Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making Jam (is easy and fun)

I was nervous to make jam for the first time (as it is with anything new). We inherited two wonderful plum trees when we bought our house, and they've finally come into fruit. I had a feeling of anxiety about not being prepared and wasting their harvest!

However, I scanned in a really good article about the basics, scanned the old-fashioned low-down, and the still currently used manual. I've come up with my simplest method.

The biggest point is to just do it - today standards are so high, that it takes the fun out of everything. Cut up fruit, and boil it with sugar. Pour into sterilized jars. It's really fun!

And after you do it just once or twice - it's simple too.

Sources: Good magazine, Aunt Daisy's Cookbook, Edmonds Cookbook

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up strawberries (obviously without top end with green plant - cut in half)
2.3 kg (5 lbs.) sugar (original recipe calls for 2.7, but I want to be healthier)
Juice of 2 lemons

Water: There is no water added in this recipe. It's weird but the strawberries reduce down and release their water!

Pectin: Some fruits have natural pectin - like apples, and strawberries. So, no additional pectin is needed.

Sterilizing: First, STERILIZE YOUR JARS - 5 to 6 jam jars with bands and dome lids per batch of jam. I used Perfit Utility Preserving Jars (NZ). You can reuse jars you've bought jam or pasta sauce in - but to guarantee long storage, use proper canning jars with bands and dome lids.

First wash the jars with hot soapy water and rinse. Then boil the jars themselves in a large pot, covered over with water, for 5 minutes (lids too if reusing jars).

Put boiled jars in the oven which has been preheated to 150 degrees Celsius. Keep them there until jam is ready to be poured in. Put the bands in there too. Take the lids and place them into a container, ready to have boiling water poured on them just before you need them.

Boiling: Put strawberries in a really huge pot on your stove. Measure out your sugar and put it beside you. It's true, the recipe does not call for any water. Just the strawberries in a pot. As they heat, they will "melt" and all the water will come out. Turn on the burner to Med heat. As strawberries melt, add sugar and stir. Dissolve the sugar until it's all added. Then, TURN UP THE HEAT. ALL THE WAY, AND BOIL LIKE MAD. Watch out for small burning sugar solution meteors though, especially at first. A bit landed on my bare arm, and left a singe mark the exact shape of the drip. BOIL FOR 15-20 MINUTES. Test the jam to see if it's "set up" (is less runny) for the exact time. Near the end of boiling, add the juice of 2 lemons.

Pouring and Sealing: This is my parent's method, from home in Canada. Pour jam up to about 1 cm from the top - up to the rim. Making sure the rim's surface is cleaned of any jam, you place a sterilized dome lid - I poured boiling water on it first - onto the jar. Then screw on the band. The hot jam's vapour pressure forces the air to leave the jar, and the jar is vacuum sealed.

Look how much sugar!

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up plums and strawberries, any ratio
2.3 kg (5 lbs.) sugar
Water - if mostly plums, add 1 cup water. If mostly strawberries, none.
Juice of 1 lemon

Sterilize your jars and lids (as recipe above). Put cut up fruit (and water if any) into a big pot. Cook on medium heat until fruit is soft, adding sugar a cup or so at a time. When sugar is dissolved and fruit is softened, turn the heat up and BOIL LIKE MAD for 15-20 minutes - test. Just before you take it off, add the juice of 1 lemon. Pour and seal (as in recipe above).

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up plums
1 1/4 cups water.
2 kg (4 lbs. 8 ozs.) sugar (don't remove any sugar or it will be bitter)

Pectin: With plums, you can leave the stones in as the mixture boils, then remove them as they rise to surface. Apparently it helps the jam to set. Alternatively, just use "jam setting sugar" or add pectin. (I chose the jam setting sugar for zero waste reasons - pectin was only available at the grocery store in a plastic package.)

Sterilize your jars and lids. Put cut up fruit (and water if any) into a big pot. Cook on medium heat until fruit is soft, adding sugar a cup or so at a time. When sugar is dissolved and fruit is softened, turn the heat up and BOIL LIKE MAD for 15-20 minutes (test). Pour and seal (as above).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coal mining in NZ article: "Labour against lignite plans"

by Alan Wood
NOV 8 2011 / Fairfax News

The original article can be found here:

Solid Energy's lignite development plans in Southland have come under fire from the Labour Party which sees wood or biofuels as being the long-term solution to fuel needs.

Labour spokesman for the environment Charles Chauvel, however, was less opposed to existing mining operations run or being ramped up by miners including Solid Energy and Bathurst Resources on the West Coast but did not want a start to lignite development.

Chauvel released Labour's policy to protect the environment on Sunday. Yesterday, he added that Solid Energy should not proceed with Southland plans for lignite-to-liquid fuels until technology to capture and store carbon emissions was available.

