I haven’t blogged about my garden in a while, and there is no time like the present as here in the global South we move steadily into Summer with temperatures in Johannesburg heading into the upper 20’s, and the first of our wonderful seasonal thunderstorms making an appearance. For me there is nothing that shouts Summer like those lovely soothing Highveld rains, bringing moisture and nourishment to our thirsty gardens, and that unmistakable fresh earthy tang to the air. One of the tasks that I set myself as we go into our summertime here, is to try not to let anything go to waste, although our home grown compost heaps take care of any surplus anyway. Nevertheless, I like to make full use of all that we grow, so that it ends up on our plates as far as possible, and not on the compost heap. I grow a lot of Asian Greens here in our garden in the winter time. They grow beautifully here, in the relatively protected area under the branches of the almond and the apple trees, safe from the harshest of the cold and the threat of overnight winter frost. But come the first weeks of the warmer weather, typically from late August and beyond, the greens will rapidly go to seed, with little yellow flowers appearing on long stems which suddenly ‘bolt’ almost overnight in the warm, dry weather before the rains come.Continue reading →
‘Leftovers’: Their mention is often unwelcome in the home, not least for the unlucky cook who has to tackle those bits and pieces before they finally expire in the fridge. Having said that, I really try to avoid throwing food out, whether leftovers from a meal, or food that was left uneaten in the fridge till no longer edible. In fact it’s not difficult to turn leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing. Huffpost ran an article a few years back titled “Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers” and then there is this 2016 article from National Geographic titled “5 Cool Ways Food is getting Upcycled“. I currently do most of the cooking at home for myself and my husband, and truly, very little food goes to waste in our house, especially if you consider that we keep a compost heap in our garden which happily takes care of anything too yucky to eat.
In fact I realise I must have a bit of a Thing for leftovers because scrolling through my previous posts, I find that I have included the term in 7, yes seven of my previous posts. You can link to all of them Here. And see below for some suggestions for leftover Chili con Carne (well… Chili non Carne in our home; as I don’t eat meat so I replace the minced meat with lentils or soy mince). Here are 3 of my favourites:
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring a large pot of water to boil, and throw some ice cubes into a bowl of cold water.
Prepare your peppers (green, red or yellow): slice the top off each pepper and remove any seeds or ribs left inside. Make sure that the peppers can stand up straight.
Cook the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and transfer them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a baking dish, and set aside.
Next, add the filling. Take spoonfuls of your leftover Chili (I use about two-thirds cooked chili-non-carne to one-third cooked rice) and scoop into the peppers, making sure not to pack too tightly.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and continue baking for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve right away
‘Mexican Style’ Cottage Pie:
Boil, steam or bake some potatoes for mash. I like to mix it up here: I often include sweet potatoes and butternut with the potatoes, depending on what I happen to have at home.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
Mash your potatoes as you normally would, including milk and butter if desired, till light and fluffy.
Place your leftover Chili into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mash, and bake for 25-30 minutes till done.
If desired, sprinkle to the top with a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven for another 5 minutes or so.
Make a ‘Meal Jar’:
Fill a glass honey jar about two-thirds with leftover Chili. Top up till almost full (always leave a slight gap) with any cooked grain, such as rice or couscous. This is sufficient for one light meal portion. You can even leave the grains out before freezing, and add that later when you are ready to eat.
Place in the freezer till ready to use. You can either take it out the night before, or else pop it into your lunch box from the freezer, ready to take to work, and heat up later. Note: place contents in a microwaveable or ovenproof dish before heating.
This is a great way to eat healthy and affordable while at work (have you seen the price of takeaways these days??… convenient yes, but often way more than I am willing to pay, and definitely not always quality food)
As far back as the 1990’s I used to admire those goblet style wine glasses when they first became popular, made as they were from empty beer and wine bottles, often with the original branding kept in place, a definitive nod to the move towards recycling and re-purposing. I always wondered how they cut the bottles whilst keeping them in tact and then turning them into desirable and useful items. Re-purposing, or upcycling, may require a bit of creativity and technical skill and sometimes it’s just more convenient to leave such adventures to the experts, as per my previous post Here. If like me, you have a bit of ‘crafty inclination’ (I was a fine arts student and I also taught nursery school for many years, making fascinating things out of egg boxes and toilet roll inners), you might be tempted to try some of these things yourself.
