in preparation for another hot dry summer.


the chickens trying to find a way into the garden

lots of overgrown greens and seeds appearing

calendula flowers
dill flowers
chervil flowers - first time I've grown it, looking forward to saving seeds
coriander flowers

seedlings in the greenhouse


How's your garden growing?  What have you got planned for October?


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