He said the natural environment helped define Kiwis, with expats for example returning home to bring up kids.

It also supported tourism and the food industries.

A spokeswoman for Solid Energy said the state-owned enterprise did not want to be drawn into political debate, but it stood by a previous statement relating to its plans to fit in with environmental concerns.

Taking full responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions was a key consideration in all Solid Energy's lignite developments and the company would look at options such as offsetting carbon emissions by biosequestration (planting more trees) or purchasing carbon credits, or capturing emissions.

Carbon capture and storage is said to be an expensive technology still at an experimental stage.
The coalminer is looking to develop new technologies including turning huge amounts of lignite resource into transport fuel and urea.

To take the plan forward, Solid Energy has bought Southland farmland in order to control 1.5 billion tonnes of lignite.

Chauvel said Labour did not think it was appropriate for a government or SOE to spend money on developing lignite when that would "blow out" carbon emissions and lead to climate change.

Chauvel said any plan to grow trees to offset carbon emissions would also face enormous constraints. "Basically you'd have to plant the entire South Island into forests to create a carbon sink to make up for what it would do to emissions from processing that dirty brown stuff under Southland."

The party viewed the export of mined coal, in already consented activities, as a less serious problem, and did not have anything in its policy to ban such mining, he said.

Labour had a plan to ramp up renewables such as geothermal power to create jobs and answer fuel needs. "In transport we're going to get emissions down by 40 per cent by promoting job rich industries like rail, coastal shipping and public transport."

Biofuels, including the use of wood waste as a biofuel source through yet-to-be commercialised techniques, would answer New Zealand's need for fuel, Chauvel said.

Environmental lobby group Coal Action Network welcomed Labour's stance, saying it was a major step in the right direction. "Labour has clearly taken on board the message that mining up to 6 billion tonnes of lignite that lies beneath prime Southland farmland will lead to many billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and also devastate the land, rivers and air of Southland," Network spokesman Tim Jones said.

The Network was also opposed to mining plans by Bathurst Resources coal project reserves in the Buller region.

- © Fairfax NZ News

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PYO - Pick Your Own (fruit) in Auckland

Hey - we picked our own! (Massey Orchard, Auckland.) I must admit it wasn't just for the children. I had just read about making your own jam, and I wanted practice. But it was a really really great family activity. (And zero plastic container waste was involved!)

They should call it "Find your own" though, not pick your own. Most of the fun comes from trying to find the ripe strawberries amidst the plants. It's a challenge!

We picked two moderately full boxes, as you can see above. They weren't cheap - it came to $80 (NZ).

But it was worth it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


While camping I actually finally had time to knit (all the time). It was so fun! Making a baby blanket for my best friend's new baby in Canada gave me a reason to learn enough basic skills.

The beanie at the top is my first ribbing (2 knit, 2 pearl) and addition of colour. I had found a bag of wool at an op shop. There was very fine natural coloured wool - which I thought would work with bright colours as highlights.

I ended up making a stingray for Troy after making a filler piece for the back of that beanie that resembled a stingray. (The construction of the beanie was guessed at as I didn't follow a pattern - now I know how I would do it next time - more like the hourglass shape, one piece, sewn together afterwards at the sides. This beanie needed a filler piece.) Stingrays are very 2D anyways. But when I made Luke a snapper, sewing on knitted triangles at the side made the fish more 3D shaped.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pilgrim Threads from the Gypsy Fair

We got these beautiful dresses from the Gypsy Fair that came to Orewa in November. (If you are looking for them, look for "Gypsy Fair Original" on http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/ - as they are still travelling all over the North Island of NZ for a few more months. The dresses were made by "Pilgrim Threads". Like the other gypsy fair craftspeople, their products are not sold online. You have to find them in real life at the fairs. I love how I actually feel beautiful and comfortable in them - unlike clothes from the mall, that have the "I feel too ugly and fat for these clothes" effect.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fun Sewing Project for kids

This is an idea I had from how children learn to draw by giving them a piece of paper and pencil. They learn by drawing anything they wanted. What if you gave kids a big needle and yarn or thick cotton thread, and they had a little circle stretcher (embroidery hoop) to hold the cloth, and they could "doodle" with the needle?

When I tried it though, it was fantastic, but free sewing wasn't the natural outcome. I drew something simple with pencil, and they sewed around it with the big needle and thread. They loved it.

The end result looks good, it's simple, and they learn how to sew. You just need the little hoop - mine was at a local craft store called Ike's Emporium - any craft shop should have these in plastic or wood for embroidery. Mine was $3 NZ. Almost any cloth will do, especially cotton. (I used an old Canadian flour sack.)

By the way - I suggest large needles and thick thread of whatever fibre (e.g. cotton, wool) you wish in general for mending and hand sewing projects. It's simpler, far more desirable - not fiddly. It's satisfying. Better a readily available solid string and big needle than no mending and sewing at all.