Fast forward to more recent years and I started noticing a lot of information online about ‘quick, easy and foolproof’ ways to cut bottles at home with no special equipment. May I say at this point that trying to cut a glass bottle in half with twine, acetone and a box of matches is not advisable. Unless you have very good health and household insurance perhaps. I followed up my failed attempts with a bit of online research and I discoveredthis product and I haven’t looked back. It allows me to cut glass bottles with relative ease, (ok, you will need some patience and perseverance before you really get the hang of it) and also to glue sections together depending on what I am making. I haven’t gotten to the gluing stage yet: I am keeping it simple 😉
Here are the contents of the basic kit (2 pics):
What I love about Bottlecraft SA is that they are a truly South African business with a big heart. They operate from Grabouw near Cape Town within the Overberg Region in the Western Cape, South Africa. They have worked on projects in Rawsonville, Khayalitsha, Gugulethu, Port Elizabeth, Durban , Botswana, QwaQwa (Drakensburg), Namibia and Grabouw, where they focus on poverty alleviation, job creation and community upliftment. I ordered their Basic Kit online; it arrived in the post, and I was able to get going in no time. Read more on their About page.
If the thought of bottlecrafting doesn’t turn you on, (I was telling a friend about it on the phone, and she sighed and said that it sounds like a lot of work) here are a few links that might lead you to find your Thing:
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t experience summer 24/7 here in South Africa! Some parts of the country such as Durban, a coastal city facing the Indian Ocean, is pretty warm year round, but here in Johannesburg, being inland and high lying, not so much. Just ask the thousands of visitors who arrived here without coats or jackets in June 2010 to experience the opening of the Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg! We are currently in the late stages of our Winter 2018 now. A touch of warmth in the afternoon breeze, the days becoming longer, and in the garden the winter loving Chinese Greens are beginning to flower and bolt in response to the warmer weather.
But not yet the time to pack away the winter woolies that I was folding up this morning as I started on an early Spring Clean. I have always loved knitwear, specifically in natural fabrics such as wool and cotton: cardigans and pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe, including for the summer when temperatures can drop quite a bit some evenings. For me there is nothing nicer than the soft warmth of a cosy pullover on a chilly day, or a light cardigan when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough to go all out with scarves and coats.
I buy a lot of my clothing second hand (aka: pre-worn, pre-loved) and this is purely my preference from an eco-friendly standpoint and not because I can’t afford to buy new 😉 All the above (see pic) were purchased second hand within the last 3 or 4 years, from one of two Hospice shops which I frequent here in Johannesburg. All very affordable: from 5 ZAR up to about 60 ZAR. (On the Woolworths online website a new knit top for women can cost you several hundred ZAR, and even more for wool rich items.
Details of my Wooly Babies as pictured above, left to right (NOTE: some labels incomplete or missing):
Woolworths, made in SA, : lambswool, nylon, angora
News, made in SA, : polyester, nylon
Woolworths, made in SA, : wool, viscose, polyamide
100% Shetland wool
No details (no label)
Made in Cambodia, : cotton, acrylic
Smith & McGregor, : lambswool
Marks & Spencer, : made in China, : 100% wool
Lucy Siegle at theguardian.com explains it as follows: “Rewearing old clothes also displaces the need to make new virgin fibres – manufactured with oil-based petroleum or using cotton – both with hulking environmental impacts (also add in dyeing, finishing and the use of factories with dubious ethics). Buying pre-worn saves clothes from landfill and gives us an ethical way of satisfying a lust for new clothes without embracing fast-fashion culture”.
