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Showing posts from May, 2014

Kombucha - fermented tea is not for me!

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, its literally made using sweetened tea and a starter culture (called a SCOBY – Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). Its a bit like kefir, except it forms a larger squishy solid mass that floats on top of the tea. And also like kefir, the origins and exact composition of kombucha are shrouded in mystery (more info here).


As kombucha is made from tea and as I don’t tolerate caffeine (it makes me shaky and keeps me awake, even one cup of tea has this effect, that’s why I only drink herbal tisanes), I haven’t been too interested in trying to make it, but I keep hearing about it and I was curious about the taste and I wasn’t sure if it would contain caffeine or not. I bought a commercial kombucha drink from my local vegan store so I could try it out. I would recommend that you do this, just to make sure you like it, before you go to the trouble of trying to source the starter SCOBY, either buy a commercial drink or find someone who makes kombuc…

How to rebatch a soap disaster

I had made three batches of soap already, so feeling like a seasoned professional, I went ahead with another batch, even though my digital scales needed a new battery and I couldn't find my good thermometer.  I figured that I was so good at soap making now that I could be able to use my spare analogue scales and my cheese-making thermometer, even though the scale on both is pretty dodgy and the scales don't seem to zero properly.  Yes, the scene is set for a soap making disaster.  Unlike cooking, in which the amounts don't have to be completely accurate, soap making is really a chemical reaction in which you do need to measure out very accurately or it won't work.  I knew something was wrong when the soap took a very long time to reach trace.  The suspicion was confirmed when the soap did not set hard after several weeks in the mould.  Luckily all is not lost, it is possible to rebatch soap disasters, it just takes a slightly different method and some patience.
To reba…

How to give an injection to livestock

Vets are expensive, particularly for large animals that require house calls, such as cows, so the more you can learn to do yourself, the better. One of the easier tasks that you can learn is giving an injection. If you follow Pat Coleby’s methods, you will find that she recommends injections of vitamin C and B12 for just about everything. You may also need to inject antibiotics in life-threatening situations or to give vaccines.

There are two types of injections that you may need to give, either intramuscular (in the muscle) or subcutaneous (under the skin). Drugs and vitamins are generally given as intramuscular injections, while vaccines are generally subcutaneous, but you must check for each injection before you start.

The best location for the injection depends on the animal. For animals that you are planning to eat (or to sell for eating), its best not to use their rump, as this may damage the meat, and an injection site on the neck is favoured. For other animals (pets), …

Knitting - how to handle a hank of yarn

Since I started knitting a couple of years ago, mostly using wool from the cheap haberdashery stall at the Nanango markets, I’ve gradually been tackling more difficult projects and gaining confidence in my knitting abilities. This year at the Nanango Show I decided to treat myself to some lovely smooth alpaca wool. It came in a hank, which is basically a long loop lifted straight off the spinning wheel and twisted into a pretzel. The lady at the stall (who had spun the wool from her own alpaca fleece, wow!) told me that I would have to wind it into balls.
This is the first time I had thought about the forms of wool, here is a great post that explains the names of all the different “wool bundles”.

And here is some instructions for transforming an unruly hank into tame balls of wool.

I don’t have a spare patient person to hold the hank, but I had no trouble draping it over a chair, which I placed in front of where I was sitting and proceeded to wind the hank into balls. I took the a…

Healing herbal salve

I have been using a beeswax salve that I bought at a market years ago and finally I can see the bottom of the jar, so I thought I’d better figure out how to make some more. I use the salve mostly as lip balm, but its also good for any other dry skin, so I use a little bit nearly every day, even so, it seems to have lasted forever. Unfortunately as the label on the jar is now so worn it is unreadable, I don’t know exactly what the original ingredients were. I bought it from a honey stall, so I know it contained beeswax, and possibly honey, and it smells like lavender... there are plenty of recipes on the internet though.

I have also been reading about herbs and using infused oils, so I decided to combine an infused oil with beeswax and essential oils to make myself a new salve. There are lots of beneficial herbs that can be infused in oil, but I didn’t have a huge amount to choose from in my own garden due to the ongoing drought at the time. In some ways that is a good thing, becau…

A garden book and a cook book that I think you'll enjoy too

When you start thinking about how to live sustainability and self-sufficiently, you realise that it changes everything.  Instead of just buying things, I think about whether we really need the item, whether we could use something else, or make something, and then if we do NEED it, can we get it second-hand or locally made?  Instead of thinking of what I want to eat for dinner and going shopping for the ingredients, I now look in the garden, the freezer and the pantry and decide (usually in consultation with Pete) what to cook over the next few days.  This means that I don't tend to use cook books.  I also find many vegetable gardening books just don't quite get into the detail I need about how much to plant and how to use the produce.  Here are two books that I have enjoyed recently, that I think you will like too, both of them are about how to eat sustainably, whether you grow your own or buy from farmers.


(Both books were supplied to me as ebooks to review through Netgalley, …

How to sprout - Fenugreek

Last week I wrote about sprouting chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and other beans for added protein. My other favourite sprouts are fenugreek and alfalfa, which I use to add green veges to meals if the garden isn’t producing enough.

The green sprouts take longer than the beans because you need to wait for the green leaves to appear, but the process is the same. Although you don’t have to soak the smaller seeds for as long, it doesn’t matter if you do (I find 12 hours is a pretty convenient time period between other things that I’m doing, like working or sleeping).

I only put a few tablespoons in the jar and watched as the tails (roots) appear, followed by the leaves, until they are about 3-4cm long sprouts. I am always amazed by the increase in size, it seems like every time I remove some sprouts from the jar to eat them, the jar is full again by the next day! It takes several days of regular sprout eating to empty the jar. This is a good thing if you have many sprout eaters to feed, but I…

Renovation update - our new/old Queenslander

Over Easter we spent some more time working on our new/old house. If you haven’t been following this story, here’s a recap.

In December 2012, Pete was messing around on a real estate website and found a removal house for $10,000. First we joked about how it must be really awful inside, but then we looked at the photos and it really wasn’t that bad, so we asked for an inspection, and then we made an offer, and we nearly missed out because so many other people wanted the house too, but it all worked out in the end. Then began six months of organising with the council and the house removal people to get the house moved 14 km from its current position to our property at Cheslyn Rise. We also had to clear a pad for the house, including cutting down some massive trees and getting their stumps dug out. Finally the house arrived in July 2013, in two pieces, over two nights, and the removalist worked for several weeks to put it back together and put the roof back on.  Here's my post a…