Camping at Great Barrier Island

Ah, the simplicity of camping.

We just went camping on beautiful Great Barrier Island. Camping reconnects me with nature, and the way we used to live in it.

Such as the real energy required to clean dirty clothing!

After the rushed city life, disconnected from energy to do things, from the natural environment itself, from having time...it was bliss to have that time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Baking Soda Fun

Did you know that baking soda actually does a better job than alot of bottled chemical cleaners?

For ceramic stove tops (bench tops), you are supposed to use a certain, exact product - and none other - that they sell just for use on ceramic stoves. But baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) actually works better.

Sprinkle a small pile on and grab a wet cloth (rag). The wet cloth will turn the baking soda into a paste - which will wear away any burnt on material on the stove's surface without damaging it. Try it!

Baking soda also gets permanent marker off smooth surfaces...just get alot of baking soda, eh.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to completely avoid disposable meat packaging at the grocery store.

I finally did it! I secretly needed to get the videocamera fixed so I could share some of the things I have been doing - start doing some Youtube videos.

I really like the Dale Projects signature clip at the end.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Sustainable Toilet Paper (Purex)

One thing that I never posted about that our family does, which is not a zero waste thing but a sustainability thing, is choose toilet paper with an Environmental Choice logo on it.

Purex toilet paper in NZ does; it also has a Forest Stewardship logo on it. The family teases me about it, but there is only one toilet paper I will buy - and that is why. At least then our family is causing demand for the products that recycled paper is used for.

Printer paper as well, can be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council - next time I buy printer paper, you can bet I will be looking for that logo.

In a world full of false claims and brainwashing style ads, it's really great to have an independent certification that exists solely for this reason. From Environmenal Choice's website:

The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust is a voluntary, multiple specifications based environmental labelling programme, which operates to international standards and principles. Initiated and endorsed by the New Zealand Government, Environmental Choice recognises the genuine moves made by manufacturers to reduce the environmental impacts of their products and provides a credible and independent guide for consumers who want to purchase products that are better for the environment.

From the Forest Stewardship Council's website:

FSC certification is a voluntary, market-based tool that supports responsible forest management worldwide. FSC certified forest products are verified from the forest of origin through the supply chain. The FSC label ensures that the forest products used are from responsibly harvested and verified sources. The FSC Principles and Criteria (P&C) describe how forests can be managed to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations. Developed through a strong, multi-stakeholder process, they include managerial aspects as well as environmental and social requirements.

Here is a link to a lengthy PDF about the criterion for Environmental Choice certification:

Gypsy Fair at Orewa (North of Auckland, New Zealand)

These guys travel 8 months of the year, selling things they have made via the real world only (not online). The Roamin' Snail was my favourite. I wish I could represent to you that moment when I saw them drive by an intersection where I was soon to turn. I managed to catch up and follow them as they swung into Orewa. Actually - to see that house driving ahead of me through the uniform world around them, cars all the same, houses all the same - then there was this great big truck with windows and edges all carved out of wood, cheerful gold dots decorating along the fretwork of the peaked roof ahead of me. They were a story - a magic thing that suddenly appeared, and then the ordinary world was changed while they were in it.

I was overtaken by emotion after following them through Orewa town - after they pulled in to the lot that was going to become a fair, I pulled over and laid my head down on my dashboard for a moment.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Top 3 stains: red wine, coffee, permanent marker, from popular book Spotless by Shannon Lush.

From the popular ABC radio (Australian) segment, Spotless: Room-by-room solutions to domestic disasters by Shannon Lush (and Jennifer Fleming). My book was found for $20 NZ at a Binn Inn (wholesale foods store).

I wanted to see this book ever since I heard it mentioned. The tools for cleaning any stain or mishap, according to where it happened (or what it happened on) are often natural products such as baking soda (bicarb), vinegar, glycerine and so on. Anyways, it's stain removal with expert knowledge.

From their intro: "There are a couple of tricks with stain removal. Firstly, don't panic and put something on the stain that could make it worse. Work out what's in the stain. Then work out what the solvent is. If there are several components to the stain, you must remove the protein part first, then fats, then any chemical or biological dyes, and then any resins or glues. The way to work this out is to remember that proteins are anything animal or seed based, fats are greasy between your fingers, and resins and glues are not water soluble. If you're not sure, clean with cold water first, then use hot water, then any solvents..."

Here are my top 3!

1 new red wine on carpet

"Cover the stain with a good amount of bicarb [baking soda] and let dry for a few seconds. Then vaccuum and re-apply a smaller amount of bicarb, add a little vinegar and scrub with a nylon brush. Leave to dry, then vacuum."