Environmental concerns aside, I also find that the quality of many second hand knitwear items is just of better quality, more unique and authentic (those one of a kind lucky finds are still out there), more likely to be natural rather than synthetic, and definitely less costly than buying new. And if I can apply just one or two of those points as a reason to buy, then purchasing second hand over new wins every time.
I like popcorn. Its quick and easy to prepare and makes healthier eating than commercial shop bought chips and other salted snacks. Once your popcorn is popped, it just needs a shake of sea salt, or else a bit of garlic or onion salt to make it Truly Delicious. A few days I very sadly had to abandon a freshly made batch when I had to rush out at short notice. When I arrived back home later, my popcorn was cold and unwelcoming, and also slightly soggy from the condensation that had formed on the inside of the lid of the pot. Also, I wasn’t really hungry now, as I had eaten a packet of Lays Salted Chips (delicious, but not exactly healthy or Zero Waste) in the car while driving back from my appointment.
But I wasn’t done with the popcorn yet: my Zero Waste conscience got me thinking about ways to Reuse or Recycle my sad batch. My other option was to Rot it on our compost heap (that’s three of the 5R’s), but I wanted to see if there were more creative options out there. So I went online and found some scrumptious ideas Here. Also Herefor some non edible tips such as making a festive garland, making packing material, and feeding your garden Birdies.
Before you popcorn can become leftovers, you will first need to make some. Here’s how I make it at home: Continue reading →
1.Loaves of bread are a staple in most households and it’s not just for sandwiches! Bread which is less than fresh can be used to make a delicious, cost saving, sweet or savoury Bread pudding. For other suggestions on waste free ways to use ends of bread see point 10 here:
2.Couscous is a very quick and versatile grain that can be used like rice. It requires only soaking to prepare: In a small pot, boil one cup of water (or boil one and a half cups of water if you prefer a softer grain). Add one 1 cup of couscous, stir briefly and remove from the heat, keeping the lid on. Taste for readiness after about 5 minutes; leave for longer if preferred. Enjoy as is, or add seasoning such as salt, butter, oil, herbs, spices and lemon zest. Use as you would rice as part of a main meal, or allow to cool and include in salads.
Couscous is easy to find in cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic, which is another reason to buy it! I have yet to find it in bulk buy bins, which would be even better, of course. See point 9herefor suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:
3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasherdetergent powder, if you find you have run out of your usual: In your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, place 1 teaspoon of your usual liquid dishsoap (whichever brand you normally use for hand washing your dishes) On top of the dishsoap, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Close the detergent compartment. Then fill the rinse compartment with white spirit vinegar, and close the compartment. Wash a full load of dishes as normal. Even better is my chemical-free recipehere , which is the one I have been using regularly for over a year now, with good results.
4. Make your own cooling peppermint spray with water and essential oils. I carry a 100ml spray bottle with me at all times (it lives in my handbag :)), especially in hot weather. Use 100 ml of water, preferably distilled, or at least pre-boiled and cooled. Add 6 drops of peppermint essential oil and stir to combine. You can also add a large pinch of epsom salt to soften the water and assist blending of the oils with the water. (Scroll down to the foot of this page for suppliers of oils, salts and containers).
5. Use Tea as Self-Tan. I use normal black tea (Five Roses is a well known brand) or else the Khoisan black tea (such as their Earl Grey) which is produced in South Africa. If you are a well established Zero Waster, you will no-doubt favour loose teas, as opposed to teabags. At the moment I use both options. The teabags are the most convenient option for my Self-Tan recipe as follows: place a teabag in a cup and add a little boiling water, just enough to thoroughly moisten the teabag. Leave for at least 5 minutes for the water to draw the natural dyes from the tea leaves. Then use the teabag like a sponge to ‘paint’ the dye onto the legs. I find this is the perfect way to add a little pop of colour to winter white legs. Be sure not to add cremes, lotions or oils to the skin just before self-tanning, so that the colour can be applied smoothly.