2 coffee or tea on fabric

"For fresh stains, use glycerine applied with a cotton ball, then wash in washing powder."

3 permanent pen on fabric

"You'll need to do this very carefully and quickly. Apply some dry cleaning fluid to a cotton bud and write over the permanent pen while also quickly wiping the dry-cleaning fluid off with a cotton ball, replacing it often. You could also spray Aerogard [aerosol insect repellant] or hairspray, and wipe off with a cloth. Be careful with fabric and test a patch first."

There was also a rotting milk method for ink stains on fabric - apparently placing the milk solids on an ink stain can bring the ink up, then you can wash it away.

P.S. After getting re-inspired about baking soda from flipping through this book, I tried a baking soda paste (and a cloth) to clean a friend's ceramic stove-top. It worked a charm.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PSS (Dec 8) - Just now we spilled a few drops of red wine on the carpet. We used the advice from Spotless: dropped some baking soda onto the red spots first. Some of the white powder instantly turned browny black, and then we vaccuumed it away. We added a bit more baking soda, and some vinegar onto it, which bubbled. Savannah used a regular dish washing brush to scrub the soda in further, I pinched more on - and when it dries we will vacuum again. Beats scrubbing with energy for 10 minutes - and I already can see no red.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

More background on the book from the ABC store:

Shannon Lush is the ‘sensei’ of stain removal.

Her admiring radio audience around the country have complete confidence in her encyclopedic knowledge of the repair of stains, scratches and other disfigurements as the final word on surviving messy household emergencies.

This book came about through James Valentine and his radio program on 702 ABC Sydney. He asked listeners to ring in if they were having problems fixing a spill or stain around the house and then invited other listeners to give their solutions. One day Shannon rang in and answered every question. She became a regular guest and is now heard on similar ABC Radio programs around the country. ‘Spotless’ is published in response to clamorous listener demand.
If you have ever washed a jumper in the machine and horribly shrunk it, burnt a pan to obliteration or had your pet mess the white wool carpet, you will be pleased to know that there are solutions to these and many other problems. Each chapter in Spotless addresses a particular room in the house or outside area so it is simple to use and incredibly useful.

The section listing inexpensive and easily obtainable ingredients to keep on hand is unique and indispensable. Especially now that Shannon clearly explains exactly how to use them.

Whatever the problem: a filthy oven, a tea stain on the mattress, ink on the lino or just some useful hints on cleaning problem areas such as doors or window sills, Shannon has no-nonsense advice that will work.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Enora and the Black Crane (by Arone Raymond Meeks)

I read a very special story called Enora and the Black Crane, by Arone Meeks (Australian aboriginal artist from North Queensland area). In it, Enora and his family live and eat food from the forest. One day Enora sees a rainbow of colour travel through the forest, which he follows. The colours lead to a clearing where he sees the colour fold over cassowaries, scrub hens, lyre birds and parrots (all Australian forest birds). When he returns home, no-one believes him, so he returns and takes a sign back with him to show his family - he kills a bird. He brings the bird back - a crane, and his family is very sad. Then he himself transforms into a bird. But although he joins the birds, of every colour - his feathers remain black.

The artwork on each page is amazing, I love it. But I really love the story. I wish I could contact the artist to ask him if the story means what I think it means. I think I will.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November beans

Hey - I don't have to write "October Garden", and have blog entry each month that encapsulates the whole month, like a religious order! Here is my blog post for November 7, after midnight.

Today was a great gardening day. I am extremely lazy and unmotivated by nature, but Shane and I went to go look at my giant bean plants which were falling over. After a moment, we got sucked in. He said I should just remove them (I hadn't supported them properly at all) - and I agreed, as they were getting broken which was very not favourable to my OCD side. Then I also remembered that I hated beans anyways. I decided the kids could pick the beans, remembering how good it was for us to always experience that sort of thing.

I didn't know that bean plants have the most luxurious soft beds!

The beans had a strong pea plant like smell. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the task, and ripping out bean plants turned into them shelling them, and I wanting to fix a slat that broke of my raised garden. Shane saw the ridiculous way I was going to fix it, and the garden party was on - as he took over. It was so cool! Ended up bringing up the would-be wasted extra grass clippings to spread around the garden as mulch (not too close to the plants), especially the potatoes. I really got into it - and the garden didn't release me for some time, needing mint plants pulled that had fungus on them, etc etc.

Shane fixed up a fan blade I put up attempting to turn it into a windmill - turned it into a real windmill that would easily fly round in the wind. When we finished, it felt really good energy - like we had done something good. I am going to heap compost next, on potato plants - so they keep growing up in mounds that are easy to unearth (apparently), and now I can transplant my tomato babies into the fixed raised garden bed. (After I get some new compost - with my $5 a hessian sack deal with the local soil place.)

Repaired raised garden in the back awaiting tomato seedlings.