More simple, do-able suggestions for a Greener lifestyle:
I have used vinegar in place of fabric softener for years but have never quite learnt to ignore the strong smell of vinegar. I find that the fresh smell of peppermint is an effective way to mask the smell. To use, fill the rinse compartment with white vinegar to which I add three drops of peppermint essential oil(see more in this post). Replace the peppermint with a different fragrance if you prefer. See the picture below for suggestions.
2. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil onto the corner of a cotton kitchen towel. Use to wipe around light switches, cupboard doors and around the door handles on fridges, freezers and other utility areas. Grubby, greasy finger marks come clean after a light rubbing with a touch of the pure oils. You can also use essential oils to remove residue of sticky labels on glass jars:(See this post)
3. Green cleaning for your microwave oven: Fill a pyrex bowl till half with water and add 4 drops of lemon essential oil and/or a few slices of lemon. Place the bowl inside and microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe inside the microwave with a clean cloth till dry and shiny.
(Note: Essential oils are available from Dischem and other pharmacies, from Health Shops and from suppliers listed at the foot of this page)
4. Once empty, the little glass bottles are a nice way to fragrance a drawer or shelf in your linen or clothing cupboard. Simply place the empty bottle, without its lid, into the drawer. The fragrance should last for several weeks. You can do the same with an empty bottle of vanilla extract.
5. If you are interested in making your own vanilla extract, see this VANILLA EXTRACT RECIPE. It’s super easy: just pop a vanilla pod into a small amount of vodka or brandy and wait. Vanilla pods are not that difficult to source. I bought mine at the dry goods bulk buy section at FLMParkmeadows. I love vanilla essence: I add it hot drinks, breakfast oats, home made custard and even to bath and body products as explainedHere
6. Wash your hair naturally … no shampoo required! This is the best site I have seen for searching NO-POO RECIPES. For the past few months I have washed my hair with only aloe vera juice, whole egg and no soap products.
7. Milk of Magnesia (Magnesium Hydroxide) is my NATURAL DEODORANT RECIPE of choice. I started using it in the winter this year, and am waiting to see if it stands the test come the summer months which are now approaching! I use the Phipps brand which contains no stabilisers or other additives, so I always ‘shake before use’, and just dab a few drops into the armpits each morning. It’s available in the baby care isle in supermarkets. If you wish to add a scent, I recommend 5 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil per 100ml of milk of magnesia.
8. For a delicious vegan milk alternative for morning oats or cereals, or even as a simple, refreshing dairy free smoothie: HERE’S THE RECIPE: place together in a jug or other container: 1 ripe banana and 1 cup of cold water. Use an immersion blender to mix and blend for a few seconds till frothy. Optional: crushed ice, vanilla essence, cinnamon, honey etc etc.
9. If the item you need is not available in bulk, and only as a packaged item, then at least try to avoid plastic packaging as your only option. That well loved South African favourite, Jungle Oats, is still available in cardboard boxes, without a plastic inner, and the Italian Serena and Barilla brands are all cardboard, although the pasta does have a tiny plastic window on the front. Sadiya basmati rice is from Pakistan and is available at FLM in printed cloth bags in 1kg and larger sizes.
10. And lastly in a spirit of giving: if you are a consumer of print media, remember that your used weekly or daily newspaper can still be put to good use. Animal welfare organisations such as SPCA, as well as your local vet, will appreciate your donations, as newspaper can be used for animal bedding and for cleaning up around the animals.
Henry Thoreau evidently didn’t like clutter. Here is a quote from him written around the year 1845, which in itself is interesting for me. The quest for simplicity in the Western World was clearly an issue as far back as 170 years ago!
Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.
My own reasons for changing to a more natural way is described in myAbout page. And further along to June 2017 since reading Bea Johnson‘s book, Zero Waste Home, I have been inspired to read more on environmental issues and to explore different ways to simplify and to try harder…for my health, my home, the environment.
The book points to some critical issues:
Much of the world’s natural resources are under threat, yet as consumers we continue to buy and use petroleum based products, such as plastics, cleaning fluids and pesticides instead of looking for less harmful and preferably natural alternatives where possible. Research tells us that “the manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.” (Quoted from). And looking around, we see that household incomes and world economies are in crisis, yet we continue to make poor choices regarding how we spend our money. All over the world people are struggling with health issues ranging from poor nutrition (in many countries there simply isn’t enough to eat, an issue which requires attention outside of this particular post), to cancers, auto-immune problems and other chronic and life threatening conditions, yet we continue to buy unwholesome, processed foods and also to bring toxic cleaning and personal products into our homes.
It seems clear to me that if our consumer habits directly affect our environment, our economy and our health, and that if we wish to see change for the better, then we need to ‘Be the Change’. One way to do this is to be aware that shopping is voting, and that we have the power to change our shopping habits and make better choices about what we bring in to our homes. Also, we can try to improve our efforts at home homes, such as looking beyond recycling if possible. Consider whether you might be wasting food being unnecessarily, or throwing out out items of clothing that could be repaired and reused, or go to a charity, instead of to landfill. Do we throw out used cooking or washing water that could rather go to our garden or indoor plants? Do we favour reusing glass pickle jars for food storage rather than buying more plastic? (See my post hereon how to freeze in glass).And can we make better choices regarding our cleaning and personal products: either by purchasing eco-friendly products, or even making our own with simple, basic, affordable ingredients?
I have listed below some “key areas”, issues that are close to my head and my heart as I work at living with the intention of keeping things natural, simple, affordable and as “uncluttered” as possible:Continue reading →
1. Recycle your worn out kitchen rubber gloves. (I always have a pair of these in case of hard-on-the-hands jobs). Simply cut across the wrist area or fingers to create elastic bands.
2. Print out a laundry stain removal chart …and keep within easy reach so that you can attend to stains and spills ASAP. Here’s the one I use.
3. Keep a spice jar filled with baking soda (Bicarb) at your kitchen sink. Use it to sprinkle and scrub hard to clean areas such as greasy roasting pans. Also great for wiping away coffee and tea stains left behind in cups and mugs.
4. Keep ends of lemons at your kitchen sink …(next to the baking soda!) I use them with a sprinkle of baking soda or table salt, to clean up wooden cutting boards after use. (Use soap after cutting meat, chicken or fish) Some further suggestions for lemons here
5. Reuse soap ends ( this idea from Jane’s Delicious Garden). Tie them into a piece of fabric or a mesh bag and tie onto your outside tap for use after gardening and other outdoor jobs.
6. Keep a thermos flask topped up with hot water next to your kettle. Instead of boiling fresh water from cold each time, you will have a supply of hot water always close at hand.
7. As for those silica gel packs that we find in jars of vitamins and tablet medication and sometimes even in shoe boxes! …. Here are some ideas.I place them into sneakers and other closed shoes where necessary. Continue reading →
1. Wash out your empty glass jars (the ones you bought your pickles or olives in) and reuse:
Kitchen: dry goods such as nuts and lentils, grated cheese, yoghurt etc
Bathroom: Salts, Scrubs and Oils (see my individual recipes…coming up in future posts)
Garden Shed/Garage: small nails and bolts, granular fertilisers, seed for garden birds etc
2. Can’t get the sticky label off the empty jar? Here’s what works for me:
Soak the empty jar in hot water, or run it through your automatic dishwasher.
Peel off as much of the label as possible.
Make a paste of baking soda (bicarb) and dish washing liquid (dish soap). Smear this over the sticky area and leave for a half hour or longer. Wipe off with a cloth.
If that doesn’t do the trick, smear a thick layer of peanut butter over the remaining sticky bits (it’s messy so I use the back of a spoon to do this). Leave the peanut butter to do its work for half an hour or longer.
Wipe off with a damp cloth or else paper towels or newspaper, and throw the paper straight into your compost bin.
Essential oils also well at removing adhesives. Just dab a few drops onto the corner of a dry cloth and rub the sticky spots. Try a light citrus oil such as orange or lemon. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils are other favourites to use in cleaning recipes.